The Ultimate IELTS STUDY GUIDE
Hello and welcome to your guide: IELTS General Training & Academic Study Guide. In this IELTS Study guide we’ll give you practice questions from both Academic and General Training, and a comprehensive outline of what both tests involve. Whichever test you are taking, by the end of our download guide you will be in the perfect position to ace your assessment, and score 8+ marks.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
IELTS Exam Preparation: Academic Writing
The IELTS Academic writing assessment consists of two tasks in total. Both tasks will test different skills, and the second task will be worth double the score of task 1.
Now let’s look at both tasks in more detail:
IELTS Writing Task 1
In task 1 you will be asked to look at a table or chart. You will then need to summarise the information within the image. You must do this in 150 words or more. If you write less than 150 words then you will lose marks. The task takes 20 minutes to complete.
The central purpose of this exercise is to establish how well the test taker can identify information and prioritise. When you write your summary make sure you include the most essential details of the image. Ideally you should also try to include minor details too, but the more important elements are the ones which will score you the highest marks.
When completing this task, it’s vital that you can stay on topic. You will be penalised if you deviate from the main topic, and you also need to pay really close attention to grammatical elements, such as spelling and punctuation.
IELTS Writing Task 2
In task 2 you will be asked to write about a specific topic, in a formal or academic style. You’ll be given a statement or prompt, for example: ‘School uniforms are harmful to children’ and then asked to respond to the statement in 250 words or more. Candidates will have 40 minutes total to complete this assessment, and the marks for this task are worth double that of task 1.
In your response to the statement you must provide detailed analysis and thought. You must argue for or against the statement, and should try to back up your answer with evidence wherever possible.
One of the key things to remember when answering this task is not to go off topic. Try to ensure that your argument is cohesive and logical, and takes a sound line of reasoning.
IELTS ACADEMIC READING
The IELTS Academic reading assessment is designed to test the way in which you can understand and identify key points from written information. There are three long texts in this assessment, all of which are taken from books, journals, magazines or newspapers. The IELTS Academic reading texts have been deliberately selected to be appropriate for people applying for university or for professional registration.
The test will last for 60 minutes, and there will be 40 questions in total.
In terms of question types, this varies greatly. Below we have provided you with a sample question, that demonstrates how much these can vary:
In the wake of Lenin’s death, a power struggle emerged within the Bolshevik party of the Soviet Union. On the one side, was Joseph Stalin. Cold, mechanical and more ruthless than anyone could have imagined, Lenin’s deathbed testament warned the other members of the Politburo against the General Secretary. On the other side, Leon Trotsky. Arrogant, brash but infinitely more idealistic than Stalin, the general expectation was that Trotsky would be the natural successor to Lenin. As it happened, Stalin astutely outmanoeuvred Trotsky, and the latter was exiled from the country.
On the face of it, it is quite shocking that Trotsky failed. Here was an astute, Jewish politician (widely regarded as far more intelligent than Stalin) who had been personally recommended by Lenin’s testament; theoretically Trotsky should have naturally stepped into the space left by the former.
There are several reasons why this did not happen.
Firstly, the testament of Lenin was hidden by Stalin and other members of the party. The letter (although excusing them) drew attention to Kamenev and Zinoviev’s doubts over the 1917 revolution, and thus it was beneficial for them to aid Stalin in covering this up. Together, the three formed a ‘troika’ against Trotsky – who inexplicably chose to remain on holiday after Lenin died, and failed to make any kind of public eulogy. This was compounded by Trotsky’s notoriously prickly and over-confident nature, which riled the other members of the Politburo. Indeed it was perhaps this over-confidence which led Trotsky to underestimate Stalin, and fall for extremely basic deception – such as being given the wrong date for Lenin’s funeral.
More importantly, Trotsky’s own ideology posed another problem. An idealist, Trotsky wanted to expand the socialist revolution throughout the world, and cause an international uprising. Stalin’s ideas were centralised at home; he believed that concentrated socialism in the anti-Semitic USSR would make Mother Russia stronger in the long run. Stalin used Trotsky’s ideas against him, claiming that they were a threat to the nation.
Ultimately, Stalin capitalised where Trotsky could not. He recognised an opportunity to consolidate power, using the name of Lenin to back himself, and carried this out with ruthless effectiveness. By 1940, Trotsky was dead – exiled and assassinated at Stalin’s command. So too were Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and Rykov. With nobody left to oppose him, Uncle Joe had won.
Now answer the following IELTS questions based on the passage:
Q1. Which of the following is NOT given as a reason for Trotsky’s failure?
A – Trotsky severely underestimated Stalin, due to his own overconfidence.
B – Trotsky was Jewish, in an anti-semitic country.
C – Stalin lied to Trotsky, and gave him the wrong date for Lenin’s funeral.
D – Trotsky’s foreign policy.
Q2. Which of the following best summarises the author’s views towards Trotsky?
A – Trotsky was a highly capable and intelligent politician, who severely underestimated his opponent.
B – He was an arrogant and overconfident fool, who turned everyone in the party against him.
C – Trotsky was the victim of a Politburo-wide conspiracy, and was forced out of the party by underhanded tactics.
D – Trotsky failed to recognise the needs of the Russian people, and therefore was ousted from his seat in government.
Match the idea presented with the paragraph in which it appears.
Q3. The majority of people expected that Trotsky would be the successor to Lenin.
Q4. Trotsky did not make any public statement following Lenin’s death, expressing his sorrow.
Q1. Answer = B. Trotsky was Jewish, in an anti-semitic country.
Explanation = The passage mentions that Trotsky was Jewish, but does not cast this in a negative light or accuse Russia of anti-semitism.
Q2. Answer = A. Trotsky was a highly capable and intelligent politician, who severely underestimated his opponent.
Explanation = Answer A is the most accurate. The author is happy to give credit to Trotsky, referring to him as ‘astute’ and ‘intelligent’ but also recognises that Trotsky underestimated Stalin, and made mistakes, ‘inexplicably chose to remain on holiday’.
Q3. Paragraph 1
Q4. Paragraph 3
For more practice questions and answers on IELTS Academic reading and writing, check out our IELTS Study guide!
IELTS GENERAL TRAINING WRITING
IELTS General Training is designed for candidates migrating to the UK, Canada or Australia, or who are applying for secondary education or work experience/training in an environment where English is the primary language. There are two tasks in the writing exercise, which we will describe below:
General Training Writing Task 1
In Task 1, you will be given a specific situation, and will then be asked to write a response to this, in 150 words or more. Your response will be in the form of a letter, which can be either formal or informal depending on the subject, and will generally be written in response to an everyday, common situation – for example, making a complaint to someone, or writing a letter to your landlord.
Here’s a classic example of how a question of this type might look:
You are the leader of a team in your workplace. Your team has been tasked with showing prospective investors why they should invest in your company. Your head of department has asked you to write the investors a short letter, explaining the benefits of investing.
In your letter, you must explain:
— What bonuses the company can offer investors.
— What the financial rewards of investing with your company would be.
— Your company’s ethos and philosophy.
Your answer should be 150 words or more. It should start with the words, ‘Dear Mrs Marsham…’
After each question, you will be given 3 bullet points which explain the type of information that must be included in the response. For example, you might be told, ‘you must include the time of the meeting in your response.’
Part of the skill of this exercise involves identifying what tone to take in your letter. You need to establish what the correct approach is, either formal or informal, and then write in a style which is appropriate for the audience. For example, if you were writing to your boss then you would take a formal approach. If you were writing to a close friend, you will take an informal approach.
You have 20 minutes to construct your response to this question. As in the IELTS Academic, Task 1 is worth half as much as Task 2.
General Training Writing Task 2
Task 2 is highly similar to task 2 of the Academic Writing, where you will be asked to write a discursive essay, of 250 words or more. The question will give you a point of view, subject, or argument, and then ask you to discuss this. The topics are of general interest; For example, they may discuss subjects like whether Britain should have a monarchy, the logic behind patriotism, environmental problems, smoking in public places, etc.
For example, you might be asked:
‘Many people believe that social media is having a dangerous and negative impact on human interactions, and is harmful for our long-term future.
In 250 words or more, discuss your views on this.’
In your response, you need to argue for/against a particular view. Although it’s always good if you can acknowledge counter arguments, you have 40 minutes and 250 words to do this, so usually it’s better to focus on one side of the argument, whilst trying to be as persuasive, logical and fluent as possible. Your writing quality and your vocabulary are being assessed in this exercise, so it’s important that you can put together a coherent and logical response, paying attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation, whilst addressing the main statement from the question.
For more practice questions and answers, check out our fantastic IELTS study guide!
IELTS General Training: Reading
The IELTS General Training reading assessment will examine candidates’ ability to read through texts of varying length and difficulty, and then answer questions based on these texts. It’s very similar to the Academic reading, with the difference being that the texts chosen will be different in nature, and the question types will be slightly different too.
The test will last for 1 hour in total, and there will be 40 questions. The questions are designed to tested elements such as:
- How well you can identify information after reading a text.
- Your understanding of the writer’s views and opinions.
- How efficiently you can ‘skim read’.
- Your understanding of the logic and arguments for/against the text.
- How much detail you can remember, having read a text.
There are three sections to the IELTS General Training reading assessment, and these are as follows:
The first section is called social survival. This section contains a variety of texts, which focus on linguistic English survival. For example, reading timetables, safety manuals, or advertisements.
Section two is called workplace survival. The texts in this section are set in a workplace context. For example, staff training guides, job descriptions, training manuals and behavioural instructions for the workplace.
Finally, the third section is called general reading, where you will be required to read a piece of extended prose, with a more complicated structure than the previous texts. The prose could be from a book, magazine, newspaper, or other fictional and non-fictional forms of media.
IELTS SPEAKING TEST
The IELTS speaking component is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The speaking component is designed to assess your prowess in spoken English. It lasts for 11-14 minutes, and there are three parts to the test:
Part 1. In part 1, the examiner will ask you a series of general questions about yourself. This could include your hobbies, your family, where you work, what you study, what type of food you like to eat, and what pets you have. This part normally lasts around five minutes in total.
Part 2. In part 2, you will be given a card. The card will have a particular topic on it, and you will have one minute to prepare, before speaking for 2 minutes in total about the topic. Following this, the examiner will ask you a couple of questions about the subject.
Part 3. Part 3 involves the examiner asking further questions about the topic from part 2. The questions will be more complex, and you will have more of an opportunity to demonstrate your vocabulary, through the discussion of abstract ideas and issues related to the topic itself. This part of the assessment lasts for approximately 5 minutes in total.
In our IELTS Study guide book, we’ve provided you with tonnes of mock questions, designed to assess your speaking skills. Pick up a copy today and practice your speaking ability!
IELTS LISTENING ASSESSMENT
The IELTS Listening assessment is the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It is designed to assess your ability to understand spoken English. There are four sections to the listening assessment, consisting of 10 questions each. You will listen to each section, then answer 10 questions based on that section. The test lasts for 30 minutes, with 10 minutes to answer each section. After each recording, you will have 10 minutes to answer, before moving onto the next recording.
The sections are as follows:
The first recording will be of two people, and will be set in an everyday setting.
For example, you might hear two people discussing the weather, or an upcoming party.
Recording 2 will be a monologue, again set in an everyday environment/subject.
For example, you might hear somebody discussing what they do for their job.
The third recording will be of up to four people, and will be set in an educational or work-based/training environment.
For example, you might hear students discussing their essay topic, or employees talking with their boss.
The final recording will be of a monologue, set in an educational environment.
So, you might hear somebody discussing an academic subject.
Above all, the main thing that the assessors are looking for in this test, is your ability to understand ideas and information, plus opinions and viewpoints of speakers. Your ability to take in information and understand this, through what you have heard, is fundamental to this exercise. In our fantastic IELTS Study guide, we’ve included a link to four recorded listening exercises, as well as a wealth of questions based on these recordings!
THE TOPICS COVERED IN THIS IELTS STUDY GUIDE INCLUDE:
- In-depth explanations on every single part of the test!
- Sample questions and answers to help you get to grips with the testing format!
- Detailed reasoning behind every single answer, and how you can use it to better your scores.
- Top tips on exactly what the assessors are looking for.
IELTS GENERAL TRAINING
- Comprehensive information on both the reading and writing exercises.
- Tips on how to avoid making critical mistakes.
- Advice on how to write in a logical and grammatically astute fashion.
- Multiple sample questions and detailed answers, to help you prepare for your assessment.
Speaking and LISTENING
- A link to a page where you can download FOUR sample listening exercises.
- A wealth of questions and exercises, to help you practice for the real test.
- Top tips on how to enhance your speaking and listening skills.
- Advice on how you can impress the assessors, and achieve a mark of 8+.
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