Unofficial Russian IELTS Page
Test Date: Sunday, 23.06.2002, British Council, Moscow
Overall score - 7.0 (Listening 7.5, Reading 6.0, Writing 7.0, Speaking 8.0)
Actually, I feel completely satisfied with my test results. It's more than I could dream of at the time when I started my preparation and a good result seemed like a daunting challenge for me. At the same time I would like to appreciate the efforts of other people on the site (as well as on the other sites with IELTS preparation material), their ideas were of an invaluable help for me. I really feel like sharing my personal feelings about the preparation and about the procedure of test taking. I would feel happy if my experience can be used by any applicant who is determined and motivated enough to face such a huge task of taking the test.
During the preparation it seems sometimes that you are supposed to be a kind of genius to accomplish that task successfully. Though, my personal experience proves that it is not necessarily a true fact. The most terrible thing is that usually you don't have practice at all, or, if you are lucky enough, only a little chance to have practice. Unfortunately, we live in the country, where a person who knows more than a hundred or something English words and capable of spelling half of them correctly is considered to be a fluent speaker of English.
I believe that if you are truly exceptional or intellectually gifted person, you stand a good chance to achieve a good result without preparation. The same applies to those who enjoy the opportunity to live and study in English-speaking countries for years. But if you are less fortunate, you've got to be considerably more concerned about getting prepared for the test. I would say that a good result of the IELTS test for this kind of people has a three-layer foundation.
At the bottom of this structure is your personal determination to spend a lot of time doing exercises and practice tests. No doubt you have a strong motivation to succeed. Being not that motivated, I suppose, you will give up preparation as soon as you do first two or three practice tests - IELTS has absolutely nothing to do with all the "English examinations" previously taken in Russian educational institutions. You are likely to find these tests extremely difficult and to find the goal to get a good score unattainable. According to my personal experience, it is always wise to expect even more terrible tasks at least in one section of the actual test. But if you are strong enough to handle all that, you will be rewarded greatly.
In the middle of the above-mentioned foundation structure, I would place the smart use of the information your receive from a wide variety of sources during the preparation. There is a good definition of that in English - the ability to convert information into knowledge. It is not really easy to enumerate all the sources of information your can get - the help of good and experienced teacher, numerous information sources on the Internet (mostly Russian and Chinese Web-sites with preparation material), or a lucky chance to communicate with any person who speaks English - just, to name a few. You should make the best out of all the sources of information you have, develop the most effective ways for you to analyze that information and accumulate your own experience about possible tasks at the test and the ways to cope with each particular task. At that stage of preparation even a small advice or just a single idea can be valuable. You've got to absorb the knowledge of other people, but to come to your own conclusions about the best methods to succeed in any given task. Just remember one beautiful English saying - the ideas are funny little things, they will not work unless you do. Development of this strategy or, I would rather say, construction of your own IELTS experience allows you to be prepared for unexpected questions and situations, you will find in plenty at the actual test.
I would prefer to place another important factor on the top of the three-layer IELTS foundation. I'm talking about such a simple but very important thing as luck. Though, many people believe that the luck at the test is just a reflection of how strong was your preparation. In fact it is up to any particular person to decide for oneself. One thing is for sure, the luck itself should not be considered as the only required factor to accomplish even a single section, not to mention the whole test. So I would advise you not to rely too much on it. You are no doubt feel much more lucky at the actual examination if your are prepared for nearly every situation.
Started in January, five months before the date of the actual test. I had a lucky chance to use the help of a good teacher. It is a safe bet to say that much of work I had to do by myself, but still I really appreciate her (teacher's) efforts to give me a professional assistance. Surely, a vast majority of information about the IELTS comes from the Internet. As I mentioned before I found some of Russian and Chinese specialized sites with the IELTS preparation material extremely helpful. On the contrary, the official sites (such as www.ielts.org) and numerous Internet sites regarding English language studies were only of a little help for me, because they contain only general information about the test. In fact, you can use IELTS Handbook instead for non-specific inquiries.
Everyday English broadcasts on VOA, BBC, Voice of Russia or anything you can find on short waves. For example, using the mentioned VOR radio was helpful to get some proper terminology from it as regards current Russian economic and social problems (a kind of priceless material for the Speaking Section preparations). In most cases I did not feel like listening to the broadcasts at all, and not only because of a poor quality of reception. I would suppose that most people, including me, do not have any slightest interest in, for instance, endless Middle East peace negotiations or "extremely urgent" question of Afghan refugees, appeared by chance in Australia and not in the neighbouring Pakistan or somewhere. Radio programs are usually filled with that kind of stuff. However, since it is probably the only chance to listen to conversation in English, we should not deny it.
The only viable alternative is an opportunity to find files with English conversation on the Internet in Real Audio or MP3 format. I would not say that searching for these files is easy, but still you stand a good chance to find a couple of dozen using for example Yahoo! search engine. The funny thing is that you will need non-streaming audio files for downloading and the listening, but nearly all of audio files exist on the Internet in a streaming format and therefore cannot be downloaded. Still, my experience proves that to be possible.
It is a sure fact that all the above-mentioned sources are additional. The lion's share of the your personal experience comes only from the regular doing of practice Listening tests.
In this section, practice tests appear to be the only valuable instrument of preparation. Some people advise to read a lot but I would doubt the fact that much reading will increase your chances significantly. The harsh reality is that the tasks in the Reading section have very little to do with your vocabulary or with your ability to read a large text in a few minutes. It is really wise to pay much attention to the types of questions and gradually master the strategy to answer them through the regular practice. As it was mentioned before, each single detail can be helpful to achieve a good result later. In my opinion, there are two types of questions that can be a source of anxiety for you during preparation - first, TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN questions and second, containing some pictures and diagrams, where you have to match the numbers on the picture with the exact word(s) from the text. The complexity of any other types of questions can vary from comparatively easy to extremely difficult depending on the question itself. My personal experience proves that the actual Reading test can more far more complex than all the practice tests I did. For example, there were slightly less than 20 T/F/NG questions and none of them I would call easy. I used to do any given practice test in 40-45 minutes during preparation, however it took me 59 minutes to do the Reading test at the day of examination. Moreover, I was 100% sure with only a small part of my answers. People who took the General Reading that day said their test was far from being easy too.
Anyway, I believe this feeling is familiar to practically everyone who has ever taken the IELTS, and in many cases do not interfere with your plans to get a good result.
I would assume that the process of preparation to Academic Reading differs a lot from the General Reading. However, the basic strategy for both modules is the same and can be expressed in a simple way - you should practice writing all that stuff every single day during your preparation. Unlike Listening and Reading, where you cannot develop a comprehensive method to answer any question you get, basically, you can able to do that for Writing. At the same being confident about any given subject of essay seems impossible for me without a thorough analysis of each possible subject, that can appear at the exam. I going to present my own ideas as regards the preparation to Academic Writing but I believe anyone can find one's own way to make this process more efficient.
The first step was to find on the Internet all the possible subjects of essays that can appear at the Writing test. Next step was to develop a short answer to every question, using the resources of... you guess it... the World Wide Web. Just trying simple context search via the search engine (I personally used Yahoo!) for each of the subjects and then sorting out the huge amount of information received. Sure thing, you don't have to use all the information, just scan the text to make the general structure of the essay. Along with what, it is undoubtedly wise to make your own list of good expressions and even sentences you can use later in a variety of situations and topics. It is a great idea to repeat all this expressions regularly. And my personal advice is to practice writing essays to check if you can do that in about 30 minutes, constantly together with making the repetition of a structure answer on each of the essays topic. Unless you are a native speaker of English, you will not have time to make up the ideas at the actual test, it is smart to be prepared for any topic beforehand.
The same strategy applies to the preparation for Task 1 of the Academic Writing. The only difference is that you are not able to find answers to each topic, but the Internet is roaring with the ideas and expressions on who to write it.
I bet you have already guessed that this method requires a lot of time and a fair amount of determination from you. But looking on the bright side, I can guarantee that you will never have a problem with "a minimum number of words" for each of the writing tasks. All your concerns will be related to not making your essays too long and, the most important, trying to keep to the point.
Trying to apply the similar method of scrutinizing the Internet resources, I managed to make the complete list of possible questions, that could appear at the test. But the problem of finding the at least one person to practice speaking English with seems to be a huge one. The thing is that in our country nearly everybody wasted much time in school and later at the university pretending that he was studying English, but it will take you ages to find a person in your neighbourhood who is able and willing to speak it. Anyway, I can strongly recommend everyone to find kind of person, because only regular practice can make you feel confident about the Speaking test.
Next I will share my personal impressions as regards each section of the IELTS. Hope these will help you to save some precious time at the actual test.
Four more or less comprehensible sections, with only two or three occasions of spelling the numbers or the names of the people (which I personally found the most complex during the preparation). The only word I remember to have for spelling was "Malaysia". Most of the questions given were the multiple-choice ones (out of three or four possible answers). The others were to choose the appropriate letter for the column in the graph or to fill in the gaps in the table.
First three sections were fairly easy, with only a few moments, when the right answer comes unnoticeable. But, I have no doubt that next time they can give much more complex tasks for Listening (hope, in that case they will lessen the difficulty of Reading section, just to keep the sound balance and not make you out of your mind at the exam). I honestly believe that there are no difficult or unbearable types of questions, but the complexity of tasks in some situations can be the core of the problem. It is also highly recommended to have each particular question in mind when you listen to the tape, then try to memorize the respective words speaker said and, finally, choose the most suitable answer. No doubt, it is the best strategy to deal with Listening part of the IELTS, but needless to say in some occasions the complexity of questions can make you answering using your intuition rather than skills.
As soon as you hear the voice on the tape, forget all your concerns and worries and try to CONCENTRATE. You will no doubt get the feeling that the time is going several times faster than it usually goes. It is highly recommended to underline the key words when you read a question. Be especially careful when the word "not" is mentioned in the question, make sure what kind of answer (negative or positive) they want from you. When you feel that two or more answers fit the question quite well, choose the one, which sounds the most complex, just not a simple one - it is put deliberately to confuse you. At least, in my opinion, that strategy works in most situations.
The initial feeling I had when starting to answer the Reading test questions was the following - my huge preparation to this part of the test was no good for me, and was a sheer waste of time. No doubt, on second thought, I realized that it was not true. At least the types of the questions and more or less clear strategy how to answer them were quite familiar for me at the time. But, sure thing, practically all the test questions appeared to be unexpectedly difficult. Don't waste a second of your precious time reading the entire text or any part of it - just read the title, glance at the text size and the types of the questions and then go ahead with your answers. If you don't find the right part of the text to answer each particular question, don't hesitate, just try the next one and in that way you will see which part of the text should be scrutinized later to find an answer to the first question. If a question contains some names, geographical objects and all the similar stuff (probably, everything that begins with a capital latter), it seems to be of a great help for you, because it would be much easier to find the related paragraph in the text.
It seems quite reasonable to rip the booklet accurately in two, just to separate the pages with questions with those with answers. I did the same thing while doing the second passage and it felt like I wasted at least five additional minutes on the first one.
I didn't find the tasks for the Academic Writing very difficult that day. The first was to describe the graph, representing the structure of water consumption by industries in different countries. The second task was to write about the potential advantages and disadvantages of the increasing presence of robots and machines, that are expected to replace one day human beings in all types of their activities.
If the second task doesn't appear to be unexpected or very complex, I believe you'd better start your answer with it. It is also highly recommended to accomplish the second task in 25-30 minutes, just to feel no rush writing the first one. It is my personal point of view, but when you are prepared, in most cases you have a plan and essay ideas for each topic expected. This is not a true fact for the Task 1, there is always a good degree of unexpectedness about it.
It is no good recommending you to follow the structure of the essay regardless of its topic (introduction, body paragraphs with your own examples, conclusion), it is a well-known fact. It seems to be much more wise to advise you to keep to the point whatever topic you might have.
Make up your own examples even if you never felt any slightest interest about that particular topic before the exam.
Don't understate the necessity of checking your work to find some occasional mistakes in it.
I was prepared to answer hundreds (not even a bit of exaggeration) of different and questions, but I was lucky enough to get easy ones at the exam. However the whole preparation process was of a great help because eventually you get yourself prepared to any unexpected situation that might occur.
Needless to say that you've got to have in your mind a straightforward answer when the examiner asks you to introduce yourself. If you manage to do that great, that is a wonderful start of a conversation and, no doubt, a huge degree of inspiration for you. After the introduction, according to my personal experience and the opinions of other applicants, who took the exam at the same date, the native speaker will ask you a bunch of questions on one particular topic. My topic was about friends and school years (seems not to be very complicated, don't you think). The topics for the others seemed to be different, for instance, environment, weather, education - I confess, I don't remember all of them. Moreover, I was convinced that they have different question topics for Academic and General Modules, but, to my surprise, there was no such thing at the exam.
Your can make your own opinion about the complexity of test questions and your chances to answer to them if I name a few I remember right now:
- Did you enjoy your school studies?
- Do you still keep in touch with your former classmates?
- Did your have a teacher at school who greatly influenced your future priorities in education?
- Do your keep something from your school studies such as books and pictures?
- Do you think the school prepare a person for real life?
- What possible factors can cause friends to break up?
- What do you think about the difference about the ways children and adults make friends?
The second task was a card with three questions to describe your best friend. You are usually given one minute to prepare your answer, but I think it is wise to use it only when the topic seems to be unexpected or too complex at a glance.
The ultimate result of my speaking test fortunately got some of my personal stereotypes disapproved. First, I got rid of thought that the number of grammar mistakes in your speech affects your result significantly. Second, the other opinion has proved wrong, I mean that the conversation is always held in a very casual manner with a vide variety of topics discussed and a huge number of additional questions asked.
As regards the first one, I don't really think that my speech is full of grammar mistakes, but still I can clearly remember some of them occurred during the 15 minutes conversation at the exam. For instance, I tried to use the expression like "if I'd had... I would've had" but surely it didn't work out.
But, no doubt, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your advantageous skills. Take a possible variety of words and constructions used as an example. I remember myself using the expressions like "less fortunate", "to ignite the interest towards that subject", or "to pursue another career".
It is highly recommended to brighten your speech with such expressions as "It's a safe bet to say", "Basically", "Actually", "I don't really think it's THAT complicated", "I'm not one hundred percent sure about that", or "let's just put it this way". The list of these expressions can go on and on. Moreover, I'm pretty sure that this list sounds familiar to anyone who had gone through the huge IELTS preparation work. Just it is no good denying the simple fact that the more your way of expressing yourself is similar to a native speaker style, the better results you have.
If an interviewer doesn't respond excitedly to your answers and looks indifferently, you are not going to make a satisfactory score on Speaking.
Try to avoid using expressions like "I think, it is difficult", "I don't like it". You'd better say something like "I think it's not really easy", "Well, I don't really like it very much".
And the last bit of advice from my personal experience. It is really useful to spend the last half-hour before the actual Speaking test communicating with another IELTS applicant in English rather than just sitting near the examination room and feeling nervous about that upcoming event.
Anyway, feels nice to share impressions with you about this terrible, but important and necessary thing like IELTS. All of the above-mentioned ideas are based on my personal experience and presumably, many of readers see many aspects of it from a different perspective. Surely will be pleased to know if my personal experience is of any help for future successful applicants. If you are particular questions regarding the methods I used to prepare myself for the exam (or learning English in general), I would be glad to answer them. Would be pleased to receive your letters in English (either Advanced or Broken - in fact, my actual English skills cannot be called perfect). One thing is for sure, I'm willing to continue my progress in commanding the language so that one day it would become native for me. If you have the same outlook on English, I would welcome the opportunity to communicate with you.
Good luck to everyone
Идея, дизайн, программирование, наполнение и поддержка - Leonid Medvedev. Copyright © 1999-2003.