Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taking the IELTS

What is the IELTS?
One of the most widely accepted English language tests in the world
Has two types: Academic or General Training
Costs $205 (in the U.S.)
Offered at 800 testing centers up to four times a month and you can take it as many times as you wish.
Nearest testing centers: Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, BC


   Time Limit
    30 minutes with 10 minutes to transfer answers
      40 questions
    Listen to two conversations, a speech, and a lecture
     60 minutes
     40 questions
      3 sections
     60 minutes
     2 tasks
     Write at least 150 words for task 1 and 250 words for task 2
     11-14 minutes  
      2 parts
     Recorded, face-to-face appointment with a trained examiner. Part 1 is an interview, Part 2 is an individual long turn, and part 3 is a discussion with the interviewer


  • Overall Scores:1.0-9.0
  • Band Scores
  • University of Washington requires a 7.0 overall


  • 30 minutes with 10 minutes to transfer answers
4 Sections
1.Everyday conversation between two people
Ex. A conversation in a travel agency
2.A monologue about an everyday topic
Ex. A speech about a general topic
3.A conversation between up to four people in an academic setting
Ex. A study group meeting to talk about an assignment
4.A monologue on an academic topic
Ex. A university lecture
  • Each section heard once
  • Variety of accents
  • 40 Questions

Question Types

  • Multiple Choice
  • Matching
  • Filling out a form
  • Complete notes
  • Complete a table
  • Complete a summary
  • Complete a sentence
  • Short answer (Complete sentence) questions

Skills tested:

  • Understanding main ideas and details
  • Recognizing opinions, attitudes, and purpose of the speaker
  • Following the development of an argument

Skills similar to those in IEP Listening and Speaking Classes

  • Understanding main idea and supporting details
  • Understanding speakers’ reason for speaking, purpose, and opinions
  • Understanding relationship between ideas and details


  • 60 minutes (no time to transfer answers)
  • 2,150-2,750 words
  • 3 sections
  • Academic Reading or General Training Reading

Academic Reading

  • 3 authentic texts from books, journals, newspapers, and magazines
  • Each section has one text
  • General academic topics
  • Undergraduate level
  • Diagrams and charts
  • Glossary for technical terms

General Info

  • 40 questions
  • Question Types
  • Multiple Choice
  • True/False/Not Given
  • Matching
  • Identifying the author's opinion
  • Sentance, summary, and note completion
  • Table, chart, or graph completion
  • Short-answer Questions

Skills tested

  • Identify main ideas and supposting details
  • Summarizing
  • Inference and implied meaning
  • Recognizing author's opinion, attitudes, and purpose
  • Following the development of an argument


  • 60 minutes
  • Two tasks
  • Academic Reading or General Training Writing
  • Rated according to content and response to the prompt, coherence and cohesion, vocabulary, and grammar.

Academic Writing

Task 1
  • At least 150 words
  • Describe and summarize information from graphs and charts
  • Explain a process, event or data
  • Describe how something works
  • 20 minutes
Task 2
  • At least 250 words
  • Respond to an argument or problem
  • Undergraduate level
  • 40 minutes

Skills similar to IEP Writing Classes

  • Organize and compare data
  • Describe stages of a process
  • Describe an event
  • Support claims with examples and 
  • Analyze arguments
  • Express needs, wants, likes, and dislikes
  • Present a solution to a problem
  • Write for a specific audience
  • Demonstrate awareness of tone of information
  • Compare and contrast information and opinions


  • 11-14 minutes long
  • Face-to face interview
  • Recorded
  • 3 parts
  • Rated according to fluency and coherance, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation

Part 1:Introduction and Interview

  • 3-4 minutes
  • General Questions on general topics

Part 2:Individual Long Turn

  • 3-4 minutes
  • Students get a card with a topic to talk about
  • 1 minute to prepare
  • 1-2 minutes speaking
  • 1 minute of answering questions

Part 3:Two-way Discussion

  • 4-5 minutes
  • Examiner asks questions related to the long-turn topic

Skills Similar to those in IEP Listening and Speaking Classes

  • Share your ideas and opinion, and provide logical support
  • Summarize, analyze, and discuss information from different sources
  • Answer questions and paraphrase what you heard
  • Speak at length on a single topic
  • Work on pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar in speaking


In order to register to take the IELTS, you must go to the official site at

General Tips:


  • Your IEP courses teach skills used on the IELTS –take advantage of this and study hard!
  • Studying takes time
  • Start early and plan your studying.
  • Find out what kind of scores your university wants for admission.
  • Know your test! (see handout)
  • Check the IELTS website ( for free practice materials.
  • Take as many practice tests as possible.
  • Don’t hate the test – this is an opportunity to use what you’ve learned!

During and After the Test

  • Think positive – if you feel good about yourself, your score will improve.
  • Take the questions 1 at a time.
  • Remember to answer all the questions!
  • If a question is REALLY hard, skip it and come back to it later.
  • If you really can’t figure out the answer, guess.
  • Celebrate!



Monday, April 14, 2014

Applying to Colleges and Universities: Undergraduate and Graduate

Do LOTS of research – look online, talk with people (other students, advisors, faculty members, etc.)
·  Degrees you are interested in
·  Other factors:
o  Cost
o  Location
o  Size
o  Reputation
o  Application deadline
Focus/Central Questions:
Does the faculty and school do the research you are interested in?
*Contact and meet with professors, faculty members, advisors in the school you’re interested in to get more information about admissions to their school
Register for tests early!
Scores take time to be sent
- it is okay to take a test more than once
- address in your essay if you have a weak score
- SAT/ACT?? (depends on the school!)
*all graduate school applicants MUST take the TOEFL test!!!! The IELP is an extension to that test. If you have questions about this, contact Elisabeth
- personal – shows school who you are as person
- be creative and engaging; make it interesting
- read the directions & make sure to respond to the prompt
- use proper grammar and spelling: this is NOT texting
- count words – be close to  the recommended length!
- get feedback from others: edit, edit, edit!
- biggest question: why do you want to be here?
Personal Statement:
- broader, more general
- about life experience or life lessons you have learned
- describe yourself, your goals
- usually around 500 words
*May require additional or other essay topics – check the school’s application requirements!
Statement of Purpose:
-   very specific, detailed – give examples
-   talk about you previous research or knowledge in your field
o what led you to be interested in these topics
o experiences you have had
o long-term goals
-   usually around 1.5 pages
*May require additional or other essay topics – check the school’s application requirements!
- must be Official (= sealed in an envelope) and translated
- includes classes taken, grade earned, number of credits, and cumulative GPA
Letters of Recommendation:
- choose teachers, past employers, past professors, etc. who know you well
- ask the person directly: face-to-face or by email
- ask AT LEAST 2 weeks in advance
- include:
        - what needs to be included in letter (check school’s website for requirements), what is important to share
        - clarify: confidential or not?
        - short paragraph about why you want to study this subject or why you want to study at this institution
        - resume & statement of purpose
May or may not be required – check the school’s application requirements for information
Usually required – check the school’s application requirements for information
- includes all work and study experience since high school
- fit on 1 page
- make easy to read
- put in chronological order
May or may not be required – check the school’s application requirements for information
Usually required – check the school’s application requirements for information
Tips on Becoming a Stronger Applicant
- Get involved!
     - volunteer
     - join a club
     - take on a leadership position
- Show dedication to something (ex: a passion, an activity, a sport, a cause, etc.)
-  Have research experience
-  Have articles published
-  Keep a list of conferences attended and presentations given
- Lecturing/teaching experience
- Experience in the field you are studying (work or volunteer)

What are Schools Looking for?
o Academics
o Career
o Communication Skills
o Fit: Does this person understand this program? Does this person know what they are getting into?

Helpful Resources:
·         Odegaard Writing & Research Center – help with application essays, resume, personal statements (free!)

·         Planning, test preparation, useful tips, and a lot more about college/graduate school:

·         Test Registration and Preparation
o   IELTS:
o   UW Women’s Center, GRE preparation courses:

·         Statement of Purpose (for Graduate School Application Essay) – Resources, tips, and sample essays

·         Personal Statement (Undergraduate Application Essay)

If you need guidance or advice, make an appointment with Elisabeth, the academic adviser.  She will be happy to help!