Tuesday, October 21, 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 $210 (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 http://www.ielts.org/

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 (http://www.ielts.org/test_takers_information.aspx) 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!



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Universe in 1,000 Words

For students looking to improve their listening skills, Town Hall often has many live lectures that are open to the public. Many are also posted online at

Today, September 30, Town Hall welcomes guest speaker Roberto Trotta, who recently wrote a book titled "The Edge of the Sky". This book explains many of the mysteries of our universe using only the most common 1,000 words in the English language. Come check it out!
To learn more, check out the event page at