My 3rd IELTS
✨ Update: Today 12 October, I received my score breakdown, nearly 3 months after I sent the request to British Council (BC). You can see the information added below the results.
As regards the breakdown of my writing score, I wrote a separate post here.
To learn how to request your score breakdown, read this.
Today (22 May 2022) I did my third IELTS exam (the first computer-delivered one). I took the test in 2014 (2nd time) at IDP and got 8.0 overall (L8, R8, W7, S8.5).
Update (13 August 2022): I added “What I did” sections. Hope whoever reads this will learn something useful.
I did 3 listening tests online (scores ranging from 7-9) and 1-2 reading tests (8-9). Almost no prep for speaking though I did talk to myself a lot (as usual). However, I did tons of reading for the writing part: reading and analyzing high-level essays (I learned quite a lot from this.)
# The test
- Test date: 22 May 2022
- Location: British Council (Viettel Complex Building 285 CMT8)
- Mode: Computer-Delivered 🖥
I got a little distracted in Part 2 and Part 3 where there are multiple choice and matching questions. IELTS Listening is funny. You zone out for a second and boom! you’ve missed an answer. This happened to me because the first two answers of the question set are put too close to one another in the recording.
It’s important to stay calm even when you’ve missed an answer and pay attention on the next signpost. Losing one answer is fine. You can go back to it at the end of that section to make an educated guess.
- Part 1: Conversation between two friends about a job vacancy (waiter) at a restaurant
- Part 2: Radio talk about Lakeview Orchestra and its new program
- Part 3: Conversation between two students about their presentation on mercury contamination
- Part 4: A lecture of human perception of smell
- My performance: OK (missed one answer in Part 2 and had to guess based on what I thought I hadn’t heard) and 2 other answers I’m not 100% certain.
- Predicted score: 8.0-8.5 (if I’m lucky)
# WHAT I DID
So the only concern I have with this skill is I may lose concentration during the test, and this did happen. However, since I understood everything, I could anticipate when the answer for the next question was coming up.
Only one wrinkle: sometimes you know the next segment, i.e. one that contains the next answer, is starting, but the answer is mentioned so early on and you may miss it. In other words, two adjacent answers are placed too close to one another. Beware of this problem.
My advice for test takers? Doing practice tests is good, but most of the time you should work on improving your listening comprehension, i.e. your ability to understand spoken English. Listen to what you enjoy: vlogs, educational videos on YouTube, comedy sketches, documentaries (trust me, many of these are so good), movies, you name it.
I think I nailed this one. Not very hard. No matching headings. The highlighting function is definitely helpful. For reading, it’s important that we know which question types follow the same order as the information in the text. That helps a lot. Probably one of the reasons why I could complete the test 13 minutes early.
- Passage 1: Curran Judith - Documentary Film Maker
- Passage 2: Being left-handed in a right-handed world
- Passage 3: Honeybees in trouble - can native bees fill the gap?
- My performance: Good (had 13 minutes left to review every answer)
- Predicted score: 9.0
# WHAT I DID
Again, understanding everything helps. But I did apply some strategies to complete the test faster. Here are two key strategies I used:
I always deal with easier questions first. For example, I always work on gapfill (cloze) questions first. Those are easy, because you have so many clues: the job is to find a word (or words) from the text that fits into the question in terms of both grammar and meaning. What could be easier than that? And also, because of this strategy, I would always do “Matching information” last. Sometimes I can even get an answer from memory!
I know where to find the answer. About half of the question types in reading share this feature: the questions are in the same order as the information in the text. This means that I would usually pick a question that contains an easy-to-scan keyword, find it, and answer it. Say it is question 6, I know I would have to read down to find the answer to question 7. And better yet, if I have found my answers to question 6 and 8, I know for sure the answer to question 7 must be in the text in between. You cannot miss it.
By the way, these question types are:
- Multiple choice type 1 (A, B, C, D)
- TRUE - FALSE - NOT GIVEN
- YES - NO - NOT GIVEN
- Matching sentence endings
- Sentence completion
- Short-answer questions
I completed both tasks in 45 minutes and had 15 minutes to check them. But now I kind of regret that I didn’t do much editing during those 15 minutes. Perhaps my mental resources were depleted at that point?
In Task 1, I planned the report in roughly 5 minutes and wrote it in 15 minutes. In Task 2, I planned for 8 minutes and wrote the essay in 17 minutes.
Part of the reason why I could write so fast is that my average typing speed is nearly 90 words per minute. That’s immensely useful. I believe everyone should learn to touch-type. It’s a valuable skill.
Task 1: The graph below gives information about the price of bananas in four countries between 1994 and 2004.
My performance: 271 words
Predicted score: 9.0
Task 2: Some people believe that women should play an equal role as men in a country’s police force or military force, such as the army. Others think women are not suitable for these kinds of jobs. Discuss both these views and give your opinion.
My performance: 317 words
Predicted score: 9.0
To be honest I’m being too optimistic about my writing scores, but hey a man has hopes. 😁
My answer to Part 2 was cut off when I hadn’t reached the juicy part yet and that makes me a little unsure about my performance. The rest of the test was fine, I guess. I did pay attention to the length of my answers, but most of the time I read the examiner’s facial cues to determine whether I should continue speaking or just finish my response. Let’s see how it would turn out.
- Part 1: Work, Email, Cinema
- Part 2: A New Place
- My performance: Not as good as I expected and I was quite nervous at the beginning
- Predicted score: Perhaps the same as 8 years ago (8.5)?
I received the results on May 26. Here it is.
Quite a disillusionment, to be honest. 😅 I thought my writing answers were very good, but oh well, apparently there’s still much room for improvement, which is good. I knew my speaking performance was kind of meh, so 8.0 was fair, I suppose.
Anyway, the wait is over, and I’ve learned quite a few lessons from the experience. The next step would be to use these lessons to improve the courses I’m developing.
Until next time!
✨ UPDATE: Score breakdown received on October 12, 2022.
# Some thoughts
After rereading my Task 1 report, I realize that it isn’t as good as I thought it was. In fact, I made several silly mistakes. I didn’t give the overview enough thought and though I got one feature right, I might have risked writing something that wasn’t a good feature. IELTS marking is unforgiving and I didn’t take it seriously enough.
Also, I had just taught my students a trick (defining an abbreviation for a long unit of measurement) and my brain was completely fixated on that and I wrote something as silly as 1.80 dpk (dollars per kilogram) instead of $1.80/kg, which is of course much more natural. My oh my!
Anyway, I learned a lesson here. I had 15 minutes to revise my report and essay but I didn’t spend it productively. This should not happen again.