How to ace the IELTS

The #1 Tip on How to Ace the IELTS

How to ace the IELTS

The International English Language Testing System (also known as the IELTS) is recognized worldwide as the most popular English proficiency exam. Millions of people from around the globe take the IELTS every year, and unfortunately, many of them do not pass.

There is one trait, however, that everyone who successfully completes the IELTS has in common. It’s something you might not expect.

Our friends at Magoosh describe it in one word: confidence. Self confidence is key to passing the IELTS with flying colors. Keep reading to find out how to apply this simple principle to each section of the exam so you can ace the IELTS.

How to Ace the IELTS with Confidence

Project Confidence in Your Interview

The IELTS assesses every aspect of your English skills, including speaking. This section of the test is unique in that it is set up as a one-on-one, oral interview. Just like when you’re applying for a job, confidence in the interview room is a necessity.

Imagine what would happen if you showed up to a job interview overwhelmed by nerves and the fear of rejection. Chances are, you would perform poorly. You might stumble over your words, look down rather than make eye contact, or speak quietly and unclearly.

Your prospective boss would have trouble understanding you, and probably assume that you’re incapable of getting the job done well.

Nobody wants to be that person in a job interview, and you certainly don’t want to come across that way in an IELTS interview. In IELTS Speaking, it’s just as important to enunciate clearly, and pay attention to your body language. Project confidence with every move you make!

Refuse to be intimidated by your interviewer. Think of this part of the exam as an interview for a job that you know you’re going to get. In a sense, the IELTS is your gateway to a new career, either through immigration or university study.

Write Your Essay with Poise

A lack of confidence comes across the most obviously in IELTS Speaking, but in IELTS Writing there are also ways to “sound” confident in your essay.

To write in a confident tone on the IELTS, use vocabulary and grammar that you’re comfortable with. Be sure to include a variety of word choices and grammar constructions, while not overdoing it. Remember to keep it simple. If you use too many big, esoteric words and complex sentence structures, it’ll open you up to making more mistakes.

It can also come across as unnatural, and all of this can hurt your score. But if you write using the words and syntax you truly understand and feel confident in, you’ll be on your way to achieving the best possible IELTS Writing Score.

If maintaining this balance sounds complicated to you, remember that practice makes perfect. Review the many IELTS books and resources that are available so you can become acquainted with writing style and vocabulary.

RELATED- ESL Learners: Are You Making These 21 Common Mistakes?

Stay Calm During Listening and Reading

What makes a general successful in war? “Grace under fire,” as we like to say in English. This means that good military commanders feel calm and confident, even as they face dangers that would make a less confident person panic.

Of course, the IELTS Reading and Listening sections aren’t literally a battlefield. But as you look across a seemingly hazardous reading passage, or face a bumpy ride through an audio track, for a moment it can seem like you’re waging a personal war for your IELTS score.

Try to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the Listening and Reading sections of the test. Don’t let fear and panic set in. Tips to ace the IELTS

Approach questions, reading passages, and audio strategically. Look for and listen for the most important keywords. If you don’t know the meaning of a written word, or you miss something that was said, stay confident and focused. Look for contextual clues to find the meaning.

Employ elimination techniques on multiple choice questions, and think critically when you need to write down your own short answers. You can practice all of these approaches before you take the test by working through an IELTS study schedule.

Whether you’re taking the IELTS for university admissions, immigration, or employment, one thing is for certain. The more you believe you can pass the IELTS, the more focused and successful you’ll be. Another excellent way to prepare for the IELTS is with the help of an experienced tutor that specializes in English as a second language.

A tutor can help answer any questions you have as you study for the exam. Look for a qualified English teacher near you to receive one-on-one guidance and feedback that will take you one step closer to acing the IELTS. Good luck!

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Guest post by David Recine, IELTS expert at Magoosh. David has a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and has been teaching ESL since 2007.

Common Core Standards for English and Math | What Parents Need to Know

What Should I Know About Common Core You may have heard about the new Common Core Standards, which most states have adopted into their curriculum. What exactly are they, and what does it mean for your child? Learn more in this guest post by San Diego tutor Natalie S

Having a unified educational system is an incredibly important factor when considering how to make sure each child is given the best chance to learn and succeed. This is why 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English and Math. However, most people don’t know what these Common Core Standards are, or even that they exist! Read below to find out more about how these standards impact your child.

What Are the Common Core Standards?

The Common Core Standards are academic standards for English and Mathematics. They map out learning goals for what students should be achieving from Kindergarten to 12th grade. These standards are designed to better prepare students for rigorous college courses and for entering the workforce. Recently, these standards were updated, and we’ve summarized the changes below.

What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for English?

The Common Core Standards for English include instilling academic practices like having children read and comprehend complex texts with increased difficulty. For example, each year, students read texts that are more complex (whether that be through prose or through themes) than the year before. Certain types of texts that the Common Core Standards website specifically lists include US documents, international myths, and Shakespeare.

The Common Core Standards for English also emphasize teaching students how to use textual evidence when making arguments in essays, as well as building specific knowledge about the non-fiction world.

What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for Math?

One major change in the Common Core Standards for Math is the increased focus on specific concepts. Instead of trying to cram a vague understanding of a hundred different concepts into your child’s head, the Common Core Standards dictate that students should study a concentrated number of concepts in depth and master them. For example, students will still study multiplication and division, but they won’t learn how to implement those functions of math until the third grade. This should help students improve their understanding of basic mathematical foundations more thoroughly before implementing newer, harder concepts.

The changes also aim to better link seemingly unconnected topics in math. For a full list of concepts covered in various grades, take a look at the Common Core Standards website.

How Can You Help Your Child Adapt to the Common Core Standards?

One of the biggest changes made to the Common Core curriculum is the new emphasis on linking topics across each grade level. This is a good tactic because it gives students a greater understanding of what they’re studying, however, it also means that it is imperative that students keep up with their work and do not fall behind. If you want to help your child learn with the Common Core Standards, it is important to check on them and make sure they understand their lessons in English and Math. Go over the readings with them, check their homework, and drill math problems at least once a week.

If your child starts to struggle and fall behind, this is a good time to consider hiring a tutor. Make sure the tutor is familiar with the Common Core Standards, and that he/she is aware of what your child should be learning at this time of his or her educational career. If you need further advice or assistance selecting a tutor, TakeLessons is here to help!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and test prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Tips for Learning English in the U.S. | A Glimpse Through the Eyes of a Recent Immigrant


For immigrants new to the U.S., the challenge of learning a second language can be tough. With so many options available, what’s the best way to learn English? Read on as San Jose, CA tutor Gina C. shares her tips…

I recently interviewed Francy M., who arrived from Columbia seven months ago. Francy started studying English in her home country in high school, but only a little; now, she knows she needs to learn to speak and understand English if she hopes to work in the U.S., so she made that her primary goal when she arrived here.

When I asked Francy, a native Spanish speaker, what the main challenges are to learning English, she noted that the writing is very different.  “Words are not written as they are pronounced like in Spanish.” Also, she has to translate in her mind to be able to say what she wants to say and then many times she just does not have the English words to express what she is thinking.

These are just some of the challenges that students learning ESL face. So, how do you make learning easier? If you are new to the U.S. or have been here a while, but feel you need to improve your English, there are several different ways you can go about doing this.

  1. Community College ESL Classes: You can take ESL classes through a community college. Those don’t start at the beginner level, but may be appropriate for someone who knows some English and wants to start training for a career or getting college credits. If obtaining college credits is not part of your goal, but you have other aspirations such as improving your English to obtain a job or perform your current job better, you may want to consider a qualified coach, teacher, or small group option.

  2. Government-Subsidized ESL Classes: The government offers subsidized ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, usually available through the Adult Education Program at various high school districts. But due to budget slashing, those programs are often a challenge to get into. The other drawback is that there are usually 30+ students in a class and you are forced to go at the pace of other students who may be slower than you. Or, conversely, you may be confused and may not get all of your questions answered.

  3. Computer-Aided Instruction:

  • Rosetta Stone: Francy uses Rosetta Stone and says that it’s a good program, but not without having a class or tutor as a resource for consulting. “The program raises questions for me, like why does 3rd person singular have an s? And, what is the –ing ending? Since I am in a class, I can take my questions to the teacher.” Without a class to supplement your learning, I’d recommend working with a tutor or coach to walk you through the questions that come up when using Rosetta Stone or any other application or website for learning a language. The truth is, without a subject matter expert and the opportunity to practice, you may end up confused or may understand but not be able to actually produce as in conversing.
  • YouTube: Francy has found other tools to be helpful, as well. She searches for “How kids learn English” on YouTube and looks for children’s songs as well as popular songs that include lyrics, such as Fool’s Garden’s “Lemon Tree“.
  • ESL Websites: Another resource that Francy uses are ESL videos created by the Sacramento County Office of Education. They can be found at The California Distance Learning Project. If you click on “Other Learning Websites” at the top, you will be directed to many more free websites for learning English, including video, audio, and written scripts.

Of course, you’ll need to figure out what options works best for you. When Francy first got here, she enrolled in a private institute in the East San Jose area that was recommended by a friend. Perhaps if she knew more about American culture, she would have been suspect that the name of the school was in Spanish. If she had done her due diligence, she would have noticed that there were no reviews for it online nor much information. She enrolled and began taking classes and quickly realized it “was a waste of time” because the English class was conducted mainly in Spanish. Later, she sought out a community college. She is satisfied with her decision to use a community college, but it is good to keep in mind that the U.S. offers a variety of ways to learn English. If Francy had known about, she could have found a reputable tutor right away who could have gotten her on the right track to learning English.

Because Francy is so resourceful, I told her that she will be able to learn English with her dedication and ingenuity. She told me, “Thank you. Ojalá.” I fed her the English, “I hope so!” If you are looking to learn English and have found that the mainstream programs do not fit your schedule or needs, consider finding an ESL tutor or small group instructor who can get you speaking English quickly!

GinaCGina C. teaches languages, including English, ESL, and Spanish, in San Jose, CA. She received her MA in Hispanic Studies, her BA in English Literature, and has over 25 years’ experience teaching English, Spanish, and Business Communication. Learn more about Gina here!



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How Can I Support My English Language Learner Child?


Parents, you play a huge role in helping your child learn in between private tutoring sessions. Here are some ideas to help your English-learner work on their skills, from North Hollywood, CA tutor Brittany G


When I first got my teaching credential, I was in suburban Connecticut. The majority of students in the classroom where I did my observations and student teaching were native English speakers, with a handful who spoke another language as well. When I moved to California, the most noticeable difference was the number of non-native English speakers in the classroom. This inspired me to get my Master’s of Education in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture from the University of San Diego. Through this program, I was given the opportunity to conduct an action research project investigating best practices for supporting Kindergarten English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. These findings can be generalized to help parents and tutors uncover methods for supporting their English language learner children outside of the classroom as well in phonics and phonemic awareness.

Some Background on English Language Learners

Between 1980 and 2009, the number of children in the United States aged 5-17 who spoke a language other than English at home skyrocketed from 4.7 to 11.2 million, the equivalent of a jump from 10 to 21 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The California Department of Education website states that English learners make up 23.2 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools in 2010-11. Nearly 37.4 percent of the state’s public school enrollment speaks a language other than English at home, and the majority of these ELLs are enrolled in Kindergarten through sixth grade (California Department of Education [CDE], 2012).

Tools You Can Use

  1. AlphaFriends is an adorable program by Houghton Mifflin that introduces each letter with a corresponding song to highlight the letter-sound correspondence. If your child is having trouble matching letters to sounds, take some time during the week to introduce an AlphaFriend and practice singing the song. One teacher’s compilation is available here.
  2. Alphabet Bingo is a fun way to practice letter-sound correspondance. You can call out a letter, name the AlphaFriend, or choose another word starting with the same letter, and your child has to find and mark the picture on their Bingo card. Over time, you can increase the difficulty by having your child look for middle or end sounds, for instance, “Find the middle sound in the word ‘cat.’” Your child should break apart the word into /c//a//t/ and search for the letter “A.” Here’s a link to some printable Bingo cards.
  3. Let them write! Ask your child to write down their favorite food. Instead of being focused on the proper spelling, work with them to figure out what sounds they want to make and what letter best represents it. For example, I’ve asked students to write out “Ice Cream,” and the process looks something like this:

Teacher: What sounds do you hear first?
Student: I
Teacher: Okay, so what letter is that?
(Student writes “I”)
Teacher: What sound do you hear next?
Student: Ssss
Teacher: Great, lets write the /s/ sound.
(Student write “s”)
Teacher: Next up is /k/.
Student: That sounds like K…

When all is said and done, you might have Iskrem. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about how the letter “c” can make the sounds /s/ and /k/! Create a comfortable environment where your child feels comfortable to take risks and knows that even if they make a mistake, it’s better to try than not. Get your child talking and you will see amazing things!

Identifying letters and sounds are crucial skills for kindergarten and first grade students. Without these building blocks, it is very difficult to move forward into more advance reading and spelling skills. By setting aside 10-20 minutes a day to provide extra support, parents and tutors can help low-level English Language Learners (ELLs) catch up with their peers. It is so important to get involved early and help your child stay on track.

I hope some of my ideas can come in handy, and would highly recommend that you experiment on your own to see what other methods might work for your child.

BrittanyGBrittany G. tutors in a variety of subjects in North Hollywood, CA, as well as through online lessons. She graduated from the University of Hartford in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and has also received a Connecticut Teaching Certification for Elementary K-6 and a Certificate of Clearance to teach in California. Learn more about Brittany here!


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