IELTS Exams: What You Need to Know as an International Student

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most widely used English language tests around the world.

It comprises of subtests that involve reading, writing, listening as well as speaking.

This test is usually designed for people who want to work or study in an English-speaking environment.

The test fee is usually around $200, but it is best advised to check specific test centers to determine the cost in your local currency.

Prospective undergraduates or graduate students applying to universities in English-speaking countries or rather to programs in which English is the official language of communication/instruction will likely be asked to take the IELTS Academic test or the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test.

You should contact your school in order to find out which of the two tests is right for you or you can check the IETLS Global Recognition System for your school’s name.

If you, as an international student, need an IELTS score, here are seven things you need to know before taking the test.


Why You Should Take the IELTS Test

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The IELTS, jointly owned by the British Council, Cambridge English Assessment and IDP: IELTS Australia, is one of the most preferred English proficiency tests for universities in Britain, Australia, Ireland, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

For example, University College London approves a number of tests but states on its website that the IELTS test is preferred.

The test is; as well, accepted by a large number of schools in the U.S. and by English language programs in many other countries.


What Score You Need to Get

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IELTS tests give a score on a scale of 1-9 for each part of the test.

The average from the four subsets (reading, writing, listening and speaking) is used to calculate what is referred to as the overall band score.

To determine the score needed for university admission, you can look the different band scores that are required by the various universities as published on the IELTS website, or you can simply consult the university you would like to attend.

For example, the University of Oxford usually requires an overall IELTS score of 7.0 while most American Universities will accept scores in the range of 5.0-6.0.


How You Need to Prepare

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The best way to prepare for an IELTS test is by actually taking it.

This will give you the experience of the exam and you get to know your current level of prowess, helping you determine your target score in the available time.

Prepare yourself also for reading and listening sections using apps such as IELTS Skills or TOEFL TPO HD which both provide hours of test simulations for IELTS tests.


Even Non-native Speakers can Get a Band 9 on IELTS

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Contrary to the myth that flies around that only native English speakers can score a band 9 on an IELTS test.

The band 9 rating is described by IELTS as ‘Expert User’ and anyone who is an excellent English speaker can get a band 9.

It is actually not the norm that all native English speakers would score a band 9 even on spoken English.


How to Improve Your IELTS Score

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IETLS tests are not about testing how well you know the test.

The only sure way to improve on your IELTS score, once you are familiar with the test, is to improve your English in all the four macro skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

Listening is actually one of the most important macro skills.

So, practice it a lot.


You Do Not Need a Long List of Vocabulary to Pass an IELTS Test

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Usage of vocabulary is important in taking IELTS test, but more important is how you use the vocabulary in utmost accuracy and appropriateness.

IETLS tests involve various common topics such as environment, education and culture.

You can look through IELTS course books to have an idea of what kind of vocabulary to use where.


Taking the IELTS Test in Your Country May Get You a Better Score

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Taking the IELTS score in your hometown may only contribute to you feeling more comfortable around familiar surroundings.

However, you should note that the test does not become any easier despite the location you decide to take it from.

The test are universally standardized and are marked by highly trained and experienced examiners for utmost uniformity.

6 English Idioms That Wont Make Any Sense First Time Round For Non-Native Speakers

Every language has a number of phrases that don’t seem to make any sense when you take the words literally, but they have a specific meaning when they are used.

The explanations below should clear up any questions you have when you hear an English phrase that seems to make absolutely no sense in its context.


Phrase #1: “Hitting the books”

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“Hitting the books” is a common phrase that is used to mean that the person will be studying, most likely for school.

Although the phrase does sound like a person will literally be smacking books with their hands, if you walk in on someone hitting the books you will definitely walk in on someone calmly reading a book and taking notes.

Example: “I’ll be hitting the books tonight so I don’t fail my exam tomorrow.”


Phrase #2: “Hit the road”

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Similar to the phrase above, this phrase does not actually that a person is planning to smack the road with their fists.

“Hitting the road” is a commonly used expression that means that the person will be leaving and traveling somewhere, most likely down the road in a car.

Example: “It’s time for me to hit the road so I can get home before it gets dark.”


Phrase #3: “Going out of your way”

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This phrase sounds pretty confusing at first, and it’s hard to guess what this phrase can mean by literally trying to interpret it.

“Going out of your way” means to do someone a favor or help them out in some way.

Specifically, this phrase suggests that the person inconvenienced him or herself to be of assistance to someone.

Example: “Don’t go out of your way to find a sweater for me to wear.”


Phrase #4: “Give me a hand”

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Don’t be alarmed if someone asks you to “give me a hand.”

They are not asking for you to cut your hand off and give it to them.

“Give me a hand” actually means “please help me.”

It is a casual way of asking for assistance.

Example: “Can you please give me a hand cleaning these boards here?”


Phrase #5: “Blessing in disguise”

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A “blessing in disguise” is something that seems like it will be bad, but turns out to be good in the end.

For example, if you are concerned about being late to an event, but you end up seeing your favorite celebrity on the street when you should’ve been at the party, you may consider this to be a blessing in disguise since the being late turned out to be a gift rather than a concern.

This phrase can be thought of as a blessing wearing a costume, pretending to be something bad when it is actually good.

Example: “Losing my purse was a blessing in disguise, since the person who found it later became my husband.”


Phrase #6: “Far Cry From”

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This phrase is a way to compare two things, and determine that one thing is very different from another.

Example: “Alabama is a far cry from where I am from in China.”

Next time you hear a phrase that you know just doesn’t sound right, remember to consider it might just be an expression!

If something definitely sounds out of context, definitely ask the speaker what they mean. You might be surprised.

Technology: Boon or Bane To Mankind?

Technology is a very interesting and controversial product of man’s endless search for answers to the unknown, discovering wonderful, useful and sometimes disastrous and catastrophic inventions and gadgets along the way.

Technology is what made all the modern amenities we have now like computes and the internet, cell phones, airplanes, bullet trains, elevators, and many others.

The list is endless, and so are negative sides of technology like inventions and discoveries of weapons of mass destruction, GMOs or genetically modified organisms, and chemical warfare.

Technology also is what made man go to the moon and soon to Mars.

Eventually, technology is what will make man leave Earth for good in search of other habitable planets.

If this will not be possible, technology will ultimately be the cause of mankind’s destruction and annihilation.

But of course, there is the bright side of technology, granting we learn to harness it in a more positive way.

We all have an idea of what technology is.

When something good happens, we praise and thank technology but when something bad also happens, we blame technology, as if we really know what technology is.

But to a layman’s understanding, technology is simply the reason behind everything new and modern like communication facilities, before we had telephones, now we have cellphones.

That’s technology.

Incidentally, Merriam-Webster defines technology as the “Application of knowledge to the practical aims of human life or to changing and manipulating the human environment.

Technology includes the use of materials, tools, techniques, and sources of power to make life easier or more pleasant and work more productive.

Whereas science is concerned with how and why things happen, technology focuses on making things happen.”

Some negative sides of technology

1. Technology Affects and Changes the Way Our Children Think

Our children are at the losing end of this new technological way of life.

At an early age of two, parents already introduce them to the use of mobile media.

Meaning, early on, they are hooked to technological gadgets.

By the time they become teen-agers, they spend most of their waking time online and sometimes up to the late hours of the evening.

Studies show that this new lifestyle affect their brains more in a negative manner in a way that they sometimes find it difficult to relate to common and ordinary things.

2. Technology Affects and Changes the Way Our Children Feel

Constantly using technology can negatively affect a child’s natural ability to empathize.

A comparative study on two groups of students showed that children without access to electronic gadgets and devices for just five days were actually better at showing empathy than the other group who were allowed to use their devices at that time.

3. Technology Can Put Safety and Privacy at Risk

Improper use of computer technology can expose your children to numerous risks.

They may unwittingly share or divulge information that can only put them in grave danger.

In 82% of crimes against children particularly online sex offenses, the sex offenders conveniently employed social networking sites in getting information about prospective victim’s preferences.

Cyber bullying and nude sexting are also prevalent practices on the net that continually endanger your children.

4. Less Physical Activity By Using Technology More Leads to Obesity

Childhood obesity is alarmingly on the rise, and technology is among the factors to blame.

Pediatricians also claim that severe obesity among young people is increasing not only because of the food they eat, but because as they use more technology, they exercise less.

In a nutshell, technology can either be productive or destructive depending on how we use it.

But definitely, technology makes our lives much easier.

Today’s young generation have tremendous opportunities and responsibility to learn and apply technology the proper way and to connect positively by using it.

But with every advantage comes an equally potential cost.

When they understand those costs and are able to minimize them, then they can make technology positive.

Basically, the whole scenario is clearly summed up in the following quotation:

The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.

– Sydney J. Harris