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In 2008, IELTS introduced a number of low-key changes. Within the 46 tests throughout the year, the number of old articles has decreased (occupying about 20 percent of all articles), and new questions were included (about 80 percent). There are some apparent changes in the questions. The True/False/Not Given questions, which are easier for mid-level and low-level examinees, had drastically decreased. Meanwhile, the proportion of Matching increased to 42 percent, most of which were matching related information for a specific paragraph. These types of questions are more difficult for an examinee who wants to get high scores through examination skills, for it requires a large vocabulary to answer the questions correctly. As the year 2008 passed, and with the advent of 2009, examinees should put more emphasis on fundamental skills in order to have good performance in the following tests.
In retrospect of IELTS tests in 2008.
Changes in the articles-- There is an obvious increase in new articles since January. Almost every test included one to two new articles. In ten tests, all three articles were new (the tests on January 10th, January 26th, February 16th, March 13th, April 12th, June 14th, June 28th, July 26th, September 6th, and September 27th). The themes of the articles include Astronomy, History, Animals, Language, Economics, and various other topics. It is also noted that the frequency of new articles decreased after October in 2008. There were about two old articles in each test, most of which had occurred in January and April of 2008 and of the same period in 2007. For those who rely on the mock tests when preparing for IELTS tests, this may be good news.
Examinees should be aware of another trend. Though 10 of the tests held in 2008 included three new articles, the examinees’ scores the got the higher-intermediate level, ranging between 6.7 and 7. This indicates that whether the articles were new or used articles was not the key factors; the examinees mainly depend on the question types and difficulty level of vocabulary.
Changes in question types-- The True/False/Not Given questions had drastically decreased. Throughout the year, four tests did not include a single question such as these (July 5th, August 9th, October 25th, and December 6th). It is easy to see that examinees got apparently lower scores in these tests, which were mostly held at the beginning of the month. Matching questions have drastically increased. These types of questions, which sporadically occurred in the Cambridge Practice Test 4 and 5, has taken a central role in the IELTS tests in 2008. This type of question is relatively more manageable for examiners. They can paraphrase the sentences in the article and create a decent item. Also, these items would be less controversial (compared with True/False/Not Given questions). Considering that the number of tests drastically increased in 2008, it is understandable that this type of questions became more frequent in the test. However, for examinees with limited vocabulary who are overly reliant on test-taking skills, this type of question may be too difficult for them. They could not comprehend neither the article nor the question, not to mention the connection between the two. It’s more difficult for them to get ideal grades.
2009 prospect of IELTS and test taking strategies.
Similar to tests in 2008, the IELTS tests would include more new articles and fewer Ture/False/Not Given questions. Examinees could not rely on test-taking skills anymore; they need to focus on comprehension. Examinees with a rich vocabulary and good grammatical skills who wants to get good grades, should master 4300 to 5500 words before attending any preparation course for IELTS tests so that they could attain the best outcome. For examinees who are weak with grammar, they can refer to Cambridge in Use.
Examinees should practice more and familiarize themselves with the examination skills.
To score 7 or above in IELTS reading tests, examinees should mainly study the Cambridge IELTS 4 and 5, and keep doing practice tests. I have promoted the optimal way of using the Cambridge IELTS series. While preparing for the test, examinees should thoroughly study the practice tests by looking up the new vocabulary and doing the tests repeatedly. Though this method seems to be clumsy, it is a helpful and progressive way for Taiwanese students who study abroad, for they may encounter more challenges in their academic career, such as struggles in finishing their theses.
Examinees should adjust their learning attitude and take the simulated Tests seriously.
Examinees are suggested to use Cambridge IELTS 6, which is relatively easier throughout the series of simulated test. On one hand, they could have more confidence in taking IELTS tests, but on the other, they could avoid the confusion and embarrassment when doing more difficult versions of simulated tests. Examinees should not expect that they could get high scores by memorizing the questions in the simulated tests. Instead, they should look at the simulated tests as a way to improve their overall English proficiency.
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