One of the biggest problems that IELTS students have is idea generation. You probably know what I mean. You get a question on animal experimentation, free education, or rich countries paying for natural disasters in poorer countries and you’re completely stuck.
It’s not that you don’t have an opinion. If the question is whether you agree or disagree with animal experimentation, you would probably say that you disagree. The problem is that you don’t have any strong arguments, and you’re not sure how to generate ideas. Just a feeling that experimenting on animals is wrong.
So, what I’d like to do is suggest a way for you to learn more about the topics that appear in the IELTS exam. Please note that this is not an easy method. If you are looking for short cuts to score well in the IELTS, then you’re not in the right place. But then there are no good places for short cuts, no matter what you might hear.
Look for Topics for Idea Generation in the IELTS
The first thing you need to do is find a good website for topics. I’m concentrating here on the IELTS Writing Test, by the way, but what you learn here will be very useful for the listening, reading, and speaking tests. I used the search term “IELTS Writing task 2 topics 2019” (without speech marks), you can change it to whatever date is relevant for you. So, here are a few websites to use:
Those are only a few examples. If the sites above are not up-to-date, I’m sure you can find more that are doing a search yourself. So, let’s take a question that I found on IELTS Podcast:
“In many countries, prison is the most common solution for crimes. However, many think that better education is the most effective way to prevent people from committing further crime. To what extent do you agree or disagree.”
Idea Generation in the IELTS and the Beeb
As you can see, this question is about people being sent to prison and education. Now we need to use our second site, which is the BBC. So, go to the Beeb now and find the search box in the top right hand corner. Now, type in “prison education” (without speech marks) and see what comes up.
So, looking at the first tab “News”, there are at least 20 different news articles about prison education. What’s good about the results is that these aren’t just about the UK. There are also stories from other parts of the world.
As you can see, there are other tabs. ‘Programs’ has radio shows about prison education, and ‘Bitesize’ has articles aimed at younger learners. Very useful if you are not great at English and need easier vocabulary to use.
Study Technique for Idea Generation in the IELTS
This next bit is just my own personal ideas for studying. What you must always remember is that you are the student and you need to find the best way to study. Just because the method below might be good for some students, it doesn’t mean that you have to study the same way.
Now what you need to do is spend a few hours reading and listening to everything to do with prison education. Make notes of useful vocabulary, ideas you can use in your writing or speaking, relevant phrases, and write down any synonyms as well, which may help you with the reading test.
I’ve suggested spending at least a couple of hours doing this because the best way to learn is repetition. The more you read, the more you’ll see the same vocab, ideas, phrases, etc. Hopefully, if you read enough, you’ll remember enough to be useful in the exam.
Repeating the Idea Generation Method
Once you have finished with one topic, you can move on to the next topic. Make sure you only do one topic a day, and make sure you review everything you wrote down about the topic you did the day before, before you start a new topic. That should help you remember more as well.
Don’t forget that you have more than one type of media to use. You might want to read about a topic one day and the next day listen to some podcasts for the next topic. Like I said before, find out the best way for you to study, and stick with that method.
In fact, you don’t even have to use the BBC, and if you are in certain countries, you may not be able to anyway. The only reason I chose the Beeb is that you hopefully won’t suffer from too much information. You can choose any method you want to search for the information.
Wrapping It All Up
And there you have it. Quite a simple idea, I think you’ll agree, but if you do it as part of your preparation for the IELTS exam, it’ll help you give strong arguments in your writing and speaking tests. It may also benefit you in your reading and listening tests if you’re lucky.
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