Preparing for IELTS

Home Admissions Course Guide Preparing for IELTS

This Course Guide has been taken from the most recent presentation of the course. It would be useful for reference purposes but please note that there may be updates for the following presentation.


Preparing for IELTS

ENGL 2205EED provides you with a sound foundation for sitting the IELTS (the International English Language Testing System) test, which will be administered by either IDP or the British Council. The course builds up your proficiency in the four skills assessed — reading, writing, listening and speaking, familiarizes you with the test components, and provides you with extensive practice in tackling the types of test items you will face in the IELTS test.

This course aims to help learners to:

  • become familiar with and apply examination techniques relevant to the question types in IELTS;
  • demonstrate that they can understand spoken English in both everyday life and formal situations;
  • comprehend written texts and identify required information quickly and accurately;
  • present ideas in formal essays and reports in appropriate styles; and
  • express ideas orally on a variety of topics in effective ways.

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Identify information in, infer meaning from and summarize listening texts.
  2. Identify meaning and key words in written texts and extract information from them quickly and accurately.
  3. Present ideas in formal essays and reports in appropriate registers/styles.
  4. Express ideas orally on a variety of topics in effective ways.
  5. Perform satisfactorily on the IELTS test.

In all cases, these outcomes are related closely to the requirements of the IELTS test.

The following table provides an overview of the modules in the course, the amount of time it might take to complete each module and the timing of the associated assignments.


ModulesWeeks of workAssignments
1 Skills and strategies for academic writing2 
2 Skills and strategies for speaking2 
3 Skills and strategies for academic reading2 
4 Skills and strategies for listening2Assignment 1
5 Preparing for the IELTS Academic Writing test2 
6 Preparing for the IELTS Speaking test2Assignment 2
7 Preparing for the IELTS Academic Reading test2 
8 Preparing for the IELTS Listening test2Assignment 3
Total16 weeks 


The first four modules of the course consolidate your competence in the four language skills. Then Modules 5–8 build on the earlier modules by focusing more specifically on the sorts of questions that are likely to appear in the IELTS test.

The materials for ENGL 2205EED consist of this Course Guide, eight modules, audio recordings on the OLE and an Assignment File.


Course Guide

This Course Guide tells you briefly what the course is about, what it contains, and how you can work your way through it. It also gives you information about tutors and face-to-face sessions, and assessment. Remember to refer to the Course Guide throughout the course to help clarify important points about studying ENGL 2205EED.


Study modules

As you saw in the previous section, there are eight study modules in this course. Each module consists of about two weeks of work, and includes a wide range of activities which provide practice on the four language skills.


Set books

There is no set book for this course, but you are advised to purchase IELTS Specimen Materials 2003 (updated January 2005) published jointly by the British Council, IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL examinations. This material can be purchased from the British Council in Hong Kong. It is also available in the HKMU library.


Audio recordings

There are four sets of audio recordings for the modules related to listening and speaking. The audio recordings are available on the Online Learning Environment (OLE). You will also need access to recording software to record MP3 or MP4 files.


Assignment File

The Assignment File provides an overview of the nature and requirements of the three course assignments and guides you through them.

The course supports you through face-to-face tutorials, a language laboratory session, telephone tutoring, and the Online Learning Environment (OLE).


Face-to-face and telephone tutoring

To supplement your self-study, there are seven two-hour tutorials. In the tutorials, your tutor will answer questions about any problems you have faced during self-study and hold other activities, such as small-group discussions, to enhance your learning.

In addition, at the beginning of the semester, there will be a student orientation for new students.

When you have any difficulties with your studies, you may also consult your tutor by telephone during the assigned time slots.


Online communication

You will have the opportunity for additional online communication — with your peers, tutors and the Course Coordinator — through the HKMU Online Learning Environment (OLE). The OLE provides interactive tools in the form of a discussion board, as well as hyperlinks to useful websites and other relevant resources.

Although the modules are arranged in a specific sequence, you should read them in the order that best suits your needs. However, though you might skim through parts of different modules at various times for specific purposes, you must still study each module in detail within the period suggested in the study schedule provided by your Course Coordinator. To do this, you should:

  • read the overview; and
  • work through the module, carrying out activities.

Finally, after completing the whole course, review the materials and prepare for the IELTS test.

There are three assignments, and the IELTS test at the end of the course. You must pass in the continuous assessment and obtain a satisfactory level in the IELTS test (normally level 6) to pass the course.



The three assignments, which are weighted 15%, 15% and 20%, account for 50% of the final course grade, and all are required.



The examination component, the academic version of the IELTS test, accounts for the other 50%. Some information about the format of the test is given in the Appendix.

IELTS, as an international examination, will be administered externally either by IDP or the British Council, the only two authorized institutions worldwide. You will be notified of the date and venue of the examination once you have completed the registration process in the middle of the course. The course coordinator will guide you through the process and update you with the latest information on the OLE. The examination fee is already covered in your tuition fees; no further payment is needed.

If you have any special educational needs, kindly inform the course coordinator at the beginning of the term so that timely arrangement can be made for your examination.

We hope that by studying ENGL 2205EED, you will develop your proficiency in the English language and perform well in the IELTS test.

We wish you every success in the course.

Philip Leetch (BA, MA, PGDE) was Assistant Principal of S K H Tang Shiu Kin Secondary School. He has taught in the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, and lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years. He has published a large number of textbooks, courses and language packs in both Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as writing for the press. He has also been a member of a wide range of committees under the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, and has served as a member of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR).


The International English Language Testing System was developed to help judge whether candidates are ready for tertiary-level studies in an English-speaking country. The Academic version of the test, which we are concerned with in this course, tests the candidates' ability to cope with the sort of social situations an overseas student might be expected to encounter in an English-speaking country and evaluates his or her ability to benefit from instruction in English. There is no concept of passing or failing the test. One's score is converted into a band. These run from 1 for someone who knows only a few words to 9, the level of someone with a full command of the language, basically similar to an educated native-speaker. Candidates are given a band score for each of the four skills, and an overall banding, calculated as an average of the four scores. University graduates in Hong Kong fall predominantly into the sixth band designated for competent users, able to function effectively in English but with quite a few inaccuracies.

The Listening and Reading parts of the test are answered on special sheets designed to make marking easy and efficient. As in all examinations, where the answer is unclear or two answers are given, no marks are awarded. Wrongly spelled words receive no marks. Both US and UK spellings are acceptable where there is a difference. Marks are not deducted for wrong answers, so it is highly advisable to complete every question.


Test components

The component parts of the test are administered in the following order:

  • Listening – 30 minutes
  • Academic Reading – 60 minutes
  • Academic Writing – 60 minutes
  • Speaking – 11 to 14 minutes.

Further details on each part, and suggested ways of preparing for them (in addition to studying ENGL 2205EED), are given below.



This paper is divided into four sections, with ten questions in each section:

  1. a conversation and
  2. a monologue relating to social needs in an English-speaking country;
  3. a conversation and
  4. a monologue on topics related more closely to educational or training contexts.

The recording is played once only. Answers are written while listening to the recording. Ten minutes are given at the end for tidying up the paper and completing any unfinished answers.


Ways of preparing

• Going over specimen materials

• Listening to the radio and television

• Watching DVDs with the English captions on them

• Attending functions with speeches, etc., in English



There are three passages of increasing difficulty. The topics chosen seek to be fairly general and not to benefit any one group of people. They are the sort of thing one might find as a feature article in a newspaper or magazine. One passage will present an argument.


Ways of preparing

• Going over specimen materials

• Reading feature articles in the English press

• Reading extensively on general topics on the Internet

• Reading news and science magazines

• Reading books written in the middle style (biographies, popular science, etc.)



There are two tasks:

  1. a presentation in writing of information displayed in graphical form: 20 minutes/at least 150 words
  2. a piece of argumentative prose: 40 minutes, at least 250 words.

No choices are given. Candidates are expected to use a serious academic style for both passages.


Ways of preparing

• Going over specimen materials

• Getting as much writing practice as possible

• Getting feedback from peers

• Asking for advice from qualified people

• Noting aspects of style and structure when reading

• Identifying areas of weaknesses and working on them



This takes the form of an oral interview between a candidate and examiner, which lasts from 11 to 14 minutes. The interview has three distinct parts, as follows:

  • introductions and general questions about familiar personal matters: 4–5 minutes
  • a short presentation on a designated topic. The candidate is given the topic and has one minute to prepare to speak for 1–2 minutes on it. The examiner may follow up with one or two related questions.
  • a discussion on a more abstract/philosophical level. The topic will be one related to the presentation: 4–5 minutes.

Ways of preparing

• Going over specimen materials

• Recording oneself and identifying areas for improvement

• Practising with peers

• Imitating sounds and phrases from recorded material


Throughout the test, candidates who are aiming for high bands must seek to impress the examiner/marker with the full range of their ability. A conscious effort needs to be made to show off one's vocabulary resources, command of different grammatical structures, sense of style, sensitivity to register and accuracy.

Coming soon