“I have no idea of what to write about or what to say on certain topics.”
This is something I occasionally hear from students who experience a “mental block” when it comes to writing an answer to an IELTS essay topic or respond to an IELTS interview. One mistake students quite often make is relying on the teacher to spoonfeed information or ideas about topics so that they can do well in the test. Unfortunately, this is more harmful than helpful. By not relying on themselves to do this, IELTS students may find that they are unable to form their own opinion on certain subjects, and when asked to do this, will start using ideas that sound unnatural and made up.
The IELTS is a topic-based test and to prepare yourself well for it, students need to study diligently. It is no use if you study hard but really have no idea of which direction to take with your studies. Here is a suggestion:
- Get a notebook.
- On each page, assign a topic or a subject, eg. education, technology, tourism, etc.
- Try to read / listen to / watch as many English articles or programmes on the topics that you have assigned.
- Gather as much information as you can about what people think of the topics, or find out what is currently happening with them or if there are any developing issues arising from these topics.
- Make notes in your page about this, eg. EDUCATION – authenticity, giving knowledge and engaging students, practise empathy, blended learning, internalising, etc.
- Do the same for other topics, eg. TECHNOLOGY – social platforms, ready information at your fingertips, viral videos, scamming, etc.
- Try to use the information you have collected when practising your IELTS Writing and Speaking.
Here is an excellent mind-map illustration to help inspire you with ideas on what we could do to help solve global warming issues.
The good thing about the strategy above is that by doing this, not only will it help you build ideas and form opinions on different subjects, it will also be a great resource for locating new vocabulary to use for writing and speaking, as well as manage your understanding if you come across new words related to the topics in IELTS Listening and Reading.
Of course, you should not rely on this technique alone to help improve your study skills. This is just one of many that you could use when you embark on your learning journey. There are plenty of other ideas and suggestions out there that you can certainly use for yourself. Different learners have different strategies and learn at different paces. It is up to you to know what kind of learner you are and employ the best method for you.
Until next time!