If you had more time, what would you do? Read more books!

If you had more time, what would you do? I was asked this question (or at least something like that) during my IELTS speaking part, and what I should’ve answered (totally a suck up) was: Read more books!

But that’s actually what I did (I mean, during the times that I wasn’t playing Sims) during my 3 month break from work.

I’m keeping a list of the books I’ve read since then (so this list will constantly be updated).

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale
  2. 50 Shades Book 2
  3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
  4. The Selection Book 3
  5. The Baby Deal (Harlequin)
  6. The Heir
  7. The Queen
  8. The Vampire Academy
  9. Frostbite
  10. Shadowkiss
  11. Blood Promise
  12. Spirit Bound
  13. The Last Sacrifice
  14. PS I Still Love You
  15. Fan Girl
  16. Are you there God? It’s me Margaret
  17. The 100
  18. Day 21
  19. Homecoming
  20. I Was Here
  21. Paper Towns
  22. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  23. The Girl in the Mirror

I usually read using iBooks on my iPhone, but a while ago I tried Play Books on my Sony Xperia Z3, and I found out that if ever there’s a word you didn’t understand, you can just press and hold on the word and a dictionary will appear. I think that can be really good for ESL (English as Second Language) readers.

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And I also recently discovered that Google Play sells books now (yes, it took me this long to find out). And a lot of authors actually has short stories up on the store for free.

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I think short stories are great for people just starting to read, because they’re short, so it’s less intimidating and you still get a complete story out of it (yah, I don’t think I made much sense).

Also in other book and reading related news, the Page One in Taipei 101 had a clearance sale (clearance = sad, but sale made me slightly happy), and all the books were 90% off, so I bought a bunch of them.

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As in a bunch of them.

So yeah! Here’s to more reading!

My goal to read at least 100 books before the year is over.

Get Better at IELTS Reading with Elevate

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I recently took an IELTS exam.

One of the things that is really important in the Reading portion of the exam, is the ability to read quickly and grasp information accurately. And obviously that’s not something that you can learn in a day. Speed reading is a skill that needs to be trained.

A while back, I tried a brain training app called Elevate.

It has different games that will train different skills, such as Reading, Listening, Speaking, etc.

When you start the app, there is an initial “test” that will evaluate your “level”. And then you can customize your training goals, you can choose to “improve focus while reading and listening” and/or “retain more of what you read and hear” and/or “improve your mental vocabulary”.

The app comes with a set of free games (in-app purchase to unlock more games), and every training session unlocks 3 games for the day that are relevant to your goals.

For IELTS Reading, I recommend the Processing Reading game, which shows you passages at increasing WPM (words per minute) and then it will ask you some questions regarding the passage.

This feels very similar to the IELTS Reading exam, except it really forces you to read faster while retain information accurately.

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Another game that will help improve your reading is Memory, which is actually used for training Speaking. But since it tests your vocabulary, I think it will be pretty helpful in answering the Reading portion’s questions.

It is pretty straight forward, just type in the word described.

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I think if you make it a habit to train, you’ll be pretty good at Reading in no time, and maybe perfect that IELTS exam!

How to get a Band 9 for Listening and Reading of IELTS?

I recently took an IELTS exam, and I only had a week to review (because I got the test dates wrong, oh well).

Then, I saw one of my ex-colleagues post on Facebook about wanting to write a book called: 第一次考雅思就上手 (roughly translates to: Perfecting IELTS the First Time Around). Brilliant!

He hasn’t written the book yet, but he was kind enough to lend me his Cambridge IELTS Practice Exams.

Also British Council also has a Road to IELTS website which contains a lot of videos for tips and tricks, and practice exams.

And that’s how I reviewed.

“Practice makes perfect”, right? So I set the timer on my phone, and took 1 practice exam after another, until I got Band 9.

Listening

There is a trick to the Listening part, if you pay close attention you’ll notice that the answers are pronounced with emphasis.

Also you are given time to read the questions before the recording is played. So take this time to look for keywords and think of their synonyms. And listen for them during the recording.

Be careful of distractions though. Sometimes, the recording will purposely say something that’s seems like the answer, but isn’t.

You are then given time to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet, when doing so, write the whole word instead of abbreviations (in case you get the abbreviations wrong), and check for spelling and grammar. Try to write exactly what you hear, and don’t rephrase.

Reading

For the Reading Part, it was actually harder than I thought. When I took my first practice exam, I only got Band 7.5.

For Academic Reading, you will be given 3 passages to read that are from books, journals or newspapers that are of academic nature. That means, a lot of the words or vocabularies used are actually quite technical, and to be honest, some are actually quite a snooze to read.

The passages are actually quite long, between 1 to 1 and a half pages, so it’s very important to pick up your pace.

Try to skim or scan for information. What I do is go to the questions first, so I know what kind of information I’m looking for in the text. And once again, think of synonyms, the words will almost never appear as is in the text.

There are different question types: fill in the blank, multiple choice and True, False, Not Given. For me, the hardest is the True, False, Not Given one. Because you have to really make sure that the information is really not mentioned anywhere in the passage. Do not deduce, or you might make a mistake.

I have tried some Brain Training apps before, such as Elevate and Peak (which I will write more about in another post), and they have games that will actually train your reading speed.

Elevate’s reading game is gorgeous and it gives you a passage to read at increasing speed, and afterwards, it will ask you some questions to make sure you really understood. For me, that is actually quite similar to the IELTS Reading exam.

My Results

I have to admit, I was quite nervous when I took my IELTS exam.

For the Listening part, I try to pay as close attention as possible. And since I practiced using the Cambridge material, I was already used to the accent of the speaker.

For the Reading part, I actually finished reading and answering everything in 20 minutes. And then I went to the bathroom, the examiner was surprised that I was finished, and told me that I still had 40 minutes. So I went back and reread everything again in 20 minutes, then I spent the rest of the time praying in my head, because I obsessive like that.

And yes, I did get Band 9 for both Listening and Reading.

It’s funny, when I was doing my review, I wrote some tips, rather mantras, down:

  • Stay Humble
  • Keep Calm
  • The questions are not as easy as you think.
  • Don’t get caught off guard.
  • Prepare, Prepare
  • Take Practice Exams
  • Pray
  • Aim for 8.5 or 9
  • Don’t get distracted.
  • Use the time
  • Listen carefully

That’s it, I hope that helps a little bit for future IELTS takers!