As most of you know, I run an IELTS writing correction service. This means that I mark more than a thousand essays every year. One of the most common problems that I find is that IELTS students often use fake questions. Today, I want to talk about what the means, why it is a problem, and how to avoid it.
What are Fake IELTS Questions?
Almost every day, a student sends me an IELTS essay to mark that is written in response to a ridiculous question like this:
In future,nobody will buy printed newspaper or books because they will be able to read everything they want online without paying.
Agree or disagree?
I explain to my students, “This is not a real IELTS question. Please try to use authentic questions from the Cambridge IELTS books or from reputable websites.”
Of course, many students reply: “It’s not fake! I found it on the internet!”
What they do not realise is that most IELTS websites are run by people who cannot speak English very well. They start these sites in order to make money because they know that there are millions of people around the world who need IELTS advice. However, their total lack of understanding of English and the exam itself actually harms those visitors.
Look at this collection of fake questions that I have found in the past week:
What is the Problem with Fake IELTS Questions?
In my opinion, there are at least two major problems with using fake IELTS questions in your writing practice:
- You may learn bad grammar.
- You may become confused about IELTS requirements.
Let’s explain those in detail.
Learning Bad English
Firstly, these IELTS questions are often written with really, really, really bad English. As I mentioned before, it is because most IELTS tutors just pretend to speak English and they really don’t know the language.
This means that they use incorrect vocabulary or poor grammar in their question. Take this question for example:
The problem here is that we cannot use “government” this way. We can either say “The government is…” or “Governments are…”
The student who gave me this question wrote “I think government is waste money” in her essay. She had learned this bad habit from a fake question.
As you can see, when you use fake questions, you learn bad English. Instead, you should use real or realistic questions for all of your IELTS practice.
Being Confused About IELTS
In addition to speaking English poorly, most IELTS teachers actually don’t know about the exam. They don’t understand the structure of the exam, its requirements, or what the examiners are looking for.
These people make up fake questions according to their own ideas about IELTS, which are flawed. As such, they say things like:
Some people think that music can bring people together but others think that music can make society more happy. Do you agree?
This is an idiotic question. It makes no sense and writing a valid reply to it is impossible. You might think that it is a waste of time to use such questions, and you would be right, but it is even worse!
When you use these completely illogical questions, you are training your mind to construct essays around absurd points, and to make up ideas that are not necessarily covered in the question.
If you practice with this sort of question, you will surely develop some bad habits that will hinder your efforts to do well in the real IELTS writing exam.
Take a look at this example from an awful website called “IELTSband7.”
These people post questions every day but they can’t speak English well and do not understand the basics of IELTS. No IELTS writing question has ever been comprised of the prompt “Discuss.” What’s more, this question is written in the sort of English one would expect from a band 5 candidate.
How to Avoid Fake Questions
It is not easy to avoid fake IELTS questions. Most of them are created and shared by IELTS tutors and their students naturally trust them.
Sadly, not all teachers are equal in terms of ability. You can read my review of various IELTS websites here. In it, I rank them according to their knowledge of English and their knowledge of IELTS. This can help you to find competent teachers and ignore the unqualified ones.
The best way, of course, is to use trusted materials and resources. You can find authentic IELTS questions in the Cambridge book series, but you can also find pretty realistic ones through websites run by experts.
I have gathered some questions here as well. These are not all genuine IELTS questions, but they are realistic – ie they are written in real English and feature genuine IELTS ideas and structures.