This week I thought I would give you a test that I often use in class on the first day of an IELTS exam preparation course. I’ll explain the purpose later.
It starts with a list of instructions that you must complete within 3 minutes.
You will need a pencil, a sheet of paper and a timer (you can use your phone).
The only thing you must do is read all the instructions very carefully before you start.
Sounds easy, right? But just remember, 3 minutes is very quick and you must complete the activity before your time is up!
Are you ready? Go……
1. Read all the instructions 1-15.
2. Write your name in the upper left-hand corner of your paper.
3. Write today’s date in the upper right-hand corner of the paper.
4. Underline the key words in each of these 15 statements.
5. Circle all the verbs.
6. Fold your paper in half, so there is a crease.
7. Write down your favourite food on the right side of the crease.
8. Draw a funny face on the left side of the crease.
9. Add 35 and 25 together. Write your answer directly underneath your name at the top of the page.
10. In the bottom left-hand corner, write your age.
11. Count the number of times the word ‘and’ appears, and write that number next to the smiley face.
12. Fold each of the corners on this paper.
13. Up the top in the middle of the page, write your middle name.
14. Write down the title of your favourite film above your funny face
15. Now that you have read all of the instructions, you must only complete instruction number 1.
Time’s up! Did you manage to complete this activity within 3 minutes?
If you followed the instructions carefully, of course you did. In fact, you would have completed this activity in less than a minute without writing or drawing anything. Why? Because first you would have read and completed instruction 1, which told you to read ALL the instructions. This was the first thing you should have done BEFORE continuing with number 2 and so on. If you had read all the instructions first, you would have seen that instruction 15 tells you that you must only complete instruction 1! You didn’t have to do any of the rest!
It is a fun activity for those students who realise this and spend 3 minutes watching their fellow students desperately trying to finish the whole activity in a short time, and very frustrating to those students who, after 3 minutes of great effort, find out they didn’t need to bother! Sometimes I even add in a few silly instructions like ‘stand up and turn around’ or ‘shout out the name of your best friend’, which is even funnier for the students who are sitting there, smiling smugly.
But the purpose of the activity is actual a very serious one, and this is to highlight just how much precious time and effort you can waste in the IELTS exam if you don’t read the exam instructions carefully and follow them exactly.
It is important to spend time reading through instructions and highlighting key words and information if necessary, in order to do the activity properly. Don’t rush to start and risk doing it wrong.
For further advice on exam instructions, read The Importance of Following Instructions.