Avoiding common spelling mistakes
CommonMistakes
Avoiding common spelling mistakes

The spelling and pronunciation of a word are some of the first things we learn about new vocabulary, so it can be frustrating when we make basic spelling mistakes with words we've probably known for years. You shouldn't feel too embarrassed though, spelling mistakes are the most common type of error made by IELTS candidates at all levels. There are several reasons why English spelling can be tricky. In this post, we're going to look at one key issue and some ideas for remembering problem spellings. Sound and spelling: using word parts to understand spelling One common reason for spelling mistakes is that words don't always sound as they're spelled. Take a basic word like because, it's the most commonly misspelled word across all English learners! We see learners using all kinds of spellings, especially for the vowel sounds: becouse, becose, becaus, beacause, beacuse, becase. This is probably because when we say it in fluent speech, the vowel sounds are weak: "We didn't go because it was raining." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below) Even when we emphasise the word, the sounds don't seem to match the spelling: "Why didn't you go? Because it was raining." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below) One easy way of remembering the correct spelling is to break the word down into parts.  We use because to introduce the cause of something so imagine the word as: Some longer words have a silent or barely pronounced letter in the middle that leads to common spelling mistakes. Two very common IELTS spelling mistakes are: Government - /ˈɡʌv.əm.mənt/ Advertisement - /ədˈvɜː.tɪs.mənt/ Government: often misspelled as goverment with the missing N Advertisement: often misspelled as advertisment with the missing E With these words it helps to break them down and think about the verb form where the final letters are pronounced: "People are questioning the president's ability to govern." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below) "They advertise their products online." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below) Thinking about the verb + ment will help you remember the correct spelling.   Which words do you often misspell? Can you break the word down into parts to help you remember the correct spelling? What about these other commonly misspelled words: how can they be broken down to remember? (Click image to enlarge)  

Julie Moore

9 September, 2021

Avoiding common spelling mistakes

Avoiding common spelling mistakes

The spelling and pronunciation of a word are some of the first things we learn about new vocabulary, so it can be frustrating when we make basic spelling mistakes with words we've probably known for years.

You shouldn't feel too embarrassed though, spelling mistakes are the most common type of error made by IELTS candidates at all levels. There are several reasons why English spelling can be tricky. In this post, we're going to look at one key issue and some ideas for remembering problem spellings.

Sound and spelling: using word parts to understand spelling

One common reason for spelling mistakes is that words don't always sound as they're spelled. Take a basic word like because, it's the most commonly misspelled word across all English learners! We see learners using all kinds of spellings, especially for the vowel sounds: becouse, becose, becaus, beacause, beacuse, becase. This is probably because when we say it in fluent speech, the vowel sounds are weak:

"We didn't go because it was raining." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below)

Even when we emphasise the word, the sounds don't seem to match the spelling:

"Why didn't you go? Because it was raining." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below)

One easy way of remembering the correct spelling is to break the word down into parts.

We use because to introduce the cause of something so imagine the word as:

Jigsaw pieces - one with 'be' and the other 'cause'

Some longer words have a silent or barely pronounced letter in the middle that leads to common spelling mistakes. Two very common IELTS spelling mistakes are:

  • Government - /ˈɡʌv.əm.mənt/
  • Advertisement - /ədˈvɜː.tɪs.mənt/

Government: often misspelled as goverment with the missing N
Advertisement: often misspelled as advertisment with the missing E

With these words it helps to break them down and think about the verb form where the final letters are pronounced:

"People are questioning the president's ability to govern." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below)

"They advertise their products online." (Listen to the recording of the sentence below)

Thinking about the verb + ment will help you remember the correct spelling.

govern and ment on jigsaw pieces

 

Advertise and ment on jigsaw piece

Which words do you often misspell? Can you break the word down into parts to help you remember the correct spelling?

What about these other commonly misspelled words: how can they be broken down to remember?

Commonly mispelled words - entertainment, equipment, development, performance, department, information, management

(Click image to enlarge)


Julie Moore

Julie is a teacher and language researcher who uses data from IELTS test takers to better understand how we can help them improve.

More about the author

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IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

The word noun on a typewriter
CommonMistakes
Common mistakes: nouns that can be countable or uncountable

Take a look at the two examples below – what’s the difference in meaning and usage of the word experience? Previous retail (the activity of selling goods to the public, usually in shops) experience is essential for this job. I visited the US as a child and again recently for work. Both experiences were interesting, but very different. Countable and uncountable nouns: We all know that some nouns in English are countable - car/cars, person/people, book/books - and some nouns are uncountable – water, information, happiness – and that countable and uncountable nouns behave in different ways. Just a quick recap: (Click image to enlarge) (Click image to enlarge) Nouns that can be countable AND uncountable: Going back to our first examples though, we can see that in the first sentence, experience is being used as an uncountable noun to talk generally about all the experience a person has working in retail considered together: (Click image to enlarge) Look at some more examples of experience as an uncountable noun. Notice the common collocations. Which other words in the sentences are affected by the form of the noun experience? Students gain work experience through internships. Her extensive experience in software design has been really useful. They have limited knowledge and experience of working in China. In the second sentence, experience is a countable noun which refers to particular events which the person has experienced, i.e. two separate visits to the US: (Click image to enlarge) Here are some more examples of experience as a countable noun. Which other words are affected by the form of the noun experience here? I had a bad experience on a flight once and it put me off flying. It was an amazing trip and I had some wonderful experiences. his whole experience has changed the way I see education. Some other common nouns which are used as both countable and uncountable nouns in different contexts include: Uncountable: Hurry up, we don’t have much time before our train. Countable: I’ve called her several times, but I just get her voicemail (time = occasion) Uncountable: We went out for a long walk in the country (country = countryside) Countable: The graph shows average working hours in four countries; the UK, the US, Japan and France. Uncountable: For my graduation, my parents wore traditional Nigerian dress (dress = clothes in general for men and women) Countable: Ana was wearing a lovely yellow dress (dress = an item of women’s clothing) Reminder: (Click image to enlarge) I hope you found this blog post useful.  

Julie Moore

1 September, 2021

Common mistakes: nouns that can be countable or uncountable

The word noun on a typewriter

Take a look at the two examples below – what’s the difference in meaning and usage of the word experience?

  1. Previous retail (the activity of selling goods to the public, usually in shops) experience is essential for this job.
  2. I visited the US as a child and again recently for work. Both experiences were interesting, but very different.

Countable and uncountable nouns:

We all know that some nouns in English are countable - car/cars, person/people, book/books - and some nouns are uncountable – water, information, happiness – and that countable and uncountable nouns behave in different ways. Just a quick recap:

Examples of countable nouns

(Click image to enlarge)

Examples of uncountable nouns

(Click image to enlarge)

Nouns that can be countable AND uncountable:

Going back to our first examples though, we can see that in the first sentence, experience is being used as an uncountable noun to talk generally about all the experience a person has working in retail considered together:

(No article) Previous retail experience (no plural form) is (singular verb form) essential for this job

(Click image to enlarge)

Look at some more examples of experience as an uncountable noun. Notice the common collocations. Which other words in the sentences are affected by the form of the noun experience?

  • Students gain work experience through internships.
  • Her extensive experience in software design has been really useful.
  • They have limited knowledge and experience of working in China.

In the second sentence, experience is a countable noun which refers to particular events which the person has experienced, i.e. two separate visits to the US:

(Quantifier) Both experiences (plural noun form) were (plural verb form) interesting, but very different.

(Click image to enlarge)

Here are some more examples of experience as a countable noun. Which other words are affected by the form of the noun experience here?

  • I had a bad experience on a flight once and it put me off flying.
  • It was an amazing trip and I had some wonderful experiences.
  • his whole experience has changed the way I see education.

Some other common nouns which are used as both countable and uncountable nouns in different contexts include:

  • Uncountable: Hurry up, we don’t have much time before our train.
  • Countable: I’ve called her several times, but I just get her voicemail (time = occasion)
  • Uncountable: We went out for a long walk in the country (country = countryside)
  • Countable: The graph shows average working hours in four countries; the UK, the US, Japan and France.
  • Uncountable: For my graduation, my parents wore traditional Nigerian dress (dress = clothes in general for men and women)
  • Countable: Ana was wearing a lovely yellow dress (dress = an item of women’s clothing)

Reminder:

Reminder to think carefully about context when using nouns in your writing

(Click image to enlarge)

I hope you found this blog post useful.

 

Julie Moore

Julie is a teacher and language researcher who uses data from IELTS test takers to better understand how we can help them improve.

More about the author

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IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes students make when talking about appearance
CommonMistakes
Common Mistakes students make when talking about appearance

What does 'appearance' mean?  What a person looks like. What a thing looks like. Both A and B.  The correct answer is C – the word appearance is used to talk about both a person’s looks and also the look of a thing. But how do we use them in context? Let’s take a look. Thing(s) Art can have a considerable effect on the appearance of public spaces.  It’s amazing how a little paint can make a difference to the appearance of a room.  Artificial ingredients are sometimes added to enhance the taste or appearance of food.  Notice the collocation regarding things – the appearance of … Person Some people spend hours on their appearance.  He caught sight of his appearance in the shop window.  When you’re asked to describe someone’s appearance you would use vocabulary to describe their face, body, hair and clothes. More on this later.  Appearance Vs Looks Have you heard the expression ‘good looks’ before? This is used to talk about how attractive a person is but does not include their clothes.  Choose the correct word. 1. He got the acting job based on his good appearance/looks not his talent.  2. She’s a bit scruffy and doesn’t really pay attention to her appearance/looks.    The answers are: 1. He got the acting job based on his good looks not his talent.  The correct answer is good looks as it is talking about how attractive a person is. 2. She’s a bit scruffy and doesn’t really pay attention to her appearance.  The correct answer is appearance as the sentence is talking about everything about her including her clothes.    Here’s a worksheet that focuses on the vocabulary used to talk about a person’s appearance. How did you get on? Check your work against the model answer. In the IELTS Speaking test you may be asked to talk about a person. The vocabulary in this blog is designed to help you in answering a question like that.  If you’re aiming for a band score of 6.5 and above in your Speaking test here’s a worksheet with some more advanced language on the same topic. A bit of fun Can you guess the idiom related to appearance? You can’t👨🏾‍⚖️ a 📖 by its cover.  You can’t judge a book by its cover. This means you can’t know what someone is like by only looking at a person’s appearance.  So true! But here is a book that you can judge from its cover.  IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7 is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them.  Hope you found this useful, Liz   Listen to my recent podcast episode, Emma and I discuss words students use incorrectly both in the classroom and in the IELTS test:

Liz Marqueiro

23 March, 2021

Common Mistakes students make when talking about appearance

Common Mistakes students make when talking about appearance

What does 'appearance' mean?
  1. What a person looks like.
  2. What a thing looks like.
  3. Both A and B.

The correct answer is C – the word appearance is used to talk about both a person’s looks and also the look of a thing. But how do we use them in context? Let’s take a look.

Thing(s)

  • Art can have a considerable effect on the appearance of public spaces.
  • It’s amazing how a little paint can make a difference to the appearance of a room.
  • Artificial ingredients are sometimes added to enhance the taste or appearance of food.

Notice the collocation regarding things – the appearance of …

Person

  • Some people spend hours on their appearance.
  • He caught sight of his appearance in the shop window.

When you’re asked to describe someone’s appearance you would use vocabulary to describe their face, body, hair and clothes. More on this later.

Appearance Vs Looks

Have you heard the expression ‘good looks’ before? This is used to talk about how attractive a person is but does not include their clothes.

Choose the correct word.

1. He got the acting job based on his good appearance/looks not his talent.

2. She’s a bit scruffy and doesn’t really pay attention to her appearance/looks.

 

The answers are:

1. He got the acting job based on his good looks not his talent.

The correct answer is good looks as it is talking about how attractive a person is.

2. She’s a bit scruffy and doesn’t really pay attention to her appearance.

The correct answer is appearance as the sentence is talking about everything about her including her clothes.

 

Here’s a worksheet that focuses on the vocabulary used to talk about a person’s appearance.

Download Worksheet

How did you get on? Check your work against the model answer.

In the IELTS Speaking test you may be asked to talk about a person. The vocabulary in this blog is designed to help you in answering a question like that.

If you’re aiming for a band score of 6.5 and above in your Speaking test here’s a worksheet with some more advanced language on the same topic.

Download Worksheet


A bit of fun

Can you guess the idiom related to appearance?

You can’t👨🏾️ a 📖 by its cover.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. This means you can’t know what someone is like by only looking at a person’s appearance.

So true!


But here is a book that you can judge from its cover.

IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7 is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them.

Hope you found this useful,

Liz

 

Listen to my recent podcast episode, Emma and I discuss words students use incorrectly both in the classroom and in the IELTS test:

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes: Verbs about problems
CommonMistakes
Common Mistakes: Verbs about problems

Do you want to avoid making the same mistakes others have made in their IELTS test? I'm sure you do. This blog looks at common mistakes made by students when using verbs related to problems. fix prevent  repair   resolve   solve Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate… and how to avoid them, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them. This blog is based on page 46 of the book.  Match the verb on the left with the correct definition on the right. (Click to enlarge) Now check your answers here: (Click to enlarge) Now try this one.  (Click to enlarge) The correct answer here is fix or repair. The car was not working and then it was put back into good, working condition.  Now fill in the blanks with one of the suitable verbs: fix prevent  repair   resolve   solve spend buy save It is important to teach young people how to save money as well as how to ______ it.  We must take the necessary action to ______ this issue as quickly as possible. If we are to use nuclear power, we have to do everything we can to ______ a disaster. Winning a great deal of money can’t ______ all your problems. How much did you ______ on online games last year? We closed all the window to ______ the rain from coming in.  I have to save a lot of money because I want to ______ a car next year. I can do most things but I can’t ______ broken electronic devices.  Now check your answers to the above: (Click to enlarge) Hope you found this helpful! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

23 February, 2021

Common Mistakes: Verbs about problems

Common Mistakes: Verbs about problems

Do you want to avoid making the same mistakes others have made in their IELTS test? I'm sure you do.

This blog looks at common mistakes made by students when using verbs related to problems.

fix
prevent
repair
resolve
solve

Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate… and how to avoid them, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them. This blog is based on page 46 of the book.

Match the verb on the left with the correct definition on the right.

Activity 1

(Click to enlarge)

Now check your answers here:

Activity 1 Answers

(Click to enlarge)

Now try this one.

Correct the mistakes below

(Click to enlarge)

The correct answer here is fix or repair. The car was not working and then it was put back into good, working condition.

Now fill in the blanks with one of the suitable verbs:

fix
prevent
repair
resolve
solve
spend
buy
save
  1. It is important to teach young people how to save money as well as how to ______ it.
  2. We must take the necessary action to ______ this issue as quickly as possible.
  3. If we are to use nuclear power, we have to do everything we can to ______ a disaster.
  4. Winning a great deal of money can’t ______ all your problems.
  5. How much did you ______ on online games last year?
  6. We closed all the window to ______ the rain from coming in.
  7. I have to save a lot of money because I want to ______ a car next year.
  8. I can do most things but I can’t ______ broken electronic devices.

Now check your answers to the above:

Activity 2 Answers

(Click to enlarge)

Hope you found this helpful!

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

filter tags

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IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes: Vocabulary about work
CommonMistakes
Common Mistakes: Vocabulary about work

Do you know the difference between earning a salary and earning a wage? Do you know what skills you have and what knowledge you possess? If you're not sure about the differences then this blog is for you. Here we will focus on the common mistakes made with the language around money and work. Removing these common mistakes from your writing and speaking will increase your band score. money wages salary job work knowledge skills employer employee employment unemployment  Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate… and how to avoid them, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them.  Here is an exercise for you. Note down any sentence that is correct and underline the problem in a sentence that is not correct. (Click to enlarge) Here’s a glossary to help you. Money – is used in a more general sense. Wage – a particular amount of money that is paid, usually every week, to an employee, especially one who does work that needs physical skills or strength, rather than a job needing a college education.  Salary – a fixed amount of money paid every year to an employee, usually paid monthly. Job – refers to the type of work you do.  Work – is used in a more general sense. Skill – an ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practised it.  Knowledge - understanding of a subject that you have studied over time.  Employer – the person or organisation who gives someone a job.  Employee – the person who does the job for the employer. Now check your answers here: Getting this vocabulary right will really help you increase your band score for vocabulary range and accuracy in both the Speaking and the Writing test. Here’s an example question for the IELTS Academic Writing, Task 2:   Listen to someone answering the above question. The language used to talk about the topic can also be used to write about that topic as it is quite formal language.  Notice how the vocabulary above is used to answer the question.     More advanced language To help you get an even better band score for vocabulary, here’s an exercise which introduces more advanced phrases related to the world of work. Match the words and phrases (1–5) with the definition (a–e).    Now check your answers:   These phrases were adapted from Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced. Check out the book for many more useful phrases on a wide range of IELTS topics.  A bit of fun Here’s an idiom related to work:   I hope you’ve found these common mistakes and how to avoid them useful. I also hope the vocabulary will help you feel more confident in speaking and writing about the topic of work.  Liz

Liz Marqueiro

12 February, 2021

Common Mistakes: Vocabulary about work

Common Mistakes: Vocabulary about work

Do you know the difference between earning a salary and earning a wage? Do you know what skills you have and what knowledge you possess? If you're not sure about the differences then this blog is for you. Here we will focus on the common mistakes made with the language around money and work. Removing these common mistakes from your writing and speaking will increase your band score.
  • money
  • wages
  • salary
  • job
  • work
  • knowledge
  • skills
  • employer
  • employee
  • employment
  • unemployment

Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate… and how to avoid them, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them.

Here is an exercise for you. Note down any sentence that is correct and underline the problem in a sentence that is not correct.

Vocabulary Exercise

(Click to enlarge)

Here’s a glossary to help you.

  • Money – is used in a more general sense.
  • Wage – a particular amount of money that is paid, usually every week, to an employee, especially one who does work that needs physical skills or strength, rather than a job needing a college education.
  • Salary – a fixed amount of money paid every year to an employee, usually paid monthly.
  • Job – refers to the type of work you do.
  • Work – is used in a more general sense.
  • Skill – an ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practised it.
  • Knowledge - understanding of a subject that you have studied over time.
  • Employer – the person or organisation who gives someone a job.
  • Employee – the person who does the job for the employer.

Now check your answers here:

Answer Sheet

Getting this vocabulary right will really help you increase your band score for vocabulary range and accuracy in both the Speaking and the Writing test.

Here’s an example question for the IELTS Academic Writing, Task 2:

Exercise from IELTS 14

 

Listen to someone answering the above question. The language used to talk about the topic can also be used to write about that topic as it is quite formal language.

Notice how the vocabulary above is used to answer the question.

 

 

More advanced language

To help you get an even better band score for vocabulary, here’s an exercise which introduces more advanced phrases related to the world of work.

Match the words and phrases (1–5) with the definition (a–e).

Exercise

 

Now check your answers:

Exercise Answers

 

These phrases were adapted from Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced. Check out the book for many more useful phrases on a wide range of IELTS topics.


A bit of fun

Here’s an idiom related to work:

Idiom related to work

 

I hope you’ve found these common mistakes and how to avoid them useful. I also hope the vocabulary will help you feel more confident in speaking and writing about the topic of work.

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes: Verbs about money
CommonMistakes
Common Mistakes: Verbs about money

Do you want to avoid making the same mistakes others have made in their IELTS test? I'm sure you do.  This blog looks at common mistakes made by students when using the following verbs related to money: buy vs spend. IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5.0-6.0, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them. This blog is based on page 46 of the book.  Which verb do we use to emphasise the actual thing we bought or where we bought it? If you’re shouting the word ‘buy’ at your screen, then you’re absolutely right.  Here are some example sentences: I bought a new phone last week.  (what was bought) I bought it online. (where it was bought) We use spend to talk about the money involved.  Example: I spent over one thousand rupees on it.  I’ve never spent that much before.  (This sentence doesn’t mention the money at all. When spend is used like this on its own, the idea of money is automatically understood.) Here are some sentences for you to try. Use the correct form of buy or spend to complete the gap.  She was saving up to ___ a new laptop. How much did you ___? Imran ___ his wife some flowers for her birthday. We’ve recently ___ a fortune updating our network. Listen to the answers.     More formal language If you’d like to push yourself and your band score a little more, instead of using the verb buy, you could use the more formal – purchase / acquire. A bit of fun Here are some fun idioms using the word money: (You might say this to someone who has just asked you to lend them some money. This tells them that the answer is No!) (Usually said about someone who has too much money and spends it on silly things) Which of these two expressions would you be more likely to use😉?  Liz

Liz Marqueiro

2 February, 2021

Common Mistakes: Verbs about money

Common Mistakes: Verbs about money

Do you want to avoid making the same mistakes others have made in their IELTS test? I'm sure you do.

This blog looks at common mistakes made by students when using the following verbs related to money: buy vs spend.

IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5.0-6.0, is a book which looks at the real errors made by students in actual IELTS tests and explains how to avoid them. This blog is based on page 46 of the book.

Which verb do we use to emphasise the actual thing we bought or where we bought it? If you’re shouting the word ‘buy’ at your screen, then you’re absolutely right.

Here are some example sentences:

  • I bought a new phone last week. (what was bought)
  • I bought it online. (where it was bought)

We use spend to talk about the money involved.

Example:

  • I spent over one thousand rupees on it.
  • I’ve never spent that much before. (This sentence doesn’t mention the money at all. When spend is used like this on its own, the idea of money is automatically understood.)

Here are some sentences for you to try. Use the correct form of buy or spend to complete the gap.

  1. She was saving up to ___ a new laptop.
  2. How much did you ___?
  3. Imran ___ his wife some flowers for her birthday.
  4. We’ve recently ___ a fortune updating our network.

Listen to the answers.

 

 

More formal language

If you’d like to push yourself and your band score a little more, instead of using the verb buy, you could use the more formal – purchase / acquire.


A bit of fun

Here are some fun idioms using the word money:

I'm not made of money

(You might say this to someone who has just asked you to lend them some money. This tells them that the answer is No!)

He must have money to burn

(Usually said about someone who has too much money and spends it on silly things)

Which of these two expressions would you be more likely to use😉?

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

More about the author

filter tags

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recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Avoiding Common Mistakes to achieve IELTS Writing 6.0-7.0
CommonMistakes
Avoid Common Mistakes to achieve IELTS Writing 6.0-7.0

One way of improving your IELTS score is to eliminate mistakes from your writing. That can be easier said than done though. It can seem that however careful you are, you still make mistakes. This blog post looks at two different types of mistakes and how the book, IELTS Common Mistakes for band score 6.0 - 7.0 can help you recognise and avoid them.   Familiar pitfalls Some mistakes are familiar issues; things we see and think "Oh yes, I always get that mixed up!" Often these are to do with aspects of English that are unpredictable or just work differently in other languages so tend to trip up lots of learners.  English spelling is something that can catch out even the most fluent of English speakers. How many double letters are there in accommodation or committee? What about the barely pronounced silent letters in words like environment and receipt? And when do we write maybe as one word or may be as two?   Some words overlap in meaning but are used in slightly different contexts. These distinctions may be different from your own language making them easily confused. For example, the verbs join and attend often get mixed up by learners. We use join to describe becoming a member of a group or organisation. So, you might join a club, a gym, a team or a company (as a member of staff). However, you can attend an event such as a meeting, a conference, a class or a party. Exceptions can be tricky too. These are cases where you've learned the rules and then you discover an example that doesn't fit the same pattern. For instance, when we write a name such as Cambridge University or the National Museum, we use capital letters, but when we talk more generally about universities and museums, the words are no longer capitalised. IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6.0 - 7.0 draws on data from thousands of IELTS exam candidates to pick out some of the most common pitfalls. Working through the presentations and practice exercises will help you to recognise potential issues to watch out for and understand how to use each item correctly. The things you thought you knew We've all had mistakes underlined in our writing that we look at and think "Of course I know that – why did I get it wrong?" These slips of the pen (minor mistakes in writing) are inevitable when you think about the complexities of writing in a second language. It's like a juggling act in which the more advanced you become, the more balls you have to juggle. In an IELTS Writing task, you're thinking about understanding the question, coming up with relevant points, organising your writing, showing off your range of vocabulary, using sophisticated grammatical constructions, as well as spelling, punctuation, word limits, and keeping an eye on the time. It's not surprising then that as we stretch ourselves and become more ambitious with our language, we drop the occasional ball. And sometimes, because we're focused on the fancy stuff, it's the simple things that go wrong.   Four units of IELTS Common Mistakes focus on prepositions and with good reason. Although we've all been using these tiny little words ever since we first started speaking English, research shows that they still constitute some of the most frequent mistakes made by IELTS candidates. It's all too easy when you're focused on the data in an IELTS Writing task 1 to confuse an increase of something and an increase in something.   Similarly, you may be pretty confident about when to use a singular or plural verb form. You learnt he/she/it is and they are back in your elementary class, right? But as you start to produce increasingly complex constructions, those simple rules can get less obvious. Take the following sentence: The proportion of people walking to work increases in the summer months and decreases during winter. The subject of the verb, increase, is a long noun phrase (the proportion of people walking to work), so we need to pick out the 'head noun' to determine whether the verb should be singular or plural. In this case, it's proportion, a singular noun that needs a singular verb form (it increases). And we have to pay attention to the second verb too, decrease, which also agrees with the same subject and needs to be in the same form (decreases), a pattern known as a "parallel structure". The key to noticing and correcting these slips is acknowledging they happen and keeping an eye open for them in your own writing. Don't just skim over the things you think you know. A few minutes working through some practice exercises that focus on using these basic structures in more complex contexts may be enough to raise your awareness and avoid dropping those vital few marks in the exam. Julie

Julie Moore

27 January, 2021

Avoid Common Mistakes to achieve IELTS Writing 6.0-7.0

Avoiding Common Mistakes to achieve IELTS Writing 6.0-7.0

One way of improving your IELTS score is to eliminate mistakes from your writing. That can be easier said than done though. It can seem that however careful you are, you still make mistakes. This blog post looks at two different types of mistakes and how the book, IELTS Common Mistakes for band score 6.0 - 7.0 can help you recognise and avoid them.

 

Familiar pitfalls

Some mistakes are familiar issues; things we see and think "Oh yes, I always get that mixed up!" Often these are to do with aspects of English that are unpredictable or just work differently in other languages so tend to trip up lots of learners.

English spelling is something that can catch out even the most fluent of English speakers. How many double letters are there in accommodation or committee? What about the barely pronounced silent letters in words like environment and receipt? And when do we write maybe as one word or may be as two?

Answer: maybe is an adverb similar to perhaps, may be is a verb phrase.

 

Some words overlap in meaning but are used in slightly different contexts. These distinctions may be different from your own language making them easily confused. For example, the verbs join and attend often get mixed up by learners. We use join to describe becoming a member of a group or organisation. So, you might join a club, a gym, a team or a company (as a member of staff). However, you can attend an event such as a meeting, a conference, a class or a party.

Exceptions can be tricky too. These are cases where you've learned the rules and then you discover an example that doesn't fit the same pattern. For instance, when we write a name such as Cambridge University or the National Museum, we use capital letters, but when we talk more generally about universities and museums, the words are no longer capitalised.

IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6.0 - 7.0 draws on data from thousands of IELTS exam candidates to pick out some of the most common pitfalls. Working through the presentations and practice exercises will help you to recognise potential issues to watch out for and understand how to use each item correctly.

The things you thought you knew

We've all had mistakes underlined in our writing that we look at and think "Of course I know that – why did I get it wrong?" These slips of the pen (minor mistakes in writing) are inevitable when you think about the complexities of writing in a second language. It's like a juggling act in which the more advanced you become, the more balls you have to juggle. In an IELTS Writing task, you're thinking about understanding the question, coming up with relevant points, organising your writing, showing off your range of vocabulary, using sophisticated grammatical constructions, as well as spelling, punctuation, word limits, and keeping an eye on the time. It's not surprising then that as we stretch ourselves and become more ambitious with our language, we drop the occasional ball. And sometimes, because we're focused on the fancy stuff, it's the simple things that go wrong.

Woman juggling - dropping the ball

 

Four units of IELTS Common Mistakes focus on prepositions and with good reason. Although we've all been using these tiny little words ever since we first started speaking English, research shows that they still constitute some of the most frequent mistakes made by IELTS candidates. It's all too easy when you're focused on the data in an IELTS Writing task 1 to confuse an increase of something and an increase in something.

Hint: we use increase of + the size of the change, e.g. an increase of 20% and increase in + the thing that's changed, e.g. an increase in sales.

 

Similarly, you may be pretty confident about when to use a singular or plural verb form. You learnt he/she/it is and they are back in your elementary class, right? But as you start to produce increasingly complex constructions, those simple rules can get less obvious. Take the following sentence:

The proportion of people walking to work increases in the summer months and decreases during winter.

The subject of the verb, increase, is a long noun phrase (the proportion of people walking to work), so we need to pick out the 'head noun' to determine whether the verb should be singular or plural. In this case, it's proportion, a singular noun that needs a singular verb form (it increases). And we have to pay attention to the second verb too, decrease, which also agrees with the same subject and needs to be in the same form (decreases), a pattern known as a "parallel structure".

The key to noticing and correcting these slips is acknowledging they happen and keeping an eye open for them in your own writing. Don't just skim over the things you think you know. A few minutes working through some practice exercises that focus on using these basic structures in more complex contexts may be enough to raise your awareness and avoid dropping those vital few marks in the exam.

Julie

Julie Moore

Julie is a teacher and language researcher who uses data from IELTS test takers to better understand how we can help them improve.

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Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Making progress in small doses
CommonMistakes
Making progress in small doses

'I didn't know. Now I know.' This is a comment on one of our Facebook posts. It was an answer to one of the riddles posted there and after I read it, I couldn't get the comment out of my head. To me, it represents the joy of learning and the transformative power of knowledge. So, I thought I’d try a little experiment. I looked at an area of my life where I’m trying to acquire new knowledge and I wrote down three things I didn’t know. I am currently teaching myself how to use a particular architecture software for fun – I have weird hobbies, I know.   Here’s my list of three things I didn’t know:  I don’t know how to create double-height ceilings.  I don’t know how to import a particular flooring material into the software.  I don’t know the difference between a CMU stem wall and a concrete stem wall.  I then spent the next two hours researching the answers to the questions and practised applying my new knowledge to a model I’m creating. At the end of the two hours, I was able to say: ‘I didn’t know. Now I know.’ That was deeply, deeply satisfying.  Since I got the idea from one of our followers, I thought it was only fair that I would consider how IELTS test takers might benefit from this method, which is not all that new, I’m sure, but it’s new to me so I guess some of you might not have considered this either.  So here’s an IELTS example: I don’t know the difference between ‘when’, ‘if’ and ‘whether’.  I don’t know how to use apostrophes.  I don’t know the difference between ‘number’ and ‘amount’.  A while ago, I talked about the importance of SMART goals, and I guess, whatever we put on theses lists would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, otherwise we’d never get this ‘Now I know’ moment, but other than that, this list could contain anything you fell you need. If you don’t quite know where to start with this, you might want to look at IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5.0-6.0. The learning points in there are highly relevant to the exam and focused enough to give you lots of little success moments. You might even be able to extend the quote to say: ‘I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Now I know’.   Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 December, 2020

Making progress in small doses

Making progress in small doses

'I didn't know. Now I know.' This is a comment on one of our Facebook posts. It was an answer to one of the riddles posted there and after I read it, I couldn't get the comment out of my head. To me, it represents the joy of learning and the transformative power of knowledge. So, I thought I’d try a little experiment. I looked at an area of my life where I’m trying to acquire new knowledge and I wrote down three things I didn’t know. I am currently teaching myself how to use a particular architecture software for fun – I have weird hobbies, I know.  

Here’s my list of three things I didn’t know: 

  1. I don’t know how to create double-height ceilings. 
  2. I don’t know how to import a particular flooring material into the software. 
  3. I don’t know the difference between a CMU stem wall and a concrete stem wall. 

I then spent the next two hours researching the answers to the questions and practised applying my new knowledge to a model I’m creating. At the end of the two hours, I was able to say: ‘I didn’t know. Now I know.’ That was deeply, deeply satisfying. 

Since I got the idea from one of our followers, I thought it was only fair that I would consider how IELTS test takers might benefit from this method, which is not all that new, I’m sure, but it’s new to me so I guess some of you might not have considered this either. 

So here’s an IELTS example:

  • I don’t know the difference between ‘when’, ‘if’ and ‘whether’. 
  • I don’t know how to use apostrophes. 
  • I don’t know the difference between ‘number’ and ‘amount’. 

A while ago, I talked about the importance of SMART goals, and I guess, whatever we put on theses lists would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, otherwise we’d never get this ‘Now I know’ moment, but other than that, this list could contain anything you fell you need.

If you don’t quite know where to start with this, you might want to look at IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5.0-6.0. The learning points in there are highly relevant to the exam and focused enough to give you lots of little success moments. You might even be able to extend the quote to say: ‘I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Now I know’.  

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes: -ed or -ing for adjectives describing feelings
CommonMistakes
Common Mistakes: -ed or -ing for adjectives describing feelings

As you may know, in addition to writing this blog, I also teach English at University. I recently had an interesting conversation with a student after class, and it went like this: Student: ‘I’m so boring.’ Sophie: ‘I’m sure that’s not true. You do lots of interesting things and you always say interesting things in our class discussions.’ Student: ‘Yes, but that is because I like you and I want to help you with the lesson, but I’m really just boring all the time.’ Sophie: ‘Well, thank you! But I don’t think that you can describe a kind person as boring and I certainly think you have a lot to offer. Student: ‘What are you talking about?’ Sophie: ‘What are YOU talking about?’ Student: ‘I want to change class because I’m boring. I want to go to a higher level.’ Sophie: ‘Oh!!! You mean you’re bored?!?’ Student: ‘Yes!’ Sophie: ‘Well, ok, maybe we can talk about you changing levels, but not before we have fixed your problem with adjective forms!!!’ I remembered this conversation a few days later when I started planning this blog and was looking for ideas on the theme of ‘common mistakes’ because my student isn’t alone in getting confused about the difference between ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ and similar words such as ‘excited’ and ‘exciting’, ‘interested’ and ‘interesting’, ‘exhausted’ and ‘exhausting’.  My student has now moved up a level and we found an explanation that helped her remember the difference between -ed and -ing for ‘feeling’ adjectives very easily. So, if you have the same problem, let’s see if we can fix it now! Here it is, our rule-of-thumb which works for most feeling adjectives with an -ed and -ing form: -ed = have the feeling -ing = cause the feeling So, for example:  ‘I am bored with this song now, I have heard it ten times today.’ (I have the feeling.) ‘This class is boring.’ (It caused boredom. It makes me feel bored.)   ‘I am completely exhausted! I’ve just spent 2 hours in the gym!’ (I feel tired.) ‘Long distance journeys are exhausting.’ (They make me feel tired.)   (Click to enlarge) Want to find out more about common mistakes at IELTS and how to avoid them? I can recommend the common mistakes books for intermediate or advanced depending on your intended band score. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

28 August, 2020

Common Mistakes: -ed or -ing for adjectives describing feelings

Common Mistakes: -ed or -ing for adjectives describing feelings

As you may know, in addition to writing this blog, I also teach English at University.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a student after class, and it went like this:

Student: ‘I’m so boring.’

Sophie: ‘I’m sure that’s not true. You do lots of interesting things and you always say interesting things in our class discussions.’

Student: ‘Yes, but that is because I like you and I want to help you with the lesson, but I’m really just boring all the time.’

Sophie: ‘Well, thank you! But I don’t think that you can describe a kind person as boring and I certainly think you have a lot to offer.

Student: ‘What are you talking about?’

Sophie: ‘What are YOU talking about?’

Student: ‘I want to change class because I’m boring. I want to go to a higher level.’

Sophie: ‘Oh!!! You mean you’re bored?!?’

Student: ‘Yes!’

Sophie: ‘Well, ok, maybe we can talk about you changing levels, but not before we have fixed your problem with adjective forms!!!’

I remembered this conversation a few days later when I started planning this blog and was looking for ideas on the theme of ‘common mistakes’ because my student isn’t alone in getting confused about the difference between ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ and similar words such as ‘excited’ and ‘exciting’, ‘interested’ and ‘interesting’, ‘exhausted’ and ‘exhausting’.

My student has now moved up a level and we found an explanation that helped her remember the difference between -ed and -ing for ‘feeling’ adjectives very easily. So, if you have the same problem, let’s see if we can fix it now!

Here it is, our rule-of-thumb which works for most feeling adjectives with an -ed and -ing form:

-ed = have the feeling

-ing = cause the feeling

So, for example:

‘I am bored with this song now, I have heard it ten times today.’ (I have the feeling.)

‘This class is boring.’ (It caused boredom. It makes me feel bored.)

 

‘I am completely exhausted! I’ve just spent 2 hours in the gym!’ (I feel tired.)

‘Long distance journeys are exhausting.’ (They make me feel tired.)

 

Common Mistakes Language Activity - Adjectives

(Click to enlarge)

Want to find out more about common mistakes at IELTS and how to avoid them? I can recommend the common mistakes books for intermediate or advanced depending on your intended band score.

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

3 mistakes to avoid with IELTS test practice
CommonMistakes
3 mistakes to avoid with IELTS test practice

Test practice is an essential part of your IELTS preparation if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the band score you need. But to make IELTS test practice effective, there are three common mistakes you’ll need to avoid: Not using authentic IELTS test materials Not reviewing your performance properly Not planning your IELTS test practice Read on to find out how to avoid making these mistakes and how to make the most of your test practice. Mistake 1: Not using authentic IELTS test materials Not all IELTS Practice tests contain the types of questions that you’ll get in your real IELTS test, and so it’s important to use test materials from trusted websites/books. Here’s an example of some IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions from IELTS Trainer Academic 2 that are based on the types of questions you may get in your IELTS Speaking test. Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student? Work What’s your job? Why did you choose this kind of work? What do you like most about your job? Study What are you studying? Why did you choose this subject / these subjects? What do you like most about your studies? If you do a search online for ‘IELTS Speaking questions’ (as I just did), you may well find examples that look like authentic questions but are not.  I found examples of IELTS Speaking questions on topics you wouldn’t get in a real IELTS test and examples containing grammar mistakes! If you use these to practice, you may get the wrong idea about possible IELTS Speaking topics and become confused about what grammar to use in your answers. So, how can you tell if a practice test is authentic or not? The bad news is you may not be able to, and that’s why it’s very important to check who the test was written by. These authentic practice tests are from Cambridge University Press. Mistake 2: Not reviewing your performance properly After doing an IELTS practice test, you’ll obviously want to check how many answers you got right and/or get an idea of your IELTS band score. But if that’s all you do before doing another IELTS practice test, you’re missing an opportunity to improve your performance.  To make your test practice more effective, it’s important to think about what you did well, any problems you had and what you can do differently next time. After doing an IELTS Speaking practice test, for example, you could ask yourself the following questions and then make a plan for next time. (I’ve included some examples of what your plan might involve below).   Why not practise now by recording yourself answering the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above, and then answering the reflection questions when you listen back? Mistake 3: Not planning your IELTS test practice Let’s say you practised the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above but didn’t review your performance, how would you know what you can do better next time?  If, on the other hand, you reflected on your performance, you’d have a better idea of how to improve and could then plan what to do when (or before) you practise again. For example: if you noticed that your answers to the speaking questions were very short, arrange for someone to practise with you and ask you follow-up questions to help you give longer answers. if you didn’t understand a particular question, plan and practise what you’re going to do in your Speaking test if this were to happen again (i.e. learn and practise how to ask the examiner to repeat a question or explain what a word means). if you realised you didn’t know enough vocabulary to talk about your work or study, learn more words/phrases to talk about the topic before practising it again. So, now that you’ve seen how to avoid some common mistakes with test practice, you’re ready to do some IELTS test practice and get better results! Pete  

Pete Jones

2 June, 2020

3 mistakes to avoid with IELTS test practice

3 mistakes to avoid with IELTS test practice

Test practice is an essential part of your IELTS preparation if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the band score you need.

But to make IELTS test practice effective, there are three common mistakes you’ll need to avoid:

  • Not using authentic IELTS test materials
  • Not reviewing your performance properly
  • Not planning your IELTS test practice

Read on to find out how to avoid making these mistakes and how to make the most of your test practice.

Mistake 1: Not using authentic IELTS test materials

Not all IELTS Practice tests contain the types of questions that you’ll get in your real IELTS test, and so it’s important to use test materials from trusted websites/books.

Here’s an example of some IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions from IELTS Trainer Academic 2 that are based on the types of questions you may get in your IELTS Speaking test.

Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?

Work

  • What’s your job?
  • Why did you choose this kind of work?
  • What do you like most about your job?

Study

  • What are you studying?
  • Why did you choose this subject / these subjects?
  • What do you like most about your studies?

If you do a search online for ‘IELTS Speaking questions’ (as I just did), you may well find examples that look like authentic questions but are not.

I found examples of IELTS Speaking questions on topics you wouldn’t get in a real IELTS test and examples containing grammar mistakes! If you use these to practice, you may get the wrong idea about possible IELTS Speaking topics and become confused about what grammar to use in your answers.

So, how can you tell if a practice test is authentic or not? The bad news is you may not be able to, and that’s why it’s very important to check who the test was written by.

These authentic practice tests are from Cambridge University Press.

Mistake 2: Not reviewing your performance properly

After doing an IELTS practice test, you’ll obviously want to check how many answers you got right and/or get an idea of your IELTS band score.

But if that’s all you do before doing another IELTS practice test, you’re missing an opportunity to improve your performance.

To make your test practice more effective, it’s important to think about what you did well, any problems you had and what you can do differently next time.

After doing an IELTS Speaking practice test, for example, you could ask yourself the following questions and then make a plan for next time. (I’ve included some examples of what your plan might involve below).

Question Checklist

 

Why not practise now by recording yourself answering the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above, and then answering the reflection questions when you listen back?

Mistake 3: Not planning your IELTS test practice

Let’s say you practised the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above but didn’t review your performance, how would you know what you can do better next time?

If, on the other hand, you reflected on your performance, you’d have a better idea of how to improve and could then plan what to do when (or before) you practise again.

For example:

  • if you noticed that your answers to the speaking questions were very short, arrange for someone to practise with you and ask you follow-up questions to help you give longer answers.
  • if you didn’t understand a particular question, plan and practise what you’re going to do in your Speaking test if this were to happen again (i.e. learn and practise how to ask the examiner to repeat a question or explain what a word means).
  • if you realised you didn’t know enough vocabulary to talk about your work or study, learn more words/phrases to talk about the topic before practising it again.

So, now that you’ve seen how to avoid some common mistakes with test practice, you’re ready to do some IELTS test practice and get better results!

Pete

Pete Jones

Pete has been helping IELTS test takers and teachers for many years and really enjoys helping people improve their English and their IELTS band score.

More about the author

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Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Misusing linking expressions (Grammar)
CommonMistakes
Misusing linking expressions (Grammar)

Welcome back to the third and final part in my blog series on common mistakes in using linking expressions. In the first blog we looked at the importance of understanding the exact wording and meaning of linking expressions and in the second instalment we considered the importance of understanding the logic behind the expressions.  We’re now going to have a look at the importance of studying how a linking word fits into a sentence grammatically. If the word ‘grammar’ makes you want to scream and run away, please don’t: I promise it’s not so bad.  Let’s look at these two examples: Because Because of They look pretty much the same, right? Wrong! (Sorry!) So why is that? Let’s look at them again, this time in example sentences:  Because of the bad weather, we stayed at home.  Because the weather was bad, we stayed at home. After because of we need a noun, or something that looks like a noun (a noun phrase or -ing form), after because, we need a full clause with a noun and a verb.  ‘A noun phrase is a group of words that can be replaced by a pronoun: “the bad weather” = “it”.’ This was a pretty simple example. So let’s try something a little bit more ambitious. Before you read on, think about how you would use the expression ’as well as’ in a sentence.  You may have opted for something straightforward like: I play the piano as well as the violin.✅ Or you may have tried something like this:  She plays the piano. As well as she plays the violin.❌ Don’t worry if you got this wrong. A lot of my students do. It’s a very common mistake. Look at this example and see if you can work out what the linking expression as well as needs in this example.  As well as playing the piano, she plays the violin.  So, the linking expression usually needs a noun or, in this case, a verb that pretends to be a noun (-ing form). So, even though it looks more complicated, it’s really the same rule as ‘because of’. So far so good!  However, when we use the infinitive, we can also use the expression like this: I have to do a practice writing test as well as finish the grammar exercises.  So: infinitive + to / as well as / infinitive - to I have hundreds of examples of common grammatical mistakes with linking words, but I’m not going to share any more with you here, because we’ve already looked at two and that’s more than enough for one day. We often say that it is quality and not quantity that matters, and to a certain extent that is true in IELTS: It is better to be able to use fewer linking expressions well than to use a lot of different ones incorrectly. However, that should not stop you from building your knowledge of linking expressions right up to the day you take the test. Just go at a speed that allows you to invest the time that learning the wording, logic and grammar of each linking expression requires.  Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice: Worksheet download           Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.  Answer sheet download Best of luck! Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

26 May, 2020

Misusing linking expressions (Grammar)

Misusing linking expressions (Grammar)

Welcome back to the third and final part in my blog series on common mistakes in using linking expressions. In the first blog we looked at the importance of understanding the exact wording and meaning of linking expressions and in the second instalment we considered the importance of understanding the logic behind the expressions.
We’re now going to have a look at the importance of studying how a linking word fits into a sentence grammatically. If the word ‘grammar’ makes you want to scream and run away, please don’t: I promise it’s not so bad.

Let’s look at these two examples:

  • Because
  • Because of

They look pretty much the same, right? Wrong! (Sorry!)

So why is that? Let’s look at them again, this time in example sentences:

  • Because of the bad weather, we stayed at home.
  • Because the weather was bad, we stayed at home.

After because of we need a noun, or something that looks like a noun (a noun phrase or -ing form), after because, we need a full clause with a noun and a verb.

‘A noun phrase is a group of words that can be replaced by a pronoun: “the bad weather” = “it”.’

This was a pretty simple example. So let’s try something a little bit more ambitious. Before you read on, think about how you would use the expression ’as well as’ in a sentence.

You may have opted for something straightforward like:

I play the piano as well as the violin.

Or you may have tried something like this:

She plays the piano. As well as she plays the violin.

Don’t worry if you got this wrong. A lot of my students do. It’s a very common mistake.
Look at this example and see if you can work out what the linking expression as well as needs in this example.

As well as playing the piano, she plays the violin.

So, the linking expression usually needs a noun or, in this case, a verb that pretends to be a noun (-ing form). So, even though it looks more complicated, it’s really the same rule as ‘because of’. So far so good!

However, when we use the infinitive, we can also use the expression like this:

I have to do a practice writing test as well as finish the grammar exercises.

So: infinitive + to / as well as / infinitive - to

I have hundreds of examples of common grammatical mistakes with linking words, but I’m not going to share any more with you here, because we’ve already looked at two and that’s more than enough for one day.

We often say that it is quality and not quantity that matters, and to a certain extent that is true in IELTS: It is better to be able to use fewer linking expressions well than to use a lot of different ones incorrectly. However, that should not stop you from building your knowledge of linking expressions right up to the day you take the test. Just go at a speed that allows you to invest the time that learning the wording, logic and grammar of each linking expression requires.

Language activity:

Download our activity worksheet to practice:

Download Worksheet

Worksheet download  

Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.

Answer Sheet

Answer sheet download

Best of luck!

Sophie

Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced used by Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Common Mistakes Linking Expressions
CommonMistakes
Misusing linking expressions with examples (Logic and Syntax)

Do linking expressions drive you bananas? Welcome back to my blog series on linking expressions! If you haven’t seen my previous blog, take a look after you’ve read this blog post.   Today I’m going to outline typical examples of common mistakes students make in logic and grammar and I’ll give you a few tips on how to avoid them in the exam. Once you have understood the meaning of a linking expression, it’s really important to study how it links ideas logically and grammatically. For example, just because ‘although’ has a similar meaning as ‘however’, it doesn’t mean that we can use them the same way in a sentence. That’s why it’s important to study linking expressions through short, simple examples.  I really love fruit. However, I don’t like bananas. ✅ I really love fruit. Although I don’t like bananas. ❌ Although I really love fruit, I don’t like bananas. ✅ As you can see, sometimes a linking expression connects ideas across two separate sentences and sometimes it combines two sentences into one. It’s important to notice whether to use one or two sentences. The words ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘also’, for example, combine sentences, which is why they shouldn’t be used at the start of the sentence. I like apples. And I like peaches.❌ I like apples and I like peaches. ✅ Many linking words can be used in more than one position in the sentence, as you can see in these examples.  I really like fruit. However, bananas are not my favourite.  I really like fruit. Bananas, however, are not my favourite. I really like fruit. Bananas are not my favourite, however.  The problem is that you can’t just insert any linking word into these positions in the sentence because what is possible for some might not be possible for others. Therefore, it is really important to study possible positions for each linking expression within the sentence and only use them where you know they work. In some cases, you also have to be careful about how you arrange the ideas around the linking expression.  Due to an allergy, I cannot eat strawberries. ✅ OR  I cannot eat strawberries due to an allergy ✅ I am allergic to strawberries, so I cannot eat them. ✅ BUT NOT So, I cannot eat them, I am allergic to strawberries. ❌ Both ‘due to’ and ‘so’ link reason and result, but while ‘due to’ needs to be in the same half of the sentence as the reason, ‘so’ needs to be with the result. ‘So’ may be a very simple example, but it illustrates the point that it is very important to understand the logical relationship linking expressions created between the different ideas in your writing.  As a consequence of my strawberry allergy, I cannot drink strawberry milk. OR I cannot drink strawberry milk, as a consequence of my strawberry allergy. BUT I have a strawberry allergy. Consequently, I cannot drink strawberry milk. As you can see, ‘as a consequence of’ and ‘consequently’ look very similar and have the same meaning, but they are used very differently within the sentence: ‘As a consequence of’ usually combines two ideas in a single sentence and is placed with the reason while ‘consequently’ links ideas across two sentences and is placed with the result.  Finally, remember that in the written exam, you should use formal language, so you’ll  need to consider style when studying linking expressions. For example, the word ‘though’ has the same meaning as the word ‘although’, but it is not really a formal way of linking ideas.  Figuring all of this out and remembering it takes a lot of time and effort, but there’s good news, too: For the writing part of the exam, you don’t need to know hundreds of linking expressions. It’s much better to study a reasonable number of linking expressions for each situation (e.g. reason and result, contrast, addition) in detail and arrange the ideas you are trying to express accordingly.  Top Tips for studying linking expressions:  Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

20 March, 2020

Misusing linking expressions with examples (Logic and Syntax)

Common Mistakes Linking Expressions

Do linking expressions drive you bananas?
Welcome back to my blog series on linking expressions! If you haven’t seen my previous blog, take a look after you’ve read this blog post.
Today I’m going to outline typical examples of common mistakes students make in logic and grammar and I’ll give you a few tips on how to avoid them in the exam.

Once you have understood the meaning of a linking expression, it’s really important to study how it links ideas logically and grammatically. For example, just because ‘although’ has a similar meaning as ‘however’, it doesn’t mean that we can use them the same way in a sentence. That’s why it’s important to study linking expressions through short, simple examples.

I really love fruit. However, I don’t like bananas. ✅
I really love fruit. Although I don’t like bananas. ❌
Although I really love fruit, I don’t like bananas. ✅

As you can see, sometimes a linking expression connects ideas across two separate sentences and sometimes it combines two sentences into one. It’s important to notice whether to use one or two sentences. The words ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘also’, for example, combine sentences, which is why they shouldn’t be used at the start of the sentence.

I like apples. And I like peaches.❌
I like apples and I like peaches. ✅

Many linking words can be used in more than one position in the sentence, as you can see in these examples.

I really like fruit. However, bananas are not my favourite.
I really like fruit. Bananas, however, are not my favourite.
I really like fruit. Bananas are not my favourite, however.

The problem is that you can’t just insert any linking word into these positions in the sentence because what is possible for some might not be possible for others. Therefore, it is really important to study possible positions for each linking expression within the sentence and only use them where you know they work.
In some cases, you also have to be careful about how you arrange the ideas around the linking expression.

Due to an allergy, I cannot eat strawberries. ✅
OR
I cannot eat strawberries due to an allergy ✅


I am allergic to strawberries, so I cannot eat them. ✅
BUT NOT
So, I cannot eat them, I am allergic to strawberries. ❌

Both ‘due to’ and ‘so’ link reason and result, but while ‘due to’ needs to be in the same half of the sentence as the reason, ‘so’ needs to be with the result. ‘So’ may be a very simple example, but it illustrates the point that it is very important to understand the logical relationship linking expressions created between the different ideas in your writing.

As a consequence of my strawberry allergy, I cannot drink strawberry milk.
OR
I cannot drink strawberry milk, as a consequence of my strawberry allergy.
BUT
I have a strawberry allergy. Consequently, I cannot drink strawberry milk.

As you can see, ‘as a consequence of’ and ‘consequently’ look very similar and have the same meaning, but they are used very differently within the sentence: ‘As a consequence of’ usually combines two ideas in a single sentence and is placed with the reason while ‘consequently’ links ideas across two sentences and is placed with the result.

Finally, remember that in the written exam, you should use formal language, so you’ll need to consider style when studying linking expressions. For example, the word ‘though’ has the same meaning as the word ‘although’, but it is not really a formal way of linking ideas.

Figuring all of this out and remembering it takes a lot of time and effort, but there’s good news, too: For the writing part of the exam, you don’t need to know hundreds of linking expressions. It’s much better to study a reasonable number of linking expressions for each situation (e.g. reason and result, contrast, addition) in detail and arrange the ideas you are trying to express accordingly.

Top Tips for studying linking expressions: 

Top Tips Checklist


Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 5-6

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of real tests takers' exams. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

common mistakes
CommonMistakes
Misusing linking expressions

Linking expressions can be confusing – not only to those preparing for the IELTS test, but also to the examiner, because a linking expression used incorrectly can have serious effects on the reader’s understanding of a text. You don’t want any loss of meaning to negatively affect your writing mark. For the Writing section of the test, it is important to study the exact wording used in linking expressions. Look at the two expressions below. Only one of them is a linking expression. Which one is it? ‘on the other hand’  OR  ‘on the other side’  If you chose ‘on the other hand’, well done! This is a linking expression used for contrasting two ideas. ‘On the other side’ is not a linking expression. You would use this to say something like ‘the other side of the street’ or ‘the other side of the room’. Here’s another example of a common mistake: We can say ‘in spite of’ or ‘despite’ but not ‘despite of’. Examiners will definitely notice these kinds of mistakes, so it's worth going over the linking expressions you currently use to make sure you know their meanings and use them correctly in sentences. Just because two linking expressions look similar, it doesn’t mean that they have the same meaning. Top Tip: Always make sure you have thoroughly understood the meaning of a linking expression. Memorising an easy and clear example sentence might help with this. On the contrary ... What do you think the expression ‘on the contrary’ means? When I ask this question in class, the vast majority of students immediately respond with ‘on the other hand’. Unfortunately, that is a very common mistake. Look at the two expressions again in these examples: Building playgrounds for children is not an unnecessary expense. On the contrary, providing children with a safe environment is vital to their mental development.  'I thought you said you hated school.’ ‘On the contrary, I love it.’ ‘On the contrary’ can be used to emphasise a previous sentence by the same writer or speaker (1), or to strongly contradict something that was said by a different speaker (2). On the other hand ... ‘On the other hand’ usually contrasts two different ideas (swings and trampolines in the example below): Swings are relatively safe. Trampolines, on the other hand, are often considered to be dangerous.  It’s OK not to be confident with linking expressions in your writing. Focus on the ones you know you can use accurately and slowly build up more as you go along.  Having a good understanding of a wide range of linking expressions will still be useful in the Reading and Listening sections of the test. However, accuracy is less important here as you can usually work out the meaning from context.  Top Tip: If in doubt, use an easier linking expression instead of one where you’re not 100% sure of the meaning. Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice your linking expressions.    Worksheet download Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.    Answer sheet download Hope you found this useful, we’ll be covering more common mistakes in later blogs so please come back for more. Sophie  

Sophie Hodgson

28 February, 2020

Misusing linking expressions

common mistakes

Linking expressions can be confusing – not only to those preparing for the IELTS test, but also to the examiner, because a linking expression used incorrectly can have serious effects on the reader’s understanding of a text. You don’t want any loss of meaning to negatively affect your writing mark.

For the Writing section of the test, it is important to study the exact wording used in linking expressions. Look at the two expressions below. Only one of them is a linking expression. Which one is it?

on the other hand

OR

on the other side


If you chose ‘on the other hand’, well done! This is a linking expression used for contrasting two ideas. ‘On the other side’ is not a linking expression. You would use this to say something like ‘the other side of the street’ or ‘the other side of the room’.

Here’s another example of a common mistake:

We can say ‘in spite of’ or ‘despite’ but not ‘despite of’.

Examiners will definitely notice these kinds of mistakes, so it's worth going over the linking expressions you currently use to make sure you know their meanings and use them correctly in sentences. Just because two linking expressions look similar, it doesn’t mean that they have the same meaning.

top-tip

Top Tip: Always make sure you have thoroughly understood the meaning of a linking expression. Memorising an easy and clear example sentence might help with this.

On the contrary ...

What do you think the expression ‘on the contrary’ means? When I ask this question in class, the vast majority of students immediately respond with ‘on the other hand’. Unfortunately, that is a very common mistake.

Look at the two expressions again in these examples:

  1. Building playgrounds for children is not an unnecessary expense. On the contrary, providing children with a safe environment is vital to their mental development.
  2. 'I thought you said you hated school.’ ‘On the contrary, I love it.’

‘On the contrary’ can be used to emphasise a previous sentence by the same writer or speaker (1), or to strongly contradict something that was said by a different speaker (2).


On the other hand ...

‘On the other hand’ usually contrasts two different ideas (swings and trampolines in the example below):

Swings are relatively safe. Trampolines, on the other hand, are often considered to be dangerous.

It’s OK not to be confident with linking expressions in your writing. Focus on the ones you know you can use accurately and slowly build up more as you go along.

Having a good understanding of a wide range of linking expressions will still be useful in the Reading and Listening sections of the test. However, accuracy is less important here as you can usually work out the meaning from context.

top-tip

Top Tip: If in doubt, use an easier linking expression instead of one where you’re not 100% sure of the meaning.

Language activity:

Download our activity worksheet to practice your linking expressions.

 

Download Worksheet

Worksheet download

Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.

 

Answer Sheet

Answer sheet download

Hope you found this useful, we’ll be covering more common mistakes in later blogs so please come back for more.

Sophie

 

Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced used by Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Common Mistakes for bands 6-7

This book highlights the real mistakes that students make in the IELTS test and shows how to avoid them. Each unit targets a key problem area and is based on analysis of thousands of scripts from real test takers. Clear explanations and exercises show you how to use the language accurately. You can check what you’ve learned in the units with regular tests. Previous title Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

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