Using noun phrases to improve your writing
Writing
Using noun phrases to improve your writing

Have you ever wondered why academic English sounds so, well, academic? Your choice of vocabulary and linking words is certainly important, but there's another element to it that we rarely talk about, namely how we organise information within our sentences. When I ask my students what they think, they often say that academic language is complicated and uses long sentences. It’s true that sentences tend to be longer than in everyday English, but ‘complicated’ writing is usually just bad style – and many native speakers of English are guilty of using unnecessary complexity in order to sound impressive.  So today, I want to show you how we create more academic-sounding language without losing control of our sentences by shifting the information into a different place. The magic word is ‘noun phrases’. In academic English we tend to put more information into our subjects and objects and verbs are slightly less important. I read somewhere that ‘is’ is the most common verb in academic writing, and I can definitely believe that’s true. So, while there are some great academic verbs for you to study, our focus is more on creating really strong and specific subjects.  So, let’s look at some examples. Here is a task from IELTS Academic 13 (part of our Authentic Practice Tests):   As part of your answer you may write a sentence like this:  People travel by train because they need to go to work.  This sentence is grammatically correct, which is a great first step, but it doesn’t sound very academic, does it? Let’s ask ourselves this question: Do we really want to talk about ‘people’? The answer is ‘no’, so ‘people’ is a ‘weak’ subject* because it does not draw our reader’s attention to what matters to us. In this sentence, our real focus is ‘go to work or school’. In academic English, we tend to present the idea that really matters, the thing we talk about in the subject (i.e. near the start of the sentence). However, ‘go to work’ cannot be a subject, because it’s a verb construction, and ‘go’ isn’t really a great word choice here. If we look again, we see that we used ‘travel’ in this sentence too, which sounds better than ‘go’. All we have to do now is to ‘disguise’ our verb to make it look like a noun (we use -ing for this) and voilá: We get ‘travelling to work …’. Now let’s run our test again: Do we really want to talk about ‘travelling to work’? Some of us are going to shout “Yes! That’s exactly what I want to talk about” whilst others are going to say, “Mmmmh… I’m not sure”. If you’re in the latter group, keep trying until you find something that works for what you are really trying to say:    Personally, I thought the last one fitted best with what I’m trying to say, so I might create a sentence like this:  Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] why many people use the train [rest of the sentence – life is too short to break this down grammatically].  If you look at the second half of my sentence here, you might see that, again, it doesn’t sound very academic. The focus is on the verb and I use ‘people’ again. Instead of saying ‘why’, I could use ‘reasons’ and ‘people use the train’ this idea is the same as ‘travel’.  This gives me: ‘Short and middle-distance commuter journeys are the main reason for travel.’ However, on re-reading it, I realise that I could be more focussed on the task question and  make my object a little more specific.  Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] one of the main reasons for weekday train travel [object].  Can you see how simple the grammatical structure of this sentence is? At the same time, the sentence is focussed and specific, which is the essence of good academic writing.  If you’d like me to explore noun phrases in a bit more depth in another blog, let me know on our Facebook page and I will happily oblige. I love noun phrases and could talk about them all day long. To work on your own grasp of noun phrases, why not check out Unit 12 in Cambridge Grammar for IELTS? Sophie (*Please note that many of the exam questions start with ‘people’ or ‘many people’ because they are generally written in simple English to allow students from a variety of levels to understand the question). 

Sophie Hodgson

30 July, 2020

Using noun phrases to improve your writing

Using noun phrases to improve your writing

Have you ever wondered why academic English sounds so, well, academic? Your choice of vocabulary and linking words is certainly important, but there's another element to it that we rarely talk about, namely how we organise information within our sentences.

When I ask my students what they think, they often say that academic language is complicated and uses long sentences. It’s true that sentences tend to be longer than in everyday English, but ‘complicated’ writing is usually just bad style – and many native speakers of English are guilty of using unnecessary complexity in order to sound impressive. 

So today, I want to show you how we create more academic-sounding language without losing control of our sentences by shifting the information into a different place. The magic word is noun phrases.

In academic English we tend to put more information into our subjects and objects and verbs are slightly less important. I read somewhere that ‘is’ is the most common verb in academic writing, and I can definitely believe that’s true. So, while there are some great academic verbs for you to study, our focus is more on creating really strong and specific subjects. 

So, let’s look at some examples.

Here is a task from IELTS Academic 13 (part of our Authentic Practice Tests):

Writing Exercise from Sophie

 

As part of your answer you may write a sentence like this: 

People travel by train because they need to go to work. 

This sentence is grammatically correct, which is a great first step, but it doesn’t sound very academic, does it? Let’s ask ourselves this question: Do we really want to talk about ‘people’? The answer is ‘no’, so ‘people’ is a ‘weak’ subject* because it does not draw our reader’s attention to what matters to us. In this sentence, our real focus is ‘go to work or school’.

In academic English, we tend to present the idea that really matters, the thing we talk about in the subject (i.e. near the start of the sentence). However, ‘go to work’ cannot be a subject, because it’s a verb construction, and ‘go’ isn’t really a great word choice here. If we look again, we see that we used ‘travel’ in this sentence too, which sounds better than ‘go’. All we have to do now is to ‘disguise’ our verb to make it look like a noun (we use -ing for this) and voilá: We get ‘travelling to work …’. Now let’s run our test again: Do we really want to talk about ‘travelling to work’? Some of us are going to shout “Yes! That’s exactly what I want to talk about” whilst others are going to say, “Mmmmh… I’m not sure”. If you’re in the latter group, keep trying until you find something that works for what you are really trying to say: 

Things to think about

 

Personally, I thought the last one fitted best with what I’m trying to say, so I might create a sentence like this: 

Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] why many people use the train [rest of the sentence – life is too short to break this down grammatically]. 

If you look at the second half of my sentence here, you might see that, again, it doesn’t sound very academic. The focus is on the verb and I use ‘people’ again. Instead of saying ‘why’, I could use ‘reasons’ and ‘people use the train’ this idea is the same as ‘travel’. 

This gives me: ‘Short and middle-distance commuter journeys are the main reason for travel.’ However, on re-reading it, I realise that I could be more focussed on the task question and  make my object a little more specific. 

Short and middle-distance commuter journeys [subject] are [verb] one of the main reasons for weekday train travel [object]. 

Can you see how simple the grammatical structure of this sentence is? At the same time, the sentence is focussed and specific, which is the essence of good academic writing. 

If you’d like me to explore noun phrases in a bit more depth in another blog, let me know on our Facebook page and I will happily oblige. I love noun phrases and could talk about them all day long. To work on your own grasp of noun phrases, why not check out Unit 12 in Cambridge Grammar for IELTS?

Sophie

(*Please note that many of the exam questions start with ‘people’ or ‘many people’ because they are generally written in simple English to allow students from a variety of levels to understand the question). 

Language Activity from Sophie - Noun Phrases

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.

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Do you forget to leave time to check your writing at the end of a timed IELTS practice? Catching those mistakes that are easily corrected can make all the difference to your band score. Today, I'm going to give you a checklist of 10 things to look out for as you review your work. Before that, let’s quickly review some facts about Writing in IELTS.  Read the instructions carefully and underline the important parts of the task. Remember, you must paraphrase the task, don’t just copy it out.  Make a plan, just some rough notes, that you can follow and stay on task.  Memorised answers are obvious and never answer the task fully so avoid them.  Write your answer once, there is no time to draft. Leave 3-4 minutes at the end to go through and edit your work. Corrections don't subtract from your band score as long as the whole answer is legible and it's easy to see what the correction is, it counts towards a better grade. That last one is the hardest for many people. It can feel like there’s hardly time to write a full answer in the test, let alone edit too. To make things easier I have created a checklist of 10 areas to look at when editing. 1. Overall Structure – have you addressed all parts of the task? Read the task again and remind yourself of the key points (they should be underlined already). 2. Paragraphing – do you start a new paragraph for each new idea?  If you have forgotten to use paragraphs, mark them clearly in the correct place and write ‘new para’ in the margin.  (Click to enlarge) 3. Coherence – have you linked your ideas clearly so they are easy to follow? You can find some great information and activities in Sophie’s blog series on ‘Misusing Linking Expressions’. 4. Style – have you used a formal or neutral style of English? Avoid abbreviations, slang, contractions, colloquialisms and idioms. Remember that this is a test, the examiner wants to see that you can use English beyond chatting with friends.  (Click to enlarge) Now check your answers against the below: (Click to enlarge)   5. Tenses –  are your tenses consistent? Your writing will be assessed for grammatical accuracy, using the wrong tense is a common mistake. (Click to enlarge) Check against the answers below: (Click to enlarge) 6. Prepositions – are your prepositions correct?  When you are learning new words be sure to learn which prepositions they collocate with. Learning chunks of language rather than single words really helps with this. Take a look at Liz' blog about this. (Click to enlarge) 7. Articles – have you missed out an article or added one where it is not needed?  A, an and the are such important words in English and they can be so hard to get right.  Here is a blog post I wrote about using the definite article you might find helpful.    8. Subject-Verb agreement – have you changed the verb to agree with the subject of the sentence? This is one of the most common errors students make. You need to think about whether the ‘subject’ is plural or singular and change the verb accordingly. Uncountable nouns are singular for subject-verb agreement.  9. Spelling – have you made spelling mistakes that could be avoided? It’s hard to spot your own spelling errors so looking out for particular words you often get wrong can help. If you do make a mistake simply cross it out and write the correct word above.  (Click to enlarge) Did you get these right? (Click to enlarge) 10. Punctuation – have you got full stops, capital letters, etc. where you need them? Don’t let punctuation be your downfall. Simple things like capital letters, full stops, question marks and commas make a real difference to your accuracy and the readability of your writing.  (Click to enlarge) Check your corrected sentences with the answers below:  (Click to enlarge) I hope that you have found this blog post and the activities helpful. I really believe that taking 3 or 4 minutes at the end of an IELTS Writing task to review your work and make quick corrections can make all the difference. By getting into the habit of checking these 10 areas of your writing it will become faster and easier. You will start to recognise the kinds of mistakes you make and perhaps even stop making them. So why don't you start today? Find an IELTS task that you have written recently, and go through it thinking about the 10 items on this list.  Can you improve it at all? Have fun editing! Emma

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Checklist for editing your IELTS Writing

Checklist for editing your IELTS Writing

Do you forget to leave time to check your writing at the end of a timed IELTS practice? Catching those mistakes that are easily corrected can make all the difference to your band score. Today, I'm going to give you a checklist of 10 things to look out for as you review your work. Before that, let’s quickly review some facts about Writing in IELTS. 
  • Read the instructions carefully and underline the important parts of the task. Remember, you must paraphrase the task, don’t just copy it out. 
  • Make a plan, just some rough notes, that you can follow and stay on task.  Memorised answers are obvious and never answer the task fully so avoid them. 
  • Write your answer once, there is no time to draft.
  • Leave 3-4 minutes at the end to go through and edit your work. Corrections don't subtract from your band score as long as the whole answer is legible and it's easy to see what the correction is, it counts towards a better grade.

That last one is the hardest for many people. It can feel like there’s hardly time to write a full answer in the test, let alone edit too. To make things easier I have created a checklist of 10 areas to look at when editing.

1. Overall Structure – have you addressed all parts of the task?

Read the task again and remind yourself of the key points (they should be underlined already).

2. Paragraphing – do you start a new paragraph for each new idea? 

If you have forgotten to use paragraphs, mark them clearly in the correct place and write ‘new para’ in the margin. 

Checklist Example 1

(Click to enlarge)

3. Coherence – have you linked your ideas clearly so they are easy to follow?

You can find some great information and activities in Sophie’s blog series on ‘Misusing Linking Expressions’.

4. Style – have you used a formal or neutral style of English?

Avoid abbreviations, slang, contractions, colloquialisms and idioms. Remember that this is a test, the examiner wants to see that you can use English beyond chatting with friends. 

Checklist - Activity 1

(Click to enlarge)

Now check your answers against the below:

Checklist - Activity 1 Answers

(Click to enlarge)

 

5. Tenses –  are your tenses consistent?

Your writing will be assessed for grammatical accuracy, using the wrong tense is a common mistake.

Checklist - Activity 2

(Click to enlarge)

Check against the answers below:

Checklist - Activity 2 Answers

(Click to enlarge)

6. Prepositions – are your prepositions correct? 

When you are learning new words be sure to learn which prepositions they collocate with. Learning chunks of language rather than single words really helps with this. Take a look at Liz' blog about this.

Checklist - Activity 4

(Click to enlarge)

7. Articles – have you missed out an article or added one where it is not needed? 

A, an and the are such important words in English and they can be so hard to get right.  Here is a blog post I wrote about using the definite article you might find helpful.   

8. Subject-Verb agreement – have you changed the verb to agree with the subject of the sentence?

This is one of the most common errors students make. You need to think about whether the ‘subject’ is plural or singular and change the verb accordingly. Uncountable nouns are singular for subject-verb agreement. 

9. Spelling have you made spelling mistakes that could be avoided?

It’s hard to spot your own spelling errors so looking out for particular words you often get wrong can help. If you do make a mistake simply cross it out and write the correct word above. 

Checklist - Activity 5

(Click to enlarge)

Did you get these right?

Checklist Answers Activity 5

(Click to enlarge)

10. Punctuation – have you got full stops, capital letters, etc. where you need them?

Don’t let punctuation be your downfall. Simple things like capital letters, full stops, question marks and commas make a real difference to your accuracy and the readability of your writing. 

Checklist - Activity 6

(Click to enlarge)

Check your corrected sentences with the answers below: 

Checklist - Activity 6 Answers

(Click to enlarge)

I hope that you have found this blog post and the activities helpful. I really believe that taking 3 or 4 minutes at the end of an IELTS Writing task to review your work and make quick corrections can make all the difference.

By getting into the habit of checking these 10 areas of your writing it will become faster and easier. You will start to recognise the kinds of mistakes you make and perhaps even stop making them. So why don't you start today? Find an IELTS task that you have written recently, and go through it thinking about the 10 items on this list.  Can you improve it at all?

Have fun editing!

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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When you try to describe a chart or a graph, quite often you're so worried about getting the facts and the data correct that you forget to focus on the language and the grammar you are using. Does this sound familiar?  I hope this blog helps you to focus on the language and grammar you use in this part of the IELTS test.  Language Let’s look at language first. Graphs and charts show / compare facts.  Example: The two graphs show the number of people employed by the company in 2000 and 2010.  The graph compares average working hours in the UK and the US.  When we are talking about the figures or statistics in the chart or graph, we can use – suggest that / indicate.  Example: The statistics suggest that people in rural areas are healthier.  These figures indicate that the company is growing in size each year. If figures go up - we use increase or rise. If figures go down - we use decrease, fall, drop.  If figures stay the same - we use remain steady or show little change or show no change. If figures go up and down a lot - we use fluctuate.    DO NOT use these verbs to describe a chart or graph: ❌ demonstrate  ❌ display   ❌ tell   Grammar Now, let’s move on to looking at the grammar you use when describing charts and graphs.  It’s really important to look at the dates in the chart or graph.  If the dates are in the past you will need to use the past simple.  For example In 2002 the figures increased from 25% to 30%.  Temperatures fell in May.  The price of oil remained steady during that period.  The cost of electricity fluctuated during those five years.  We can also change these verbs into nouns. You do this by starting the sentence with: There was / were … (Click to enlarge) If the dates start in the past but go up to a date in the present then you will need to use the present perfect. So, if there is a connection between the past and now, you will need to use have + past participle.  Let’s adapt the examples above to show you how to do this. For example The figures have increased from 25% to 30%.  Temperatures have fallen over the last few years.  The price of oil has remained steady during this period.  The cost of electricity has fluctuated over the past five years.  Again, we can change these verbs into nouns. This time you need to start with There has been … (Click to enlarge) I hope you have found this useful, we’ll be covering more common mistakes in later blogs so please come back for more.  Liz 

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29 June, 2020

Describing charts and graphs in Academic Writing Task 1

Describing charts and graphs in Academic Writing Task 1

When you try to describe a chart or a graph, quite often you're so worried about getting the facts and the data correct that you forget to focus on the language and the grammar you are using. Does this sound familiar? 

I hope this blog helps you to focus on the language and grammar you use in this part of the IELTS test. 

Language

Let’s look at language first.

Graphs and charts show / compare facts

Example:

  • The two graphs show the number of people employed by the company in 2000 and 2010. 
  • The graph compares average working hours in the UK and the US. 

When we are talking about the figures or statistics in the chart or graph, we can use – suggest that / indicate

Example:

  • The statistics suggest that people in rural areas are healthier. 
  • These figures indicate that the company is growing in size each year.

If figures go up - we use increase or rise.

If figures go down - we use decrease, fall, drop

If figures stay the same - we use remain steady or show little change or show no change.

If figures go up and down a lot - we use fluctuate

 

DO NOT use these verbs to describe a chart or graph:

demonstrate  ❌ display   ❌ tell

 

Grammar

Now, let’s move on to looking at the grammar you use when describing charts and graphs. 

It’s really important to look at the dates in the chart or graph. 

If the dates are in the past you will need to use the past simple. 

For example

  • In 2002 the figures increased from 25% to 30%. 
  • Temperatures fell in May. 
  • The price of oil remained steady during that period. 
  • The cost of electricity fluctuated during those five years. 

We can also change these verbs into nouns. You do this by starting the sentence with: There was / were

Grammar differences Verb and Noun

(Click to enlarge)

If the dates start in the past but go up to a date in the present then you will need to use the present perfect. So, if there is a connection between the past and now, you will need to use have + past participle. 

Let’s adapt the examples above to show you how to do this.

For example

  • The figures have increased from 25% to 30%. 
  • Temperatures have fallen over the last few years. 
  • The price of oil has remained steady during this period. 
  • The cost of electricity has fluctuated over the past five years. 

Again, we can change these verbs into nouns. This time you need to start with There has been

Grammar - Verb and Noun 2

(Click to enlarge)

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

Liz 

Liz Marqueiro

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

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Do you get told time and time again that spelling is your weakness? Maybe it's time to do something about it. In today's blog I'll be discussing five (fun) ways to make spelling practice part of your daily routine.  Before you start, make sure to identify your weaknesses. If you have a lot of different problems, you will have to invest more time than if your problem is limited to one or two areas (e.g. often getting confused between b and p). If you have access to a teacher or fluent English speaker ask them to help identify your specific issues. If you’re mainly self-taught, do a dictation from a source where you have a transcript, pausing as often as necessary. Then carefully compare your writing to the original and see where you misspelled words. Ask yourself if all of your mistakes are similar, or if there are a lot of different types of mistakes and what exactly you keep getting wrong.  Once you have identified your problem(s), set aside a fixed time for spelling practice. 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A lot of people struggle with this, myself included (one c or two, one s or two???). However, one day my teacher told me: “Just remember: ‘Never eat crisps, eat sweet salad and remain young’.” I was a little confused by the idea of sweet salad, but the sentence stuck, perhaps because it’s a little bit silly.  Say it out loud Another great way to commit the spelling of a difficult word to memory is to say it the way you would pronounce it in your language. Look at the word ‘usually’ / ˈjuːʒʊəli /, for example. I have a friend who mumbles ‘uh-suh-all-lee’ every time they have to write it, because that relates to the letters in their first language.  Play games There are lots of fun crosswords and spelling games freely available on the internet. At We Love IELTS we regularly share quizzes on our social media accounts. If you’re a very focussed student, you may feel that you shouldn’t be having fun when you’re meant to be studying, but the two of them really aren’t mutually exclusive. So give yourself permission to take a more playful approach to work for a few minutes every day. You may also want to enlist a member of your family or a friend to have little spelling competitions. I know that the prospect of my younger sister being better at spelling French than me was extremely motivating during my school years.   Here’s an example of a fun game you could play: Place a text at one end of the room with two pens and two pieces of paper at the other end of the room. Then you both read a sentence from the text, run to your pen and paper and write down what you have read. When you’ve finished, you swap papers and mark each other’s work. Whoever made fewer mistakes is the winner. Alternatively, you could work together and one of you dictates what they’ve read to the other.  Use your spellchecker Many of my students do not turn on the spellchecker on their computer, because they think it makes them lazy and stops them from improving their spelling. Quite the opposite! Your spellchecker shows you in red if there is something wrong with a word you have written. Try to work out what it is and change the word until the red line disappears. Then check in the dictionary to see if you have managed to find the right spelling for the word you really wanted. Remember that ‘loose’ and ‘lose’ are both correct words in English, but do you know which one means ‘not fixed’ and which one is the opposite of ‘win’?  Here's a quick language activity for you: (Click to enlarge) Sophie

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5 ways to improve your spelling

5 ways to improve your spelling

Do you get told time and time again that spelling is your weakness? Maybe it's time to do something about it. In today's blog I'll be discussing five (fun) ways to make spelling practice part of your daily routine. 

Before you start, make sure to identify your weaknesses. If you have a lot of different problems, you will have to invest more time than if your problem is limited to one or two areas (e.g. often getting confused between b and p). If you have access to a teacher or fluent English speaker ask them to help identify your specific issues. If you’re mainly self-taught, do a dictation from a source where you have a transcript, pausing as often as necessary. Then carefully compare your writing to the original and see where you misspelled words. Ask yourself if all of your mistakes are similar, or if there are a lot of different types of mistakes and what exactly you keep getting wrong. 

Once you have identified your problem(s), set aside a fixed time for spelling practice. Short and often is better than long and rarely as your brain can only absorb so much information at a time and things tend to become jumbled if we work on combining individual letters in the right order for too long. 

The next step is to come up with fun strategies to improve your spelling. Here are some of my favourites. By the way, I have used every single one of these techniques myself, as spelling really wasn’t my strong point when I was little. Ask my mum!

Study the rules

Ok, maybe for most people this isn’t the most fun way to deal with the issue, but we do have a few spelling rules in English which may help you tackle your specific problem efficiently. For example, if you’re never sure if you should double a letter at the end of a word or not when using the -ing form. As an English teacher I like rules, and they have helped me improve my own spelling really quickly, which is why I have included this here.  

Use your imagination 

When I was a little girl, I was never able to spell the word business correctly. That’s because it is pronounced /ˈbɪznəs / so the letter u sounds like an ɪ and you cannot hear the letter i at all. So confusing! So my spelling of ‘business’ was typically ‘biznis’. One day my mum said to me: “Imagine a bus, yourself and the Loch Ness Monster. Now write down ‘bus’ ‘I’ and ‘ness’.” So to this day, when I need to write the word business, I still think of myself on a bus with Nessie. I’ve never misspelled the word since. Or when I need to spell ‘accommodation’ I always imagine a house with two double bedrooms and that reminds me that there are two c’s and two m’s. 

If there is no suitable image you can make from your problem word, create a phrase or sentence to help you remember. A typical example is the word ‘necessary’. A lot of people struggle with this, myself included (one c or two, one s or two???). However, one day my teacher told me: “Just remember: ‘Never eat crisps, eat sweet salad and remain young’.” I was a little confused by the idea of sweet salad, but the sentence stuck, perhaps because it’s a little bit silly. 

Say it out loud

Another great way to commit the spelling of a difficult word to memory is to say it the way you would pronounce it in your language. Look at the word ‘usually’ / ˈjuːʒʊəli /, for example. I have a friend who mumbles ‘uh-suh-all-lee’ every time they have to write it, because that relates to the letters in their first language. 

Play games

There are lots of fun crosswords and spelling games freely available on the internet. At We Love IELTS we regularly share quizzes on our social media accounts. If you’re a very focussed student, you may feel that you shouldn’t be having fun when you’re meant to be studying, but the two of them really aren’t mutually exclusive. So give yourself permission to take a more playful approach to work for a few minutes every day. You may also want to enlist a member of your family or a friend to have little spelling competitions. I know that the prospect of my younger sister being better at spelling French than me was extremely motivating during my school years.  

Here’s an example of a fun game you could play: Place a text at one end of the room with two pens and two pieces of paper at the other end of the room. Then you both read a sentence from the text, run to your pen and paper and write down what you have read. When you’ve finished, you swap papers and mark each other’s work. Whoever made fewer mistakes is the winner. Alternatively, you could work together and one of you dictates what they’ve read to the other. 

Use your spellchecker

Many of my students do not turn on the spellchecker on their computer, because they think it makes them lazy and stops them from improving their spelling. Quite the opposite! Your spellchecker shows you in red if there is something wrong with a word you have written. Try to work out what it is and change the word until the red line disappears. Then check in the dictionary to see if you have managed to find the right spelling for the word you really wanted. Remember that ‘loose’ and ‘lose’ are both correct words in English, but do you know which one means ‘not fixed’ and which one is the opposite of ‘win’? 

Here's a quick language activity for you:

Spelling Language Activity

(Click to enlarge)

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

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Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS

Learn all the vocabulary you need to achieve up to band 6 in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It includes useful tips on how to learn vocabulary and covers tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes. This book also includes practice exercises for each skill, regular progress checks and tips on how to avoid typical errors.

How to improve your vocabulary using collocations
Writing
How to improve your vocabulary using collocations

All students tell me they need to learn more vocabulary but what they don't often realise is that when you learn a new word, you should also learn what verb, adjective or preposition it goes with. The way words are used together is called collocation.  Here are some sentences to show you what I mean: Regular exercise can be of benefit to most people.  After careful analysis of the situation we decided to cancel the trip.  I found out about the hotel on the internet.  When you make a note of new vocabulary you should also make a note of any collocations. Learning collocations and how to use them will help raise your score for Vocabulary range and accuracy (how wide your vocabulary is and how you can use it correctly).  Strong or weak collocation? Collocations can be strong – this means that the link between the words is quite fixed. You can’t use any other word. Some examples of strong collocations are: make a cup of coffee  do homework heavy rain agree with someone agree on something depend on  Weak collocations: big – car, house, news, city … very – big, interesting, hot, tired … expensive – car, house, holiday … ➱ Here are some practice exercises for you. You should try to use strong collocations when you’re speaking and writing if you can.    Intermediate Collocations Activity:   Worksheet download Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.  Answer sheet download   Advanced Collocations Activity:  If you’d like even more of a challenge, you can find an advanced exercise below.  Worksheet download        Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.  Answer sheet download So, if you’d like to do well in your IELTS Speaking and Writing tests, you should follow this advice – do your best to learn collocations too.  Hope you have found this useful, we’ll be covering more collocations in later blogs so please come back for more.    Liz

Liz Marqueiro

12 June, 2020

How to improve your vocabulary using collocations

How to improve your vocabulary using collocations

All students tell me they need to learn more vocabulary but what they don't often realise is that when you learn a new word, you should also learn what verb, adjective or preposition it goes with. The way words are used together is called collocation

Here are some sentences to show you what I mean:

Regular exercise can be of benefit to most people. 
After careful analysis of the situation we decided to cancel the trip. 
I found out about the hotel on the internet

When you make a note of new vocabulary you should also make a note of any collocations. Learning collocations and how to use them will help raise your score for Vocabulary range and accuracy (how wide your vocabulary is and how you can use it correctly). 

Strong or weak collocation?

Collocations can be strong – this means that the link between the words is quite fixed. You can’t use any other word. Some examples of strong collocations are:

  • make a cup of coffee 
  • do homework
  • heavy rain
  • agree with someone
  • agree on something
  • depend on 

Weak collocations:

  • big – car, house, news, city …
  • very – big, interesting, hot, tired …
  • expensive – car, house, holiday …

 Here are some practice exercises for you. You should try to use strong collocations when you’re speaking and writing if you can. 

 

Intermediate Collocations Activity:  

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

 

Advanced Collocations Activity: 

If you’d like even more of a challenge, you can find an advanced exercise below. 

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

So, if you’d like to do well in your IELTS Speaking and Writing tests, you should follow this advice – do your best to learn collocations too. 

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

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

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

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Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS

Learn all the vocabulary you need to achieve up to band 6 in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It includes useful tips on how to learn vocabulary and covers tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes. This book also includes practice exercises for each skill, regular progress checks and tips on how to avoid typical errors.

Grammar: What is future tense?
Writing
Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar in English can be a love/hate thing. Some of us love completing grammar exercises and seeing how language patterns fit together, while others are just left confused and frustrated. If you're in the latter category, things aren't made any better when explanations include expressions like 'future perfect continuous'. So in today's blog, I'm going to try and help you use some of the different types of future tenses correctly without using difficult grammar names.  The way we use the future tenses is a lot more flexible than the past or present tenses, because it’s a lot less certain what’s going to happen, than what has happened or is happening. So instead of studying grammar forms, let’s study the situations when we use a future tense.  I’ve made up my own name for each situation, which you’re probably not going to find in any grammar books, but which my students find helpful    The ‘Timetable Future’ (We use this when we talk about timetables and scheduled events.) e.g.: The film starts at 7pm. The wedding is at 3 o’clock.  Surprise! This future tense doesn’t even look like the future at all! We use the present. Instead of wondering why, make some examples of your own. You could talk about: the opening time of your favourite coffee shop, the release date of a film you’re looking forward to, … Diary Future (Used for arrangements – usually with other people) e.g.: I’m meeting Jenny for coffee tomorrow. She’s flying to France on Wednesday. Again, if you look closely, this isn’t actually the future, but another present tense. In order to make examples, take a look at your own diary and talk about what you have already arranged to do.  The Plans and Dreams Future (used for things we want to do, but haven’t arranged yet – i.e. you haven’t bought the tickets or arranged a fixed time) e.g.: I’m going to buy a big house. I’m going to become a writer. Finally! An actual ‘future grammar’. (Be careful though, it looks quite similar to the ‘arrangements’ form.) I love this grammar, because it allows me to talk about my dreams. Go on, make a few examples yourself. Dream big!  The Promise Future (We use this to make promises, including promises to ourselves.) e.g.: I will always love you. I’ll write to you every day.  In order to come up with your own example, think of a person or two and think of the kinds of promises we usually make to them. E.g. your mother/father, a teacher, your boss, … What-I-Think-Will-Happen-Future (We use this for predictions.) e.g.: He’ll be very famous one day. My car won’t last much longer.  Ok, so this isn’t the most elegant name, but it describes the function of this future here. In order to think of your own example, make a few guesses about the future. Think about cars, politics, education… What do you think will happen in these areas?  This future tense is often confused with the next one, because they are both used for predicting the future. The difference is that in the next section, we feel more certain, because we feel that we have evidence. So there are some situations where either future would work. I-can-SEE-the-future-future (We use this future when we make a prediction based on current ‘evidence’) e.g. She is going to have a baby. It’s going to rain.  In order to make examples here, start with an ‘evidence’ sentence. e.g. ‘I only have £10 left in my bank account.’ Then make a prediction based on that evidence. “I’m going to run out of money before the end of the month.” For the final future use I want to show you today, let’s go back to a ‘will’ form: Quick Decisions Future (Used when something happens that prompts us to make a decision about what action to take.) e.g.: “It’s hot! I’ll open the window.”;  “It’s Rita’s birthday next week?” “ Really? I’ll buy her some chocolates.”  In order to find some examples for this situation, see what happens to you the rest of the day and imagine what you would say in English.  In the exam, you’re more likely to use the future forms in the Speaking test than in the writing part, but if you can use the right future tense for the right situation in the Speaking test, it’ll definitely impress the examiner and give your speaking score a boost.  In this blog, I’ve focussed on simple future structures as they are the ones you’re most likely to need in the exam. If you’re feeling a bit more confident now, would like to see how the different futures work in an IELTS context, and would like to find out about the ‘future perfect continuous’, you could check out  page 38-54 of Grammar for IELTS. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 June, 2020

Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar: What is future tense?

Grammar in English can be a love/hate thing. Some of us love completing grammar exercises and seeing how language patterns fit together, while others are just left confused and frustrated. If you're in the latter category, things aren't made any better when explanations include expressions like 'future perfect continuous'. So in today's blog, I'm going to try and help you use some of the different types of future tenses correctly without using difficult grammar names. 

The way we use the future tenses is a lot more flexible than the past or present tenses, because it’s a lot less certain what’s going to happen, than what has happened or is happening. So instead of studying grammar forms, let’s study the situations when we use a future tense. 

I’ve made up my own name for each situation, which you’re probably not going to find in any grammar books, but which my students find helpful 
 

The ‘Timetable Future’ (We use this when we talk about timetables and scheduled events.)

e.g.: The film starts at 7pm. The wedding is at 3 o’clock. 

Surprise! This future tense doesn’t even look like the future at all! We use the present. Instead of wondering why, make some examples of your own. You could talk about: the opening time of your favourite coffee shop, the release date of a film you’re looking forward to, …


Diary Future (Used for arrangements – usually with other people)

e.g.: I’m meeting Jenny for coffee tomorrow. She’s flying to France on Wednesday.

Again, if you look closely, this isn’t actually the future, but another present tense. In order to make examples, take a look at your own diary and talk about what you have already arranged to do. 


The Plans and Dreams Future (used for things we want to do, but haven’t arranged yet – i.e. you haven’t bought the tickets or arranged a fixed time)

e.g.: I’m going to buy a big house. I’m going to become a writer.

Finally! An actual ‘future grammar’. (Be careful though, it looks quite similar to the ‘arrangements’ form.) I love this grammar, because it allows me to talk about my dreams. Go on, make a few examples yourself. Dream big! 


The Promise Future (We use this to make promises, including promises to ourselves.)

e.g.: I will always love you. I’ll write to you every day. 

In order to come up with your own example, think of a person or two and think of the kinds of promises we usually make to them. E.g. your mother/father, a teacher, your boss, …


What-I-Think-Will-Happen-Future (We use this for predictions.)

e.g.: He’ll be very famous one day. My car won’t last much longer. 

Ok, so this isn’t the most elegant name, but it describes the function of this future here. In order to think of your own example, make a few guesses about the future. Think about cars, politics, education… What do you think will happen in these areas? 

This future tense is often confused with the next one, because they are both used for predicting the future. The difference is that in the next section, we feel more certain, because we feel that we have evidence. So there are some situations where either future would work.


I-can-SEE-the-future-future (We use this future when we make a prediction based on current ‘evidence’)

e.g. She is going to have a baby. It’s going to rain

In order to make examples here, start with an ‘evidence’ sentence. e.g. ‘I only have £10 left in my bank account.’ Then make a prediction based on that evidence. “I’m going to run out of money before the end of the month.”


For the final future use I want to show you today, let’s go back to a ‘will’ form:

Quick Decisions Future (Used when something happens that prompts us to make a decision about what action to take.)

e.g.: “It’s hot! I’ll open the window.”;  “It’s Rita’s birthday next week?” “ Really? I’ll buy her some chocolates.” 

In order to find some examples for this situation, see what happens to you the rest of the day and imagine what you would say in English. 

In the exam, you’re more likely to use the future forms in the Speaking test than in the writing part, but if you can use the right future tense for the right situation in the Speaking test, it’ll definitely impress the examiner and give your speaking score a boost. 


In this blog, I’ve focussed on simple future structures as they are the ones you’re most likely to need in the exam. If you’re feeling a bit more confident now, would like to see how the different futures work in an IELTS context, and would like to find out about the ‘future perfect continuous’, you could check out  page 38-54 of Grammar for IELTS.

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

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Cambridge Grammar for IELTS

Cambridge Grammar for IELTS provides clear explanations and extensive practice of all the grammar you need for IELTS. Grammar is presented through listening material, so your listening skills will also develop while you study. It includes a wide range of tasks from IELTS Academic and General Training Reading, Writing and Listening sections.

New Podcast Episode: Top Tips for IELTS Writing
Writing
New Podcast Episode: Top Tips for IELTS Writing

Listen to our latest episode of our "All you need for IELTS success" podcast! IELTS teachers Emma and Liz give some top tips on the IELTS Writing Test.  {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/R5wP5PAaGq4.jpg?itok=WwKYda3M","video_url":"https://youtu.be/R5wP5PAaGq4","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive, autoplaying)."]}   LISTEN ON YOUR PREFERRED PODCAST PLAYER:         Podcast show notes: To transcript: https://bit.ly/2ZEGL5t About Emma: https://bit.ly/359P3mF About Liz: https://bit.ly/3aG0wM6 More on IELTS Writing: Information on the writing test and how to prepare - https://bit.ly/3bwVdPu Blog posts based on writing - https://bit.ly/3bxPM2D Preparation Materials: Emma and Liz took their examples from our Top Tip series of books. Top Tips for IELTS Academic - https://bit.ly/2zKjNyT Top Tips for IELTS General Training – https://bit.ly/2WvMNUa How can I prepare for IELTS at home? Emma’s blog on preparing for IELTS at home: https://bit.ly/2WwNLQ3 Resource Finder – find the right preparation materials for you: https://bit.ly/2WxPDI5 Free preparation tools: Sign up to our FREE Newsletter - https://bit.ly/2WxwJkC We Love IELTS Website - https://bit.ly/3bulBJz We Love IELTS Blog - https://bit.ly/2Wx0D8I Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube Hope you enjoy this episode and if you did please do rate and review! Have an idea for future episodes? Send us a message on our social channels; we’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Instagram.

We Love IELTS

29 May, 2020

New Podcast Episode: Top Tips for IELTS Writing

New Podcast Episode: Top Tips for IELTS Writing

Listen to our latest episode of our "All you need for IELTS success" podcast!

IELTS teachers Emma and Liz give some top tips on the IELTS Writing Test. 

 

LISTEN ON YOUR PREFERRED PODCAST PLAYER:

Listen on apple podcasts   Listen on Google Podcasts  Listen on Spotify

 

Podcast show notes:

More on IELTS Writing:

Preparation Materials:

Free preparation tools:

Hope you enjoy this episode and if you did please do rate and review!

Have an idea for future episodes? Send us a message on our social channels; we’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Instagram.

We Love IELTS

We Love IELTS gives IELTS test takers all the preparation materials and advice they need for success.

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with.

IELTS Writing General Training Task 2
Writing
How to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2

Whether you're new to IELTS General Training or have taken the test before, it's really important to understand the types of questions you're asked and how you’ll be assessed before jumping in and taking a test. So, if you need a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing, here are two steps you need to take before you do anything else: Become familiar with the different types of IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 Learn how the examiner will grade your writing IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 Let’s start by looking at exactly what IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 is. In IELTS General Training Writing Task 2, you have to write an essay of at least 250 words in response to a particular opinion, two different views, or a problem. This is important to know because the type of Writing Task 2 question you get will determine the type of essay you have to write. As you’ll see below, you may need to talk about one view (your own), two different views, or a problem and possible solutions. As the following examples show, the types of information you have to include in your essay can change depending on the type of task: If the task asks you whether you agree or disagree with an opinion, you have a choice; you can agree completely, disagree completely or write about both sides of the argument. If the task asks you to discuss two different views and give your own opinion, you have to talk about both views and make it clear which, if either, you agree with. If the task asks you to explain why a problem exists and how the situation can be improved, you have to write about the causes and what you think the possible solutions are. IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 example question So, now you know there are different types of Writing Task 2 questions, I’d like to show you an example task and a band score 7 answer. The following task from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2 is on the topic of food. Before reading on, look at the task and identify if you have to agree/disagree with an opinion, talk about two different views or explain the causes of a problem and some possible solutions.   (click to enlarge) As you can see, the task asks you to agree or disagree with an opinion, and so you have a choice: you can agree completely and explain why you think home-cooked food is better for individuals and families than eating out you can disagree completely and explain why you think home-cooked food is not better for individuals and families than eating out you can discuss both sides of the argument As you’ll see below, you’ll need to address all parts of the task to get a band score 7, and in this case it means talking about whether home-cooked food is better than eating out for both individuals and families! IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 band score 7 example answer The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 2 above from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2. If you read the answer, you’ll see that the writer agrees with the opinion and explains that cooking and eating at home is better for individuals and families.   (click to enlarge) Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are: the writer’s opinion is clear throughout the essay ideas are supported with explanations and examples ideas are clearly organised and paragraphs are used logically there are a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘finally’, ‘in this case’, ‘also’, ‘moreover’ and ‘in addition’ there is some less common vocabulary, e.g. ‘reproduce’ and ‘usage’ there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘By cooking at home...’ and ‘...is usually designed for...’ there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar, e.g. ‘Generaly Generally...’ and ‘...it has there is no doubt that...’ If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be for the writer to talk more specifically about individuals and families, e.g. ‘...there is no doubt that, while cooking for one can sometimes be less economical, cooking and eating at home can save couples or families a lot of money’. The writer also used contractions such as don’t and it’s and could have written these in a more appropriate way for an essay, e.g. ‘By cooking at home, it is not necessary to…’ (instead of ‘By cooking and eating at home, you don’t have to pay…’). Contractions are too informal for an essay. To sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2.  (click to enlarge) Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/H9T1klSBLYk.jpg?itok=VGjxzWo1","video_url":"https://youtu.be/H9T1klSBLYk","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive, autoplaying)."]}   To find out what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, read this post. Now you know how to get a band score 7 for an IELTS essay, why not practise by answering the IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 question above? Pete PS You can find more example answers in the book IELTS 14 General Training, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

Pete Jones

27 April, 2020

How to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2

IELTS Writing General Training Task 2

Whether you're new to IELTS General Training or have taken the test before, it's really important to understand the types of questions you're asked and how you’ll be assessed before jumping in and taking a test.
So, if you need a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing, here are two steps you need to take before you do anything else:
  • Become familiar with the different types of IELTS General Training Writing Task 2
  • Learn how the examiner will grade your writing

IELTS General Training Writing Task 2

Let’s start by looking at exactly what IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 is.

In IELTS General Training Writing Task 2, you have to write an essay of at least 250 words in response to a particular opinion, two different views, or a problem.

This is important to know because the type of Writing Task 2 question you get will determine the type of essay you have to write. As you’ll see below, you may need to talk about one view (your own), two different views, or a problem and possible solutions.

As the following examples show, the types of information you have to include in your essay can change depending on the type of task:

  • If the task asks you whether you agree or disagree with an opinion, you have a choice; you can agree completely, disagree completely or write about both sides of the argument.
  • If the task asks you to discuss two different views and give your own opinion, you have to talk about both views and make it clear which, if either, you agree with.
  • If the task asks you to explain why a problem exists and how the situation can be improved, you have to write about the causes and what you think the possible solutions are.

IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 example question

So, now you know there are different types of Writing Task 2 questions, I’d like to show you an example task and a band score 7 answer.

The following task from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2 is on the topic of food.

Before reading on, look at the task and identify if you have to agree/disagree with an opinion, talk about two different views or explain the causes of a problem and some possible solutions.
 

Writing-exercise-from-page-51-OPM2

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, the task asks you to agree or disagree with an opinion, and so you have a choice:

  • you can agree completely and explain why you think home-cooked food is better for individuals and families than eating out
  • you can disagree completely and explain why you think home-cooked food is not better for individuals and families than eating out
  • you can discuss both sides of the argument

As you’ll see below, you’ll need to address all parts of the task to get a band score 7, and in this case it means talking about whether home-cooked food is better than eating out for both individuals and families!

IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 band score 7 example answer

The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 2 above from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2.

If you read the answer, you’ll see that the writer agrees with the opinion and explains that cooking and eating at home is better for individuals and families.

 

Example General Training answer from Official Practice Materials

(click to enlarge)

Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are:

  • the writer’s opinion is clear throughout the essay
  • ideas are supported with explanations and examples
  • ideas are clearly organised and paragraphs are used logically
  • there are a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘finally’, ‘in this case’, ‘also’, ‘moreover’ and ‘in addition’
  • there is some less common vocabulary, e.g. ‘reproduce’ and ‘usage’
  • there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘By cooking at home...’ and ‘...is usually designed for...’
  • there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar, e.g. ‘Generaly Generally...’ and ‘...it has there is no doubt that...’

If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be for the writer to talk more specifically about individuals and families, e.g. ‘...there is no doubt that, while cooking for one can sometimes be less economical, cooking and eating at home can save couples or families a lot of money’.

The writer also used contractions such as don’t and it’s and could have written these in a more appropriate way for an essay, e.g. ‘By cooking at home, it is not necessary to…’ (instead of ‘By cooking and eating at home, you don’t have to pay…’). Contractions are too informal for an essay.

To sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2. 

How to get a band score 7 in General Training Task 2

(click to enlarge)

Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 2:

 

To find out what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, read this post.

Now you know how to get a band score 7 for an IELTS essay, why not practise by answering the IELTS General Training Writing Task 2 question above?

Pete

PS You can find more example answers in the book IELTS 14 General Training, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

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.

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Official IELTS Practice Materials 2

This book contains practice test material covering all four skills and is suitable for both IELTS Academic and General Training modules. It comes with a DVD with the Listening test audio and three sample Speaking test answers. Examiner comments for Writing and Speaking sample answers will help you improve your score.

Academic Writing Task 2
Writing
How to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

Can you write 250 words in 40 minutes on a topic you may or may not be familiar with?  Well, if you're aiming for a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing, this is one of the challenges you face for Writing Task 2.  Read on to learn more about this part of the Writing test and find out exactly what you need to do.   IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 Let’s start by looking at what IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is. In IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, you have to write an essay of at least 250 words in response to a particular opinion, two different views or a problem. This is important to know because the type of essay you have to write will depend on the Writing Task 2 question you get. You don’t want to waste valuable time in your test thinking about how to answer the task when you could have looked at examples of the different types before your test. Although there are certain features you need to include for all types of essays, the types of information you have to include can change depending on the type of task. For example: If the task asks you to say how much you agree or disagree with an opinion, you have a choice; you can agree completely, disagree completely or write about both sides of the argument. If the task asks you to discuss two different views and give your own opinion, you have to talk about both views and make it clear which, if either, you agree with. If the task asks you to explain why a problem exists and how the situation can be improved, you have to write about the causes and what you think the possible solutions are. IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 example question So, now you know there are different types of Writing Task 2 questions, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer. The following task from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2 is on the common IELTS topic of education.  Before reading on, look at the task and identify if you have to agree/disagree with an opinion, talk about two different views or explain the causes of a problem and some possible solutions.   (Click to enlarge) As you can see, the task asks you to agree or disagree with an opinion, and so you have a choice: you can agree completely and explain why you think children with different abilities and from different social backgrounds should mix at school you can disagree completely and explain why you think children with different abilities and from different social backgrounds should not mix at school you can discuss both sides of the argument As you’ll see below, you’ll need to address all parts of the task to get a band score 7, and in this case it means talking about children with different abilities and children from different social backgrounds!   IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 band score 7 example answer The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 2 above from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2. If you read the answer, you’ll see that the writer agrees with the opinion given in the task and explains why children from many different backgrounds (e.g. ethnic, social, family) and with many different abilities should mix at school. (Click to enlarge) Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are: the writer’s opinion is clear throughout the essay ideas are supported with explanations and examples ideas are clearly organised and paragraphs are used logically reference words, e.g. ‘they’ and ‘this’, are used to link sentences and paragraphs there are examples of collocation (words used together in a natural way), e.g. ‘problems could be avoided’, ‘a reasonable possibility’ and ‘a source of conflict’ there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘If one is aware…’ and ‘...not having had a chance to...’ there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar, e.g. ‘...got accostumed accustomed to...’ and ‘...helped me better understanding understand and accepting accept...’ If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be for the topic to be mentioned in the introduction rather than referring to the Writing Task with ‘this statement’.  Another way would be for the conclusion to state that the kind of education the writer had would be beneficial for everyone (not only the writer), e.g. ‘I am very certain that this kind of education can help me people better understand and accept the world around me them...’. So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2.  (Click to enlarge) Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/09csrYaV_xQ.jpg?itok=SOlv8HYK","video_url":"https://youtu.be/09csrYaV_xQ","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive, autoplaying)."]}   To find out what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, read this post. Remember, if you become more familiar with different types of IELTS Writing Task now, it will save you time in the test and give you a better chance of getting the band score you need. Pete PS. You can find more example answers in the book Official IELTS Practice Materials 2, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

Pete Jones

20 April, 2020

How to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

Academic Writing Task 2

Can you write 250 words in 40 minutes on a topic you may or may not be familiar with? 
Well, if you're aiming for a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing, this is one of the challenges you face for Writing Task 2. 
Read on to learn more about this part of the Writing test and find out exactly what you need to do.

 

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2

Let’s start by looking at what IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 is.

In IELTS Academic Writing Task 2, you have to write an essay of at least 250 words in response to a particular opinion, two different views or a problem.

This is important to know because the type of essay you have to write will depend on the Writing Task 2 question you get. You don’t want to waste valuable time in your test thinking about how to answer the task when you could have looked at examples of the different types before your test.

Although there are certain features you need to include for all types of essays, the types of information you have to include can change depending on the type of task.

For example:

  • If the task asks you to say how much you agree or disagree with an opinion, you have a choice; you can agree completely, disagree completely or write about both sides of the argument.
  • If the task asks you to discuss two different views and give your own opinion, you have to talk about both views and make it clear which, if either, you agree with.
  • If the task asks you to explain why a problem exists and how the situation can be improved, you have to write about the causes and what you think the possible solutions are.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 example question

So, now you know there are different types of Writing Task 2 questions, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer.

The following task from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2 is on the common IELTS topic of education. 

Before reading on, look at the task and identify if you have to agree/disagree with an opinion, talk about two different views or explain the causes of a problem and some possible solutions.
 

Writing-exercise-from-page-32-OPM2

(Click to enlarge)

As you can see, the task asks you to agree or disagree with an opinion, and so you have a choice:

  • you can agree completely and explain why you think children with different abilities and from different social backgrounds should mix at school
  • you can disagree completely and explain why you think children with different abilities and from different social backgrounds should not mix at school
  • you can discuss both sides of the argument

As you’ll see below, you’ll need to address all parts of the task to get a band score 7, and in this case it means talking about children with different abilities and children from different social backgrounds!

 

IELTS Academic Writing Task 2 band score 7 example answer

The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 2 above from the Official IELTS Practice Materials 2.

If you read the answer, you’ll see that the writer agrees with the opinion given in the task and explains why children from many different backgrounds (e.g. ethnic, social, family) and with many different abilities should mix at school.

Example-answer-academic-task-2

(Click to enlarge)

Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are:

  • the writer’s opinion is clear throughout the essay
  • ideas are supported with explanations and examples
  • ideas are clearly organised and paragraphs are used logically
  • reference words, e.g. ‘they’ and ‘this’, are used to link sentences and paragraphs
  • there are examples of collocation (words used together in a natural way), e.g. ‘problems could be avoided’, ‘a reasonable possibility’ and ‘a source of conflict’
  • there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘If one is aware…’ and ‘...not having had a chance to...’
  • there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar, e.g. ‘...got accostumed accustomed to...’ and ‘...helped me better understanding understand and accepting accept...’

If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be for the topic to be mentioned in the introduction rather than referring to the Writing Task with ‘this statement’. 

Another way would be for the conclusion to state that the kind of education the writer had would be beneficial for everyone (not only the writer), e.g. ‘I am very certain that this kind of education can help me people better understand and accept the world around me them...’.

So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2. 

Top Tips for Academic Task 2

(Click to enlarge)

Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 2:

 

To find out what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, read this post.

Remember, if you become more familiar with different types of IELTS Writing Task now, it will save you time in the test and give you a better chance of getting the band score you need.

Pete

PS. You can find more example answers in the book Official IELTS Practice Materials 2, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

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.

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Official IELTS Practice Materials 2

This book contains practice test material covering all four skills and is suitable for both IELTS Academic and General Training modules. It comes with a DVD with the Listening test audio and three sample Speaking test answers. Examiner comments for Writing and Speaking sample answers will help you improve your score.

Grammar Essentials
Writing
Grammar essentials: The Definite Article

Did you know that 'the' is the most common word in English? It's also a word that many learners find very hard to use. Grammatical accuracy is important in IELTS so if you can use 'the' correctly, you will be one step closer to a high band score.  Today, let’s go through when you do use 'the' and when you don't. We’ll then have a go at some activities to help you put your knowledge to the test.    We use the …   … with superlatives Google is the most popular search engine in the world.  Climate change is the biggest problem we have. … with singular and plural countable nouns when we know which ones All of the animals at London zoo are cared for by zookeepers.  Have you finished the book I gave you?  The children in my class are all very nice.  … with uncountable nouns We can use the before uncountable nouns when they refer to a specific example: The weather was awful last summer. After you add the flour you can add the milk (from the recipe). … with inventions, musical instruments and cultural institutions The computer must be the greatest invention ever.  The violin sounds different to the viola. When did you last go to the theatre? … before abstract nouns  When we describe a situation, a quality, a change using an abstract noun followed by of something we can use ‘the’:  There is a problem with the availability of clean water in some villages.  The distribution of income is uneven in many countries.  … with things that are universally known We use the with things known to everyone because they are a part of our physical environment or part of the natural world: The earth moves around the sun. We lay on the grass outside our tent and watched the stars. … with everyday things We use the with things that we know as part of our daily lives. The does not refer to particular things in this context. I don’t buy the newspaper these days.  I take the train not the bus to get to work. … when there is only one of something The Government should introduce a fine for anyone caught polluting rivers. During the sixties there was a lot of civil unrest. …with groups within society When we talk about particular groups or people within society, we use the + adjective: The very young and the elderly need to be cared for. … with dates When we say a specific date, we use the, but when we write it, we don’t use the: Speaking: ‘My birthday is the 7th of October.’ Writing: My birthday is on 7th October.   We DON’T use the…   … to talk about things in general, we use a plural instead We have to protect wild animals.  … when we refer in general to something abstract or uncountable Food is essential for survival. … with a single country or place The components are made in China and then exported to France.   As you continue preparing for IELTS try to notice every time you see the definite article in a text and why it’s there.  Now you have an idea of when you do and do not use the definite article put your knowledge to the test. Have a go at these activities from Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate or Advanced level.   Intermediate Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article.    Worksheet download               Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.    Answer sheet download   Advanced Language activity:  Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article.    Worksheet download        Once you have completed the worksheet, download the answer sheet to see how well you’ve done.    Answer sheet download   Emma

Emma Cosgrave

14 April, 2020

Grammar essentials: The Definite Article

Grammar Essentials

Did you know that 'the' is the most common word in English? It's also a word that many learners find very hard to use. Grammatical accuracy is important in IELTS so if you can use 'the' correctly, you will be one step closer to a high band score. 

Today, let’s go through when you do use 'the' and when you don't. We’ll then have a go at some activities to help you put your knowledge to the test. 
 

We use the …

 

… with superlatives

  • Google is the most popular search engine in the world. 
  • Climate change is the biggest problem we have.

… with singular and plural countable nouns when we know which ones

  • All of the animals at London zoo are cared for by zookeepers. 
  • Have you finished the book I gave you
  • The children in my class are all very nice. 

… with uncountable nouns

  • We can use the before uncountable nouns when they refer to a specific example:
  • The weather was awful last summer.
  • After you add the flour you can add the milk (from the recipe).

with inventions, musical instruments and cultural institutions

  • The computer must be the greatest invention ever. 
  • The violin sounds different to the viola.
  • When did you last go to the theatre?

before abstract nouns 

When we describe a situation, a quality, a change using an abstract noun followed by of something we can use ‘the’: 

  • There is a problem with the availability of clean water in some villages. 
  • The distribution of income is uneven in many countries. 

with things that are universally known

We use the with things known to everyone because they are a part of our physical environment or part of the natural world:

  • The earth moves around the sun.
  • We lay on the grass outside our tent and watched the stars.

with everyday things

We use the with things that we know as part of our daily lives. The does not refer to particular things in this context.

  • I don’t buy the newspaper these days. 
  • I take the train not the bus to get to work.

… when there is only one of something

  • The Government should introduce a fine for anyone caught polluting rivers.
  • During the sixties there was a lot of civil unrest.

with groups within society

  • When we talk about particular groups or people within society, we use the + adjective:
  • The very young and the elderly need to be cared for.

with dates

When we say a specific date, we use the, but when we write it, we don’t use the:

  • Speaking: ‘My birthday is the 7th of October.’
  • Writing: My birthday is on 7th October.

 

We DON’T use the…

 

… to talk about things in general, we use a plural instead

  • We have to protect wild animals. 

… when we refer in general to something abstract or uncountable

  • Food is essential for survival.

… with a single country or place

  • The components are made in China and then exported to France.

 

As you continue preparing for IELTS try to notice every time you see the definite article in a text and why it’s there. 

Now you have an idea of when you do and do not use the definite article put your knowledge to the test. Have a go at these activities from Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate or Advanced level.

 

Intermediate Language activity: 

Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article. 

 

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

 

Advanced Language activity: 

Download our activity worksheet to practice the definitive article. 

 

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

 

Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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Cambridge Grammar for IELTS

Cambridge Grammar for IELTS provides clear explanations and extensive practice of all the grammar you need for IELTS. Grammar is presented through listening material, so your listening skills will also develop while you study. It includes a wide range of tasks from IELTS Academic and General Training Reading, Writing and Listening sections.

Writing Skills
Writing
5 ways to improve your IELTS Writing skills

Writing is a difficult skill and not just for people learning English or doing the IELTS test but for a native English speaker as well. In our day-to-day life we don't often have to write essays or describe graphs. We’re more used to writing text messages or emails. But there are things you can do to practise and improve your writing. Here are 5 ways to improve your writing skills every single day: 1. Read! That’s right, you read that correctly! To improve your writing skill you need to read – everyday! By reading widely, you’ll be introduced to a wide range of words and phrases that are used in a variety of contexts. You will also come across a lot of different grammar structures without actually having to focus on grammar. By being exposed to (presented with) words and grammar used correctly and in context, you too will pick up new words and start using new grammatical structures. When you learn new words or structures, copy and paste them into a document to help you remember them.  There are lots of freely available reading resources online. Some examples are: BBC World Voanews (these have the added advantage of being organised by beginner, intermediate and advanced level.) Breaking News English It doesn’t have to be just news, you can read about any topic you’re interested in as long as it's in English!   2. Make your writing POW! So, you’ve read an interesting article and now you can practise writing about the topic. Imagine you read the following article:   Spaced Baked Cookies Why not write an essay about space explorations and the challenges faced by astronauts? Or perhaps you could discuss whether you agree or disagree with spending millions of pounds/dollars/yuen on space exploration. Whatever you decide to write about – make sure you use POW!   3. Linking words In the Writing test, the examiner will be looking at how ideas are linked together within sentences and paragraphs. Additionally, they’ll look at how your writing flows. Your ideas need to be organised logically into paragraphs so it’s easy to understand and follow them. This is called coherence.  The examiners will also be looking out for cohesion. This refers to the use of linking words which link ideas and paragraphs.  Some examples of these are: Firstly, Additionally, Similarly, On the otherhand,  When you’re reading the article you’ve chosen, highlight all the linking words you can find. Just double-click on the word and highlight or print off and use a good old-fashioned highlighter pen. Organise the linking expressions you find into groups with similar meanings. For example/for instance, In addition/Additionally/Moreover.  This will mean you have a wide range of words which you can use to avoid using the same ones over and over.   4. Checklist When you’ve finished writing make sure to leave a bit of time at the end to edit (check) your writing. Check for spelling, correct subject + verb agreement (They think; Celebrities are; Technology has advanced), paragraphs and most importantly your own common mistakes that you know you make quite often.  Here’s a checklist for you to use: Download editing checklist You can do this every day by looking at:  restaurant menus (these often have mistakes in English – see if you can spot some), social media posts, emails, magazines – the list is endless. 5. Writing circles Writing can be a sociable thing (really – it can!). The ideas described in this blog are more fun if done with a friend or group of friends. Create a ‘writing circle’  – a group of people who can sit down together to:  read each other’s work using the ‘editing checklist’  share new vocabulary you’ve found when reading (see tip 1) use my POW technique.  Each person can plan a different task and then pass it on to the next person in the group to write an outline, then pass it on again to write an introduction, then paragraph 1, etc. At the end, you can use the editing checklist to review the piece of writing. See, we said writing could be fun! I hope this blog has been useful (please feel free to use the editing checklist to review this blog ?).  Happy writing! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

4 April, 2020

5 ways to improve your IELTS Writing skills

Writing Skills

Writing is a difficult skill and not just for people learning English or doing the IELTS test but for a native English speaker as well. In our day-to-day life we don't often have to write essays or describe graphs. We’re more used to writing text messages or emails. But there are things you can do to practise and improve your writing.

Here are 5 ways to improve your writing skills every single day:

1. Read!

That’s right, you read that correctly! To improve your writing skill you need to read – everyday! By reading widely, you’ll be introduced to a wide range of words and phrases that are used in a variety of contexts. You will also come across a lot of different grammar structures without actually having to focus on grammar. By being exposed to (presented with) words and grammar used correctly and in context, you too will pick up new words and start using new grammatical structures. When you learn new words or structures, copy and paste them into a document to help you remember them. 

There are lots of freely available reading resources online. Some examples are:

It doesn’t have to be just news, you can read about any topic you’re interested in as long as it's in English!
 

2. Make your writing POW!

So, you’ve read an interesting article and now you can practise writing about the topic. Imagine you read the following article:  

Spaced Baked Cookies

Why not write an essay about space explorations and the challenges faced by astronauts? Or perhaps you could discuss whether you agree or disagree with spending millions of pounds/dollars/yuen on space exploration.

Whatever you decide to write about – make sure you use POW!

POW Writing Skills - 3 steps

 

3. Linking words

In the Writing test, the examiner will be looking at how ideas are linked together within sentences and paragraphs. Additionally, they’ll look at how your writing flows. Your ideas need to be organised logically into paragraphs so it’s easy to understand and follow them. This is called coherence. 

The examiners will also be looking out for cohesion. This refers to the use of linking words which link ideas and paragraphs. 

Some examples of these are:

  • Firstly,
  • Additionally,
  • Similarly,
  • On the otherhand, 

When you’re reading the article you’ve chosen, highlight all the linking words you can find. Just double-click on the word and highlight or print off and use a good old-fashioned highlighter pen. Organise the linking expressions you find into groups with similar meanings. For example/for instance, In addition/Additionally/Moreover.  This will mean you have a wide range of words which you can use to avoid using the same ones over and over.

 

4. Checklist
When you’ve finished writing make sure to leave a bit of time at the end to edit (check) your writing. Check for spelling, correct subject + verb agreement (They think; Celebrities are; Technology has advanced), paragraphs and most importantly your own common mistakes that you know you make quite often. 

Here’s a checklist for you to use:

Editing Checklist

Download editing checklist

You can do this every day by looking at:  restaurant menus (these often have mistakes in English – see if you can spot some), social media posts, emails, magazines – the list is endless.

5. Writing circles
Writing can be a sociable thing (really – it can!). The ideas described in this blog are more fun if done with a friend or group of friends. Create a ‘writing circle’  – a group of people who can sit down together to: 

  • read each other’s work using the ‘editing checklist’ 
  • share new vocabulary you’ve found when reading (see tip 1)
  • use my POW technique. 

Each person can plan a different task and then pass it on to the next person in the group to write an outline, then pass it on again to write an introduction, then paragraph 1, etc. At the end, you can use the editing checklist to review the piece of writing. See, we said writing could be fun!

I hope this blog has been useful (please feel free to use the editing checklist to review this blog ?). 

Happy writing!

Liz

Liz Marqueiro

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

More about the author

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with.

General Training Writing Task 1
Writing
How to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1

Do you know how to end a letter if it begins with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’? What about if you start the letter with the name of the person, e.g. ‘Dear Mrs Smith’? Yours faithfully, Yours sincerely, If you need a band score 7 in IELTS General Training writing, it will help if you know the answers to these two questions as you may have to write a letter using one of them. Read on to check the answers and to find out exactly what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1.   IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 Let’s start by looking at what IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 is. In IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, you’ll be given a situation and asked to write a letter of at least 150 words requesting information or explaining a situation.  The letter may need to be more formal in style (serious and official), informal in style (relaxed and friendly) or somewhere in between.  This is important to know because you don’t want to spend all your preparation time writing formal letters only to find in your General Training test that you have to write an informal letter! The way to decide whether the letter needs to be more formal or informal in style is to think about who the letter is to and what it’s about. For example, if the letter is to someone you don’t know and to complain about a situation, then it needs to be formal. There’s also a clue in the task! If it tells you to start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’, you need to write a more formal letter. If it tells you to write a letter to a friend and start your letter with ‘Dear …… ,’, you need to write an informal letter or a letter that’s neither too formal or too informal.   IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 example question So, now you know what kind of letter you may have to write, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer. The following task from IELTS 13 General Training asks you to write a letter explaining a situation.   As you can see, the task asks you to… write a letter to a manager of a hotel (someone you don’t know) about something important (feedback from people who had a meeting at the hotel) start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ So you need to write a formal letter. As you’ll see below, to get a band score 7 for your writing, you’ll also need to include information relating to all three bullet points in the task! IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 band score 7 example answer The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 1 above from IELTS 13 General Training. If you read the answer you’ll see that the writer writes a formal letter, making the purpose of the letter clear, explaining what the meeting participants liked and disliked about the hotel and suggesting what the manager should do. (Click to enlarge) The following features make the letter formal: the opening ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ and closing ‘Faithfully yours,’ (more commonly ‘Yours faithfully,’) the avoidance of contractions, e.g. ‘I am writing...’ (not I’m writing…) the use of more formal vocabulary, e.g. ‘dissatisfied’ (rather than ‘unhappy’) and ‘abdominal pain’ (rather than ‘stomach ache’) the polite request ‘We would appreciate it if you...’ Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are: the purpose of the letter is clear information is clearly organised there is a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘as well as’, ‘however’, ‘in spite of’ and ‘though’ there are examples of collocation (words used together in a natural way), e.g. ‘dissatisfied with’, ‘hotel amenities’ and ‘negative feedback’ there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘...reported being dissatisfied with...’ and ‘...though not leading to any serious problems.’ there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar I hope you noticed too that the writer didn’t include any addresses at the top of their letter. It isn’t necessary to include addresses at the top and, if you do, they won’t count towards the 150 words and you’ll use up some of the limited time you have. So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1:   Watch my recent Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Writing Task 1: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/_m4FpFvdRJY.jpg?itok=12Hg29lf","video_url":"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m4FpFvdRJY","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive, autoplaying)."]}   Hope you have found this useful!  Pete PS You can find more example answers in the Authentic Practice Tests series, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

Pete Jones

20 March, 2020

How to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1

General Training Writing Task 1

Do you know how to end a letter if it begins with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’? What about if you start the letter with the name of the person, e.g. ‘Dear Mrs Smith’?
  • Yours faithfully,
  • Yours sincerely,
If you need a band score 7 in IELTS General Training writing, it will help if you know the answers to these two questions as you may have to write a letter using one of them.
Read on to check the answers and to find out exactly what you need to do to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1.

 

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1

Let’s start by looking at what IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 is.
In IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, you’ll be given a situation and asked to write a letter of at least 150 words requesting information or explaining a situation. 

The letter may need to be more formal in style (serious and official), informal in style (relaxed and friendly) or somewhere in between. 

This is important to know because you don’t want to spend all your preparation time writing formal letters only to find in your General Training test that you have to write an informal letter!

The way to decide whether the letter needs to be more formal or informal in style is to think about who the letter is to and what it’s about. For example, if the letter is to someone you don’t know and to complain about a situation, then it needs to be formal.

There’s also a clue in the task!

  • If it tells you to start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’, you need to write a more formal letter.
  • If it tells you to write a letter to a friend and start your letter with ‘Dear …… ,’, you need to write an informal letter or a letter that’s neither too formal or too informal.
     
IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 example question

So, now you know what kind of letter you may have to write, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer.

The following task from IELTS 13 General Training asks you to write a letter explaining a situation.  

Writing Task 1 - We Love IELTS

As you can see, the task asks you to…

  • write a letter to a manager of a hotel (someone you don’t know)
  • about something important (feedback from people who had a meeting at the hotel)
  • start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’

So you need to write a formal letter.

As you’ll see below, to get a band score 7 for your writing, you’ll also need to include information relating to all three bullet points in the task!

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 band score 7 example answer

The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 1 above from IELTS 13 General Training.

If you read the answer you’ll see that the writer writes a formal letter, making the purpose of the letter clear, explaining what the meeting participants liked and disliked about the hotel and suggesting what the manager should do.

Example Answer - We Love IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

The following features make the letter formal:
  • the opening ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ and closing ‘Faithfully yours,’ (more commonly ‘Yours faithfully,’)
  • the avoidance of contractions, e.g. ‘I am writing...’ (not I’m writing…)
  • the use of more formal vocabulary, e.g. ‘dissatisfied’ (rather than ‘unhappy’) and ‘abdominal pain’ (rather than ‘stomach ache’)
  • the polite request ‘We would appreciate it if you...’
Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are:
  • the purpose of the letter is clear
  • information is clearly organised
  • there is a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘as well as’, ‘however’, ‘in spite of’ and ‘though’
  • there are examples of collocation (words used together in a natural way), e.g. ‘dissatisfied with’, ‘hotel amenities’ and ‘negative feedback’
  • there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘...reported being dissatisfied with...’ and ‘...though not leading to any serious problems.’
  • there are only a few errors in spelling and grammar

I hope you noticed too that the writer didn’t include any addresses at the top of their letter. It isn’t necessary to include addresses at the top and, if you do, they won’t count towards the 150 words and you’ll use up some of the limited time you have.

So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS General Training Writing Task 1:

Pete's Tips - Do's and Don't

 

Watch my recent Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS General Writing Task 1:

 

Hope you have found this useful! 

Pete

PS You can find more example answers in the Authentic Practice Tests series, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

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.

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IELTS 14 General Training

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grammar
Writing
Grammar essentials: past simple versus present perfect

If you’re trying to improve your band score in IELTS it’s essential that you work on improving your general English. You need to build your vocabulary and brush up your grammar. I know it may sound like hard work, but that’s why I’m here to help. Today, let’s take a look at the difference between the present perfect and past simple tenses, something lots of people have trouble with. What’s the difference in meaning between these two sentences? a) I made notes on the most important things. b) I’ve made quite a lot of notes. Sentence a) uses the past simple tense while sentence b) uses the present perfect tense. But what is the difference in meaning? Well, one is talking about an event that started and finished in the past, while the other links the past with the present.  a) I made notes on the most important things. (I’ve finished making the notes) b) I’ve made quite a lot of notes. (I may make some more notes) Another difference is that we use the past simple to talk about a finished action that happened at a specific time, while we use the present perfect to refer to an unspecified time in the past.   a) I read the leaflets in the library. (It implies a specific time as you are no longer in the library) b) Have you read the leaflets? (At some time before now) When we talk about someone’s life experience, finished actions in someone’s life, it makes a difference if the person is alive or not. Let’s look at some examples: a) My father has been to Norway three times. (He’s still alive, this is his life experience) b) My great-grandfather went to Norway twice. (He’s dead, this was his life experience)  We also need to be careful when we use time expressions that we choose the correct tense. The past simple uses time expressions that show the time is finished (last week, last month, in 1887) and the present perfect uses time expressions that show the time is unfinished (this week, this month, this year, today): a) I’ve read six articles this week. b) I read five books last week.   Let me show you some examples: Common adverbs in the past simple:  last night, last year, yesterday, today, ago, first, then, later, when ●    I went to a party last night. ●    When I was a child I watched a lot of TV. Common adverbs in the present perfect:  before, after, already, yet, for, since, recently, still ●    I have applied for my dream job in Australia already. ●    I haven’t taken the IELTS test yet. ●    My sister has worked in the UK since 2016. Now that you have the basics, why not have a go yourself? Here’s a great exercise from Grammar for IELTS to practise choosing between past simple and present perfect.  (Click on image to enlarge). Look out for more in this series focusing on a range of essential grammar tools and techniques. Emma

Emma Cosgrave

27 February, 2020

Grammar essentials: past simple versus present perfect

grammar

If you’re trying to improve your band score in IELTS it’s essential that you work on improving your general English. You need to build your vocabulary and brush up your grammar. I know it may sound like hard work, but that’s why I’m here to help.

Today, let’s take a look at the difference between the present perfect and past simple tenses, something lots of people have trouble with.

What’s the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

  • a) I made notes on the most important things.
  • b) I’ve made quite a lot of notes.

Sentence a) uses the past simple tense while sentence b) uses the present perfect tense. But what is the difference in meaning? Well, one is talking about an event that started and finished in the past, while the other links the past with the present. 

  • a) I made notes on the most important things. (I’ve finished making the notes)
  • b) I’ve made quite a lot of notes. (I may make some more notes)

Another difference is that we use the past simple to talk about a finished action that happened at a specific time, while we use the present perfect to refer to an unspecified time in the past.  

  • a) I read the leaflets in the library. (It implies a specific time as you are no longer in the library)
  • b) Have you read the leaflets? (At some time before now)

When we talk about someone’s life experience, finished actions in someone’s life, it makes a difference if the person is alive or not. Let’s look at some examples:

  • a) My father has been to Norway three times. (He’s still alive, this is his life experience)
  • b) My great-grandfather went to Norway twice. (He’s dead, this was his life experience

We also need to be careful when we use time expressions that we choose the correct tense. The past simple uses time expressions that show the time is finished (last week, last month, in 1887) and the present perfect uses time expressions that show the time is unfinished (this week, this month, this year, today):

  • a) I’ve read six articles this week.
  • b) I read five books last week.
 

Let me show you some examples:

Common adverbs in the past simple
last night, last year, yesterday, today, ago, first, then, later, when
●    I went to a party last night.
●    When I was a child I watched a lot of TV.

Common adverbs in the present perfect
before, after, already, yet, for, since, recently, still
●    I have applied for my dream job in Australia already.
●    I haven’t taken the IELTS test yet.
●    My sister has worked in the UK since 2016.

Now that you have the basics, why not have a go yourself? Here’s a great exercise from Grammar for IELTS to practise choosing between past simple and present perfect. 

Grammar exercise from Page 22 of Grammar for IELTS

(Click on image to enlarge).

Look out for more in this series focusing on a range of essential grammar tools and techniques.

Emma

top-tip

Top tip: Remember to pay close attention to adverbs. Adverbs give hints, or clues, about which verb tense you should use.

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

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Cambridge Grammar for IELTS

Cambridge Grammar for IELTS provides clear explanations and extensive practice of all the grammar you need for IELTS. Grammar is presented through listening material, so your listening skills will also develop while you study. It includes a wide range of tasks from IELTS Academic and General Training Reading, Writing and Listening sections.

Academic Writing Task 1
Writing
How to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

If you’re aiming for a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing, I know it may seem like an impossible task, especially under test conditions. So, here are two actions you can take to make it a more realistic target. Become familiar with the different types of IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Learn how the examiner will grade your writing IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Let’s start with the different types of task. In IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 you’ll be asked to summarise the information in a graph, chart, table or diagram (or more than one of these) in at least 150 words. This is important to know because you’ll need to look at examples of all of these before your test. You don’t want to spend all of your preparation time summarising graphs only to find in your test that your Academic Writing Task 1 is a diagram! Although there are certain features you need to include for all types of Task 1, the vocabulary and grammar you’ll need to summarise the information can change depending on the type of task. For example: To summarise the information in a graph, you may need to use vocabulary to describe changes over time, e.g. an increase or a decrease in a number.  To summarise information in a diagram, however, you may need to use vocabulary to describe stages, e.g. the first/second/final stage. IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 example question So, now you know what IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 can look like, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer. (Click on image to enlarge), to find out more about our authentic practice tests click here. Before reading on, look at the maps and identify what you think the main features are, i.e. the places in each map and the differences between them. As you can see the town centre is going to be transformed with: the main road becoming pedestrianised the addition of a bus station, shopping centre, car park and new housing the addition of a ring road the loss of some countryside  a reduction in the size of the park. These are the main features and, as you’ll see below, you need to include them in your summary to get a band score 7. IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 band score 7 example answer The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 1 above from IELTS 12 Academic. If you read the answer you’ll see that the writer includes a clear overview and presents all the main features. Equally important is that all of the information is accurate, i.e. the information is the same as that shown in the diagrams, and it is organised logically. (Click on image to enlarge), to find out more about our authentic practice tests click here. Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are: there are a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘currently’, ‘overall’, ‘first of all’, ‘therefore’, ‘moreover’, ‘the next point’ and ‘to sum up’ there is some less common vocabulary, e.g. ‘modifications’, ‘predicting’ and ‘grouped’ there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘can be observed’ and ‘will disappear’ there are only a few errors in word choice and grammar, e.g. ‘A pedestrian way will deserve serve the central area’ and ‘new facilities such as a bus station and a parking’. I hope you noticed too that the writer didn’t give their opinion about whether the changes shown in the maps will be a positive or negative development. This is important because the task does not ask for your opinion, and it could affect your IELTS band score if you include it! If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be to avoid repeating the overview and instead include some more details about the main features, e.g. ‘New houses will be built to the north and south of the pedestrian area’. So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1. Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Task 1: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/hR9eDJNerKc.jpg?itok=P68oF3pz","video_url":"https://youtu.be/hR9eDJNerKc","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive, autoplaying)."]}   I hope that a band score 7 now seems more achievable or at least you know exactly what you have to do. Pete PS You can find more sample answers in the authentic practice tests, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

Pete Jones

26 January, 2020

How to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Academic Writing Task 1

If you’re aiming for a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing, I know it may seem like an impossible task, especially under test conditions. So, here are two actions you can take to make it a more realistic target.
  1. Become familiar with the different types of IELTS Academic Writing Task 1
  2. Learn how the examiner will grade your writing
IELTS Academic Writing Task 1

Let’s start with the different types of task.

In IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 you’ll be asked to summarise the information in a graph, chart, table or diagram (or more than one of these) in at least 150 words.

This is important to know because you’ll need to look at examples of all of these before your test. You don’t want to spend all of your preparation time summarising graphs only to find in your test that your Academic Writing Task 1 is a diagram!

Although there are certain features you need to include for all types of Task 1, the vocabulary and grammar you’ll need to summarise the information can change depending on the type of task.

For example:

  • To summarise the information in a graph, you may need to use vocabulary to describe changes over time, e.g. an increase or a decrease in a number. 
  • To summarise information in a diagram, however, you may need to use vocabulary to describe stages, e.g. the first/second/final stage.
IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 example question

So, now you know what IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 can look like, let’s take a look at an example task and a band score 7 answer.

Page-50-of-IELTS-12-Academic

(Click on image to enlarge), to find out more about our authentic practice tests click here.

Before reading on, look at the maps and identify what you think the main features are, i.e. the places in each map and the differences between them.

As you can see the town centre is going to be transformed with:

  • the main road becoming pedestrianised
  • the addition of a bus station, shopping centre, car park and new housing
  • the addition of a ring road
  • the loss of some countryside 
  • a reduction in the size of the park.

These are the main features and, as you’ll see below, you need to include them in your summary to get a band score 7.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 band score 7 example answer

The following is a band score 7 answer for the Writing Task 1 above from IELTS 12 Academic.

If you read the answer you’ll see that the writer includes a clear overview and presents all the main features. Equally important is that all of the information is accurate, i.e. the information is the same as that shown in the diagrams, and it is organised logically.

Page-126-of-IELTS-12-Academic

(Click on image to enlarge), to find out more about our authentic practice tests click here.

Other reasons this answer got a band score 7 are:
  • there are a range of linking words/phrases, e.g. ‘currently’, ‘overall’, ‘first of all’, ‘therefore’, ‘moreover’, ‘the next point’ and ‘to sum up’
  • there is some less common vocabulary, e.g. ‘modifications’, ‘predicting’ and ‘grouped’
  • there are different kinds of grammatical structures, e.g. ‘can be observed’ and ‘will disappear’
  • there are only a few errors in word choice and grammar, e.g. ‘A pedestrian way will deserve serve the central area’ and ‘new facilities such as a bus station and a parking’.

I hope you noticed too that the writer didn’t give their opinion about whether the changes shown in the maps will be a positive or negative development. This is important because the task does not ask for your opinion, and it could affect your IELTS band score if you include it!

If you’re wondering how this answer could be improved, one way would be to avoid repeating the overview and instead include some more details about the main features, e.g. ‘New houses will be built to the north and south of the pedestrian area’.

So, to sum up, here’s how to get a band score 7 in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Table

Watch my Facebook Live on how to reach band score 7 in IELTS Academic Task 1:

 

I hope that a band score 7 now seems more achievable or at least you know exactly what you have to do.

Pete

PS You can find more sample answers in the authentic practice tests, all of which come with a band score and examiner comments.

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

filter tags

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