Here's my full answer for last week's general writing question:
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing to ask for some time off work next month.
The reason for this ______ is that my brother is getting married. His future wife is Australian, and the wedding will take ______ in her home city, Melbourne. As the brother of the groom, I cannot miss such a special occasion.
To attend the ceremony and make the ______ trip from the UK, I would need at least five days off work. However, I would like to take the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Australia, and so I am hoping that you will allow me to take a full two weeks’ ______, from the 1st to the 15th of May.
I have spoken to my co-workers, and it seems that Peter Jones would be best ______ to cover my project commitments while I am away. I will ______ detailed instructions for him on my desk.
I hope that my request does not cause you any inconvenience.
Fill the gaps with the words below:
- leave (verb)
- leave (noun)
The sentences in yesterday's speaking lesson contained some grammar mistakes. However, perhaps a bigger problem was that the sentences didn't seem very 'natural' (most native speakers wouldn't talk like that).
If you download the document attached below, you'll see my grammar corrections and my suggestions for more 'natural' answers.
Here are some sentences that students wrote about the questions in last week's lesson. Can you improve them by correcting the mistakes or by writing them in a more 'natural' way?
My latest video lesson is now available here. In the lesson, I show you how my students and I wrote a full essay for the question below.
Some people think that a sense of competition in children should be encouraged. Others believe that children who are taught to co-operate rather than compete become more useful adults.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.
(Cambridge IELTS 5, test 3)
These two words are often confused by students. Here is the main difference:
"Rise" (rose, risen) can be a verb or a noun. I often use it for IELTS writing task 1:
"Raise" (raised) is almost always a verb. You probably won't use it for task 1:
If you're using my 4-paragraph essay approach, your essays only need to contain two main ideas - one for each main body paragraph.
But there is a difference between the main idea and the supporting points. For example, the main idea could be "there are several advantages", and each advantage is a supporting point. Start a new paragraph for each main idea, but not for each supporting point.
Express your main idea for each paragraph in a 'topic sentence' at the beginning of the paragraph. Then explain that idea with either one, two or three supporting points.
In the listening test it's important to use the breaks well. There are breaks between the four sections of the test, and there are breaks in the middle of sections 1, 2 and 3 (there is no break in the middle of section 4). You will hear instructions like this:
1. 'Some time' means about 20 seconds, or up to 40 seconds before section 4. It's important to use this time to read the questions, make sure you understand them, underline key words, and think about what kind of answer is needed (e.g. number, name, noun, verb, singular, plural).
2. Ignore this instruction - don't check a section that you have just finished. It's much more important to be ready for the next section. If you're not ready when the recording starts, you will find it very difficult to read the questions and listen to the answers at the same time. So use this time to read ahead.
The phrases below come from Cambridge IELTS 5 (test 3, passage 1). Match the similar phrases from the two lists, and look up any new vocabulary in a dictionary.
1) a cross-section of socio-economic status
2) positive outcomes
3) supplied support and training
4) insufficient funding
5) scored highly in listening and speaking
6) bore little or no relationship to
A) too little money was invested
B) had nothing to do with
C) a variety of poor and wealthy families
D) the results were phenomenal
E) guidance was provided
F) were more advanced in language development
If you're doing the general IELTS test, try this writing task 1 question from Cambridge book 9, page 117:
This should be a formal letter, so start with "Dear Mr. Smith" (Mr. or Mrs. and any surname). Then write a short paragraph for each of the three bullet points in the task box above. End the letter with "Yours sincerely" and a full name (you don't need to use your own name).
It might help if you do a quick plan before you start writing. Just spend a couple of minutes thinking of ideas for each bullet point.
Can I improve my score from 5.5 to 7 in one month?
The honest answer is: no, you probably can't
It's important to be realistic about the time it takes to improve your ability to speak, write or understand a second language. It's a really difficult task. There is no magic recipe for success and there are no shortcuts. Take your time, work hard and be patient.
I've underlined the good vocabulary contained in my advice.
The following questions come from Cambridge IELTS 9, page 103. Some of my students found the topic quite difficult, so I thought we could look at it here. How would you answer?
Here are some useful phrases to describe the chart in last week's lesson. Check my essay to find the missing words.
In last week's lesson I gave you two exam questions and asked you to think about which part of each question you should answer.
I hope you realised that we need to write about both parts (the green and blue parts). Let's look again at the questions:
Question 1 contains two opinions: "wild animals have no place in the 21st century" and "protecting them is a waste of resources". These two opinions are connected, and we need to address both of them in our answer. A good way to do this might be to disagree completely, and to write one main body paragraph for each opinion (explaining why you disagree).
Question 2 contains two facts: "international travel is cheaper than ever before" and "more countries have opened their doors to tourists". The 'trend' in the question refers to both of these facts, and we need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both aspects of this trend.
Some questions do contain a 'background' statement that you can quickly accept in your introduction (e.g. this one). If you're unsure, just answer all parts of the question.
Look at the following question from Cambridge IELTS 9, page 85:
The exact proportion of land devoted to private gardens was confirmed by
A) consulting some official documents
B) taking large-scale photos
C) discussions with town surveyors
Here's what the speaker says:
The first thing we did was to establish what proportion of the urban land is taken up by private gardens. We estimated that it was about one fifth, and this was endorsed by looking at large-scale usage maps in the town land survey office.
Here are the keywords that help you to get the correct answer (A):
proportion of land devoted to = proportion of land taken up by
confirmed by = endorsed by
consulting = looking at
official documents = maps in the town land survey office
Did you notice that answers B and C contain some keywords to trick you?
Read the following passage about 'mindsets' and success.
According to Carol Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a "fixed" theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on having opposite mindset, which involves hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a "growth" or an "incremental" theory of intelligence (growth mindset).
Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behaviour. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals do not mind or fear failure as much because they realise their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure. These two mindsets play an important role in all aspects of a person's life. Dweck argues that the growth mindset will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life.
Which TWO of the following statements agree with the ideas of the writer?
A) Dweck believes that success depends on inherited intelligence.
B) Dweck classifies people according to their beliefs about ability and success.
C) We do not always realise which mindset we have.
D) Fixed-mindset individuals fail more often than those who have a growth mindset.
(mindset = established set of attitudes or way of thinking)
It seems to me that too many students (and teachers!) have a "grammar mindset". They believe that 'complex structures' are the key to a high IELTS score, and they focus on learning rules. As a teacher, I notice that these students are quick to question me if I say anything that seems to break a rule; they assume that I have made a mistake.
I prefer the "vocabulary mindset". Students who have this mindset are more concerned about how native speakers really use the language. They 'collect' words, phrases and collocations by doing lots of reading and listening, and they enjoy using the new vocabulary that they have 'copied' from these sources. As a teacher, I notice that these students are quick to question me about any new or interesting phrases that I use; they want to learn how to use those phrases themselves.
To me, the vocabulary mindset seems much more positive and proactive than the grammar mindset. It seems less critical and more curious, and I also think that it makes language learning more fun!
I like the phrase "to read around a subject". It means doing general research about something in order to learn more about it. Search engines and websites like Wikipedia make it so easy to do a bit of "reading around" about anything that interests you, or about any IELTS topic that you find difficult. So read around more; you'll improve your knowledge and your vocabulary at the same time!
Many candidates struggle to speak for 2 minutes because they answer the first two or three points on the task card too quickly. They only give a detailed answer for the final point.
Look again at my sample answer in last week's lesson. Notice how I answer each point on the topic card in detail. Instead of answering the first point with just one sentence (e.g. "I'm going to talk about chess"), I added three more sentences describing the game. I did the same for the questions about 'where' and 'who'.
The last point on the task card usually asks for your opinion (why?), and it's easy to say more about this. However, if you want to fill the 2 minutes, I suggest that you practise giving longer, more detailed answers to the first three points on the task card.