I'm taking a short holiday until Monday 4th August, so I won't be able to post a lesson for the next four days.
See you on Monday!
Many people lose easy marks in the IELTS listening test because they make spelling mistakes. The only way to improve your spelling is by noticing and learning - you need to notice which words cause you problems, and learn the correct spellings by heart.
If you want to do some spelling practice, try the tests on this website.
I posted this advice back in 2011, but I thought I would post it again today for people who haven't seen it. The first diagram below illustrates the idea that hard work is the only path to IELTS success:
So, which cycle are you in - the 'success' cycle or the 'worry' cycle?
If you're preparing for a writing or speaking topic, I recommend doing an Internet search for ideas first.
To find ideas for yesterday's speaking questions, I typed the phrase "what makes a good adviser" into Google, and found this webpage. Look at some of the great language that we can steal from it:
Remember: the key to high speaking and writing scores is good vocabulary, so topic research is a vital part of your IELTS preparation.
Here are some recent questions from part 3 of the speaking test:
Try answering these questions using the 'paragraph' method in this lesson.
Here are my two "details" paragraphs for the question that I started in last week's lesson. Notice that I only mention three of the years, but I make lots of comparisons between the four groups of people.
Fill the gaps to complete my description:
In 1993, around 18% of English 16 to 24-year-olds living _____ London were unemployed, but the figure for those living in the capital was 5% higher, at 22%. Similarly, the overall adult unemployment rate in London, at 14%, was 4% higher than the rate in the rest of England. While levels of joblessness fell significantly over the _____ 10 years, the trend for higher levels in London and among young adults _____.
Young adult unemployment in England rose _____ between 2002 and 2012, from 12% to 21% outside London, and from around 15% to a _____ of 25% in the capital. By contrast, the proportions of all adults without work _____ below 10%, both in London and in the rest of the country.
Here are two common questions about the IELTS listening test:
Here are my answers:
Read the following passage about the meaning of 'genius'.
A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight. Various philosophers have proposed definitions of what genius is.
In the philosophy of David Hume, a genius is seen by others as a person disconnected from society, who works remotely, away from the rest of the world. For Immanuel Kant, genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person. Arthur Schopenhauer defined a genius as someone in whom intellect predominates over "will". According to Bertrand Russell, a genius possesses unique qualities and talents that make him or her especially valuable to society.
Match each of the following statements to one of the philosophers below.
1. A genius is someone who does not require instruction.
2. We tend to regard geniuses as solitary figures.
3. A genius has the ability to make an exceptional contribution to society.
On the 1st January this year I set myself two aims. The first was to make 10 video lessons for YouTube, which I managed to do.
However, one of my students reminded me of the second aim: to do some "live" video lessons or to record some of the lessons that I teach here in Manchester.
Although I didn't achieve the aim of doing this by February, I'm still working on it. I'm aiming to start producing a course of video lessons (where you'll see me teaching) from September. Let's see if I can achieve the aim this time!
There were a few nice bits of language that you might have noticed in yesterday's speaking lesson:
These phrases made my answers sound very natural and "native-speaker-like". Try using them in your own sentences.
Here are some part 1 questions with example answers. Remember to keep your part 1 answers short and simple.
1. Do you like reading?
Yes, I like reading a lot. I read all sorts of things, including novels, newspapers, magazines, and online articles.
2. Do you usually read for leisure or for work purposes?
Well, I have to do a certain amount of reading as part of my job, but I probably read more for enjoyment. I pick up a newspaper most days, and I usually have a book on the go.
3. What was your favourite book or story when you were a child?
The first book that I remember really enjoying was '..........'. It only took me a few days to read because I liked it so much that I couldn't put it down.
4. Do you think it's important that children read regularly?
Definitely. I think reading is possibly the most important skill that children learn. The ability to read opens the door to all aspects of education.
Let's look at an introduction and overview for the line graph below.
The graph below shows changes in young adult unemployment rates in England between 1993 and 2012.
Introduction and overview paragraphs:
The line graph compares levels of unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds with overall unemployment figures over a period of 20 years in England.
It is clear that the proportion of young adults who were unemployed at any time between 1993 and 2012 was significantly higher than the overall proportion of adults without work. Unemployment rates for both groups of adults were consistently higher in London than in the rest of England.
Can you see examples of paraphrasing in my introduction? Can you see which two main points I chose for my overview?
Here's a recent exam question that was given to me by one of my students:
In some parts of the world it is becoming popular to research the history of one's own family. Why might people want to do this? Is it a positive or negative development?
Try planning some ideas. I'll share mine next week.
As well as doing IELTS listening test practice, anything else that you listen to in English will help to improve your 'ear'. I recommend using websites like YouTube for daily listening practice: choose a topic that you find interesting, and search for videos about it.
For example, I'm interested in language learning (of course!). Here's a YouTube video that I found and watched yesterday:
If you found this video interesting, watch it a second time and note any new or useful phrases that you hear. If you didn't find it interesting, search for something different. As the speaker says at the start of the film, the key is to expose yourself to as much "comprehensible input" as possible!
People often ask me whether it's ok to use phrasal verbs in the IELTS writing and speaking tests.
My answer is yes; phrasal verbs are generally fine. In Friday's speaking lesson I used the phrasal verb to grow up, and the 'multi-word verbs' to take place and to make sure. In this essay, I used the phrasal verb to result in.
It isn't true that all phrasal verbs are informal. Read this article for a full explanation.
Did you write the good vocabulary from yesterday's lesson in your notebook? Here are the words and phrases that I think you should have noted down:
Describe a family celebration that you remember. You should say
- what you were celebrating
- who was present
- what you and your family did to make the celebration special
- and why you enjoyed the occasion.
Here's my sample answer:
Try this exercise using the essay in last week's lesson:
You can learn a lot by doing this exercise. Apparently, this is how Benjamin Franklin worked on his writing skills! He describes the technique in chapter 2, paragraph 6 of his autobiography, which you can read here.
Listen to the information about a university visiting day.
Fill the gaps below using a maximum of three words and/or numbers.
1. The minimum notice period to arrange a visit is ______.
2. You may send your booking form by post, fax or ______.
3. If there are no places for your first choice, you will be offered an ______.
4. On arrival, you should go to the ______ between 9 and 9.15.
5. The maximum number of guests is ______.
If you want to improve your IELTS reading score, the most important thing to work on is your knowledge of vocabulary. Exam techniques are of little use if you don't understand the words that you are reading.
I tell my students to keep a vocabulary notebook, and to use a dictionary to find meanings and examples of usage. Here are some words and phrases that we noted in an IELTS reading lesson that I taught last week:
To help my students, I tried to explain the meanings and to give some example sentences. Can you write your own sentences to show that you can use the vocabulary above?
Notice where we put the "s" on the end of a word and where we don't:
Are some people naturally better at learning languages?
Maybe, but in my opinion, good language learners are people who enjoy practising the language as much as possible. I've never taught a "language learning genius" who learnt English without hard work and lots of practice!
Everyone who keeps trying passes the IELTS test in the end, so don't give up!
Before I write my own sample answer to last week's question, let's look at some sentences written by students. Can you suggest corrections or improvements?
I often meet students who have learnt ten different ways to paraphrase "the graph shows". If you look in a dictionary, you'll find many synonyms for the word "show" (e.g. display, exhibit, parade, depict, convey). But is it a good idea to use these synonyms?
The answer is no.
First, most synonyms of the word "show" are not appropriate for descriptions of a graph or chart. The phrase "the graph exhibits" will look very strange to the examiner. Second, if you learn ten synonyms, you'll probably waste time deciding which one to use.
I tell my students to remember just two synonyms for "shows": compares and illustrates (e.g. the bar chart compares; the diagram illustrates). It won't help your score if you use a strange synonym that you found in a dictionary.
Here's an essay that I wrote with my students using the ideas and the advice about organisation in last week's lesson.
Families who send their children to private schools should not be required to pay taxes that support the state education system.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Some people believe that parents of children who attend private schools should not need to contribute to state schools through taxes. Personally, I completely disagree with this view.
For a variety of reasons, it would be wrong to reduce taxes for families who pay for private education. Firstly, it would be difficult to calculate the correct amount of tax reduction for these families, and staff would be required to manage this complex process. Secondly, we all pay a certain amount of tax for public services that we may not use. For example, most people are fortunate enough not to have to call the police or fire brigade at any time in their lives, but they would not expect a tax reduction for this. Finally, if wealthy families were given a tax discount for sending their children to private schools, we might have a situation where poorer people pay higher taxes than the rich.
In my opinion, we should all be happy to pay our share of the money that supports public schools. It is beneficial for all members of society to have a high quality education system with equal opportunities for all young people. This will result in a well-educated workforce, and in turn a more productive and prosperous nation. Parents of children in private schools may also see the advantages of this in their own lives. For example, a company owner will need well qualified and competent staff, and a well-funded education system can provide such employees.
In conclusion, I do not believe that any financial concessions should be made for people who choose private education.
(269 words, band 9)
Here's the full transcript for last week's exercise about train tickets. Listen to the recording again, then fill the gaps in the transcript below.
The first thing any regular train user should do is to book their tickets in advance, _____ exactly 12 weeks in advance. Those £300 tickets to Manchester, you can get them for just £25 return if you go online. You go to a website called thetrainline.com, you fill in their ticket _____ system, and you’ll get an email telling you when those tickets are available. Because they often _____ _____ very quickly, so when you get that email, act straight away.
But, and I know this sounds a bit sneaky, don’t actually buy them on thetrainline.com, because you’ll have to pay a £1.50 booking fee, and if you’re using your credit card another £1.50. Instead, _____ over to the East Coast website - you’d think that’s only trains down the East coast from London up to Edinburgh - it’s not; they will sell tickets for any trains anywhere in the UK, and they don’t charge a booking fee, and they don’t charge for credit card. So that’s another two or three _____ saved.
If you haven’t been able to buy a ticket a long _____ in advance, it is still worth remembering that up until 6 o’clock on the night before, you can still get Advance tickets. They won’t be as cheap as the Super-Advance ones, 12 weeks in advance, but it’s still _____ trying to buy them the night before.