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Sunday, June 04, 2017


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could you please correct other miscorrect sentences u've mentioned ?

Hi Mr Simon,

I do not know how to thank you, seeing that your sound advice. Even though this complexity may mount a challenge and be quite risky to try, I am determined to do that. There is a Persian saying that "only an unwritten essay has no errors". This means that you would not make progress unless you tried. If I had not written that sentence, what I have just learnt would not be achieved. But, right is yours. I should have used nothing but grammar and vocabulary which were 100% reliable and matched in that specific context. So, I will try my best to study more and more to reduce my grave mistakes that you mentioned from now on.

Yours Sincerely,

From the New Yorker Dec 17, 2012:
"Like a lot of debates about education, what Cooper calls “the battle over homework” is not really about how to make schools better."

From Gisborne Herald June 5, 2017:
"...Constance Hall. She has more than half a million followers on social media, uses swear words like commas and has a fierce opinion about homework for her primary-aged children,..."

From National Post Sept 15, 2015:
"American education writer Alfie Kohn’s 2006 book, The Homework Myth, provoked a rethinking of homework across the continent."

Might I suggest that the real issue lies not in the vocabulary, but rather in that the sentence is not structured as an introduction (which often contains the phrase "there has been ...". For example:

In recent times, there has been some/considerable debate over whether school-children should be given homework, provoking fierce reactions in some quarters.


You are making Simon's point. Newspaper writing in English is NOT essay writing. Newspapers are written in a 'dramatic' way to attract readers. This type of vocabulary works well in this type of writing which is meant to entertain and stimulate. It is not appropriate in an essay context.





You are missing the point here. Yes, these expressions are used occasionally, but they are not used in formal essays. Words have both meanings and uses, and using them out of context is considered wrong in IELTS.

My understanding is that there is no requirement to write a "formal" essay in Task 2.

ielts.org states:
"In Writing Task 2, test takers are given a topic to write about an academic or semi-formal/neutral style. "
British Council state:
"Responses to Task 1 and Task 2 should be written
in an academic, semi-formal/neutral style."



First, well done for finding examples of those words in appropriate contexts - a good bit of research!

Please note that I didn't describe the use of the words as "wrong" or "incorrect". Instead, I wrote things like "seems unnatural or inappropriate in this context", "seems a little exaggerated to me" and "while it isn't grammatically wrong, I would question the use of...".

If you search the Internet, you will find examples of native speakers using almost any word that you can imagine. But it's the context and appropriacy that I'm questioning, not the "possibility" or a word or phrase being used.

To use a different example, I'm sure you would avoid using slang words in an IELTS essay, although you would certainly find them used by journalists and other writers. The phrase "fierce debates have been provoked" is a much more subtle example of inappropriate usage, but the basic point is the same.

As a native speaker, I can honestly say that the phrase "fierce debates have been provoked" seems exaggerated and unnatural to me (in this type of essay), especially as it is followed by two basic mistakes (incorrect use of "if" and "assignments"). Examiners often see this mix of "difficult" words alongside basic mistakes, and it really does make the whole sentence seem wrong.


As this is an interesting discussion, I'll say a little more about the examples you found:

1) While the phrase "the battle over homework" is used in the New Yorker, I would never use it in an IELTS essay - this is another example of the kind of exaggerated, expressive or entertaining language that is fine for journalists but unsuitable for us.

2) It's nice to read such expressive language as "her fierce opinion" in a newspaper, but I would never write "I have a fierce opinion" in an IELTS essay.

3) In your third example, we can clearly see "what has provoked what" (i.e. x provoked y), but in our IELTS context, there was no mention of "what" provoked (caused) the homework question.


Finally, let's have a look at what the IELTS band descriptors say:

Lexical resource band 9:
"uses a wide range of vocabulary with very natural and sophisticated control of lexical features"

- I don't think the phrase "Fierce debates have been provoked if assignments" demonstrates natural and sophisticated control.

Lexical resource band 7:
"uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation"

- I'm afraid I don't think the style and collocation of "our" phrase meets the above definition.

Lexical resource band 6:
"attempts to use less common vocabulary but with some inaccuracy"

- I think this is where we are with the phrase in question!

I hope this helps! I don't usually explain things in such detail here on the blog, but I really want people to understand the point I'm making.

Thank you,mr. Simon for your detailed explanation.

Hi Mr Alibaba,

Escaped unscathed from the personal judgement of any examiners, an ESL student focused more on listening and reading sections in which you are more likely to reach a higher mark. Putting effort more into sections mentioned above is something that advance English learners desperately need for higher bands. Therefore, I highly recommend that counting on your abilities in listening and reading sections rather than being judged on writing and speaking sections by a native speaker!

Yours sincerely,

It's like: Nobody uses the language of theatre in his or her daily conversations. It's all about the context.

Thank you Simon. Very useful to know exactly what is meant by "an academic or semi-formal/neutral style" in practice, especially that we need to avoid emotive or dramatic language.

Hi guys,

I totally agree with master Simon. Using difficult words only make you trapped in your own cage. I remember clearly advice from Simon that to get a 7 band, you don't need to be Shakespeare. Apart from that, IELTS writing task 2 is more like a high school essay than journalism scripts. I trust Simon completely because wherever I read lessons on this blog, I also notice good comments from other students. On their posting, They appreciated Simon as they achieved high marks by following Simon's advice and yet my friend who recommended this blog to me attended the University College London because of this site. You guys know, Her English level is beginner just the same as me.

Once more, I'd like to thank Simon for every effort and time he put in making this lessons continually exists.

I guess, this is probably why I failed my last IELTS Writing section, despite notching the other parts. Perhaps trying to overcomplicate the vocabulary may create a lot of awkward wording and, as a result, it will sound unnaturally.

Thanks Kami, Alibaba, sjm, Rio and others. I'm glad my explanations helped!

Hello guys!
I have taken IELTS Academic on 20 May and my results are (L-7.5, R-7, S-6.5, W-6, Overall Band=7). But my speaking should be at least 7. If anyone want to practice speaking please text me. My e-mail: fira.rahmonov@gmail.com

I have done my IELTS on 13 may and got listening 7.5, reading, writing and speaking 7 and overall its 7.though I need overall 7.5 so I need to take it again if anyone seriously interested in practising please contact me on sabikanaqwi@gmail.com

It's very helpful. Thank you

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