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January 18, 2012


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Thanks Simon

Dear Simon,

As I have never sat ielts before I wanted you to kindly clarify these for me.

I had a question regarding the summary qusetions in the reading section in ielts.

Is the summary a paraphrase of a part the reading section?

I also wanted to know if the words given in the box come from the text (exact words)or paraphrase of them?

Secondly, some people see their jobs as simply a means of earning money
Can we put "а" before?

Hi Light,

Yes, the summary is exactly that.

The questions should tell if you need to use "words from the text". If there is a box with a list of words to choose from, those words might not be in the text - they might be synonyms/paraphrasing of words in the text.


Hi Dan,

I know it looks like a plural word, but "means" is in fact usually a singular word.

a means = a method

Dear Simon,
As far as I can remember I was told by my IELTS tutor '(a sentance should not be longer than 23 words)' but I can see here some sentances are very long,even 36 words,although you used comas in this sentances.

For example: Last sentance of Paragraph one,'(in my experience,very few people.............)'
In the second paragraph:'(Secondly, some people see.........)' made of 31 words.

Therefore,I just want to make sure whether comas can be accounted as a splitting mark between sentances or not?
And normally, how many words we can use in one sentance for task1 or task 2.


Thanks Simon for the prompt reply.

Hi Simon,

Your writing style is brilliant; easy to follow and understand. I simply like it!

My question is how many minutes did you prepare such sample essay? Within 40 minutes?


Simply, beutiful written.

Thanks Simon

Hi Simon,sorry to bother you again.
The most troublesome areas for me are articles and discriminating between countable and uncoutable nouns as there are no regular rules and you have to decide the use of articles on a word-by-word basis! The dictionary does not help much!

1. Do you say 'the misuse of articles' or 'misuses of articles' or 'misuse of articles'? Do you put article "the" put before uncoutable nouns if they are followed by prepositions such "of"
Sometimes i have to resort to Google to help me find an answer

2. "The marriage rate fell to 2 million by the year 2000". is this sentence grammatical? i was told that you had to use "had fallen" with preposition "by"

Hello Simon,
I am sorry that I`m asking off the topic, but could you please tell me whether "reach the world market" is a correct collocation? In context it meant that "...companies from industrially developing nations can reach the world market and bring profit to their native land"

Hi Radmila,
according to Oxford Collocations Dictionary, market is best combined with pharases like
break into, get into, penetrate

For example: They're hoping to get into the Far Eastern market.

Thanks a lot Christina!!! That was very kind of you! And it is so pleasant to receive an immediate answer(=

Hi Simon,

Can you indicate how many minutes you spent on writing the above main body paragraphs?


Hi Simon!

First of all, I really love your blog and YOU!!!
Thanks for this marvellous blog!

I wonder if I say 'I would like to take a look at both contentions' rather than express my opinion at introduction part, for the writing essay of agree or disagree question,

ex) before rendering my own thoguht, I would like to discuss both contentions in order to arrive at fool-proof decision.

Do you think, as an ex-examiner, this approach would affect my score?

Thank you in advance!

Hi Nafiseh,

There is no rule about how many words a sentence should have. The best writing will contain a mix of short, medium and longer sentences. If you look at the 2 long sentences you mentioned, you will see that the key is my use of the word "and" to link 2 ideas that could be written as separate sentences.

I think your teacher is trying to stop you from writing enormous sentences, so as a general rule his/her advice is good. But it's not strictly a 'rule'.


Thanks Frank and Pham,

I'm glad you like my writing style. I didn't time myself unfortunately, but it definitely took me less than 30 minutes.

Please note: these paragraphs are better than what you need to write, even for band 9. I think I added more depth and variety than I usually do.


Hi Christina,

I haven't done that article lesson I promised you yet. I'll finish it soon.

1. You can use all three I'm afraid, but the plural is probably LESS common. Whether or not you use "the" in this case doesn't matter too much.

I don't think I've ever read any grammar rules about whether or not we use "the" before an uncountable + of. I think we often/usually do use "the" in those situations, but I wouldn't want to call it a rule. Using Google to check for the most commonly used forms is the best idea.

2. We like breaking rules in English! It's true that we normally use the past perfect with "by", but the sentence you quoted is also fine. If you're in doubt, use the past perfect.


Hi Radmila,

"reach" seems fine to me. Christina's ideas are also good.


Hi CuC,

I'm glad you like the blog!

"I would like to take a look at" is the kind of phrase that I would use when speaking, rather than in a written essay.

I think the examiner will prefer it if you give your answer in the introduction and then explain/support it in the rest of the essay. If you follow your suggestion, it won't have a huge effect on your score, but the other way is a bit better.

hi simon...
m very poor in reading modules...plz guide me for that..because my target is for 7 bands..m unable to reach that...beg u plz...help me out...

Hi Jyoti,

Here's some advice for the reading test:


However, the best way to improve your reading score is by doing lots of practice.

When i write my essay, can I use an idiom: both sides hold water? Or is maybe considered not academic vocabulary? Thank you for your great work:)

Hi Beatrix,

I wouldn't use that idiom - it's something we use when speaking more than in written essays.

Thank you for your answer, I saw somewhere in essay this phrase: ''what acts as Pandora's box is whether...'' - for discursive essay. Is this forbidden for essay too?

Hi dear Simon,
first I must admit I found your blog far more fruitful than any other books or notes for preparing for IELTS. Thanks for the great help. I have a major problem I have been obsessed with recently regarding task 2. I don't really get what the different essay types are. As I was checking all your posts yesterday, I came across something in your post "IELTS Advice: the "Firstly, Secondly, Finally" structure" dated Saturday, April 24, 2010. As I checked, it was your second post on task 2, however, as I read the comments I noticed other readers were referring to your lessons on essay format types and there were several questions about advantage/ disadvantage , agree/disagree ,discussion/opinion essay topics(which are exactly what my concern is all about!),is there a certain part of your lessons I am missing ? could you possibly give me some pointers on how I can get my hands on the related lessons?
Thanks a million

Hi Beatrix,

I wouldn't write that phrase either.


Hi Iman,

It is generally accepted that there are 3 types of IELTS writing task 2 question:

1. Discussion - talk about 2 sides of an argument or issue.
2. Argument/opinion (e.g. agree or disagree?) - give your opinion about an issue. The aim is to explain YOUR view, so you don't need to discuss both sides in a neutral way. Try to persuade the reader that your view is right.
3. Problem and solution - explain a problem (maybe its causes and/or effects) and suggest some solutions.

I don't think you missed anything. Maybe the students had already heard about these 3 types.

I hope this helps.

hi simon ↲ thanks for the help. Just one question. Should we mention own opinion in the introduction of discussion essays ?and should we also mention the key ideas that we want to memb in the introduction and thesis statement ?are not we even allowed to mention our opinion in the conclusion of discussion ?

Hi Iman,

Only mention your opinion if the question asks for it (e.g. Discuss both views and give your own opinion).

You don't need to give any concrete ideas in the introduction. Just give a general response. Look through my task 2 lessons to see examples of how I do it.

Dear simon
thanks for the valuable help and support . Would be grateful if you could answer these questions:
1.should the question topic address the exam taker with the word "YOU " or "YOUR "so as to make it an opinion essay? if so, questions ending in "Discuss." are discussion essays and "Discuss both views and give your own opinion" is an opinion one,right?
2. does "What are the advantages and disadvantages of...." fall under the category of discussion essay?
3. Once i was told by an IELTS examiner to avoid using phrases such as "I believe", "I would argue that...", one other time I was actively encouraged to use them by sb else, Another examiner told me using the words "I"or"my" is only allowed in opinion essays and not in discussion. Could you help me figure out these problems please.

btw, I went through all your posts on essay writing. Thanks a million.

just one last question :)
"Although tourism has some benefits, it will harm countries as well. How countries can avoid the harms so tourism can contribute to their development"
Is it discussion cos we have not been asked for our opinion?
Or problem solution cos we have been asked to come up with a solution?

once a teacher told me problem solution essays always pose 2 questions? is that true?

Hi Iman,

1. Yes, the use of "you/your" basically tells you that it's an opinion question. "Discuss both views and give your own opinion" is exactly what it says: you have to talk about both sides and make your opinion clear. Look through my lessons to see several examples.

2. Yes, it's asking you to talk about 2 sides of an issue.

3. I think you SHOULD use "I/my" if the question asks for YOUR view. If it doesn't, you won't need to use "I/my". Have a look at this explanation:


The question about tourism is asking for your opinion: "How can countries avoid...?" is a direct question to you. It has the same meaning as "How do you think countries can avoid...?"

To answer that question, explain some of the problems of tourism and how to avoid them. The explain how tourism can contribute positively - in this way, you are dealing with the question in 2 parts.

Almost all questions of all types have 2 parts (2 sides in a discussion, problem and solution, try to give 2 reasons for an opinion). This is why I almost always suggest writing 4 paragraphs: introduction, 2 main, conclusion.

Hope this helps.

Hi thanks Simon
using the same logic we can say what are the advantages and disadvantages of...? is short for what DO YOU THINK are the advantages and..? which makes it an opinion essay too while it was mentioned previously that it is discussion.

dont we necessary need to SEE the word in the question to assume its opinion?

Thank you for your precious help:)

Hi Iman,

You're right - in fact, every IELTS question is in a sense an "opinion" question because you don't have access to research or the opinions of other people.

If we forget about IELTS for the moment, it's definitely possible to ask for someone's opinion without using the word 'you' or 'your' e.g. "Is the food nice?" means "What's your opinion of the food?"

Back to IELTS questions, I think the key is that you should use "I" or "my" in your answer if the question mentions the word "you" e.g. Do you agree or disagree? = I completely agree...

If it's a direct question without "you/your" (e.g. How can countries avoid the harms of tourism?), you don't need to answer with "I" because you can simply write "Countries can avoid the harms of tourism by..."

I hope this makes it a bit clearer.


No problem Beatrix.

Hello Simon,

I am a bit confused. Please help me figure out the following:

Am I wrong if I think I should spend one paragraph on the first question and one on the other (what else can be done to have a satisfying working life)?

Thanks in advance

Hi Simon,

In this sentence 'For example, a positive working atmosphere, enthusiastic colleagues, and an inspirational boss can make working life much more satisfying, regardless of the profession.' Why didnt you put any articles in front of 'working life'. I think it is more correct if you either change it to 'working lives' or put 'a' before that collocation.

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