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Friday, August 10, 2018


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Dear Simon,

Thank you for the tips you give!

I have one question, though: Why some words are supposed to be unnatural and not used by native speakers? What is the problem with them?

Thanks in advance!
Looking for your reply

Why did you delete the list of common topic for writing task 2 from your blog???

I need it please

Thank u

hi simon,

my result is out,

writing: 6
listening: 8

what do you suggest, should I go for recheck for writing?

Mr Simon

With the greatest respect, I would submit that the interpolation of 'by learners of English' is technically unwarranted and unnecessary.

Firstly, I would argue that this interpretation is not how "the man on the Clapham omnibus" would see it, and thus unreasonable.

Secondly, there is an overriding principle of interpretation that words and phrases should prima facie be construed as per their ordinary meaning in context.

Curiously, "(the) common and idiomatic (phrase/s)" almost sounds like a legal doublet such as "breaking and entering". It crops up on google books as an item, whereas "less common and idiomatic" does not.

My take on "less common and idiomatic" is that it is a double hurdle in the sense that the phrase needs to be both natural in the context, and also not so frequently used that anyone learning English could reasonably be expected to have encountered and mastered the phrase in the early stages of language acquisition.

Simply being "less common" is not enough. Idiomatic does not mean using idioms here. The focus should be more on "skilfully", that is, appropriate to the context.

At the end of the day, it comes to much the same thing as you suggest.




https://www.crownpub.bc.ca/Content/documents/2-DraftingPrinciples_August2013.pdf (page 2)



Hi Simon,
In my country, there are different language exams for different purposes or different levels of academic aims. And the vocabulary content of each exam changes according to the degree of difficulty.
There are many books and websites for preparing and they offer variable numbers of vocabulary, idioms and phrasel verbs according to the level of difficulty of the exam.
I want to ask you if you can suggest several websites for vocabulary, idioms and phrasel verbs for IELTS or do you think this is meaningless?
Thank you .


To me, this is meaningless. Literally. For me, it is almost impossible to learn vocabulary from a vocabulary list. I need context. And meaning in context. And I need it to be used in a personally meaningful situation. Then I will remember it for ever.

For instance, returning from a walk with your special friend, they say: "This is where we part company". Are they breaking up? Or just heading off in the other direction to catch a different bus? What does it all mean? Your heart skips a beat, and you ponder the phrase all the way home.

My advice would be: better to read a good book, or a newspaper. Watch a good film, or better still get out an talk to real English people if or whenever you can.


I hope you picked up on the idioms above:

"part company"
"break up"
"head off"
"in the other direction"
"catch a bus"
"heart skips a beat"
"ponder the phrase"
"all the way home"
"or better still"


And compare these with phrases taken from "lists":




i often wonder why so many people look for vocabulary websites while they have one right under their nose, ielts-simon.com. If you went through all the lessons Simon have posted over the years and picked up all the great words and phrases along the way, i'm sure you'd be well on your way to getting band 7+ in IELTS.

but anyway there is a dictionary called 'Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 4th edition' that has a list of around 12000 english words, phrases and idioms that are grouped in such a way that lets you know which words (and importantly, which meanings of those words) and phrases are known and used by learners at each level of the Common European Framework (CEF).

For more info



Thank you for your advice csaj and shokhrukh.


The topic list is here:


Hello Simon,

A lot of students in Vietnam often like to learn some fancy phrases like "blow some steam off" or "do wonders for", and so many similar idioms. I even don't know how and why they find these idioms.

I'm just confused about using them. Can you explain something about this please?

Is it true that using these idioms well gets you a higher score? If yes, how many idioms should we have in our speech? And how do we know they are often used by native speakers?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!


The speaking band descriptors talk about using "less common and idiomatic vocabulary" skilfully/naturally/accurately.

"Idiomatic" in this context does not mean "containing idioms"; it just means a phrase that is typical of, and natural to a native speaker.

Just because someone is using an idiom does not make it idiomatic; possibly quite the opposite if they use in the wrong context or inaccurately.




The speaking test requires you to speak about a topic in Part 2, and engage in a discussion in Part 3. Both these tasks involve explaining either a situation, or your views thereon, and the criteria for Fluency and Coherence include: "develops topics coherently and appropriately".

What is wanted, first and foremost, is a clear explanation. I do believe this is what you should concentrate on, both in your preparation and practice, and when face-to-face with the examiner. Failing to get your point across must automatically lower your score for coherence, so focusing on topic vocabulary and developing the ability to organize your thoughts and string grammatical sentences together is more likely to produce the desired result.

@ ThuongTran
Lắm mối tối nằm không !
See I am Band 9 already!

@ gigi
Thanks for your helpful advice.
Btw, you are not Vietnamese, are you?

Thanks for sharing this great tip. These types of instructions make this blog quite unique to me.

No problem K.T. I'm glad you find my lessons unique!

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