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August 29, 2018


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Hi Simon,

I just need your help. Yesterday, I posted my essay on the website: "www.englishforums.com" to have it corrected by the native English speakers. In my essay, I've used the series of "Firstly, Secondly and Finally". And here is what the corrector said:

"FInally is OK.

Even though they are grammatically correct, "firstly, secondly, thirdly..." sound very antiquated and old-fashioned in modern writing. Native English speakers today avoid the -ly forms and use "first, second, third,...."

The "-ly" forms are still being used in legal documents, very formal treatises, and by non-native writers, but I seldom, if ever, read or hear them in everyday writing or conversation among native English speakers. The use of the -ly forms has been declining, so you should avoid them."

I'm so confused now. Please help me.



@ Rosie

The use of the -ly forms seems less common in American books on Google.

It is quite easy to find examples of "Firstly" at the beginning of a sentence in modern publications. Some examples below.

So either form would be acceptable for IELTS purposes. There are other alternatives as per the link in the posting above.







"Firstly is more formal than first" according to this => https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/first-firstly-or-at-first

"Write in a formal style in the IELTS Academic Writing test." => https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/prepare-test/understand-test-format/writing-test

so IELTS Academic Writing is not "everyday writing or conversation among native English speakers"

(i actually like the way they sound together 'Firstly, Secondly and Finally'.Since they all end with -ly, to me they sound more continuous than 'First, Second and Finally')


I have asked five other IELTS examiners and we all agree. There is nothing wrong with ‘firstly’ ‘secondly’ and ‘finally’ and they will never negatively affect your score. They are normal words in formal written English. I even put this to a senior examiner and he was surprised that anyone would say that they should be avoided.

Hello Simon,

While writing Task 2, I usually have the idea/thought that I plan on writing down but I am not able to start the sentence sometimes.Do you have any suggestions on how to get better at it?

My aim is to get 7 or above as I previously scored 6.5 in writing. My writing lacks good construction of sentences and variety of ideas. However, I am learning a lot from your blog. thanks :)


I strongly suggest that you learn some 'idea patterns' for your sentences so that your planning and writing can 'work together' more quickly and accurately. For example, if you write an example, you could do this:

name of example + what it is or does + consequence + consequence

There are many possible 'idea patterns' and many types of linking devices you can use, but in my experience training many candidates, organising your ideas is crucial to being able to write effectively.

Hi, Simon.
I just enquire a question about the difference between Academic writing task 2 and General writing task 2. In my opinion, the ranger of the tropics should be a little different. Am I right? It seems that in the Academic test, topics in writing task 2 seem more theoretical and abstract, and to have more relation with school, pupils and law. In GT, the topics are more practical and relatively simple, such as city pollution and traffic situation.

Hence, If test takers just take the test for immigration, maybe they can ignore many topics which have weak relation with the writing task 2.


made slightly different in appearance, meaning, sound, etc.


Thanks for your advice.

Would you happen to know any sites that i can look up to practice idea patterns ?


















(see also Mojo's version in comments for a different approach)



Can anyone please help me in evaluating the following essay and providing valuable suggestions.

Some people believe that it is good to share as much as information as possible in scientific research, business, and academic work. Others believe that some information is too important or too invaluable to be shared freely.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Paragraph - 1
People’s opinions differ as to whether or not knowledge related to scientific inventions, business principles and educational studies be shared publically. While there are some strong arguments against sharing maximum information freely, I still believe that it is important to do so for helping scientists, students, young generations and ultimately to the country.

Paragraph – 4
In conclusion, publishing information freely has its drawbacks, but I believe that the benefits outweigh them clearly.

Paragraph – 3
There are several reasons why people might argue that certain information cannot be made freely available to everyone. Firstly, secondly and finally….
o Risk of stealing valuable research and academic work.
o Misuse of information without complete understanding, which may lead to a major loss.
o For example, following someone’s workout program without a complete understanding of the logic of training method, periodization of training variables and the nutritional requirement for training may cause fatal injuries or even death.

Paragraph – 4
In spite of aforementioned arguments, I support the view that sharing more information about scientific studies, business ideas, and post-graduation thesis have significant benefits to the students, adults, and society. The main benefit is, Additionally, Furthermore, For instance, In my view…
o Helpful to the school and college students in their studies
o Beneficial for new entrepreneurs
o Academic studies on various diets may help everyone to stay healthy.
o For instance, ketogenic-style of diet is beneficial for reducing the significant amount of fat and for improving cognitive brain functions.
o Considering the above argument, I can clearly say that sharing more information is useful for creating awareness in the society, motivating learners and youngsters to do creative work and all these are required for developing a better nation.


Just some links and ideas:





Before WWII German engineers were able to freely gain access to the design for jet engines from public papers at the British patent office.

Perhaps there should be different rules for military secrets and scientific work. It also might pay to be careful what country you are in, unless you wish to spend time in jail.

Full essay from ideas discussed in the above post!

Some people believe that it is good to share as much as information as possible in scientific research, business and academic work. Others believe that some information is too important or too invaluable to be shared freely.
Discuss both views and give your opinion.

People’s opinions differ as to whether or not knowledge related to scientific inventions, business principles and educational studies be shared publically. While there are some strong arguments against sharing maximum information freely, I still believe that it is important to do so for helping scientists, students, young generations and ultimately to the country.

There are several reasons why people might argue that certain information cannot be made freely available to everyone. Firstly, there are few pieces of evidence in which someone tried to steal other’s important research findings and show it as his own work to get the financial benefit. Secondly, there are chances of fatal accidents to be occurred because of implementing some information without complete understanding or guidance. For instance, one can get seriously injured by following some workout program, available on the internet, without complete guidance on the logic of the training, progression of training stimulus and nutritional requirements to follow the program from the author of that workout program. Finally, some people would agree that one should pay the price for accessing someone’s business ideas or new studies.

In spite of aforementioned arguments, I support the view that sharing more information about scientific studies, business concepts and post-graduation thesis work has significant benefits to students, adults and the nation. The key benefit of posting academic studies or research work, on the publically available sites, is that students or scientists could get new ideas for their studies. This may help them to invent new concepts or principles in the future. Additionally, Information on stories of successful business persons along with their experiences might be motivating to new entrepreneurs for starting new businesses. Moreover, the literature on new educational studies could be useful to many people. For instance, recent studies conducted on ketogenic-style diet indicate it helps in the faster fat loss and in improving cognitive brain function. Many obese people got tremendous benefits from these studies.

In conclusion, publishing information freely has its drawbacks, but I believe that the benefits outweigh them clearly.

@ sandi

Thanks for sharing links. I wrote the essay from general ideas, please evaluate, suggest and provide band (if possible).


1) Your latest submission is 336 words, which is unnecessarily long, and perhaps too time-consuming for the actual exam. If you pruned it down to around 270-280, that would be good practice. After all, examiners just need a sample of your writing. Extra length adds nothing. It is all about quality and accuracy, and the ability to put your points across clearly.

2) "as to whether or not knowledge ... should be shared".

3) https://www.google.com/search?q=%22the%20maximum%20amount%20of%20information%22&tbm=bks&lr=lang_en

4) .. to do so in order to help ...

5) -> there have been some cases where pieces important research findings were stolen and claimed by someone else as their own, or on-sold for pecuniary gain.

6) -> there is always the chance of a fatal accident occurring because ...

7) Plagiarism, breach of copyright, patent infringement, knock-off look-alikes....(good topic vocabulary will lift your score)

8) -> publicly (The suffix -ally is normally used in this context (added onto words that end in -ic), but public is an exception, and publicly is generally considered more correct.) https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/publically#English

9) "Additionally" and "Moreover" on successive sentences is quite heavy: just use "also".

10) (word order) the benefits clearly outweigh them.

11) Your essay seemed a bit abstract to me, perhaps work on coming up with more concrete examples. Eg:

As people such as Julian Assange have found out, publishing confidential data from whistle-blowers (or traitors if you will) has its downsides. ...

@ Sandi

Thanks a lot for the great advice! What band would you give my essay considering all the mistakes? Also, I am feeling difficulties in converting ideas into good sentences. Please suggest how can I improve this?

@ Vishaal
Of course I would give you a good score: the question is what would an examiner give you? Many students here need Band 7, but come exam day, they struggle to get across town, and arrive already stressed, freezing cold (or boiling hot), and lonely. Then it is reading first, then listening, then Task 1, and then utterly exhausted and only 35 minutes left for Task 2. And the result is 6.5 again.

Check out the links for simi further up this page.

Hindi speakers often seem to produce long-winded essays with little content. So my advice would be to "cut the crap". For example, it is not until the third sentence of your penultimate paragraph that your point is made. "Freedom of information helps others to develop new concepts and principles."

So perhaps it would help if you could reduce each main body paragraph to one simple thematic sentence. For instance:

Body Para 1: Some information should stay secret.

Body Para 2: Other information should be in the public domain and freely available.

There needs to be a theme for each paragraph to maintain cohesion and focus: otherwise the essay will just ramble without any logical progression.

@ sandi

Thanks again for the response! I asked for the band because I want to know what is my current level of writing and how much I have to improve in 60 days.

I completely agree with you, my sentences are now as good as native English users as I many times do the translation of my native language into English. I just read the response of sjm to simi but still it is unclear to me that how can I improve idea pattern and sentence structure. Can you please help me by providing some good reference to do so? Currently, I am studying Simon's 9 band essays and I improved my introduction and conclusion writing. The missing piece for me now is writing good sentences from the ideas and adding appropriate vocab into the sentences.

I will highly appreciate if you or anyone can help me with this. Thanks in advance!

Could you help me correct this essay for writing 2 and do you think how many score i can got
thanks in advanced

Too much money is spent on looking after and repairing old buildings.Some people think money should be spent on building new modern buildings. To what extent ag or disag.

Governments in some countries spend a huge amount of money on maintaining and protecting historical architectures. I completely disagree with this statement that this is a waste to society, and the funds should be allocated to construct modern buildings.

I would argue that the biggest reason why we should preserve old buildings is their key values, such as historical, cultural, economic and social value. It is true that those old buildings could attract a large number of tourists who come from around the world to visit the local landscape, which promotes the local cultural and historical exchange. Moreover, the consumption of those people like eating, shopping, playing and staying fee, could improve the local economic level.
Also, the advanced tourism could offer the opportunity for poor and low diploma people who cannot find a decent or well-paid job. Therefore, I believe that we can be paid back a lot from investing in historical architectures protection.

Old buildings have an important role to play in countries and their meanings of being. Firstly, historic buildings are a part of a country’s cultural heritage, reflecting the background of this country. Secondly, many of them are served as the symbol of a country, for instance, when people visit Beijing(China), the first place that they want to travel is The Great Wall and The London Towel have become the necessary traveling place as tourists come to London. Finally, historic buildings give personal character to countries or cities and attract tourists. It seems to me that they can be considered as to be works or arts; they provide the ideas for current designers and artists, helping them add historical elements to modern constructions.

In conclusion, in my view, we would gain more than we lose from looking after old buildings.

Could you help me correct this essay for writing 2 and do you think how many score i can got
thanks in advanced

It is true that many countries improve the age of retirement to citizens who can be a good physical condition. I would fully agree with this assertion that the elderly should keep working if they can do.

There are several reasons why I support this view that offering job opportunities for the old people are a good idea. Firstly, current people have more stress on money than people who lived in the past, for example, some people have to work hard all the time to pay for their housing debt, and the government is less likely to offer enough allowance for pensioners as the consumption level is gradually improving. Secondly, the number of young people would not like to raise babies so that the young labor become quite shortages, taking Japan in an example, the age at retirement of this country is 70 years old, and the birth rate is just 1.41 in 2017.
Finally, the employers do wish that the old employees could impart experience to youngsters and help the company cultivate talented next generations.

I also believe that this view not only can help the elderly but also can benefit the society. On the one hand, a survey shows that those people after retiring are more likely to fall into illness than before like retirement syndrome because they need much time to adopt the retirement life. Therefore, many old people are too happy to continue working with the young people; they could also learn advanced technology and knowledge when they communicate with the young employee. On the other hand, It can relieve the financial burden of the government to some extent.

In conclusion, It seems to me that the old generation keeping work could have a positive impact on themselves, their family and society.


1) "Architecture" is uncountable in English except in computing.

2) "waste of money" is more common, although "waste to society" does seem to be a technically correct term in economics.

3) "the local cultural and historical exchange" : no article as we are talking "in general".

4) "the consumption .. economic level." -> Tourist spending would bring significant benefits to the local economy.

5) "the advanced tourism.." -> the rise in tourism would also create more job opportunities for low income earners/for less-well-qualified job seekers/ for the disadvantaged and job seekers at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.

6) -> ... our investment in conserving and protecting our architectural heritage would pay off handsomely.

7) "and their meanings of being." -> sense of national identity

8) -> many of them serve as the symbol of a country, / symbolize a country

9) -> that they want to travel to is The Great Wall, and ... (Note the comma.)

10) "The London Towel": is this a hotel?. Or did you mean "Tower Bridge", or the "Tower of London" ?

11) ... has become a must-see item for tourists. (or must-visit)

12) "Firstly, ... Secondly... Finally" are redundant here as the same point is being developed.

13) "works or arts" -> works of art

14) "In conclusion, in my view, ": one phrase of the other, but not both together.

15) "we would gain more than we would lose ". The essay does not really address what we would lose. Perhaps the phrase "well worth it".

16) The question of modern buildings has not been addressed. It might make more sense to consider how the funds would alternatively be spent, and the effect of not maintaining existing old buildings. Thus the second body paragraph could be about the knock-on effects of dilapidation and important buildings falling into disrepair, and also the overall effect of juxtaposing modern architecture and mixing styles. This would not undermine your one-sided stance as it would be about the downside of the modernistic approach.


1) If we are talking about retirement in the context of the government pension entitlement age, then we can use "retirees" and "pensioners".

Old, when applied to people, is a blunt term that usually suggests at least a degree of physical infirmity and age-related restrictions. It should be used advisedly, especially in referring to people advanced in years but leading active lives. · As a comparative form, older might logically seem to indicate greater age than old, but in most cases the opposite is true. A phrase such as the older woman in the wool jacket suggests a somewhat younger person than if old is substituted.

Where old expresses an absolute, an arrival at old age, older takes a more relative view of aging as a continuum—older, but not yet old. As such, older is not just a euphemism for the blunter old but rather a more precise term for someone between middle and advanced age. And unlike elderly, older does not particularly suggest frailness or infirmity, making it the natural choice in many situations.

The use of elder in the sense of "an elderly person" is uncommon in contemporary English, though it is widely used as an attributive in such phrases as elder care (or eldercare) and elder services.

Referring to any group using the formula the elderly, the disabled is nowadays felt to be inappropriate because it glosses over people's individuality and perpetuates stereotypes. It is preferable to use phrases such as disabled people and so forth. Many people also prefer to talk about older rather than elderly people for similar reasons.

My take is that elderly sometimes implies frail: there is also a medical term "the frail elderly".

2) Check the usage notes for terminology:





3) Also check out "mortgage", "adapt to"


thank you for your help
I really wish that I can improve my English level
your feedback would help me improve.
thank you!dear.

@ Charlotte

4) many countries improve the age of retirement -> many governments are considering raising the mandatory retirement age




thank you dear friend
i will check out
thank you!!!!!!!!!

Hello everyone,

Can anyone check my essay and suggest corrections (if any). Thanks

In a number of countries, some people think it is necessary to spend large sums of money on constructing new railway lines for very fast trains between cities. Others believe the money should be spent on improving existing public transport.
Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

People, of various nations, have different views about whether governments should use the major part of financial resource on developing new railway lines for bullet and metro trains. While there are some arguments in support of this idea, I certainly believe that repairing of available public transportation system should be prioritized.

There are two main reasons why people might think that politicians should spend more money on creating new railway lines for interconnecting express trains. The first reason is that it would save time for the people traveling to the different city for their jobs on a regular basis. The second thought process is that it will give status and recognition to the city amongst developed cities of the nation. For example, the Ahmedabad city of Gujarat is getting recognized in India because of the newly developed metro railway system.

In spite of the above arguments, I support the view that governments should focus more on improving the existing public transportation system. The main reason for my view is that the majority of people would be benefited by using the improved road and railway systems. They can save the significant amount of money by avoiding the use of their personal vehicals for day to day transportation, which also reduces the number of traffic problems. My other argument is that it would be environmentally friendly, I mean the pollution caused by a large number of private vehicles will be massively dropped. Finally, governments will be benefited as people in the country would prefer the use of public transportation over their own vehicles.

In conclusion, spending more money on improving the existing public transportation system has more benefits than using the money for developing railway lines for superfast trains.

1) -> the majority of people would benefit from ...


2) -> save a significant amount of money

3) -> the pollution ... would fall dramatically.

4) -> governments will benefit

5) In my view, this type of question can be addressed in terms of aims, goals, objectives, and criteria. What is the purpose of building super-fast intercity lines?
In Europe, airspace is congested and there is always the problem of getting to the airport in the first place. Also, from an ecological standpoint, trains are said to be better, although some would dispute this.

So, if the aim is to supplement the air network, inter-city express trains are needed. Alternatively, if the aim is to reduce rush-hour congestion on city streets, then improvements in the commuter train system is the appropriate option. The question revolves around differing aims and objectives. The clash only occurs when finances are limited and force a choice of priorities.

@ Da Nang

Thanks for your response! I am not getting what you want to say in last point. Can you please elaborate?

@ Jammy

Just is it super-fast inter-city vs existing inter-city, or is it super-fast inter-city vs existing near-city commuter services?

Also, it is just a question of prioritizing when funding is limited, so whichever buys the most votes.

@ Jammy
In other words, you cannot make a decision or argue a viewpoint without first defining whatever it is you are trying to achieve. If you wish to minimize short-haul air traffic, there is one answer: if you wish to minimize car congestion for commuters, then there is another.

@ Da Nang

Thanks for the great advice!

Hi Simon. Just want to write a comment to thank you on the great work you have done that have influenced so many students like me. I'm a typical guy with a science and engineering background and mindset. I found it so frustrating in preparing IELTs myself at first, especially the writing and speaking section. It seems easier for me write a full essay on one assumption than quickly come up with hundreds of words on a topic with different assumption and ideas. following your systematic and revolutionary approach to IELTs, I can finally make sense of what this test is all about. You really break down everything in pieces in such a logical way. Anyway just feel like I need to say this to show my appreciation of what you've done. thank you.

Thanks Cheng. It's nice to read such a positive comment!

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