FCE Writing

The Writing paper has two parts. Part 1 has one compulsory question and involves writing an essay. In Part 2, candidates are given three options and are asked to write one of the following using between 140 and 190 words: an article, email/letter, report, or review.

Difference between opinion and discussion essay IELTS writing task 2

Lots of IELTS test takers are quite intimidated by the IELTS writing task 2- an essay, especially the differences in essay types. As a rule, the main differences between opinion vs. discussion essay IELTS writing task 2 are as follows:


That said, many of the test-takers whom I taught realised writing an essay is not that difficult once you know and understand the IELTS essay structure, basic rules and vocabulary which you need to include. Only then successfully writing an IELTS essay can be quite easy.

What is IELTS writing task 2? 

As a general practice, you should spend 40 minutes on the IELTS writing task 2 and you need to write 250 words. The main objective of this task is to provide a response to an essay question. Here are the most frequent types of IELTS essay questions:

  • advantages or disadvantages essays, 
  • opinion essays, 
  • discussion essays, 
  • problem solution essays,
  • direct question essays.

 

There are about 11 common topics for IELTS writing Task 2: 

  • Education
  • Environment
  • Business
  • Health
  • Leisure
  • Family & Children
  • Tourism
  • Society
  • Work
  • Media & Advertising
  • Sports & Entertainment 

 

IELTS test-takers need to keep themselves updated on various current topics and issues as these frequently come up as essay questions. For that reason,I usually advise my students to watch the news, read articles and newspapers to become aware of the current events happening in the world. That helps to realise various viewpoints and opinions and exposes you to vocabulary related to a particular topic. 

When improving your writing skills and overall IELTS score you can’t forget writing assessment criteria.  Being aware of the assessment criteria and following them helps you score a higher band in your writing.

 

There are four writing assessment criteria for the IELTS writing exam:

  1. Task achievement 
  2. Coherence and  cohesion
  3. Lexical resource
  4. Grammatical range and accuracy

If you want to have a good mark and pass with a high band, you need to make sure you cover all four criteria. These criteria are shared with everyone on the official IELTS website. 

 

What is IELTS writing task achievement criteria? 

The task achievement criteria refers to the content of the essay. Achieving the task means that we are able to answer the question by providing enough evidence, examples and other relevant content. The structure of the essay also falls into the task achievement category. 

Let’s focus on the structure of opinion and discussion essays because they have some common features and common rules that we need to follow when we write. 

Here’s an example essay talking about computers 

Sample opinion essay topic:

 

You should spend no more than 40 minutes on this task.​

Write about the following topic:​

Computers are being used more and more in education and so there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.​

To what extent do you agree or disagree?​

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and experience.​

Write at least 250 words.​

 

How many paragraphs are there in an opinion IELTS essay? 

There are usually between four to six paragraphs in an opinion IELTS essay. First paragraph is the introduction and the last is called the conclusion. Paragraphs in between are called the main body.

 

In which paragraph do we need to state our opinion or if we agree or disagree  in an opinion IELTS essay? 

In an IELTS opinion essay we need to share our opinion in the introduction. 

 

What is the best essay structure of an IELTS opinion essay? 

There are four main points in the structure of an opinion IELTS essay:

  1. Write an introduction to the topic which clearly states your opinion on the subject. ​

(either ‘yes, I think there will be no role for the teacher’ or ‘no, I don’t think the teacher’s role will be affected’). In the introduction you say what the main topic is about. You also provide some background information and then state your opinion.

  1. Main body: include two main points/reasons to support your opinion and write about them with examples. In the main body we have to provide the main points to justify our opinion with supporting evidence (examples).
  2. Main body: Think of one alternative opinion (However, some people argue that…) and give examples. You need to provide another paragraph where you will present an alternative opinion in order to achieve balance in your essay. ​
  3. Write a short conclusion to summarise your main points and restate your opinion​

 

Sample Discussion essay topic: 

You should spend no more than 40 minutes on this task.​

 

Write about the following topic:​

Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it’s leading to negative consequences.​

​What is your viewpoint?​

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and experience.​

Write at least 250 words.

 

Opinion and discussion essays are relatively similar yet there are some differences which might be tricky to spot to some IELTS test-takers. 

In this discussion essay topic there are two points: 

Computers are being used more and more in education. Some people say that this is a positive trend, while others argue that it’s leading to negative consequences.

 

VS

 

Opinion essay: 

Computers are being used more and more in education and so there will soon be no role for the teacher in education.​

What is the difference between the opinion and discussion essay topics? 

The main difference is in the wording. In the opinion essay we have one statement/opinion and then the question is asking whether we agree or disagree. In the discussion essay it’s clear that we have two different opinions, opinion 1, opinion 2 and then we have to say whether we agree or not. It’s really important that we cover both of the opinions, which makes it a balanced essay, and then say what our opinion is. 

Why do you have to mention the opposite view in an IELTS opinion essay?

The reason you mention an opposite view is because you need to have a balance. Imagine you have an opinion essay and you say your opinion only and that’s it. This way your essay is not balanced. In an opinion essay you need to present some general facts that you know about others who believe in something different than you to keep your balance in your essay. 

And of course, in the conclusion you can restate your opinion. 

 

What is Coherence and cohesion in the IELTS writing task 2?

Essay coherence is about the structure, it means your IELTS essay is divided into clear paragraphs, each paragraph includes a clear topic and there is progression and logic going through all your essay. Cohesion relates to the flow of what you have written; including a range of appropriately used linking words throughout the essay improves your cohesion. 

 

Some examples of expressions you can use, especially in opinion essays:

Expressing opinion​:​

  • Personally, I think….​
  • In my view…​
  • In my opinion…​
  • From my point of view…​
  • I am in favour of the idea of…​
  • I am completely against the idea of (+ verb + -ing)…​
  • I think/admit/believe that…

 

Other linking expressions:


What is Lexical resource in the IELTS writing task?

Lexical resource in your IELTS writing exam relates to vocabulary. The wider range of vocabulary you use correctly and appropriately, the better you score in the IELTS writing exam.The IELTS examiner will also look at how well your words help you to express your thoughts.

You are encouraged to use less common lexical items, consider adding collocations and write in an appropriate style and register of the essay. It’s really important you do not repeat the same words and phrases over and over again in the essay. 

 

What phrases to use to express someone else’s opinion in a discussion essay? 

Expressing someone else’s opinion in a discussion essay​:

  • A growing number of people claim/argue/believe/feel that…​
  • There is a common belief that…​
  • Many people hold the view that…

 

How to expand your vocabulary range and write better essays? 

The best way to develop and expand your vocabulary is by reading the news and articles in journals and websites such as The Guardian, The Economist, the National Geographic. Watching TV series and documentaries which provide more technical information rather than everyday lexis, is another way to learn new words. Lastly, look into word class and collocations (see below).

What is word class and how to learn new words with it? 

When building the vocabulary range with word class you research different types of categories of words that are used. Instead of always using the same noun, find out what is the verb that comes from a noun. Or what is an adjective that comes from a specific noun.

A great practise is to start to get into this habit of thinking what is the noun, the adjective, the verb. For example:

employee ->  employment

dramatic -> dramatically ->drama

government-> govern 

 

What are collocations and how to improve writing with collocations? 

A collocation is two or more words that often go together. Collocations make your writing more stylish, formal and academic, for example:

Because it is necessary to speak good English for work, more and more people are studying in English-speaking countries.

VS.

As a result of the need to speak .good English for work, more and more people are studying in English-speaking countries.

 

Job security has declined dramatically in recent years.

VS.

There has been a dramatic decline in…

 

This verb expression, something that has declined dramatically, can be turned into a noun there has been a dramatic decline. This is a great way of making your essay very stylish. 

You might already know that using passive is great to focus on the action, whereas an active voice is great when you want to focus on who is doing the action -the doer. 

You might have heard that in IELTS writing task 2 you need to use the passive more, but it’s not really necessary that we only need to use the passive and this also connects to the grammatical range and accuracy that we have to cover. 

 

Use both active and passive voice in your IELTS essay:

Computers are being used more and more in education. (passive : action)

People are using computers more and more in education. (active : doer)

 

What is Grammatical range and accuracy in the IELTS writing task?

Grammatical accuracy in your IELTS writing task relates to correct use of grammar, whereas the grammatical range refers to a variety of grammatical structures you use. Overall, you need to include more complex grammar structures in a correct way to score high in this task achievement. You also need to pay attention to punctuation.

 

What complex grammar structures should be included in your IELTS essay? 

When writing an IELTS essay you should avoid simple grammar structures and instead use more sophisticated forms like present perfect tense, passive voice and relative clauses.

 

What are relative clauses? 

There are two types of relative clauses: 

Defining relative clauses provide essential information

e.g. Some people work at home. They often miss discussing ideas with colleagues.

          People who work at home often miss discussing ideas with colleagues.

 

Non-defining relative clauses include non-essential information / in commas

e.g. Some museums are free to enter in my country. This is a good idea, because it allows everyone to have access to culture.

          Some museums are free to enter in my country, which is a good idea, because…

These grammatical points are very important also for coherence and cohesion because we use relative sentences to link our phrases or words or ideas in a better way, and then we achieve better coherence. 

 

What’s the best book to prepare for writing for IELTS? 

If you’re preparing for the IELTS writing exam you should equip yourself with some good resources. There are plenty of books about IELTS and choosing the best might be tricky. My students and I tested over a dozen of IELTS books for writing and here are our favourite IELTS books: 

 

 

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Best ways to improve your English speaking and listening for an IELTS exam

Everyone knows that doing an IELTS exam preparation course is the best route to success when you want to improve your English, particularly when the IELTS course is in the UK or in another English speaking country.

Learning English in the classroom environment in an English speaking country is very beneficial because you are surrounded by English all the time.

In addition to learning English with a group of people in a language school, there are many different ways of learning English outside of the classroom. 

Before you start implementing these learning points you need to remember this one very, very important rule.

The rule is that whatever activities you select for learning English outside of the classroom, these need to be activities that you like and enjoy. If you choose something that you don’t like, you are unlikely to be able to do it on a regular basis.

If you choose something you don’t like doing, you are very unlikely to persevere, and you’re very unlikely to continue with that particular activity. 

So please make sure that whatever you choose, you enjoy doing it. 

Best ways to improve your English speaking and listening for IELTS outside of the classroom

1.Learn Vocabulary and Pronunciation with Songs

We all love songs and have access to various tunes either online on YouTube and through other various platforms. A lot of them are free. 

Listening to songs in English helps us communicate better. What does communication really mean though? 

When people communicate, they use three important parts of our communication.

I.Verbal communication- the use of words
II. Non-verbal communication- gestures, facial expressions, body language
III. Intonation- the tone of our voice,  speed and the volume.

All these three are important when we try to convey messages, but in terms of the importance, they’re not equally balanced. 

The verbal communications or communication through words constitutes only 7% of the way we convey messages*.

Our body language, gestures, facial expression, account for 55% of our communication*.

Intonation, like the tone of voice speed and volume make up to 38% of our communication*. 

*These studies, led by Dr. Mehrabian, describe how the mind determines meaning. The conclusion was that 93% of communication is “nonverbal” in nature.

Through songs we can focus on new words, but we can also learn about the intonation. Particularly word stress and sentence stress. We can also practise the speed, the pace of some songs is quicker than others. When you learn English with songs you will have opportunities to practise pronunciation, intonation, rhythm and accent. You can also practise vocabulary- not just isolated words, but collocation, how words go together or idioms in English. 

 

Step by step suggestion on how to practice learning English with songs.

  1. Choose a song and just listen to it without reading the lyrics. So just focus on listening. And try to work out what this song is about. Don’t worry about the details, listen to just the general idea, general topic or general theme of that song, and then once you’ve worked out what this song is about, listen to this song again.
  2. Listen to the song for the second time. And this time look at the lyrics while listening and check if you’ve guessed the topic or the theme of the song correctly. Then you can try and look into the lyrics in more detail. Find some words or some expressions that you don’t know and look them up.
  3. Look a word up in a dictionary, take a note of them in your vocabulary notebook, and then listen to the song a few more times and try singing along. So it’s not just about listening, but also if you practise singing, you will be practising pronunciation. 
  4. Sing the song to practise your pronunciation and intonation as well

 

Which song to choose? 

I’m an avid (adj. very eager and enthusiastic) fan of British English accent and pronunciation and whenever I recommend a song I always choose one by The Beatles. Their songs vary in difficulty, so choose a song that you think corresponds to your level, here are some suggestions: 

 

B1 – intermediate – equivalent to IELTS band 4.0-4.5

I want to hold your hand 

While my guitar gently weeps

A Day in the Life

 

B2 – upper- intermediate – equivalent to IELTS band 5.0-6.5

Help

In my life

 

C1- advance – equivalent to IELTS band 7.0-8.0

Revolution

Eleanor Rigby

Another way to incorporate music in learning and improving your English is by visiting a website called lyricstraining.com. You can register on this website for free and you can find a number of songs there so you can look for your favourite songs. Or you can just browse and choose songs you haven’t heard before.

The website gives you the lyrics with gaps so you can listen to the songs and fill in the gaps to the lyrics at the same time. In this way, you can practise and improve your listening skills at the same time.

There is also a karaoke version so you can play the music and sing your favourite songs. You can practise intonation and the most important thing is that if you like music, it is a lot of fun.

2. Listen to podcasts to improve your English fluency

LearnEnglish Podcasts

LearnEnglish Podcast is a series of podcasts, there are about 80 episodes, or 20 hours of podcasts about everyday topics for pre-intermediate A2  or intermediate B1 learners (learn more about level and IELTS bands here). You can download them and listen offline or read the audio script, there are also interactive exercises to help you understand and use the language.

The episodes are divided into different sections, from fictional drama and jokes to quizzes and language advice, which will  improve your listening comprehension and develop your vocabulary. 

All ears English

This American English podcast is presented by two ESL teachers, Lindsay and Michelle. In very short episodes, they discuss American culture, and explain confusing expressions in a friendly and fun way. Their motto is “connection not perfection” so expect a focus on everyday English as it is spoken in the real world. An additional brilliant feature of this podcast: Lindsay and Michelle focus on training people for the IELTS exam.

 

3. Learn new words with Videos

With LearnEnglish Videos app you get regular new video episodes to make your listening practice fun and useful. 

When watching these videos you improve your listening, reading and understanding of general and business English.

New videos on a range of topics are added every week. These are downloadable episodes, which means you can watch offline. There are also interactive audio scripts that make it easy for you to repeat phrases or new vocabulary if they are hard to hear. The app has a great feature of pitch control which allows you to slow down the video speed if the speaker is a bit difficult to understand.

 

British Council has introduced a Video Zone page in which you can watch YouTube videos on a wide range of topics, including science, psychology, entertainment, culture, nature and sport. The videos are specially selected for upper intermediate (CEFR level B2) and advanced (CEFR level C1) learners of English.

The videos will develop your ability to understand a variety of accents and speakers, as well as a range of colloquial and idiomatic language in context. Each video has a transcript and interactive exercises to help you understand the language.

 

Ted Talks are short inspiring, very entertaining and thought-provoking lectures from some of the world’s most inspiring and renowned leaders. All accessible on your mobile or tablet, all you need in an internet connection. Ted Talks are a great way to broaden your horizons and look at various topics from a different perspective. If you’re ever stuck and clueless about what to talk about in your speaking exam or what to write in your essay- writing task 2, start watching Ted Talks, they are much more interesting than reading The Guardian or The Times. 

4. Improve speaking and your pronunciation

LearnEnglish Sounds Right is the British Council’s free pronunciation chart for learners of English worldwide. This app will teach you how to pronounce different sounds so that your pronunciation improves. By tapping arrow signs you listen to example words with that sound.

There are 44 sounds in English (do you know them all?)  and we can divide them into two groups, that is consonants and vowels. There are 20 vowels in English and 24 consonants.

With the LearnEnglish Sounds Right app you can learn about these sounds through the app and once you know how to pronounce each of these sounds, you will be able to pronounce all the words in the English language.

 

5. Learning English for IELTS through language exchange or study buddy

Language exchange is a concept of exchanging language skills, usually speaking but also writing, with a fellow language learner who wants to speak your native language. A great example is a Spanish-English language exchange, or Chinese-English language exchange. It might be tricky to find an English speaker who wants to learn with or from you. However, there are plenty of native English speakers who want to learn a foreign language, for example Japanese, Spanish or French. You meet up either in person, face to face or online through one of the free online platforms (see below) to practise speaking English and in exchange the other person practises your native language, which allows both of you speak the target language. You even might be lucky to find an English teacher (current or former) amongst a vast pool of language exchange seekers.   

How do you find a language and conversation exchange partner? 

There are websites and apps that offer free language exchange opportunities. Best apps to find conversation exchange buddy are HelloTalk, Tandem and HiNative. You can download these apps on your phones, register and say your first language is and what language you are learning. This way you can find the right match for you. Each app gives you an option either to type or speak. 

Hello Talk 

 

HiNative

Tandem

There are many, many more language buddy apps out there and  you can find them by using Google. These three are the ones that I’ve come across before and some of my students have used and had good experience with.

6. Learning English with with books and magazines

Reading is a very important skill in foreign language acquisition, especially when you prepare for English exam like IELTS. If you read books or magazines not in your native language, good chances are that you’re a bit slow reader. But that doesn’t change the fact that through reading you are exposed to more sentences, grammar structures, and new vocabulary per minute than the average, short class, TV show, or song. I frequently observe that the more fluent students are the ones who read books in the target language (language that you are learning). 

Even though some of you might have already realised how important reading is for your fluency, it can be quite a lonely, challenging and daunting activity. Many IELTS test takers complain that originally written books are difficult to understand because there are too many unfamiliar words and they lose interest in the book or an article very easily. If that sounds familiar, then maybe you should start reading Graded Readers books.

Graded readers are books that are specifically designed for English language students, and they’re available at your local library or online. One of the best examples of Graded readers is a series of Penguin readers, and there are various levels:

Level 7

Level 6

Level 5

 

 

 So what is special about Graded reader books?

Graded readers give you a range of different kinds of books, so it could be contemporary fiction, nonfiction, popular classics, and all of them are written especially for learners of English as a foreign language. A lot of them come either with CDs or with a streamable audio, so you can read and listen at the same time. Or you can choose just to listen or just to read. Some of these books are retellings of well known stories and some are adaptations of classic and contemporary fiction. Some of them are factual, and the main important thing is that the language used in these books is strictly controlled, and it corresponds to the level of the student who is reading it, so the same way English language course books are designed for different levels. In the same way graded readers are also designed in a way that they correspond with different language abilities.

Why is it important to read and what I’m recommending here is what we call extensive reading. Extensive reading is quite different from what we do in the classroom. Often when you do a reading activity in the classroom, the teacher will give you a text or will ask you to open your course book and read something and then there will be questions under the text and the teacher will say now answer these questions or the teacher might say let’s look at the vocabulary from the text, or maybe let’s look at the grammar. So this is called intensive reading and this is what we often do in the classroom. Extensive reading is different. Extensive reading is something that you probably do in your own language when you read for pleasure. You read not because you want to focus on some grammar or vocabulary, but you just want to do so. You read something that is enjoyable and of course at the same time you are learning about something. 

When you read Graded Readers you read for pleasure, in a similar way you read in your own language. At the same time you increase your reading speed and your reading fluency, you also  expose yourself to new words and different types of sentence structures. Any new vocabulary is often introduced and explained in the Glossary – a little dictionary at the back of the book in which the most difficult words are explained. These words are often recycled, so either these words or their meaning are repeated throughout the book. So you see them again and again and again, and this way it will help you remember them, and if you start from graded readers rather than regular books, the process will be much easier. Pick a graded reader book that corresponds to your level of English, this way you will encounter less frustrations (checking new words, not being able to understand grammar, etc) and enjoy reading the book. When you notice that reading a graded reader book seem easy it’s time to move to the next level. If you’ve been reading the most difficult level of graded readers books and you find them easy, it’s time to pick up and read an original book not a graded reader version.

7. Learning English vocabulary and improving your listening with Films

These days people have access to films through Netflix or other other platforms, so it’s quite an accessible way of learning English. By watching films you expose yourself to real English spoken in a natural way and  better pronunciation, including connected speech. Obviously the words and grammar are used in context, very often a life context. But by choosing different types of films you will be exposed to different topics and accents from all over the world, so you’re learning not just about language but also about the culture in different parts of the world or English speaking places. There are lots of films and TV series to choose from depending on your preferences. I always suggest watching movies that you like and enjoy. Here are some of my recommendations.

 

TV Series: History: The Crown 

TV Series: Crime: Luther 

TV Series: Fantasy Drama: His Dark Materials

Movie: Comedy: Hot Fuzz

Movie: Drama: King’s Speech

 

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How long is preparation for IELTS exam?

Why IELTS? 

IELTS which stands for the International English Language Testing System is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration.

Over 10,000 organisations worldwide trust IELTS results. When you take the test you can be confident that it is recognised by educational institutions, employers, governments and professional bodies around the world.

 

IELTS result, expressed as a band (from band 1- the lowest to band 9- the highest) allows your university or employer to determine your English level and whether your language proficiency is sufficient. An interesting fact about the IELTS exam is that you can’t fail it. If your aim is to get band 7.0, because your dream university requires that, and you score band 6.5, you may still secure a place at a university, not your dream one though. 

How long is the preparation for the IELTS exam?

The length of the preparation depends on your current level of English. Here’s a list of levels, hours and weeks you need to study to prepare for your IELTS exam and score IELTS band 7.0

 

Current Level 

IELTS score equivalent

Number of study hours needed to achieve band 7.0

Number of weeks needed (when you study 30 hours a week) 

IELTS score 

A1 elementary Band 0-1 850 hours 29-33 weeks Band 7.0
A2 pre-intermediate  Band 2-3 700 hours 26-30 weeks  Band 7.0
B1 intermediate Band 4-4.5 400 hours 14-16 weeks Band 7.0
B2 upper- intermediate Band 5-6.5 300 hours 10-14 weeks Band 7.0
C1 advanced Band 7-8 200 hours 4-7 weeks Band 7.0-8.0

 

Here’s a list of English language levels and their IELTS equivalent together with a general description of language skills.

 

Current Level 

IELTS score equivalent   

Skill level   

Description 

A1 elementary Band 0-1       Non-user  Band 0-1 You lack the ability to use the language except a few isolated words.

You have great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

A2 pre-intermediate   Band 2.0-3    Extremely limited user            Band 2-3 You convey and understand only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
B1 intermediate   Band 4.0-4.5                   Limited user  Band 4.0- 4.5 Your basic competence is limited to familiar situations. You frequently show problems in understanding and expression. You are not able to use complex language.
B2 upper- intermediate   Band 5.0-6.5 Modest to competent user  Band 5 You have a partial command of the language, and cope with overall meaning in most situations, although you are likely to make many mistakes. You should be able to handle basic communication in your own field.

Band 6 Generally you have an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. You can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

C1 advanced Band 7.0-8.0  Good user to very good user  Band 7 You have an operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally you handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.

Band 8 You have a fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. You may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. You handle complex detailed argumentation well.

C2 proficient  Band 8.5-9.0 Expert user Band 9.0 You have a full operational command of the language. Your use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and you show complete understanding.

 

How much time does it take to study and move from 6.5 to 7.0 in IELTS? 

If you’ve taken the IELTS exam and you missed 0.5 points overall, you will need to study additional 4-6 weeks to score 7.0. It’s recommended that you attend an IELTS preparation course and participate in 20-25 hours of lessons in class plus about 5-8 hours of self-study a week. During the IELTS course you will learn the strategies and methods how to effectively approach each exam task, as each task is different and requires from you a unique approach. The self-study will help you rehearse each approach so that it becomes your second nature and you can effortlessly implement the strategy during the exam. 

How can you improve your speaking score in the IELTS exam?

Writing and speaking parts of the IELTS exam have proven to be the most problematic sections of the IELTS exam for many test-takers.. Sometimes the score of these two parts differs by a whole point with each test students take. If you scored 6.5 and need 7.0 in your IELTS speaking part, you will need to study further 4-6 weeks to score 7.0. You could potentially half the study time with private IELTS tuition. A 1-to-1 IELTS teacher will help you identify your speaking mistakes and work with you to improve them. Private IELTS lessons will allow your teacher to create a tailor-made programme to match your needs. And although the hourly rate of a private class is higher than a group course, you don’t need to book as many private lessons. What’s more, you will have an undivided attention from your teacher, who can answer any questions you have and practise speaking with you throughout the whole lesson. It is rather difficult to improve speaking on your own, so having a private tutor is your best option. That said, don’t think that attending private lessons is enough to move 0.5 point, it’s not. You will have to devote your time to study alone to memorise vocabulary or practise various grammar structures. 

Some more creative test-takers don’t feel that spending money on private tuition is justified. So instead they record their speaking tasks’ answers and send them to an IELTS teacher. The teacher listens to the answers and writes a detailed description of ways to improve student’s speaking skills. This is a very innovative and cost effective way to improve your Speaking without attending IELTS lessons.

You can find online IELTS teachers on Preply

 

How much time does it take to study and move from 6.5 to 7.0 in IELTS writing?

If you miss 0.5 in your IELTS writing part, you will need to study further 4-6 weeks (80-170 hours) to score 7.0. You can half the study time by starting private lessons with a dedicated IELTS teacher. A one-to-one IELTS teacher will help you identify your writing flaws and errors and work with you to improve them. Private IELTS writing lessons are tailor made to your needs, so you don’t spend time on the topics you are already familiar with, instead your teacher focuses on the areas that YOU need to improve. The hourly rate of a private writing class is higher than a group course, but you don’t need to book as many private lessons. Unlike an IELTS preparation course where you learn with other people all four sections of the exam, private lessons allow you to be very precise with regards to your lesson structure and learning objectives. During private lessons your teacher will focus on your writing style, grammar you need to use and vocabulary that collectively help you score a higher band in the IELTS writing task. Unline reading or listening, improving your writing is not easy to do on your own, as you need someone who can check your writing task and mark it against the IELTS writing score criteria, not every English language teacher is familiar with them. So if you’re looking for an IELTS teacher, make sure s/he has the right experience preparing students for the IELTS exam. 

 

Some test-takers don’t feel that spending money on private tuition is justified. So instead they collect some of the recent writing tasks and send them to the teacher, who then checks and marks the writing. This type of consultation service is a very innovative and effective way to improve for IELTS.

You can find online IELTS writing teachers on Preply.

 

How much time does it take to study and move from 5.5 to 7.0 in IELTS? 

If you’ve recently passed the IELTS exam and scored 5.5 but your goal is 7.0, you will need to study for additional 12-14 weeks to achieve band 7.0. The jump from 5.5 to 7.0 is significant, hence you need to improve English in general, studying and perfecting grammar structures, expanding your vocabulary further and improving your writing and speaking skills. If you scored 5.5 in your IELTS test you will have to join a General English course at B2 – upper-intermediate level and study 30 hours a week for about 8 weeks and then proceed to further 4-6 weeks of IELTS exam preparation course. When joining the IELTS preparation course you need to study about 20-30 hours in class with additional 5-10 hours of quality self-study time (completing your homework tasks) a week. 

 

Why do you need to join a General English course before the IELTS preparation course? 

If your current level of English is low or if you scored low in your IELTS exam you need to improve your English in general by attending General English classes. When preparing for the IELTS it’s not only the exam strategies and methods that you need to know but also the more elaborate grammar structures, advanced vocabulary, more difficult texts and recordings, which you can be exposed to and learn during a General English course. Don’t think that if you attend a General English course you are not preparing for the IELTS, it’s quite the opposite. You are still learning towards the IELTS by improving your English proficiency. The IELTS course is most useful if your level of English is relatively high or you miss 0.5 to get your desired band.

 

How can you check your current English level and IELTS band without taking the exam? 

One of the most effective ways to check your current level of English is to reach out to a language school that provides an IELTS course in your area. When talking to the school’s representative or a teacher, explain that you are thinking of taking the IELTS exam and want to know your current level and how long it’ll take to prepare for the exam and achieve band 7.0. The school will be more than happy to assist you as they will see you as a potential student. The free of charge level test that the English school should be able to provide will usually last from 30-45 minutes and very often it’ll either be an oral assessment during which the teacher asks you various questions to determine or a combination of written and oral test, usually called a placement test.  

 

What type of an English language course do you need to prepare for the IELTS exam? 

There are a variety of English group courses to choose from, depending on your level you might have to start a General English course and then proceed to an IELTS preparation course. 

Here’s your IELTS learning journey depending on your level of English: 

 

Current Level 

General English Course 

Number of weeks

IELTS course 

Number of weeks

IELTS score 

A1 elementary Yes 29 weeks Yes  4-6 weeks Band 7.0
A2 pre-intermediate  Yes  26 weeks Yes 4-6 weeks Band 7.0
B1 intermediate Yes 14 weeks Yes 4-6 weeks Band 7.0
B2 upper- intermediate Yes 10 weeks Yes 4-6 weeks Band 7.0
C1 advanced No No Yes 4-7 weeks Band 7.0-8.0

 

If you decide to study English alone or with a private tutor the length of preparation time for IELTS might either extend or shorten. The above timescale is a suggested indication of the length of time needed to score band 7.0 in the IELTS exam. 

 

How is the IELTS score calculated? 

The IELTS exam consists of four parts: Speaking, Writing, Listening and Reading. The average of each of the four component scores is taken into account when calculating the Overall Band Score. The component scores are equal in weight and they are rounded to the nearest whole or half. 

 

In a situation when average components end in .25, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next half band. Whereas, if it ends in .75, the Overall Band Score is rounded up to the next whole band. 

 

Here are a few examples: 

 

Reading 6.5 + Writing 5 + Speaking 7 + Listening 6.5 = 25

Divide 25 by 4 = 6.25

Ends in .25 so round up to the next half band

Overall band score = 6.5

 

Reading 6.5 + Writing 6.5 + Speaking 6.0 + Listening 5.5 = 24.5

Divide 24.5 by 4 = 6.125

Ends with a fraction below .25 so round down to the next whole band

Overall band score = 6.0

 

Reading 4.0 + Writing 3.5 + Speaking 4.0 + Listening 4.0 = 19.5

Divide 19.5 by 4 = 3.875

Ends with a fraction above .75 so round up to the next whole band

Overall band score = 4.0

 

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IELTS Task 2 Band 7 E-mail has had a huge impact on professional and social communication but this impact has been negative as well as positive.

E-mail has had a huge impact on professional and social communication but this impact has been negative as well as positive.

Do the disadvantages of using e-mail outweigh the advantages?

It is certainly true that the use of electronic communication has greatly changed the way we communicate with each other at work as well as socially. But it is also true that not all the effects of this innovation have been positive, although there are certainly some advantages.

A common criticism of e-mail in the workplace is that it causes extra work and stress. This is because employees receive more messages than they can answer every day and since e-mail writers expect a prompt response, this further increases pressure on employees. Other objections to e-mail for both social and professional users include the way it encourages people to spend even longer at their computers and also the danger of incoming messages allowing viruses into your computer system.

 

In spite of these negative effects, however, e-mail has brought important benefits as well. One such advantage of using e-mail is that it is a fast and easy way to communicate with family, friends and work colleagues wherever they are in the world. It not only allows people to stay in touch with each other, but it also allows them to send all kinds of information (such as pictures, photos, diagrams, videos, etc.) very quickly, cheaply and with a very good quality of reproduction. This is a huge advance on earlier communication systems, and the low cost of e-mail means it is very widely used.

 

To sum up, while there are some obvious drawbacks to using e-mail, this fast and user-friendly technology has greatly improved our ability to communicate both professionally and socially. Therefore, I think e-mail has brought us many more benefits than disadvantages.

 

IELTS Task 2 – 272 words Band 7

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How to build Speaking Fluency for the IELTS Speaking Part and score a higher band in the exam?

The main reason you do not score a higher band in your IELTS Speaking part is because you focus too much on delivering the answer to a task and not enough on fluency. Many of my students realised that it’s not all about the content of the answer but how it’s articulated.

 

So what strategies do you need to implement to  improve your Speaking Fluency for the IELTS Speaking exam?
  1. Practise speaking in English aloud to yourself when you’re alone

  2. Follow a practice routine

  3. Use native English speakers’ pausing techniques

  4. Relax while speaking which results in more natural speed and rhythm

 

There’s actually a lot to consider when you’re preparing for the IELTS Speaking test and you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of points to bear in mind when answering the topic. Read on and learn strategies to improve your Speaking fluency for the IELTS exam.

  1. Practising speaking in English 

Have a conversation in English either with a fellow student or a native speaker. Sometimes, having someone to talk to in English might not be possible, so equally beneficial and useful is to practise speaking aloud to yourself when you are alone.

  1. Follow a practise routine

An IELTS examiner is looking for Fluency which refers to speaking with accuracy and natural speed. You can build both by working on your:

  • Pronunciation and Intonation (very often neglected by many students)
  • Coherence (rarely achieved by test-takers) 
  • Grammatical correctness (cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)
  • Correct use of vocabulary (cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)
  • Use of a variety of vocabulary(cover at lengths in various IELTS coursebooks)

You can isolate these features and practise them daily. Pay attention to the first two points – Pronunciation & Intonation and Coherence, as these are seldom executed well during the Speaking part. Hence, more information and actionable tips on how to improve your English Pronunciation & Intonation as well as Coherence are included further in this post.

  1. Avoid translating

You won’t achieve a higher band in IELTS if you still translate phrases from your own language into English. This simply prevents you from speaking fluently and naturally. Avoid translating by practising simple and more elaborate phrases in English until you can use them with the same fluency as you can use your own language. Then build up from those phrases to more complex sentences.

  1. Start using pausing techniques

When native English speakers are thinking or are searching for a better way to say something, they use fillers such as uh or um. Using these pausing techniques, will help you sound more natural.

  1. Relax when speaking

Do you think you’re the only one making mistakes when speaking in English? As a matter of fact lots of native English speakers make mistakes, too. They repeat phrases, correct themselves, and hesitate. Don’t let your errors in speaking undermine your confidence and jeopardise your IELTS exam. 

  1. Use natural speed and rhythm to train yourself in fluency

Listen carefully to native English speakers and to use the same speed and rhythms that they do. You can start imitating native English speakers by using audio recordings and listening scripts of the coursebooks you’ve been learning from. Start the recording, mark the pauses, stresses, and intonation patterns that you hear in the recordings. Wait a few seconds and then start repeating what the speaker says.If you have difficulty, listen and repeat the particular words or phrases that are causing you trouble. Then go back to the beginning of the recording and start again as often as necessary. Continue this practice until you can follow the speaker fluently. Any of the listening passages in this text could be used to practise this method.

 

Improve your Pronunciation & Intonation for the Speaking part for the IELTS exam 

English, like any other language, has certain pronunciation and intonation features that you need to become familiar with and imitate in order to produce speech that sounds like that of a native speaker. The closer you are to achieving this goal, the higher your score will be on the Speaking section of the IELTS exam. The most important speech features that you need to be familiar with are:

Stress patterns

Even if you put all the correct sounds together, you may not be understood unless you use the correct stress patterns. Stress refers to the emphasis you place on certain words in a sentence or on a syllable within a word. A stressed word or syllable is louder, longer, and higher pitched than unstressed words or syllables. Your IELTS examiner will expect you to use appropriate stress and intonation patterns as they indicate a proficient speaker or English.

Every word in English has a stress pattern. Using the wrong stress pattern can cause misunderstandings. In some cases, the stress pattern or a word can determine its part of speech. Look at the following noun-verb pairs of words. They are alike except for the stress pattern. The nouns are stressed on the first syllable and the verbs are stressed on the second. The stressed syllables are shown in CAPITAL letters.

present   PREsent (noun)       a thing given to someone as a gift
preSENT (verb)   formally introduce (someone) to someone else
record  REcord (noun)   a written documentation
reCORD (verb) to make an audio recording
addict  ADDict (noun) a person who is addicted to a particular substance 
addICTed (verb) to cause or become physically or psychologically dependant on an addictive substance
conflict CONflict (noun) a fight, battle or struggle especially a prolonged struggle
conFLICT (verb)       to come into collision or disagreement
increase INcrease (noun) growth or augmentation in numbers, size, strength, quality, etc.
inCREASE (verb)        to make greater, an in number, size, strength or quality
produce PROduce (noun)  something that is produced; agricultural products collectively, especially vegetables or fruit
proDUCE (verb) to bring into existence, give rise to
address ADdress (noun) a place where a person or organisation may be communicated with
adDRESS (verb) to mark directions for delivery
attribute ATtribute (noun) a quality, character or characteristic ascribed to someone or something
atTRIbute (verb) to explain (something) by indicating a cause 
exploit EXploit (noun) a notable, memorable, or heroic act
exPLOIT (verb) to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage
subject SUBject (noun) one that is placed under authority or control
subJECT (verb) to cause or force to undergo or endure (something unpleasant)
entrance            ENtrance (noun) power or permission to enter 
enTRANCE (verb)          to put into a trance 

Other noun-verb stress pattern pairs are: 

conduct, console, content, contest, contrast, converse, convert, decrease, default, desert, extract, invalid, import, insult, object, perfect, permit, pervert, project protest, recall, refuse, reject, suspect.

 

Adding suffixes often changes the stress pattern of a word. Look at the following forms of the word authority.

Noun 

Verb 

Adjective

Adverb

auTHORity AUthorise auTHORitative auTHORitatively
admiRAtion  adMIre ADmirable ADmirably
aGREEment  aGREE aGREEable aGREEably
appliCAtion aPPLY aPPLIcable aPPLIcably
leGAlity LEgalise LEgal LEgally

The stress pattern of a sentence indicates the main focus of the sentence. A change in the stress pattern of a sentence can change its meaning. Compare these examples:

TOM increased the value of this establishment. (It was Tom – not James – who increased the value of this establishment.)

Tom INCREASED the value of this establishment. (Tom increased the value of this establishment- he did not decrease it.)

Tom increased the value of THIS establishment. (Tom didn’t increase the value of any establishment but this one.)

Tom increased the value of this ESTABLISHMENT. (Tom didn’t increase the value of this car).

Stressing the wrong word in a sentence may cause confusion about the meaning you want to express.

 

Rhythm patterns

Rhythm refers to the timing patterns of a language, and every language has a different rhythm. In English rhythm patterns  are based on stress. Stressed words or the stressed parts of words occur at regular intervals of time and are given an equal amount of speech time. Unstressed words or parts of words fit in between these intervals. 

Content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) are stressed or have a stressed syllable, whereas function words (helping verbs, prepositions, articles, etc.) are usually not stressed. Look at the following sentence:

Tim stormed into the room and closed the door.

The words Tim, stormed, and room are one-syllable content words, and each one is stressed. The words closed and door are also content words with a stressed syllable. The words into, and, and the are function words, hence they are not stressed.

The stressed words and stressed syllables in the example above are all given the same amount of speech time and the unstressed words and syllables are spoken faster, softer, lower pitched, and with relaxed vowel sounds.

To maintain a steady rhythm pattern, speakers often use contractions and relaxed vowels. They reduce words by dropping the final vowels or consonants. They link the end of a word with the beginning of the following word. 

Can you say these sentences? 

  1. Izzi gonna joi nus?
  2. An I’d like ta stay fera while
  3. D’ya wanna go wi thim? 
  4. Alaska. 

Intonation patterns

Intonation patterns involve changes in pitch. When you hear people talking in English you can notice that their voices are going up or down, depending on what they’re saying. Intonation is different from the pitch changes in stressed syllables because it frequently covers longer units of speech, such as clauses or complete sentences. That said, sometimes the pitch change occurs within a single word.

A range of information can be understood through intonation patterns. A falling pitch at the end of a sentence signals that the speaker has completed a statement or an idea. Falling pitch is also used at the end of a wh-question. A rise at the end of a sentence signals that the speaker is asking a yes-no question.

The statement intonation pattern:

Sarah confronted her teacher. (intonation falls at the end of the sentence)

The question intonation patterns:

What happened between Sarah and her teacher? (intonation goes up at the end of the sentence)

Sarah confronted her teacher? (intonation goes up at the end of the sentence)

 

A rise at the end of a phrase or clause indicates that the speaker has more to say. A drop indicates that the speaker is finished.

Intonation patterns can also signal the speaker’s attitude and emotions. Speakers show their certainty, enthusiasm, anger, excitement, etc., through subtle shifts in intonation. 

Why you should practise with Cohesion before the IELTS Speaking exam?

Cohesion refers to how well the idea in your spoken response fit together. You will sound more fluent and get a higher score on the IELTS speaking tasks if your responses are cohesive. You can achieve cohesion by using the techniques described below.

Organising your ideas

Your listeners will understand your talk better if you organise what you say in a logical sequence or linear pattern. This means that you tell the listeners what you are going to talk about and then go through the points you want to make. The most common pattern of organisation is outlined below:

Introductory statement
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Concluding statement

 

An example of this pattern is shown below:

Becoming a beekeeper has many advantages for the collector
  1. honey made locally from your own bees
  2. pollination
  3. low maintenance
The experience is a learning experience for the collector who helps conserve bees and protect their habitat.

 

Using transitional expressions to link your ideas

Connecting ideas by using transition words and phrases tells your listeners the relationship of one idea to the next. You can signal to your listener that you are going to put the events in a sequence, add information, or make a comparison. You can signal that you want to emphasize or clarify a point. Using transition words and phrases helps your listener follow the flow of your ideas. Read the following example without transitional expressions: 

 

In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. I understood those principles better by doing those experiments. 

These sentences would flow better if the speaker used transitional expressions as in the following example:

In my physics class, we did lots of experiments that helped clarify scientific principles. As a result, I  understood those principles better.

 

Here are some great examples of linking words and phrases you should use in your Speaking and Writing part of the IELTS exam.

What words to use to connect ideas between sentences or paragraphs (transition words)?

Transitional expressions can be used to link ideas between sentences or paragraphs. There are a variety of different categories of transition words and phrases, and most of them are listed below. Not all the words in the same category are interchangeable. 

 

Linking words that signal that additional information will follow: 

first, second, third, etc. not only…but also… in addition moreover 
following this further not to mention indeed further
additionally furthermore equally important in fact
likewise as well, as well as what is more finally
further besides, besides that likewise last, lastly

 

Linking words that signal that specific examples will be given:

especially on this occasion in this case, in another case in this situation
for example, an example for instance specifically including
notably particularly, in particular take the case of to demonstrate
to illustrate namely as an illustration

 

Words and phrases that signal that clarify information that has been presented:

I mean under certain circumstances to put it another way in this case
that is to say in other words up to a point

 

Words that signal that emphasize information which has been presented or will be presented:

extremely surprisingly in any case undoubtedly
forever above all in any event unquestionably
obviously absolutely undeniably definitely
as a matter of fact certainly without a doubt naturally
besides emphatically more importantly without reservation

 

Words to signal that a cause-and-effect relationship will be presented:

accordingly as, as a result being that due to (the fact that)
for the simple reason that, for this reason hence consequently, as a consequence in view of (the fact that)
owing to (the fact that) seeing that since thus

 

Words and phrased to signal that the information already presented will be compared or contrasted with new information:

after all although, although this is true on the contrary compared to/with, in comparison, by comparison
nevertheless at the same time on the other hand conversely
nonetheless notwithstanding balanced against similarly
when in fact for all that in contrast whereas
in the same manner/way while this is true likewise yet

 

Words that signal a time relationship:

after, after a while in the future currently next
afterwards at first, at last, at the same time later finally, in the end
initially in the meantime during first of all, first, second, third, etc.
in the first place last, last but not least, lastly meanwhile formerly
as soon as before, before long, before this eventually previously
simultaneously soon, soon atter immediately before, immediately following subsequently

 

Word that introduce disagreement or conflict:

Words that make a concession or compromise about a point:

admittedly naturally be that as it may though, even though
albeit although in any event in the event that
given that at least but even so yet
granted that, granting that I admit that in either event still

 

Word that dismiss a previous statement or argument:

all the same in the event that whatever happens in any event
in any case it may appear that besides regardless
either way in either case, in either event rather even if

 

Word that point out a contradiction:

conversely but, however when in fact in contrast
despite in spite of by way of contrast instead 

 

Words that indicate reservations:

notwithstanding, regardless, indeed, nevertheless, nonetheless

 

Words that indicate a digression to a previous point or resuming after a digression or interruption:

to get back to the point by the way as I was saying incidentally
at any rate  anyway to return to the subject to change the topic

 

Words that point out conditions:

although, only if, providing that, unless, as/so long as, on (the) condition (that) provided that

 

Words and phrases that signal that a summary or conclusion will be presented:

given these facts hence as a result as I have shown
accordingly in conclusion, to conclude as I have said, as I stated overall
all in all, all together in short on the whole as indicated above/earlier
since as mentioned, as I mentioned as noted earlier, as has been noted, as I have noted summing up, in summary, to summarize
briefly, in brief, to put it briefly by and large consequently finally

 

Practise connecting ideas using transitional expressions with these sentences: 

  1. We had to hand in our essays on time. They wouldn’t be marked
  2. I admired my high school history teacher for several reasons. He could explain historical events as if he were telling a story.
  3. The rain poured down for several days. The river banks in the city overflowed.
  4. The rain forest provides us with many products. The forests are being cleared for crops.

 

Using parallel structures

Your IELTS examiner can understand the flow of your ideas better if you use parallel structures when you speak. Read the following incorrect example:

 

My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivating the students.

 

The examiner may be confused because you have mixed different grammatical structures. Do you mean: My teacher gave interesting and motivating assignments to the students?

In this sentence, interesting and motivating are parallel adjectives. Or do you mean: My teacher gave interesting assignments and motivated the students? In this sentence, gave and motivated are parallel verbs. 

Many sentences present information in a list or series. The items in the list or series must have parallel structures. Notice how the words in the following sentences are parallel (use the same word form or phrasing):

Nouns: The children played on the swings, slides, and seesaw.
Gerunds: Reading, writing, and speaking are important skills to learn.
Infinitives: After her accident, Allie had to learn how to speak, to walk, and to write again.
Verbs: We will run, swim, and play at the beach.
Adjectives: Betty is short, stocky, and vivacious.
Adverbs: This car runs efficiently, quietly, and dependably.
Subjects: Vendors selling postcards, artists drawing on the pavement, and folk singers strumming guitars can all be seen at the summer festival in the park.
Phrases: For all her years of triumph and tragedy, of glory and ruin, of hope and despair, the actress was still able to draw a crowd.
Clauses: Creating a map is a compromise of what needs to be shown, what can be shown in terms of map design, and what mapmakers would like to include.

Rephrasing or replacing key words

If you keep repeating a word or phrase in your IELTS Speaking exam, the examiner can get confused. Read the following example:

My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. The assignment was on the chalkboard until the teacher erased the assignment after we had all done the assignment.

 

Your ideas would be clearer if the repeated words were replaced with other expressions or with pronouns. Look at the way this example can be improved:

 

My teacher wrote the assignment on the chalkboard. She erased the board after we had all completed the task.

 

The word assignment has been replaced with task; the word teacher with she; and the word chalkboard with board. 

 

Using consistent tense, person, and number

You can confused your IELTS examiner if you are not consistent. Look at the following example:

My teacher brought five paper bags to school one day. He put us into groups and gave each group a bag. You have to take the objects out of the bags in turn and then a person has to tell a story involving the object from the bag.

The examiner might get confused by the change from the past tense to the present tense, and the change from us to you and then to a person. You can also confuse the IELTS examiner by the change from the plural form objects and bags to the singular forms object and bag.

Help your examiner follow your ideas better by providing consistency.

Look at the way this example was improved:

One day my teacher put us into five different groups. He gave each group a bag and told us to take turns pulling out an object and telling the other members of the group a story involving that object.

 

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