Free IELTS resources to help you maximize your score.
Don’t stop at 7. Go and get that 9!

Dear Ryan,
Thanks to your guidance, I was able to increase my writing score from 6.5 to 7.5, and then to 8.5! I really don't believe I could have done it without you.
-Imam Mohamed

Hi Ryan,
I am so happy to inform you that I scored 7.5 in writing!
-Sunish Manalody

Hi Ryan,
Thanks for your help, I’ve scored band 8 in writing.
-Vladan Martinovic

Hi Ryan,
I prepared just by looking at your videos and scored 7.5! Thank you!
-Rahul Paldiwal

Hi Ryan,
I would like to thank you for your very helpful lessons. I finally got 7 in all modules and can now start residency processing for New Zealand!
-Kiran Kiccha

Hi Ryan,
I obtained a writing score of 8.5. Your videos were instrumental in helping me achieving this score. Thanks, mate!
-Carlos Flores

Hi Ryan,
Thank you for my 8.0 writing score. You ebook played a pivotal role in my success!
-Awais Butt

Hi Ryan,
I read your blog every day and scored 7.5 in writing!
-Vikrant Mahajan

I went from band 6.0 to 7.5 following Ryan’s coaching!
-Viacheslav Porotikov

Four common mistakes candidates make in IELTS Writing

Posted on October 29, 2011 by - 11 Comments

In this brief article, I would like to share the 5 most common mistakes I see in the IELTS essays I correct for students online:

Common mistake 1 – Misunderstanding the instruction portion of the essay question

All IELTS essay questions include a sentence that tells the student precisely what they are expected to do in their written response.  Typically, this sentence will include words like discuss, analyze, argue, support or refute and the student is expected to respond accordingly.

Let’s look at an example IELTS essay question to illustrate.  I will highlight the instruction sentence in blue:

The Internet is replacing many traditional forms of communication.  This brings with it more negative than positive ramifications for humanity.  Discuss this and state your opinion.

Here, you can see the instruction sentence is directly telling the student how they are expected to formulate a response.  The problem many students run into is that they misinterpret what this instruction sentence is really asking them, and this in turn causes the overall relevance of their essay response to suffer.

If you have found this is a problem for you, let’s go over a few sample instruction sentences and state clearly what they are asking:

Discuss both sides of this argument.  (Phrases like this ask students to analyze the opinions of others.  Thus, students would be best to follow a discussion essay format and analyze the merits, or lack thereof, of the topic or position presented in their essay question.)

What is your opinion on the subject?  (Here, the essay question is asking you to respond directly with your opinion.  The most effective way to do this is by responding in an argument essay format.)

What is your opinion on the subject?  Analyze both sides in your essay.  (Now we are being faced with 2 instruction sentences.  Here, we would respond in a discussion essay format, sharing our personal opinion at the end.)

Do you agree or disagree?  Share personal examples to support your response.  (This question instructs the student to include examples from their life while arguing one side of a particular position.  Thus, responding in an argument styled essay would be best.)

(If you are unfamiliar with how to properly write an argument or discussion essay, please refer to the videos available here.)

Common mistake 2 – Writing a thesis that does not respond directly to the essay question

In the event you are given an IELTS question that requires a response written in an argument essay style, it is imperative you compose a clear and relevant thesis.  Nothing ruins an argument essay faster than a problematic thesis.

Don’t be afraid to repeat words that appear in your essay question in your thesis.  All too often, students try to paraphrase important keywords and phrases from their question in their thesis and this typically alters the original meaning to a certain degree.  Repeating words from your question will help ensure your examiner sees a direct link between it and your essay.

Thus, an essay question that reads:

Do you agree or disagree that students should be required to study a language in high school?

…could be responded to with the thesis:

I agree that students should be required to study a language in high school.

Common mistake 3 – Using ambiguous examples in your IELTS essay

It is important to remember that when including an example in your IELTS essay, you want to use something that can show your argument in action.  This is best done by referring to a real-life event, person, company or place.  Thus, a student who writes:

For example, GDP growth in China has led to the improving of living standards throughout the country.

…is setting the stage for a much stronger argument than a student who writes:

For example, income growth among developing countries has the led to the improving of living standards in many areas.

As you can see, the second example’s broadness makes the example seem less tangible and thus lowers its overall quality.

Common mistake 4 – Writing with grammatical accuracy

The last mistake in our list is basic grammatical accuracy.  The most common errors I see in the essays I correct are sentence fragments, run-on sentences, improper preposition usage, verb tense issues and mistakes in a student’s lexical selection.  The best tip I can offer those students struggling with nagging grammar issues is to compose your essay entirely of short, concise sentences and to link these sentences with cohesive phrases.  Having a writing coach can also be immensely helpful.

Here is how to respond when you are asked to write about ‘technology’ on your IELTS…

Posted on October 25, 2011 by - 5 Comments

In this video, we look at how to respond to IELTS questions involving ‘technology’ as a central theme.

(Model essay) Academic exam question seen in Western Australia in September 2011

Posted on October 20, 2011 by - 2 Comments

(This question taken with permission from IELTS-blog.com.)

A country’s future depends on its young people. Therefore, a country should invest heavily in its youth. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

The youth of a nation play a critical role in a country’s future. Thus, the manner in which young people are raised is intrinsically tied to the capabilities of new generations of workers. I agree that a country should invest considerably in its youth for the sake of its future. This will be shown by analysing how such a practice can lead a nation to international competitiveness and how it can lead people to more charitable lives.

Firstly, a state’s ability to compete in the modern world is only as strong as its citizens’ capabilities. Take the Japanese education system as an example. Despite its weak economic position following the Second World War, Japan’s focus on education and the nurturing of academia helped it grow to become the second largest economy in the world. This phenomenon would never have been possible without investing in the education of its young people. Thus, it is clear that a country’s commitment to its young people has direct ramifications on its future.

Secondly, people who grow up with opportunities for education are more capable of helping others, and this is good for the societal strength of a nation. For instance, Canada is a state that provides young people with government sponsored opportunities to hone several different facets of their education. Such a system allows people of any economic background to become versed in scientific, artistic and linguistic topics, which allows the overall discourse and education level of the country to be heightened. This boost to a country’s collective global understanding makes it clear that nations benefit greatly when they invest in their youth.

After analysing how a country’s focus on its young people can lead to economical strength and domestic social benefits, the link between investment in youth and a nation’s future can clearly be seen.  Thus, the committing of national resources to youths is a practice that should be employed around the world.

(Model letter) General Task 1 question as seen in Australia and the Philippines in early October

Posted on October 18, 2011 by - 1 Comment

Your local community newspaper has announced a competition to acknowledge a person who has greatly contributed to your town or city. Write a letter to the editor about a person you know who deserves the award. In your letter include:

  • what his/her personal qualifications are
  • how you know the person
  • how he/she contributed to the community

To the editor of the Highland Local Times,

I am writing in response to your request for nominations of individuals that have made significant contributions to our home of Highland. The person I would like to nominate is Doctor Alan Charlsby. Allow me to highlight why I believe he is deserving of this award.

I had the pleasure of meeting of meeting Doctor Charlsby during our preliminary medical studies 30 years ago and we have remained professional colleagues since. Doctor Charlsby, currently heading the medical studies department of Highland Medical School, is a model citizen whose life has been devoted to hard work, perseverance and charity. Despite being offered higher paying positions in larger cities, he has committed his life to education and has helped our community’s young scholars achieve excellence in their medical studies. Today, Highland Medical School is considered among the best institutions for medicine in the country, and I do not believe this would have been possible without the efforts of Doctor Charlsby.

As you can see, Doctor Alan Charlsby has brought both prestige and opportunity to our Highland community. I hope you agree that he is the right choice to receive your award.

Good luck with the selection process,

Ryan

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Your IELTS Speaking will improve by the end of this video!

Listen to the conversation without the pauses: http://ieltsielts.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/IELTS-Speaking-Mock-Test-2-Version-1.mp3

Here is a transcript of the IELTS Speaking demonstration seen in this video:

What is your full name ?

Good morning. I’m Ryan Higgins.

What should I call you?

Please call me Ryan.

Thank you. What country are you from?

I’m from Canada.

Please give me your identification.

Here you are.

Thank you. Now, in this first part, I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself. Are you working or are you a student?

I am a student.

OK. Can you tell me about your studies?

Sure. I am currently a fourth year student at the University of Toronto. I’m completing a Bachelor of Science and majoring in chemistry. I thought about doing a minor in English Literature to branch out my education a bit, but I decided against this when I discovered how heavy my chemistry workload would be.

Are you enjoying your studies?

Yes, very much so. This semester, I spend three days of every week studying in a lab, which I find interesting. My professors are terrific and very passionate about both chemistry and teaching. So, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from them. In fact, I’ve enjoyed them so much that after graduating I am going to pursue a Master’s degree.

Oh, that’s wonderful. And what do you plan to do with these qualifications?

Well, that’s a very good question. I’m sort of feeling it out as a go along. At times I think about perhaps becoming an academic and teaching at a university. I think the theatrics of instructing students in a university lecture hall would be exciting. But other times I think I would like to apply my skills to a research company, develop new chemical ways of doing things. That could also be interesting.

So, to answer your question, my plan is currently a work in progress.

IELTS Academic and General Task 2 - How to write at a band 9 level

Buy Ryan’s Task 2 ebook here: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?i=929957&c=single&cl=166811

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Thank you. Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Yes, I do. I like to read a lot. I mean, read books unrelated to my studies. For example, I like reading about history. I’m currently reading a book on 20th Century American history that is quite good.

But aside from reading, I like to play ultimate Frisbee, which is a sport that is quite popular on campus. It involves a lot of running, so it is good exercise in addition to being fun.

Um, I’m keeping up with this TV show called Breaking Bad. My friends and I usually get together every week to watch the new episode.

So, I suppose those three things are what make up almost all of my free time.

Do people usually continue their hobbies when they get older?

I imagine many people do, although these hobbies may evolve. For example, people may continue the hobby of reading, but they may read about different things. I know I don’t read about the same things I did 5 years ago. I also think people experiment less as they get older. People find things they like to do and then continue to do them. So, to answer your question, yes, people continue their hobbies.

Thank you. Can you tell me a little bit about your life at university?

Well, I live on campus. I like living on campus. It is convenient for me to get to class. I also have a meal plan, which means I do not have to worry about preparing dishes for myself. I have several friends in my program, so we often form study groups to review what we learned in our lectures. We also use the university gym and library a lot. So, my university life is somewhat of a microcosm. Everything we need is here.

Is there anything you would change about your life at university?

Actually, very little. I suppose the residences do get a little chilly in the winters. Sometimes it can be a drag marching to class in wet snow. But, hmm, honestly, there are very few things I would change.

Do you ever interact with students studying in other programs?

Again, not really. Chemistry students at U of T often keep to themselves. We might on occasion meet other science majors. But, no, we sort of share a small existence among each other.

Thank you. Now I’d like to ask you to speak one to two minutes on a topic.

Normally, you would have one minute to plan your answer, but for the sake of this recording we are going to skip this step.

Your cue card reads:

Describe a special day in your life.

-What happened on this day?

-What events made this day special?

-What impact has this day had on your life?

Please share any details you feel help describe this day.

Remember you have one to two minutes to deliver this monologue. I’ll tell you when the time is up. Start speaking now, please.

I’m going to talk about my first day as a university student. My parents drove me from our home in Ottawa, so the journey took about 5 hours. I remember feeling a bit anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. It was also my first time living away from home, so this added to my nervousness.

Anyway, the day was special because it very quickly made me feel welcome in a new community. As you know, the first week of university is sort of a period of orientation, so it is a time when all of the second year students make all of the new first year students engage in crazy activities that help them make friends and feel welcome and get to know the culture of the university.

So when my parents and I drove onto the campus, we saw second year students wearing bizarre costumes and dancing in strange ways. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. They were singing strange songs and encouraging the first year students to get involved. We first year students were grouped into teams and given team T-shirts and instructed to do crazy things, like throw jelly at each other or make up a crazy dance on the spot.

The impact this day had on my life is significant. As I mentioned, I feel this day introduced me to an institution and to people I will be attached to for the rest of my life. It also showed me that taking people out of their comfort zone can help them quickly develop friendships with others.

So, overall, this day is a moment in my life I will always reflect upon fondly.

Thank you. Do you think it is important for universities to arrange this week of orientation?

Yes, definitely. As I mentioned, I think it helps people to quickly develop friends. Friends can really ease a person’s transition into university life. Because the bizarre games you play during orientation week happen on different parts of the campus, you rapidly get to know the layout of the university and where the different buildings are. So yes, I think it is very important for universities to dedicate a week to orienting students.

Thank you. Now I’d like to ask you a few more questions about moments in life. What do you think are the most important decisions a person makes in their life?

Hmm, that’s a deep question. Let me think for a second. Well, choosing a person to marry is of course a very big decision. You need to choose someone that shares the same values. Hmm, I suppose choosing a career is also important. I think it is vital that a person is passionate about the work they do. Spending your life doing a job you don’t really like would be depressing.

I suppose those would be the two most major decisions a person typically makes.

Do you think making these decisions is easier today than 25 years ago?

Umm…No, I don’t think so. I suppose people are more social today and there are more avenues for being social, so meeting potential marriage partners is easier. But I think that this actually makes it harder for people to settle down and get married. 25 years ago, people didn’t have so many options. Choosing a partner was easier.

And as far as a career is concerned, I also think there are way more options today than there were 25 years ago. So this can make the decision more difficult.

How about between cultures? Do you think making these decisions in one culture would be easier than in another?

Umm…let me see. Yes, I suppose so. Considering that in some cultures people aren’t able to make these decisions for themselves. In some cultures, a person’s parents decide whom they will marry and what they will do for work. I guess this may be easier, but I’m not sure easier is always better.

You mentioned that there are more avenues today for communication between people. Do you think this is, on the whole, a good thing?

I think the overall effect is a positive one. The exchanging of ideas is never a bad thing. It is accelerating the rate at which the human family is developing. I think it is also encouraging cultural exchange, which promotes peace between nations.

I suppose there may be a few small drawbacks. For example, I’ve heard that Internet addiction has become a serious problem among increasing numbers of young people in several Asian and I think even many western countries. It discourages face-to-face communication,

and this can cause all sorts of behavioural issues among young people.

But as I said, this small drawback is far outweighed by the benefits.

So do you think Internet use among young people is something that should be restricted?

I wouldn’t say “restricted”. It should be “monitored”. I feel young people should know how to use the Internet. Knowing how to look up information is a key skill in the modern world, so I feel completely restricting young people from using the Internet would be a mistake. So long as they aren’t using it excessively, I do not think Internet use is a very big problem.

How do you think people will communicate in the future?

I imagine that face-to-face communication will always have a role in basic human interaction. But, that said, I feel people are going to increasingly use electronic devices to talk with one another. Today, I use Facebook and my mobile to keep in touch with family and friends around the world. I think I talk to them by voice less than I would if I did not have tools like Facebook and Twitter and Whatsapp. So, I feel that in the future, electronic device use is going to become increasingly central to how we communicate with one another.

Are there any negatives to this trend?

Um, well, I suppose there are some negatives, but these negatives are far outweighed by the benefits. I suppose for people that communicate electronically the majority of the time, these sorts of people may feel nervous or awkward when in situations that demand face-to-face communication. But I feel the positives of using technology to communicate with others far outweighs the negatives. I mean, prior to the smart phone, I wouldn’t have been able to chat with distant friends throughout the day and send instant photos to them.

Thank you. That is the end of the speaking test. Students listening to this recording may now play the second version of this test to practice their speaking.

 

You construct a band 9 essay by the end of this video!

IELTS Academic and General Task 2 - How to write at a band 9 level

Buy Ryan’s Task 2 ebook here: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?i=929957&c=single&cl=166811

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Here is the essay as it appears in the video:

Nowadays, all new town planning should include public parks, shopping malls and sports facilities. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Designing the layout of a new town is an extremely intricate process. The question of what should and should not be included sets the foundation of the town’s identity forever. In my opinion, the addition of public parks, shopping malls and sports facilities is essential to the incubation of community and the encouragement of healthy lifestyles. I thus agree that these items should be included when a new town is being planned, and I will share examples to prove this.

Firstly, public parks and shopping centres help new towns foster a sense of community. For example, my small Canadian town has a very nice park near its centre. At weekends, the open context of the park environment makes it possible for people to meet each other and create friendships. This sort of organic community building is seen in my hometown’s shopping mall, too. Shopping malls encourage interaction, and thus they are great forums within which people can mingle and have experiences that could evolve into friendships. Thus, the helpful role public parks and shopping malls play in the establishing of a new town is clear.

Secondly, sports facilities catalyse positive lifestyle choices among townsfolk. For instance, the central location of my small town’s football pitch is a regular reminder to people passing by that exercise is important. Children in the town are visually aware that sport is accessible to them, and thus they engage in physical activity regularly. This is a clear advantage to town designs that include sports facilities.

As the above shows, public parks, shopping malls and sports facilities are helpful in many ways to the establishment of a town. Their inclusion in the planning of new towns is thus highly recommended.

You choose the prepositions!

 

The essay as it appears in the video:

What are some alternatives to fossil fuels? Do you feel the world will ever stop using them?

Global dependence on fossil fuels continues to be a pressing problem in the modern world. Although environmentally friendly energy sources are available, market prices make these alternatives prohibitively expensive for most people. I argue that humanity will indeed stop using fossil fuels in the future, but this will only happen when the price of cleaner energy sources falls to a point of competition. This will be proved by looking specifically at current trends within solar energy and biodiesel consumption.

Firstly, the increased availability of solar water heaters has made solar energy prices competitive with fossil fuels in some parts of the world. For example, the mass production of solar water heaters in China has led to their adoption as a cheap alternative to water heated using coal. Because this trend comes as a direct result of financial incentive, it is logical to conclude that market shifts will eventually cause green energy to take the place of fossil fuels.

This phenomenon is further exemplified by alternative fuel types such as biodiesel. For instance, although still slightly more expensive than energy sources derived from fossil fuels, biodiesel’s steady decline in price over the past 20 years coincides directly with a rise in its sales in most parts of the world. As most experts argue, a massive shift to biodiesel consumption will occur when prices remain consistently below fossil fuels. Thus, worldwide dependence on fossil fuels can be expected to erode as alternatives become more economical.

As evidenced by these trends in solar energy and biodiesel consumption, humanity is gradually shifting itself from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly energy sources, and I hope this development continues.

IELTS Academic and General Task 2 - How to write at a band 9 level

Buy Ryan’s Task 2 ebook here: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?i=929957&c=single&cl=166811

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Do the advantages trump the disadvantages in this IELTS essay?

[Note: The word ‘phenomenons’ appears in this video. This should be ‘phenomena’, as it is with reference to the scientific plural.]

More and more students are going to another country for higher education. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

It is very common today for students to go abroad to complete their college or university education. However, this trend presents both advantages and disadvantages to the students and the institutions involved. These items will be analysed in this essay before a position is declared.

The advantages of rising foreign student numbers are numerous. For one, this trend encourages human collaboration and the exchanging of ideas. For example, a Canadian engineering student attending a Japanese university would bring ideas and perspectives different to those of their classmates, a phenomenon that enriches the university’s program and level of discussion as a whole. In addition to this, having studied outside their home country, this student would take valuable international understanding with them, an important second benefit that promotes peace and international friendship. As this example shows, students and the world at large benefit when higher studies are engaged outside the home country.

However, many would argue the globalising of higher education does have certain disadvantages. For many young adults, foreign students may represent a threat to both professional opportunities after school and the overall workforce of their country. In the US, for example, companies scout talent on university campuses, and at select times this means offering employment to a foreign student instead of a local student. Although this scenario does occur, its impact on local graduates and their employment opportunities has been sensationalised by the media and large personalities like President Trump. Moreover, it should be remembered that attracting the world’s most talented students increases opportunities for important phenomena like scientific discoveries. Thus, the disadvantages of students going abroad for higher education are difficult to define.

As the above discussion reveals, the advantages of globalised higher education much outweigh the disadvantages, and I strongly hope countries continue to encourage the growth of their foreign student bodies.

IELTS Academic and General Task 2 - How to write at a band 9 level

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