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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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The essay in this video was written by IELTS Examiner C. This question was seen recently in Sydney:

These days many people prefer to rent rather than buy their own house. Why is this this so? Discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of renting or buying, and give your own opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and examples from your personal experience where appropriate.

Here is the essay as it appears in the video:

In most major cities in the west, people are opting to rent a home instead of buy. This is mostly because house prices have increased dramatically while personal income has not, a trend that means mortgage repayments now account for a much larger share of income than in the past. Renters have more disposable income every week than buyers and this is a big attraction. However, in my opinion, this is a false economy and in the long run I believe that the advantages of buying a property greatly outweigh the short-term savings to be made by renting.

While it is certainly cheaper week-by-week to rent than pay a mortgage, the renter misses out on the large capital gains to be made when buying a home. When I took out my own mortgage on my two-bedroom apartment, my repayments on a $400,000 loan were about $600 a week, compared with $500 for rental value on a similar property. However, over the past three years my apartment has appreciated by more than $250,000, greatly outweighing the $15,000 I would have saved by renting. In addition to this, my mortgage payments secured an acquisition of property that will remain valuable for my family into the future. Financial growth of this sort is not possible through renting.

Renters do not only lose out on capital gains, they also lose in terms of security and peace of mind. The roof over their heads once their lease is over is always at the mercy of the landlord, who might at any time decide to sell the property. The landlord can also put up the rent when they feel the market warrants it. Further, unless the renter invests their savings judiciously, the money they save will be frittered on day-to-day life, leaving them very much poorer than the buyer once retirement looms.

In conclusion, while a first mortgage will cost more each week than renting, the advantages of buying, including capital appreciation and housing security, greatly outweigh the short-term savings to be made by renting.

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Thanks to ‘Examiner C’ for this model. Here is the essay as it appears in the video:

Many people think that public celebrations (like national holidays, festivals, etc.) are a waste of money and that the government should spend these funds in a better way.

Do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answer and examples from personal experience where appropriate.

National holidays cost countries and their governments a lot of money. Wages need to be paid to employees despite their absence from work, and a national loss in productivity is experienced. For these reasons, some people suggest governments do away with holidays and instead spend the money on worthy projects. While this might seem at first to be a practical suggestion, I disagree strongly for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is axiomatic that a country’s production of goods declines when workers are not working; however, this is a tiny part of a much larger economic picture. Productivity is a function not only of hours worked but also of energy, drive, and morale. Thus, national holidays, which give workers a chance to relax and to celebrate aspects of their country and their lives, make for a happier and more productive workforce. In Australia, for example, the long weekend is a tradition that helps to unify society by making all feel rewarded and valued in a common enterprise and identity. It is for these reasons that labelling public celebrations ‘a waste of money’ cannot be supported.

Further, having the financial means to start new national projects is a good thing, but the question of apportioning funds in a manner that an entire society agrees is ‘a better way’ is simply unrealistic. A further consideration is the ramifications of pressure put on workers to work 52 straight weeks a year, a policy that could lead to stress-related illnesses and serious social problems. As this shows, the cancelling of public holidays and redirection of funds is an implausible suggestion.

In conclusion, I must affirm that while it is tempting to realise the short-term increase in productivity and savings that would result from abolishing public holidays, the overall cost greatly outweighs the gains.

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A former examiner wrote this band 9 essay…

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Here is the essay as it appears in the video:

Many people believe that a large proportion of a country’s health budget should be diverted from treatment to spending on health education and preventative measures. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give examples from personal experience where appropriate.

Modern medicine has evolved along two lines: prevention and cure. Many believe that too much emphasis is placed on the latter and that the balance of national health spending should shift to prevention. I am inclined to agree; however, my support is with the stipulation that an imbalance in the other direction should be avoided.

Many modern diseases that require pharmaceutical or surgical intervention, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, are induced by poor lifestyle choices. There is an abundance of evidence that these conditions are brought on by such factors as smoking, excessive dietary fat and sugar, and a lack of physical exercise. I have myself lost several family members to cancers and heart disease caused by smoking. Because the cost of treating these diseases is very high, and the prognosis uncertain, the need for preventative intervention is clear.

Fulfilling this need could be exercised in a number of ways. For one, the government could provide more health and fitness centres, and mount a public awareness campaign to encourage people to use them. In addition to this, taxes could be placed on excessive salt or sugar in processed foods, and special taxes could be added to tobacco products to discourage their use. I believe that measures such as these will in the long term dramatically reduce the incidence of certain deadly diseases.

However, it should be remembered that not all examples of modern disease are preventable or predictable, and it is critical to maintain research into cures for all diseases. Thus, in diverting health spending from treatment to preventative measures, countries should encourage a balanced approach to help extend lifespans and maximise quality of life. Prevention may be better than cure, but it can never wholly replace it.

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