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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

(Model essay) Sample discussion essay response

Posted on January 29, 2012 by - 22 Comments

(This question seen on the General exam in Brisbane, Australia.)

Some believe that students who fear their teachers excel academically. Others believe students work better when they have a friendly relationship with their teacher. Discuss these views and provide your opinion.

Education styles vary from one place to another. Among some circles, it is felt that students who hold a modest level of trepidation for their teachers excel in their studies to a greater degree than students who consider their teacher a friend. Both sides of this argument will be analysed before a conclusion is reached.

On the one hand, many contend that better academic results are attained by teachers who instil a degree of fear in their students. High school instructors in Shanghai, for example, have an extremely rigid teaching style that involves disciplining students for every mistake they make, no matter how small. Although this system may seem callous, it gets results, as Shanghai’s high school students placed top in the world last year for an international standardised aptitude test. As this shows, students who are afraid of their teachers excel in their studies.

On the other hand, many people contest the above and argue that students who share friendly relationships with teachers work better. For instance, the American education system typically allows students to experience a much more intimate relationship with their teachers and many argue this helps implant young people with inspiration. As the US is the most innovative country in the world today, there may be some merit to this argument. Thus, it is understandable why many feel students learn to work better under this educational arrangement.

Following this debate, I agree that a teacher should be an approachable person that nevertheless induces a healthy sense of fear and respect in their students, and I hope this balance will be present in the teachers of the future.

(Video) Run through this video series to brush up on your grammar

Posted on January 28, 2012 by - 7 Comments

I’m very happy to see mrthoth is back making his videos on English grammar (which are by far the best I’ve come across online).  If your written grammar is weak, these videos are a must-see.  Visit his YouTube channel here to watch all 55 videos.

Grammar is a cornerstone of the IELTS writing process.  User mrthoth’s latest video ‘What is a verb?’ is a real straightforward look at how a complex English sentence can be built upon a very basic partnership between a subject and verb.  In the essays I mark every day, I often see students that try to write long, elaborate sentences in an effort to impress their reader.  The problem is that they do not fully understand very rudimentary grammatical practices.  Thus, they are trying to build complex sentence structures on a shaky foundation, which of course leads to problems.

Here is mrthoth’s ‘What is a verb?’:

(Article) Interpreting modest variations in IELTS essay questions

Posted on January 26, 2012 by - 39 Comments

Recently, IELTS Blog reported that the following essay question was seen on the Academic exam in Taipei:

Employers now tend to prefer employees with good social skills in addition to good qualifications. Social skills are getting more and more important compared to qualifications. Do you agree or disagree?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all IELTS essay questions were so straightforward!  Whenever I see ‘do you agree or disagree’ my mind relaxes.  I know immediately what my writing process is going to look like and how I am going to structure it.

However, the reality is that IELTS essay questions come in an infinite number of styles and there is a very good chance you will NOT receive a ‘do you agree or disagree’ type question on your exam.  In this article, I would like to discuss exactly how to interpret the modest variations in IELTS essay question wording and how they dictate the manner in which you need to respond.  (I am assuming that you have already watched my video series on how to structure argument and discussion essays.)

Firstly, as I’ve outlined in my videos, IELTS essay questions can be broken down into several parts.  For today’s lesson, we are concerned with the instruction words part of your question.  This is the part of the question that TELLS you to do something and is almost always the last sentence in your Task 2 description.  Common instruction words include:

To what extent do you agree?

Take a stance and support your opinion with examples.

Write an essay illustrating your position.

How do you feel about this?

Discuss all sides of this issue.

What should be done about this problem?

Do you think this is a viable solution?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

The problem students typically have with deciphering these types of instruction words is really understanding what is being asked of them.  Resolving this issue is not nearly as complicated as you might think.  The key is to look at your Task description and pose yourself a simple question:

Am I being asked to state a position or am I being asked to analyze something?

Your response to this question will dictate with accuracy the type of essay you need to compose.  If you are being asked to state a position, you will need to respond using argument essay structure.  If you are being asked to analyze something, you will need to respond using discussion essay structure.  It’s really that simple.

All too often, students allow subtle differences in wording confuse them.  For example, what is the difference between:

Do you agree or disagree?

and

To what extent do you agree?

The answer is: nothing!  Both sets of instruction words are asking you for a position.  One just states this request using a more complicated wording.  (If I had a dollar for every time a student asked me what the difference was between the above 2 questions, I would be a very wealthy person!)

So when we see a phrase like:

To what extent do you agree?

…we should realize that we are being asked to state an opinion.  Thus, structuring our essay to discuss different points of view would be awkward.  We would need to choose a structure that allows us to state clearly what our position is and why that position should be supported.  Therefore, an argument style of essay would be employed.

So what should we do if we see something like this:

How do you feel about this?

What should be done about this problem?

Do you think this is a viable solution?

First ask yourself, ‘am I being asked to state a position?’  If your answer is ‘yes’ (as it would be for all three of the above examples) then you know that you are going to need to write an argument essay, stating your opinion in your thesis.

How about these:

Discuss all sides of this issue.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

What are the merits and drawbacks of this problem?

As you can see, all 3 questions are requesting that we analyze issues.  Thus, we are best to respond using a discussion style of essay.  This style of essay allows us to state our position only after analyzing a series of data.

OK, so let’s assume we now understand how to respond to these sorts of questions.  But what do we do when faced with double questions, like these:

Do you agree or disagree?  Write an essay either supporting or refuting this statement.

What is your position?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of this situation?

Do you think this is more positive or negative?  Analyze all sides of this debate.

Although these sorts of questions may look tricky, they are not.  We simply follow our same pattern as before.  For each question, ask yourself:

Am I being asked to state a position or am I being asked to analyze something?

If your answer for both indicates you are being asked to state a position (as in example 1), respond using argument essay structure.

If your answer is that 1 asks you to state a position and the other asks you to analyze something (as in example 2), respond using discussion essay structure (don’t forget that discussion essay structure allows you to share your opinion at the end of the essay, and this is where you’ll state your position).

If your answer for both indicates you are to analyze, write a discussion essay.

Interpreting essay questions is not nearly as hard as it at first seems!  If you have an essay question in mind that is still stumping you after reading this article, please post it to the comments section and we can discuss it together.

(Please read) I am going to be without Internet access for 5 days…

Posted on January 19, 2012 by - 5 Comments

This weekend marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. This year I am going to be spending 5 days in the Chinese province of Anhui. Where I will be does not have access to the Internet.

To my online students planning to send me Task 1 or 2 responses over the next few days: if possible, please send me your work today (ryanthiggins@gmail.com).  If this is not possible, I will be checking my email once this weekend from Anhui (on Sunday night).  In China, however, Gmail appears to be blocked in most rural areas, so there is a good chance I will not be able to reply to you until I get home next Wednesday.  After I get back to Shanghai, there shouldn’t be any break in my work schedule until June.

Thanks for understanding!  Hope everyone has a pleasant year of the dragon.

Ryan

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Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in this IELTS essay? Watch and find out!

Here is the essay from the video:

Some people believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school. Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

Foreign language studies are a typical component of curriculums the world over. However, the exact age at which students should first be introduced to a second language is often debated. Whether first taught at primary school or secondary school, advantages and disadvantages can be identified. This essay will analyse these items in an effort to prove one age group better than the other at which to begin foreign language studies.

Firstly, introducing a new language to primary school students has several advantages over delaying this introduction to secondary school. For one, as evidenced in numerous scientific studies, young minds are much more capable of acquiring accent, a truth that enables young people to reproduce language at a quality comparable to that of a native speaker. In addition to this, the heightened memories of young children make them much more capable of taking on the task of learning the massive amounts of vocabulary needed to be communicative in a second language. This of course accelerates their second language studies in ways not seen at the secondary school level. It is thus clear that teaching a second language at primary school has certain undeniable benefits.

Despite these advantages, there are potential drawbacks to introducing a foreign language at the primary school level. If the language component of the curriculum is not sensitive to local customs and traditions, it could interfere with a young learner’s understanding of their own culture, a challenge that is not apparent among the more mature secondary students. However, although this is a concern that should be taken seriously, educational bodies within a country have the power to review and vet content. This is a practice that curbs the possibility of cultural erosion. Further, delaying the introduction of foreign language studies also delays a student’s development as a worldly person that understands cultures outside their own. Thus, after analysis, the disadvantages to foreign language studies in primary school are not quite as discouraging as they may at first seem.

The above discussion makes clear that, despite select disadvantages, language learning is more effectively executed at primary school than secondary school. I thus hope governments the world over encourage the introduction of foreign language classes among their young learners.

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First model essay of 2017! I make up all of the examples!

Some people feel raising the age limit required for obtaining a driver’s licence can enhance road safety. Would this be an effective strategy in your country?

The age at which a person is legally able to drive is a very important consideration. In my home country of Canada, successful test takers can drive independently at the age of 16, an age that I feel is too young. I thus agree that raising the driving age limit in my country would enhance road safety. To prove this, I will look at a driver’s maturity and the motivators behind their decision to drive.

Firstly, the experimental nature of the adolescent growth stage makes it a dangerous time at which to drive. Adolescent men, for example, are scientifically reported to have heightened levels of aggression, a trait that statistically diminishes by the time they are 20 years old. Thus, removing people prone to these more immature emotions can clearly have real ramifications on the overall safety of driving in Canada. Increasing the driving age should therefore be supported.

This position is further exemplified when looking at motivators behind a person’s decision to drive. For 16 year olds in Canada, these motivators tend to be social in nature, such as using a car to meet friends. Although many would argue this is a sign of healthy social development in a human being, it is a driving arrangement that sets up scenarios that can be very distracting for an inexperienced driver. In Canada, for example, traffic accidents are reportedly higher among 16 to 18 year olds travelling in cars with several passengers. Because motivators become less social as a person enters their twenties, these statistics suggest Canadian roads would be safer were the age limit of drivers raised and their motivations for driving evolved.

As the above shows, raising the age at which a person can drive would increase the safety of roads in my country. It is my hope that Canada does indeed take steps to put this new restriction on driving in place.

My Task 2 ebook has been updated for 2017!

I’m very proud to present to you the 2017 version of my Task 2 ebook!


The 5th version of my popular Task 2 ebook is finally ready for download! As always, it is completely free to those of you that have purchased an earlier version!

(Existing customers: email your receipt to ryan@ieltsielts.com to receive the free update!)

Don’t have a copy?

Buy it now and receive free updates for life!

CLICK HERE TO BUY IT NOW!
$15 USD

(The price is going up to $19 USD in 2017!)
Payment also possible using WeChat:

What’s in the updated version?
Here is what’s new in the 2017 version of Ryan’s ebook:

-89 pages of step-by-step IELTS advice! ✓✓

-All model responses have been read by an examiner and unofficially gauged Band 9! ✓✓

-There are new sections on applying argument and discussion essay structure to (1) advantage/disadvantage, (2) cause and effect, (3) problem and solution, and (4) double action Task 2 question types! ✓✓

-Learn how to concede points in your argument essay while remaining faithful to your thesis! ✓✓

-New discussion that will help you understand the IELTS Writing rubric and how the breadths influence each other! ✓✓

-A section outlining subtle language patterns in Task 2 questions that are often misread by candidates! ✓✓

-The perfect companion text to Ryan’s videos! ✓✓

Here is the table of contents:

table-of-contents

I’ve been updating this popular ebook for over five years! Buy it today and receive all future updates free of charge!

Academic and General Task 1 updates coming in January!

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