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Updates from my side: new website, new IELTS vocab podcast, new essay contest (48 hours to enter! Hurry!) and a personal request

Posted on June 13, 2013 by - 22 Comments

Hi everyone,

I hope you have kicked off a productive summer.  In this update, I wanted to talk about a couple of the things I am working on and how you can get involved.  Don’t forget to enter the writing contest (update #3) and suggest an explanation for the New Yorker cartoon that has me stumped (update #4).

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1 – New website

Please excuse the lack of updates to ieltsielts.com over the past few weeks.  I’m pulling together a new and updated version of this website, which will include material for the other three sections of the IELTS.  New versions of all writing ebooks are in the works, too (a task I’ve been working on since the start of 2013).  As always, those who purchased older ebook versions will receive the updated versions free of charge.  Please be patient as I pull together these new projects.  I am hoping to launch everything in July.

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2 – New podcast

IELTS Speaking specialist Tom (from drvipmethod.com) and I are testing a new vocabulary focused podcast.  You may have read about it on the Facebook page we set up (please add me as a Facebook friend if you haven’t already).  We’ve recorded two episodes and we’re looking for your feedback on whether the material is useful or not.  The idea is simple: each episode, we take 6 words from Victoria University of Wellington’s Academic Word List and use them to ask each other IELTS-like questions to demonstrate the words in use.  We’re hoping in future to take suggested questions from online IELTS student submissions.  We’re also hoping to get listeners on the show to participate.  If you have a free hour or so, please tune in to these pilot episodes and let us know what you think:

The Tom and Ryan IELTS Show – Episode 1

The Tom and Ryan IELTS Show – Episode 2

3 – New essay contest

Below is an IELTS essay that is missing cohesive devices in four places.  As a comment to this blog post, please suggest a word or group of words that you feel would fit in the blanks.  I will use your submissions in an upcoming IELTS video.

Does living with a pet enhance a person’s life?

A practice that has spanned across all cultures and countries throughout history is the domestication of animals.  1._________, living with a pet is a very common occurrence.  It is argued that several benefits derive from living with animals.  This will be proven by looking at the manner in which animals both provide companionship to the lonely and teach the importance of responsibility to children.

Firstly, living with animals provides companionship to people who are lonely, and 2._________ catalyzes healthful results.  For example, a study in the US revealed that widowed cat or dog owners tended to live longer than other widowed people living without pets.  As this example shows, the link between pet ownership and longevity can be seen.  Thus, it is clear that living with a pet enhances a person’s life.

In addition to the above, children who live with pets learn how to be responsible at a very young age.  For example, my nephew spent the first 15 years of his life caring for a family dog.  3._________ taught him the importance of maintaining routine, and I feel this pushed him to develop the healthy study regimen that resulted in his acceptance to a good university.  Therefore, living with animals can fortify a person’s ability to act responsibly.

Following this look, it can be concluded that pet ownership can simultaneously discourage loneliness and encourage maturity.  The positive nature of 4._________ makes it clear that living with an animal enhances a person’s life.  It is hoped more people choose pets as a part of their lifestyle.

4 – Personal request

The New Yorker is an American publication that provides an eclectic grouping of composition, namely current affair commentary, interesting but sometimes obscure articles, short stories and poetry.  It is also peppered with single panel cartoons, renowned for occasionally being difficult to understand.

This week, I have come across one such cartoon.  No matter how I dissect it, I cannot seem to come up with an explanation for its humour.  I am thus addressing the wordsmiths of the online IELTS world to shed some light: why is this funny?  If you think you understand the joke, please share an explanation as a comment to this post.

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IELTS study hacks (and other Q&A!)

The resources seen in the video are:

Are you interested in studying with me online? Send an email to ryan@ieltsielts.com and tell me about your IELTS goals. I will let you know what I can do to help.

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This way to band 9…

The essay in this video was written by a practicing IELTS examiner.

This question was seen last year in Moscow:

Some people contend that all young people should attend university after high school, while others maintain that this is not always the best option. Discuss both views and give your opinion. Give reasons for your answer and include examples from your own experience where appropriate.

Some feel that all young people should attend university, while others point out this may not be a suitable path for everyone. I am of the latter view. I believe that career training in other areas may serve the interests of many young people far better than undergraduate studies.

On the one hand, there is convincing support for university education for all. Firstly, a liberal education encourages the broadening of the mind. For example, students of history, art and literature tend to be tolerant and thoughtful and fulfil useful service careers in teaching, journalism, public relations and politics. Encouraging everyone to enrol in university would also push people towards lucrative professional roles, such as those held by doctors and lawyers, positions that also bring great social prestige.

However, despite these benefits, universal tertiary education would be problematic at both the societal and personal levels. It should be noted that the building of houses and offices, the transporting of goods, and the production of furniture and appliances are essential to society and require skilled manual workers and tradespeople. Further, many young men and women naturally excel when working with their hands. Forcing them to study disciplines of abstract thought would clearly be a waste of their time and potential. Thus, encouraging people to choose a path that allows them to invest in their natural strengths is better for both the individual and society as a whole.

Overall, it can be seen that although pursuing a university education has many merits, it may be more of a hindrance than a help to some people. In my own case, being very bad with my hands but quite handy with words, university was the right option for me. As this essay has shown, everyone is different and no one course in life fits all.

Carry on with your IELTS training! Click to buy an ebook:

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How to get full marks for Task Achievement

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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