Do you want to find specific information about different IELTS lessons?

Question Mark by Horia Varlan via Flickr (creative commons)

Question Mark by Horia Varlan via Flickr (creative commons)

I’ve had a lot of emailed questions and comments from students  who want to find out more about a specific lesson that they have read. If  you  want to find out more about a specific topic, please use Search by Tags . You can do this 2 ways:

  1. At the bottom of each post, there is a section that says Posted in: followed by a  list of tags (topics) that you can click on. This will bring you to all the posts that have been tagged for that topic. For example, if you want to know more about how to write introductions, click on the introductions tag.
  2. On the right side of the page of each post, you’ll see a box that says “Search by Tags” under a box that says “Check my essay”. This Search by Tags box is filled with tags (topics) of different sizes – the bigger the size of the word, the more posts there are under this tag. Click on a tag to see all the posts related to that topic.

If there are topics not covered, feel free to email me or comment and I’ll try my best to write a post on it.

Good luck everyone!

(If you see at the bottom of this post, I’ve tagged everything.)

Practice your English through the news

Day Ninety Eight Dustin Diaz via Compfight

The more you listen to or read English news, this is what happens:

  • You start to recognize more vocabulary words and phrases and in different contexts (situations in how the word is used)
  • You start to recognize different sentence structures
  • You learn more about common topics that are useful for your exam. You learn about different viewpoints that you can use in writing your essays.

Here are some good general news websites:

Another useful tool is  Google Alerts. Set up alerts to specific topics or words/phrases that come up in the news or blogs and it will send you an email about it.

These are just a few news sites especially catered for English language learners. If you find some that are useful, please add them to the comments below and I’ll include them in the list.

So have a go and make it a habit to read and listen to news every day, even for 10 minutes a day. Take note of anything new that you’ve learned. This could be a vocabulary word, or an idea or viewpoint about a popular topic as you might be able to use that idea in your essay writing.

Sample IELTS Speaking questions – Full Interview

Fotolia_39784345_XSAs you know, the IELTS Speaking session is divided into three parts. Here’s a sample of what you would expect to hear from the examiner. Of course, the number of questions they ask will depend on the time spent – they may ask less than the number asked below. Try to practice your own answers to these questions and record yourself. See where you can improve and try again.

Part 1 – Introduction & Interview (4 -5 minutes)

  1. Good morning. My name is Pearl. Can you tell me what your name is?
  2. And can you tell me where you’re from?
  3. Can I see your identification, please? {You give them your passport} … OK. Thank you, that’s fine.
  4. Now, in this first part, I’d like to ask you a few questions about yourself. Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?
  5. What kind of work do you do?
  6. And why did you choose this kind of work?
  7. What kind of work would you like to do in the future?
  8. Why?
  9. Now, let’s talk about the weekend. What do you usually do at the weekend?
  10. What do you think you’ll do next weekend?
  11. Do you enjoy your weekends now more than you did when you were a child?
  12. How important is it for you to relax at the end of the week?
  13. Let’s talk about music. What sort of music do you usually enjoy listening to?
  14. Has the kind of music you like changed over the years?
  15. Do you prefer listening to live music or recorded music?
  16. Why?

Part 2 – Individual Long Turn ( 3 -4 minutes)

  1. Thank you. Now, I’m going to give you a topic and I’d like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. Before you talk, you will have one minute to think about what you’re going to say. You can make some notes if you wish. Do you understand? Here’s some paper and a pencil to take notes. And here’s your topic. I’d like you to describe a special gift you gave to someone. 

Task Card given:

Describe a special gift you gave to someone.

You should say:

  • Who you gave it to
  • Where you got the gift from
  • When  and why you gave it to them

And explain why you feel it was special to give to them

  1. {One minute has passed} Now remember you  have one to two minutes for this, so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up. Can you start speaking now please? { you speak for one – two minutes}
  2. (rounding off question) Do you enjoy giving gifts?
  3. Thank you. Can I have the booklet and paper back please?

Part 3 – Two-way Discussion (4 – 5 minutes)

  1. We’ve been talking about a special gift that you’ve given to someone. And I’d like to discuss with you one or two more general questions related to this. Let’s consider this first of all, giving gifts in families. What occasions do family members give gifts to others in your country?
  2. Do people spend a lot of money?
  3. So what sort of gifts do children give to adults in their families?
  4. Do you think adults appreciate gifts children made themselves more than gifts they’ve bought in a shop?
  5. So how important do you think it is for family members to give gifts to each other?
  6. Let’s move on now and talk about giving gifts in society in general. In what situations would people give gifts in business?
  7. So in your country, do you think companies spend a lot of money on gifts?
  8. So it’s important for the company. But what about gift-giving for the economy of the country in general. Is your country is buying gifts an important part of the economy do you think?
  9. Alright now some people say that it would be better for society if all the money that was spent on gifts was given to help poor people instead. What do you think about that?
  10. Thank you very much that is the end of the speaking test.

Overview of the IELTS Speaking Test

shutterstock_65840998There are 3 parts in the IELTS Speaking test.

Part 1: Introduction & Interview (4-5 minutes)

The examiner introduces him/herself and confirms your identity and will ask for your passport. The examiner will then ask you general questions on familiar topics, e.g. home, family, work, studies and interests to which you should reply as fully as possible.

Part 2: Individual Long Turn (3 – 4 minutes)

The examiner will give you a task card which asks you to talk about a particular topic and which includes points which you can cover in your talk. You are given 1 minute to prepare your talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. You are expected to talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic without stopping. The examiner will then ask you one or two follow-up questions on the same topic.

Part 3: Two-Way Discussion ( 4 – 5 minutes)

The examiner asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2 . These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas that are related to that topic.
In total, it will take about 11 – 14 minutes.
You are marked on your overall performance in 4 different areas, which are then calculated to give you your overall score:
  • Fluency and Coherence – how you speak at length and maintain flow; how you use connectives and discourse markers
  • Lexical Resources (Vocabulary range) – ability to use a wide range of vocabulary covering personal and non-personal topics
  • Grammatical range and accuracy – ability to use a range of sentence structures
  • Pronunciation – how easily you are understood and use of pronunciation features, i.e. intonation, stress, rhythm

For detailed description on the band score descriptors, please see here.

Cohesive Devices – Transitional Words/Phrases for essay writing

Don't Chain Me Down Wendell via Compfight

One of the criteria for assessing your IELTS essay is cohesion and coherence. 

Coherence refers to the linking of ideas in a logical sequence or order.  Cohesion refers to the organization of sentences and ideas in your essay working together as a whole within their paragraphs.  They hold together by cohesive devices (transitional words and expressions). This makes it very easy for the reader to follow your presentation of  information in the essay. They don’t get lost or confused. Did you write in clear paragraphs that are organized around central ideas? It’s like listening to a story that’s smooth and easy to follow.

Here are some useful transitional/linking words and phrases to use to show the different relationships between your ideas and sentences:


  • also, again, in addition, additionally, furthermore, further, moreover, as well as, what’s more, besides this/that,

CONTRAST (show two things are different):

  • on the other hand, however, despite this, conversely, in contrast, on the contrary, although, while, though, compared with, in comparison with, rather, whereas, but, instead of, in spite of, still, nevertheless, regardless, otherwise

COMPARE (show two things are similar/alike):

  • likewise, similarly, also, in the same way, in comparison to


  • first, second (etc.), to begin with, initially, at first, then, next, from there, and then, following this, finally, lastly


  • for example, for instance, a good example of this is, such as, to illustrate, in particular, particularly, namely, specifically


  • therefore, as a result, thus, so, consequently, admittedly, so that, depending on


  • indeed, certainly, in fact, of course, undoubtedly, plainly, obviously


  • if. . . then, unless, whether, provided that,


  • in summary, in conclusion, overall, in short,  in brief, to sum up, in other words, all in all, to put it differently, to summarize, on the whole,


  • because, since, as, so, due to, owing to, the reason why

CONCESSION (accepting/acknowledging something is true):

  • granted, naturally, of course

This is not a complete list and of course, many words can link ideas in different ways depending on how they are used.

*NOTE: It’s important to not overuse so many linking words in your essays because it makes it even more difficult to read, rather than making it smooth and easy to read. So choose a few carefully when you write and make sure you don’t overuse these phrases.

 Want to get your essay writing checked? Here’s how: Essay Correction & Feedback