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Sometimes the part 2 task looks difficult but there's an easy way to answer. Here are three examples:

1) Describe something that you collect.

Most students panic because they don't collect anything. But this question is easier than you think. If your hobby is listening to music or reading books, just tell the examiner that you collect CDs or novels. You could talk about your "collection" of clothes or shoes. Everyone has a collection of something, even if you don't call yourself a collector.

2) Describe an important decision that you made.

Easy. Just talk about the subject you chose to study or the career you decided to pursue. If you moved to live/study in a different country, you could talk about that.

3) Describe an important letter you received.

Use the answer you gave for number 2 (with a few small changes). Talk about the letter you received confirming your place on a university course, or confirming a successful job application.

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Here are three types of linking (cohesive devices) with some examples from last week's 'maps' answer for types 2 and 3.

1) The 'normal' linking words that everyone learns

and, but, because, while, whereas, by contrast, however, furthermore etc.

2) Using pronouns and determiners to refer to a previous idea

- three main modifications were made... These involved
- there were three bus stops... These were
- the addition of a bus station... This bus station
- the car park, which was situated... this original car park

3) Using synonyms or paraphrasing to connect ideas

- some changes were made... three main modifications... the changes
- the hospital's transport infrastructure... the hospital's vehicle access
- at the intersection... at the junction
- parking facilities... parking areas... car park... area for parking
- public... visitors... members of the public

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Let's return to the 'small families' question below:

In many countries today, people in cities either live alone or in small family units, rather than in large, extended family groups. Is this a positive or negative trend?

Here's my essay skeleton (using the plan that I wrote here):

..........

Introduction
It is true that cities are seeing a rise in smaller families and one-person households, while the extended family is becoming a rarity. In my opinion, this is a negative development.

Paragraph 2, topic sentence
As families become smaller, the traditional family support network is disappearing, and this can have a negative impact on children as they grow up.

Paragraph 3, topic sentence
The trend towards people living alone is perhaps even more damaging because of the psychological effects of reduced human interaction.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I believe that individuals thrive when they are part of larger family groups, and so it is worrying that many people are choosing to live alone or in such small family units.

..........

Note:
It's a good idea to practise writing essay 'skeletons' because they force you to produce a very clear, coherent essay structure.

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The following situation often confuses people:

  • The question asks you for a date
  • The speaker gives a day, month and year (e.g. 16th July 2019)
  • But the instruction tells you to answer with one word and/or a number

I agree that this is confusing. However, my advice is simple: write 16th July as your answer, without the year. This is the answer that the IELTS people want.

So, make sure you write the day (number) and the month. Only put the year if the question asks for it (e.g. which year...?) or if the instruction allows you to include more than one number.

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Read the following passage and choose the best title.

The modern English alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters, each having an upper- and lower-case form. It originated around the 7th century from the Latin script.

English is the only major modern European language that requires no diacritics for native words. Diacritic marks mainly appear in loanwords such as naïve and façade. Informal English writing tends to omit diacritics because of their absence from the keyboard, while professional copywriters and typesetters tend to include them.

As loanwords become naturalised in English, there is a tendency to drop the diacritics, as has happened with many older borrowings from French, such as hôtel. Words that are still perceived as foreign tend to retain them; for example, the only spelling of soupçon found in English dictionaries uses the diacritic. However, diacritics are likely to be retained even in naturalised words where they would otherwise be confused with a common native English word e.g. résumé rather than resume. Rarely, they may even added to a loanword for this reason, as in maté, from the Spanish yerba mate but with the é to distinguish from the English word 'mate'.

(Source: wikipedia.org)

Choose the best title from the list below.

A)  The English alphabet
B)  The use of diacritics in written English
C)  Disappearing diacritics in the English language
D)  How loanwords have entered the English language

Note: Did you work out what the word 'diacritic' means?

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Here are some sentences that people wrote in the comments area below last Saturday's lesson. Can you find and correct the mistakes?

  1. I wanted to say you some informations is not correct.
  2. The festival holds on the 24th of December every year.
  3. I ask you to correct this article and be reposted for your next magazine.
  4. At on onset, I would thanks to you that you published a article.
  5. I suggest you employ staff from all over the world. Because native well know about their country.
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You don't really need to impress the examiner with 'less common' vocabulary in part 1 of the speaking test. However, without trying to show off, I used some nice words and phrases in the answers that I shared yesterday:

  • I'd like to think that = I hope
  • in ten years' time = ten years from now
  • I can't imagine changing profession (imagine + ing)
  • essential
  • field of work
  • research is being done
  • is published in English
  • see more of the world (see the world = travel to many countries)
  • it would be nice to
  • travel extensively
  • at some point
  • when I'm retired
  • make progress
  • in terms of my home life
  • what technologies come along (come along = appear / emerge)
  • in the next decade or two

Notice that I tend to highlight collocations (groups of words) rather than individual words e.g. "make progress" (verb + noun collocation) instead of just "progress".

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Here are my sample answers to the questions that I showed you last Friday. I've pretended to be a scientist instead of an English teacher!

1. What job would you like to have ten years from now?

I’d like to think that I’ll be doing the same job in ten years’ time. I like being a scientist, so I can’t imagine changing profession.

2. How useful will English be for your future?

English is essential in my field of work; most of the research that is being done in this area is published in English, so I read articles and papers in English every day.

3. How much travelling do you hope to do in the future?

I’d like to see more of the world, so it would be nice to be able to travel extensively at some point, maybe when I’m retired.

4. How do you think your life will change in the future?

Hopefully I’ll make progress in different areas of my life, for example at work and in terms of my home life. I’m also interested to see what new technologies come along in the next decade or two.

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Here's the map task that we've been looking at, with my band 9 sample answer below it.

(Cambridge IELTS 13)

The maps illustrate some changes that were made to a city hospital's transport infrastructure between the years 2007 and 2010.

It is noticeable that three main modifications were made to the hospital’s vehicle access. These involved the building of a new bus station, new roundabouts and new parking facilities.

Looking at the changes in more detail, we can see that in 2007 there were three bus stops on either side of Hospital Road. These were no longer present in 2010, and instead we see the addition of a bus station on the west side of Hospital Road. This bus station is accessed via two new roundabouts; the first roundabout is at the intersection of City Road and Hospital Road, while the second is at the other end of Hospital Road, at the junction with the hospital ring road.

The two maps also show that changes were made to public and staff parking areas. In 2007, staff and visitors used the same car park, which was situated to the east of Hospital Road and accessed via the ring road. However, by 2010 this original car park had become a designated area for staff parking only. A new car park, located on the east side of the ring road, provided parking for members of the public.

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If you look at the official band descriptors for writing task 2, you'll find this phrase in the band 9 description for 'coherence and cohesion':

"uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention"

So how do you connect your ideas (cohesion) without attracting too much attention? I think there are 2 possible ways:

  1. Explain your ideas in a logical order so that you don't need many linking words. This is probably what you do when writing in your own language.
  2. Use easy linking and referencing words like and, but, because, which, that, this, while, for example. These are so common that they attract almost no attention.

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