Speaking test Part Three: Vocabulary about media


If you are looking for some good discussion on journalism and media, I suggest you watch Media Watch on the ABC – or you can  watch it online at the following link


http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/media-watch/FA1635H036S00 (this week’s episode)

If the language is too difficult, try the school children’s news site, BTN


Watching stories about the news will help you with the Speaking and Writing tests as well as Listening of course. Being aware of current affairs helps you to have more to talk about and develops your vocabulary.

Sample Part Three

What is the role of journalists in today’s society?

Well I think journalists are there to inform the public of what is happening in the world around them, especially the political, economic and social issues in the world. A journalist should be honest, accurate and unbiased. These days, in the era of fake news, it is very important for journalists to be thorough and check their sources carefully.

What are some of the challenges faced by journalists?

A big challenge for journalists is that news is online these days, and people expect immediate updates. In the past, there was one edition of the newspaper per day, but these days, journalists are updating news stories around the clock. The digital format also makes it easy for journalists to steal stories from other journalists, making plagiarism a problem that is very hard to combat.

Why do people read the newspaper?

Well, let me see. I think people read the newspaper in order to be informed. They want to know what is going on in the wider world, rather than just living in their own little bubble. Also, people like to be entertained and read the sports, fashion and travel sections for these reasons.

Why read the news instead of watching it?

Well I guess reading the news gives the reader more time to absorb what he or she is reading. So in that way, it is a more reflective activity. It also offers more choice. If I don’t want to read the Sports section, I don’t have to, but if it is on TV, I have to wait until it is over to see the next part that I am interested in. Newspaper stories often give a more in-depth look at an issue because there are no time constraints involved in presenting the story. In contrast, TV news stories have to be short and sweet, to keep the listener interested and to stay within the broadcasting time slot.

Speaking test vocabulary


You need to know how to talk about food and health in both the Speaking and the Writing test. It is important to develop your vocabulary around the topic of health and diet. Let’s start with a few basics.

 How much food?

Calories or Kilojoules are the basic units of energy that are in food. Australians tend to talk in calories, even though we are officially metric, so I am going with that.

Children should eat 1600-200 per day depending on their activity level and other factors.

Adults should eat 2000 calories per day depending on their activity level and other factors.

If you eat more calories than you need, they are stored in the body as fat. If this becomes a habit, than the body will be overweight. When the body becomes seriously overweight, then the person is described as obese.

Calories are not the only thing to consider when choosing healthy food.


Components of food.

Your food is made up of carbohydrate (carbs), fat, protein and micro nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Part of your carbs are fibre, (the American spelling is fiber) which is found in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains like rice and wheat. Fat is found in meat, nuts and food like olives, coconut and other plants, protein is found in meat, fish, beans, dairy, nuts and lentils. Vitamins and minerals are found in wholefoods.

Dairy is food from a cow, sheep, buffalo or goat, and includes milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream and butter. Dairy is a whole food unless it is processed into ice cream or sweetened yoghurt or some other high-sugar, additive-laden ingredient.


Wholefoods vs refined foods

Wholefoods are foods that aren’t overly processed, for example fruit, vegetables, brown rice, whole grain bread, meat (not processed meats like sausage or ham).  They don’t have too much added salt or sugar or any other additives, which include preservatives, artificial colours and flavour enhancers. Wholefoods contain fibre and nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and they usually have a high water content.

Refined foods are processed foods, usually made in factories. Examples are frozen pizza, canned goods, like baked beans, sauces, snack food like potato chips, corn chips and crackers, sweet biscuits (cookies) and sugary drinks like coke and other soft drinks. They are usually high in sugar, salt or fat, or all of these together, as well as being high in calories. They often have a low water content and are low in nutrients, like vitamins and minerals.

Let’s compare a wholefood to a refined food.

1 orange

1 small bowl of potato chips


On hundred grams of oranges (1 large orange) has 47 calories, almost no fat (0.1g), no sodium (salt), 89 per cent of the daily vitamin C requirement and 2.4 g of fibre.

One hundred grams of potato chips has 536 calories, 35 grams of fat, 8mg sodium (salt). 51 per cent daily vitamin C, and 4.8 g fibre.


Which snack is better for a child? Which one is a child more likely to choose? Why?

Why are people in many countries becoming obese?

Well, I know that children in Australia are becoming obese because of diet and lifestyle factors. Personally I think diet is the main culprit. In Australia and many other countries, people eat a lot of refined food, and it’s not just take-away from places like McDonald’s. Pre-packaged food from supermarkets is also highly refined. People are eating food prepared from cans, jars and packets instead of wholefoods.  These foods are high in calories and salt and sugar, as well as low in nutrients.

Is there an obesity problem in your country? What is the cause?






Speaking Tips Part Three

Color conversation icon setIn Part Three of the test, it is your job to work hard—not the examiner’s job. You are going to showcase your vocabulary, grammar and fluency. Many students confuse it with Part One, and just give a short answer with a little information, or confuse it with Part Two and go and try to give and two-minute speech. Actually you treat Part Three as if it were a conversation with an educated friend. Give extended, supported answers. Do not use overly formal essay writing language — you are speaking, not writing. Giving personal details can help round out your answer and draw the examiner in.

How has education changed in your country since your grandparents’ time?

Hmm … let me see. Education has really changed in so may ways since my grandparents, and even my parents were children. The way that children are controlled and disciplined  now is very different. My father was beaten with a strap by his teacher if he used his left hand to write (even though he was actually left-handed.) That kind of thing is impossible now. A teacher can’t hit a child even if she is really misbehaving. 

Note the use of tenses here:

present perfect with since

past simple for events that have finished

past simple passive when the subject is not mentioned

present simple to switch to talking about the present

present continuous to indicate a continuous event in the present

Also notice the use of whereas to demonstrate a comparison

answer continued….

I’d say another big change in education since my parents’ time is that there are higher expectations on students these days. Competition in the workplace means that children need to perform well in high school and this is reflected in the amount of testing done in schools. Also, the number of years that children stay in school has increased quite a lot. In my mother’s time, it was very common for kids to leave school at the end of Year 10. These days you can’t do that unless you are going into an apprenticeship. Otherwise, it is expected that you will finish Year 12.


conversation phrase I’d say

linking words another, otherwise

time phrases   in my mother’s time, these days

use of casual language    you can’t do that  (instead of children may not do that)  kids

Remember—the examiner is listening to you English speaking proficiency, not evaluating your ideas, so don’t trip over trying to give the most intelligent answer. Just be a confident and as conversational as you can.

Speaking Test Part 2 — the long turn

downloadIn Part two of the speaking test you are required speak without interruption from the examiner for 1-2 minutes. If you go over 2 minutes, you will be stopped, as it is otherwise unfair to the other candidate — don’t worry if you are stopped, it just means our time is up.  I will give you some tips, using the following sample card.

Sample card

Talk about a person who was important to you in your childhood.

You should say:

Who the person was

How you knew them

Describe the person’s appearance and character

Why this person was important to you



You have one minute to plan and the examiner will give you a pencil and paper. Do NOT write your plan in sentence form – just jot down some notes. If you try to write in sentences, of course you will run out of time.


Use the question to help you start off. For example you can say “I’m going to talk about…” and then just add the question — I’m going to talk about a Person who was very important to me in my childhood or paraphrase the question : I’m going to talk about someone who meant the world to me when I was a child.

This is a straightforward way to start without hesitating. It is strong, and gives you a second or two to get focused.

Use the prompts

Always remember to use the prompts on the card to help you continue if you run out of ideas or forget whee you are going.

Always check the tense of the question. For example: Talk about an important person from your childhood — You should remind yourself that you are mostly going to use the past tense for this task card because it is about the past. This is very important. If you do the whole thing in the wrong tense, then it will be very noticeable to the examiner and affect your grammar score.

Use Linking Words

After, then, because, so, and, although…etc

Use idiomatic language

Keep in touch, mean the world, keep up-to-date, to have something in common

Sample Answer:

I’m going to talk about someone who meant a great deal to me in my childhood. Her name was Cathy and she was my best friend. I met her when I was nine years old, after I had moved with my family to a new primary school. Cathy was tall, like me and had very blue eyes and sandy hair. We both had a lot of brothers and sisters, so we had that in common, and we both loved to read books. Cathy was important to me because she was a very loyal friend and also a lot of fun to be with. We spent a lot of our school holidays together and also walked home from school most afternoon because we lived in the same neighborhood. Although we have not lived in the same city for many many years, we still keep in touch and keep up-to date with each other’s lives.

IELTS Speaking Test


Speaking Part One

In Part one, the examiner only has a short time to ask you a lot of questions, so keep to the simple rule.

Answer plus one.

That means answer the question plus give one more short piece of information.

Example: Do you work, or are you a student?

I’m a student. I’m studying at the University of Wollongong.

You can add a conversation word as well.

Actually, I’m a student. I’m studying English.

Use conversation words in all Sections of the test

Conversation words and phrases can help with the flow of your answers to all parts of the test and give an impression of greater fluency. Following are some examples.

Actually, (I just started the job last week.)

No, not really, (I don’t like sport very much._

Let me see. (I guess my favourite time of day is around dusk.)

Well, (no, I don’t.)

Let me think, I suppose (the most popular sport in Australia is football.)

Hmm, well I guess you could say (I am a hard worker.)

In fact, (I’ve never been to a really big city.)

To be honest, (I’m not really into sport.)

Practice using these words and phrases aloud and also practice writing you answers to questions exactly as you would say them – NOTE – this is NOT so that you cam memorise answers – memorising answers is a very bad idea. It can make you sound rehearsed, stilted and also make you accidentally answer the wrong question.

You write the answers to train your brain to use conversation words correctly. The other thing you need to train you brain to do is to paraphrase the question in your answer. More on that tomorrow.




Fancy Pants Writing is a Big No-No

Don’t put fancy nonsense in your essay – it does more harm than good!


Consider this sentence from the introduction of a practice essay:

This essay will elaborate on causes and solutions of preventing obesity as a major disease among children and thus will lead to a logical conclusion.


First of all, you should NEVER mention the conclusion in the introduction. Also, this phrase “thus will lead to a logical conclusion” actually means nothing at all. I’ve seen a few people use this phrase, so there must be a website out there suggesting it. Please don’t if you want to do our best on the test.

Sounds fancy + means nothing = a lower score

Secondly, the use of the word “elaborate” is unnecessary and a little over-the-top.  To use “preventing” and “solutions”  together is tautology. You can’t prevent solutions – you prevent obesity OR solve (the verb form of solution) the obesity problem. All in all, the sentence sounds pompous and silly.

A much better sentence would be this:

This essay will discuss some of the causes of the childhood obesity epidemic and suggest some possible solutions.

No, it isn’t fancy. Yes, it answers the question clearly and succinctly.

So many students are convinced that the fancy way is the best way. It isn’t.

Consider this sentence from the same practice essay:

Thus, it is clear that this idea holds it merit.

Again – a fancy sounding sentence that doesn’t mean anything much.

A better was to say it:

It is clear from this example that …. 


Here’s another one I found from another student:

Some people opine the strict punishments are the best way to curtail traffic accidents.

All I can say to this student is this: Don’t use the word opine in an IELTS essay. You have to be a native speaker and professional writer, probably, to use this word well. Also, curtail is a fancy word that does not fit here. It is better to find a straight-forward collocation – reduce and lower are often used with incidence of traffic accidents. So making up your own collocations will affect your score for Lexical Resource. You WILL NOT get a higher score because you use a lot of synonyms that don’t quite fit rather than learn and use the correct English collocation.



How to get an 8 in Writing: Part 3


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Grammar Practice

Let’s take a the following question:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mobile phone technology?

Instead of planning and writing this essay, we are going to use some grammar structures from the previous post to make complex sentences.


Mobile phones have become accessible to most of the world’s population and are considered an essential tool for living in modern societies.


conditional (first conditional)

When young children are allowed unsupervised access to phones, there are often unwanted, even dangerous consequences.


conditional (second)

If mobile phones were to suddenly disappear, there would be an outpouring of grief, due to the sense of security and freedom that this technology seems to confer upon people, as well as the fact that it is somewhat addictive.

subordinate clause

Because mobile phones are small and portable, it means that people take them everywhere.

parallel phrase

Children use their phones at social functions, either to chat with their friends or play electronic games, thus missing out on the more immediate, face-to-face social interaction


There is a sense of safety in always being available by phone, but this comes with a loss of freedom and spontaneity.

How to get an 8 in Writing: Part 1– Task Response


8 monkeys

To get an 8 in writing, you have to have good ideas. Look at the public version band descriptor for an 8:

Task Response

• sufficiently addresses all parts of the task
• presents a well-developed response to the question with
relevant, extended and supported ideas

The best thing you can do for yourself is to get reading. We know the IELTS test topics seem to be around, health, technology, education, environment, modern-day problems, crime and punishment, ethical issues such as testing on animals, social issues such as censorship. So when you are asked to discuss such things and want to have relevant, extended and supported ideas, doesn’t it make sense to have some good ideas under your belt?

Your best friend here is Google. Google some basic questions that we see appear over and over again in the test….

Why are children obese — what can we do about it?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of  mobile phones?

Are stricter punishments the way to solve crimes?

What are the problems/solutions of overcrowding in cities?

What are the causes/effects of global warming?

Should we ban smoking in all public spaces?

Don’t read in order to retain statistical facts – read in order to get a wide grasp of the different topics.

A quick Google search on “What are the causes of childhood obesity” gave me the following government website:


It gives me causes, effects, solutions…. after reading this an writing your own IELTS essay you are well equipped to write relevant, extended and supported ideas on this topic and you have the added bonus of having more ideas for your Speaking test, if you are asked about this topic, and maybe picking up some vocab for your Reading test……


IELTS Task One Academic: Sample Task

Secondary School Attendance




Specialist Schools 12% 11% 10%
Grammar Schools 24% 19% 12%
Voluntary-controlled  Schools 52% 38% 20%
Community Schools 12% 32% 58%

 The graph shows secondary school attendance at four different types of schools in three years; 2000, 2005 and 2009. Overall there was a huge increase in the percentage of students attending community schools over the time period, whereas numbers in all other types of schools declined. The most considerable decrease was at voluntary-controlled schools. 

The biggest change can be seen in the figures for community schools, which showed proportional attendance of 12 percent in 2000. By 2009, this had increased to 58 percent. Conversely, the next biggest change can be seen in attendance at voluntary controlled schools, which had the majority of attendance in 2000, at 52%. By 2005, this figure had decreased to 38 per cent.  By 2009, numbers had fallen to just 20%, less than half, proportionally. of the 2000 attendance numbers.

The decline in numbers at Grammar schools was less striking but still considerable, decreasing from 24 per cent in 200 to half of that , 12 per cent, in 2009. Specialist schools had relatively steady attendance, only decreasing form 12 per cent to 11 percent in 2005 and 10 percent in 2009.


IELTS Task 2: Two-part question continued…The first two essays sent to me at ieltsnsw@gmail.com will get a free correction and commentary published on ieltsnsw.com

Today’s example of a two-part essay is slightly more complicated than the previous one.

Here is the question again:

These days more fathers stay at home and take care of their children while mothers go out to work. What could be the reasons for this? Do you think it is a positive or negative development?

In the sample essay provided, I have chosen to say it is both positive and negative. You should only do this if you have confidence in your ability to keep these conflicting ideas in a coherent paragraph.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For the purposes of the IELTS test, it doesn’t matter what your actual opinion is – choose the opinion that enables you to write a clear, coherent essay. Remember, the examiner does not know you and cannot know what your actual opinion is.  For example, if you believe that fathers staying home to look after the children is a negative thing but can’t think why, then see if you can come up with arguments for the positive. You are being marked on you English writing proficiency, not your opinions.

Sample Essay

It is a growing trend these days that more men are staying home to look after their children while women are the breadwinners of the family. This essay will discuss the reasons why this is happening and why, in my opinion, this is mostly a positive development, despite some drawbacks.

There are two main factors which have led to the phenomenon of men staying home to look after the children. The main one, obviously, is economic. These days women are able to earn the same amount of money as men, in general terms. This means that in a heterosexual partnership, a couple may choose whichever of them earns the highest salary to be the main wage earner. It makes common sense that if a woman is earning several thousand dollars per year more than her husband, the family will be better off if she stays at work. Another factor is that social attitudes are shifting. This allows for more flexibility in gender roles, which were once too rigid to support the option of men staying in the home to look after the children.

On the whole, in my opinion, the current trend is a very positive development. Firstly it allows men to develop a stronger bond with their children. Time and work constraints in the past have often meant that men simply did not have the time or energy to get to know their children well, or to develop a very close relationship with them. The other clear advantage of men staying home to look after the children is that women are then free to pursue a career as well as have children. This is allows women to broaden their horizons and experience a much wider world then the previous domestic world which was assigned to them. The only downside to be considered is that working women perhaps may come to feel that they are not spending enough time with their children and children may miss that close bond with their mothers as well.

In conclusion, I believe that the trend of fathers staying home to take care of the children is a positive development because it helps to create freer and more flexible lives for men and women and also allows a closer bond between fathers and children than they had in the past. Perhaps in the future more couples will work part time, so that both parents and children have more balance in their lives and no one feels like they are missing out.