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.

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 Writing: Student Essay Workshop 2

Children in many countries are eating more junk food and convenience snacks. Why are children doing this and how serious are the consequences?

Give reasons for your answer and provide any relevant examples form your knowledge or experience.

Nowadays, consuming fast food and processed food is on the rise, especially among children. This essay will discuss several reasons why fast food is becoming popular among children and also examine following (delete “following”) negative impacts of this trend.

To begin with, there are a number of reasons why snack (junk) food is gaining in (popularity with children.  The first reason is convenient (convenience). Due to busy lifestyle that people lead nowadays, many parents do not have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals or healthy snacks for their children, consequently, they chose (choose)  to give them convenience food since it is ready to be served. The second reason is the ubiquity of junk food these days. It is sold everywhere and is available in various kinds and flavours (How is the number of flavours relevant to its ubiquity?) As a result, junk food consumption is growing, especially, among children. In addition, it is extremely easy to be get hooked on these kind of snacks, since they are relatively cheap but very tasty. (Mixing cheapness and deliciousness together as one idea is a little confusing.)

There are several problems related to junk food. This topic sentence does not match the question First of all, junk food is usually less nutritious compared to fresh food. Mass – produced food contains a great deal of salt, sugar and excessive fat, which is the major cause of serious diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart problems. Besides that, dependence on convenience snacks, and fast food sets negative habits for children and they may be carried over into their future lives. For example, nowadays, more and more individuals greatly depend on junk food and do not know how to prepare a simple home – made meal, deal to (due to) the fact that they were not taught in their childhood.

In conclusion, junk food is (has) become more and more popular among children in this modern age (Do not make the mistake of repeating the context of the question – this kind of sentence only belongs in the introduction). However, there several downside(s) accompanied which is (include) diet-related diseases and unhealthy habits.


Overall Comments

In this essay the student sometimes forgets that the essay is about children’s eating habits — you can see where I have put the word twice. There is also a problem in paragraph one with coherence and cohesion. Some of the ideas are linked together in a way that is not rational.

In the second paragraph, the student needs to more specifically address the question — He writes “There are several problems related to junk food.” If we check this against the question “how serious are the consequences” and remember the context “children” then a better sentence would be:

The consequences of children consuming too much junk food are very serious. (A number of consequences would follow)

The conclusion contains a classic mistake that we can all learn from. It repeats the context, or opening general statement. We only need to do this in the introduction. In the conclusion, we briefly summarise paragraph one and two (sometimes in alternate order if that fits,) without any specifics or explanations. For example:

In conclusion, the reasons that children are consuming more convenience foods are that they are convenient, readily available and addictive. The consequences are serious and include major diet-related health problems and poor food habits. face-2025152_1280

IELTS Task 2: Workshopping a student’s essay

males-2142831_1920Last week two students got a free essay correction service as part of the new website promotion. Here is the first. It often helps to look at others’ essays to highlight the pros and cons of your own work.

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?

Nowadays, stay-at-home Dads are on the rise, while Mums are more career orientated. This essay will explain the reasons behind such phenomenon, whilst explaining why I believe this is a negative development.  This introduction is very well done … it paraphrases the context and then deals with the question(s).

There are several reasons why fathers decide to stay at home while mothers go out to work. Firstly, money plays an important role. In other words, if the mother earns more than the father, she will be the one continuing working so that a better income is provided for the family. Secondly, in today’s society it is more socially acceptable for men to play a nurturing role instead of being the breadwinner. For instance, schools often involve fathers in activities such as cooking, gardening, reading which, in the old days, were strictly a mum field. (This is not a good example of the point.)  Finally, mothers are choosing career over being a housewife.  Studies conducted by the University of Cambridge show that mothers have a higher sense of fulfilment at work than in the household. (Again — does the second sentence really explain the first?)

The first paragraph starts well, but it falls apart a bit. The example in the second point is not strong. Also, the third reason needs to have a more relevant explanation. Just because mothers have a higher sense of fulfilment when working, this does not demonstrate the fact that women are choosing career over home duties.

In my opinion, there are negative and positive outcomes of such development. A positive aspect could be that fathers are finally more involved in their children’s lives. For example, In in the past men had no idea whatsoever of their children’s lives as they were out for most part of the day.  There are, however, several drawbacks with having fathers being more present then mothers in the child’s life. A negative argument is that fathers are less meticulous in house duties than mother (watch your plurals here.) For instance, there is a big difference in how a mum folds the bed sheets than a dad. Moreover, meals prepared by dads have less nutritional benefits than meals prepared my mums-these arguments don’t really make sense – there isn’t any evidence to suggest this – consider that some men are chefs/nutritionists, etc. Also, are there any negative consequences to someone not folding bed sheets neatly? (I can’t think of any.)

In conclusion, I believe that the negative aspects of such phenomenon outline outweigh the positive ones. In other words, the benefit of having mums at home are grater greater as they tend to deliver better care to the children than dads. (This is not what you were asked – in the conclusion you are suddenly answering a different question and introducing a new idea. You need to sum up your essay. In this case something like this:

In conclusion, finances, changing social norms, and new choices for women are the main reason that more men and women are moving away from the traditional breadwinner/home-maker roles. While there are some positives to this development, in my opinion, there a mostly negative consequences. 

Overall comment:

This is a good start. There is an introduction, 2 body paragraphs and a conclusion. The introduction is good. More work is needed on the body paragraphs. In particular, your examples and explanations are not strong. You conclusion needs to clearly sum up what you have written so far. 



IELTS Task 2: Two views and an opinion

monkey-juggling-cartoon-icon-vector-illustration-graphic-design-81531248In this type of essay it is important to remember the golden rule – Give the monkey his banana. You are required to do three things in this essay. Discuss both views and give your own opinion. So what’s the best approach? Some teachers advise a three paragraph essay, with your own opinion in the third paragraph, but, in my experience, this makes for scrappy paragraphs with unclear topic sentences and points lost for poor structure. The more paragraphs you have, the more likely that one of them will contain a structural error.

The following example shows a clear way to address this kind of question:

Some people think that strict punishments for driving offences are the key to reducing road accidents. Others, however, believe that other measures would be more effective in improving road safety. Discuss both of these views and give your own opinion.

 As the number of cars on the roads increases, the number of traffic accidents is also one the rise, particularly in developing countries where the pace of change has been very rapid. To reduce the number of accidents on our roads, it has been suggested that strict punishments are crucial to deter unsafe driving. On the other hand, it is argued that there are more effective methods to address this issue. In my opinion, both strict punishments and other strategies can be equally effective. This essay will examine both views.

The argument that strict punishments can reduce road accidents has some validity, particularly in the case of rogue drivers who deliberately flout the law. Repeat offenders for drink-driving, for example, need to be dealt serious consequences, such as imprisonment. This not only acts as a deterrent for other irresponsible drivers, but also teaches the offender an important lesson and keeps them off the road whilst they are learning it.  Strict punishments have proven to be quite effective in some other instances. For example, very large fines were introduced in Australia when the law was introduced to make it mandatory to wear seat belts when driving.  A high rate of compliance was achieved within a short time frame because of this.

Although strict punishments can help to reduce the incidence of traffic accidents, there are other strategies that are considered by some to be more effective. Most importantly, people need to be taught how to drive safely and they need to practice before they are allowed on the road. Young drivers account for a very high percentage of traffic accidents, which suggests that experience on the road plays a part in accident prevention. The introduction of mandatory log books to make sure that new drivers gain some road experience before driving alone is an example of how governments are implementing this measure. Another way to prevent accidents, at least in Australia, would be to abolish the international driver’s license. Too many people from overseas are involved in accidents because they have neither the experience of driving on Australian roads nor the knowledge of Australian road rules

In conclusion, although strict punishments are one good strategy for lowering the incidence of traffic accidents, I believe that improved driver education and licensing laws are also equally important and effective tools. Combining punishments with a number of strategies is probably the most effective way to get results.