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Ask me anything about IELTS

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26 Jul 2018

You can ask anything about IELTS here.

 

Everyday we received many emails about IELTS and we cannot answer all of them. So we try to answer most of the common question here:

    1.   From Kshetri Nimesh: I heard from IELTS teachers that students should memorize

academic words. Is that true?

  Also from Sally Sanda: In academic writing, we often use academic words. May I use simple words in IELTS writing? Because sometimes I cannot think of an academic word, but I can use a simplier synonym of it.

 

There is no “academic word”. What the IELTS examiners expect from you is not the ability to memorize difficult words, but the ablity to precisely describe your ideas.

 

Take the below conversation for example:

 

Emily: Daddy, look! So many flowers! Here is a flower, there is a flower, and behind us is another one!

Robert: Yeah, sweetie. Roses are red, violets are blue; the flower you are pointing to is a lily.

 

As you can see, Robert does not use any rare word at all. However, his ablity to speak English is still far better than his daughter’s, due to the fact that he can precisely (specifically and accurately) describes flower types (rose, violet, and lily), while his daughter can only label them as “flower”.

 

If you rephrase “flower” into a more “academic” phrase (“the reproductive structure found in plants”), you only worsen your writing. And your answer is still imprecise as ever.

 

What I said above is not only true in the IELTS exam, but also in writing research papers. Below is a sentence written by Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate and one of the most influential economists throughout history:

 

There is wide agreement about the major goals of economic policy: high employment, stable prices, and rapid growth.

 

Short and simple, isn’t it? A good writer should be able to explain his ideas to everyone, including the average Joe.

 

In short, instead of memorizing vague answers, what you should do is to learn topic-specific vocabulary. As long as you describe exactly what you think of, you should be fine.

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     2.   From Vương Anh: How can I have a concise outline for task 2 writing? I mean to have appropriate supporting ideas, as I often get stuck when brainstorming and can only write in length.

   Also from Đức Dương: How can I express my ideas naturally with high-level vocabs because it takes a lot of time for me to translate my ideas to English? Also, I always have trouble with conciseness and coherence when writing, do you have any solution to this?

 

To naturally learn more ideas and use them coherently, read anything that is related to the topic question. For example, you can read sample essays written by Simon, or skimming some Wikipedia articles. When you finally reach 7.5+ score in Reading, you will see yourself better in Writing too.

 

Regarding of conciseness in writing, you can view this tip here.

 

    3.   From Haibinh Nguyen: How can I put my words in the right position? Checking the dictionary for definition and example seems not enough.

 

Assuming you are good enough at grammar, the problem you have is about collocation - the unwritten rule of words combining.

 

English grammar is not too easy to the point that you can put any adjective in front of a noun and call it a day. For example, “newest” is a synonym of “latest”, but you usually only see people saying “the latest news”, not “the newest news”.

 

I advise you to use a collocation dictionary. SkELL is the most comprehensive one, but if you are not an advance learner, Ozdic works fine, too.

 

   4.  From trần linh: I am tired of doing IELTS Reading samples. Could you please tell me the strategy for each reading question types?

 

The best strategy is to not have any strategy at all.

 

I suggest you expand your vocabulary, because memorizing vocab is the best way to learn a foreign language. It’s pretty tiring, but there is no shortcut. A rich vocab will help you in listening, writing, and speaking, too.

 

   5.  From Justin Hoang: How to make my grammar use become natural?

 

Obviously, you cannot use English as naturally as a native speaker if you only learn from Asian teachers. You gotta watch American movies, listen to and sing US-UK songs, stuff like that. Take your time.

 

   6.  From Mai Thi Thao: Can you give me some advices and books that help me improve my writing skills?

 

Unfortunately, since writing is such a broad subject, it’s impossible to give you a detail answer in just a post, or even a book. Online writing resources are either good but too long to read; or short but useless.

 

My advice is to start slowly. Instead of learning to write a complete essay, you should try to write one sentence first. If you do it well, then by repeating that a dozen times, you will have a full essay. Simon has made an insightful guide on how to build a sentence for Task 1 essay.

 

Our group provides writing tips on every week, so remember to check them.

 

 

Source: Group Let's Write Everything

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