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August 04, 2010


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I'd like to ask a question which might not be relevant to this topic. Should phrases like "the mass media", "the public", "the police" and " the audience" be followed by "is" or "are"? Thanks.

Hi Simon,
Can you tell me the differences between "within" and "in"? i can't use these words correctly.

Thank you.

Hi Jack,

Good question. There are some other words like 'team' or 'couple' that cause the same problem. The problem occurs when the word is singular, but it refers to more than one person or thing.

It's really a grey area - you can sometimes use a singular OR plural verb after these words. You might say "the married couple has arrived" (thinking about the couple as one unit) or "the married couple were happy" (thinking about both people in the couple).

I'd usually use media and audience in the singular. Public and police often seem to be used in the plural.

Try googling these words and you'll find both. It all depends whether you are thinking of the one unit or the many people or things inside the unit. Difficult!

PS. Don't worry too much. This will not affect your IELTS score.


Hi Azzurra,

Within means 'inside'. Within is much less common than 'in' and it's used in particular contexts.

Dictionaries give quite good examples of 'within'. Also, try searching for 'within' on Google to see how it is used.

Hope this helps


Hi Simon, Im from Vietnam.
Can I discuss both sides of this essay and then finally give my opinion in the conclusion?

Hi Los,

If the question asks for your opinion, don't wait until the conclusion. The examiner wants to know what YOU think - don't make it a 'surprise' at the end of the essay.

Give your opinion from the beginning of the essay, then support your opinion with ideas and examples in your main body paragraphs.

Hope this helps


Hi simon, would you please give good introduction example for me for the following :

We have been living in the nuclear age now for over half a century. Since the first
atomic bombs were developed, nuclear technology has provided governments with the ability to totally destroy the planet. Yet the technology has been put to positive use as an energy source and in certain areas of medicine.
To what extent is nuclear technology a danger to life on Earth? What are the
benefits and risks associated with its use?

Hi Chita,

This is basically an 'advantages and disadvantages' essay. Here's a simple introduction:

The use of nuclear technology has been the subject of great debate in recent years. This essay will discuss both the positive applications and the dangers of this technology.

Just keep it simple, then you can start your main body paragraphs.

Hope this helps

Hi Simon,

I found it rather difficult to write the introduction of the essay that asks you to discuss two views and give your own opinion.

For example, "Successful sports professionals can earn a great deal more money than people in other important professions. Some people think this is fully justified while others think it is unfair. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion"

Should I

A) Only paraphrase the question at the introduction and give my opinion at the last paragraph


B) Paraphrase the question and also give my opinion at the introduction.

One more question, if I agree with the first opinion, can I write its paragraph longer than the second one?

Thank you!

Hi Mei,

I recommend "B". You could write one paragraph a bit longer than the other, but not too much longer.

Hope this helps

Thank you Simon. It really does help me. Here is my introduction, could you tell me what you think about it?

"Top successful athletes are among the richest people in the world with high income and luxurious gifts from their sponsors. While many people think of this as unfair, I firmly believe that those athletes deserve the money they are paid."


Hi Mei

This is a perfect example of how I would do an introduction. Excellent!

as I read in some reference book about IELTS or advice from my IELTS teacher, we should write a thesis statement and I find it very hard to write.why didn't you refer to this?Thanks

Hi Moon,

It is completely unnecessary to write a thesis statement. Just follow my structure above.

Hi, Simon
Do you think this intro. too long?
Along with the advancement in medical care, children around the world have enjoyed one of the most effective methods to prevent them from illnesses during their young age, namely vaccination. Although it is inarguably the best way to deter children from diseases, many parents opt to ignore this way of prevention. Despite my due respect to personal choice, this problem diffuses out of the common belief since it relates to our future generations and the social responsible of a parental role.
Thank you.

Hi Harry,

Although it's fine, I personally wouldn't write an introduction like that. The danger is that you will spend too much time on the introduction, and your main body paragraphs will suffer. The introduction shouldn't be longer than your main body paragraphs - these are what get you a high score.

Hi, Simon.
I've been teaching students academic writing task 2 in Korea. A couple of days ago, I had an opportunity to meet IELTS examiners and asked a question regarding introductive paragraph. First, thesis statement is an area where you directly respond to the task you are given. Therefore, Writing thesis statement is quite important. Plus, it is not a big deal to write even more than 300 words. However, it should be logical. that's what I was told. It's confusing, isn't it? Do you think IELTS teachers should teach students not to write more than 300 words?


Hi Esther,

It depends what you call a "thesis statement". Usually this means a sentence like "In this essay I will discuss..."

I don't usually write that kind of thesis statement, but I ALWAYS respond directly to the question in my introductions. Have a look through my lessons to see examples.

It's fine to write more than 300 words, but quality is more important than quantity. With my students I just focus on writing more than 250 words.

Hope this helps

Dear Simon!
I think that because in this case you don't agree with the statement so that we needn't talk about the benefits of using computer and just write 2 main body paragraphs in order to explain why we still need teachers. Is it ok???

Hi Dung,

Yes, that would be fine. Or you could accept that computers can be useful in paragraph 2, then explain why teachers are even more important in paragraph 3.

your answers always clear, simple and easy to understand, many thanks!!!

dear Simon,
I'm quite confused about the types of questions in Task 2.
for example:
1.If they say like "To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement".Then should my essay have 2 sides or just 1.
2.If they say " Discuss something..." then I should have both sides of it,right ?

Overall, I mean I'm confused whether the essay should be an argument one or a discussion one based on the way they ask

Thank you

Hi Lee,

1. That type of question is asking for YOUR opinion (argument). You can give a balanced opinion with both sides, or a strong opinion with just one side.

2. "Discuss" tells you to write about both sides.

Hello Simon,
I have another question related to what expressed above.
I usually write two paragraphs in the main body, because it is easier for me (on the one hand, on the other hand), so I usually explain both sides. Can I just say that I do not totally agree or disagree with the statement?or is it necessary to answer with a strong opinion?
Many thanks.

Sorry Simon, it is me again.
For example in this topic:
Governments should not have to provide care or financial support for elderly people because it is the responsibility of each person to prepare for retirement and support him or herself. To what extend do you agree or disagree?
What would you say in the introduction if you are going to explain both sides in the main body?
Thank you.

Hi Aida,

Have a look at this lesson:


Hi simon, hope everything is well with you. I've got a question about how to approach an essay question. Let's take this very question about the replacement of teachers by computers. I'd like to know whether in my body paragraphs I should write one paragraph about why teachers are necessary and another paragraph on the usefulness on computers in classroom, and then conclude that although computers are useful, teachers are necessary. Or I should state that teachers cannot be replaced by computers in my introduction, then write two paragraphs on why we need teachers in classrooms and again conclude that they cannot be replaced by computers, of course, using a different wording. Or is there any other ways of approaching such questions?
I'd like to thank you for your nice weblog and tell you it has helped me a lot:)

Hi Soroush,

The good news is that you can answer in both ways. Just make your opinion clear in the introduction, then support it in the rest of the essay - both of the ways you mentioned would be equally good.

The link below shows my introduction to the topic you mentioned. After my introduction, I would write a paragraph about computers being useful, then another paragraph explaining that we still need teachers.


hi simon
is there any mistake, with using 'however' and 'while'?
my private teacher said that these words is not used together in the same sentece. I am confused.

Hi Goli,

It's definitely possible to use them together. Have a look at this:


If you are still confused, just avoid using them together.

thanks simon. you are right.

Hi Simon,
Long time to see ^_^
according to your above introduction,you said that: "However, while computers are extremely useful, I do not agree with the idea that they could soon replace teachers completely"
so it is true that this is a balanced opinion?
Best regard!!!

Hi Dung,

No, this is not a balanced opinion. My opinion is clear (I do not agree).

However, I did mention the other side of the argument, so I could write one main paragraph about the use of computers, and another paragraph arguing that teachers are still necessary.

Hi Simon,
I've asked my teacher the same question, and he said that:
"Because this is an ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
so If we do like your method (mention the useful of computer in para 2 and then argue that teachers are still necessary), the examiner will think that we're doing a DISCURSIVE ESSAY not an ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY so that our mark will be influenced"
look forward to hearing from you and I think that many candidates have the same problem with this kind of essay.
Thank you so, so much!

by the way, I think that if we use paragraph 2 to talk about the useful of computer many reader will misunderstand that u just PARTLY agree not COMPLETELY agree!
I know I bother you to much, but It really confuse me. Please help!
Thanks a million!!!

Hi Dung,

In a discursive/discussion essay, you talk about other people's opinions, or the advantages and disadvantages - you don't make it personal i.e. YOUR opinion is not important.

In an argumentative essay, you give YOUR opinion and try to support it.

For the above question, my TRUE opinion is that computers are useful, but teachers will always be necessary. I'm not saying "some people think that computers... but other people think that teachers...", so there's no problem with the introduction or essay structure I suggested.

However, I do agree that there is a danger that students write discussion essays instead of argument essays, and in other lessons I recommend that it might be better to have a strong opinion and ignore the other side of the argument e.g.:


So, although the essay structure I mentioned for the 'computers/teachers' topic is fine, I agree that students might be better to take a less risky approach. Thanks Dung - it's a good point you made!

That's just what I was thinking! Thanks Simon, you made my day :)

Hello Simon,

I'm from Romania and here (like it was mentioned in a few other comments) we were taught to include a thesis statement in our essays, as a different paragraph. Would this introduction do?
(the question is to what extent do we agree with the quote “Failure Is Proof That Desire Wasn’t Strong Enough”)

Sometimes, it seems that every situation in our lives can be summed up by a witty quote. Some people find these lines old-fashioned clichés, while others consider them pure wisdom.
Although I usually find these typical quotes rather cheesy, I tend to reconsider my opinion when it comes to this specific affirmation: “Failure is proof that desire wasn’t strong enough.”

Thanks in advantage. Best wishes, Oana

Hi Oana,

I personally don't recommend writing a separate thesis statement paragraph. Here's another lesson about my advice for writing introductions:


hi simon
i found your discussion with Dung quite useful.i think that because both the points in topic were very strong and one can not completely ignore the importance of either the computers or the treachers,so u favoured them both in your intro and sample essay.
to be on safe side can i write intro as:

Nowadays there is an increasing trend towards using computers in schools and colleges.Whether this change will completely replace teachers is debatable;i believe that importance of teachers can not be lessened by computers.

body para all about teachers role,nothing about computers
is this ok?

That's fine Sohaib.

I agree that my discussion with Dung was useful!

Dear Simon,

It is my introduction:

People have various various views about the role of computers in classroom. To a certain extent I acknowledge that computers play a crucial role in education. However,
I also think that nothing can replace teachers in classrooms entirely.

hello simon ,
Can u please tell me about connectors or linker in details in task 1 and 2 both please , i need help in this from u
thanks alot .

Hi, Simon

My name is Oscar, I am in Buenos Aires, Could you please check whether this Introduction is well done?

“Studying the English language in an English-speaking country is the best but not the only way to learn the language.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement.

It is true that studying on abroad is an excellent and great option for who wants to learn or improve a second language. In spite of the exchanges to English-spoken countries are so common and have been increased in the last years, I agree with the idea that is not the only way to learn, there are some others options as online courses, exchanges language on the cities with foreign people and center languages.

Note: I learnt a lot with your site, it's very useful.

hi simon,
Is it possible to use the first person for example 'I' in our introduction, in a formal essay?? can we write such as " i would like to substantiate my views through the following paragraphs.." .hope u will respond.


Hi simon ,
Can you give me please strong introduction for task 2 , i mean I can change it between different kinds
Thank you

Hello, Simon

your comments will be highly appreciated.

It is true that computers have become an essential tool for teachers and students in all areas of education. However, while computers are extremely useful, I do not agree with the idea that they could soon replace teachers completely.
Firstly, It is simply that PC can not communicate with students directly and to address the problems that students encounter in their study. For example, if a student failed a test, PC can not tell this student what’s wrong with your test. By contrast, teachers can do it and help to improve it. Secondly, as we know, PC is only a machine which can easily get something wrong itself no matter how advanced (sophisticated) this PC it is. For instance, PC can’t work without electricity .Finally, Teachers are not only responsible for their teaching, but also partly take care of students’ safety at school, especially those students in preliminary school. PC is incapable of implementing this function as teachers do.
In conclusion, Although PC plays an important role in modern education. I still prefer to study with teachers.

Hello simon,
I wanna know that how much lexical resources affect our band scores and can you please help me in finding the most usable linkers and connectors in task 2. I mean from where can i find this? Because i tried hundred times on google but i'm unable to get it.

Hi Simon would please give me introduction of the following example:

Creative artist should always be given the freedom to express their own ideas, In which ever way they wish. Their should be no government restriction on what they do. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion.

hello Simon, Could you give me your ebook and idea for task 1 and task 2?

Helo , SIMON
IN TASK TWO ,, WRITE In 4OR 5 paragraph

Hi Simon,

Do I always need to give my opinion in an introduction? (My teacher always ask us to do that but I have read that I need to do it if the question ask about our opinion). Would you please advise me on that?

Many thanks

Hi Simon,
I was just wondering if you can help me with writing thesis statement and what the trigger is.


could please inform me about a thesis statement at introduction. i have been taught in academic writing which i should write a thesis statement in all introductions.such as . This essay will argue / discuss/ investigate ets.so what i have seen in your book is totally diffrent. can you please explain it .

best regard

Hi Simon,

My teacher highly advised me not to use the 'strong words" such as: extremely, always, absolutely ... Is it neccessary to concern about these words?

Hi simon,

in this question, if I disagree and I think that teacher will remain just as much important as the computers but computers will be important too so I agree with both sides, and I write my first idea in the 2nd paragraph(why teachers are important) and I dont have any other idea why teachers are important too. Can I do an alternative essay structure if I get stuck with another idea.
Can I do like
1. Introduction
2. support why teachers are important
3. why computers are important too

Hii,actually I got only 4.5 in writing. Can u tell me how can I improve my score and plz tell me the full format through which I can make my writing effective..

Hi simon
how can i give your daily video?

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