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June 26, 2011


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Dear Simon,
I took my ielts test last month and got 7.5 overall (L 8.5 R 6.5 W 7 S 7.5) this was my second attempt to the test, the first time I got 7 unprepared. I need 8 overall for the course I've got a conditional offer for. I followed all your tips mentioned on this website and managed 7.5.

I need your advice as to how I can get an 8. Clearly, reading is my weak area, my test was very tough as it had only match the headings and true false not given questions. I finished the entire book we get after registering and went through your website. It's ironical how I got 6/6 in my GMAT essays and here I never get above 7. You think Cambridge is a good book for me? What should I do to achieve 8?

Ria Kukreja

Dear Simon,

I really appreciate your effort in helping students with their IELTS exams. I am one of the followers of your exceptional blog. However, I would like to point out one thing. You seem to have misconception about a band 9 essay. You have been saying that Band 9 is native speaker-like which I would like to say is not same as what IELTS guidelines say (Band 9 = Expert user).

I would like to give you a recent example where two of my colleagues(who were born and brought up in Australia) had to sit IELTS because they were mature aged students and couldn't show their high school graduation document for admission purpose. Being native english speaker you would assume they should get band 9 but guess what the best they could get was 8.5 in listening and getting 7.5 in writing. Although they got more than their desired band but my point is being a native speaker doesn't make you a band 9.


Dear Simon,

I got my final result and I got overall 7.
I cannot find any words to express my feelings and greatefulness to you.
I have only studied from the works on your website and Cambridge IELTS 7 and 8.
Your website and all of your comments are like treasures for the IELTS students.

I massively appreciate all your efforts and your prompt responses to our questions.I strongly recommend your website to everyone. Thank you very much indeed.


Hi Ria,

You've already done really well. You just need to keep practising with real tests. Use the Cambridge IELTS books, and do as many tests as you can. Also, keep working through the lessons on this site, and hopefully you'll make the small improvements necessary.


Hi Vir,

Yes, that's true - just being a native speaker doesn't guarantee a band 9 score. You still need to express good ideas in a logically-organised way.


Thanks Alice. That's fantastic news, I'm really pleased for you!

Thank you so much,Simon.

Hi Simon,

Thank you in advance.

I got two questions.
a, when we write the test, if the task 2 writing is about a kind of opinion question, are we supposed to discuss others', or opposite, opinion as counter argument in body paragraphs or start introductions?

b, Another question is if the question body say: ...is very important to..., what will be the EFFECT if ... are not taken?
How can we plan the whole essay and what we have to do in the final paragraph? do we have to treat this as same as solution questions and make extra work of solution suggesting?

Best regards,

Regarding vir's post above:
The term "native speaker" is misleading. A person who is a native speaker but is a builder in the UK would be lucky to get band 6. If I took the IELTS test with no training (I'm English, and an IELTS teacher) I doubt I would get Band 9 especially for writing, and probably reading. Also, if I did the test aged 16-18 instead of being 44 there would be a big difference.

Hi Tim,

a) If the question asks for YOUR opinion, you don't need to give the counter argument. You can if you want, but you don't need to.

b) I think this looks like a problem/solution question. Can you find a full question example so that I can give specific advice?


I completely agree Dave.

Thanks Simon (for agreeing).

Seeing the above post to Tim, many books seem to say that you need to write a "balanced argument". In my experience this leads to an unclear answer (I know you made a good lesson about "to what extent.."). I find it easier to teach students to take one side; either agree or not (don't go with your heart but the best ideas which MAY NOT be your real opinion !). It's a test of English language not your real thoughts.

Hi Simon,

The whole question is below:

To some people history studying has little value in the modern world. Why do you think it is important to do so? What will be the effect if children are not taught history?


Thank you. Dave.

Why do you think it is important to do so?
Know the past - where you come from, and where your country is today. This could be about wars or colonization (positive or negative effects)

What will be the effect if children are not taught history?
They don't know the past
Could write about globalisation - loss of traditions or culture.

This question has variations on the above ideas (globalisation, traditions, culture).

HI Simon
thank u for this list
however i do not understand the meaning of all them. Can you explain them? thank you so much!

I agree again Dave.

It's often easier to give a one-sided answer to agree/disagree questions. I've put a few essays here on the site that develop a one-sided argument. This is my normal structure:

1) Introduction: I completely agree (or disagree)
2) 1st reason
3) 2nd reason
4) Conclusion - summarise/repeat


Hi Tim,

It's not a problem/solution question, it's a "2 part question". Just write one main paragraph answering each of the 2 questions (Why..? What..?).

See Dave's comment above for some ideas.


Hi Chi,

You probably need to read them in the context of the whole essay. Click on "Wednesday's lesson" to see the whole essay. Read the essay, and see how much you can understand from the context and by using a dictionary.

Thank you. Simon.

Thank you again. Dave.

Hi Simon,

I've been trying to get a band 8 for writing. My current writing band sits at 7.5 and I am desperate to know how I can get that extra 0.5 points.

In addition, would you say that the general training test (writing section) is easier/simpler than the academic writing test? I did obtain a band 8 for writing in early 2010, but have been getting a 7.5 twice afterwards.

Thank you in advance for your assistance!

Hi Asteria,

The difference between 7.5 and 8 is very small - you might just need to use a few more good vocabulary ideas, or reduce the number of small grammar mistakes.

I'm not really sure how easy it is to get 8 in the general test - it's a long time since I taught it I'm afraid.

Hi Simon,

Would you recommend me asking for a re-marking of my IELTS test?

Hi Asteria,

It might be a good idea; I suppose you've got nothing to lose. Try not to be disappointed if they don't raise your score.

Hi Simon,

I was wondering if you could help explain to me what I need to do to get a 8 in Writing (General). I have got a 8 the first time I sat the exam but I ended up getting a 7.5 in reading and I require 8's across the board.
I sat the exam for the 4th time. Yes, 4th time! And got 9's across the board but 7.5 in Writing.
How do I ensure I get a 8 in writing. I cannot differentiate between getting a 7.5 and 8. Is it all really just up to the marker?
You reckon I would get a different mark if I asked for a re-evaluation?
Also, I doubt this is possible, but is there a way I can re-visit my paper and see my mistakes?

Thank you

Could you please clarify my doubt. Is the below answer correct for this type of question?

a) Do you think more benefits or more problems?
b) Do you think advantages outweigh disadvantages?
Answer for a) and b): Give opinion, explain both advantage (Paragraph 1) and disadvantage (Paragraph 2) and give your opinion on whether advantages or disadvantages
c) What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Answer for c): Write just advantages (Paragraph 1) and disadvantages (Paragraph 2) no opinion

Hi Simon,

How many less-common vocabulary I should write to get band 8 for lexical resources?


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