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November 09, 2011


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there is something that is bothering me in my ielts exam specifically in writing task 1 academic. I am confused if what kind of verb to use in describing graphs and charts that was dated years ago. For example, data taken in year 1978-1990. am I going to use past tense on describing it or just use present tense perhaps? i really need your help on this. Thanks.

Hi Simon, can we accept both ideas? The question is: to what extent...I thought we should choose only one idea and provide it with facts in both paragraphs.

Hi Simon,
Is it advisable to use numbers in a paragraph,like:to number different points?do we loose any marks for this?

Hi Simon,

Once upon a time I was told that in my essays "there's no sophistication, both lexically and grammatically"

How do you think is there specific sources I should read in order to make writings more sophisticated or it doesn't matter what sources are like?

hi simon , please correct me if i am wrong here as i can see these two ideas, 1)people work hard to give more comfort to there family but due to this they spend less time with there family resulting in loss of traditional values n customs. 2)but buying these comfortable things has made life easier

i attended the ielts test last week (5/11/2011) and the writting topic is:
"government's money should be invested in teaching science more than other subjects" to what extent do you agree or disagree?
Do you think teaching science is a subject or mean that invest to teach science more than other subjects.
In the case i agree that "teaching sicence" - a subject should be more invested, could i reach band 6?
thanks you very much

Hi Simon,

I still cannot figure out the differences between 'balanced opinion' essay and 'discussion' essay. Both of them should discuss the both sides and finally give my own opinion. I reviewed your lesson about 'balanced opinion' in which you gave us a 4-para template. Is it same with the 'discussion' essay?

So,how can I avoid writing a 'discussion' essay when I actually want to write a 'balanced opinion' essay??

Hello Simon,

I am confusing about the difference between evidence-Led approach and Thesis-Led approach.

what I have found is that when there is 2 concept or Idea inside the topic,either opposite Ideas or different ones, we need to follow the evidence-Led approach which it discuss both side.In other hand,If there is only one idea,we need to follow the Thesis-Led Idea hat is follow the only one side of an opinion either agree or disagree.

while all of those ways seems to be true,I am confused with different type of topics and their question,asking about discussion about both side,what extent that we re agree,problem and solution, advantages and disadvantages and etc.

so it is unclear for me to understand weather the topics is only 1 idea or more than one Idea.

Also I found that sometimes they used both attitude in for the same topic.

Could you possibly explain this situation as I think it cover all of the writing task 2 approach.

Thank you.

Hi Norman,

It is possible to describe graphs in the present tense (even for past years) - this is sometimes what journalists do. However, for the purposes of IELTS, my advice would be to write in the past tense for past dates e.g. "the percentage of x was/rose/ fell etc."


Hi Olga,

It depends on the question. I think this question consists of 2 points, so I planned a paragraph for each. Most "agree/disagree" questions just consist of one main topic - in this case, your idea would be right.


Hi Divya,

No, you must NOT use numbering or bullet points. You will lose marks if you do that.


Hi Sergey,

To become a good writer, you need to read things that were written by good writers. Try to read newspaper articles, books etc. Reading is the secret to good writing.


Hi ng,

Yes, those ideas seem logical to me.


Hi Linh,

I think I answered your question somewhere else yesterday. I think your answer was fine.


Hi Lei,

Good question. They are very similar, but there is a key difference:

In discussion essays you talk about advantages and disadvantages or what 'some people' and 'other people' think.

In a balanced opinion essay, you don't talk about 'some people' or 'other people' because the aim is to explain YOUR view. So, your main paragraphs might start with something like "On the one hand, I believe that..." "On the other hand, I also accept the idea that..." - instead of writing "Some people believe that..."

I hope this helps.


Hi Mohammad,

First, I think you should forget about the labels "evidence-led" and "thesis-led". These labels are confusing because you never have any evidence with you in the exam - you only have the ideas and opinions in your head at the time.

Next, you need to focus on what the question is asking you to do. If it asks you to 'discuss', you should write a paragraph about each side of the argument. If it asks whether you agree or disagree, you should just give YOUR view and support it - this can be a one-sided view or a balanced view (read my above comment to Lei for more about this).

To better understand what I mean, look through my task 2 lessons and read the essays and plans that I've written for all the different types of question. The lesson below is also useful:


Hi Simon

I was wondering that this essay asks us that being hard working causes people put away traditional or buying things causes it.

Many thanks

Many people tend to achieve more welfare through purchasing more goods . I completely agree that this has caused to wipe many traditional values out in recent years .
It is highly true that the quality of our lives has been improved by a wide range of appliances . Microwave oven and computer , for example , are very common apparatuses which they have made our lives easy .By contrast in the past that people were obliged to spend a great deal of time preparing a simple meal , now thanks to such devices which made baking and calculation simple .When it comes to communication , the results become very outstanding . Needless to say , the reason why we can buy and contact at our most convenience , is the result of availability of telephone and computer .
However , it is also true that people prefer having microwave meals rather than traditional dishes . This can be seen from many fashionable restaurants throughout the world .In addition , people today rely on online communication . As a result ,they are less likely to make face-to-face appointment and hold old valuable relationship .Furthermore, many old games , considered as a symbol to distinguish nations , have been replaced by computer games .
In conclusion , I think although people could have comfortable life through some kind of inventions , it causes the loss many customs such as several traditional dishes and some old fashioned markets lost .

Hi simon
I've got a question for you so if you don't mind could you answer it for me please .

The question says"A number of different medical traditions are now widely known and used .Western medicine,acupuncture,homeopathy and so on.how important is the patient's mental attitude towards the treatment in determining the effectiveness of his/her treatment?/give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge and experience.

By the way what sort of question is it??
Gauri .

Simon, can you make an essay without giving your opinion, please?

Hi Mh,

It's the "buying things" idea that it wants you to focus on.


Hi Gauri,

Where did you find that question? I don't think you should spend time preparing it because it doesn't seem like a real IELTS question to me. It would be better to concentrate on more common topics.


Hi Gwapo,

Yes, sorry I haven't done that yet. Next Wednesday I'll do it.

Hi Simon ,
Do you think this introduction is a good relevant paraphrase?
It is an intellectual debate whether working hard with all the luxury it brings is worth the loss of many cultural values.

Paragraph 1 how more money could lead to more comfortable life
Higher living standard,better quality of leisure time,afford owing big houses,cars,...humans usually relate happiness to wealth and success...both achieved by hard working.

Paragraph 2
Less contact bet members of the same family
Children are more influenced by peer pressure .
Many families no longer eat together
Working hard means less energy at home,no quality time with kids.
Less time for traditional food,
Online shopping has replaced lvisiting local shops,

I strongly agree that while working hard brings a lot of comfort ,it could erase our cultural identity that is why we should be aware of the real value of work in terms of satisfying our needs without extravagance and blossoming one'scareer without sacrificing our traditions and values.

Is the opinion tooooo long?

Doesn't it sound that I ve already given my opinion in the introd? A bit confuse!


What is the meaning of CONGESTION CHARGE p45

Hi Simon,

Thank you for your fast response.

I was reading the answer that is written for lei by you.But if we say I accept the idea that .... it mean we are starting another side or we are going to discuss it.how it can still be our opinion in one side? maybe we should say: however,it might be true to some extent while...


Hi Simon.

Maybe your right I should not make those labels bold!
as you said it is better just to focus on the question.i will read the link you have mentioned.Thanks

Hi Moka,

Your ideas are fine. I would put some of the opinion (up to "identity") as part of the introduction.

Have a look at this about the congestion charge:



Hi Mohammed,

I think it's possible to accept some aspects of two opposing arguments. Your way of expressing it is fine too.

Hi, Simon. I have a question. I will appreciate it if you could give me a answer.
In this essay , I are going to answer two questions, but should we make some relation to link these two ideas?

Hi Heather,

You should link the ideas in the introduction and conclusion. In the main body, you can write a separate paragraph about each idea.

Hi Simon,
I am trying to write the introduction in the way that you suggested.Is this acceptable?

It is true that there has been immense advances that made human's life more convenient and happier, which led people to work hard to afford them.However, I agree that this caused many values and customs fading away.

Thank you, Simon. But these two must be connected to the first sentence.

Hi Hoda,

You've definitely got the right idea.


Hi Heather,

Yes. An introduction like Hoda's (see comment above yours) is good - it mentions both ideas, then you could write a main paragraph for each one.

hi simon
can we put proverbs in introduction?

"Hardwork is the key to success " is a true saying because as we all know that big achievements and success is only possible with hardwork.

can we write this as introduction??

Hi Priyanka,

It's not wrong, but I would try to avoid proverbs if I were you. Read this:


People nowadays work hard to buy more things. This has made our lives generally more comfortable, but many traditional values and customs have been lost and this is a pity.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?

It is certainly true that people are working hard to buy goods,especially electronic gadgets. Even though this trend has made our life convenient and comfortable ever than before,this would proved lasting effects on our cultures and traditional values that are significant to our society.

That's fine Simran.

Hi Simon
Is it ok if I agree with one part of the topic and don't agree with the other part in "do you agree or disagree?" type essays?? offcourse I will explain both parts with examples.

Hi Khan,

Yes, you can do that.

Hey Simon!
I know you don't correct or grade essays, and that is not what my request is about. But i just wanted to know if I would lose marks for being off the subject. I took a totally different path on the essay than you did, and it worried me a little.
I would really apreciate your help.
And, should the essays have a title?!

One thing that was spread during globalization was the intense consumism, to support capitalism, the current economic system in many countries. However, this uncontrollable need for material goods may not be the path for a better life.
Technology developed very rapidly during the last century and great changes were made in our everyday lives, like computers with internet and affordable vehicles. But attached to theses improvements is the social level associated to possessing certain items, that are not needed, in the proper meaning of the word. Society usually judges one not for their personality or character, but by their car, or clothes. This is an especially strong tendency among teenagers, who are constantly under pressure to be accepted on their social group, and have to indirectly show a good financial status. Adults normally have this urge more associated with themselves rather than with other people, where material good are not only a secondary thing just to bring comfort, but they are made into personal life goals.

This is a change of paradigm, as now family and personal relationships are sometimes left aside for the sake of consuming. And time that was spent on outdoor recrations, or a mere family dinner is now taken by shopping at malls and eating in front of the TV. Family values are lost, as TV is the main educator instead of the parents. For example, children nowadays on Christmas are just expecting an iPhone or video games, but they don’t learn the true meaning of love and compassion that originated this holiday.
In conclusion, consuming is intrinsic of our society, and we must enjoy the benefits of the technological improvements, but we must set clear boundaries and priorities in order not to fall dependent on unnecessary material goods.

Hi Heliz,

You seem to be 'on topic' to me. You don't need (and shouldn't put) a title, but you do need to separate the introduction from the main body. Try to separate 4 paragraphs clearly.

Hi Simon,
How many main idea is better in each paragraph?
Could you distinguish between explain and example?
Thanks a lot

Hi hathu,

I usually use between 1 and 3 ideas.

If you have one idea, explain it in detail and give an example (if possible). If you have 2 or 3 ideas, use "Firstly, Secondly..."

I call it an 'example' when you give a specific name. For example, if I'm talking about the salaries that people earn in sport, I could explain that football players earn too much money, and then give the name of a particular player and his salary as an example.

Hi, Simon. My Chinese IELTS teacher said that regarding the 'Agree/Disagree' type of questions, it's better to discuss both sides such as A+ : Agree and A- Disagree. However, we can emphasis more on the side that we support. To me, the question is how to find the side A+ and the side A-. Take this topic, for example, I can't really find two sides. I know there is one side A+ that people work hard in order to buy more things and the traditional culture and customs are disappearing because of this trend. However, what's the A- side? Does A- mean that it's the opposite side of A+. If it is, is that people work hard to purchase things but traditional values are not lost the A- side? I am so confused now. Even if my speculation is right, I still find it very difficult to organise my paragraphes. I am thinking of using this structure : P1 ---- Introduction & I agree on A+. P2: Stating the fact A- may also be true ( lessly discussed) P3: supprt for A+ ( largely emphasised). P4: Conclusuon & restate my support for A+. Is this structure logical to you? And how do I talk about P2 in order to make sure that I am not off topic. I just want slightly address A-, but I don't want the marker to think that my opinion is not clear. How do I organise my paragraph 2 in order to avoid the misunderstanding. I am sorry that I have so many questions to ask. I hope that this won't cause too much inconvenience to you. Fred Li

Hi Fred,

I'm afraid you've confused me. I try to make it really simple in my lessons, so have a look through them and see how I do it. Remember that there is no 'best' way. If you answer the question well, you will get a good score.

Hi simon, I tried to work on this question, hope you got time to read and give some advice. Thanks

Many people has given the impetus to work hard inorder to sustain a living. In this kind of world today, almost all are struggling hard to be comfortable and achieve the life they wanted. it is true indeed that we can buy or get what we want especially the material things which technology has given a great impact on it by making it more advanced and very useful to us. However, some people says that because of this, traditional values and customs have been lost. On my part, I steadfastly disagree that the values and customs have been completely eradicated.

People are now increasingly working for longer hours in order to be able to purchase more items. This items had improved our standard of living, however it resulted in loss of some traditional values and customs.

On the one hand, there are grounds to argue that our living standard had considerably improved through owning many items in our life. In the past people used to spend longer hours on cooking meals and washing their clothes using their hands , whereas nowadays families tend to cook ready made food using a microwave oven just for five minutes,and use washing machine to clean their clothes. This has created more free time for us to enjoy doing other things that we love. Another example of essential items that we own is the computer and mobile phone. These items enable us to do things like online shopping ,distant learning and most importantly to communicate more efficiently and cheaply through service like skype and messenger.

On the other hand,there are mainly three traditional values and habits that had started to vanish. Perhaps the main one is the lack of sense of community between individuals. For instance,today most people communicate through text messaging,phone call or video calls , instead of visiting each other to talk face to face. This has affected the quality of relationships between families and friends in society. Another problem is that the value of sharing had started to disappear as many people have become self sufficient and more independent. Furthermore, families are no longer cook traditional meals or set together on the table to eat their meal as used to be the case in the past ,instead they eat fast food.

In conclusion, it is almost certainly true that now we have more convenient life because of the availabilty of products and services ,but it is also true that we lost much more valuable customs and traditions.

Simom can you post a sample essay for this question

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