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June 06, 2012


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Hi Simon,
I always feel difficulty to write Introduction of the essay.what is the appropriate way to write introduction of essay?pliz can u make me clear .....

Dear Simon,

Should I learn new vocabulary from my reading tests? About 35 new words per test! Is it good?

Hi Seema,

Use the lesson above, and look for the other lessons I've done about introductions in the "writing task 2" category.


Hi Anh,

I usually suggest making a 'keyword table' of the words that helped you to get the answers in each test. You could learn the keywords.

hello Simon,
can i put shortcomings, demerits, weaknesses, cons as an alternative to "drawbacks" in the first sentence?
thanks ..

Hi Simon,

Is it good or not to write my opinion into the introduction any type of essay?

Hi Simon,

Here I tried to write my intro for the 2nd topic. I came out with two versions, are they OK ? which one is better?

The incidents of criminal activities in cities seem often to outnumber those in rural areas. It is believed to result from overly competitive environment in cities and poorer neighbourhood,and the issue can be tackled by bridging the gap between cities and rural areas.

The incidents of criminal activities are more common in cities than in rural areas. It is believed that they stem from over competition and poorer neighbourhood in cities, however,they can be tackled by bridging the gap between cities and rural areas.

Hi Simon,

1- Even though there is no denying that improving the public transportation have many benefits, it has some drawbacks.

2 - Crime rates are much bigger in big cities than in either small cities or rural areas.In order to struggle this problem, we should take measure in this problem.

hi selim.
make your languge simple.if v complicate it more v will put ourselves in trouble.
u can write;
although it cannot be denied that improving public transpotation have many benefits,it has some drawbacks too.

crime rates are more in big cities than in rural areas or small towns.Therefore, in order to tackle this problem,we should take the following measures to resolve this issue.


Hi Ken,

The words you mentioned have slightly different meanings and are not appropriate substitutions considering the given context. "Drawbacks" is closer in meaning to "disadvantages" than any of those words. On the test, it's best to stick with the vocabulary that you are 100% certain of. You don't need to be original.


Hi BP_hun,

It's perfectly fine to write your opinion in the introduction if the question asks for it.


Hi Ed,

To me they're quite similar in quality. Both paragraphs have room for improvement.

Hi Simon,

I have a question about pie charts. I saw a chart in a book, and it shows the popularity of different activities among a certain group of people.

The information given is "popularity". For example, there are different items - eating out 30% (2000), eating out 10% (2005). Can I say that "30% of Asian adults preferred eating out in 2000, while one-third of them favoured dining out in 2005"? I'm afraid the % refers to popularity instead of the number of respondents. This's been a vexing question to me.

I also find varying the language hard. I can't always say "the popularity is ..." "the popularity dropped from ... to ...". How can I vary the language? Or did I miss any lessons specifically focusing upon this issue?


Hi MT,

It's not clear whether the "them" in your sentence refers to the entire population of Asians included in the study or just the 30% of Asians. Without seeing the pie chart, we can't give you accurate advice on how to interpret it.

Varying your vocabulary is something that comes naturally after you've read and studied a lot of English. Don't force it upon yourself - it's likely to end up sounding awkward. I don't think Simon ever encouraged students to do this. He does, however, advise against it.

thanks, Jean,
so could you please tell me in which context are those words used?
weakness, shortcoming and demerits appear to be used for discribing "arguments" or people.
disadvantage and drawback are more likely to be used for describing things.
you used substitution. what is the difference between substitution and substitute?
thank you, Jean

Hi Ken,

There is no short or easy way to explain the proper context to use a word or phrase. It's something you master after studying literally dozens of different examples. Google is a great tool for this.

It's best to learn contexts by example. Here are some brief examples:

"Trust is a weakness that is often exploited."
"The hacker took advantage of a weakness in the computer system."

"Shortcoming" is used to describe a failure to meet a certain standard. "The board of directors will not approve the design until we address its shortcomings."

"Demerit" is most often used today in the phrase "demerit points", which are something you accumulate when you break the law or violate the honour code at a university. If you get enough demerit points on your driver's license, it can be revoked. In my opinion the use of "demerit" as a synonym for "disadvantage" has nearly gone out of style. Don't use it in that way.

Substitution is a noun; substitute is a verb.

The most important thing is that simply remembering the definition of a word is not enough. You need to study lots and lots of examples before you understand a word. If you haven't studied a word in at least five different contexts, you do not understand it yet!.

Hi Jean,

This doesn't matter in fact; what concerns me is whether "popularity" = "people". It doesn't matter because I've modified the words.

Take two examples as examples.
1. 30% of Asian adults preferred eating out in 2000, while one-third of them favoured dining out in 2005.

2. The popularity of eating out was 30% in 2000, while it dropped to 10% only in 2005.

Are the above sentences the same?

Regarding the language matter, I believe there're different methods applicable to different question types. For example, line graphs show changes and trends over a period of time, while pie charts are quite different in my eyes. I agree with Simon that we don't need to "invent" new words to replace the old ones, but I also think almost all examiners and test-takers agree that language variation, for example, comparison sentences, is vitally important and is one of the keys to hitting a high score.

Thanks for your sharing at any rate :)

Hello, Jean,
I am afraid that substitute is also a noun. I also remember that Simon used the substitute as well in his essay.

but thank you for your explanation about the learning methods. yes, it is more important to use sentences to gain an insight into how words are used.


Dear Simon,
I am so sad to say my results published today"

your advise helps me a lot to improve my writing.but i am disappointed because i need 7 individual.can u pls suggest me,is it would be wise to apply for review the result?waiting for your advise.

Thank you Jean-Luc
for your help,
i was wonder maybe simon cut off hos advise someday, but i see its keep by your help.

My engilsh is poor but i hope i will improve by your help, and please don't laugh me because of my text, I want to try to write even it has lots of problems.
best wishes

Hi MT,

The first sentence is correct. Popularity isn't a quantity, so the second sentence doesn't make sense.

And yes, language variation is one of the hallmarks of an excellent writer. I discourage it because far too often, students try to vary their writing without truly understanding the synonyms that they use, and it ends up causing more harm than good. It's perfectly fine when you're answering practice tests at home or with your teacher, but I hope no-one tries to experiment on the actual test. If you're truly confident about your vocabulary, then by all means go ahead.


Hi Ken,

You're right, it is a noun as well. I shouldn't be writing comments ten minutes before going out.

A substitute is something or someone that is a potential replacement. For example, if a Japanese recipe calls for sake and you don't have it, you can use white wine as a substitute.

A substitution is the act of substituting.


Hi Saman,

Simon is still actively posting and answering questions from what I can see. As someone who did a lot of proofreading in his university days, I can totally understand how time-consuming and demanding the job of an English teacher would be. What I do here on this blog is but a fraction of what he does in his classes. A lot of students tend to repeat the same basic mistakes over and over again, so correcting them grows tedious after a while. On the other hand, when an advanced student makes a more subtle error, having to explain the nuances of the error is also a tricky job! I for one would never want to have Simon's job.

Hi Gangchil,

Be aware that if you request a remark, your speaking test will be sent to London and will be remarked there. You may get a lower speaking score as a result.

Hi Gangchil,

Your reading score is unlikely to change because reading answers are either right or wrong. I'm afraid you'll have to try again. Don't give up!

thanks Simon and Jean

thanks Jean and simon again.

Modern and big cities have more population; there are lots of cars, traffic and air polluted so they need to have advanced public transport systems.

Hello, Jean,
Thanks for your reply.
I want to know whether there is any alternative to the expression of "juvenile delinquency is rampant".
"offenders tend to be younger today?"
or "soaring teenage crime rate"?
thanks for you donating time to this website.

Hi Simon..

It is often said in writing task 2 "Don't support your opinion with opinion" Could you explain what it means? and give me one paragraph as example.

Thanks a lot..

Hi simon i took my ilets today. The question i writing task 2 almost goes this way - people doesnt need to know the latest news because theyre not related to them personally.reading the news is just a waste of time. To what extent do u agree or disagree? My introduction for this was - there are diff views about the importance of reading, watching and listening to news reports on tv, newspapers and radios but i strongly agree that news reports are very important . Then in the subsequent paragraphs, i wrote on the advantages and importance of news in our lives. My question is, did i give the correct point of view regarding my stand especially in the intro? Did i say my view correctly or i was off-point somehow because i should have written - "i completely disagree that knowing the latest news is not a waste of time...." Please let me know your expert opinion. Im quite worried and anxious because it seems that i didnt stick to the argument.

Benefits of public transport
1. Affordable amd efficient means of transport for majaority of city dwellers.
2. Environmentally friendly- less carbon emission.
3. Employment oppurtunities to drivers, operating and maintenance staffs.
4. Safer means of transportation- less road traffic accidents, more experienced, trained, careful drivers.
5. Revenue generation to the government.
6. Decrease traffic jams and traffic overload for example in london people prefer public transport to the private transport.

1.Less reliable and slower means of transportation
2. Limited service and limited operating hours.
3.Confusing to the tourists.

Everyone is welcome to add and comment on the advantages and disadvantages of public transport.
cheers josh

Hi Simon,

I've get band 6.0 for my ielts exam that make me really down. I can't figure out why??? Maybe I did wrong structure. So it is true if the question ask me about causes and solutions but I write 3 body paragraphs like this:
1, The causes
3, The solutions
I'm so confused because the question didn't ask about PROBLEMS!!!
In other words, in a problem-solution essay, do I have to write a body paragraph to mention CAUSES???
Thanks a million!!!

P.s: I decided to retake my exam this saturday, hopefully everything'll be ok!

Hi Dung,

Remember that "causes" means "the causes of a problem". If the question asks you to explain the causes (of a problem), you only need to write one paragraph about them.

Good luck on Saturday!

Hi simon ,in general test ,if we have to write a letter to our colleagues not one colleague ,then how we'll address them.Dear +sirs or Dear colleagues,i don't know how?can u please answer me.

Hi Simon,Would u plz tell me how to approach the reading section of IELTS ? Thanx

Hi Simon
How much time span is needed in order to take my score from 7.5 to 8 if I study 2 hours daily.

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