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July 13, 2014


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Hi dear Simon .
I love your blog . Especially your writing posts appeal to me a lot.

I have a very fundamental question .
pleas please please please please answer my question .

I learnt from your weblog that it's often best to write a 4-paragraph essay,And also the fact that it is easier to allocate body paragraphs to opposite views .
So in the writing task 2, if question asks something like this " Do you agree or disagree?", do I have to be strong in my introduction? because it asks "Do you agree or disagree" not "to what extent do you agree?"

Generally I prefer to explain both opposite views in 2 paragraphs and I know that it is perfectly fine to do so in the "to what extent" kind of questions. But I like to be sure if its OK to have a balanced opinion ( something like this : to a certain extent I agree that... .However ,I think that... ) in "do you agree or disagree" kind of questions.

Plllllllllllllllllllllz answer my question simon.
Have a good day dearest teacher.

Hi Simon and smj and everyone.
I have a problem with speaking.
When I write a script and practice, I can only
Remember keywords and easy topic words. It becomes totally white. And I dont understand I can write 7.0 score writing but 5.5 speaking. High level of worlds and sentences dont come out from my tongue. How can I improve this. I know the words but cant speak when I need them.

Simon sir,how can I remember unfamiliar words from vocabulary? I am searching for techniques.So pls provide the guidance and techniques by which I can master in word power.Thank you.

Hi teacher simon I hope you are doing well.

I am a new student in IELTS , and I have not so strong vocabulary.
What is your advice for me? Should I read your previous essays or not?

hi simon

i have read your blog for a long time ,thanks for all your help ,i found my way in speaking and listening ,but i still a tough question about reading . i finished all the cambrage exams and i dont know how to pracitice my reading in next month.do you have any Suggestion about which Resources i can use to pracitce my reading skills?


'Do you agree or disagree?' is exactly the same as 'to what extent do you agree or disagree'.

Imagine a line. At one end is 'completely agree' and at the other end is 'completely disagree'. You can be anywhere on that line (even exactly in the middle). The challenge is to express this opinion clearly and consistently.


This is a common problem and I'm afraid to say that there really is no easy answer except to:

1. Increase the time you spend speaking English (particularly with natives if possible)
2. Avoid 'writing scripts' and memorising them. You can't do this in the test so it's not a good idea to base your practice around it (I think Simon has mentioned that it might be a good idea to practice some short descriptions such as descriptions of a person, place or thing - this is fine as you can insert them into many Part 2 topics for example)
3. Learn how to 'mouth memorise'. Language comes easier when the mouth 'remembers' key phrases instead of relying on the brain
4. Work one on one with an experienced IELTS tutor who can drill you with common questions and encourage you to use native like expressions. This can dramatically increase reaction times.

Speaking is a complex process that involves a lot of physical movement. The more you can make language 'automatic' rather than 'memorised', the better you will go in the test.

Dear SJM.

Tnx for your kind answer .
So do you think it is totally acceptable to have a balanced opinion in "Do you agree or disagree" questions ?

You know it's easier to have a balanced idea when you lack ideas .

But it may sound a little bit "unclear" or "difficult to follow" for examiner and we may be penalized for that and lose mark .

I'm not sure. I wish Simon would answer this question :)

Dear SJM and all
I have the same question for "Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?" questions.

If I want to allocate one paragraph to the advantages and the other body paragraph to the disadvantages, I have to have a balanced opinion.Right? and therefore, I should mention that in both introduction and conclusion. Am I right?

So, what would be a good example of a balanced introduction and conclusion for this question?

is this good enough?

It is undeniable that animal-based experiments have had a lot of benefits.However, I believe that the disadvantages of such tests on laboratory animals are worth considering.

In conclusion,while conducting experiments on animals has certainly improved human life,I believe that the drawbacks outweigh the advantages.

Look.Here's my question.
the question asks whether or not the advantages OUTWEIGH the disadvantages.

introduction: balanced opinion ( nothing said about outweigh)
body 1: advantages
body 2: disadvantages
conclusion: mentioning that "I believe that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages"

I know when I have a balanced opinion I should be balanced in my introduction and conclusion too. But the question is asking me whether or not the advantages OUTWEIGH the disadvantages.
So I feel I should mention that and if I don't I may be penalized because of "not fully addressing the question" .

What do you think ?

Simon, plz answer my question.

Deer Somin, i got my resalt last weak. Speakin 5.5 writting 5, reeding 5.5, but listaning 3.5. I thuoght i did well in listaning. what can i should doing ?


It is totally acceptable to have a balanced opinion in 'agree/disagree' essays. The only criteria is that it is clearly and consistently expressed. It only sounds 'unclear' if you don't explicitly say it.

You do raise a good point - a balanced view is a good one as it gives you access to more ideas. I work with language groups who find it culturally difficult to perform 'critical thinking' (looking at issues from different perspectives) and writing balanced views is generally easier for them because the brainstorming is easier.

I think I remember Simon wrote a balanced essay recently. Look at that essay and you will notice that the opinion is clearly expressed in the introduction. The introduction you wrote above does not express a clear opinion. Instead of writing 'are worth considering', say something like 'are more convincing/powerful'. Your conclusion is fine.

Dear SJM.

I truly appreciate your answers.

so,in your opinion,for a question like this "Do the disadvantages outweigh the advantages", mentioning "the disadvantages are more powerful" in Introduction and "The disadvantages outweigh the advantages" in Conclusion doesn't confine me to writing both body paragraphs about just the disadvantages?

Cold you please give me the link of that post you said?

Tnx, Majid

thank you simon
learning Phrasal verbs can help you score higher in the tesr


Not at all as long as you avoid strong language and it's probably good to mention both sides in both introduction and conclusion. Look at Simon's essay on May 21 for an example.

If you want to look at one side you could write something like this:

'I believe the advantages completely outweigh the disadvantages for the reasons below'

If you want to be more balanced you could write something like:

'Although there are certainly benefits of this, I feel the drawbacks are (marginally) more convincing for the reasons below'

Then you would continue this in your topic sentences by using expressions like 'admittedly' 'nevertheless' etc.

Dear Simon

Hi, I have a question. I took a test and the problem was "Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?". I only wrote 2 paragraphs about advantages. Do you think it's possible to get 6.5 or more? Thank you for your help.

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