« IELTS Listening: interview tips transcript | Main | IELTS Grammar: plural with singular »

March 29, 2017


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I did not understand what this means: website forum areas.

Also, here "online university courses are A", I am confused why "A" is not used? Online university courses are plural, I am not sure why we need "A" here.

Then if we remove "A", is it correct to say "developmentS"? i mean is development countable noun?

in a different country ?? i think there is something wrong ☹ plz explain forr me

Secondly, the cost of a university education can be greatly reduced, while revenues for institutions may increase as more students can be taught " i think this is not an advantage i am a bit confused

Hi L,

A forum can be one part or area of a website, so it's quite normal to say 'website forum area(s)' in English.

It's also quite normal to say that something plural is "a" feature, although I understand why this seems strange! Here's another example: "traffic jams are a feature of everyday life in a city". The traffic jams are grouped together as one feature / thing, and it's the same with my example about courses. The question does a similar thing when it refers to online courses (plural) as "a" development.



It just means that the MBA course is based in a different country. It's fine to use "in", but we could change it to "an online MBA course WITH a university IN a different country" if you want to make it clearer.

Online courses might be cheaper for students (advantage for students), but at the same time earn more money for the university because more students can enrol (advantage for the universities).

Hi Simon. What I found about my writing problem recently was a lack of fluency. Sometimes I do list my points, but when you read it, it feels uncomfortable.Can you offer me some advises? Thanks! Example:
"Undoubtedly, advertising does create lots of benefits for individuals and business. Firstly, it provides people a convenient and efficient way to acquire the information of the commodities they need and get it by delivery without leaving their house. Secondly, with a huge amount of revenue getting from advertising, mass media companies can invest their funds available into new program creating project, in other words, audiences can expect to enjoy more various episodes on TV. Thirdly, for enterprises which put their advertisements, their sales are more likely to rise brought by advertising. Studies showed advertisements have always served a major tool for pushing sales increase, for it enables new products be familiar to the public on a massive scale at a rapid speed."

Thank you Simon. I actually learnt a point in English:)

Dear Teacher Simon,
What does "engage with teachers" mean? Thank you <3 <3

And "cover the material", too? Does that mean "revise the previous lessons" or "study the whole course at their own pace", Teacher Simon?

The essay is wonderful. There re lots of beautiful phrases that I can learn:
_ become a common feature of
_ Internet-based learning
_ the trend towards...
_ direct interaction
_ rely on written forms of communication
_ engage face-to-face with
_ come into direct contact with
_ peer support
_ revenues
_ attend seminars
_ are restricted to chatting
_ website forum areas
_ lack the motivation and element of competition
_ cover the material at their own pace
_ regardless of age, location, ability and background
_ would have been impossible in the days before...
_ enrolled on
Thank you very much, Teacher Simon!

hi teacher Simon
I don't understand this sentense
"while revenues for institutions may increase as more students can be taught"
can you break it down for me please?
thank you!

Dear Guk,
"Institutions" here means schools, colleges, universities
"Revenues" means earnings, the money that schools earn, receive
"As" = Because
Because it is easier for people from all over the world to study for a university degree online, more people pay for these courses, which means that schools can earn more. That's why revenues for institutions increase.

It's also because online courses are much cheaper than traditional courses ( studying in class), much more people can afford to pay these courses, so schools can earn more money

Hi Simon,

If I write one body paragraph for writing task 2, will it reduce my score?

Simon's writings often simply but well-coherence.I'm trying to copy this style.

Desr Simon

Thank you for your model answer and I have questions.

I feel that we should refute body 1 directly if both views are strong each other. Otherwise, candidates' claim, body 2, might be vague, which affects TR and CC.

Did you try to refute body 1 with number of ideas or with contents of body 2?

I need brave heart when I use personal example. Isn't it problem to use individual's experience rather than general example which can be applied for a lot of people in the world?

Dear Simon,
I have found you made a spelling mistake in this sentence: "These leaners may also lack the motivation and element of competition that face-to-face group work brings"

Correct: "These learners may also lack the motivation and element of competition that face-to-face group work brings"

Thanks Simon. It's great to see a Band 9 example with modern phrases.

Thanks respectable Simon for such an excellent efforts.

Dear Simon!
This essay was very for me. But could I ask you a question, please?
I dont really understand with the phrasal verb "to engage face-to-face with their teachers" you used in the essay. Could you explain that for me as well as others who dont know. Tks so much!

Dear simon
Why lack the motivation instead of lack of motivation?

Dear Sujit knumar biswas,

He used "lack the motivation" because "lack" here is a verb. We have "lack (verb) something".
For example: She lacks patience.

When we use "lack" as a noun, it will be "lack of something"
For example: Lack of patience is one of your weaknessnes.

Dear Teru,

For Question 1, though I don't really understand what you really meant, I hope that my answer could help you somehow^^. Below is my thought:

For "Is this a positive or negative development?" type of question, it only asks your own opinion, it doesn't ask you to discuss
for more information, you can see click here:
, so both his main body paragraphs must reflect his own opinions( he thinks that online courses does have some, just a few, disadvantages ( his opinion 1), but he also thinks that online courses has a lot of benefits, far more advantages, and of course, these advantages undoubtedly outweigh the disadvantages he mentioned in 1st body paragraph ( his opinion 2). Therefore,his opinion in paragraph 2 couldn't be as strong as his opinion in paragraph 1, it must be much stronger.

This style of writing looks a little bit like "partly-agree" style,just a little bit, but instead of, say,50%-50%, it is 5%-95%.


Thinh Doan,

Thanks for telling me about the spelling mistake - "learners" instead of "leaners"!


Anh (and Nguyen Van Anh),

"engage with teachers" just means "communicate with or talk to teachers", and "cover the material" means "do or complete the material". For example, I could say that you need to "cover" the 4 types of essay question to make sure that you're ready for the test.

Thanks for pointing out the good vocabulary!



Yes, you really need more than one main body paragraph.



In this essay I chose not to refute the disadvantages. Instead, I accepted the disadvantages, but I made it clear that the positives OUTWEIGH the negatives.

Refuting works when you have a strong, one-sided opinion, but a more balanced approach is to accept one side but make it clear that the opposite arguments are even stronger. Maybe we could call this "accept A but favour B".

Personal examples are absolutely fine. Below every question it tells you to "give reasons and examples from your own knowledge or experience".

Thank you very much, Teacher Simon!!! I really admire and respect you, indeed! In my country, Teachers are like our second mom and dad!

No problem Anh! :)

Dear Mr. Simon

Thank you for your reply and I'm sorry about my poor English skill. You answered completely and directly to my trouble but there is still obscure point.

I feel that body 1 idea, less direct interaction, is relatively strong and good idea, so it may be difficult to write for people with poor grammatical and explanation skills. This is because 'partly agree style' is quite difficult for poors. It is not problem for people with good skills like you because they can explain well in spite of within 250 words. However, if we try to write with your style, I feel that we should refute and object directly to body 1 idea. Otherwise, it leads to unclear position ' positive or negative' and obscure essay, which may lose TR and CC. Candidates need to pay attention that examiners misunderstand which body paragraph we want to support.

I apologize for my poor explanation again.
Thank you.

hello simon and all

Can I write "Although there are some drawbacks of Internet-based learning, I would argue that there are far more benefits." and write two body paragraphs on positive development only.


It's ok. If you find it easier to express a strong opinion and use 'refuting', that's completely fine. Just focus on the way that YOU find easiest and work on that. As you practise more, you might also find that a 'partly agree' is sometimes easier.



If you want to write about the positives ONLY, it would be best not to mention the drawbacks in your introduction. Just state your belief that online learning is a certainly a positive development.

That's brilliant

hello everybody

Hi Simon. I have been interested in reading your writing but this is my first time i ask a question here :).

is it still possible if a candidate states that it has positive values in the introduction and write the positive ones in the whole body paragraphs (1st and 2nd body paragraph) without balancing it with possible negative aspects?, while in my opinion, this pattern will lack strength and i do not see any point why the body is split into two when they both contain positive values of distance learning.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Yudha Anggara

thank you for your explanation, Simon

Thanks for sharing the resource and I learned a lot.
However I have a ielts writing test problem that have confused me for a long time. In the first Ielts exam, I got 5 at writing score in China, and then in the second Ielts exam, I got 6.5 at writing score in Bankok, Thailand, finally, in the third Ielts exam, I got5 at writing score in China. I do not know my real level of writing and now I am afraid to attend the exam. Should I go to Bankok to attend Ielts exam? I believe my writing is ok and not too bad to get 5, but the I have got 5 twice. so sad.

Hi Simon,

I really need help, I am confused with this question. Problem is 'Are there more advantages than disadvantages of living in a house compared with living in an apartment?' I have written the introduction as well but not sure,in both body paragraphs I have tried to disscuss adavantges & disadvantages of bothby giving one para to each. This question is from cambridge 7.

Some people prefer to live in a house, while others feel that there are more advantages in living in an apartment.
Are there more advantages than disadvantages of living in a house compared with living in an apartment?
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant example from your own knowledge or experience.

Opinions are divided on whether living in a house is beneficial or whether apartments are better places for living. In my opinion, the former or latter, both have benefits and drawbacks in almost equal measure.

Hello, Simon

First I should thank you for sharing your valuable skills and knowledge.

I came up with one question regarding the type of the essay question.

As is asks "Is this a positive or nagative development?", can I just explain my view for one side only? For example, explaining why I think it is a positive trend? Or should I touch both sides without exception as you did at each paragraph?

I would appreciate your comment on this matter.
Thank you.

Hi Simon,
I really need to know is it ok for us to write our opinion body paragraph after introduction paragraph; especially in case there are two opinions mentioned in the question and you have to discuss both views and give your own opinion and actually believe the first view mention in the question.


How can I buy your essay correction? I can't find a link. Thanks

Hello Simon,

I thank you for this example
this is my first time in the website
I want to tell you about me problem,
I really feel like I can't write a full sentence by myself I got confused and all words fly from my head. My native language isn't English and I learned English it by myself, please help me and give me ways to improve my writing skills.

Hi Simon,

Thanks so much for sharing so many great articles here and help me quite a lot.
My question is if the length of different views, from my point of view, if I agree with the opinion, I will write down over 70% advantages to support the view, and just 30% of the length to talk about the drawbacks. while I found each time from your articles, normally is half half, thus I am not quite understand

Dear Mr.Simmon

Maybe it is a basic material for a study of writing but honestly, I am very confused and need your suggestion because my writing could not seem naturally?

Thanks before

Devi Widi

Could I use "distance education" to replace "online course"?

Hi Simon
Can the response to this essay question be all about the positives OR the negatives, instead of writing about both sides?
I mean:introduction and my opinion (positive development)
Paragraph 1 reason to be positive
Paragraph 2 another reason
Conclusion: restate my opinion
Thank you

Very Nice

Hi simon



In this case, I explain that I understand both the positives and negatives. The key thing is that I'm giving my own views in both paragraphs, not the views of other people.

Remember that it's find to have a balanced view when the question asks for your opinion. Just make sure it's YOUR balanced view, not a discussion of other people's views.

Hi Simon,

I like your essay!

I have a question in terms of plural/singular form of nouns. For example, 'opportunity' as in the phrase 'have the opportunity to engage face-to-face with', 'communication' as in the phrase 'rely on written form of communication', 'support', 'discussion' and exchange' as in the sentence 'this could have a negative impact on peer support, discussion and exchange of ideas', etc. I think I would put them all in plural form.

Could you explain why you choose singular form in these situations?

Thank you!

I don't think you can use I in your introduction or conclusion

Hi I just write to have one of question about this type of essay. I was practice this topic:"Today, more and more students are deciding to move to a different country for higer studies. Do you think that the benefit of this outweigh the problems?"
I think this type essay is pagitive or negative, so I started my first sentence as a introduction like that ;
In the global world, developed transportaion like airplane have leaded people to go abroad easily than before, so it has been a trend to learn higher educations in advanced countries. In this essay, I will discuss both view of benefits and problems with my own opinion.
But other teacher told me it is off topic. I should be written only Yes or No, means only mention about one thing whether benefits or problems. Is it right??

Hello dear Simon,
My words can't express my true feeling towards your valuable work.
You are such an amazing teacher.You are a volunteer helper for those who really needs your great help, and your informative information and amazing helpful websites truely change our lives and our futures. Sone of us live in countries that don't have a good chance to improve our English. You do it.
I really really really appreciate for your great ,amazing, stonishing work.
One day I will be an English teacher and will help people who need to change their country to live in peace and quite.
Love you

Thanks for your positive words Sanata!

It is also like pros and cons essay; It should be the type of agree and disagree, right? It is easy for me to support one side point; Is that OK?

I think Simon had a mistake about the phrase "enrolled in",not "enrolled on"!

Hi Simon,
Thank you for the lessons you posted in your blog. I really find them useful. I tried to write essay to answer the question in this post. However, my essay was seriously criticised when posting on essay forum because they emphasised that only the arguments of my stance should be mentioned instead of spending a paragraph to mention the opposite stance's argument although there is a following counter-argument paragraph. May I know which approach is correct?

Hi Peter,

It's true that your answer should explain YOUR stance, and not the views of other people. However, it's perfectly acceptable to have a stance that takes both sides into consideration. Look at the second sentence of my introduction, and you'll see that I manage to do this: I express a view that accepts one side but favours the other.

Hi, Simon. I am a little confused about this sentence.
"Firstly, they allow learners to study in a flexible way, meaning that they can work whenever and wherever is convenient"

I wonder whether it is grammatically wrong? I mean should there be a " it" between "wherever" and "is"?

Hi Sihang,

You could add the word "it", but we often miss it in this contect. If you Google the phrase "whenever is convenient", you'll see plenty of other examples.

Hi Simon,

For this type of question, do you still have to mention the opposing view as you often do in your essays? if the question simply asks whether you agree or disagree, Could I just use this structure?

1. Intro: While others may disagree because of
blah blah... I agree....
2. Main body (3 paragraphs) : each paragraph
tells reasons for agreeing
3. conclusion: repeat/summarise

It is true that online education has become more and more popular in recent years. While there are certainly some positive effects, I think some negative problems also need to be addressed.

Courses on the Internet offered by some universities may result in three benefits for us. First, classes online allow people to study in a more flexible way. Students can choose to learn whenever and wherever they are convenient. For example, many online course takers are workers and professionals who are busy with their own work, and these people need further study at their own pace, therefore Internet based learning is a good choice. Second, it is recognized that online courses reduce some cost of higher education for students. Finally, another consequence is that it greatly expands the areas where students are from, particular in nations where people can not afford the high travel expense.

On the other hand, some negative aspects of online education also need to be noted and addressed. First, students are unable to face-to-face with their teacher. I believe there is no substitute for a real teacher. However, this problem might be tackled partly by new technology such as virtual reality. Second, friendship between online classmates may not be as close as traditional class. Students of online learning have far fewer opportunities to interact with their classmates. In my view, due to the lack of direct contact with teachers and classmates mentioned above, the educational quality of online courses is not as good as traditional class.

In conclusion, although there are some benefits of online education, more efforts need to be made to improve it.

"Students may not have the opportunity to engage face-to-face with their teachers, and will instead have to rely on written forms of communication."I'm wondering the grammar of this sentence."may" and then "will"???

Dear beloved Simon,
Does it sound uncommon when using enrolled with proposition on instead of in?


You could use "enrolled with" before the name of an institution e.g. I'm enrolled ON course WITH / IN / AT the British Council.

The comments to this entry are closed.