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June 07, 2018


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Dear Simon,
I would like to ask you a question. If I have 6 hours per day to study English, how timetable can you guide me to separate effectively in a day?
I often use at about 2-3 hours in the morning to listen something ( Cambridge, ted talk or in youtube) and then I try to write when hearing those videos. In the afternoon to the evening, I read magazine or practising self-spoken at home and try to write topics vocabulary at night.
I have used this timetable as a daily basis in more than 3 months. But I got a low bandscore in an Ielts examination ( 5 in overall) I think that I need to change the timetable or arraging new schedule. How to plan 4 skills in a week?
Thank you so much, Simon.


You have done very well to keep up a self-study program of six hours per day for three months.

What seems to be missing from your program is some form of feedback and correction. This really means finding a good teacher, who can correct your pronunciation and writings, and direct your attention to those areas which you may have missed on your own.

Also I would suggest that getting from Band Five to Band Seven overall is going to take quite some time - probably over a year - and that it would be helpful to be part of a group in order to sustain your motivation over such an extended period.

Finally, if you have any opportunity to use your English (in an English-speaking environment or country) and interact with a range of natural English speakers, then this would be of immense benefit to you.

As for the precise breakdown, to some extent it is about maintaining your interest. Find a book or novel (in English) that interests you. Exactly how long you spend reading then hardly matters.

With writing, I would suggest at least one paragraph every day, if you can get some feedback and correction.

Dear Simon,

I have looked up those words that you said are not appropriate in the Oxford dictionary and I found out that none of them are informal. So how can we tell if we can use other words or not?


Ngoc Ninh:

Simon's list of "inappropriate" words: these are words that journalists use to dramatize a situation or report. It is not about formality/informality, more about context. For example, "soar" on google books comes up in fiction and self-help books, whereas "increase dramatically" comes up in precisely the the type of quasi-academic writing that is required in Task 1:



Compare the context for "rocketed" and "rose steadily"; the latter is used in reportage similar to Task 1:



There is some support for using "plummeted"


"Decreased significantly " is fine:


And so is "fell gradually:


Hope this helps.

Ngoc Ninh:

If one googles the other words, "shoot up, creep up, dive", it is hard to find any example of them being used in an academic report, so this suggests that they are not a safe bet for Task 1.

Although "increased dramatically" is much the commonest, "dramatically" is a less objective description than "sharply" or "steeply", and so perhaps the latter are technically more suited to an objective and more prosaic academic report.


Thanks alot for your detailed information Kandi!

Thanks Kandi.

Thanks Kandi. Great answers!

Hi, can I use "plunge"?

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