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May 19, 2019


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Mr Simon

The fault lies partly with British Council for putting the word "academic" appears in the title of the exam and "less common lexical items" in the marking criteria.

There are of course other factors but this is where the trouble starts. Quite why it has never been fixed is a very good question. Perhaps is difficult to change the name, but the public band descriptors could be more pertinent and the BC web page explain in more detail.

Oh Simon it's quite disheartening to tell students that they may be overdoing it when they bring up these words after browsing through word finds. It's a thin line between trying to guide them to use apt words and dashing their hopes for approval!


I tell my students all the time that they need to eschew abstruse lexemes which engender obfuscation.

Sir, but big long word show our knowledge no?

Nowadays the way many people interact with each other has changed because of technology.
In what ways has technology affected the types of relationships people make?
Has this become a positive or negative development?

These days, people’s preference for communicating with each other has altered due to the internet, thus they choose to make more relations online rather than in the real world. In my view, this has become a negative growth due to the fact that more people today are suffering from psychological disorders than ever before.

In the digital world, most people prefer to make friends online. This is primarily because the internet gives them instant access to chat with their friends, and they can stay up-to-date about what their friends are doing. Such type of unreal situations persuades them to make more relationships on the internet and to gain pleasure from interacting with some imaginary persons. For example, there is evidence which suggests that a large number of Indian people nowadays prefer to select their life-partners from the matrimonial websites or Facebook rather than from their real-life experiences, which was almost rare just a decade ago.

This trend has detrimental effects on people’s mental health. That is to say, more men and women, in recent times, face with the feeling of isolation and loneliness in their lives as they might have lost the abilities to handle relationships with the real people, and this often forces them to become addicted to alcohol or drug, or, in the worst case, to commit suicide if they do not get the opportunities to converse with virtual closed ones. Many studies conducted by WHO, for instance, have revealed that persons who regularly interact with other people on the internet just for 30 minutes a day are prone to suffer from the anxiety, depression, and insomnia in the near future.

In conclusion, people like to make relations online than in the real world nowadays due to technological growth, and this development has harmful effects on the mental wellbeing of people.


The full descriptor for Band 7 says:

uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation

Here are some comments:

1. Do not look at only one part of a descriptor in isolation. Here, 'style' and 'collocation' are essential, because this clarifies that the 'less common vocabulary' has to be used reasonably naturally

2. Marking descriptors work with the other descriptors in the box as well. Another descriptor in Band 7 refers to 'precision' which also points to the natural use of words

3. Many of you seem to think 'less common' means 'unusual'. This is absolutely NOT true. 'Less common' means 'compared to users in lower Bands'. People at Band 5 for example, tend to use what we call 'common vocabulary'. These are more everyday words. 'Less common' means words (or rather groups of words) that you don't normally find at Band 5 or 6. If you look at Band 9, there is NO mention of 'extremely uncommon'. It only talks about skilful and natural use. A word like 'recapitulate' might technically be a 'less common' word, but it would be unnatural to a Band 9 candidate in almost every situation. The IELTS test is supposed to make a judgement about your English level, and it does this by comparing learners of different levels. Again, 'less common' can put someone in Band 7 because they are using words that are less commonly found in Band 6 candidates, and, as I mentioned above, there is also evidence of collocation and precision.

I go through most of your writing posts , but you do not tell about what is the best approach of PRACTICING writing for those like me stuck at 6.5 in writing.


The main reasons by far for receiving 6.5 in writing are:

1. Poor overview in Task 1
2. Missing key features in Task 1 and not enough comparisons
3. Too many grammar errors in Task 1 or Task 2
4. Too much unnatural vocabulary in Task 1 or Task 2

'Practice' is a dangerous word because if you are practicing without expert feedback then you are likely to be practicing the wrong things. To improve to a 7:

1. Get expert feedback about the way you write an overview in Task 1, and make sure you have a clear method in Task 1 that ensures you cover the key features and include some comparisons
2. Get an expert to highlight EVERY 'error' in your tasks. As a general rule, if you have more than around 8 'errors' in a Task 1, then either your grammar or vocabulary score will possibly slip below a 7. If there are more than around 12 'errors' in an essay then the same thing.

Your goal of practicing should then be to push those numbers down. If you can get down to under 8 errors in a Task 1, then your vocabulary and grammar scores are likely to be at least 7, and the same for the essay if you can get your errors under around 12.

My advice is always the same to candidates who want to achieve 7+. You must increase the number of 'error free' sentences. Learn what your common errors are, and eliminate them.

Hello Sjm,

I feel that you are justifying the band description . You mean for learning "less common word" we should take a look at all essays of band 5 and 6 to learn in what ways we should write to get band 7+.
The thing is IELTS band description could have not helped candidates to know what they mean of band 7+. I am sure it will be changed at least to show a better way to candidates to how to reach to that goal

You have recently moved to a different house. Write a letter to an English speaking Friend. In your letter:

- Explain why you have moved
- Describe the new apartment
- Invite him to visit the new apartment.

Dear Sam

It’s been a really long time since we last spoke to each other. I just thought I’d write to you to give some exciting news that I changed my apartment just a week before.

As you know, I had to regularly travel for approximately 2 hours to and from my office, and it had become painful to me as I usually got stuck in the traffic jam almost every day, and I had no option other than inhaling lots of carbon dioxide. To sort this problem out, I finally moved to a beautiful apartment near to my office, and I now feel a big relief.

Though my new flat is located in the outskirt of the Vadodara city, I like it a lot because it is so spacious, and have all the basic amenities, such as parking, swimming pool, and playground for kids. You know what, supermarket and multiplex cinema are just a walk away from this place.

I’d really like if you could spare some time this weekend and come to my home along with your family. We’ll take lunch together and then go for a movie called ‘Avengers: The End Game’. In the evening, we’ll go to the gym, which is dedicated to the residents of the apartment. I’m damn sure that it’ll suit your taste.

See you this weekend, take care!



Of course I am explaining the band description.

What I am saying is very simple. Look at Band 5 and 6 essays and COMPARE them to a Band 7 essay in terms of vocabulary. What types of words appear in a Band 7 essay that don't tend to appear in lower level essays?

If you have an IELTS teacher this is one thing your teacher should be doing. Simon shows level 7+ vocabulary often in this blog. Maybe you should look at his lists because it will show you that Band 7 vocabulary is not complicated or unusual.


Hi sjm,
Thanks for your precise explanation. In fact, I took General IELTS exam. However, I suppose your notes on "error free" sentences are so important in case hit band 7 in Vocab and grammar.

My private teacher only corrected my writing and do not give any feed back to how engrave my mistakes in my mind or any method to memorize, collect and write ideas in my essays.


If you are doing General, then I would add that in the letter:

1. You MUST have a clear purpose written towards the beginning of the letter

2. You MUST clearly write about the three bullets EQUALLY. This means write three clear paragraphs, each one addressing each bullet, of approximately equal length

3. Be careful. If a bullet says something like 'Describe the problems' then you MUST have at least two problems

Yes, error free sentences are essential. As a basic guide:

1. Your teacher must have native level ability to identify every error
2. You need to record every error in a list
3. When you write, your list MUST be next to you, and you must constantly refer to it to ensure you don't repeat the errors
4. Check your writing against your list before you give it to your teacher

Eventually you will reduce your errors and start to produce error free sentences. When I mean errors, I also mean vocabulary errors, so you will also build up a greater range of natural vocabulary as well. If your teacher identifies a word or a group of words that is not natural, make sure you get a more natural version.

Please comment on whether I met the standard of using the real uncommon words in my essay.

In some countries, even though the rates of serious crimes are decreasing, people feel
less safe than ever before.
What do you think are the causes of this problem and what measures could be taken to
solve it?

In numerous nations, people are experiencing more safety issue than in the past despite the drop in the number and the frequency of criminal offenses. I think that the busier lifestyle is the root cause of this problem and submit that the calming meditation ritual is the most viable solution, followed by a reasoned conclusion.

The principal cause why people today feel less safe is that their lives have become more stressful and hectic than ever before. Many men and women have to work for longer hours to fulfil their daily needs and carry a huge burden of professional and personal responsibilities on their shoulders. This results in many people getting health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal mindset, which were rare in people just a decade ago. For example, a recent study conducted by WHO has found that the number of working people suffering from psychological disorders has proliferated significantly in the past 7 years.

To resolve this issue, people need to do more mindful activities on day to day basis. When they practice concentrating on one particular task instead of many at a time, they will get a deeper insight in that work, and this allows them to identify and eliminate a maximum number of roadblocks to their tasks. This will help them to calm their brains down and develop a stable mind. For instance, a famous Indian cricketer, named Virat Kohli, has accepted in his recent interview that he has become more efficient at managing challenging situations in his matches after dedicating 30 minutes for meditation in his morning routine.

In conclusion, today’s demanding lifestyle is causing people feeling less safer than ever before as it enhances the fear of getting certain life-threatening mental diseases; however, this issue can be easily tackled by following certain relaxing mindful practices on a daily basis.

Hi sjm,

I found your words very handy for my writing practice.

tnx a dozen


-> In many nations, people are experiencing more safety issues than in the past despite falling crime rates. I think that busier lifestyles are the root cause of this problem and submit that a daily practice of calming meditation would be the most viable solution.




The principal reason why ... fulfill [note spelling: also better "meet/satisfy/supply their daily needs" ] their daily needs and carry a huge burden of professional and personal responsibilities on their shoulders.
[What, everyone? Over-generalization.]

This results in many people getting->having health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and [missing article] suicidal mindset, which were rare in people just a decade ago. [I would contest that assertion.] For example, a recent study conducted by WHO has found that the number of working people suffering from psychological disorders has proliferated significantly in the past 7 years. [See Mr sjm's comments elsewhere on invented statistics. An examiner might find this suspiciously convenient; an exact reference would be helpful.]




In conclusion, today’s demanding lifestyle is causing people feeling->to feel less safer-> safe than ever before as it enhances the fear of getting certain life-threatening mental diseases; [This seems to be a new point: it should have been explained and developed in the body paragraphs already. ] however, this issue can be easily tackled by following certain relaxing mindful practices on a daily basis.

[I am wondering whether the question has been properly answered or whether the essay has wandered off onto the topic of meditation as a stress-reliever. Perhaps there needs to be a sentence toward the end which bolsters the connection of between meditation and feeling safer. Also I would question whether the third paragraph as a whole is relevant to feeling safer: it seems to relate to improving performance instead. ]


Common collocations for 'numerous':



Thanks a lot for the feedback. I think I messed this essay up, I need to rewrite it.

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