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June 01, 2019


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Hi Simon,

The content of the course seems very comprehensive, and I hope we would be able to distinguish the right advice/information from the wrong ones as we are overwhelmed with a lot of information. I give some examples here, from my own experience, and I think it could also be a question from other students as well.
Some teachers say that we need to fulfill all the requirements of a certain band in order to be given that band score; for example, if there are three bullet points in band 8 of GRA and we only fulfill two of them, we are not a band 8 in GRA.
There is also this confusion about how different are 'fully addresses all parts', 'sufficiently addresses all parts', and 'addresses all parts' ? to one examiner 'idea +
explain + example' might not look enough, while it could be enough for other examiners.
Another thing is that, many of the teachers say that we should certainly avoid writing a balanced opinion for questions like "do you agree or disagree"/to what extend do you agree or disagree" if we are aiming for band 8 or 9. So what is "to what extend for" then?!

I appreciate your clarification on any of the above points, and I cannot wait for the course!



1. Yes. In writing you need to fulfil all the descriptors in the band to achieve the score

2. Examiners are people, and like all people, individuals see things differently when they interpret how well the task is developed. However, the score for Task Response tends to work together with the vocabulary score, because candidates with excellent vocabulary are typically more able to develop ideas (provide examples, explanations and consequences).

Band descriptors should not be taken in isolation. The first bullet is usually the 'main one' and the ones below 'explain' the meaning. A 7 for TR would mean that that all parts of the question are answered, but some explanations are not entirely clear and there is some overgeneralisation. An 8 would be the same but there could be moments where the explanations are not clear, and there are no overgeneralisations. A 9 would have no moments that are unclear, and everything is relevant, and there is also no overgeneralisation.

3. The advice to avoid a balanced opinion is on one hand completely wrong. However, a balanced essay is sometimes more difficult to write because the candidate has to perform more comparisons between the views. My advice is to write the essay you want to write, and just make sure your opinion is clear from the beginning to the end.


Thank you, Simon

Thanks for your explanation sjm


Mr Simon

Could you comment on the following please?


What follows is an edited and shortened version of a FBook conversation with a friend who is working in a professional environment in an English-speaking country and needs IELTS 7 (minimum 7 in each paper).

X: I need simple explanation about article.

Zsofi: -> I need a simple explanation about articles. How many explanations do you need? One. "A" means "one". Of course there as some words like "milk" or "rice" that we cannot count. We cannot say "one milk", "two milks" etc. So some words do not need "a". In learning articles, we need to learn the basic ideas first, and then later worry about all the exceptions.
Articles have meaning. There is a difference between: (A) Could you give me a pen please (B) Could you give me the pen please. What is the difference?

X: A pen?

Zs: Yes, if you say 'a pen' then it means there is more than one available. Imagine ten pens on a table, but you only want one. If you say 'the' pen, then "the" means "that". So there can only be ONE pen available on the table. If there were two pens, and you said "give me the pen", I would reply: well which one do you want? If there are two pens and you ask for "a pen" then you do not care which one.

X: So "the" means particular one ?

Zs: Take two or three pens, put them on the table. And practice asking. Yes, "the" was originally 'that' in Old English. So you must be able to point to which one you mean. Or at least refer back to something earlier in the conversation. So we always say "the" sun (that sun) as there is only one.

X: This is so mixed up. The = particular but a = one. For me one is particular one. Uffff but in English is other way around.

Zs: "A" is used when there is MORE than one available. You just want only one. 'The' is when it is obvious to the person you are talking to WHICH one you mean. That's enough for today. Just think about the basic concepts and meaning and go away an practice every day. Try saying "give me the X" to an native speaker when there is more than one.

X: OK. Thank you

Zs: Yes in English, "A" means "one, I don't care which one". 'The" means "you know the one, or the ones I mean'.
Next situation: you go into your boss's office and say: (A) I have problem. OR (B) I have the problem. What is the correct sentence?

Some nouns like "milk" cannot be counted, so you cannot use "a" because "a" means 'one'. Mostly these nouns are liquid or almost liquid like rice or flour, or are abstract like sympathy. We cannot say please give me a sympathy, because that would mean "one" sympathy, and we cannot count sympathy. But begin by making sure you put 'a' or 'the' in front of every singular noun (unless you know it is an exception). It is important to build the habit and extinguish the carry-over from your own language which has no articles.

GENERAL RULE: singular nouns usually need an article.

This is not so much about English grammar as training your mouth and lips to automatically put in an article by default. It is gym for your mouth.

Hi Simon,
I would argue that the quality of materials ( paper, pen, staff services) can be impacted to band score.

I would like to raise concern about how IELTS centres force candidates using pencil from their supplies. They might think that this is the best way to prevent students from cheating, but they provided the pencil's lead quality which are below standard. How can students can write smoothly to get good score with that kind of pencil which are not fixed in hands smoothly?
P.S: Sorry for not relevant, but a part of basic thing in exam room.

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