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Using the future in Writing Task 1

This is a very short tip on using the future in IELTS Writing Task 1. Let’s look at an example chart.

Line Graph Future

This is a typical example of a graph that starts in the past, but ends in the future. This is a bit more tricky than a graph in which all the information is in the past, because you need to change your grammar depending on the section. However, it’s a good opportunity to increase your mark for Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Here’s what we can add in:

Introduction

So, we start with our typical “The graph shows…” section. Something like:

The graph shows financial data, separated in to revenue, charges, borrowings and grants and subsidies, as a monetary figure in millions of dollars. 

So, we have explained the Y axis. we now need to explain the X axis, specifically, that it starts in the past and finishes in the future.

This information runs from 2012 to the present day, and includes a projection for 2016 to 2022.

The word “projection” is a financial word meaning “prediction”. We could also use “estimation”.

Body

So, we could separate our paragraphs in to 1) Past until now and 2) Now in to the future. That would help us divide up the grammar to keep it simple – past in body paragraph 1 and future in body paragraph 2. What are our choices?

  1. will

We can use “will” + infinitive as a simple option. Here’s an example:

From 2016 until 2022, the rates revenue figure will consistently increase from about 1600 million to just under 2500 million.

Fine, but a bit simple, so we can’t use it for the whole paragraph.

2. Is + past participle + to + infinitive

There are a few different participles we could use: estimated, predicted, expected, projected. Example:

After 2015, the rates revenue figure is expected to continue its growth, from about 1600 million to just under 2500 million at the end of the period.

Very nice because it’s simple, you can use the same structure but just change the past participle each time, and it includes a passive.

3. Future perfect (will + have + past participle)

Possibly the highest level way to express the future in IELTS. We need to look at the very end of the graph, so that we imagine that the increase / decrease has already happened. This is exactly what we do for present / past perfect as well. We can do this by using “by”. Look at the example:

The rates revenue figure started increasing in 2014, and, by 2022, it will have reached a peak of just under 2500 million.

An excellent piece of grammar to include – just remember to use “by + end of graph / end of increase or decrease” and then talk about the change that will have happened at that point in the future.

 

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me!

 

Simon

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Prepositions in IELTS Task 1 Writing

OK, let’s take a look at a few prepositions, and a really easy way to remember how to use them.

  1. to / from

In task 1, you will use “to” if you are talking about change. So, if something goes up or down, we use “to”. Look at the example:

The number of people rose to 800,000 in 2011.

So, we use “to” for changes, and we use it to describe the second number – the number at the end of the increase / decrease.

We also use “to” with “from” – like from 400,000 to 800,000 – again, we are talking about the end number. If we want to talk about the start number, we use “from”.

2. by

We use “by” similarly to “to”, so when we talk about change. This time, however, we are thinking about the difference between point A and point B. Here’s another example:

Number of people, 2001 = 55

Number of people, 2005 = 60

The number of people rose by 5 from 2001 to 2005.

So, we also use “by” for changes as well, but to talk about difference.

3. at

We use “at” to talk about numbers that haven’t changed over time. Look at this example:

The number remained steady at 25 for about five years.

So, “at” is used in the opposite situation to “to”.

4. with

We use “with” when we just want to talk about one number, at one time, with no changes. Here’s an example:

The highest number was in the 16-25 age group, with 500,000.

Conclusion

So, here’s the simple way to remember:

to – change, second number
from – change, first number
by – change, difference between first and last

at – no change over time

with – one number, no movement in time

Good luck!

 

Simon

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IELTS Writing – avoiding pronouns and vagueness

In IELTS writing part 2, it is important to make your final opinion in the conclusion clear, by using “I”. However, in the rest of the text it is often a good idea to present opinion as though it is fact – this includes the final sentence of the introduction. Let’s look at a few examples, using the following question (from Cambridge Book 9 Test 3)

Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a compulsory part of high school programmes (for example working for a charity, improving the neighbourhood or teaching sports to younger children).

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

1) Let’s imagine that I agree with this statement. I might write an introduction that looks like this:

In order to help children to understand the importance of community, people think that it would be beneficial for them to do some things in their neighbourhood as a mandatory part of their schooling. While some people say this is a waste of time, I believe that this idea has enormous potential.

 

Let’s look at the bold sections in order.

People think –> This is an example of vague language. “People” is a non-specific group, so we can change this in one of two ways. 1: specify a particular group of people, like parents or education experts. 2) Use the passive: “it has been suggested that…”

Some things –> Again, too vague. Using the word “things” suggests to the examiner that you don’t know the specific words, or a good synonym for “community service”. Either repeat the phrase, or think of a synonym, like “tasks”

Some people say –> Again, this is vague. A better way to phrase this might be “While there are those who may…” This is still vague, but a little better. You could also write “While there are is a case to be made for this being a waste of valuable time”

I believe –> The problem with using “I” in the introduction, is that it will make it look very similar to your conclusion. If you use passive or an “It” sentence here, it will make your conclusion stronger.

Here’s a rewrite of that introduction.

In order to help children to understand the importance of community, it has been suggested that it would be beneficial for them to do certain tasks in their neighbourhood as a mandatory part of their schooling. While there is a case to be made for this being a waste of time, it is clear that this idea has enormous potential.

 

Here are two more examples of words and phrases you could use in your essay

It is believed / said that… (instead of People / They believe that) –> It is often said that the most is not made out of the time a child has at school.

There is / are… (instead of a pronoun) –> There are a number of reasons to support the idea that children will benefit educationally from doing community work.

 

Do you have any example sentences you would like to rewrite or share here?

 

Simon

 

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Using Thinking Hats for IELTS

This is a useful perspective for both students and teachers, so I’ve put it in to several categories.

You may have read my earlier article about using thinking hats to create balanced arguments (see here: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-oB ) – you’ll need to read this first.

What I’ve done here is write a colour-coded structure to agree / disagree and problem / solution essays, using the colours to show the structure and writing explanations instead of answering a question. I’d love to have some feedback on this – my classes have responded very positively.

I’ve attached the colour-coded essays as word documents in case you have any trouble viewing.

Thanks

Simon

IELTS Hat Writing

 

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IELTS Writing – Expressing possible future results

I often say that IELTS only ever deals with problems! Seriously though, the writing Part II tends to address global issues, as they are subjects that everyone can relate to. When you are writing about problems or issues in your body paragraphs, it is often appropriate to point out what could happen in the future as a result of these problems. In this case, a good paragraph structure would be:

Topic Sentence – The opening point of your paragraph

Explanation / Example – being more specific or giving an example

Implication – what this problem means and how it will affect us

Conclusion sentence – as with other written paragraphs, restating the Topic Sentence.

Here’s a simple example, using the university entrance system as an example:

Topic Sentence: University entrance is becoming more difficult due in part to the increase in prices.

Explanation / Example: Over the last ten years, it has been noted that the fees have increased tenfold in the UK.

Implication: The issue is that a continued rise at this rate could make it affordable only for the richest citizens, meaning that the class divide is further highlighted. (Use of “could” to show future possibility)

Conclusion Sentence: The possibility of this therefore means that cost has become the foremost discussion at university board meetings.

Now, have a look at the sentences below. There are 12 sentences, which belong in 3 paragraphs. Try and find the topic sentences and the conclusions by matching ideas. Then, look for implication sentences by scanning for future language and use these steps to put the paragraphs together. Here is the question:

What are the challenges that workers face in the modern workplace?

This is therefore a current and growing issue because of ever-increasing life expectancy.

Furthermore, the recession has lead to reduced salaries as well as less incentive schemes.

This means that there is increased pressure on potential employees to possess more specific skills than before.

Consequently, national financial issues are affecting the standard of living as well as overall happiness.

A further example of a challenge in the workplace is the lack of promotion opportunities.

Firstly, technological advancements have resulted in some unskilled, blue-collar work now being done by computers or machines.

The result of this is that competition for places is higher and job seekers are now under more pressure.

With the retirement age being so much higher than in previous generations, high-level roles are now occupied for longer and management turnover is very low.

Therefore, it could be said that technology has caused as many problems as it has solved.

This has lead to job satisfaction and security being at a low point.

Of course, morale and motivation in the workplace is then lower than it has been previously.

This then means that the workplace becomes saturated at middle and low levels as well, resulting in a lack of options for the unemployed.

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

Once you’ve finished, you can download the answer here:

Three Body Paragraphs

Now, try and write your own paragraphs, answering this question:

What problems are caused by global warming?

Simon

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Thinking Hats – can you present a balanced opinion?

One of the most difficult things to do in another language is think critically, evaluate a statement, and present an argument – in speaking or in writing – that is balanced. One of the skills you need to learn is the ability to think “What would someone else say about this?” and then present an idea that could be the opposite of your own. Let’s look at an example – an IELTS question I saw recently:

Increasing the price of petrol is the best way to solve growing traffic and pollution problems. To what extent do you agree or disagree? What other measures do you think might be effective?

The chances are that you look at this question and think “Yes” or “No” quite quickly. But are these the only options?

Meet Dr Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats:

Poster_Six_Thinking_Hats

The idea here is to put on a hat and deliberately think in a different way depending on the hat’s colour. Let’s try it. The easiest, and often the automatic thoughts, are yellow – positive and black – negative.

Yellow: This is a positive step. The benefits of this are that fewer people would be able to rely on petrol and would have to seek alternative modes of transport, thus decreasing traffic.

Black: This is not an appropriate solution to the problem. It will serve to widen the class gap and leave many people currently reliant on petrol-based transport unemployed.

Red: The increase in price would cause significant stress in those already struggling financially.

Green: While this is not a viable solution, the possibility of making carpool lanes more widespread would encourage people to share one vehicle, rather than all drive separately.

White: Statistics show that the amount of cars on the road is increasing year on year. However, it would be difficult to implement a sudden price rise without providing a figure related to affordability versus need.

Blue: While carpooling and financial incentive are possible, they will ultimately fail, as car ownership has become part of human consciousness, and this will be almost impossible to change.

So, you can see that you have 6 possibilities:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Considering emotions
  • Alternatives
  • Summary
  • Statistics – available and required

If we expand these hats a bit, there are several words that you can use as “triggers” for critical thinking. Have a look at the picture below. You may need a dictionary!

Hatmap

OK, now have a look at these two statements:

  1. School buildings have no future – the advances of the internet mean that all forms of education and study are now able to be done from home.
  2. Strict punishments should be put in place for the parents of children who commit crimes.

Try and write six sentences for each – one sentence for each hat.

A note for IELTS

Where can we use these hats? Think about the written exam:

White – Part 1. You can only use the white hat in part 1!
Black / Yellow – Part 2, body paragraphs. Ideally, one body paragraph should contain a black idea, and the other a yellow idea.
Blue – Part 2, conclusion. In your conclusion, you summarise the main ideas and then present your final view.
Green – A paragraph about solutions would be green. You definitely can’t use the green hat in your conclusion!
Red – A paragraph about personal experience or public reaction to an idea would be red. Don’t forget how something would make people feel, or affect them.

Now take a look at the next article, which shows how the colours fit together in an IELTS writing task: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-pI

A note for Teachers

I’ve found these work well in IELTS classes – once students have read about them and you’ve done some soft practice as a class, you can get them to either work in groups, with one hat per group, or get them to produce six sentences on their own. After that, they can share and compare. I’ve also found that an activity that works well is getting them to read out their sentences without saying which hat they were intending to use, and seeing if students can match the correct hat to the sentence.

Enjoy, and remember: email me at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com with questions, sentences etc!

Simon

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IELTS Writing Part II Focus – Introductions

Let’s focus on three different types of writing part II question:

1) Advantages and Disadvantages

2) Agree or Disagree?

3) Solutions to a problem

The introduction to your essay is actually quite simple. You need to include two things:

  • A “background” sentence – one that restates the main title and gives a general picture of the topic
  • A sentence that shows what you are going to put in your body paragraphs

Let’s look at the first title.

It is becoming more and more difficult to escape the influence of the media on our lives.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of living in a media rich society.

This title, like most in IELTS, comes in two parts. The first part is the background, and this is what you use to write your first sentence. Here’s an example:

It is undeniable that the presence of media is now further reaching than it has ever been, due in part to the portability of information. Because of this, it has become almost impossible to live a life free from its influence. 

So, the meaning is similar to the question, but has a possible cause added in. Now, I need to make it clear what each body paragraph will contain.

While the ease of access to information is a clear benefit, there are also drawbacks in the form of reduced privacy.

Now the reader can clearly see that my body paragraphs will be:

1) Benefits, starting with ease of access to information

2) Drawbacks, starting with reduced privacy

I’ve written about 60 words – if you can aim to write 40-60 words in your introduction, it will set you up clearly for the rest of the essay.

Now, take a look at the other two titles and their introductions. Can you see where the “background sentences” finish and the “body preparation sentences” begin? Can you predict what will come in the body paragraphs?

Machine translation (MT) is slower and less accurate than human translation and there is no immediate or predictable likelihood of machines taking over this role from humans.

Do you agree or disagree?

              With globalisation has come a greater need for international communication. One way in which we successfully communicate with speakers of other languages is through computerised translation. However, this method has been criticised for its inaccuracy and there is a belief that human translation will supersede machine translation for the foreseeable future. That said, there are also those who believe the opposite to be true, due to rapid technological advances.

Remember: Your language doesn’t need to be as complicated as this. Focus on accuracy first.

Here’s the final example.

Countries such as China, India and Japan have unsustainable population growths. In fact many experts are of the opinion that the population ‘explosion’ which is now a very worrying concern, is the most serious threat to life on this planet. 

Give some suggestions to address this problem.

             In the Far East in recent times, there is a serious issue with rapidly increasing populations. It is believed by some that further increases could have implications for the continued existence of humanity. However, there are some tried and untried solutions, such as child limits, education and government incentive programmes, which could provide a solution.

Have a go at writing new introductions to these yourselves – Email me if you want me to look at them:
simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com

Simon

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IELTS Writing – Organising Your Essay (Part III – Conclusion)

Now you have your introduction and body (see Introduction lesson: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J and Body lesson http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4P ) you are ready to write your conclusion. First, some things to remember:

  • Your conclusion should not make any new points
  • It should include a short summary of the main points
  • It should include your final opinion
  • It should directly answer the question

The conclusion is only about 30-40 words, so don’t worry about it. Just make sure that you DO write a conclusion, even if it means you don’t finish your body. It is very important that the examiners see your final opinion.

OK, here are the question and the essay so far from the end of lesson 2:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media. Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

It is a basic human right to be entitled to one’s own privacy, and for good reason. Being forced to constantly live in the public eye can lead to immense stress on an individual, causing illness, stress and paranoia. It is doubtful that those who actively pursue celebrities day and night would themselves enjoy the same kind of scrutiny, making it a hypocritical activity. Furthermore, it could be argued that printing pictures, stories and gossip about a particular person without their express permission to do so constitutes a crime in itself. For these reasons, it is extremely important that tougher laws are put in place to protect famous people.

Secondly, it seems that the stories printed about celebrities are becoming more and more banal, leading to a decline in the quality of the country’s media. Articles about a person’s clothes, hair or diet are not newsworthy, and encourage an unhealthily aesthetic approach to life. Such a focus does not provide a good example to children and could lead to them growing up with a set of values that disregard sociopolitical issues, respect and empathy. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the media takes on the responsibility of carefully monitoring the levels of this content within their publications.

If you look above, I have highlighted the main points in black. You can see that they are found in the first and last sentences of the body paragraphs. Now we need to begin our conclusion with a few words that show the examiner that this is the final paragraph. Here are a few possibilities:

  • In summary, 
  • In conclusion,
  • To sum up,

All of these are followed by a full sentence starting with a subject.

Here is my example conclusion for the above essay:

In conclusion, I believe that it is inappropriate for the media to publish intimate stories about celebrities due to concerns over privacy and content. Because of this, it is important that the police and the media work together closely to regulate content more strictly.

My conclusion contains my opinion and repetition of the points and conclusions from the body that connect to my opinion. That is ALL you need to write in your conclusion.

Now, can you write a second body paragraph and a conclusion for the other essay from lessons 1 and 2? (Question, Introduction and Body paragraph 1 below)

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Recently, there has been considerable concern over unfair pay rates for key workers when compared with seemingly over-inflated salaries for business figures and celebrities, which have been leading children to view these jobs as undesirable or less important. As a result, it has been widely suggested that pay should reflect the usefulness of a job to society.

Underpaying people such as teachers and nurses has a negative effect on young people. In an increasingly materialistic society, children have become more focused on the value of money and are therefore less likely to want to do lower-paid jobs. Furthermore, they may come to associate celebrities with positive role models because they represent a life that they desire, more than those who do work that is truly important to our countries. This could lead to a severe shortage of key workers in the future, leading to a decline in the quality of education and healthcare. Therefore, it is important that the divide between salaries is closed significantly in order to provide incentive for future generations.

If you would like to contact me about these lessons or with some of your answers to these questions, please do so at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com

Happy New Year everyone!

Simon

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IELTS Writing – Organising Your Essay (Part II – Body)

OK, so here is the question that finished the previous post (http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J ):

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Here is my sample introduction:

Recently, there has been considerable concern over unfair pay rates for key workers when compared with seemingly over-inflated salaries for business figures and celebrities, which have been leading children to view these jobs as undesirable or less important. As a result, it has been widely suggested that pay should reflect the usefulness of a job to society.

Now we have the introduction, we can start the body. From my introduction I have decided to write about image and usefulness.

Writing the Body

When you are writing the body, it is important to remember that each paragraph you write is like a small essay; it needs an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

  • Introduction sentence – make a statement / give an opinion
  • Body sentences – support / give reasons for that opinion
  • Conclusion sentence – So……

Here is an example paragraph. The introduction is in red, the body is in blue and the conclusion is in black.

Underpaying people such as teachers and nurses has a negative effect on young people.

This is my introduction sentence: my statement. I now need to explain it in the body:

In an increasingly materialistic society, children have become more focused on the value of money and are therefore less likely to want to do lower-paid jobs. Furthermore, they may come to associate celebrities with positive role models because they represent a life that they desire, more than those who do work that is truly important to our countries. This could lead to a severe shortage of key workers in the future, leading to a decline in the quality of education and healthcare.

I have given reasons for my introduction statement. I have also explained what the results of the reasons could be in the final sentence. I now need a conclusion sentence to finish my paragraph:

Therefore, it is important that the divide between salaries is closed significantly in order to provide incentive for future generations.

Now, I can move on to my next paragraph and do the same again.

Can you write a paragraph about usefulness?

Before I finish this section, have a look below at my sample answer so far (introduction and body) for the question from my post about introductions http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media. Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

It is a basic human right to be entitled to one’s own privacy, and for good reason. Being forced to constantly live in the public eye can lead to immense stress on an individual, causing illness, stress and paranoia. It is doubtful that those who actively pursue celebrities day and night would themselves enjoy the same kind of scrutiny, making it a hypocritical activity. Furthermore, it could be argued that printing pictures, stories and gossip about a particular person without their express permission to do so constitutes a crime in itself. For these reasons, it is extremely important that tougher laws are put in place to protect famous people.

Secondly, it seems that the stories printed about celebrities are becoming more and more banal, leading to a decline in the quality of the country’s media. Articles about a person’s clothes, hair or diet are not newsworthy, and encourage an unhealthily aesthetic approach to life. Such a focus does not provide a good example to children and could lead to them growing up with a set of values that disregard sociopolitical issues, respect and empathy. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the media takes on the responsibility of carefully monitoring the levels of this content within their publications.

The third part of this series of posts – Part III – Conclusion, will be published soon.

Simon