Making Plans and Predictions

Making Plans

What is the difference between “will” and “going to”? Or the difference between “going to” and present continuous? I’ve drawn a picture that I think shows these differences clearly – click on and save the picture to see it in a larger size.


So, what does this picture tell us?

  1. “will” is used to talk about future events that we haven’t planned yet. We haven’t planned them because this is the first time we’ve been told about them, or the first time we’ve thought about them. Two examples:
  • “I’ll help you with those books” – I’ve seen someone having trouble so I’ve offered to help
  • “I’ll come with you” – I’ve just been told a friend is going on holiday and I’ve decided I want to come.

Of course, we could use “might” or “may” if we’re less sure about the decision.

2.   “going to” is used when a plan has been made, but the future event is still quite far away in time (see example) – so we usually make the time very clear (“I’m going to see Harry Potter at the cinema next Saturday”) – this means I’ve already bought a ticket, so I made the plan some time before I said this.

3.   Present Continuous is used when the event is planned and is really soon. We often use this to talk about events that are happening on the same day. Remember, we must specify time, because if we don’t then the listener will understand that we are talking about something happening now! Example:

  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter later” – I know that this is soon, and therefore unlikely to change
  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter” – This is happening now, so you’re talking to me while the film is on

4.   We also use Present Simple to talk about future events. In this case they are happening very soon, they are extremely unlikely to change, and they are usually actions / events that we can not control. For this reason, we often talk about schedules (transport, for example) because they are on a timetable and being controlled by other people. Example:

  • “The train leaves from Platform 6 at 7:30pm” – this train will leave with or without me!

So, you can see that as you read down the page on my picture, you become more sure about the event as it gets closer to happening (have a look at the arrow).


OK, now lets look at how we can make a similar picture for making predictions



Again, there is an arrow showing that as the event gets closer, you become more sure of your prediction. So, “going to” is a prediction we make when the event is almost happening, or is almost 100% certain. Example:

  • “Manchester City are going to win” – I say this after 45 minutes of the match, when Manchester City are already winning!
  • “Manchester City will definitely win” – I say this before the match, so it’s a prediction made with less evidence.

Notice that we can’t use present continuous / present simple to make predictions!

I hope this helps you! As always, email / comment with any questions!





Recording Vocabulary – Notebooks

This article is for students and teachers.

How do you record vocabulary at the moment? I see hundreds of students do it like this:

English Word                                                        L1 Translation
English Word                                                        L1 Translation
English Word                                                        L1 Translation

The fact is, this method doesn’t give you enough information about a word. You need more!

Think about these questions:

  1. What does this word actually mean? 
  2. How do I pronounce it?
  3. What kind of word (Noun / Adjective / Verb etc.) is it?
  4. Does it belong in a word family?
  5. Are there any words that connect (collocate) with this word? And words that don’t?
  6. Can I use this word in a sentence that’s useful to me / my goals?

Students often try to take too much new vocabulary and it ends up being lost because it isn’t memorable. Ideally, you should try to learn ten words a day. No more. And if you cover the words in enough detail, then you will remember them, and you will be able to use them effectively.

Let’s look at an example:

You read a text and find a new word: INTEREST

1. You need to find a meaning in English that you can understand. Here’s one:

“The feeling when you want to know or find out more about something”

2. How many sounds? Where is the stress?

/’ɪntrəst/ – so the word has two sounds, not three. The stress is on the first sound, and there is a weak (lazy) sound before “st”.
If you don’t know these symbols, you could also write “in-trest”

3. INTEREST is a noun.

4. Interesting (adjective) – something that makes you feel interested. Disinterested / Uninterested (Opposites) Interest (verb) – something can interest you. Example: Rugby interests me.

5. Interested + in –> I am interested in reading. NOT interested about / for. Interesting + NO PREPOSITION / OBJECT.

6. I thought that yesterday’s lesson was really interesting.
     I’m interested in finding out more about vocabulary notebooks.

Now I really know this word, and I can use it in many different situations correctly. Here’s what that looks like when you put it together:

Interest /’ɪntrəst/ or In-trest (noun) – The feeling when you want to know or find out more about something

Interest (verb) Interesting (adj) – something that makes you feel interested (adj)
Opp: Disinterested / Uninterested

Interested+in à I am interested in reading.
Interested about / for

Ex: I thought that yesterday’s lesson was really interesting.
       I’m interested in finding out more about vocabulary notebooks.

Putting this together

Now you need to start thinking about recording vocabulary by subject. Maybe INTEREST would go well with vocabulary about free time / likes and dislikes. Recording it with other words from a similar subject helps you make connections and will help you organise your learning a bit better. Have a go!

For Teachers

Try introducing this idea to students and doing a few examples with them. Get them working together, sharing words that they have made “Lexical Notebook Entries” about. Set a few as homework and gradually work it in to classes as expectation. Use it in tests too! It is time-consuming, but it will help cut down on errors and confusion, as well as helping set realistic goals for lexis learning.

Have a look at Teaching Collocation (Michael Lewis, 2000) for more information. 




IELTS Reading – Paragraph completion (word choice)

Here is a step by step guide for completing this kind of task. Remember to practise these steps until you have memorised them! Take a look at the task below.

It is a common 9 ……………….. that only men suffer
from colorblindness. On average 10 ………………..
than ten percent of men have this problem. Women
have two 11 ………………..  For this reason it is 12………………..  for a woman to suffer from  colorblindness.
myth a little less
X chromosomes defective genes
fact slightly more
exactly less likely
more probable

Often, the first thing you think is “what shall I read first?” In this case, the first thing to do is think about your grammar knowledge – just like you do in the listening exam during your preparation time. What kind of words do I need? What are the most logical answers?

9 – must be a singular noun

10 – something related to the percentage – must be “more” or “less”

11 – a plural, countable noun

12 – needs an adjective

Does this knowledge help you? Now look at the text here What you want to do is pick a keyword from the first sentence of the question, and match that to something in the text. Look at the beginning of paragraph B and you can see “men” and “colorblindness”. Now all you need to do is match a word or a synonym to one of the possible answers (you can see the word “myth” very early on – the answer to question 9).

Now complete the other three questions.


  1. Read the question and look at the grammar first
  2. Match a keyword / keywords from the first sentence to a location in the text
  3. Match synonyms or exact words to words in the box

So, in this task you don’t need to understand very much at all – you are just matching a few words and synonyms! Good news!


IELTS listening – spelling tips

As you know, incorrect spelling in the IELTS listening results in a wrong answer. Even one letter wrong will mean a wrong answer. Here are a few tips to help you.

  • Dates – write the dates like this: number + ordinal + month, so…… 14th January. Get in to the habit and then you won’t confuse yourself by having too many choices. Then, make sure you can spell the months. These are:

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Now, check you know the days!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

There are other ways to write the dates that will get you marks, but I think it’s sensible to choose one system and stay with it.

  • Pronunciation practice – part one. There will almost always be a number than ends in ‘-teen’ or ‘-ty’ because the pronunciation difference is quite small. Practise saying these: 15 / 50, 16 / 60 etc. Notice that the stress on ‘-teen’ words is on the second sound and the stress on ‘-ty’ words is on the first sound.
  • Spelling practice – I have heard teachers tell students that if there are any names, then they will be spelt for you. This isn’t completely true. Names will be spelt for you unless the sound matches the spelling, or it is a common word that you should know. Learn how to spell these surnames:

Smith, Jones, Walker, Brown, Green, Davis, Johnson

Now, take a look at this map (click on it and it will enlarge):

IELTS listening map spelling

You can see lots of street names here. If you look at all the streets that start with “Harold”, the second words are very common. You need to learn the following:

Mount, Avenue, Crescent, Road, View, Walk, Place, Grove, Terrace, Street, Place, Rise

Don’t worry about the meaning – it’s not particularly important. You will be expected to spell these without help though.

  • ‘s’ or no ‘s’?! You need to listen carefully to check if words are plural or not. If you miss the ‘s’, you will lose your mark.

Just to check…. can you spell these words (and do you know what they sound like)?

Accommodation (uncountable), language, university / universities, fortnight (learn this word – it means “two weeks” and often appears), budget, assignment, essay, square, government, authority / authorities, library / libraries, scientist, luggage (uncountable)

I hope this helps you!


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

Now you have your introduction and body (see Introduction lesson: and Body lesson ) 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

Happy New Year everyone!


IELTS Academic Reading – What to Expect and Time Management

1 hour, 3 texts, 40 questions. IELTS reading is not easy! Being prepared for all possible question types and having a clear strategy for each of them is important. On this page you can find examples of all the question types and a few tips on how to do these kinds of tasks. At the bottom of the page, there are a few general tips on time management to remember when doing the test.

What to Expect

In the IELTS reading, you could find any of the following question types:

  • Short answer  questions
  • Completion questions: Completing sentences
  • Notes
  • A summary (with no words to choose from)
  • A summary (with words to choose from)
  • A picture
  • A chart
  • A table
  • Matching information / opinion with writer names
  • Yes/No/Not Given questions
  • True/False/Not Given questions
  • Matching lists or sentences
  • Matching Paragraphs
  • Classification questions
  • Multiple choice questions

Let’s have a look below at examples of these.

Short Answer Questions

This is where you will have a general question and you will need to write the answer with a word limit.

Using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS, write your answers to the following questions:

Example: What kind of flower bears the most fruit in Autumn?


Find a key word in the question. Here, “Autumn” or “Fruit” are good examples. Now, start from the beginning of the text. These questions will be in order in the text. So if you find an answer, the next answer will come after this one. The answer will not exactly match the question, but will use synonyms or paraphrase. Here, you are expected to scan for specific details. Read the questions first, then scan. You do not need to read the text first – this is a waste of time.

Completion Questions

Similar to short answer questions, you have a word limit but this time you complete the sentences instead of asking questions.

Use NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the text for this answer.

Example: The roots of the plan then point towards the _______________ .


This is a similar kind of question to short answer questions – scanning for information and synonyms. The difference here though, is that you are asked to find words that are in the text

Summaries, Note completion, table completion, chart completion, picture completion

You will be given a summary, some notes, a table or a chart that refer to part of the text, not all of it. You then have to complete them with words either from the text or not (READ THE QUESTION!)

Below are some visual examples:


Name Size Area Found Endangered?
Red Kangaroo 1.3-1.6m West and Central No
Eastern Grey Kangaroo 5_________ East and South 6___________
7___________ About 90cm North No
Western Grey Kangaroo 85-110cm 8_____________ No

Summary (with words)

The All Blacks were expected to win the 1991 championship __________. However, they encountered great ____________ before the tournament, when a number of the team suffered ______________. Ultimately they were ­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________ of making the final, their tournament ending in ______________________.

Happy Incapable Players
Injuries Success Difficulties
Easily Disappointment Able

Sometimes, you will see this summary with no words to help you.


With these five types of question, the important thing is to find the correct area of the text. This means you need to skim. Remember, when you find the correct paragraph, answers inside the paragraph might not be in order. If you get a summary with words question, it is often quite easy because there might be only one possible word that fits in the space. You may not even need to read the text! Can you do the exercise above?

Matching information / opinion with names

In this section, you have to match names to opinions, facts or information. The key here is to remember to read the question, as you will often be able to use each letter more than once. Look at the example below:

Match each item with its inventor.

Write the letter A-E in boxes 7-10 on your answer sheet. You may use any letter more than once.

7          Phonograph

8          Absorption Refrigerator

9          Carbon Microphone

10        Telephone

A        Thomas EdisonB        Albert EinsteinC        Alexander Graham-Bell


For this kind of question, you need to scan, not read. Names are easy to search for, because they always contain capital letters. Find all the names and circle them, then go back and read the two sentences around each name to find the answers.

Yes / No / Not Given and True / False / Not Given Questions


OK, so you get some questions and have to write Yes, No, Not Given, True or False. CHECK THE QUESTION. Don’t write “True” if it asks you to write “Yes” and don’t write “Y” either. Do exactly as the question asks you so that you aren’t worried after the test. Also, you have to forget any knowledge you have of the subject from outside the exam. Only look at the text.

Finally, be happy: these questions are in order in the text!

What is the difference between No / False and Not Given?

NO / FALSE means that there is information in the text that disagrees with the question. NOT GIVEN means you can’t find any information. Trust yourself: scan the text for the area you think the answer is from, and if you can’t find any information, write NOT GIVEN.

Matching Lists or Sentences, Matching Paragraphs

Like with matching information or opinion, you will be given some sentences that are incomplete, which you must match to sentence endings, or you will be given a list of paragraph titles which you will need to match with paragraph titles. There may be more titles than answers, so you don’t need to use all the choices.

Questions 1-5

This passage has 5 sections, A to E.

Choose the correct heading for sections B to E from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number i-vii in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet

List of Headingsi   The effect of globalisation on Eastern Europeii  What is Globalisation?

iii  Future prospects for developing countries

iv  Problems in South-East Asia

v   Solutions for Small Businesses

vi  The economy long-term

vii  The impact on urban areas

1 Example: Section A           v

2 Section B

3 Section C

4 Section D

5 Section E


Paragraph matching is possibly the fastest section you can get. The sentences that have the same information as the titles are always found at the beginning of the paragraphs, so that’s all you need to read! The paragraphs are clearly marked, so you don’t have to spend time looking through large amounts of text to find your answers. Remember here you can only use each title once!

Multiple Choice Questions

With these questions, you will be asked to choose one or two letters that answer the question correctly. Check the question carefully.

Questions 1-3

Choose the appropriate letter A-D and write them in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

1          According to the text, foxgloves are

A         Endangered in Britain

B         Pink or Blue depending on the season

C         Poisonous

D         A source of medicine


These questions are in order, which is always good! Find a key word in the answers and scan the text for it. For example, if I want to check C, I will look for a word that means poisonous. Is it mentioned with reference to foxgloves?

Time Management

  • Take a watch. Instead of trying to time every question, time a section. You have 18 minutes for each section. Don’t go over! You need five minutes at the end to guess all the answers that you haven’t found. Don’t leave anything blank – you don’t get anything for nothing!
  • Practise the test before going in. This may sound obvious, but practising will help you learn which kinds of questions you find easier. I personally think that matching paragraphs to headings is the easiest task, so I would do it first. You don’t need to do the test in order. Choose the easiest question types first, or the types of question where guessing at the end is impossible. For example, sentence completion, summary completion with no words.
  • Read the questions first and decide if you are skimming or scanning, and if the answers are in order or not. Then you know how much you have to read. Don’t read the whole text first – you might not need to and it would be a waste of time.
  • Write your answers directly on the answer sheet. Unlike listening, there is no extra time at the end to transfer your answers.
  • Practise speed reading outside the classroom. Take a newspaper and read one page. Time yourself. Now do another, but set a time that’s 30 seconds faster. In your language you don’t look at every word individually – you just look at three together, or the ‘meaning’ words, skimming the grammar. Try and make yourself do this by not reading with your finger.
  • Trust yourself. When you have written an answer, move on. It’s difficult, but you have to do it.
  • Don’t get interested in the text. Don’t think about the text – think about the questions and try to be as much like a robot as you can! So don’t read the text first. You risk becoming interested and reading more slowly!

Above all, good luck. I hope these tips help you with the reading test. Remember, to get 4.5 you don’t even need to answer half the questions correctly, so be positive and practise, practise, practise!