20 episodes

Complete tutorials for IELTS to help you improve faster and pass the exam.

Visit the site for a complete range of online courses and a new improved essay correction service.

IELTS Podcast Ben Worthington

    • Language Learning
    • 4.6, 15 Ratings

Complete tutorials for IELTS to help you improve faster and pass the exam.

Visit the site for a complete range of online courses and a new improved essay correction service.

    How To Plan For Academic Task 1

    How To Plan For Academic Task 1

    How to Plan your Academic IELTS Task 1 writing

    In this tutorial we are going to look at a Strategy for Planning your Academic IELTS Task 1 writing and the reason we’re going to talk about this is because it’s very easy with the Task 1 to jump in and start writing your answer without really carefully taking on board all the data you have in front of you and how you are going to use the time you have.

    Why a strategy is a good idea.

    Remember it is suggested that you only allow about 20 minutes for Task 1 so you need to write as efficiently and as accurately as you can so that your answer will have maximum impact and therefore the chance for the best result possible. A lack of planning and absence of a really careful and sensible Strategy for Planning your Academic IELTS Task 1 writing can result in you missing key data, such as identifying whether a chart is dynamic – that is, if it changes over time, or if it is static- giving you a snapshot of a particular moment, or what unit of measurement the numbers are given in.

    This tutorial offers you three great things.

    * WHAT you should look for when you see the graph or pie chart or bar chart or table or even a mixture of those – increasingly popular in recent exams at the moment.

    * HOW the planning works in action using a line graph to work through this process, then use notes to answer the question really efficiently.

    * BUILDS confidence and the ability to meet the criteria listed in the IELTS band assessment scores. Finally we will look at a Band 7 model answer for the question and work on how this could be upgraded to a Band 8 or even Band 9.

    Why is planning so important – I don’t have time!

    The recommended time for IELTS writing task 1 is 20 minutes and it can seem like a real challenge to ‘select, report and compare’ so much data in that short time. But by taking 3 -4 minutes to plan you are actually saving time! How?

    * If you know what to write, then the actual writing is easy!

    * If you plan first, you will not waste time deciding what to write next.

    * When you plan you write a few notes, and these will be the guide to your actual answer.

    * Remember: it does not take long to write 150 words when you know what to say!

    Taking notes and organising them. 

    In an exam you are under pressure and you may think that you will remember what to say but also, when you are stressed, you may not…so make notes on a piece of paper (you will be provided with this in the exam room) and then make sure you organise them so you can use them really efficiently.

    If you follow the planning strategy here then you will be ready when you get into the exam to use this 3-4 minutes time in the best possible way. Learn and practice the strategy before you go into the exam.

    Match your plan to the task by understanding the rubric.

    For Academic writing task 1 diagrams the rubric or question is always the same. You are always asked to ‘Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons were relevant’. Let’s look at this in more detail because this is the basis of the strategy.

    A 5 point strategy in 5 minutes.

    * Time period and vocabulary.

    * LOOK: Is the diagram dynamic (time changing) or static (one point in time). This tells you the kind of language you need (rose dramatically, fell steeply) or facts. The time period also tells you the tense you are going to use. This is so important and an area where lots of students make mistakes.

    * What is the data referring to? Student courses, computer owners, travel destinations. Thinking about this activates your vocab.

    * Step back and see the big picture.

    * Although it seems obvious check how many items are shown. In your pie chart, how many sections or segments are there? On a bar chart,

    • 31 min
    How to write a formal letter for IELTS general

    How to write a formal letter for IELTS general

    This week we will look at how to write a formal letter for your IELTS general task 1.

    Take a look at the following steps to help you understand the question and write a structured letter. The example we look at in this tutorial is about writing a formal letter making a request to change your college.

    Letter Question about Changing your college – a more formal letter

    It is an example of a formal letter written to someone in authority – the director of a college. I will give you a model answer as well as giving you some advice on the structure of the letter and the appropriate vocabulary to use to make the letter more formal.

    Understanding the letter question

    You are doing a course at a college that has centres in two different cities. You want to change from one to the other because it offers an additional course that interests you. Write a letter to the college director requesting the change to the other centre. You should include details about:

    * what course you are doing now

    * why you want to change to the other centre

    * what recommendation you have for the college for the future

    The focus of the letter

    You must write about each topic in the question but it is not necessary to write the same amount about each topic. In this question, I would suggest that you focus especially on the reasons why you want to change and then what recommendation you have.

    Think about who you are writing to

    This is a fairly formal letter: you are writing to someone you have met but probably do not know very well and that person is in authority. This means that:

    * your language should be more formal

    * you need to be polite

    Structuring your letter

    Remember that paragraphs are important. Normally, you start any letter by stating why you are writing and end it by saying what you expect to happen next. In this case:

    paragraph 1: to change centre (why you are writing)

    paragraph 2: give reasons why you want to change

    paragraph 3: make a recommendation (what you would like to happen)

    Topic vocabulary

    If you get a question similar to this on the subject of education, you should be familiar with the vocabulary. It is also a good idea to write about what you know, so in my model letter I mention studying for IELTS and take a simple example of another course I would like to take. Take a look at some of the “education” language included.

    Dear Mr. Wright, 

    I am writing to ask if it would be possible for me to transfer to the Brighton centre from the beginning of next term. I am currently enrolled in the Advanced English Programme and wilI present the IELTS exam in July.

    The reason for my request is that Brighton is offering an introductory course in Accounting and Finance which I am very interested in taking along with my English studies. Although I have worked in finance in my own country, I need to become familiar with English terminology and procedures. On condition I obtain a Band 7.0 in IELTS, I have been offered a job in an international accounting firm that will pay my tuition fees to study part-time for a degree in Accounting. 

    I understand that my request comes at very short notice and I regret any inconvenience this might cause. However, it is unfortunate that the same course is not offered here. Can I recommend that you consider including this course in the near future? I am convinced that you would have many interested students.

    Yours sincerely

    Ana Aponte

    Formal/politeness language

    Now look at the parts I have highlighted in blueand then read the comments below. You can try and use a lot of this language in your letters.

    Dear Mr. Wright,

    I am writing to ask if it would be possible for me to transfer to the Brighton site from the beginning of next term. I am currently enrolled in the Advanced English Programme and wilI presentthe IELTS e...

    • 26 min
    Essentials to writing a successful task 2

    Essentials to writing a successful task 2

    The key to writing a good IELTS essay is to use a process or system. To write an essay that will bring you success in the exam you need to think, not just about the result, but consider the process too. An essay is the product of a process and if you leave out just one step in the process the result may be less than ideal.

    Writing a good IELTS essay starts with understanding the steps in the process and what the outcomes should be.

    In this article you’ll learn the following.

    * Why using a system or process is essential to the success of your essay?

    * A recommended process with suggestions on how you should handle each step in the process

    * An explanation of what can go wrong and what mistakes you’re likely to make if you skip that step in the process

    Right at the end we’ll offer you a practice run

    There is no magic formula to writing an excellent IELTS essay. There are other systems that may work equally well, but the secret is to have a system and to adapt that system to one that gives you the best results.

    Stick to a process and you’ll avoid two serious problems

    Incoherence – disjointed essays that cause confusion

    You have a much better chance of ensuring that your essay is coherent if you use a set method to write it,. This is because with a method you would have gone through all the steps necessary to ensure coherence, moving from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 and so on. This means that you have given each part of the essay an equal level of importance. If you start with the end in mind without considering each step along the way, you may miss out on an essential stage of the process and end up with an essay which lacks coherence.

    Answering the question with the wrong essay

    Many students write essays in preparation for the exam. The problem with this is that, in your eagerness to answer with a carefully prepared essay, you may not answer the question as it has been asked.

    It may also happen that the question that you are faced with may not fit any of the pre-planned essays that you had in mind. In which case it is useful to have a reliable process to help you to write that winning essay. If you have a process you can enter the exam room with confidence, knowing that you have a system that will allow you to answer almost any question that’s thrown at you. When you have learnt the process of answering IELTS exams it all gets a lot easier.

    Before you start to write

    Often this first step in the process is the part that is left out in the nervous tension at the start of the exam. Don’t be tempted to leave this step out.

    Step 1 – read the question and understand what the examiner is asking

    Make sure that you understand what question is being asked. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to go off on a tangent and fail to answer the question. IELTS questions are precisely worded and they require a specific answer. Time spent reading the question and understanding the requirements is time well spent. It is the surest way to ensure that you answer the question well.

    IELTS is very specific and it is not okay to write about the general topic. Instead the answer must be very specific and pointed.

    Common errors

    * You completely misunderstand the question

    * The question looks like one that you have written in the past. You rewrite the same answer only to find that the question was not the same.

    * Your essay is too general and doesn’t answer the question that was asked.

    Step 2 – think about what you’re going to write

    This is the stage at which you plan the essay, but you can’t just plan. You must think. Don’t just react with a ready-made essay which may or may not answer the question asked. You need to carefully read the question and decide how you can answer it using your language skills, your experience, and your knowledge.

    • 36 min
    How to use percentages in Academic Task 1

    How to use percentages in Academic Task 1

    Task 1 writing practice

    In task 1 you will have to describe numbers. This lesson will help you to describe those numbers in various ways that showcase your English language skills. It is important that you know how to do this as many students who have not practiced the skill and repeat the numbers in the graph rather than interpreting it. Remember this is an English language exam and the aim is to examine the extent of your vocabulary and your ability to use it adequately.

    What is wrong with the answer

    Below you’ll find a chart and a description of the information on it. Can you see what’s wrong with the description?

    This chart shows that 25% of household income is spent on food and 22% on education. 13% is spent on clothes and 12% is spent on transport. 8% is spent on a mixture of household and personal items and 5% on power. That leaves households with just 15% to save.

    I hope that you can see what is wrong with this description. It is not very exciting. It demonstrates very little of your English skill. The words “spent” and “%” run right through the paragraph and simply tell what can be seen from looking at the graph anyway.

    Improving your descriptive skills

    Below you’ll find four ways in which you can vary your description. To make comfortable use of them in the exam, you’ll have to practice these skills on a regular basis so that you become very familiar with them.

    Compare sections of the pie chart

    Householders spend 25% of their household income on food. This is more than five times what they spend on power and just over twice the amount spent on transport, which comes in at 12%.

    There are many ways to make comparisons, so this gives you a great deal of flexibility.

    Here are some comparative words that you can use

    * Most

    * Least

    * More

    * Less

    * As

    * Not as

    Use fractions in place of %

    It is not necessary to use percentages in the description of the graph. Fractions work just as well. So, you could say that a quarter of household income is spent on food. This is a great way to show the breadth of your vocabulary.

    Find other words to describe the graph

    So, you could say, for example, that while a quarter of the household income is spent on food each month, at 22%, only slightly less is spent on education. The smallest proportion of the household income pays for power with $5 of every $100 spent on power.

    The following words should help you to become more adventurous in your descriptions of the graph.

    * Proportion

    * Figure

    * Number/ amount

    * One in five, one in ten

    Try grouping things together and think about how you order the words

    So, you could say that almost 60% of household incomes are spent on food, clothing, and education. While households spend almost as much on transport as they do on clothing. When all household expenses are paid most households can save just $15 out of every $100.


    Practice makes perfect, so look at the pie chart below and try to apply the knowledge that we have mentioned above to describe how people commute to work in New York.

    You can download or listen to the audio version here:

    |Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | a href="http...

    • 24 min
    How to Improve Your Cue Card Answers

    How to Improve Your Cue Card Answers

    In this tutorial we (Ben and Daphne) review three cue card answers. We look at fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. We also share advice on how the student can overcome the errors we spotted.

    This is a new service we are launching to help students improve their speaking score. Eventually this will be integrated into the Speaking Confidence course.

    You should listen to this tutorial because:

    * You can learn from their mistakes

    * You will hear how a student can go OFF TOPIC and lose points

    * You will also hear a model answer, with the right vocabulary and details

    How does this service work?

    * Record your speaking answer (cue card provided)

    * Email your recording

    * We send you your feedback in a voice recording, from a Native English Speaker IELTS expert.

    Here is a video explaining the process in more detail.

    Start now and get two for the price of one. 

    You can download or listen to the audio version here:

    |Direct Download Here | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | Transcript |

    • 30 min
    General Task 1 Writing Tips to Help You in 2020

    General Task 1 Writing Tips to Help You in 2020

    In this tutorial, we offer you some IELTS GENERAL WRITING TASK 1 tips so we will be looking at different aspects of letter writing.

    I have done quite a few tutorials about Letter writing because this is a form of writing which personally, I really enjoy and I still write a lot of letters.

    I thought it would be useful for you to have some IELTS general Writing task 1 tips to guide you and to help you get an amazing score when it comes to this part of your IELTS exam.

    A long time ago when I was at school, we had lessons all about how to write different kinds of letters and it is the quite rigid or fixed format of some letters which I find really interesting and which – because some of the conventions – or rules of writing, for example using formal, set, fixed phrases like ‘ I would be grateful if you could provide me with information on … or ……I am writing to complain about the appalling meal my family had at your restaurant last weekend’  – are still observed today. So, you need to know exactly how these work. Understanding what is expected from you, not only in terms of the marking bands but in terms of how these letters ‘work’ perfectly is very important and I hope my writing tips today will help you with your exam preparation if you are nearing the beginning of your work or almost reaching your exam date!

    For this tutorial I thought it would be fun to use a mnemonic. A mnemonic is a group of letters which can help you to remember ideas, facts and information and they can be really helpful to use when you are revising for an exam and you need to train your brain to quickly recall important information. I have used them quite a lot when I have been taking exams and as well as acting as a memory assistant, mnemonics can also help make sure you do not leave anything OUT – make sure you have not forgotten anything so you have the best chance to score very high marks.

    Our mnemonic today is (of course) the word GENERAL because this tutorial is all about offering you IELTS GENERAL WRITING TASK 1 tips so let’s look at our letters.

    G is for GREETINGS the start and end of the letters

    E is for EFFICIENT how to make the most of your time in the exam and produce a great letter following the exam prompts.

    N is for what NOT to do

    E is for EXPAND it’s important to develop or expand your ideas so your letter becomes real and believable.

    R is for REGISTER which means understanding changing the tone of your writing according to who you are writing to so a letter to your Bank for example will be more formal than a letter to a friend.

    A is for ACCURACY in all things exam you have to be accurate! In spelling, in punctuation and in how you lay out your letter – what is actually looks like on the page.

    L is for LANGUAGE and here I will be sharing some really great chunks of functional language and key expressions with you can use in your practice and in your exam as well.

    I have also compiled lots of great expressions which you can use in your writing according to the function of the letter such as for a complaint, request for information, or job applications! I hope you find all this really useful for your IELTS General task one preparation!

    Key Expressions to use for letter writing:


    I’m sorry about…

    I am sorry that…

    I’m very sorry about…

    I’m very sorry for…

    Please forgive me for…

    I’d like to apologize for…

    Please accept my apologies.

    Please accept my sincere apologies. (very formal)

    Asking for Help

    I’d be grateful if you could…

    I would be grateful if you could…

    I would appreciate it if you could…

    Could you please…

    I was wondering if you could help me.(informal)

    I would like to know…

    • 20 min

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