Emails from Students (Page 1)


All the emails on this page (Page 1) were previously in the 'Blog' section.


January 25, 2007

Email about Nervouseness

XXXX> wrote:

Hello, How are you?
I am a student ,who will take the IELTS on 10th Februray, and I am very nervouse about it. My spoken english is not very good. Would you like give me some help and tell me the situation about the spoken test on that day?
Thank you very much
Have a good work


My Reply


The situation on that day will be the same as on any other test day. I have no inside information about the tests - I'm no longer an examiner. 

You should ask yourself why you are so nervous. Maybe you are thinking it's a "Do or die'' situation but it isn't - it's just an assessment of your English level and you can do the test again if you don't get the score you want. And think of this - If you only get an overall score of say, 5.0 or even 5.5 then it means that you are not yet ready to study at a university overseas. If you tried to be a university student overseas with that level of English, you would find it a tremendous struggle trying to cope, no fun at all, and you would have a high chance of failing your course because of your weak English.

You say your spoken English is not very good but from your email, I'd say you're about a Band 6. Anyway, even if your level was a Band 4, being nervous or losing confidence will not improve your ability or your performance on that day! It will only make it harder for you to talk. Just accept yourself and accept the English level that you are at now. And, most importantly just try to communicate with the examiner, another human being, as well as you can.

Just think of the Speaking tests as like a 'chat' with a foreigner and be interested in communicating with another human being. If you read the messages on 51ielts or 3gbbs, you'll see that many people write something like, "you should not worry about the interview" and "my examiner was a very kind old man". 

Basically, nervousness is just an attitude. Are you so nervous before tests in university or school? Are you nervous when you talk to someone you don't know, especially a foreigner? Maybe you should find someone (a Chinese person) who you don't know on the bus or in a teahouse or KFC and start a short chat. And maybe you should try to find a friendly foreigner who you don't know and do the same. Many Chinese people are a little shy about speaking to strangers and that could be your main problem.

Another way that I think you could decrease your nervousness is this: when you first meet the examiner, don't immediately start thinking "He or she is judging me."  Instead, start asking yourself questions about the examiner such as, "I wonder where she's from," "I wonder how long she's been in China," "I wonder if she's married," "I wonder if she can speak any Chinese." etc. By doing that, you will be focusing away from yourself and that should help decrease your nervousness.



February 22, 2007

Email about Topics 69, 11 and 81

XXXXXX wrote:

Subject: hello,Chris I still have some questions thank you!^^ 

Thanks for your reply!I have some qustions about a few specific topics,so 
I'm sorry to take up your time again.

I'm not sure the meaning of 'An Open-air Market',If can I describe the 
market like XiuShui Street or Hua Wei Market in Xi Dan.Or I must describe a 
market outdoors?

What are the difference between the topic 'A work of art' and 'Art or 
Music',can I say a sculpture for both topics,and if can I introduce 
'Terra-cotta warriors and horses'as a sculpture?

Thanks again and best wishes!



My Reply

Subject: Re: hello,Chris I still have some questions thank you!^^ 


Good questions. As far as I know, an ‘open-air market' is not a clearly defined term. Certainly, any market under the open skies is open air. But I would also interpret ‘open-air market’ as including those markets where the different stalls have no walls between them but are all covered by one big roof because the market is inside a big, broad building. This is common for flower markets or fruit, vegetable & meat markets in China and throughout the world. I think XiuShui Street market stalls have walls separating them from each other but the stalls don’t have their own ceilings - they all share the same big ceiling. Some people would say that, yes, it is an ‘open-air market’ but many people would say that it lacks the feel of a traditional (open-air) market. For example, traditional markets are usually only on one floor of a building, not 3 or 4 floors. To me, XiuShui Street resembles a department store with ‘the flavor’ of a traditional market – it’s a mixture of the two. Personally, I would not chose XiuShui Street as a good example of an open-air market.

It seems that the two Part 2 topics about art are similar but the most recent one allows you to chose a work of musical art as your example to talk about. Probably the older topic is now out of circulation but I cannot not be so sure of this until I find the earliest date that the topic was used. It is possible to have two Part 2 topics in circulation at the same time that are similar. Why not?

Sculpture for both topics would be suitable. This would certainly include the Terra Cotta Warriors because they were certainly works of art! We can see that in the brilliantly life-like features of the sculptures.

If the topic asks for ‘a work of art’ where ‘a’ means ‘one’, it would be best to stress that the Terra Cotta Warriors represent a single art form or style since the question asks for a single example. As long as you mention this idea of singularity or unity, you will have shown that the Terra Cotta Warriors are a suitable example. Alternatively, you could explain that you are going to describe a typical example of a sculpture of a Terra Cotta Warrior, of which there are many.

Other examples of art that a Chinese person could talk about are: a work of calligraphy; those stone or bronze lions that are placed outside the entrance of important buildings such as banks and hotels; and statues of Mao Zedong which can be found near the front gate of many universities or in the center of several cities, for example, Shenyang.

Your questions are welcome, XXXXX.



Topic: Email about the May 12, 2007 Test 

(Written April 24, 2007)

Note: The person who wrote this email spelled her surname in a way that is used in Taiwan (or Hong Kong) - that is why I mentioned Taiwan in my reply. (I know some people in Taiwan read this website.)


XXXX wrote:

Dear teacher:

I have see the website you made for IELTS speaking,it is helpful for

me to practise my speaking, thank you:)

I will take the IELTS exam on 12th May, i am confused about which

topics i should pay more attention,would you mind giving me some advices?

Thanks a lot!


Best wishes,


Your friend



My Reply


1) Read this page, because if you are doing the test in Mainland China, there will be a new set of Part 1 topics and questions starting on May 12. If you are doing the test in Taiwan, I don't know what Part 1 questions you will get, the same new ones or the ones being used in Mainland China for Jan 6 to April 28, 2007 ( = the current questions).

2) In the Part 2/3 list, concentrate on those Part 2 topics that were first seen on or after May 13, 2006. The topics I have listed as "Still Possible for April 28, 2007" will become "Probably No Longer Used" after the test of April 28. Read the Part 3 for those old topics but concentrate on the Part 2 topics that are not listed as "Probably No Longer Used".

3) Expect to get a new part 2 topic on May 12. Read "Too Many Part 2 Topics!" on this page:

Hope that explains things.


(P.S. 'advice' is a non-count noun


Written April 26, 2007

XXXXX  wrote:

> hello.i have a question.

> i have the examination on the April 29 morning.

> What topics should i prepared?

> The topics of April 28??

> Thanks


My Reply

  1. Current Part 1 questions.
  2. All Part 2/3 topics that are NOT labeled as "Probably No Longer Used". Those that are labeled as "Still Possible for April 28, 2007" have a SMALL chance of being used on the weekend of April 28/29.
  3. The topics that are labeled as "Often Used" for the test of April 21/22 (on this page, will almost certainly NOT be "Often Used" on April 28/29 although they might be used a few times. (I will finish updating that page tonight.)



Written July 8, 2007


Thank you for your mail.Chris.

I've been to your website for millions of times,and i think it really helped a lot:)

but i still have a question if you dont mind.That is whether the topics reported  on saturday or sunday in another city ,such as shanghai,wuhan or shenzhen ,will be used in beijing on Monday.

Have a good day.



My Reply

Hello XXXXX,

Good question. Unfortunately, it looks like the choice of topics in each testing centre is now random - you could get any current topic.

Until yesterday, it looked like there was a uniformity of topics all over China but now it seems that the British Council is changing their methods. I believe this is the case because yesterday about 25 different topics were reported on the internet bulletin boards just for Saturday afternoon. If you compare that with the usual figure for a whole weekend of 10 to 15 topics, it is obvious that something has changed. This change seems to be happening at the same time as the introduction of new topics is coming to an end.

Previously, I never had enough information to predict what topics would occur on a Monday but I did have some indications that the British Council used to continue their Saturday & Sunday methods on Monday.

It will take several more tests before we will be able to see any definite patterns. But for now, as I said, it would be best to treat it as a random situation. We don't even know right now if the all examiners in any one testing centre have the same topics in their examining packs or if each examiner in a testing centre has a set of topics that is different to the other examiners at the same testing centre.

You could possibly study the bulletin boards for the topics used in Beijing on Saturday & Sunday and those topics MIGHT be more likely on Monday but I think it would be much safer to assume that it will be a random choice.



August 28, 2007

An Email About '' Not Being Updated for A While

XXX wrote:

Have your website changed since Ang.8 2007?  Because I don't know whether or not my browse has something wrong, I have already seen the same website for almost 10 days.

Looking forward to your reply


best wishes



My Reply

Aug. 8 was the last time I changed a page. I've been too busy with teaching


Another Email, Received August 28, 2007

XXXXX > wrote:
dear chris:
our ielts candidates can profit from your yellow 
websit a lot, but it seems that you have not been ubdate it for 
1 month, we are anxious. what's up? is there something wrong?



My Reply


You should have no expectations about a website that is a 
completely free service and which I undertake voluntarily - I 
receive no pay for the many hours of work I put into the 
website. I'm tired out from my teaching load at the moment so, 
sorry, I have not been able to keep the website as up-to-date as 
I would like. But I'm working on it. I should be able to catch 
up with my analysis of the internet postings in a week or two.

By the way, I notice that you write, 'our IELTS candidates'. Who are the 'we' 
that you represent? 

All the best,



A Student's Sample Answers, Corrected.


---------- 转发邮件信息 ----------


发送日期:2008-01-08 14:00:35



XXXXX 写道:         

亲爱的朋友:您好!关于雅思口语考试的话题 you like change? 我的回答你看看语法错误在哪里还有能不能换左地道的英语开始: 

well,actually,from young till now we changed every day.  i think change is nature. when i was a student i should change myself such as explore the unknown and tap new i 毕业 from shcool change made me  discard old habits or embrace and supply me some new opportunities to meet new people or learn new subjects .总而言之, i hope to change ,especilly positive change . it is may give me new way of life  

My comments:

If you could speak that fluently and with clear pronunciation, it would be understandable. But that would still give you only a Band 5.0 or even a 4.5. I doubt that it would get you a 5.5 for the Speaking test with that kind of language because a 5.5 requires at least two 6’s in your scores for Pronunciation, Grammar, Vocabulary and Fluency & Coherence. You need to improve the grammar quite a lot. At the moment it is, “broken English”. Below (highlighted in blue) is how I would say what you wrote.  Of course, my answer is a Band 8 or 9 answer; a few mistakes can still get you a score of 7.0 or 6.5 or 6.0.

Many people whose grammar is at your standard need quite a lot of time (= they speak very slowly) to compose sentences like that – that means they would possibly get a score of only 4 for Fluency & Coherence. In addition, some Chinese people, (but not all), who speak with words like that are hard to understand because their pronunciation is faulty, especially their intonation. If a person rarely speaks to others in English in a natural way or if a person rarely mimics native speakers speaking on a recording, then that person’s intonation can sometimes be ‘wooden’ and unnatural, sounding like a machine reading a book. You need to actually speak if you want to improve your speaking ability. That is as obvious as practicing ping-pong in order to improve one’s ping-pong game. Speaking to the wall is better than nothing but it’s very boring, lonely, and unnatural because the wall does not communicate with you. The Speaking test is defined in the IELTS Handbook as, “assessing the candidate’s ability to communicate in English.”

Before I write my improved version of your words, let me explain that this is a ‘Yes/No’ question, which is best answered by beginning your answer with a direct response to the ‘Yes/No’ question, such as, “Yes, I do.”:  Yes, I certainly do.”, “No, I don’t” ; “Not really”; “Not exactly” and then this direct answer is followed by some suitable detail. A ‘Yes/No’ question can also be first answered in a way such as: “Well, I’m in two minds about that.”; “Well, my feelings about this are quite neutral.”, or,  “Let me think about that.”. Then, after such a statement, you should ‘think aloud’ – considering the question and, at the same time, speaking your thoughts. This is called, ‘fluency’. )

My words:

“Well, let me think about that. From birth until now, we have all been continuously changing. I think change is natural. When I was a student in university, I thought the best way to change and develop was to explore the unknown and to tap one’s potential, to the best of one’s ability. Another example of change is when I was in high school. At that time, we were taught to think that positive change mostly involved changing one’s bad habits. Now that I've graduated and started working, change involves dropping old habits, looking for new opportunities (including new ideas), meeting new people, and learning new subjects. Right now, at this stage of my life,  I still hope to continue changing — of course, in a positive way. 


写道:把你写的东西发到这吧   我给你看看雅虎邮箱传递新年祝福,个性贺卡送亲朋!        致礼!         

亲爱的朋友:您好!这道题是说在进20年中中国的巨大变化让你谈谈这个问题  回答;  我也不知道怎么说  我说出来的东西总觉得不连贯你给我想想怎么办吧  向我下面说的话一上来就说主题是不是显得有点突兀但是雅思口语就那么几分钟老外是喜欢考试化还是什么中国来是肯定喜欢来点铺垫 不知道雅思考官怎么想

people are become richer , they rise of living standerd ,they buy cars and buy beautiful clothes and live in nicer apaterments the obvious change is everything become more ang more international and 网络化 . they can almost everything they want and have more choice when they were old they can enjoy better social benefits 总结,it's dramatically about change over the past 20 years in china

My comments:

I guess you are answering the question: “How has China changed in the last 20 (or 50) years?” Notice firstly that the verb tense of the question is 现在完成时. You should try to use that verb tense a few times in your answer.

My words:

(Well,) people have certainly become (much) richer than before. In other words, their standard of living has risen a lot in the last few years. For example, many people now (can afford to) buy such things as cars and beautiful clothes and live in nicer apartments than they used to live in before. People can buy almost everything they want and they now have more choice in life. Another obvious change is that everything is now (much) more international compared to 20 or 30 years ago, for example, the internet is now a very important part of everyday life. Not only that, old people now enjoy much better social security benefits than they used to.  Overall, China has seen continuous and quite dramatic change over the last 20 years.      


the game that comes to my mind is an old chinese game called "hide ang seek '.it's great fun and easy to play when i was a child i played this game very often .the game needs at least five kids to start,and the more kids participating , the more fun it isone child will play the "seeker',and another child as the 'hider'.first,we can use a cover the hider's eyes ,let him/her count one to ten,and try to find the seeker.(衔接不上了)hider数数期间, the seekers hide themselves as soon as they can hider return to the spot where the seeker counted without being seen confined in a certain area. in the game the seeker tries to catch one of the hiders who then takes his/her role as the seeker."the hide and seek "enjoy great popularity among childern in china.they definitely get great satisfation in the excitement .in avoiding  danger and cultivate observant.

My comments:

I guess you are answering the Part 2 topic question: Describe a popular children’s game or activity in China.

Your first word, ‘The’ should have been “A” or “One” because the question is asking for an example, any example. ‘The’ is 特定的.

You also used the word ‘will’ when describing how the game is played. I think using the present tense (一般现在时) is more suitable although some English speakers do use ‘will’, meaning to predict what the next step in the game is. However, I suggest avoiding the use of ‘will’ this way because many English speakers think it is incorrect and unsuitable.

I think the use of ‘great’ in ‘great popularity’ and ‘great satisfaction’ is a little formal-sounding, a bit like written English rather than natural spoken English, although using ‘great’ here is certainly not incorrect grammar. (Similarly, using ‘much’ sounds too formal.) Using ‘a lot of’ or ‘lots of’ is more suitable in spoken English. But, "It's great fun" sounds normal.

One game that comes to mind is an old game in China called “hide and seek”. It’s great fun and easy to play and when I was a child, I played this game very often. The game needs at least five kids to play and the more kids participating, the more fun it is. One kid plays the ‘seeker’ and the other kids are the ‘hiders’. If you want, you can use a cloth to cover the seeker’s eyes while he or she counts one to ten and then takes off the cloth and tries to find the hiders. When the hiders run to hide, they do it as fast as they can. (After this, my understanding of what you wrote is not too clear.) The hiders also try to return to the spot where the seeker counted. (If they succeed in doing that, they are considered to be ‘safe’ and cannot be ‘found’ by the seeker or, another variation is that the first to return to where the seeker counted becomes the next seeker.) ‘Hide and seek” is really popular with Chinese kids – they get a lot of satisfaction and excitement from avoiding being found or from being good observers who are good at finding people.


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