Updated Aug. 29, 2014 


Notes about some Questions (Page 6)


If some of the notes on this page are possible as a complete answer to the question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words in the test. If many people speak the same sentences in the test, the examiners will eventually know that these sentences are not your original words. This will seriously damage your score! Some examiners might even read this website. Examiners don't like answers that candidates learn, word for word, from a book, a website or from the blackboard in a class because such answers are not real, natural communication. The best idea is to adapt the ideas below (if you want to) by making your own sentences and speaking naturally in the test. (Completely memorized answers are usually not spoken in a very natural way.) Try to avoid letting the examiner know that you have read this website!


Topic 296 Naughty

Take a break and watch this funny video of a dog who knows he did something wrong. The dog's owner has two dogs and he knows one of his dogs ate the cat treats while he was out. Watch how the guilty dog reacts when the man asks him if he did it. This will make you laugh!

See video transcript here.


Part 2 topic 296: A Successful Person

Describe a person who you think is successful. *

                You should say:

who he or she is (or, who they are)

what they did (or, what they do)

how you know this person

why (or how) he or she became so successful *

and explain how his/her success has helped society. *


  • See note about the number of points on the card.

  • Possibly the last line shown above is a mistake. Maybe the last line is this: "and explain how he or she became so successful".

  • Possibly the wording is: "Describe a person you know who you think is successful". If this is the case, you need to talk about someone you personally know, someone you have spoken to. You don't personally know Yao Ming; you just know about him. So far, it has not been confirmed if the words, "you know" are included on the card.

  • You should talk about a successful person who is still living now.

  • It doesn't have to be a "famous" person. (It seems that "famous people" is a sub-topic in Part 3 for this Part 2.)

  • Although it's possible to talk about one of your parents, I suggest you should be careful if you do that make sure your answer does not sound like a prepared, memorized, general description of your father or mother. Overall, I think you will a much better impression if you don't talk about one of your parents. (But talking about an uncle, cousin or grandparent would be ok.)

Many students in China seem to have trouble speaking a good answer for this question, (where "good" means that the examiner, a person from the West, feels the answer accurately answered the question). One reason for this might be cultural differences between Chinese people and Westerners. Another reason seems to be that many people have an unclear understanding of what "a successful person" really means. It does not just mean, "someone who you think is living life successfully".

For example, one student described her grandfather who is good at making things, such as chairs, out of wood. This student also talked about how the grandfather was a kind person, was well-liked by everyone and how he had a happy family. This is typical of many Chinese students who I have seen answering this topic they combine the idea of someone who is good at something with the idea of someone who, in general, has lived (or is living) "a successful life" in terms of being a respected member of society and having a happy (successful) family life etc. One the one hand, it is commendable that some Chinese people think that being "successful" simply means being happy, being a good member of society and having a happy family. This simple idea of what constitutes a successful life probably reflects both traditional Chinese values and the values of socialism that have been taught in China for the past 60 years. However, to the Westerner, this description seems to be lacking. If you are speaking English to a Westerner, it is necessary to adopt the Western value system to some extent.

Another misunderstanding that I have seen with Chinese students is that some of them say that a successful person is concerned about the welfare of others, for example, giving money to charity. This is really missing the point!

Firstly, you should understand that "successful" basically means, "having reached a goal". In other words, it is goal-specific. For example, if your goal is to get an overall 6.5 for the IELTS test and if you only get an overall 6.0 the first two times you do the test, you can say that, "I haven't been successful in the IELTS test yet." But if you get 6.5 on your third try, you can say, "I succeeded!"

Similarly, if your friend was overweight and she decided to lose 10 kg of weight, which she did do after a few months, you could say that she was successful in reaching her goal. But can you use your friend as an example of "a successful person" for this Part 2 question? Not really, although it might be acceptable if you are a very good English speaker. The reason why you shouldn't use such an example is that a description of  "a successful person" needs to involve more than one simple goal such as losing weight the words, "a successful person" have a wider application than referring to reaching one minor goal. (It's like saying someone you don't know is "a nice person" because you see him or her do one nice thing you cannot judge a person based on just one instance of something.)

So, what do Westerners mean when they say, "He's a successful person"? What goal are they referring to? The goal is reaching the level of achievement that people in society expect. Notice that this definition of "successful" is often based on what others expect, not always what the person himself or herself actually feels or thinks. It's true that usually the person we call "successful" had the goal of achieving what he or she has done but this is just the assumption that other people have we don't always know what goals the "successful person" has or had. Furthermore, when someone says another person is "successful", the person who says it is basing his or her judgment on his or her own criteria or from their own position in life. Take me, for example. I am a humble IELTS teacher in Beijing. Many people who are not very well educated would say that I am quite successful but other people would say that I am not so successful.

Furthermore, and most importantly, this level of achievement is generally (but not always) connected to people's work or how they make a living and how much money they make. This level of achievement varies, depending on what social class we are talking about. For example, in a very poor, uneducated community, if a young man gets a job where he wears a suit and a tie, most of the people in his community would say he's quite successful (even if he just works as a relatively low-paid salesman in a department store or a doorman at a hotel.) At the other extreme, there's a stratum of society in the U.S.A. (and in other countries) where all the people in that "community" have assets of hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. For example, many of the people who work in the upper levels of Wall Street investment banking companies fit into this stratum of society. If a man who works in a Wall Street investment bank only has assets of two or three million dollars by the time he reaches the age of 40, he is considered by his peers as "not very successful" or even as a failure although average people, such as you and I, would say he's quite successful, financially and in his career. People doing the IELTS test are between these two extremes. You, as an IELTS candidate, would, for example, say that someone is "a successful person" if:

  1.  that person is quite young and has a good job, especially a "profession" such as being a lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher etc.

  2.  that person is middle aged or older and has made good progress in his or her career

  3.  that person is young, for example 23 and is studying in a good university for a Masters degree or a PH.D (= a successful student who seems headed for a successful career)

  4.  that person is self-employed and makes a good living from his or her business

There are also many other choices.

I think it would be best to be specific and clear about what the person is successful in. Generally speaking, it would be best to try to say you think he or she is "a successful X" where X = lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher, (self-employed) businessman, (self-employed) businesswoman, insurance salesperson etc.

You could even talk about the best student in your class at school or university and describe the person as "a successful student". That even includes someone you know who got a good score (such as 7.0 or more) in the IELTS test. This person is a "successful IELTS candidate". Or a "successful English learner"!

Another example is "a successful stock market speculator" (= "a successful stock market investor" or "a successful stock market player") if this person has made a lot of money on the stock market. After all, making money is the goal of speculating on the stock market.

I don't think it would be a good idea to describe someone as "a successful parent", although such an answer is possible in theory.

Nor would it be a good idea to describe someone as a successful piano player, painter, basketball player, singer etc. if the person is very good at one of those activities but just does it as a hobby or interest. This is because there is no clear goal or expectation in people's minds for hobbies and interests. A "talented" piano player" etc. would be more suitable for describing these, not a "successful piano player". But if someone has entered several piano competitions (at a high level) and won some of these competitions, it would be suitable to describe that person as a "successful pianist" because they have reached some goals this is similar to having a successful career, even if the person does not (yet) make money from their talent. Certainly, if the person does something like one of those activities as work and makes a good living from it, it would be suitable to use. Similarly, if your friend is an amateur sportsperson and has competed and won several competitions, you could talk about this person, describing him or her as a successful competitive tennis player or whatever sport they play. Again, this is suitable because the goal of competing is to win. But if this very good tennis player doesn't enter competitions, it would not be suitable to say he or she is a "successful (competitive) tennis player".

The example I gave above about the grandfather who is good at making things out of wood would have been better if the candidate had said that her grandfather is (or was) a "successful cabinetmaker" or "successful craftsman", i.e., if the candidate had said that her grandfather did this as a job. Even if the grandfather was not self-employed, if he was good enough at his trade to be able to always find a good job and if he made enough money to keep his family in relative comfort, it would be suitable to say that he was "successful" at his craft or trade.

Finally, I also think you should avoid talking very much about such things as "having a happy family", "having a happy marriage", "having many friends", "being respected and liked in the community", "being a good person" etc. These would be suitable if the topic was, "Describe someone who is living a successful life" but that is not the wording of this topic. For example, it would be quite acceptable to describe someone as "a successful businessman" if this person has made a lot of money in business (which is the goal or expectation) even when this man has had two failed marriages, has serious problems with his children, is really not very satisfied with what he is doing in life, has problems with alcohol and is in poor health! You would say that, overall, he's not living a completely successful life but he is still a successful businessman.

Just focus on the achievement of the successful person and be specific about what the person is successful at.

Caution! 小心!


Do you think career success can ever cause problems in one's personal life?

Some examples of when career success might cause problems in one's personal life:

  • Someone becoming much more successful than his or her old friends or neighbours

  • Someone becoming much more successful than his or her brothers or sisters

  • A wife becoming much more successful than her husband

  • A highly successful woman having difficulty finding a husband

Caution! 小心!


Do young people and older people generally have the same role models?

Your answer could be quite different depending on whether the examiner uses the words, "the same role models" (= the same people) or whether the examiner uses the words, "the same types of role models".


Do you think that celebrities deserve to have their privacy?

A useful word to use might be, "paparazzi" but of course you can still give a good answer without using that word!


Part 3, Topic 297, Advertisements

What do you think are the characteristics of all 'good' advertisements?

'Good' probably means 'effective' or 'successful'. But it might mean, 'advertisements that people like'.


Part 3 Topic 299


(Listen to the pronunciation of some of these words)

Some people have reported that the questions here are about "wild animals" but I think the questions are probably much broader, i.e., they are about "wildlife" (also wildlife). "Wildlife" includes not just animals but also plants and other living things. In everyday speech, "animals" usually refers to four-legged creatures but in terms of biological classification, the "animal kingdom" includes such things as insects, fish, birds and reptiles such as snakes. You should try to speak in terms of all living things, not just four-legged creatures.


a) One of the most important reasons to preserve wildlife is that these things carry genes (most of which have not been studied) that might one day be very useful for mankind. This includes the genes of the primitive (the original) food crops such as wild potatoes, wild rice, and animals such as wild sheep etc.

b) Of course, ecological balance is a very important reason to preserve wildlife.

Try to read about the mysterious deaths of bees in the U.S.A. and think about how important bees are! (Without bees, there is very little fertilization of crops.) Almost certainly, the bees in the U.S.A. are dying as a result of either pesticides and/or the use of genetically modified crops.

Caution! 小心!


Part 3, Topic 301

The word, "children" has two usages in English. The first meaning is, "young people between the ages of about 3 and 12". The second meaning or usage is, "the sons and daughters of people". An example of the second usage is this: "My children are too busy to visit me very often" spoken by a woman who is 65 years old talking about her son and daughter who are in their thirties and married.

You need to consider the context of the question in order to best choose what meaning the examiner really means. It seems that this discussion in Part 3 is focused on the topic of people's responsibilities towards their parents, so the meaning of "children" here is most probably the second meaning. The first question would more accurately express this meaning if the words, "towards their parents" were used instead of, "towards the family".

However, if the first question is asked (almost exactly as it is written here) and if there is no other hint that the examiner means the second meaning, then it would be normal and acceptable to talk about the responsibilities of people aged 3 to 12 in the family, such as keeping their rooms tidy or doing a bit of housework. (Of course, this doesn't apply so much to very young children.)


Do you think the structure of the family will change in the future?

"The structure of the family" means, "what people will comprise what is called, 'a family' ". This includes but is not only concerned with the size of the family.


Part 3, Topic 302

In addition to family, friends and work colleagues, what other people in society give advice?

However, "the community" sometimes refers to a smaller social group, such as the people in your neighborhood, although it can also be used to refer to all the people in a big city such as Beijing.

If you usually live in a village or small town and the examiner says, "your community" then your answer could be different to the answer of people who live in a big city. For example, if the examiner asks, "In addition to family, friends and work colleagues, what other people in your community give advice?", then you might have to say that there are no psychologists, social workers, investment consultants (for financial advice) or lawyers in your community but such experts can be found in a nearby big city. But if the examiner asks the question using the words, "in society" then the examiner really means "in Chinese society" (or whatever country you come from).

In fact, the word "society" sometimes refers to "human society" not just to the people in your country.

However, another meaning of "professional" is "done for money". In this case, a fortune teller or a matchmaker, who usually give advice in return for money, could be called "professional advice givers". But these people are not called "professionals" and are not examples of someone who gives "professional advice" because they are not highly qualified.


Part 3, Topic 304 Note 1

Do you think that universities should prepare students for the "real world"? 

Notes not written yet


Part 3, Topic 304 Note 2

  • How is modern technology used in education today?

  • (Similar to above) What impact does modern technology have on education today?

"Modern technology" = electronic technology such as:

Caution! 小心!


Part 3 Topic 305

How can a person learn to become an expert photographer? 

How do people become professional photographers?  

It is not clear which question was used in the test - maybe both were used.

Make sure you know the difference between "an expert" and "a professional". A professional photographer makes money from being a photographer, i.e., it is their job. Not all 'experts' are 'professionals' but a 'professional' needs to be an expert, otherwise he or she will not be very successful in making money.


Part 3, Topic 308

Do people prefer to live in modern homes or the older-style homes?

There is a subtle difference between "what people prefer" and "what people would prefer".

"What people prefer" = "what people freely choose". The fact is that many people do prefer (= do choose) to live in older-style buildings (e.g., built more than 30 years ago) because:

a) it is cheaper to buy or rent than a more modern place or,

b) it is closer to their work or,

c) perhaps there are not enough modern buildings for everyone to live in or,

d) perhaps they prefer the kind of people who live in a certain place (such as their old neighbours).

On the other hand, almost everyone would say that they "would prefer to live in a modern home". This means, "they would prefer to live in a modern home, if they could" (usually, if they could afford it).

Here's another example. You might ask a young woman who works as a waitress in a restaurant, "Do you like your job?" She might answer, "Yes, it's ok. But I would prefer to be a school teacher - that was always my dream." Her meaning is, "I would prefer (I would choose) to be a school teacher if I had a better education."

Caution! 小心!


Topic 309

Describe a change you would like to make to your lifestyle in order to improve your health (or fitness) *

                You should say:

what change you would like to make

how you would make this change *

how difficult you think it would be

and explain why you think this change would improve your health (or fitness) *



  • Almost certainly, the question asks you to describe one change, not several. (Part 2 is almost always one example of something.)

  • Basically, you are being asked, "What new good habit would you like to start doing?" or, "What bad habit would you like to stop doing?"

  • It's ok to say, "want to" instead of ,"would like to" when you say what the change is, but "want to" is stronger, more emphatic and means that you really have a plan or strong desire to do this, not just a wish (a fantasy). Using the words "want to" is not hypothetical it should be something you really would like to (or want to) change (or you can pretend to want this!).

  • I am assuming that the third point says, "how difficult it would be". When you talk about "how difficult it would be" your meaning is, how difficult it would be if you actually started (or tried to start) this new lifestyle change, or if you actually did this thing. This is a case of using the structure, "If + past tense form of verb + would". But English speakers don't always say the "if" part of that structure when the listener already knows the "if" part.

You will get more points for grammar if you occasionally show the examiner that you can make full sentences using the structure: "If + past tense form of verb + would". However, it is not natural for you to say the "if" part of that structure every time you say "would" just show the full structure two or three times.

  • I think it is also possible to change the "would" to "will" in this third point if you speak about a real plan, just just a whimsical wish to change your lifestyle. It would be best to specify the future time but this is not always necessary because it is assumed to be the time you start to make this change. For example: I'd like to quit smoking. In fact, I'm planning to do that (in my university holidays, which start next month). I know it will be quite difficult because smoking is not just a habit but also a physical addiction.

    But it will not sound very good if you suddenly start using the word, "will" without making it clear that it is a real plan. For example, the following doesn't sound very good: I'd like to quit smoking. I'm sure it will be quite difficult because ... Strictly speaking, this is not incorrect English but it's not the best form of communication because it puts a strain on the listener the listener is forced to make the deduction that your words, "I'd like to" really mean, "I want to and, in fact, I plan to ..." It would be better to say this: I plan (or, I'm planning) to quit smoking. I'm sure it will be quite difficult because ...

  • When giving the reasons why it would be (or, will be) difficult (or easy), you should use real, not hypothetical language, which means using the present tense .

For example: I'd like to start jogging every morning. It wouldn't be too difficult to start doing that at the moment because I have (present tense) quite a lot of free time right now.

And, (if you talk about a real plan, as shown above): I know it will be quite difficult because smoking is not just a habit but (is) also a physical addiction.

  • Here's an example of a sentence answering , "Explain why you think this change would improve your health (or fitness)" --> If I started jogging, I'd be much healthier because I would be exercising my muscles, my heart and my lungs. As well as that, I'd probably lose a bit of weight by doing more exercise, which would also improve my health.

  • Don't use "will", "can" or "must" (or any other present tense verbs) when speaking hypothetically. Instead, use "would", "could" and, "would have to". These words are used when speaking hypothetically. When you talk about the real future, use "will be able to" and "will have to", not "can" and "must".

  • Note that the word, "wish" is used when speaking hypothetically but the word, "hope" is used when talking about the real future. For example: (I can't seem to lose weight.) --> I wish I could lose weight. This means that you "wish you could change a present situation." It is impossible to change a present situation because you can't have two opposite situations existing in the same present. Since it's impossible, this is called "speaking hypothetically". Another example: (I don't have much money) --> I wish I had more money. If someone gave you some money, that would be a new present situation! The structure is, "wish + past tense" (even though you are not really talking about the real past.)

"Hope" is used differently. For example: "I'm going to do the IELTS test next week. I hope I get a good score." The structure is, "hope + present tense", even though you are talking about the future! (Some grammar authorities, especially in England, say "hope + will + base verb" is also correct. For example, I hope I will get a good score.)


What forms of exercise are most popular in your country?

When speaking in general about, "doing an activity with the body in order to keep fit", we use the singular form of the word, "exercise". For example: "Swimming, walking, riding a bicycle, and playing basketball are all good forms of exercise."

When speaking specifically about, "different ways to move the body in order to keep fit", we use the plural form, "exercises". For example:

Person A: "Every morning I do a few exercises before breakfast."

Person B: "What exercises do you do?"

Person A: "I move my arms in circles, then touch my toes, do a few high kicks and finish with a few push-ups."


The dialogue above could also be this:

Person A: "Every morning I do a little exercise before breakfast."

Person B: "What exercise do you do? Do you go jogging?"

Person A: "No, I just do a few callisthenics such as moving my arms in circles, touching my toes, doing some high kicks and some push-ups."

(Only use the word "callisthenics" if you are about Band 6.5 or above. Why? Because if a Band 5.0 candidate uses it, it might alert the examiner to the fact that you have read this page and that you are speaking a pre-planned answer.)

Caution! 小心!


What kinds of sports facilities are there in your hometown?

See the notes here (in the Vocabulary pages) that were written for a similar Part 1 question. These notes include some examples of sports facilities.

These notes include the following point: The words "sports facilities" mean, "recreational sports facilities that the community can use". If you include "a football stadium", it might sound incorrect to some examiners because very often (but not always), a football stadium is owned by a professional football team and is only used by professional football teams. In this case, the football stadium is for "a spectator sport", not "a recreational sport".



Two people are talking about becoming healthier.


A: "I've decided to lose 10 kilograms of ugly fat."

B: "How are you going to do that, cut off your head?"



Part 3, Topic 312

What do humans use water for?

The examiner wants to know how humans use water in everyday life, not just how humans have fun with water such as water sports.


Part 3, Topic 316

Do you think television and radio are important to people?

This is how one person reported the question (and his Part 1 questions were quite accurately reported). This person also wrote that (he thought) his Part 3 questions were mostly about "technology". He also wrote that he got the question, What new technological developments do you think we will (or, might) see in the future? So it is possible that the Part 3 sub-topic is not just, "The News Media" as I have written but is, instead, Broadcasting Technology. This is a broader topic than "The News Media".

If you think the questions are just about "technology" (or, if they truly are just about technology) then you could answer that TV and radio are important entertainment media. But I think the examiner might be trying to focus on the news media so I think the person who reported this question possibly didn't follow the examiner's line of thought very well. It is also possible that the examiner started to talk about TV and radio in general and hoped that the candidate would include the fact that TV and radio are important as both entertainment media and as news media, and let the discussion develop along the line of the news media. I am putting these two questions into a separate sub-topic, Broadcasting Technology.


Topic 317.  An Adventurous Person (2)  (Jan. 15, 2011)

Describe an adventurous person who you know. (Possibly: "or who you have heard about.")

         You should say:

               who the person is

                how you know this person

                what this person does that is adventurous

    and explain why you think this person likes to take risks.*

    (or, explain how you feel about the risks this person takes.)*


  • This looks very similar to Topic 3, An Adventurous Person. Until more information becomes available, the wording above is a direct copy of Topic 3.

  • The word, "adventurous" might not be used. Instead, the wording might be similar to this: "Describe a person you know who takes risks."

  • If the topic uses words such as "take risks" and "adventurous", (but not the word "dangerous"), you don't have to just describe someone who does things that pose risks for physical injury, although describing someone who takes physical risks is, of course, suitable. There are other ways that people "take risks", such as: taking risks in business, (even simply starting your own company is risking losing your money) and breaking the law such as stealing, cheating on your taxes and, cheating in exams is certainly taking a risk!

  • If the word used is "adventurous", of course a good example is someone who likes to explore unusual places. The risk here might be simply the risk of getting lost, not the risk of being physically hurt. Adventurous people are also usually curious, confident and not afraid to try new (and especially unusual) things such as new sports and activities, asking new, unusual or even dangerous questions, exploring new and rarely explored topics, and in general doing things that average people are hesitant to do such as asking the boss for a raise and (for young men), starting a conversation with a beautiful girl who he does not know.


Part 3, Topic 317 An Adventurous Person

Do you think that for people in today's society, life is becoming more challenging than in the past, or less challenging?

Do you think these challenges are more mental or physical?

Basically, you can think of "challenging" as meaning, "not easy to do".

Let's consider the use of computers and the internet, which are common and important tools in modern society. I think that for people in the so-called "I.Q. 70 to 90" group, using computers and the internet is a great challenge, even an impossible task for many of them, especially when computer problems occur. This I.Q. group comprises about 23% of the population. (By definition, I.Q. numbers represent the percentage of people in the population who score lower or higher than a certain score in an I.Q. test.)

It seems that computer operating systems and the internet are designed by high I.Q. "nerds" to be used only by people in the community who are in the top 75% group in intelligence, but especially for the top 25% who are I.Q. 110 and higher, or even the top 9% who have an I.Q. of 120 or higher. This leads to the question, "Why don't such smart computer nerds design and write the instructions for using computer operating systems that are more user-friendly, more usable by the the vast majority of the community?"  Yes, the systems themselves are complex but that does not necessarily mean that the usage of the systems should be as challenging as it is.


What people do these adventurous things?

(Similar to above) What sorts of people do these adventurous things?

When an English speaker asks, "What sort(s) of people ...?" or "What kind(s) of people ...?", there are two possible ways to interpret the question. One way is to think that it means, "What are some examples of...?" For example: "What sorts of people wear a business suit to work?" --> Answer: "Business people, some of the people who work in offices, ..."

The other interpretation of the meaning of, "What sort(s) of people...?" or "What kind(s) of people...?" is, "What traits, characteristics, or qualities of people do this?" In other words, the question is asking you to classify or define something (here, define the meaning of the word "adventurous"), and often requires you to give a kind of psychological profile. For the business suit question, you could answer that, "People who wear business suits are generally the better educated people, people who have important jobs, people who want to (or need to) impress others with their importance, and people who want to (or need to) maintain a sense of formality and respect in their dealings with others."

In the speaking test, the examiners often ask questions about both, a) examples of something and, b) the qualities of something. The first of the two questions above obviously asks for examples but if you only get the second question, you can interpret it in either of the two possible ways. The second way is harder to answer but I suspect this might be what most examiners really mean by this question.


Do you think that for people in today's society, life is becoming more challenging than in the past, or less challenging?

Do you think these challenges are more mental or physical?

The main meaning of "mental" is, "using the brain". However, it can often also be interpreted to include, "emotional" and this interpretation could be included in an answer to this question. Usually, whenever the contrasting expression, "mental or physical" is used it means, "using the brain or using the body", especially when we are talking about an activity such as work. We have challenges today in using the brain that people didn't have years ago, such as continuing in school until the age of 17 or 18, which includes a lot of quite abstract learning, and trying to use a computer. Work, and life today in general, is more mentally challenging than in the past.

For  emotional or "mental health" challenges, there are the challenges of living in modern urban environments such as social isolation and the stress.

Physically, people in the past had challenges such as enduring illness and pain, (before the invention of modern medicine and pain-killing drugs), enduring long hours of physical labour in the fields, and living in houses that did not provide much relief from the extremes of hot and cold weather.


Do you think having a strong sense of independence is good?

Do you think that some people are too (= overly) independent?

There's "independence of thinking" (an attitude) and "independence of action", which sometimes arises as a result of independence of thinking. An example of independence of action is living an "alternate lifestyle", such as choosing to leave a job in the business world in a city and moving to the countryside to live a simple life growing your own food. "Independent" means, "not following the herd" (an expression in English), where a "herd" usually refers to a large group of animals such as cattle.

One person reported that he or she got both the questions above. Possibly the examiner reworded the first question to ask the second question (after the candidate did not understand the first question) since the two questions are close in meaning. However, the word "too" implies that some problems result from this degree of independence but in contrast, the words, "strong sense of independence" do not necessarily imply that there is a problem.

Most people would agree that a certain amount of independent thinking is a positive thing. But not everyone would agree that a strong sense of independence is good.

In thinking about answers to these questions, you might want to consider that today we have the "mass media". Think about what "mass" means.

Caution! 小心!


Part 3, Topic 318

How do you think transportation will (or might) change in the future?

This wording means, "How do you think transportation in general will (or might) change in the future?", not just in your hometown.


Part 3, Topic 320, Food

The World Food Supply 

  • Do you think that today the world food supply situation is different to a few decades ago?
  • Which country do you think is the world's largest food exporter?
  • Do you think the world's growing population and the accompanying increase in the demand for food is having an effect on the environment?

So far, there are no indications that these questions are in the examiners' question book. In other words, these questions might have been created and used by one particular examiner. These questions favour those candidates who pay attention to the latest issues in the news. Below, I will write some hints for you to use in an internet search engine if you want to get some ideas and some information.

Do you think that today the world food supply situation is different to a few decades ago?

Besides the obvious point of the increase in the world's population, search for these terms: /speculation in food prices/GMO foods/ Monsanto + India + crop failure/ biofuels + food supply/

Article: "How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis",1

Do you think the world's growing population and the accompanying increase in the demand for food is having an effect on the environment? (Chinese and other translations on the left)


Topic 323

Which do you think is better, to have "one man rule" or to have rule by everybody? 

  • It is unclear if this question is referring to leadership in general, leadership of a company, or political leadership of a nation (or a political unit such as a province).

  • The word, "rule" means "leadership".

  • "Rule by everyone" could be interpreted in different ways. (And it is not 100% clear what exact words were used for this question.) Of course, it is impractical (at the moment) for "everyone" to participate in leadership of a whole nation but the theoretical idea of so-called "democracy" is that, indirectly, all the citizens have some kind of input into the decision-making process of government, even if it is limited to simply participating in the voting for leaders, leaders who are representatives of the people.

The future might see mass participation (= direct participation of all the citizens) in the decision-making processes of government by the use of internet voting on important decisions. In this way, major decisions would be made by consensus by the total population, not just by consensus among the representatives of the people.

  • An alternative way to interpret the question, especially when we are talking about leadership of smaller groups of people such as a company, is to contrast "one man rule" with "rule by a committee", a "committee" which might actually consist of all the employees in the company or a committee that consists of representative of all the employees.

Caution! 小心!


Part 2 Topic 324.  A Traveling Companion

  • It would be normal for people to choose a friend or a family member as someone they would like to travel with. However, many IELTS candidates have a prepared, more or less memorized description of their parents and a friend. If you speak this description as your answer for this topic, without referring much to the topic of a traveling companion, the examiner will recognize your answer as a prepared "speech" and will not be impressed! The examiner might even subtract some points from your score if he or she is quite sure your answer was almost completely memorized.

  • I recommend you use this pronunciation of "travelling companion". This is the American pronunciation (with the American spelling, "traveling".) It's not the American pronunciation of each word that I am particularly recommending, but the way the first word is stressed more than the second word, i.e., the intonation of this word combination.

In contrast, the Macmillan online dictionary has this intonation for the British pronunciation. If you want to understand why I suggest using the first stress pattern, I suggest you spend a few minutes reading this page.


Part 3, Topic 324

What impact does foreign travel have on a traveler?

You don't have to use the expression, "broaden people's horizons"!! Although this is a good expression it is certainly overused in China and candidates think that using this expression alone will impress the examiner. If you use this expression, say how (= in what ways) it broadens people's horizons.


Does modern technology help people today when they are planning an international trip?

Booking airline tickets and hotel rooms on the internet.


Part 3, Topic 325

Do you think information on the internet is mostly harmful or mostly beneficial?

This is not a "Yes/No" question, so don't begin your answer with "Yes" or "No".


Part 2 Topic 326.  A Leisure Centre

  • A "centre" is a place where several people (at least more than one person) come together to do similar activities.

  • Another way to say, "leisure centre" is, "recreation centre".

  • Everyone has visited a "leisure centre" even if it was as simple as a room with a single ping-pong table.

  • A "leisure centre" could be indoors or outdoors. A single basketball court would not be a good example but a group of basketball courts together would fit the description of a "centre".

  • A "TV room", for example, in your dormitory, is possible but it would not be the best example because watching TV is a passive activity, although such as passive leisure activity is possible for this topic, especially if the card says that a cinema is a suitable example of a leisure centre.

  • The best example of a "leisure centre" is a place where people engage in leisure activities (or, a leisure activity) such as playing a sport (especially for fun and not so much for serious competition), a game (such as chess), or engaging in a hobby such as making handicrafts or playing musical instruments with others.

  • It would be suitable to use an internet bar as an example if you stress that most people there are doing leisure activities such as internet chatting, playing games online, listening to music or watching videos. In contrast, a computer room at a university where most students are doing serious research on the internet (for study purposes) would not fit the description of "a leisure centre" because the students are working, not engaging in leisure.

Part 3, Topic 326

Do you think companies should provide leisure facilities for their employees?

The word, "should" implies a responsibility. If this word is used, you can choose to (and it would be best if you did) analyze the question of the responsibilities of companies towards their employees. You could then develop your answer to speak about what is shown below.

If the question is, "Do you think it would be a good idea if companies provided leisure facilities for their employees?" then the most suitable answer is to discuss the advantages (and disadvantages) of companies doing that, with less emphasis in your answer on the question of responsibility.


What kinds of sports facilities are there in your hometown?

A similar question was used a couple of years ago in Part 1. At least one person has reported he or she got this question: What kinds of facilities are there in your hometown for people to keep fit? These two questions are not exactly the same because, although most sports help people to keep fit, not all ways to keep fit (i.e., all forms of "exercise") are classified as "sports". In Chinese, 运动 means both "sport" and "exercise" but English has these two different words. See the notes I wrote (in the vocabulary pages of this website) on this topic: #29. Sports Facilities


Part 2 Topic 327, Historic Building

I have now changed this from "A historic building" to "A historic place". I might be wrong, so I have two versions for Topic 327.

Notes for the Topic, "A historic building"

  • The Great Wall is not a building; it is a structure. All buildings are structures but not all structures are buildings. A bridge is also a structure but is not usually classified as a building. People can usually go inside a "building". In other words, most buildings have a roof, walls and one or more doors.

  • A couple of people have reported that they got the topic, "Describe a historic monument". A monument is also a structure but is not a building. For example, a statue is a monument. But I doubt that the real wording of the question says, "Describe a historic monument". However, it is possible it says, "Describe a historic building or monument".

  • A "historic building" is any building that, a) has historical significance or, b) is more than about 100 years old. However, definition a) is stronger and more important any building that has an important place in history can be called a "historic building". This is true even when we are talking about quite recent history, such as only 50 years ago. I suggest you choose a building that satisfies both definition a) and b), i.e., a historic building that is more than 100 years old.

  • Some people are reporting that this topic just says, "Describe an old building that you visited."  It's possible that a building that is old is not really of historical interest and therefore is not described as a "historic" building. It would be safest to prepare to describe a historic building, not just an old building.


Do you think the government should pay for (= has a responsibility to pay for) the maintenance and repair of historic buildings?

Pay attention to the exact words of the examiner, who might just use the words "old buildings" instead of "historic buildings". It would be expecting too much for the government to maintain all old buildings, regardless of whether these buildings have historic value or not!


Part 2, Topic 328

Version A

Describe an important aspect of your personal character. *

                            You should say:

                                           what it is

                                           what this part of your personal character is like *

                                           how it affects your life or work

                            and explain why you think it is important.


Version B

Describe an aspect of your personal character that you like. *

                            You should say:

                                           what it is


                                           how it affects your life or work

                            and explain why you like this part of your personal character.*



  • I originally thought reports of this topic were a mistake. But someone in Brazil reported he/she got this topic in May on (It's on Page 1 today, May 12, but it will change to Page 2 then Page 3 etc. as more test reports are added to that page.)

  • It might be either Version A or Version B. I think Version B is more likely. (Someone in China has reported this as, "Describe a good character trait that you have."

  • The first line might use a different word, besides "aspect". It might be "feature" or it might simply be "part". And it might use different words to, "personal character" It might say, "personality or character". In fact, I think this is more likely.

  • The person in Brazil reported the card said: "why do you like it?" That's possible but it is also possible that it says, "what it is like". I have that as the second of the three points in Version A: "what this part of your personal character is like".

  • The line, "how it affects your life or work" might say, "how it affects your life and work".

  • By all means, you must avoid letting the examiner see that you have prepared an answer for this!! You must act surprised when you get this topic and try not to use too many big words that someone at your level of English would not normally know.

What is "personality" and what is "character"?

Some English speakers use these two words interchangeably but I think there are differences between the two, although there is also some overlapping of the two for certain traits.


For me, "personality" includes such traits as shyness, introversion, extroversion, patience, how much you are a tense person (the trait of anxiety) or a relaxed (placid) person, your excitability, how much you are optimistic or pessimistic (the traits of optimism & pessimism), how easily you become upset or depressed, your sense of humour, etc. We talk in terms of a "good personality" usually when we are referring to socially attractive traits (such as smiling a lot).

It seems that personality traits are so deeply rooted in a person that they are hard to change. But this might be simply because we don't know how to change them. Even newborn babies seem to show the roots of different personalities. If you go into a hospital nursery room full of new-born babies, some will be placid most of the time will some might cry a lot. This leads some people to think that the roots of a person's personality are genetically determined. This might be partially true but the babies who cry a lot might have some physical problem that is upsetting them. And all the babies did experience exposure to environmental factors when they were in their mother's womb. For example, a woman who is upset a lot, or scared a lot during her pregnancy will produce different hormones to a woman who is very happy and relaxed during her pregnancy. These hormones will affect the growing baby because the mother and baby share the same blood supply during pregnancy. Not only that, early childhood experiences will certainly affect a person's personality development, to some extent. However, some experts say that the personalities of say, one-year-old children will be more or less the same personalities they have for the rest of their lives. So, it seems that personality is hard to change to a large extent.


I think of "character" more in terms of a person's value system. For example, we say someone is "a person of good character" if he or she is honest and trustworthy, and generally knows the difference between "right and wrong" or "good and bad" (and, of course, chooses to do the "right" things).

We also talk in terms of "strength of character" and this usually refers to traits such as strong self-discipline, perseverance, and the ability to withstand the temptation to do what his inner-self says is wrong even when under pressure to choose what is wrong. That is, people of strong character are not easily persuaded to do something against their will. A person's attitude towards work, such as being "hard-working", "diligent", "thorough" etc. are also character traits.

Basically, the value system that children are taught or that they develop (mostly in the home) when they are quite young will determine the kind of character they have as adults.

Overall, it seems "personality" might be more in-born while "character" is more learned in childhood. However, we see that some traits do seem to overlap "personality" and "character". For example a person's sensitivity, or a person's sense of adventure, bravery, independence or rebelliousness seem to overlap the two, being possibly partially learned during early childhood as a value, or developing as a result of experience, and being partially a part of this person's personality ever since he or she was a baby.

If the words on the card do say, "your personal character", then you could choose either a personality trait or a character trait.

I would not call "politeness" either a personality or character trait. Although politeness is a learned, value-system trait, in English we do not usually think that politeness is related to morally "right and wrong".


You should use these notes to stimulate your own thinking but be very careful about repeating exactly the same words, especially the same full sentences, in the IELTS test. Try to speak your own ideas, even if it difficult to find the exact word to say sometimes. Also, be very careful about how much prepared vocabulary for this topic you show the examiner. If the examiner sees that you obviously prepared a lot of vocabulary for this topic, i.e., using vocabulary that someone at your level would not normally know, then the examiner will think that possibly most of your whole answer was also rehearsed before the test. Examiners don't like that and they might subtract points from you if they believe you pre-prepared an answer before the test, rather than give you points for a good answer. So, to some extent, show that you are trying to communicate some abstract ideas that you don't know the exact words for. You will get vocabulary points if you can communicate your meaning even when you don't know the exact English word to use. This topic is certainly testing that skill and this skill is taken into consideration as part of the vocabulary sub-score.

On the other hand, it will help your vocabulary score if you do teach yourself a few words about this topic. I suggest taking the words I have used in these notes and try to learn both the noun and the adjective form of those words. For example, "shyness" is the noun, the trait, and "shy" is the adjective. Just don't show too many "big" words that a person at your level of English does not normally know.

I think this topic will mostly be used for people who seem to be Band 6 and above but that might not always be the case. Instead, this topic might be used as as trap (!) to see if you give a rehearsed answer or to see if you obviously show that you knew this topic was in the test. The examiners might be instructed to subtract a whole Band point from your score if you seem to give a rehearsed answer. (This is just my guess - I have no evidence of this.)


Some people say that "success" is simply what others believe to be success. Do you agree?

Somebody reported this as one of their questions. It looks very much like the examiner had read these notes that I have written or had heard another candidate repeat this idea from these notes. Be very careful not let the examiner realize that you have read these notes! Try to act as if this is a question that you had never considered before and don't be too fast with your answer - "discuss this question aloud with yourself" before coming to some conclusion about whether you agree or not, and why.

To answer this question: Of course, if someone is talking about their own success, then this "success" usually refers to some personal goal that this person had, not what others think. Perhaps this person originally got the goal from what his or her parents want or what society expects but if the person adopts this as his or her own personal goal, then this idea of success is not simply what others think. However, it is possible for someone to say, "I have succeeded in achieving what my parents want" even when that person does not really care about it him or herself! Don't forget, "success" simply means reaching a goal but whose goal is it?

But when Person A talks about the success of another person, Person B, Person A's idea of success is usually based on Person A's judgment of what "success" is, and this judgment is usually what Person A would like to achieve him or herself if they were in the same position as Person B. For this, there are certain "social norms" that the majority of people in society adopt as what we would like to achieve or, what is worthy of being called "success". It is these social norms that this question is referring to. On the other hand, I could possibly talk about your success when my meaning is, "You're a success because you achieved what you aimed to do", even if this achievement was not something that I personally would care about doing. It all depends on from whose viewpoint we are defining "success" or, whose goals we are talking about.

This is a very abstract topic. If you get a question like that you definitely need to: a) understand the concepts that have been written in these notes, adapting them to your own understanding of human nature and, b) be able to explain these concepts in your own words and with your own examples to show what you mean. If you simply repeat a sentence, a phrase or even an idea from these notes without being able to explain these ideas in your own words, the examiner will probably recognize that you had read these notes. Is that so terrible? Yes it is! If the examiner thinks that many of your answers in the whole test were prepared before the test because you had read the questions (and some notes) on this website, you could possibly lose one or even two band points from your score! This website is what we call in English, "a double edged sword". A sword with two sharp edges is dangerous because, although it is useful for injuring your enemy (and better than having no sword at all), if you don't handle such a sword carefully, you could also injure yourself when you swing the sword back towards yourself!

Caution! 小心!


Part 3 Topic 330 A Song

  • In what situations do people sing in your country? 

  • (Similar to above) On what occasions do people sing in your country?

The question is one of those. If the question includes the words, "In what situations" then, "when a person is happy" would be one suitable example but that answer would not be suitable if the word, "occasions" is used in the question; being happy is not "an occasion".

If the word, "occasions" is used in the question, "birthday parties" would be one suitable example. It would also be suitable to call a birthday party a "situation" but calling it "an occasion" is more suitable.


Do you think rock music can ever affect a person's health?

Hint: loud music at rock concerts, pubs, discos etc


Part 2 Topic 331, A Musical Event

  • So far (May 11), the wording is not very clear.

  • Notice that there seems to be just as much emphasis in the topic on seeing the event as on hearing it.

  • An "event" is when something significant "happens". For an event such as a musical event, there are usually announcements or advertisements before the event takes place, giving people information so that they can attend the event.

  • Suitable examples of  "a musical event" are:

a concert (a pop concert featuring a famous pop singer or musician; an orchestral concert playing classical music; a group playing traditional folk music, with or without singing; a kid's concert at some school; a concert at your university staged by the students and featuring several different performances; ..... )

a pub or coffee shop performance featuring singers and/or musicians (In China, tea houses also hold such performances, usually featuring traditional music but sometimes featuring modern music. This is not called a "concert" but instead, a "show" or a "performance".)

a dance performance (which is both a musical and a dance performance. Ballet, traditional dancing, folk or ethnic dancing etc. are all suitable. If you choose this, make sure the music plays an important part in the performance. For example, in ballet performances, the music is almost as important as the dancing that is performed.)

an opera performance (which could be either European-style opera or Beijing Opera or some similar local style of opera)

a musical stage play (such as "Cats". These are called "Musicals" for short in English. Of course, the musical content is mostly in the form of singing.)

a recital (A recital is like a "mini-concert" at which a single performer or a small group performs, usually classical or serious music.)

a rehearsal (Sometimes for big events, people are invited to watch a rehearsal performance before the first public performance. This happens with the Chinese New Year TV special.)

a talent quest or music competition (Talent quests are particularly popular on TV. Other music competitions, featuring more serious music, are also popular on TV, for examples an international piano competition shown on TV.)


Some examples of what is not suitable are:

someone, such as your friend, singing karaoke (This is not an "event".)

a film version of a musical play (This is a film or movie. It does not fit the definition of "event". However, a video recording of a live musical play that is shown on TV would be suitable.)

someone or a small group performing in a park or on the street (This is not considered to be "an event". However, if the performance was pre-announced and was considered to be significant, you could call it an "open-air concert" or an "open-air recital".)

a three-minute video on TV of a pop singer singing (This does not fit the definition of "event". However, if it was a clip from a video recording of a live concert performance, it would be suitable)


Part 3, Topic 331

Do you think it's good for children to study music?

"Study music" usually means, "to learn to play a musical instrument". Buy it can include learning to sing or learning other musical skills.

This question about children is not just about children at school. It includes children at home.


Do you think people listen to (or, hear) more music nowadays than in the past?

Pay attention to the verb in this question. "Listen to music" means that someone chooses to listen to some music; "hear music" just means that music enters a person's ears, whether they choose it or not. For example, if you are walking down a busy shopping street, you might hear loud music coming out of a speaker in front of a shop. Or you might hear music playing in a lift (an elevator). These are examples of "hearing music", not choosing to "listen to" music.


Part 2 Topic 338: A Character from a Childhood Story

        Describe a character from a story you read or heard in your childhood.

                            You should say:

                                           who the character was

                                           when you heard or read this story

                                           what the character looked like (or, was like)

                                           what the character did in the story 

                             and explain what influence this character had on you. *


  • I assume the wording above is close to the real wording. The real wording might be different to that in some ways.

  • The wording says you must include information about a specific story. Yes, it would be ok to talk about a character such as Superman or Donald Duck but these comic book characters were in many different stories, a different story in each comic book. So you must mention one particular story of the many stories these characters were in. Of course, it is suitable to choose a character who featured in only one story, such as the wolf in the story of "The Three Little Pigs", or Snow White.

  • Many candidates spend too much time trying to retell the whole story, with the result that they don't have enough time to answer other points from the card. Notice that the story itself is just one part of this topic. In fact, if the wording above is correct, you don't even need to retell (in a summarized form) the whole story what you need to do is to simply answer the question: "What did the character do in the story?" This is testing your ability to summarize.

  • Of course the character does not have to be from a Western, English-speaking story such as Snow White or Cinderella. It could be a character from your culture. (Remember, examiners are interested in learning something new when they interview candidates.) And it doesn't have to be a "famous" or well-known character or story.

  • When I have used this topic in mock tests, I noticed many people used the story of "Peter and the Wolf" (or, "The Boy Who Cried, 'Wolf!' "). Maybe this is suggested in some IELTS textbook in China. If you do the test in China, I suggest you don't choose that character and that story because the examiner will probably feel that you are giving an answer that you prepared before the test or worse, the examiner will feel your answer is a Part 2 model answer that you read in a book. Not only that, when people retell the story of "Peter and the Wolf " they usually focus too much on the story itself and not enough on the character. But it should be ok to use this character or this story as an example to illustrate a point you make in a Part 3 answer.


Topic 340 Animals

Check out this interesting animal (a sloth) but don't use it as your example for Part 2:

Watch what happens when a crocodile confronts a lion:

This video will send a tingle down your spine! A brave woman is surrounded by a group of wild cheetahs in Africa:

A unique cat:

"Lion Love" (a short, heart-warming video)


Part 3 Topic 341

What are the benefits and the downsides of being a film actor?

If the examiner says, "film actor" or "actor in films" then the question is asking about this kind of work, not about being famous. Only some film actors are highly successful and famous these are the ones we call "film stars". You might not know that there are hundreds or even thousands of actors in every film-making country who only work occasionally or who only work part-time as paid actors. Many of them mostly just perform in amateur theatrics as a hobby, with occasion work playing a small role in a film. It's only the top few actors who are wealthy "film stars".

If the question uses the words, "film star" then you should talk about both the work itself and the plusses and minuses of being famous (and rich).


Part 2 Topic 342

  • Even if the wording does not say something like, "you should say what you would talk about", you should still include this in your Part 2 answer! It would not be a very complete answer if you did not include that. The meaning of, "what you would talk about" includes, "what you would ask this person". I mean, if you met this person, would you just sit there and smile?

  • Here, "would like to meet" can possibly mean, "want to meet" but it is unlikely that most people would answer with that meaning. Instead, it can be interpreted to mean, "would be happy to meet". The word "want" should only be used if you have a strong desire, or a plan or a goal to meet this person.

  • The news reader on TV is not "someone in the news"!

  • Try not to just talk in general about someone famous such as Bill Gates who is often in the news and has been in the news for years. Yes, if Bill Gates was in the news a few weeks ago and made some specific announcement or did something that was news-worthy, then that would be acceptable if you specifically spoke about why he was in the news a few weeks (or months) ago. But to give an answer that is similar to, "Describe a famous person" will not be a very coherent answer because you will not be specifically answering the point, "you should say why this person has been (or is) in the news".


Part 3, Topic 345

What do children learn in their family (= in the home)?

If the question is similar to that, it means much more than learning things such as mathematics and history, although learning academic things is possible to include in your answer. This question is really referring to learning attitudes, values, how to behave etc., i.e., skills and knowledge that are used in everyday life.

Caution! 小心!


Part 2, Topic 346 A Job That Makes the World a Better Place

  • So far (June 16) I haven't found much detail about the wording. Previously, I had the first line as, "Describe a job that you know about that makes the world a better place. *" but the majority of people have reported this topic simply as, "Describe a job that can make the world a better place." Possibly the word "could" is used instead of, "can". If that is the case then the topic is asking you to imagine a job that does not exist now or a job that exists now but does not yet have much impact on the world. I think the second of those would be the more likely meaning because someone has reported that the words, "how you know about this job" are in the wording. That is, the job already exists and should not be a job from your imagination.

In other words, it is possible that some but not all the verbs are in the subjunctive voice.

However, I think it is a rather complex question to ask someone to describe a job that exists now that has the potential to make the world a better place but does not actually do that yet. One example could be, "being the head of the United Nations". That job could and should make the world a better place, but recent heads of the United Nations have not been very successful in doing that.

Since Part 2 is usually not so complex, I think Version A is more likely, although if I were to write this topic, I would not use the words, "can make" but rather, the word, "makes". (If the job existed now, the word "can" would be the correct grammar but that would be unnecessary and unsuitable - if the job existed now, the more logical wording would be, "Describe a job that makes the world a better place.")


Part 3, Topic 346

Do you think some people care too much about money?

"Too much" = "excessively"

Here, "money" mostly (but not only) means, "salary" or "income".


Part 2, Topic 347, A Shop

This might be either Topic 38, Topic 121 or Topic 216 returning to the test.


It would probably be ok to talk about a "coffee shop" (i.e., a place where you buy cups of coffee to drink) but I suggest you don't choose this because:

a) A coffee shop is more like a restaurant than other types of shop, and a restaurant would certainly not be suitable as an example of  "a shop". So it is possible that some examiners would think your choice was unsuitable. You would probably not lose points just for that but it might adversely affect the examiner's attitude towards you.

b) If you talked about a coffee shop, some examiners might suspect that you were giving an answer that you had prepared before the test for a coffee shop, which you think is "close enough" to use for the topic of "a shop". If the examiner also thinks some of your other answers were prepared (memorized) before the test, you might lose a point and the examiner might also choose to ask you questions in Part 3 that are harder than usual.


Part 2 Topic 349

Describe the style of clothes that you like to buy. *

            You should say:

                          what type (or style) of clothes

                          where you usually buy these clothes

                          how often you buy them

             and explain you like this style of clothes.





Part 2 Topic 351


Part 3 Topic 352

Does long-distance traveling have any effect on the environment?

This question is trying to get you to speak about the pseudoscience (伪科学) called, "a low carbon lifestyle". It's only an English test so it doesn't really matter what you say (or, it should not matter). It's your choice what you say. See my opinion here. (But don't spend too much time reading about this one topic.)


Part 3, Topic 358

Why do so many people try so hard to become wealthy?

Some people think the word "wealthy" is more polite or more "genteel" than the word, "rich".

Here, the meaning of  "rich people" (or "wealthy people"), "average people" and "poor people" to some extent depends on whether we are talking about people in "developed countries",  in "developing countries" or in "poor countries".

In the developed countries, "wealthy people" means more or less the wealthiest 1% of the population; "average people" are those who have enough income to live in a decent home, to supply their basic needs and to allow them some small luxuries; "poor people" are those who do not have enough income to live in a reasonably decent home or enough money to supply their basic needs such as decent food, clothing, education for their children, basic health care etc. The "super rich" can be considered to be those in the top 0.01% or even the top 0.001% bracket.

Do you think (people in) wealthy nations have a moral obligation to help (people in) poor nations?

For this question, the examiner might or might not use the word, "people".

"Have a moral obligation to help" = "Should help".


Part 3 Topic 361 - A Restaurant

How do people choose what to buy when they are going to prepare (or, cook) a meal?

Part of your answer might include talking about "cookery books" or "cook books". These books contain recipes for various dishes as well as information about the ingredients to use and instructions on how to cook (or, make) the dish.

I think the term, "cookery book" is mostly used in Britain and to some extent Australia although I think "cook book" is also used in Australia. North Americans use "cook book". I suggest you choose the term that applies to the country where your examiner comes from (if you know where the examiner is from). Don't forget, the speaking test is not just a test of language - it's also a test of your communication ability and, to communicate well, you sometimes need to consider where your examiner is from and what vocabulary they are most familiar with. Of course, this only applies to those words that might be different in different English-speaking countries. For example, "freshman, sophomore, junior and senior" are used in Nth. America and many people from Britain and Australia don't know what they mean. More everyday words such as lift/elevator and petrol/gasoline are known to all English speakers but "lift" and "petrol" are more commonly used in Britain and Australia while "elevator" and "gasoline" are more commonly used in Nth. America. If you are not sure where your examiner comes from, use the British English because most examiners (probably more than 80%) are from Britain and Australia (or Ireland or New Zealand).


Part 3 Topic 363

Do you think we really need to have teachers in the classroom?

If you get a question with this kind of wording, the emphasis is probably on where the teacher is (i.e., in the classroom or not), not whether we need teachers at all. For example, under certain circumstances, having a teacher in a faraway place appearing on a screen (via the internet) might be just as good as having the teacher in the classroom.

If the question is simply, "Do you think we really need to have teachers?", then this is asking about the usefulness of (or need for) teachers in general, or whether we need teachers at all, regardless of the location of the teacher.


Part 3 Topic 367 Note 1

If the question is the first of those two, using the word, "like", then it's more suitable to talk about recreational activities.

But if the question just asks if people "do" outdoor activities, without using the word, "like", then it is suitable to answer about either recreational activities or outdoor work activities, or BOTH. For example, farmers work outdoors in the fields, not because they especially like to do that but because it is the way they make a living.


Topic 372 A Television Program

Note written August 9, 2012

Previously I had two possible versions for this topic, the one that is now shown at Topic 372 and a past tense version (Version B), as shown below. However, since the start of May (or even earlier), everyone has reported Version A or "your favourite TV program". Since this topic has been in use from January 2011, there is a big chance that the Part 2 wording was quietly changed at some point, such as January 2012 or May 2012.

I am leaving the old copy of Version A (the one in use now) and Version B (not in use now) and the old notes (shown below) just for your interest.

Basically, you should ignore the old notes and speak about "your favourite TV program" as shown in Version A.

Version A (This seems to be the version that is in use now.)

Describe a TV program that you like to watch.

                You should say:

what type of program it is

when you watch it (or, how often you watch it)

what the contents of the program are

and explain what you learn from this program.


Version B 

Describe a TV program that you watched and learned something from.

                You should say:

what type of program it was*

when you watched it

what the contents of the program were

and explain what you learned from this program


Old Notes


Part 3 Topic 373 (Climate Change)

Do you think this is a problem? *  (Or, Do you think this will be a problem in the future?)

Nobody has actually reported this as a real question but I think it is an important question to consider, that is, it is what an examiner should first ask. However, I suspect that most examiners will assume that the climate change is global warming, mostly or partly caused by mankind's emissions of CO2. And, they will assume that this will be a big problem in the future, so big that it will lead to the deaths of millions of people.

There are several points to consider here.

  1. It really doesn't matter what you believe to be the scientific truth or the scientific reality, as long as you speak good English and have some ideas to express, especially some ideas to explain why you have your beliefs. This is, after all, just an English test.

  1. The scientific fact is that the world's climate is constantly changing, it is not something that stays the same. (Notice that the topic here is the average climate of the world as a whole, not climate in certain parts of the world.) This constant state of change is seen when studies are done of the world's climate on long time scales, such as decades, hundreds of years or thousands of years. At any one time, the world is either going through a cooling period or a warming period (or is for a short time, at the turning point where one phase stops and the other begins).

  1. Let's assume that the change in the near future (the next few decades or hundred years) will be global warming. Historical records have shown that mankind prospered in past times when the world's climate was warmer than it is today, sometimes quite a lot warmer. Most of this was a result of the fact that a warmer climate means a greater production of food. Therefore, moderate global warming in the future would not be a problem. On the other hand, a colder climate leads to less food production (plants produce less) and history has shown that mankind has suffered during these times.

  1. Currently, there is a political movement (that tries to pretend it is based on science) that is telling us that the near future will bring catastrophic global warming that will cause all kinds of problems such as the melting of glaciers and the polar ice-caps and extreme weather conditions. It is political because this movement claims that mankind's production of CO2 is the main reason for recent & future global warming and, from this, controls need to implemented over mankind's activities, especially financial controls, in order to decrease mankind's emissions of CO2. Furthermore, this movement has captured the control of the United Nations body concerning climate, a body that has great influence over the national governments of the world. The movement believes that using the voice of the United Nations gives their scientific "evidence" legitimacy. They have also captured control of the media.

However, despite what the movement claims, there are very many scientists who believe the idea of catastrophic global warming resulting from mankind's emissions of CO2 is fraudulent science. This would not be the first time in history that fraudulent science has been used for political gain. (Political gain is usually connected to financial gain or to financial control.)

  1. It is also possible that the next few decades will bring a period of global cooling. In fact, many scientists are saying that such a cooling phase has already started. They say that the sun's activity, which changes in predictable cycles, is the main determiner of global climate and, based on our knowledge of the sun's cycles of activity, a period of global cooling will occur soon that will last for several decades. This will be a problem, especially in terms of food security for the millions of people who are already in a very insecure position regarding food.

What do you think governments should do to address this problem?

Someone has reported this question. It's a logical and scientifically valid question if we are talking about how world governments should react to social changes such as food shortages that would result from global cooling. However, most scientifically educated people believe that mankind does not have the ability to actually alter or prevent any climate change itself human beings are not powerful enough to overcome the effects of the sun in determining the climate. Yes, we can and should control air pollution but air pollution itself does not have any (or much) effect on climate. The man-made global warming movement claims that governments should control mankind's emissions of CO2 but this minor greenhouse gas has not been shown to produce any significant warming of the planet. This is the crux of their fraudulent science they claim to have proven that CO2 (whether natural or produced by man) has a significant warming effect on the planet whereas other scientists say it has not been proven at all.

I have written extensive notes on this topic at I suggest you have a look at some of the material I have written on those pages but for most of you (i.e., you people preparing for the IELTS test), I suggest you don't spend too much time on this one topic. I wrote those notes to alert and educate people about what I believe is serious scientific fraud and mass brainwashing; I didn't really write the notes as a way to help people prepare for the IELTS test. Those notes and the web pages that I link to are written in quite advanced English and the topic itself is quite scientifically and politically complex. In addition to that, I strongly urge you to be careful about how you answer questions on this topic if you clearly & obviously show that your answers come from this website, which some examiners read and which all of them would believe is a kind of cheating, the examiner might try to find ways to reduce your score.


Part 3, Topic 374


There are actually three different ways that the word "holiday" is used:

a) A public holiday, similar to a "festival" (节日). These are usually one-day holidays but in China there is the one-week Spring Festival and, in the West, a one-week Christmas holiday.

b) A vacation from school or work.

c) Sometimes the word "holiday" is used to refer to an extended trip (e.g., for two weeks to one or more places) that someone goes on during a vacation.


The questions in this Part 3 seem to be general enough to allow you to choose either a, b, or c as your interpretation of the meaning of "holiday" in the question. For example, the Spring Festival can be stressful for the woman of the house who is expected to do a lot of cooking. And a holiday trip can be stressful during the actual traveling, such as at airports, even if the person is traveling to a relaxing place such as a beach resort. Even a vacation from school can be stressful if the students (especially a single child) doesn't have any friends away from school and has a lot of homework to do during the holiday, or is expected to also do some work such as helping in the family shop when he or she also has a lot of homework to do.

But the question, "What's the most stressful holiday in your country?" is obviously referring to meaning a), a public holiday.