Updated Aug 22, 2013

Notes about some Questions (Page 7)


If some of the notes on this page are possible in an answer to a question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words, especially word combinations, in the test. If several 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 377, A Job You Wanted to Do

Notes for Part 2


Part 3, Topic 378

What do you think are the benefits and the shortcomings of writing letters?

Don't forget, there are two main types of written letters - handwritten letters and letters that are written on a computer and then printed. That is, not all letters are "handwritten".

In a way, emails are a form of "letter" but we generally use the two different terms, "letter" and "email", to differentiate them. But it would be "too much of a stretch" to include text messages on cell phones as a form of letter, even though some people text a message using the same words they would if they were writing a letter.


Part 2 Topic 379

  • Many people have been writing on the internet since the start of May that there is a topic, "Describe a difficult thing that you did well." I don't know if they are all copying the wording of what someone wrote on a blog in China or if their card really did say that. I have added that topic as Topic 416. Although it seems to be a new topic, Topic 416 and Topic 379 might really be the one, same topic.

  • This Topic 379 seems similar to Topic 173 but, even though I have labeled it as Number 2, I think it has been reworded and is therefore a new topic. The Part 3 questions also seem to be different to those for Topic 173.

  • The point, "what others thought about your success" might be worded closer to "how others judged your success" or "how others estimated your success". In other words, it seems to ask you to talk about whether others also thought it was a success, like you did (do). Achieving a personal goal such as completing a project or task that you had been working on might be something that no-one else is aware of. But achieving your goal of losing 20 kg of weight might be something that other have congratulated you on.

  • For the last line, if the wording is "how this success affected you" then it would be suitable to include or even focus on how you felt about this success but you should also explain what change(s) resulted from this success.. If it is "how this success influenced your life" then you should focus on the change(s) that resulted from this success, although you could also mention how you felt. The second choice here is probably most likely closer to the real wording. ["Influence" and "change" go together and we cannot have one without the other whenever there is a change, there must have been some factor or influence that caused the change. And the greater the influence, the greater the change.]

  • The wording above does not ask you to say when you achieved this goal. But even if it does not ask you to say that, you must give some indication of when it happened whenever you use past tense verbs.

Previously, this topic was shown with the wording below, but I think that was a mistake.

Describe a situation (or, a time) when you received congratulations from others for what you had done. *

               You should say:

                               what the situation was *

                               who congratulated you *

                               why you were congratulated *

                and explain how you felt. *



  • It's a bit unusual for a word as advanced as "congratulate" to be used in the wording of a Part 2 topic but this does seem to be a real topic.


Part 2, Topic 380

Describe something you hope to do. *

               You should say:

                               what it is

                               how you got the idea to do this

                               what would be required to do it

               and explain why you hope to do this. *



Part 3, Topic 380

Do you think future changes in technology might affect your (long-term) plans?

For example, new technology might make it possible for computer programs to be easily written by average people, thereby making the job of computer programmer redundant. Of course, other changes might also affect your future plans. For example, economic and political changes in the world, such as war or whether or not you are able to emigrate to another country, which is your plan.

Caution! 小心!


Part 2 Topic 381, A Foreign Culture

The word, "culture" has rather broad interpretations. (Look up the word in a good dictionary.) When we speak of the single word, "culture", we are talking either about "high culture" or "popular culture". High culture is the practice and appreciation of certain artistic and intellectual pursuits that usually only the wealthiest and/or most educated people (i.e., the upper class) participate in. An example of this in the West is opera. If you go to London or New York, you'll probably find that there is a major operatic performance in some concert hall every month or so in those cities, but you won't find many factory workers or bus drivers in the audience. On the other hand, if you go to Italy, which is the home of Western opera, you will find many factory workers and bus drivers who love to sing in this style and some of them might even attend major opera performances. You could say opera, or at least this style of singing, is a part of both the indigenous culture of Italy and "popular culture" in Italy, but it is not representative of English or American popular culture nor is it indigenous to those countries.

In China, calligraphy (书法) is a form of art that is part of indigenous Chinese culture. Originally it was only practiced by the elite minority who could read and write but today quite a few average people practice it as an art form and the average Chinese person appreciates it. Therefore, it can now be considered to be part of the "popular culture". In this modern age, you could say that most examples of what used to be "high culture" that are indigenous to a country are now, more or less, part of the "popular culture" in that country, even if only some of the average people practice or appreciate it. Just like this example of calligraphy in China and opera in Italy, Mozart and Beethoven's and certainly Strauss's music (and that general style of music) is probably close to "popular culture" in Germany and Austria (where Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss came from) because many of the average people (although probably mostly middle-aged and older) in those countries would attend a concert featuring this style of music. But in countries that are quite distinct from Germany and Austria such as Britain, the U.S.A., Japan, China, Australia etc, only the more "highbrow" people would attend such a concert.

This Part 2 asks you to talk about the culture of a certain country. The meaning of "the culture of a certain country" is, "the customs (traditions), lifestyle, values and popular culture of that society". Here, "popular culture" refers to artistic, entertainment and recreational pursuits, including sport and the arts such as literature, music, dance, and other forms of performing that are enjoyed by average people and/or are traditional in that country. You should try, as much as possible, to talk about things that are unique to a certain country but it is usually not easy to find aspects of a culture that are 100% unique to one country. For example, in Italy the people like to use a lot of olive oil in their food but so do all of the people in the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. And Italian people love soccer but this is certainly not unique to Italy!

When most people think of "Australian culture", they think of an outdoor lifestyle such as enjoying barbeques in summer, a love of sport and going to the beach in summer because most Australians live close to the coast and Australia has many good beaches. Australians also typically have an egalitarian outlook towards other people, a strong sense of being fair in human relations and a rather "easy-going" attitude in general. [Although the arts, both the "high arts" and popular forms of entertainment are quite highly developed in Australia, I would not emphasize this as a major part of "Australian culture" because the arts in Australia are not very distinct from those in continental Europe, Britain and the U.S.A.. On the other hand, there is an Australian style of folk singing, sung in the Irish style, that celebrates the early pioneers in "the bush" in Australia.] In general, modern Australian culture now includes many elements from continental Europe and places such as Turkey, especially concerning food, as a result of large-scale immigration in the past 65 years. And, of course, American films, television and popular music are now a part of modern Australian culture. It would be suitable to include modern aspects of the culture of a country in your talk but you should try, if you can, to emphasize any older, typical or unique aspects of the culture, i.e., the traditional culture.

You don't have to be an expert on the culture of a foreign country to answer this Part 2 and it would not matter too much if some of your knowledge of a foreign culture is inaccurate! Just speak for less than 2 minutes about what you know about the culture of another country and, most importantly, why it is interesting to you.

In summary, talk about another country that interests you but only talk about the society, not about the physical aspects of the country such as mountains or beaches or the animals such as kangaroos.

Caution! 小心!


Part 3 Topic 381

"Do you think it's important for people to preserve their own culture (or is it better for everybody to influence each other's culture)?"

Be careful about how you express the point about everybody influencing each other's culture - this is a good point but it could indicate to the examiner that you had read this website.


Topic 387


Part 3 Topic 392

Do you think private companies have a responsibility to society to do some type of "public service?

Nobody has mentioned yet that the previous question, "What is the purpose of having private companies?" was used but I think there is a good chance that it is used. In simplest terms, private companies exist to make a profit for the owners of the companies.

Then, if the question above was first asked, the following question, "Do you think private companies have a responsibility to society to do some type of "public service?" would be a valid follow-up question for discussion. It is especially valid when we consider that one of the functions of government is to provide public services to the community, services that do not produce a profit. Some people feel that private companies do have some sort of "social responsibility", especially those companies that make a lot of money.

However, people have this generalized "feeling" because they are not aware of the political ideology, and the growing power of the political movement that is behind the "corporate responsibility" concept. There are some people in the West who have a political ideology based on the idea that all social activities are best performed according to "market forces". Basically, this is a strongly anti-socialist ideology, which seeks to privatize virtually all public assets and services, thereby greatly reducing the responsibilities and the political power of governments. The same people who promote this ideology also claim that corporations should be given "personhood", which means both the rights and responsibilities of a person. And it is no co-incidence that these same people are the ones who promote the notion of "corporate social responsibility", the responsibility to "give back to society" by performing some kind of public service.

On the other hand, people who oppose this ideology believe that this is dangerous and would eventually lead to the situation where governments will have no political power because they will provide very few public services and will simply be administrators performing duties for corporations. Furthermore, if public assets are privatized, the pubic, i.e., the masses of ordinary people who do not own shares in these corporations, will have no public ownership of important public assets such as the water supply system, national parks and other public lands, or cheap, subsidized public transportation systems. This would reduce the general public to a situation resembling serfdom. Those who oppose the "corporate responsibility" idea say that corporations should simply pay their fair share of taxes and allow governments to decide how the money is spent on public services. The opponents of the "corporate responsibility" idea say it is simply a backdoor way of easing governments out of the job of providing free or cheap public services and that, sooner or later, these voluntary and initially free minor examples of corporate public service will grow in scope and will become a business which people will have to pay for.

An answer to this question that is less political in nature could include the idea that corporations really only do things in the interests of their shareholders that is the very nature of a corporation. In the case of corporations providing public services, this is simply a public relations exercise, done with the aim of popularizing the name of the company in the minds of the public.

If you get this question, be very careful not to reveal that you had obviously read this website. Examiners won't like that. 


Topic 398 An Interesting Shop

Topic 398 Part 2 Notes

Although I cannot be 100% sure, I think Topic 347, A Shop is different to Topic 398, An Interesting Shop in a key way, the usage of the word, "interesting". Topic 347 seems to be more about liking a certain shop but Topic 398 seems to be more about finding a certain shop interesting.

What's the difference?

Basically, when you talk about why you like something, you express feelings but when you talk about why something is interesting to you, you express rational thoughts. In the West, we say people talk about what's "in the heart" to express feelings but we use the brain to have rational thoughts. For example, you can say you like something because it is convenient but you cannot say something is "interesting" simply because it is convenient.

When we find something interesting, there are several different types of rational thoughts that are possible. Probably the most common rational thought is comparison we compare something with other things of the same class (e.g., compare a shop with other shops) to see how different it is. If it is not different at all, we usually feel it's not especially interesting; if it's so different that it's unique (or unusual), we usually say it's very interesting.

Other possible rational thoughts are connected to learning and curiosity. If something arouses your curiosity and causes you to ask questions, it means we find it interesting. And if we learn something new from this thing, we usually say it's interesting.

There is some overlap between "liking" and "finding something interesting". It is possible to say you like something simply because it is interesting. Human beings like having their brains stimulated in this way. On the other hand, we can't usually say we find something interesting simply because we like it. (But there is a possible exception to this, based on rational thought. For example, you might say you don't like the sport of boxing because you think it is brutal and not really athletic. But then, one day, you watched a boxing box on TV and liked it for some special reason. You could then say, "That's interesting, I don't normally like boxing matches but I liked this one." Here, you are comparing what you normally feel about boxing matches with what you felt this time and you found they were different, and that fact itself interests you. It causes you to wonder, "That's interesting. Why did I like it this time?")

Of course, since this is a past tense topic, you must say when you went to this shop (if you only went there once), even if the card does not specifically tell you to say that. If you go there habitually, you could say that, instead.

Topic 398 Part 3 Notes

I might be wrong but I believe two slightly different sets of Part 3 questions exist in the examiner's question book for Topics 347 and 398 but there is a large degree of overlap between the two. This seems to be skillfully done and, given the limited amount of information I have, it is difficult to clearly separate the two. For example, I think it is possible that Topic 347 had a question about credit cards and a question about internet shopping but Topic 398 might have expanded these single questions into whole sub-topics, with several questions for these sub-topics. Furthermore, the examiners themselves are probably sometimes using questions that they remember from Topic 347 when they do the Part 3 of Topic 398. (Examiners are allowed to make their own questions in Part 3, as well as using the suggested questions in the question book.)  Therefore, the safest thing to do is to look at all the Part 3 questions for both 347 and 398. This results in quite a long list of different sub-topics and questions but, as I mentioned, given the limited information available, it seems too difficult to say what is not in Part 3 for Topic 398. Certainly, during February, March and April 2012 we have seen several new sub-topics and questions but they are being used alongside similar or identical questions from Part 3 of Topic 347 as used before January 2012.

The Part 3 questions from Topic 347 have been copied to Part 3 for Topic 398. New questions from after February 2012 have, of course, only been added to Topic 398.


Topic 407 - A Place with Water

What kinds of water sports do people like to do in places such as the ocean, a river, a lake etc.?

You should be careful about how you talk about "swimming" as a water sport in these natural places. People mostly swim when they are in water (water that is too deep for wading) simply because it is the only way to move from A to B in water! As a sport, swimming is mostly done in swimming pools, although there are competitive swimming events, such as the Triathlon (and here), that include swimming in a lake, river or bay etc. And even people who swim up and down the length of a swimming pool are not really engaging in a "sport" - they are simply doing a form of exercise.

Most of the water sports that people engage in at these natural places are recreational sports, not competitive sports. See this note I wrote for Topic 140.

See also the Wikipedia List of Water Sports and the Wikipedia article, Surface Water Sports.

Caution! 小心!


Part 3

What are some jobs (types of work) that people do near or on the ocean?

The word is "fishermen", not "fishers"


Part 2 Topic 411

Part 3, Topic 411

Do you think local people and tourists should pay the same amount to enter a museum?

These are the words of the question as it was reported. But I think it is more likely to be this: Do you think local people and foreign tourists should pay the same amount to enter a museum? In this case, "local people" means citizens of the country, i.e., people who are not foreigner tourists.

If the examiner does not use the words "foreign tourists", then the comparison is between all tourists, including those from within the country, compared to people who live in the same city or same locality as the museum.


Part 2 Topic 416 - A Difficult Thing


Part 3, Topic 416

Do different types of people face the same (or similar) difficulties and challenges?

This is an obvious question for this topic, although I haven't yet seen such a question reported. It might be words like, "Are there any particular groups (or types) of people who face particular difficulties in their daily lives?"

"Types of people" = classifications of people or groups of people. For this question, it's your choice of what types of people to talk about.

Here are some examples: old people, young people, married people, unmarried people, childless couples, people with big families, shy people, lonely people. poor people, people living on a low income, rich people!, unemployed people, people who have a poor education, illiterate people, mentally and physically disabled people, ugly people, (exceptionally good-looking people!), exceptionally tall, short, fat or thin people, people from minority ethnic groups, people with different jobs such as .... farmers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, long-distance truck drivers, school teachers, police officers, firemen, miners, soldiers, traveling salespeople, mariners (people working on ships that travel to distant places), airline pilots, small shop owners, ....


Part 2 Topic 417 - A Birthday

  • "*" = my guess.

  • I doubt that this says "Describe a birthday party". Instead, I think the word "celebration" is more likely to be used. Of course, a celebration is most often a party but it could also be a picnic, an outing to a karaoke bar with your friends, a get-together with some friends in a bar, a meal together with your friends in a restaurant or some other type of activity such as simply sharing a birthday cake in the office with your workmates and singing "Happy Birthday" but nothing else. ["Friends" could also be "friends and family members".] These resemble "a party" but native English-speakers would not always call them "a party". A "party" usually includes a variety of nice things to eat, which are most often laid out so that people can freely choose what and when to eat, drinks, free chatting and movement among the party guests, and very often (depending on the culture of the people), music, dancing and possibly singing. There might also be special party games. For a birthday party, Westerners have a birthday cake with candles, which the "birthday person" blows out, and the number of candles is the same as the birthday person's age.


Topic 418 - A Vehicle

What is "a vehicle"?

The pronunciation of "vehicle"

Although you, as the candidate, might not need to say the word "vehicle", the examiner will say it at least once. Most English speakers don't pronounce the "h" but a few do. Here are two examples of how the word is pronounced:,

For Extra Vocabulary and Extra Ideas

How to Speak for this Part 2 Topic

There are two choices:

a) "I'd like to buy a bicycle." = "I want to buy a bicycle."

The word, "want" means that you really do want something; it's a goal, a plan or a strong desire. For example, "I'd like to buy a bicycle because I want to save time traveling between my dormitory and my university classroom."

b) "I'd like to buy a Lamborghini sports car" = "I would be happy if I had a Lamborghini sports car"

This is talking about a fantasy, not a real goal or plan. (Lamborghini sports cars are very expensive.)

You should not use the word, "want" when speaking like this.


Part 2 Topic 420 - A Piece of Electronic Equipment

  • Make sure you know the difference between "electrical" and "electronic".

  • The first line might say "a piece of electronic equipment" instead of "an electronic device". A "device" is rather small, such as something you can hold in your hand but "equipment" tends to be bigger than a device, even very big. The word "equipment" also often means "several items that are used for a practical task", or a collection of items.

  • It is also possible that this topic is more specific, more restricted. That is, it might say, "Describe an electronic communications device that you have (or want to have in the future.)"

  • I think the first line has some words that allow you to talk about something that you don't actually have now such as, "... or want to have in the future", "... or plan to have in the future" etc.

  • "*" = my guess at the wording.

Topic 420 Part 3

  • English speakers do not use "PPT" to refer to Powerpoint.

  • Do you think young people (and children) use these electronic devices too much?   "Too much" means "excessively", 过多的.


Part 3, Topic 421

(Especially for Chinese candidates)

Who do you think is more important for a child, the mother or the father?

If you answer, "They're both important" (都重要) it will slightly damage your score in the test. The question assumes that both are important; this is already understood. The examiner is asking you which one you think is more important than the other. If you want to say that they have equal importance, then you must use the word "equal" or a similar word to express this idea. For example: "They're (both) equally important""They (both) have equal importance", "The father is just as important as the mother", "They have the same (amount of/degree of) importance" etc.


Part 2 Topic 424 - A Famous Person

  • "Influence" and "change" go together - you cannot have one without the other.

  • If the words, "impressed you" are used instead of "influenced you", then you should talk more about your feelings of respect for this person than about any change that happened to you as a result of knowing about this famous person.

  • The point, "what sort of life they had before they became famous" might be written a little differently but this seems to be the meaning. This point is testing your ability to use the past perfect tense (过去完成时) or the past perfect continuous tense. In general, in all past tense Part 2 topics, I suggest you try to find an opportunity to make a past perfect sentence because this will impress the examiner. Candidates with Band 5 grammar don't usually make such a sentence voluntarily but those with Band 6 and above grammar might. In this Part 2, it is not voluntary - you need to use that tense to answer this point, although you could say, "Before he became famous he was ..." or "Before he became famous he used to ..." But, as I mentioned, showing knowledge of the past perfect tense is the best way and the most grammatically correct way to answer this. For example: "Before he became famous, he had been working in a Macdonald's restaurant." That's an example of the past perfect continuous tense.

  • I think you should talk about a person who is both famous in your country and who is from your country. This is because it is possible that the words, "from your country" are used. The words, "famous in your country" can mean "famous in the whole world, including your country" and this person could possibly be from another country.


Do you think the media pays too much attention to famous people?

  • "Too much" means, "an excessive amount".

  • This question might use the word "celebrities" instead of "famous people", or "popular entertainment stars".

  • A "celebrity" is a particular type of famous person, usually in show business or the world of culture. Celebrities might appear on TV talk show programs or in magazine articles and talk about themselves and reveal their personalities - people are interested in, and know something about the private lives of "celebrities". Famous people of a more serious nature, such as in politics or science, are not usually called "celebrities". For example, Albert Einstein was famous when he was alive but it was probably not suitable to call him a "celebrity". And some people are or were famous for their bad deeds, such as mass murderers - these people are labeled as "infamous" and they are certainly not "celebrities".

  • Learn the term, "the tabloid media" or "tabloid newspapers".


Are politicians (or, government officials) famous in your country?

If the wording for this question uses the word, "famous", then of course it is suitable to say that some government leaders are famous, such as the President or Prime Minister of your country. But if the word, "celebrity" is used, then it is not common for politicians to become "celebrities", although sometimes they do, especially after they leave office. (See the explanation of "celebrity" in the notes above.)

Caution! 小心!


Part 3 Topic 425

Do you think a person's living environment can affect their level of happiness?

Here, the meaning of "environment" is similar to, "surroundings", not just the physical or natural environment aspects such as the quality of the air.


Part 2, Topic 428

The notes written below apply if the the wording is "one of the members of your family from the past". However, I think there is a strong possibility that those words are not used. Instead, I think the words, "a person in the past" are used. Why do I think this? Firstly, someone on June 30 reported that this was what he or she got. And secondly, most people don't have much knowledge (or any knowledge) of any of their ancestors earlier than their grandparents. As I mention below, deceased grandparents would be suitable to talk about but this would still apply to only some candidates because not everybody has a grandparent who has already died. Not only that, if a candidate talks about a grandparent who has died, this candidate might get upset if the candidate was close to this grandparent. The IELTS test writers avoid topics that might upset people. (Crying people can't talk very well.)

So, I suggest you prepare to talk about both an ancestor (if you can) and simply someone from the past so you will be prepared for either wording. If the wording just says, "someone from the past", be very careful about using the example of an ancestor because that might cause the examiner to think you had been to a website such as this one. But, logically, talking about an ancestor is possible but not necessary in this case.

I doubt that the wording is, "a (famous) historical figure" instead of, "a person from the past". It could be someone who is not "famous" but simply someone from the past who you know about, such as an earlier inhabitant of your hometown. However, talking about a famous person from history, would, of course,  be suitable.

Yes, it seems that family history is one of the sub-topics in Part 3. But that does not necessarily mean it is the topic of Part 2.

If the Part 2 Topic Asks You to Talk about an Ancestor

  • The word, "ancestor" probably is not used in this Part 2, but that is the meaning.

  • It can include one of your grandparents. However, if this grandparent is still alive, it would not be very suitable to say he or she is "from the past". If you want to talk about a grandparent who is still alive, say the person has died, even if he or she hasn't died, in order to make this grandparent fit the words, "from the past".

  • Learn the meaning of words such as "great-grandfather", "great-great-grandfather", "three generations ago" etc.

  • The card might say "they", meaning "him or her".

  • Here, the meaning is that you consider that the life of this ancestor was interesting. Your ancestor himself or herself might have thought they were living a very average life, a hard life or even a boring life! Possibly the last line is written as, "What is interesting about the life he or she lived." This is referring to the fact that the story of this person's life is interesting to you, now.


Part 2, Topic 429

  • A "character" is different to the identity of the real actor or actress who plays this character. That is, a "character" is a role that an actor or actress plays in a film, play or TV program. An actor might play many characters over the course of his career. Therefore, the personality, the interests, the values, the actions etc. of the character might be very different to the real personality, interests, values, and actions of the actor when this actor is not playing this role.

  • The name of the character is not the same as the real name of the actor! For example, you could talk about Batman without even knowing the name of the actor.

  • It might even be possible to talk about a cartoon character such as Donald Duck! Or Tom, the cat in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.


Part 3 Topic 431

Do young people in your country like to do exciting things?


Part 3 Topic 433

What do people do for exercise around where you live?

The question might be: "What do people do for exercise in your hometown?" or,  "What do people do for exercise in your country?"

Or, it might be, "What forms of physical exercise are popular  where you live?"


Part 3 Topic 435

Some General Notes on this Part 3




Planning Your Time

Those two questions really mean, "What factors do people consider before they decide on their daily routine?"

Students attending classes and working people only really make decisions about their routines in the times when they are not at work or in class - the class times and the work times are already decided for them. On the other hand, some working people do have choices in how they do their work, i.e., they can choose their working routine. Obviously the first thing to consider is what time you will get up in the morning.

Most likely the word "old" is used. For "old people", you should think of people who are retired and begin your answer by considering how retired people's daily lives are different to working people's lives.

This question is basically asking you to show some vocabulary or at least communicate your meaning even if you don't know the English word for something. Instead of the words, "plan their time", the words, "organize their time" might be used. The main tools are those that remind people of things they need to do at certain specific times on certain days. Think of functions that exist on some cell phones and other electronic devices and think of the ways that people who do not use these electronic devices remind themselves of what they need to do. (Sorry, I can't be too specific here!)

Time Usage

This is another question that really means, "What factors determine how a person balances work time and family time?" Obviously one of the main factors is the structure of this person's family, such as the age of their children, if they have children. But before someone can find a "right balance" (or "the best balance"), they need to have some criteria for deciding what is best and these criteria are really based on a person's values or attitudes towards both their career and their family. As well as that, some people only have limited choices, for example, most people have no choice but to spend 8 hours per day at work. Don't forget that most people don't take their work home with them in the evenings and at weekends. Self-employed people sometimes have more choice. Give examples!

Caution! 小心!


Volunteerism & Charity

Part 3, Topic 461

In recent decades in the countries of the West (e.g., the U.S.A., Britain, Australia, Western Europe etc.) many government services to the people have been privatized. This is being accompanied by the public promotion of the virtues of volunteerism and charity. The super-rich of society love this concept - they have written about it quite a lot. They are also encouraging the commercialization of charities so that the profit motive is used as an incentive for some people to start a charity.

All societies have a culture of, or traditions connected to helping those members of society who need help. The Islam religion has even institutionalized charity into the religion - it is a religious duty for Islamic people to give to charity. And in all societies, our culture and traditions have their roots in the time when we were an agricultural society, consisting of farmers living in small villages. This was from the period of about 20,000 BC to about  200 years ago in industrialized societies and, of course, such agricultural society still exists today in large parts of the world.

Without doubt, the family unit was the origin of giving help in society. This came to include the extended family, the village and the tribe and clan as people came to recognize themselves as members of certain groups

But, to varying degrees, modern society is very different to agricultural village life of hundreds or thousands of years ago. A large proportion of humanity now live in cities, not working as farmers. Many of us don't even know the names of our neighbours. And in many parts of the world, people from very mixed cultural and ethnic backgrounds are living close together. Even more importantly, more and more modern people don't even see other members of their immediate family very often because people are becoming much more mobile than they used to be, and are living far from their hometowns. This has resulted in a weakening of traditional culture and values connected with the topic of helping others. In fact, all traditional culture is weakened by these changes.

In the past hundred years or so, governments, both national and local, came to bear a lot of responsibility for helping people in society. Now this is changing.


Topic 457 - An Important Job

One meaning of,  "a great job" is "a very good job to have, or " a very good job to be doing". For example, "My brother's got a great summer job. He's a lifeguard at a tourist resort swimming pool. He meets a lot of pretty girls and he gets high pay for doing this job!"

A second usage is this - when we say someone "does a great job" or "is doing a great job" it means that person is doing his or her job very well. The job itself might not be great  - it might be a low-paid, boring, dirty and dangerous job but the person doing the job is doing the work well.


Topic 458

The word "produce" can be a noun or a verb. The word has two different pronunciations, depending on whether it is a noun or verb.

Here is the pronunciation of the noun:


Topic 464

Should there be laws limiting what advertisements can say or show, or what product or service is advertised?

You might think, "Of course there should be laws controlling advertising!" but there are some people who say that any controls on advertising is a restriction of free speech. Other people say that we should not give governments the power to control advertising because that would allow the government to censor what it doesn't like for it's own selfish political reasons, connected with political power. However, if a government is truly representative of the people's interests, then what the government restricts is what the people really want.


Part 3 Topic 465 - Busy

a) Nowadays people are busier than in the past. Why do you think that is?  

b) (Similar to above, but different)  Nowadays people seem to be busier than in the past. Why do you think that is?

If the question is a) then you could choose to disagree with the assumption in the question that people are busier today than in the past, or you could choose to agree. You might think it is true, depending on how you define "busy" but you need to discuss or communicate why you think it is true. (Don't forget, Part 3 is 'discussion time'.) Dictionaries define "busy" as something like this: "occupied or engaged in activity, especially work".

Now, we know that most people today don't work as long as people did in the past    the 8-hour workday or the 40-hour workweek are relatively new in human history. And look at the lives of married women. For thousands of years, right up to the time of our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers), married women had to take care of big families, maybe as many as 10 kids, and women in the home had no modern labour-saving appliances such as washing machines. Do you seriously think those women in the past were not busy?

The big difference today is that we have many more choices than people in the past, for example, we know how to read while most of our forebears earlier than 150 years ago could not read, so many of us are busy, i.e., engaged in activity, but is it work or leisure that we are busy doing? Without question, average people today have more leisure time than people did in the past, so, on that point alone, we cannot say that people are busier today in their work. Whether or not we include those two words, "especially work" in the dictionary definition can make a difference on how we define "busy".

The question becomes further complicated by the fact that many people today (but not all) choose to engage in the work of studying, such as you people preparing for the IELTS test. You try to fit in as much as you can into every day. You are definitely busier than some of the people in the past who never even had the choice of sitting for the IELTS test. But to what extent do you represent the average person on the street, i.e., to what extent do you represent "people today"?


If the question is b), (and it's not certain that this is a real question), then the question, "Why do you think that is?" literally means, "Why do you think people seem to be busier?" or, "Why are some people under the impression that people are busier today than people in the past?" In other words, the question is asking you to explain why people think something is true, regardless of whether it is actually true or not. Not only that it seems to be true to whom? This question is asking you to talk about perception, i.e., what people think is reality and why they think that. To talk about perception, you probably need to also touch on  the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity. For example, you might only know other people who, like you, are striving at university or in a company office, so you might be under the impression that most people are like you when, in fact, that might not be the case. And how can we compare people today with people in the past (unless it was the recent past) when the average person today doesn't really think much about, or know much about, how people in the past lived? In other words, (some) people are under this impression because they have no way to be 100% objective, based on something measurable such as statistics, and a very clear definition of "busy". People can be correct in their impressions, but they are still just impressions.

This is all very abstract but it could give someone the chance to show how good they are in English.

Caution! 小心!


Who do you think are usually more punctual, elderly people or young people? (Why?)

You don't have to "know" why. The purpose of this question is to allow you to show the language of guessing why something is (or seems to be) true. Include words such as "maybe", "perhaps", "possibly" and "probably" if you really can't think of strong reasons why.


Topic 466 Holiday and Vacation

The word "holiday" is used a little differently in American English, compared to British English.

Firstly, in both British and American English, "holiday" can mean "public holiday", such as Christmas. At that time, most people have a week off work or school. People in both Britain and the U.S. say, "Christmas is a holiday in our country."

In addition to public holidays, most working people in the West are allowed to take a period of personal time off work each year, usually from 1 to 3 weeks. (Employers must allow this, by law.) The working person usually can usually choose when to take his or her time off work, in agreement with the employer. This is called, a "vacation" in American English and "a holiday" in British English, although British English does recognize the word, "vacation". So, when people are in this situation of taking time off work, they say, "I'm on holiday" in British English but in American English, they say, "I'm on vacation", regardless of whether they spend the time at home or traveling. In both British English and American English, people also say, "I'm on leave", which is a bit more formal.

The same situation applies to students when they have time off school or university, such as the "The Summer Holiday" (Br) [or, "The Summer Holidays" (Br)] = "The Summer Vacation" (Am). This is also sometimes called "The Summer break" in both styles of English.

Of course, not everyone travels away from home during their holiday/vacation. They can spend the time at home. When they travel during their holiday/vacation, they usually say something like, "go on holiday" [or "go on holidays"] in British English or "go on vacation" in American English. The word "go" signifies leaving home during your holiday/vacation.

This usage of "go on a holiday" or "go on a vacation" also applies to those public holidays such as Christmas, when most people in the West have a 1 week break from work or school. At those times, some people choose to travel, while others stay at home. So, someone in England or Australia might say, "I had a holiday in Thailand during the Christmas break" or, "I went to Thailand on holiday during the Christmas break" or, "I went to Thailand for a holiday during the Christmas break" while someone in the U.S. might say, "I took (or, had) a vacation in Thailand during the Christmas break" or, "I went to Thailand for a vacation during the Christmas break" .

In China, the personal time off work, when you choose the time, is still not very common. Most people have one or two 1-week public holiday breaks each year such as Chinese New Year, during which they can choose to either travel away from home as tourists (or spend the time at a holiday resort) or stay at home. The same expressions stated above also apply to this situation in China.


Topic 470

Notice how the wording of the first question really has a different meaning to the second and third question. The first question implies that the parents teach their children academic knowledge at home. But the second and third questions do not imply that. The second and third questions are simply asking which parent should pay more attention to how well their child is doing at school. The third question clearly says that. The examiner might use wording that is so general that the meaning can be interpreted both ways. You should seek clarity in the discussion with the examiner if that happens - this is a discussion skill, and discussion skills are being tested in the Speaking test, especially in Part 3.


Topic 473

Do you think visual aids are useful when giving a talk or a speech?

As far as I am aware, English speakers do not refer to Powerpoint as "PPT". If you say that, the examiner will probably not understand what you mean and he or she might even think you mispronounced something.


Topic 475

You should always use the word "the" when you say or write "internet", except for compound nouns such as "internet advertising". Don't say, "I often use internet". Instead, say "I often use the internet".