IELTS Speaking Vocabulary: Talking about Cell Phones/Smartphones/Mobile Phones

IELTS Speaking Vocabulary: Talking about Cell Phones/Smartphones/Mobile Phones

Phones (cell phones, smarphones, and mobile phones – they’re all the same thing!) are a really common topic on the IELTS Speaking test.

They could come up as personal questions in part 1 (‘How often do you use your phone?’) or in part 2 as personal or general questions (‘What apps are popular in your country?’) or in part 3 as general questions (‘Do people use their phones too much in your country?’).

In order to help you prepare for a smartphones topic, I have answered some questions, analysed vocabulary and grammar, made some notes and provided links to help you think of more ideas for this topic in case it comes up on the real IELTS!

If you want to read more speaking topics you can check out this one on free time or this one on friends, this one on school, or this one on holidays.

The Examiner (Dave) Answers a Question

The question that I’m answering from my YouTube channel is: How many times a day do you look at your phone?

It’s a simple part 1 question, so I give a simple answer:

Here is the transcript:

Personally, it’s the first thing I check in the morning. I can’t live without it. I use it for everything – calling, texting, email, tinder – basically everything!

This isn’t a long or detailed answer. It could be better if I talked more specfically about what I do with my phone. Check the answers below for more detailed ‘show-off’ answers.

But there is still some good vocabulary.

You can use ‘personally’ as a way of starting questions where you answer about your personal habits.

‘The first thing’ is a good way to start lists or talk about your daily routine.

‘I can’t live without it’ is a common expression that indicates to the examiner natural, band 7+ fluency and vocabulary.


Sample Answers

My answer was simple and natural but not enough to impress the examiner.

Even if it is slightly unnatural, you should go out of your way to use complex grammar and vocabulary if possible.

Here are some better examples of ‘show-off’ answers:

How many times a day do you look at your mobile phone?

I’m trying to cut back massively on my phone (over)usage. But I can’t get away from it because it seems to have wrapped itself up in my life. I get notifications from friends all the time that kind of pull me back into it. If I had to make a guess, I probably look at it close to 50 times a day. That’s a conservative estimate though.

What do you usually use your mobile phone for?

I have to admit that phones have so many different uses. I message with friends, I have a Facebook chat group that I run for a weekly football match, I check my email all the time on it, I take tons of photos of things around me and selfies sometimes too, for my work I need to make voice recordings so I have an app for that too, if I need a taxi I use a ride-sharing app called Grab, I’m a big fan of Instagram and follow a lot of artists and comedians on there, I manage my finances through a banking app and I’m sure there are a bunch of things I’m missing out on too!

Have your mobile phone habits changed a lot over the years?

For sure. Mobile phones first came out when I was in university, some kids had them towards the end of high school. My first phone was just a cheap flipphone that could (slowly) send messages, make calls and play the earliest little games like ‘snake.’ Pretty soon after that I got a real smartphone for email and all that other stuff. I think I still wasn’t addicted to my phone then though. It wasn’t until the last 5 or 6 years when I got a new iPhone and started using more apps and as businesses and friends have taken on board an overriding digital lifestyle. Now it is like an extra arm or hand to me!


Do people in your country use mobile phones a lot?

I’m from the United States but I’ve been living in Vietnam for practically a decade. I imagine people in all countries, including the U.S. can’t put their phones down but I can only speak firsthand about Vietnam where cell phone use is an epidemic. Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll likely see individuals, friends and groups making more of an effort to check Facebook than talk to each other. It’s not uncommon to see people on their phones when they’re driving a motorbike. A lot of my friends here will sit down on Facebook after work or dinner and just scroll mindlessly for at least an hour. It taps into some desire to put our brains to sleep that phone makers and apps like Instagram have exploited, in my opinion.

Vocabulary Definitions

cut back: reduce or use less of

get away from: escape, leave

wrapped itself up in: deeply involved with

notifications: a signal that you have a message or update

pull me back into: bring back

make a guess: guess

conservative estimate: a guess that is not risky, likely to be true

I have to admit: use this to concede that the opposite argument has some truth to it

Facebook chat group: group for talking to each other on Facebook

run: am in charge of

tons: lots of

voice recordings: audio recordings

ride-sharing app: apps like Grab or Uber for booking rides

big fan of: really like/into something

manage my finances: in charge of your money

bunch of things: lots of stuff

missing out on: not getting to do

for sure: definitely

first came out: original appeared

towards the end of: at the end of

flipphone: old cell phones that flip open

pretty soon after that: right after

addicted: can’t stop using it

overriding digital lifestyle: using phones and internet a lot

practically: almost all

imagine: believe/think

speak firsthand: talking about something that you actually experienced

epidemic: all over the place/common/ubiquitous

making more of an effort: trying harder

It’s not uncommon: it is common

scroll mindlessly: look through your Facebook/Instagram/news feed on your phone

taps into: gets power form

exploited: take advantage of



Vocabulary Practice

Remember and fill in the blanks from my sample answer:

How many times a day do you look at your mobile phone?

I’m trying to _____________ massively on my phone (over)usage. But I can’t _____________ it because it seems to have _____________ my life. I get _____________from friends all the time that kind of _____________ it. If I had to _____________, I probably look at it close to 50 times a day. That’s a _____________ though.

What do you usually use your mobile phone for?

_____________ that phones have so many different uses. I message with friends, I have a _____________ that I _____________ for a weekly football match, I check my email all the time on it, I take ____________ of photos of things around me and selfies sometimes too, for my work I need to make _____________ so I have an app for that too, if I need a taxi I use a _____________ called Grab, I’m a _____________ Instagram and follow a lot of artists and comedians on there, I _____________ through a banking app and I’m sure there are a _____________ I’m _____________!

Have your mobile phone habits changed a lot over the years?

_____________. Mobile phones _____________ when I was in university, some kids had them _____________ high school. My first phone was just a cheap _____________ that could (slowly) send messages, make calls and play the earliest little games like ‘snake.’ _____________ I got a real smartphone for email and all that other stuff. I think I still wasn’t _____________ to my phone then though. It wasn’t until the last 5 or 6 years when I got a new iPhone and started using more apps and as businesses and friends have taken on board an _____________. Now it is like an extra arm or hand to me!

Do people in your country use mobile phones a lot?

I’m from the United States but I’ve been living in Vietnam for _____________ a decade. I _____________ people in all countries, including the U.S. can’t put their phones down but I can only _____________ about Vietnam where cell phone use is an _____________. Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll likely see individuals, friends and groups _____________ to check Facebook than talk to each other. _____________ to see people on their phones when they’re driving a motorbike. A lot of my friends here will sit down on Facebook after work or dinner and just _____________ for at least an hour. It _____________ some desire to put our brains to sleep that phone makers and apps like Instagram have _____________, in my opinion.


Grammar Analysis: Present Perfect Continuous

‘I’ve been living in Vietnam for practically a decade.’

Present perfect continuous is a great opportunity to use some ‘complex’ grammar that is actually very simple in terms of both its meaning and how you use it – easy points on IELTS!

The meaning of present perfect continuous is an action that started in the past and is still continuuing now in the present: ‘I have been living in Vietnam for 10 years (I still live here),’ ‘I’ve been waiting for more than an hour (I’m still waiting),’ ‘I’ve been having terrible nightmares the last two weeks (I’m still having nightmares even though when I say that sentence I am not literally having a nightmare).’

The way to speak/write with it is also very simple: Subject (I) + have/has been + Verb -ing (living) + prepositional/noun/verb phrase (in Vietnam for 10 years).

Simple meaning! Simple to use!

Just make sure that in your speaking you use the contraction ‘I’ve’ or ‘She’s/He’s’ and in your writing the full words ‘I have been’ or ‘She/He has been.’

Use it for a quick and easy boost for your IELTS grammar score!


Grammar Practice

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verbs:

Example: Dave _________ ____________ ___________________ (listen) to the same song on repeat for hours.

Answer: Dave has been listening to the same song on repeat for hours.

1. IELTS _________ _________________ _______________ (become) more difficult each passing year.

2. I _______ ____________ ________________ (sit) in this chair for too long.

3. You _____________ _____________ ______________ (read) this post for at least 5 minutes.

Fill in the blanks with more interesting verbs:

Example: IELTS has been making more and more money each passing year.

1. IELTS _________ _________________ _______________ each passing year.

2. I _______ ____________ ________________ for too long.

3. You _____________ _____________ ______________ for at least 5 minutes.

Write sentences about things in your life that you have been doing recently:

Example: I have been watching a lot of boring TV shows on Netflix lately.


Grammar Games

This is a simple game that you can use to practice by yourself, in writing or speaking.

When you’ve got a free moment (getting to work/school, in the elevator, at lunch, etc.) write down or say to yourself some sentences.

1. Start with your work (I’ve been working here 5 years. I’ve been sitting in this chair for about 2 hours.)


2. Then move on to where you live (I’ve been living here for…)


3. Then you relationships with friends/lovers.


4. Then write/talk about your hobbies.


5. Then about the books/TV shows/music you’ve been listening to/watching.


6. Then anything else going on in your life that you haven’t talked about yet.


7. Repeat once or twice a day and try to add more detail each time.

Here is another fun game for practicing present perfect continuous that you can do with friends, either in person or by messaging:

Hold up 5 fingers and say sentences about yourself. The other people have to guess whether or not they are true.

If they are right, you must put down a finger. When you don’t have any fingers left, you lose.

For example, ‘I’ve been thinking about getting a new job.’

Of course you have to be honest to play this game!

If they are not sure if you are honest they can ask follow-up questions to try to catch you.




Watch here about How your Phone is Changing You and here about What a Smartphone is Made of.



Comment below:

How many times a day do you look at your mobile phone?

What do you usually use your mobile phone for?

Have your mobile phone habits changed a lot over the years?

Do people in your country use mobile phones a lot?


IELTS Vocabulary for Speaking: Talking about Sleep, Mornings and Evenings!

IELTS Vocabulary for Speaking: Talking about Sleep, Mornings and Evenings!

Wake up and smell the roses!

Sleep is such a common topic across IELTS listening, reading, writing and speaking. It could help improve all parts of your IELTS score if you take some time to learn some new vocabulary related to sleep, mornings and evenings.

Let’s look first at some vocabulary and then try out the practice activities and links underneath!

Here is the tapescript in case you couldn’t understand some of it:

I just got out of bed and this is what my hair usually looks like in the morning – you can call it ‘bed head’ ‘yeah that’s a bed head’ when your hair is messed up – when your pillow is your hairdresser – to sleep in is to sleep late that’s different from a sleepover which is a group of kids who get together ‘so how was the sleepover? we had an adult sleepover’ and a sleepover is different from a night in – a night is when a group of friends usually adults hang out together watching movie – ‘we can have a girls night in’ – if you don’t sleep well you can say I was tossing and turning all night ‘I was tossing and turning – try not to toss and turn’ a person who’s a night owl is someone who likes to stay up late ‘we’re both night owls I think’ you can also call them a night person as opposed to a morning person or an early bird because as you know the early bird gets the worm – enjoy the rest of your day – have a good night’s sleep – comb your hair before you go out unless if you’re a guy in which case it doesn’t really matter!


‘I slept like a log.’

This means that you slept very well, deeply.


‘I was tossing and turning all night.’

The opposite – you didn’t sleep well at all.


‘He’s a real night owl.’

He likes to stay up late at night.


Early bird gets the worm.’

If you get up early then you will get better opportunities than other people.


Rise and shine sleepy head!’

Get up, lazy!


‘Why don’t you try sleeping on it?’

Think about a problem/decision for another day and then make up your mind.


‘I slept like a baby.’

Same as sleeping like a log – sleeping really well.


‘Time to hit the hay.’

Time to go to sleep.


Have a lie in.’

Sleep late in the morning.


‘I slept in like the lazy piece of trash I am.’

Same as having a lie in. ‘Lie in’ is a UK expression and ‘sleep in’ is for Americans. It means to sleep late, usually on the weekend.


‘Time to turn in.’

TIme to go to bed.


‘He went out like a light.’

Went to sleep right away.


Couldn’t sleep a wink all night.’

Unable to sleep at all.


‘Get your beauty rest – you need it.’

Sleep so that you look beautiful and don’t have bags under your eyes.


‘I just dozed off for a second, officer!’

Fell asleep for a little bit. Don’t do this while driving!




‘I’m asleep in the wee hours of the morning.’

The early hours of the morning.


‘I get up at the crack of dawn.’

I get up early – at around 6 am when the sun comes up.


‘The sunrise is gorgeous.’

The rising of the sun is beautiful.


‘I want to get an early start tomorrow.’

I want to get up early in the morning.


‘I got up at an ungodly hour to catch the plane.’

A very early hour like 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning.


‘The morning light woke me up.’

The sun at dawn.


‘It will take all morning.’

Use up all the hours of the morning.


‘I’m not a morning person or a night person – I’m barely a person at all!’

I don’t like to get up early (or stay up late).




‘In the middle of the night, I woke up screaming.’

Very late at night.


Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite…’

Sleep well.


‘The sunset isn’t so gorgeous.’

The falling sun is ugly.


‘I’m a night person.’

I like to stay up late at night.


‘They are like night and day – total opposites!’

Completely different personalities – opposites.


‘I had a one night stand last night – it was ok.’

Sleep with someone for one night – the opposite of a long-term relationship.


‘Time to call it a day.’

Time to go to bed.


‘I’m gonna have an early night.’

I’m going to go to bed early.


‘I’m gonna spend the night in.’

Not going to go out tonight.


‘In the dead of night, Santa Claus breaks into your house.’

Very late at night.


Night after night, I can’t sleep.’

Every night.


‘Let’s go out for a night on the town.’

Go out and party.


If you have nothing better to do with your time, I also explained all of this vocabulary in a Live Lesson on my Facebook account. Watch it here:


To practice the vocabulary above, comment below and I will correct your answers:

1. Do you go to bed and get up at the same time every day?

2. What do you usually do in the mornings?


3. What is the perfect evening for you?

Remember to use the vocabulary above in your answers!




ASAP Science Links

This is one of my favourite YouTube channels for learning about science. They talk really quickly but you can slow the video down or use the visuals to help watch. Here are some ideas for how you can watch them.

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

What If You Stopped Sleeping?

The Scientific Power of Naps

Why Are You Always Tired?

IELTS Vocabulary: The 10 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English

IELTS Vocabulary: The 10 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in English

When I was in middle school, I got to the final round of a spelling bee in my district. I used to read a lot and I was really good at spelling (not sports so much though).

I lost on a pretty easy word too! The last word that I had to spell was ‘address’!

For some reason, that word has always been tricky for me and I still mess up the spelling all the time. I can never remember if it is two ‘d’s or two ‘s’s…

Where would we be today without auto-correct on our computers and phones?

Well, we’d be better at spelling that’s for sure! Our brain would also be cluttered with all the weird spellings you find in a language that’s been sleeping around and mutating for thousands of years.

Here are some more vocabulary posts for your reference!




There’s a famous example of the confused link between spelling and speaking in English.

How do you say ‘ghoti’?

The correct answer is ‘fish.’

‘GH’ as it is said in rough.

‘O’ as it is said in women.

‘TI’ as it is said in nation or station.

Combine those sounds and it is ‘fish.’

That shows you just how crazy spelling is in English. This is a problem not just for English learners!

Everyone has their own person list of words that they spell wrong basically every single time and rely on auto correct for – for me that includes:

convienent convenient

acurrate accurate

pronounciation pronunciation

rythm rhythm

I go out of my way to avoid spelling those words. If I have to use them, I just scramble together a bunch of letters and let spell check fix it for me because I know I’ll never get them right.

That’s the liberty I have though – you shouldn’t be like me! You won’t have Google to spell check for you on IELTS!

What’s your personal list of hard to spell words? Comment them below!



Let’s get down to the most commonly misspelled words. I’ve chosen words that are academic and likely to come up on the writing so you can improve your IELTS grammar score.

I got these words from my personal experiences marking essays and from surveying my students.

10. Deteriorate

9. Veterinarian

8. Mediterranean

7. Amphitheater

6. Committee

5. Unnecessary

4. Successive

3. Conference

2. Assassination

1. Bureaucratic

How many of those words could you spell?

Which words give you the most trouble?




Well, now that you don’t feel so bad about your bad spelling, let’s look at some ways to improve your spelling.

There are two problems you have to overcome.

The first is that English is a mess. There aren’t any 100% consistent rules for English spelling.

The second is that once you start spelling a word wrong, it’s easy to keep doing it your whole life.

That’s why I’m still messing up the word ‘address’ 20 years later!

Even though there aren’t consistent rules for English spelling there are still some rules. We do have an alphabet after all and it kind of matches the way we say things.

Here are 5 helpful rules:

1. All kids in America learn the ‘i before e except after c’ rhyming rule.

For example, believe, fierce and friend.

But be careful because there are some exceptions like ancient, science and neighbour.

2. If a word has just one sound/syllable like ‘big’ and we add an ending ‘bigger’ we always add an extra consonant.

For example: swimming, hitting, flipping, redder, etc.

3. The plural endings for words with ‘f’ like knife or leaf changes to a v: knives, leaves.

4. Another plural rule is that we add ‘-es’ to any words that ends with x, z, ch, s, ss, sh.

For example, matches, kisses, wishes, quizzes, foxes, etc.

5. Another common rule that kids learn is to change ‘y’ to ‘ie’ when you add an ending to it.

For example, try to tried, cry to cried, baby to babies.

The second problem is more interesting and means that you need some spelling activities to break your bad habits.

These activities have worked for my students in the past so they might work for you as well:

  1. Anagrams: take the hardest words that you are learning to spell and make them into anagrams here:  Print out the last or copy it down and use it to practice your spelling a few times throughout the day.

  2. Keep a record of the words that you often mess up. You can do this when you are typing something online. Before you use the autocorrect to fix it, save the word to a separate document. Practice writing those words every day until you stop making mistakes with them.

  3. Download a fun spelling game. You can find versions of scrabble, boggle, scattegories, and bananagrams on your phone. You can read about some more here. My favourite is Words with Friends, which you can play with a friend who is also studying.

  4. Buy or download a book of wordsearches or crossword puzzles. These are a fun way to work on your spelling as well as your memory for vocabulary.

  5. Challenge your friend to a spelling contest. One of my good friends recommended this to me. It’s a simple way to practice with a friend when you have nothing better to talk about. Simply say a word for your partner to spell and then your friend says one for you. If your friend has worse English, you can give him/her easier words. You can also have a dictionary available to make it really challenging.

Good luck!


Remember to comment below: what is the hardest word for you to spell in English?

‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

‘What’s My Current English Level and IELTS Band Score?’

To be honest, you can’t really know your IELTS band score without a qualified teacher.

Wait, don’t go! I’m not wasting your time!

You won’t be able to get a completely accurate score but it is possible to figure out within a band score what you should be getting for each part of IELTS.

I’m a former IELTS examiner so I know the band scores well.

Read below to learn how to test yourself, figure out your score, and afterwards be sure to also check out my sister post on How Long it Will Take to Get Your IELTS Score.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Speaking Score

This will take some time and effort but if you follow my instructions you will have a good idea of your speaking score without having to overpay a teacher!

This is Nguyen, the first ever customer for our Band Scores and Writing Corrections Service and a current employee. She lived in Australia for years and her speaking (and overall) scores on two recent tests for speaking were 7.5 and 8.

She uses tons of natural language, accurate vocabulary and has a nice accent.

To figure out your speaking level you are going to compare yourself with her.

Here is the Part 2 Speaking question she will be talking about:

Describe a sci-fi film that you watched.

Practice and record yourself answering the question above for about 2 minutes. Keep the recording – you will need it.

Listen to her response (In this video she speaks for more than 2 minutes. That’s not what will happen on the real test – it is just for you to get as much practice as possible!)

If you can understand 80 – 100% that doesn’t mean you are a band 8 – it just means your listening skills are good. You can’t always use all the language that you understand.

Now it is time to compare your response and hers. Some of the hesitations, repetition, and grammatical mistakes in this answer could bring her fluency and grammar down and make this a 7.5. Her level in this video is 7.5/8.

I’m a former examiner so let me show you exactly what is going through the mind of the examiner when he is listening to you speak.

Examiners always have the band descriptors out and look at them before and after the test. In their small heads with their tiny brains, they are highlighting them to get an idea of your score.

Here are Nguyen’s scores (which are mainly from Band 8 with some parts from Band 7):

Her score might go up or down depending on the part and part 2 speaking is usually full of the most hesitations. If she uses more complex structures and hesitates a little less she should be able to get an 8.

Most examiners would give her a 7.5 based on this section of the test because of hesitations and the grammatical mistakes.

Here is some of the good vocabulary that she uses:

had a chance, basically, astronaut crew, revive, dead alien cell, in the end, just a few days, full-grown octopus shape, manages to break free, at this point, horror, gory, killing spree, prevent, reaching earth, threat, human race, locked himself in, eliminate, back into space, for some reason, take control of, twist.

Use your recording to make a list of the vocabulary that you used. You don’t know exactly how accurate or good the vocabulary that you used is – that’s OK. Look it up in the dictionary to check what you can.

Here are some of the different types of grammatical structures that she uses:

Past Simple: had a chance, killed

Present Simple: the movie is about, they succeed, he manages to, the movie turns out to be, etc.

Passive Voice: the astronauts are being killed, the astronauts are killed

Present continuous: are trying, driving them

‘Will’ for future: there will be

Here is the full transcript (the bolded words are corrections):

Recently I had a chance to watch a sci-fi movie called ‘Life.’ Basically the movie’s about an astronaut crew living in space and they were trying to – they are trying to revive a dead alien cell. And the succeed in the end and they name the cell Kevin. And Kevin grows so fast that its size increases incredibly after just a few days into a full grown octopus shaped creature. And Kevin tries to escape from the cage where he was kept inside for so long for the experiments. And in the end he manages to break free. And at this point, the movie turns out to be a horror film and a gory sort of movie because Kevin goes on a killing spree. And the astronauts are being killed slowly, one by one. And the astronauts’ mission now is to survive and prevent Kevin from reaching Earth because they believe that Kevin is a dangerous threat to the human race. After the chasing and the killing I think all the astronauts are killed and only one manages to survive. And I think in the end, he locks himself into a space capsule with Kevin and tries to eliminate Kevin by driving both of them back out into space instead of going back to Earth. But then somehow Kevin manages to take control of the spaceship and both of them land on Earth. And the movie ends there. So I think there will be a part 2 (sequel) for the movie. ‘Did you enjoy the movie?’ It was a good twist at the end and I’m kind of excited to see what will happen next.

Use your recording to make a list of the grammar that you used. When talking about a movie you can refer to it in the past or the present or use a combination. Nguyen smartly sticks to present simple to talk about the events of the film.

Check out one of these grammar sites to see how accurate your grammar is:

If there is a grammatical mistake in every sentence you will not be getting above a 5 or possibly 6 for your grammar score.

You should now have a general feeling how her response compares to yours. Are you at Nguyen’s level? Lower? Higher?

Now try searching for some band 6 and 7 speaking tests on YouTube and repeating the same method.

You can also try this same method with another of Nguyen’s tests here (subscribe to our YouTube channel here):



I recommend practicing that same technique with as many speaking tests on YouTube as you can find. Here is another example with Minh who also got a Band 8 for IELTS speaking:


After watching a few and recording your own responses you should know your score to within 1 full band.

If you are still not sure, you can comment below and I will message you and we can work out another way to know your speaking score.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Listening and Reading Scores

This is the easiest one to do. Without too much trouble you can figure out what both your listening and reading scores are!

Buy the past Cambridge Practice Tests. You can get the latest one here: or take a look and see if they are available at the local bookstore in your country.

These are all past tests. Don’t worry about which number book. Anything from 7 to the most current one is fine (ones before 7 are also OK, there are just some small ways in which the test has changed).

Do it under real test conditions. The listening test is 30 minutes and the reading test is 1 hour.

Check your answers in the back of the book and use this guide to roughly figure out your score (scores vary slightly based on the difficulty of the test that week):

IELTS Listening

IELTS Reading (Academic)

IELTS Reading (General Training)

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

Band score

Raw score out of 40

























Don’t just do 1 test! It might not give you an accurate score (maybe you were lucky or unlucky with the topics).

Do at least 3 listening and reading tests. If the scores are similar that is your level – now you know before you go to the real exam.

If the scores are very different each time, keep doing them until the scores become more similar – it shouldn’t take too many practice tests for that to happen.

Here are the 6 Basic Tips You’ll Learn in Every IELTS Course and here is The Most Important Skill for the Reading Test.



How to Figure Out Your IELTS Writing Band Scores

For writing, there are a number of services online that you can use to get a very accurate Band Score estimate. Well actually, there’s only 1 that’s very accurate because it comes from former examiners.

You can trust and rely on the marks we give you. We highlight the band descriptors and give a report on each category to ensure complete accuracy and transparency.

For $9 (for that price in April only!) you can get your band scores for your Writing Task 1 or 2!

IELTS costs between $200 and $300! If you use our service, you can figure out your score and won’t waste as much money later.

If you also want to get complete writing corrections along with your band scores that is more expensive ($29) but could end up making a huge difference for you!



Using the CEFR to Guide you

There’s one other way that might help you know your English level and IELTS band score.

The CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is the most important, internationally recognized system for defining English ability.

Here is how it defines each level:

Beginner (A1): You can interact in the most basic ways if the other speaker talks slowly and is helpful. You can introduce yourself and others and can ask and answer questions bout where you live, people you know and things you have.

Elementary (A2): You can understand some sentences and frequently used expressions related to personal and family information, shopping, local geography and the environment. You can communicate in simple and routine tasks on familiar topics.

Intermediate (B1): You can deal with most situations while traveling abroad. You can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Upper Intermediate (B2): You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without difficulty for either part.

Advanced (C1): You can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. You can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic, and professional purposes.

Master (C2): You can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. You can express yourself spontaneously, very fluently, and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations. You understood this paragraph easily.

Here is how those levels compare with IELTS according to their official website. Most examiners would say these scores are a little low. As an Intermediate you should be able to get up to around a 6, for example.

I hope that is helpful but I fear you might just be guessing. That’s why I strongly recommend that you take some time and try the tips I talked about earlier in the post so that you get a more accurate idea of your current level.

Now let’s move on to the big question – not where you are – where you are going


‘How Long Will it Take Me to Get to Band ____?’

It’s really hard to say. So hard that I wrote a whole other post about it: ‘How Long do I Need to Study to get my IELTS Score?’

Best of luck!

Oh and if you’re still reading don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube or even all 3 if you’re a fanatic!


Comment below: What’s your current level?

Here’s some help starting your comment:

I think my level is probably around…

On my last test I got …. but I think I have improved to a …

I’m not sure but it isn’t below …

I still don’t really know. The band score I need is …

IELTS Vocabulary: Are you Studying the Wrong Words?

IELTS Vocabulary: Are you Studying the Wrong Words?

One popular way to study vocabulary is to use an IELTS vocabulary list available online. It will probably have a sexy title like ‘Essential Band 8 Vocab‘ or ‘100 words you need for your IELTS exam‘.

Check out this list as an example, with the following claim:

“These words are indispensable for the IELTS Examination. You need to use these words in your Speaking and Writing Test. These words will greatly impact your IELTS Score.”

Firstly, the words on this list are the opposite of indispensable (essential) and they certainly won’t improve your score because you will find it very difficult to use them correctly and in the right situation.

In this article, I’ll explain why these words are so unsuitable as well as give you some tips about how to use lists effectively.

Make sure to subscribe to out YouTube Channel for more vocabulary analysis and practice!

Read my full sample answers here for real examples of vocabulary that you need to know.



What does the Examiner want?

As you can see from the table below, it’s not about knowing a good range of vocab, but it’s very important that you know when to use it e.g. how formal it is, and how to use it e.g. correct collocations and/or prepositions


Lexical Resource (Vocabulary)


  • A wide range of vocabulary used naturally and flexibly to express exact meanings

  • Skillful use of less common and idiomatic vocab

  • Very rare mistakes with word choice and collocations.


  • A good range of vocabulary used flexibly to discuss any given topic

  • Some ability to use less common and idiomatic vocab

  • Some mistakes with word choice and correct collocations.


  • ƒA range of vocabulary used to give long answers

  • Meaning is clear although mistakes in word choice and form are common.

Too formal and Academic

Let’s take a closer look at the list. It’s arranged alphabetically and here are the first 5 words:

aberration, abhor, acquiesce, alacrity, amiable

These words are all very formal and extremely academic. A lot of native speakers may have never used them and may not even know the meaning of them. Seriously.

Some have very specific meanings. For example, Acquiesce:

 to accept a decision, even when you don’t agree, but you don’t say anything, maybe because you know there’s no real alternative.

But the meaning only tells you half the story. You also need to know how to use the word and the kind of situation the word is used for.

The five words above are very formal and academic. So you can only use them to talk about specific, mostly academic topics. Also, you must use them in combination with equally formal grammar and vocabulary.

Let’s check out the following examples. What is the difference? Which is the correct usage?

Student #1. “My mum always makes me eat my vegetables. She spends a lot of time and energy to make dinner for me so I usually acquiesce her.”

Student #2. “Despite my reservations, I usually acquiesce to my mother’s demands for me to always finish my vegetables, as she puts a lot of time and energy into making dinner for me.”

If an examiner heard student #1 the use of acquiesce wouldn’t sound natural as the surrounding vocab is much less formal and they didn’t use a preposition (acquiesce to someone) so they haven’t shown they can use this word correctly and naturally so this keeps their score at band 6 or less.

Student #2 is much better as the surrounding vocab is suitable (e.g. reservations, demands), and they used the correct preposition. So this is correct and natural use which will help them to achieve above band 7+ for vocabulary.

A good tip for how to know how to use the word and more importantly the kind of situation is google it and check out the news tab:

You can see from the search results that this word is commonly used to talk about political decisions and negotiations.

You need to ask yourself “Is it likely that I will want to talk/write about this (accepting political decisions) in my IELTS exam?“.

If the answer is “Yes!”, then go ahead, learn this word, study it’s meaning and usage, including the situation, collocations and grammar, and practice using it in your speaking and writing as often as you can in the weeks and months leading up to your test.

But be aware that a word like this is very specific – so sure it will impress the examiner if you use it correctly, in the right situation, but how likely is that? To be honest, It’s highly unlikely.

STUDY TIP: Read the sentences containing the target word or phrase. If you can’t understand those sentences, then the target vocab is probably too high level for you at the moment.

Phrasal Verbs – natural and idiomatic

A more natural, common and therefore more useful strategy would be to avoid very academic words and focus instead on good collocations with verb phrases and phrasal verbs.

As we saw in the band descriptors earlier, examiners want a good range, including idiomatic vocab, which includes many phrasal verbs and theses are a much safer option than using idioms like ” raining cats and dogs” which native speakers don’t commonly use.

Suitable alternative phrases for acquiesce could include ‘let someone win’, ‘give in to someone’s demands’, ‘agree to someone’s request’, ‘force someone to do something’.

“My mum always forces me to eat all my vegetables. She spends a lot of time and energy to make dinner so sometimes I complain but usually I just give in to make her happy.”

If you search “give in to” on google news, you can see from the examples below that a phrase like “to give in to..” is much more flexible and natural and it can be used to talk about a range of academic and everyday situations:

-Zimbabwe ruling party says will not give in to military pressure.

-Arsenal should not give in to Mesut Ozil’s latest contract demand

-Don’t give in to the pressure of driving drowsy.

-High Grade’s Strawberry Cough Shatter: Give in to the Cough!

Here’s a video from our YouTube Channel with a little more detail on collocations (phrasal verbs are one type of collocation).



Practice in Context

Another good strategy for learning new vocabulary is to link the new phrases you are learning to topics and practice in that way.

So this means either learning a group of words related to a particular topic or to clearly have a topic in mind when you’re practising new words.

For example, make notes about as many real situations as you can both in daily life and in the past when you ‘give/gave in to someone/something’, and/or ‘someone forces/ed you do to do something’.

Next, practice talking about these situations (record yourself on your phone, listen back and check your grammar and collocations).

You can practice talking about these situations from a more personal point of view (to prepare for Speaking Pt1&2) or from a more general point of view (Speaking Pt3 / Writing Task 2).

Personal – “My parents forced me to study business at University. I wanted to study design but in the end I gave in to their wishes.”   

General – “In my country, parents of high school students often forced their children to study sensible subjects such as business or accounting. I think they these students often want to study something else but but in the end they give in to their parents’ wishes.” 

Create your own lists

So overall lists are a great way to focus you on studying new words, but it’s probably better to create your own lists from suitable words taken from your daily English use, and then follow the strategies above.

If you’re not sure about a word or phrase, try googling it, and if you’re still not sure, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to tell you.

Try to make a list with related words like this if possible:


Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Choose a word you think is good to use in the IELTS exam.

What does the word mean and how to use it?

Here are some ways to start writing your comments:

This word means…

I think this word is used to talk about…

One example of how people use this word is….

An expression using this word is…

Need more help?

You can also check out our Facebook Group or our Instagram page for more information about IELTS!

IELTS Vocabulary: ‘Impending’ (adjective)

IELTS Vocabulary: ‘Impending’ (adjective)

Welcome to today’s HowtodoIELTS vocabulary post. Today’s word is Impending /ɪmˈpɛndɪŋ/.

It is a negative adjective that means something bad is about to happen. It’s negative because it never means something good. An impending trip is not a trip you are looking forward to – it’s one you are afraid of for some reason.

The most common collocations for impending are impending doom, impending death, impending disaster, impending crisis, impending changes, impending decision, and impending event. For most of you, the IELTS test is an impending event.

Check out some more collocations here.

An example sentence with impending is ‘The impending crisis is avoidable if we take measures to prevent it.’

It is only used as an adjective, never really as a verb or noun and, like adjectives generally, it comes before a noun (impending disaster).

The stress is on the second syllable ‘pen.’

Here is the example reading sentence I took from an IELTS reading: In recent years we have all been exposed to dire media reports concerning the impending demise of global coal and oil reserves.

Remember you can follow us on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook for more vocabulary!


Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Is there an impending event coming up in your life?