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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 get over your IELTS fears and achieve your dreams (of going abroad or getting a better job), I now offer online lessons complete with feedback, videos, workbooks and more – you can learn more here!

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.

 

Links

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?

Learn more about my online courses here.


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