IELTS Essays: FOUR proven ways to score higher in the Lexical Resources criteria

WARNING: Before you see the suggested answer/s, do think about them yourself first as an exercise!

  1. Use SPECIFIC / PRECISE and FLEXIBLE (non repetitive) Vocabulary 


    Too common: Children / Young people

    Better: Youngsters /. The youth / youths / teenagers / offspring / adolescents

    (TIPS: Do not just reuse words from the question)


    Too common: Some / Many / Most people

    Better: Quite a few community members

    Better: The majority of the populace

  2. Use correct SPELLING 


    Wrong: Goverments prefered to belive that the occurences are rare.

    Right: Governments preferred to believe that the occurrences are rare.

    (TIPS: breaking down words into syllables and/or use the right syllable stress can help)



    Wrong: take a decision; take the book to school; throw away rubbish; discuss about

    Better: make a decision; bring the book…; dispose of…, talk about / discuss

    (TIPS: Use natural English expressions, not translation from your native language)

  4. Use correct WORD FORM in the Word Family  

    Eg. Conclude

    Let us … the discussion. (Verb)

    The … of the discussion has not been finalised yet. (Noun)

    Our team’s victory is quite …. (Adjective)

    We can safely say …. that the evidence is unfounded. (Adverb)

    (TIPS: Forms depend on structure patterns and then on suffixes used where appropriate)


    (V: conclude. N: conclusion. Adj: conclusive. Adv: conclusively)

A higher vocabulary score will be crucial to help you achieve your target band in Writing!


26 October 2017


PTE Writing: EIGHT easy-to-use connectors to boost your Written Discourse score

How do you enhance organisation of your sentences and paragraphs to achieve a high score in this criteria, which in turn will raise your Writing band? Simply use a combination of the connecting devices below:

  1. Linking Words Eg:  However, Furthermore, Therefore
  2. ConjunctionsEg:  but, and, so
  3. Connectors for complex sentencesEg:  which, that, if / unless, because // due to^, although // despite^, ^ followed by a noun (phrase)
  4. V-ingEg:  including…
  5. Prepositional phraseEg: For these reasons, In such cases, In fact
  6. AdverbsEg: Obviously, (Un)fortunately, Initially // Eventually,
  7. DeterminersEg: This // these, That // those , (An) ofher/s, such, the former // the latter
  8. PronounsEg: They // them // their,  We // us // our

Remember to use proper punctuations and look up 1-2 more synonyms in the thesaurus.

Your essay will surely have a better flow and connectivity now – and a higher score!


26 October 2017


Reading B – dealing with long sentences

Reading B often has lots of long sentences, some of which can extend over four or even five lines without a full stop. When a sentence is this long, it can be hard for even a native speaker to hold all of the sentence meaning in their head at once. One way you can try to simplify long sentences is by cutting out phrases that are between brackets, commas or dashes – let’s look at some examples.


Other ways to minimise stomach upset are to start at a low dose and gradually increase as tolerated (e.g. start with alternate daily dosing then increase to daily or twice daily dosing) or give smaller, more frequent doses (e.g. use oral liquid in divided doses)

If we try to simplify this sentence by removing the information in the brackets, we get a much shorter and easier to understand sentence: “Other ways to minimise stomach upset are to start at a low dose and gradually increase as tolerated or give smaller, more frequent doses


The incidence of meningitis changed by −31% (95% confidence interval [CI], −33 to −29) during the surveillance period, from 2.00 cases per 100,000 population (95% CI, 1.85 to 2.15) in 1998–1999 to 1.38 cases per 100,000 population (95% CI 1.27 to 1.50) in 2006–2007.

Again, we can take this quite complicated research sentence, and ignore the information between the brackets to get a much simpler sentence: “The incidence of meningitis changed by −31% during the surveillance period, from 2.00 cases per 100,000 population in 1998–1999 to 1.38 cases per 100,000 population in 2006–2007”


Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person – facilitates the spread of the disease.

Here we have brackets and dashes – we can change this sentence multiple ways. If we ignore what is in the brackets we get: “Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters with an infected person – facilitates the spread of the disease.”

We can simplify it even further though, by removing what is between the brackets and between the dashes: “Close and prolonged contact facilitates the spread of the disease.”


This is an important trick to remember for reading complex sentences in reading B – if you are really stuck try re-reading the sentence but leaving out one of the parts of the sentence, and see if that makes the meaning clearer.


Aug 29, 2017

James Bergfield

IELTS Essays: SIX Question Types and the proven Formats

How do you organise the contents of your paragraphs to achieve high bands in Task Response and Coherence & Cohesion criteria? Just follow the guide below:

Type 1:  Agree/Disagree

  1. Body 1:   Specific reason for A/D + Explanations + Example + Recap statement
  2. Body 2:   Specific reason for A/D + Explanations + Example + Recap statement

Type 2:  Advantages & Disadvantages

  1. Body 1:    Specific reason for Advantage + Explanations + Example + Recap
  2. Body 2:  Specific reason for Disadvantage + Explanations + Example + Recap

Type 3:  Problem & Solution

  1. Body 1:    Statement of Problem + Explanation of Causes + Example + Recap
  2. Body 2:    Possible Solution + Explanation + Example + Recap
  3. Body 3 (optional): Another Possible Solution + Explanation + Example + Recap

Type 4:  Discuss both sides + own opinion

  1. Body 1:    Discuss advantages of Side X objectively + eg + Recap
  2. Body 2:    Discuss advantages of Side Y objectively + eg + Recap
  3. Conclusion:     Say your preferred Side and give your Reason.

Type 5:  Double Questions

  1. Body 1:    Discuss the answer to Q1 + Eg + Recap
  2. Body 2:    Discuss the answer to Q2 + Eg + Recap

Type 6:  Outweigh Question

  1. Body 1:     Specific reason for Advantage + Explanations + Example + Recap
  2. Body 2:     Another Specific reason for Advantage + Explanations + Example + Recap
  3. Body 3:     Specific reason for Disadvantage + Explanations + Example + Recap

Remember that for each type, you need a 3-sentence introduction (General Background + Expand Background + Thesis Statement of what you are going to say in the Body Paragraphs). For the Conclusion, you need a summary/concluding statement regarding the topic + a general reason for the statement.

26 September 2017


PTE: FIVE easy-to-follow steps to write PTE Essays (200-300 words)

How do you produce a decent piece of essay within 20 minutes to achieve your target band? Just follow the steps below:

Step 1: Understand the Question Type. (1 minutes)

Read the question (Is it Agree/Disagree, Advantage & Disadvantage, Describe a Situation, Describe a Case study, Discuss both issues, or a Double Question?)
Paraphrase the topic accordingly based on the question type and take your Positionn

Step 2: Brainstorming. (1-2 minutes)

Think of a couple of main points / specific reasons based on your taken position to be developed into full body paragraphs (of 80-100 words each) .

Step 3:   Planning. (1-2 minutes)

Now use a mind mapping, flowcharting or tabling technique to expand the main points. Add specific related details. Think of what example/s (from your experience, observation or knowledge) to use?

Step 4: Writing. (25 minutes)

a. Introduction – (3 sentences of 30-40 words in total, consisting of Background General statement + expansion + Position / Thesis Statement).

b. 2-3 Body paragraphs – 1 sentence of Main Point, 2-3 detailed explanations, 1-2 example sentences AND 1 final Recap to relate back to your Main Point.\

c. Conclusion – 2 sentences of 20-30 words in total, summary / conclusion of your essay + a general reason / prediction / condition / position of the subject matter.

(Timing: Intro 2-3 min + Body 5×2 min + Conclusion 2 min)

Step 5: Checking (2 minutes)

Proofread your essay for Grammar, Vocabulary, Spelling, Punctuation and Relevance / Consistency of Content.

Practise your typing skills too so that you can manage 250-270 words to get Score >=65-79+!

Good luck!

26 September 2017


PTE: Five Tips on How to excel in PTE Writing

While many students would agree that the Writing section is the hardest to pass in IELTS, they find that, to their amazement, PTE Writing is the ‘easiest’ skill to score high. That’s right, if only you know these secrets!

  1. Know how to write the essay.
    The structure of the introduction and body paragraphs depend on what type of question it is. There are six (6) types in PTE, including two types unseen in IELTS.
  2. Know what to include in summaries.
    In Summarise Written Text, you have to know where the main points are usually placed, when the text has 1, 2 or 3-5 paragraphs,
  3. Know how to take notes.
    In Summarise Spoken Text, what and how much do you need to take down and how do you ‘transfer’ these bullet points into interconnected academic sentences?
  4. Know what phrases to use.
    Yes, you’re right. You can memorise and copy some phrases from our resources and the computer won’t penalise you!
  5. Know what topics wil be examined.
    Yes, you can know what the essay questions may be, so you can brainstorm ideas and prepare how to explain the points and what examples to use BEFORE the exam!

Okay! Once you are familiar with these ‘secrets’, the PTE Writing section will just taste like a piece of cake!

27 March 2017

PTE: Five Secrets to Pass

By now, some of you may have realized that it’s ‘easier’ to pass some skills than the others. Most students can pass, say. Listening and Writing, fairly more readily than say, Reading and Speaking. So, what does it take to pass ALL skills? Here are five (5) PTE secrets revealed!

1. Really get to know the Score Guide. Seriously, some students lose valuable marks just because they misunderstand the scoring system. You want to earn as many marks as possible, while avoiding losing as few marks as possible.
2. Devise appropriate strategies and stick to them. Once you know what criteria each test item is based on, practise to improve that criterion. For example, good fluency without undue gaps in all speaking item types will not only help boost your score in Fluency, but a high fluency mark can compensate for a lower Pronunciation mark, pushing you across the threshold of your target score.
3. Focus and maintain. You need to devote more hours to address your weaknesses, yet still practise on those areas you have passed. Your scores for each skill may go up or down by 10 or even 20 points. Do NOT ignore any part altogether.
4. Allow yourself ample time to prepare for the test. Students who have average scores of around 65 would need roughly 3-4 months of concentrated efforts and at least three trials of the test before achieving over 79 in all bands. PTE is not a ‘trial and error’ or ‘just in case I’m lucky this time’ test!
5. Understand the score. Some students may achieve, say around >80 in enabling skills, but only get 70 in communicative skills. The reverse can happen too. Lower enabling skill scores but 10 point higher communicative skill score! Weird! The secret? The Main Points! So, make sure you practise taking notes of main points in writing and listening too!

25 January 2017


Many students find the reading section the hardest section of the test because it relies on your fast high level reading skills, wide vocabulary, and strong familiarity with written expressions and collocations. So from now until you pass your test read for at least one hour everyday, in quiet, without stopping to use a dictionary. Choose a book with a good story so you want to read, and use your finger or a pen as a guide to force you to read at a good speed. If you’re not used to reading then this takes practice, but it won’t take long to get your reading speed and comprehension up to 300+ words per minute. We don’t need luck 😉

PTE: Five Roads to Success

Like many, you may have heard that the PTE test is ‘easier’ to pass than IELTS, and the good news is, you may be right! Our students have been passing this test regularly every month. Yet, still many find this test another hurdle for them. So, whether you’re aiming for 79,  65 or ‘only’ 50, we are here to help you achieve your target band. Just follow these five (5) easy steps:


  1. Take one of our courses. This will give you all-round familiarity and understanding of the test. This option will save you plenty of time of self research into the test because we are qualified trainers and assessors in exam preps, including the PTE.
  2. Get a book. It’s worthwhile to run that extra mile of practice to score higher, and pick a suitable one for your level of English.
  3. Free practice on the moodle. We’ve designed numerous online practices so that you can apply the tips, strategies and language you’ve learned in class to boost your test-taking confidence.
  4. Buy the Pearson mock tests. For one thing, you can experiment on your speaking style to maximise your score. Many students pass the test after they know how to approach the mock test and then replicate this strategy in the real exam.
  5. Book a tutor. Tutors will help push you across the finish line by giving you expert personalised coaching to identify and work on your weaknesses.


FINAL TIPS: Plan and book your favourite test centre 2-3 months in advance and prepare accordingly. Good luck!


19 December 2016


OET Writing – Making subjects and verbs agree Part 2: Compound Subjects

The word “compound” means made up of two or more parts. Here are some examples of compound subjects:

  • “diet and exercise”
  • “blood pressure, glucose level and mental state”
  • “food or medication”
  • “condition, complication or concern”

When more than one noun or pronoun is the subject of one verb, each of them still needs to agree with the verb. There are certain rules that must be followed:

Joined by AND:

Rule #1: Two or more singular or plural nouns joined by “and” act as a plural compound subject, and a plural verb is used.

e.g. The venlafaxine and aspirin are being continued.

Joined by OR/NOR:

Rule #2: When two or more singular or plural nouns are joined by “or/nor”, the verb agrees with the noun closest to it.

e.g. Neither the mother nor the baby had any postnatal issues.

e.g. Mr Jones or his relatives are collecting his medication.

Try the exercise below to practice your subject-verb agreement skills! J

Best of luck,

Anna Brzeska (OET Teacher)

Exercise : Circle the correct verb (singular or plural) in the following sentences:

  1. The date and time of the accident is/are not certain.
  2. Physical therapy and acupuncture is/are recommended by the orthopedist.
  3. Neither the patient nor the doctor was/were prepared for the tumor found in the patient’s brain on MRI last Tuesday.
  4. Dietary changes or insulin commencement is/are

Answers: 1. are, 2. are, 3. was, 4. is.


– Anna Brzeska, OET Teacher

Follow Us



January 2018
« Nov