Today we answer four vital questions about IELTS from students just like you.

Can slashes and capitals ruin your score?

What vocabulary does the examiner NOT want?

Find out today!

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Question #1: Unfamiliar slang

A student sent us a question about using slang the Examiner might not be familiar with.

I have a question related to slang words. In Speaking part, if I use a slang terms that is not a generally known slang or it quite a specific to some community. Should I use or can I use it in my Speaking part 1 and/or 2 ?

In this case, I get used with slang terms in Cryptocurrency or NFT community such as ‘bullish’ or ‘mooning’. I’m not sure if these terms are generally known to English speaker as well. And if I use it should I explain the context of the word too?

You can definitely use these words, but it is vital that you explain them to the Examiner.

When they are specific to a discipline and may be new and unfamiliar, there is a chance the Examiner will think you’re using the wrong vocabulary.

This could lower your vocabulary score.

You can say the word and then say, “This is slang used often by those interested in cryptocurrency, and it means…”

Question #2: Idiom and slang on Writing exam

In the writing essay can I use idioms and slang?

The student let us know they were not referring to the letter, as for informal letters you definitely need to use slang and idioms.

For Task 2, slang and most idioms are too informal.

Phrasal verbs are also too informal for Writing Task 2.

You need high level, more formal vocabulary for this essay.

Some idioms are formal enough, so when you learn them make sure you learn how informal they are.

How can you know how informal vocabulary is?

You must learn words in context.

On our podcast, we share example sentences.

We also teach you how formal words are.

With idioms, we clearly explain where to use them on IELTS.

If they are too informal, they must be reserved for Speaking and informal Task 1 letters.

Make a note in your vocabulary notebook to know how formal language is.

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Question #3: Punctuation

Another student asked about using slashes in essays.

How about slashes (/)? Can we write / instead of “or” in an answer? Does it count as a letter? For example, can we write “social media/computer?”

We recommend you avoid using slashes, dashes and parentheses.

This is because these punctuation marks replace linking words.

You must use a variety of linking words to score 7+ on your Cohesion/Coherence score.

Does punctuation matter?

It depends on the test section!

You do not have to worry about punctuation on the Listening and Reading exams.

Your answers will not require punctuation.

Also, punctuation doesn’t matter on the Speaking exam, as you have no need to write.

However, yes, punctuation affects your grammar scores on the Writing exam.

Be sure to check punctuation when you proofread your essay.

Check especially linking phrases, as punctuation errors in these pull down both Grammar and Cohesion/Coherence scores.

Question #4: Capitalization

Another student asked about capitalization.

I have a question regarding when should I capitalise the first letter of a word or not.

On the answer sheet of the listening section the answers were “Finance” and “Math”, but I wrote them as “finance” and “math”.

Now, are my answers wrong ? Since I haven’t capitalised the first letters.

These should not be capitalized unless they are a course name.

  • Finance 101
  • Math 202

Only capitalize words that are proper nouns.

This means they are the name of a person, place or thing.

Academic Task 1 capitalization

We have seen many students make capitalization errors in Academic Task 1 essays.

This is usually because words are capitalized on a chart that are not proper nouns.

When a word is capitalized on a chart or graph that does not mean it should be capitalized in your essay.

Only capitalize it if it is a proper noun.

For example, “library” and “women” which names a category but are not proper nouns.

Do not capitalize these when you include them in your essay.


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