Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

On IELTS Speaking, students are making serious mistakes with TV series.

We got an interesting and pertinent question from one of our 3 Keys students in our closed Facebook group:

What is the difference between series and TV show? Is Friends a series or a TV show? What about Jane Eyre? It consists of 4 episodes.

Don’t assume this is easy vocab. that you’re getting correct- tons of students make mistakes with these terms.

Native speakers generally use the phrase TV show to describe any series with episodes. It’s an umbrella term.

Saying TV show doesn’t necessarily mean that you watch it on a TV. You can watch it online as well. Jessica says TV show for programs that she knows are broadcast on TV as well as online.

However, the more proper term for shows/programs that you watch online would be series.

If asked by the examiner about the TV shows that you like, don’t say that you do not watch TV shows. You do! Any series with episodes that are streamed or downloaded counts.

More specifically, a series is a show or program that contains 6 to 23 (approximately) episodes in one season.

A mini-series, however, is shorter. It would only have 3 to 6 episodes. Most of these are longer, perhaps movie-length.

For instance, Wallander, a British series, has each episode clocking in at about 2 hours.


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So, if you’re asked about TV shows/programs, you could ask for clarification, and say, “Can I describe something on Netflix?”

Drama is another word used incorrectly by many students. This term only describes a genre of TV or movie– a story that is sad and/or serious, as opposed to comedy.

The term movie is also confused by students. A movie is only something that you could go to the cinema to see, which is an hour and a half to two hours.

One last recommendation of a fantastic BBC series to binge is The Night Manager.

In your Speaking Part 1 answers, you can use this vocab.:

hilarious– very funny

notorious– well-known

classic– judged over a period of time to be outstanding

pop culture vulture– person who loves current and classic movies, TV, music and books

binge-worthy– able to be watched for many hours in a row

movie crush– movie star whom you ‘love’ and/or think is very attractive

What is your favorite TV series?

Share your titles in the comments section below!

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