Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

What is the best way to compare the past to now on the IELTS Exam?

Speaking Part 3 questions often ask you to compare the past to the present.

You need to be ready with good vocabulary!

In today’s episode, we’ll give you four excellent phrases to use.

You’ll also hear native sample answers using this new vocabulary so that you can make sure you earn your high score on test day.

What are some common tasks you might face on Speaking Part 3?

  • compare advantages and disadvantages
  • speculate on the future
  • compare the past to the present

Practice answering questions that require these.

Make sure you have appropriate vocabulary for each one!

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#1 – The good old days

For pronunciation of this phrase, we don’t hear the “d” at the end of “old.”

This expression is most often used to refer to at least a few decades ago.

  • In the good old days, we didn’t have smart phones and we had to talk to our friends in person.

This can be used interchangeably with “In the old days.”

Pronunciation on this one is a bit different, as you hear the “d” on “old.”

This expression is used to talk about something positive in the past, hence the use of the word “good.”

Don’t use it to talk about negative things!

#2 – In days gone by

This expression is more formal.

It is rarely used to talk about personal experiences.

It needs to be connected to a social observation or a fact.

  • In days gone by, not all students were expected to matriculate in universities.
  • Grandparents were more respectful of parents’ wishes in days gone by.

#3 – In the heyday of…

Most often, this phrase is used to discuss something that was popular in the past.

  • In the heyday of rock and roll when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were number one on the charts, the radio was more fun to listen to.

It is appropriate to use for entertainment topics.

Anytime something was trendy and then went out of style, this is a great expression to use.

#4 – Old school

This is slang, but it’s a great adjective to describe something cool from the past.

  • This Beastie Boys album is old school.

Retro is another word we use to describe things that are “old school” but still considered interesting and cool.

It is also a good word when talking about older technology and products.

  • That flip phone is really old school.

Check out this video, which uses the word retro to describe fashion.


These four phrases are perfect to jump start your Speaking Part 3 answer.

Use them any time you are asked to compare the past and the present.

Be familiar with the usage of each, so that you use the right one!

Some are more formal than others, but they can all be used on every part of the Speaking exam.

There is a good chance you’ll be asked to compare the past with now in Speaking Part 3, so be ready with this high level vocabulary!

For more strategies on how to get the score you need on Speaking, sign up for the 3 Keys IELTS Success System!

And for additional Speaking Part 3 sample answers, click here for a YouTube video and here for an IELTS Energy episode.

Do you have questions about today’s topic?

Let us know in the comments below!

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