4 Native Speaker Mistakes:

  • Advice versus Advise: Pay attention to intonation differences with these two words
    • Advice= This is a noun. We give someone words of wisdom or “advice.”
    • To advise: This is a verb. We can advise someone on how to bake something in the oven.
  • Your versus You’re:
    • You’re= You are.
    • Your= Something belongs to you

You’re the best podcast audience we could ever hope for. Your questions are articulate and thought-provoking.

  • Award versus Reward:
    • Award: A prize, a musician could get a Grammy Award.
    • Reward: Something that is given in exchange for hard work or merit.
  • Affect versus Effect:
    • Affect: This is used as a verb. How did the change in the economy affect you?
    • Effect: This is the noun. What is the effect of sugar on your body?

Practice your sentences in the blog comments!

Let us know which ones are still confusing for you.

Are you confused and lost when it comes to IELTS vocabulary? What words should you use and when should you use them?

Today you’ll get our expert advice on how to improve your IELTS vocabulary.

Today we have a question from an IELTS Energy listener:

“My biggest concern is whether the examiners look for fancy phrases in writing and speaking or whether it’s more preferable to use a natural, daily life style with vocabulary and structure.

At the test center where I go the teachers always give us really bulky words.”

-IELTS Energy Listener

Jessica’s response:

Jessica Beck IELTS Professional“In speaking you do not need to use only fancy words. To get a 7 or higher you must use a range of formal and informal words.

You can go online and look at the descriptors.

You need to use “interesting and idiomatic language.”

– Jessica Beck, 10 year IELTS Professional

In Speaking Parts 1 and 2:

Use more informal and natural language.

To do this you can start with a short list and take a few of them into the exam with you.

Check out some of our vocabulary episodes like phrasal verbs about age.

You need to start with the list but then you must practice them.

This will start to move the examiner’s mind up from a 6 to a 7.

Speaking Part 3:

You need to throw in Academic words and phrases in Speaking Part 3.

Remember you MUST practice using these.

Take it one step at a time.

Take a chance and try to use a new word when you practice your English.

It’s easier to get used to using these words in writing but you need to use this range of vocabulary on both IELTS Writing and IELTS speaking.

Also you MUST have linking words!

Practice them.

Get comfortable with them.

Ask your teacher!

When your teacher gives you a list of vocabulary and tells you to use them on the test you should ask your teacher why those specific words are going to increase your score.

If they can’t tell you why and how, then you should make a better choice when it comes to an IELTS course.

Ask us your questions in the comments below.

Why do Americans work so hard?

Today we’ll dig into the American work ethic and try to figure out why Americans work as hard as they do.

You’ll also learn 5 idioms that highlight the work ethic in the United States.

Do Americans live to work while other cultures work to live?

This is the common saying that a lot of people come back to when they talk about Americans and the workplace.

We think that work ethic differences come back to some basic cross-cultural differences like the idea that control over our lives comes from within or comes from external sources.

The Pew Research Center found that 57% of Americans disagreed with this: “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control.”

This means that most Americans think that it’s in our control to be successful.

If you believe that then you are going to work hard.

“When asked about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it was very important compared with the global medium of 50% among the 44 countries that were surveyed.”

Pew Research Center Study

But there are real barriers to success around the world including class differences, corruption, racism, homophobia, sexism.

The American work ethic is also in our language.

Idioms about work in American English:

  • To work like a dog
  • To work yourself into the ground
  • Workin’ hard or hardly workin’
  • To pull your own weight

Listen to the conversation between Lindsay and Michelle where we use these expressions in the conversation.

Also, let us know your answer to this question: Is success more in your own control or outside of your control?

Let’s have a conversation about this.

Do you use false friends in English?

Today we’re going to talk about one false friend that we think is a major problem for a lot of Portuguese speakers.

Here is the WRONG phrase that we hear a lot: “I have a doubt + (the question)”

What is wrong with this phrase?

We use the word “doubt” when we are skeptical about something but it’s not used in English to ask a question.

Are you translating directly from your native language? If so then it’s a false friend and you need to stop!

If you have a question you can say:

  • “I have a question…”
  • “I’m wondering about something…”
  • “I have a quick question…”
  • “I’m confused about something…”


How do we use “doubt”:

  • “Don’t doubt yourself”
  • “I doubt it will rain tonight”
  • “Are you having any doubts about being abroad”


What about pronunciation?

Don’t pronounce the “B” in “doubt” just like in “debt” or “subtle” or “comb” or “numb” or “limb”


Have you made this mistake in English?

If so, hopefully you won’t do it again.

Let us know your questions below.

Today you’ll  get 7 stellar cinematic phrases for IELTS Speaking AND IELTS Writing plus a few more!

Get the amazing IELTS vocabulary that you need for these two parts of the test that will push your score higher than a 6 and up into the 7’s and 8’s.

You often find questions about movies and TV on the IELTS so today you’ll get 7 cinema phrases.

You won’t find these phrases in a textbook! They are real, modern, and up to date.

Examples of questions about movies in Speaking Part 1

  • Do you like the same movies you did when you were a kid?
  • Are new movies always better than old movies?

Speaking Part 2:

  • Describe a movie or TV show

Speaking Part 3:

  • Do you think violence in the movies affects children?

Cinema Vocabulary:

  • Dark: When a show or movie is sad or scary and it makes you feel bad and depressed about the world.
  • To be on the edge of your seat: When you are so involved in the story that you are leaning forward in your seat. It’s usually a thriller or a mystery when you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
  • To be completely in it: To be immersed in a movie or a show the whole time
  • It took me out of the story: When something like the format of the movie, the characters, or the music distract you from the story
  • To bomb at the box office: When a movie does not succeed at the theatre and it does not make much money.
  • Rom-com: romantic comedy
  • Dramedy: a funny drama
  • Chick flick: a movie that some women might like

Ok practice your sentences below.

Let us know what movies you have seen and how you liked them.

Does the IELTS Reading exam seem frightening?

Don’t worry- with these three simple tips, you can achieve the score you need on the IELTS Reading exam!

I understand- the IELTS Reading exam can seem huge and scary, and it is- if you don’t know what to expect, and you don’t prepare properly.

On the IELTS Reading exam, you have 60 minutes to get through 3 passages and answer 40 questions.

Each passage will be approximately 650-1200 words, and the passages are drawn from a variety of sources, such as newspapers, magazines and academic journals.

Practice the Skills You Need on the Test

There are only 3 reading skills you need to find all the answers on the IELTS Reading exam: skimming, scanning and reading for detail.

Did you know that you already know how to do these three things, and you use these skills every day?

Skimming is looking at an article quickly to get the main idea.

Scanning is using your finger or pencil to find very specific information in an article, like a name or a number.

Reading for detail is reading one or two sentences very carefully, word for word. This is how you find the answer and make sure it is correct.

Click here to learn more about these skills and how to use them on the exam.

Know the Strategies

In order to get through these three passages in one hour, and find all the answers, you need IELTS strategies. There’s no way around it!

There’s simply no time to read every word of all three passages and find the answers, so, you need to learn very simple strategies and practice using them as often as you can.

In fact, a student in our course recently got a 9 on the IELTS Reading exam, due to using our strategies.

Basically, you first have to skim the passage to get the gist, or the overall idea of what the passage is about.

Then, you look at the first group of questions. Here, you must read the directions, and underline key words.

Next, you employ your scanning skills to find the key words in the passage, because the answers are always next to a key word from the question.

Finally, you read the one or two sentences around the key word carefully, and this is how you find the answer.

Of course, this simple strategy must be practiced in order to help you on test day. Plus, you must learn slight variations of this strategy for the most difficult question types: T/F/NG, Y/N/NG, and Matching Headings to Paragraphs.

Improve your Overall Reading Comprehension

Of course, as we always say on our podcast, in order to get the score you need on IELTS, you must do two things: know the test strategies, and have a high level of English.

Doing reading practice tests will not improve your reading comprehension. In order to actually become a better reader, you need to read!

Challenge yourself to read high level material, such as what you will find on the IELTS Reading exam. Some excellent resources are: The New York TimesThe Huffington Post, and, for something a little more funny and entertaining, The Onion.

If you follow this advice, nothing will stop you on test day!

Do you have any questions about the Reading exam?

Leave us a comment below!

What TV shows should you binge watch to learn to speak more effectively and CONNECT in English?

You’ll find out the answer to this question and so much more in today’s episode.

Here is a listener question that we’ll answer today:

“Recently I am thinking about listening to the Friends audio version and I chose it because it’s my favorite sitcom but I am not sure if the phrases in it are still current today.

Do you think I can still use it?

Which program shows me the most up to date expressions?”

-Nicole from China


Our Response:

Yes, it’s still ok to use Friends.

The English phrases that they use are not out of date.

There might be some situations that are out of date like the fact that they didn’t have mobile phones when they created the show.

You would have to go much further back to shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s and shows that are in black and white, then you will find shows that you don’t want to mirror because the language will be old fashioned.


Other shows you can try:

  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Breaking Bad
  • Modern Family
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • True Detective (warning- this one is dark and the dialogue is hard to understand)
  • Seinfeld


It’s a good idea to choose a show that is HOT right now because it will be an easy way to get into conversations with native speakers.

Choose a show that thrills you and that sucks you in.

You want to be addicted to it.

You should want to watch it every week.


Can you use these shows to prepare for your next exam?

Yes you can BUT you need to do the right activities to supplement the show if you want to build real skills that you will get you your target score on the IELTS Exam. Every activity should be linked to the scoring system.

That’s why it makes sense to invest in an IELTS course where we’ll show you how to use the shows in a smart way so that you don’t waste your time.


What to consider when you choose a show:

  • Can you understand enough to get hooked or to get addicted (should be around 70-80%)?
  • Can you talk about it with other friends? Is it a popular show? Are people talking about it? Will you be able to add to the conversation?
  • Can you watch it regularly? Make sure that you have the time to get into it


How to start a conversation about a TV show:

  • Hey do you watch Orange Is the New Black? Who’s your favorite character? How far into it are you?
  • What shows are you into?
  • What’s your favorite show these days?


*Bonus phrase: To binge watch

This means that we consume a lot of a show.

We watch one episode after another and sometimes we watch an entire series in one weekend.


Do you like Friends or another TV show?

What phrases have you used to connect with native speakers around these shows?

Let us know in the comments.

Today we’ll show you how to stop feeling freaked out and panicked on the IELTS Listening exam and instead how to calm down and get the score you need.

To reduce your stress you can practice by using the audio script.

They are at the back of every practice test book.

A lot of students have no idea how to use them and most teachers don’t use them enough either.

What to do:

  • Practice understanding: Before you do a practice test just get used to understanding what they are saying in the audio. Listen and follow along on the tape script. Don’t even try to answer the questions. This will help you start with a clear head.
  • Get used to IELTS tricks: IELTS uses the same trips, quirks, and distractors on every test. They use the “negative turnaround” by someone changing their mind in the audio. By using the tape script you will start to pick up on these tricks and you’ll learn how to not let them lower your score. In this case you can do the practice test first but then listen again, look at the script, and compare your answers. Look at what you got right and wrong. Highlight patterns and expose the tricks!
  • Throw away your practice tests and watch a movie: You need to practice being calm. You need to strengthen your listening skill before you can approach test practice. Get your confidence back by listening to podcasts and doing other things. Build the general fluency and use balanced practice first then take your practice tests out again.

Are you stressed out about the IELTS Exam?

What is most stressful for you?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we’re going to talk about something a bit more serious and somewhat sad.

We were really disturbed by what happened a few weeks ago in San Bernadino California.

A group of people were killed at a social services center.

It comes back to the question: Why is it so easy for people to get their hands on guns in the United States?

Here are some vital statistics:

  • About 1/3 of all Americans with kids under 18 have a gun in the house
  • Rural residents and older adults are more likely to have a gun (more so than urban residents)
  • Republicans are more likely than democrats to have a gun

*Statistics are from the Pew Research Center

The New York Times published a front page editorial urging the government to end the epidemic of guns in the United States.

You can read the editorial here.


Guns in the English language:

  • “To jump the gun”- This comes from the idea of using guns in a horse race and it means to start something prematurely, before it’s the right time
  • “To ride shotgun.”- To ride in the front seat of the car.
  • “To be under the gun.”– To be under pressure for something such as a deadline
  • “To stick to your guns”– To stick to your morals and to do what you say you’re going to do, to be in integrity


Leave us a comment below. What is the situation with gun control in your country?

What do you think about the situation in the United States?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll meet a listener of our podcast who got a 7 on IELTS Speaking but a 5 on Writing.

Find out what went wrong and what she can do today.

We got a few emails from this student.

She wrote to us right after the exam and sounded confident and great.

She had used some of the stories from this podcast to entertain the examiner.

She took our advice and practiced it and got a 7 on IELTS Speaking.

That is the bright spot but then we got that common email two weeks later.

The listener’s email went like this:

“I am pretty much shocked. I got my scores: Listening: 6.5 , Speaking: 7, Reading: 6.5, Writing: 5

I don’t understand what the problem was with my writing. I used formal words. I used advanced grammar structures.”

Here is Jessica’s feedback on what you are doing wrong:

Jessica Beck IELTS Professional“The problem is this: You don’t have the writing strategies to give the examiner what she or he wants.

You might have the academic skills like vocabulary and grammar but this is not enough.

You need to know what the examiner is looking for to get a high score for Writing Task 1 for example. You are missing the strategies. 

Also it sounds like you were a confident student going in and that can be a problem if you are not basing your confidence on putting in the work.”

This student also made the mistake of only using our podcast and not using a step-by-step system to prepare for the exam.

Our podcast is not enough to bring you to your target score.

You MUST be in a solid system like 3 Keys IELTS Success System.

The danger of focusing only on your strengths:

Also this student was probably already strong in Speaking so she spent a lot of time and effort in preparing for Speaking.

Therefore, she probably ignored her real needs like IELTS Writing by not doing anything to prepare except for using some fancy vocabulary and grammar.

This is what happens when native speakers go into the test.

Should she get a re-score?

This student was thinking of asking for a re-score but we don’t recommend that.

It’s a bad investment.

Instead, she needs to admit to herself that she did not put in the time to prepare for writing.

Instead, take half of that money and invest in a course where your scores are guaranteed to increase.

This is a typical situation that happens to many people.

Don’t let it happen to you! Be smart the first time and get into a solid system.

To try our system click here.

If you have an interview in English coming up soon we’ll show you how to make an amazing first impression to get into your dream school.

“Since I am going to have a college interview can you make an episode about interviews? I want to know what clothes I should wear and how I can show my politeness.”


Today we’ll show you how to demonstrate your politeness at the beginning or at the end of the interview.

Those are the places where you can really make a strong impression.


What should you wear?

Michelle suggests you wear a business suit.

It gives a strong, professional impression on the interview. You need to create your own personal brand.

For a college interview you won’t find many applicants in a business suit so you can really stand out in this area if you put on a suit.


Powerful phrases to make an impression:

  • “Thank you for having me” – this could come at the end and at the beginning of the interview. You could use this when you first meet the person or when you walk out of the room.
  • “Pleased to meet you”
  • “I look forward to hearing back from you”– this can be used at the end of the interview just before you leave the room
  • “I’m confident I would be a good fit.”


Quick tips for the interview:

  • Prepare with the most common questions such as these:
    • “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
    • “Tell me about a time when you were a team leader.”
  • Ask questions about the school: Research the school beforehand. You have to show that you’re interested. You should know why you are interested in this school more than others. You want to ask questions about those things. Colleges want to have a high acceptance rate so they want to know that you are likely to attend if you get accepted.


Click here to get the most common college interview questions in the US


What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

IELTS speaking success story 7Today we have another IELTS success story!

Find out how Cheryll moved her Speaking score from 5.5 to 7 using 3 Keys IELTS!

Today find out how she did it and how you can do it too!


What happened the first time she took the test? (before 3 Keys IELTS)

She got a 5.5 last August before taking our course.

She made the mistake of relying on You Tube lessons.

She didn’t have any plan to use to prepare in a step by step format.

“Lesson #1: You cannot gather random, free resources and expect to have a solid preparation plan especially for speaking and writing.”

On the day of the test she was confident that she would get a 7 because she had prepared so much but she didn’t get her 7 in Speaking until she joined our course in the fall.

Cheryll joined our course in the fall of 2015 and she came to the 3 Keys Power Hour three times which is only available for 3 Keys IELTS students.

Jessica saw Cheryll’s writing and speaking improve every single time she came to the class.

“Lesson #2: During the Power Hours with Jessica, Cheryll learned that she needed to speak as much as possible and try to tell stories about your life during the speaking test.”

Cheryll worked very very hard!

On the other parts of her exam she increased her score using 3 Keys IELTS by 1/2 point in her Writing.

She feels that she needs more practice before her next exam.

Her reading and listening scores stayed consistent.

Because she put in a lot more time into the speaking practice, now she needs to go back and put more time into the listening and reading practice.


Leave a message of encouragement for Cheryll!

We are very proud of her and her improvement and hard work.

We are confident that next time she can get the overall band score she needs.

Great job on your Speaking and Writing Cheryll!

IELTS Speaking Part 2 intimidates, frightens and freaks out many IELTS candidates.

Are you one of these people?

Not to worry! Today, you’ll get all the information to not only complete IELTS Speaking Part 2 with confidence, but also fulfill the examiner’s expectations for a high score.

What does the examiner want?

The examiner is listening for very specific things in Part 2.

Fluency and Coherence

The first category that the examiner will grade you on is fluency and coherence. This mainly has to do with linking words. This is the coherence part.

You must use a variety of linking words to organize your ideas in Speaking Part 2, not just, “and, and, because because.”

Also, the examiner will be listening to your fluency. Here, you simply need to keep speaking for the whole 2 minutes. Do not stop talking, until the examiner asks you to stop.

The best strategy for getting a high fluency score is to tell a story about the topic. When you tell a story, your pronunciation, fluency, and vocabulary scores all increase.

Stories are naturally organized in your mind, and they are an event that is personal and memorable. This allows you to add more specific detail and be more expressive.


In order to score highly for vocabulary, you must use interesting and idiomatic language.

This should be easy to slot in during your Speaking Part 2 answer, because you have plenty of time to be descriptive, using interesting adjectives and idioms.

There are many idioms and phrases that express opinion, and you will naturally do this while you are speaking for 2 minutes.


Don’t worry about grammar!

Basically, in order to get a 6 for grammar, you need to use a variety of sentence structures- simple, compound and complex.

However, you can still have quite a few mistakes and still get a 6. As long as the examiner can still understand you, even though you are making mistakes, you can get a 6 here.

In order to move from a 6 to a 7, you have to produce a high percentage of error-free, perfect, sentences. For most students, this is impossible.

It would take a year, at least, for most students to move from a 6 to a 7 in grammar.

Therefore- don’t waste your time! Invest your time wisely by improving your scores in the other categories.


Here is your golden opportunity to improve your score quickly!

Pronunciation is the easiest category in which to achieve a 7 or higher.

The examiner wants to hear your personality. She/he wants to hear your voice go up and down (intonation) and your stress on important words.

This should be very fun to practice, actually.

  • You can create a whole confident character for yourself who enjoys speaking English with confidence.
  • You can also watch hilarious sitcoms, and try to copy the exact way the actors speak.
  • Also, you can read out loud every day for 5 to 10 minutes, and this will help you increase your fluency and your connected speech patterns.

It all leads you to a higher score.

For more information on Speaking Part 2, including example answers, check our our podcast, and check out our IELTS course, the 3 Keys IELTS Success System.

Do you have any questions about what the examiner wants to hear in Speaking Part 2?

Leave us a comment below.

Today get 5 incredible idioms that you can strategically insert into your IELTS Exam to get the score you need NOW!

We’re going to show you how to use English phrasal verbs with “look” to so that you can use “interesting idiomatic language” to boost up your vocabulary score on IELTS Speaking.

If you use at least two or three idioms you will get the examiner to start to think about moving your score up to a 7.

Most examiners start by thinking “6” and then using the right vocabulary is one thing you can do to push up to a 7.

  • To look up to: To admire someone. “I look up to my dad because he is a business owner and he has a good work ethic.”
  • To look down on: This is the exact opposite of “look up to.”  You could say, “I look down on people who don’t have a good work ethic” or “I look down on people who cheat.” This is a good for Writing Task 2 and Speaking Part 2.
  • To look after: To take care of something or someone. “I need to look after my health.” or “I looked after my niece this weekend.” This is good for all parts of the Speaking test when you talk about friends or family.
  • To look over: To review, to analyze, to read something when it has already been done or to check something. Here is an example: “I need you to look over my report before I turn it in.”
  • To look forward to: To be excited or enthusiastic about something that will be happening in the future.  “I am really looking forward to the soccer game and meeting new people this weekend.”

Now take this episode and listen again.

Write down all of the phrasal verbs and think about your own life.

Write down your own examples using the context of your own life.

Today find out what phrases you need for 4 different situations in English when you visit the bar with friends or colleagues.

One of our listeners asked us what vocabulary you need at a happy hour and we want to show you how to do it today.

A “Happy Hour” is usually an event that happens at a bar after work.

It usually goes from 5 to 8pm.

There are specials and reduced price drinks.

You might go with colleagues after work and stay for about 1- 2 hours.

Here in Boston the bars are not legally allowed to discount drinks during “Happy Hour” but in New York and most other parts of the country they can discount the drinks.

How to order a drink:

  • “Hey can I get a Sam Adams.” (more casual)
  • “I’ll have a martini.”
  • “I’ll get a glass of Malbec.”
  • “Could I have a Cosmopolitan.”


How much to tip:

You should leave about 20% of your total bill.

Remember that servers in the US don’t get paid very well.


How to make sure no one drives home drunk:

  • “Are you OK to drive?”
  • “Let me call you a cab.”
  • “Can I offer you a ride home?”
  • “Can I call you a cab?”
  • “You’re cut off.” (this means that the person can’t have anything else to drink)


How to say that you want to pay for someone’s drinks:

  • “I’ll get this round.”
  • “Let me get this one.”
  • “Let me get this one. You can get the next.”


What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Your time is valuable!

There are wrong ways to spend your time and right ways to spend your time preparing for IELTS.

Today you’ll hear the story of a student who has spent the last 12 months working hard but doing the wrong things.

We think this is heartbreaking!

You’ll find out how our IELTS strategies could change everything for her.

The situation that this student is in is quite typical.

She is not alone.

Her main challenges are the Speaking and Writing.

“My problem is I need a 7 in all scores. My reading and listening are good.

They are always over 7 and sometimes 8.5 but my writing and speaking are really bad.

I just got a 6 in these two skills but I spent a year working on these.”

“I think my actual writing and speaking levels are still low now.

I can’t speak fluently and don’t know how to express my thoughts and often run out of ideas. In writing it’s hard for me to come up with ideas and support for them.

I have difficulties choosing the right words and finishing writing on time.”

What should this student do?

Don’t memorize vocabulary lists.

Don’t learn new methods to learn vocabulary words.

Get a good course that will literally give you the vocabulary that you need to increase your score.

Every single activity MUST be directly correlated to the scoring system.

If you are a hard worker you are in danger if you don’t get into a course because you might take your strong work ethic and work very hard doing all the wrong things BUT if you take your strong work ethic and put it into a good system then you WILL get your target score.

If you are creating your own activities and your own ways of getting a higher speaking score then that’s not valid test practice.

In our course we give you two activities every day and we tell you exactly how these activities are going to get you a 7 or higher.

For this student she could also benefit from finding another student in our course and private Facebook group to practice speaking and fluency.

This student should go with the 60-day plan to get her target score.

She has probably developed certain speaking and writing habits which are not working.

She’ll need to un-learn her old habits and learn new habits.

Click here to get into the 3 Keys IELTS Success System.

Are you in this situation?

Let us know what questions you have in the comments.

Do you want to know how to be polite in an American dining situation?

Today we’ll show you what to do and what to say in four typical dining situations in the US.

Listener question:

“When you finish a meal and you eat with your family or friends don’t you say anything?

Or is there something you say to indicate that you are leaving a seat?

In Japan we say Gochisosama deshita which is a thank you word for everyone and everything that brings food to you.

For us Japanese it’s a little awkward if people leave the seat without saying anything.

What should you say in the US when you leave the table?”


What do you say when you leave the table?

You can say “Excuse me I need to use the restroom.”

This is a more formal way of speaking.

You might use this when you dine with your colleagues.

You could also say “Excuse me I need to check on the pie.” or just “Excuse me for just a minute.”


What do you say when you first sit down to the table?

  • “This looks lovely”
  • “This looks wonderful”
  • “This looks delicious”
  • “This looks amazing”


What do you say when you want someone to pass you a dish?

  • “Would you please pass the sweet potatoes?”
  • “Would you mind passing the sweet potatoes?”
  • (If you reach over someone) “Excuse my reach”
  • “Could I reach over you?”


What do you say when the meal is over?

You want to thank the host and you don’t have to just say “thank you.”

You can be specific about what you really liked about the meal.

You can say:

  • “Oh that was delicious. I am stuffed.”
  • “Oh the sweet potatoes were amazing.”


Dining norms in the US:

  • Don’t put your bread on the table or tablecloth
  • Don’t slurp when you eat any kind of soup or when you drink something with a straw
  • Don’t burp at the table
  • Don’t point your finger directly at someone
  • Keep your elbows off the table (except for maybe when you’re having coffee and you are leaning into someone at a small table)


Are these dining norms the same or different in your country?

Let us know in the comments below.

What should you do the day or the night before the IELTS Exam?

Should you be doing practice tests?

Practicing your speaking?

What do world-class athletes do the night before a game?

They rest and relax.

They spend time with their families.

They do not go out and run sprints to prepare for the game the next day.

We are making today’s episode to help the students in our course or anyone who has put in a lot of hard work and has really taken time to learn solid strategies with a good IELTS study plan.

If you have worked hard in an IELTS course and it’s the night before the test you need to relax.

There is nothing you can do by this point to change your score. You have learned what you have learned.

If you try to work too hard on practice tests now you could actually lower your score because you might get a lot of anxiety if your practice tests scores are lower than you expect.

What should you do?

Go out in the evening (don’t stay out too late) and spend time with friends and family or stay home and watch a movie. Read a book. Maybe watch a movie in English.

If you have honestly done everything that we tell you to do in our study plan and you have participated in our 3 Keys Power Hours or Writing Wizard Essay Contest then YOU ARE READY.

Relax. Get a good night’s sleep. Go into the exam refreshed and ready.

Good luck!

If you want to join our 3 Keys IELTS Success System click here.

It is the spark that makes people like you.

That’s what everyone wants.

It’s a basic human need to be liked and to be accepted.

One key to being a charismatic person and to being liked by others is not only to be confident but to make others confident in themselves.

I bet you can do that easily in your native language but how can you do that in English?

We’ll show you how to do it today in English so that you can build better connections with people at work and have more success in your career.


Here are some phrases that you can use:

  • “I know you can handle this.”
  • “You have the skills that you need for this.”
  • “I’m fully/100% confident in you.”
  • “I know you can do it.”
  • “This is right up your alley.”
  • “This is in your wheelhouse.”


What other phrases do you know to instill a sense of self confidence in someone else?

Let us know your ideas in the comments.

On IELTS Writing Task 2, students are always asking for help with examples.

Do you struggle with this too?

Teachers always tell students that they have to add  specific details and examples in their IELTS Task 2 essays, but teachers don’t always tell students how to do this.

First of all, let’s back up a bit, to the stage in the writing process before you begin to write your essay.

This stage is the planning stage- and it’s part of a 3 step process.

The three steps are planning, writing and, very importantly, checking.

On our podcast, we talk about how important this process is, and how to manage your time while using this process for Writing Task 1 and Task 2.

The planning stage is what we’re focusing on today.

This is where you take 5 minutes to brainstorm your ideas and organize them before you write.

When you are trying to come up with ideas, try to be as specific as possible.

You can do this by thinking of information that would give further explanation regarding the who, what, when, where and why of the topic.

Here are a few examples:

If you are trying to come up with advantages for driving a hybrid car, you can try and think of answers to questions like:

  • Who would benefit from driving hybrid cars?
  • What does a hybrid car do for the environment?
  • When would it be beneficial to drive a hybrid car?
  • Where would it be beneficial to drive a hybrid car?
  • Why should people consider buying a hybrid car?

These are the questions that I think of to help my mind come up with more specific reasons and examples.

My brainstorm notes would look like this:

Advantages of hybrids:

  • environmentally-conscious people would feel good about themselves
  • cars use less fossil fuels, decrease pollution, CO2
  • people should start now
  • useful in places with high fuel prices, like $10/gallon
  • should buy to save planet

Now, the above ideas are only the beginning.

You now need to use your own life experience and knowledge to add more specifics.

This strategy is also useful on the IELTS Speaking Exam.

Advantages of hybrids:

  • environmentally-conscious people would feel good about themselves- my friend Tania carries a lot of environmental guilt, would be very depressed without her hybrid
  • cars use less fossil fuels, decrease pollution, CO2 
  • people should start now My neighbor just bought a Toyota hybrid last week.
  • useful in places with high fuel prices, like $10/gallon
  • should buy to save planet

But wait, there’s more!

You can also make up specific details and examples on the IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.

Yes, that’s right, you can lie on IELTS!

Remember, the examiner doesn’t care about the truth of your ideas- they only want to see your writing in English.

As long as those made-up facts are presented in an organized way, using interesting vocabulary, you will get a high score.

So, if we add some more made up facts, my brainstorm would look like this:

Advantages of hybrids:

  • environmentally-conscious people would feel good about themselves- my friend Tania carries a lot of environmental guilt, would be very depressed without her hybrid
  • cars use less fossil fuels, decrease pollution, CO2 I read an article in the New York Times that said if just 50% more people drove hybrids, it would decrease daily CO2 vehicle emissions  by 75%.
  • people should start now My neighbor just bought a Toyota hybrid last week.
  • useful in places with high fuel prices, like $10/gallon In the Netherlands, as of July 2015, gas prices had topped $10 a gallon. If I had to pay those prices, it would cost me $140 to fill up my gas tank every week.
  • should buy to save planet

Of course, your brainstorm will not be as complete as the above example.

However, as long as you have 3 of these ideas in your brainstorm, you will have a very strong, well-supported and high scoring IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.

Your next step from here is to practice!

Look at some example IELTS Task 2 questions, and give yourself unlimited time to brainstorm specific reasons, details and examples.

At this stage, you don’t even have to worry about writing the essay- just focus on practicing this one specific step in the writing process.

The more specific, the better!

You can learn more about Writing Task 2 in our IELTS course, 3 Keys IELTS.

Do you have any questions or ideas about today’s post?

Leave us a message in the comments below!

Renata 3 Keys IELTS Success story IELTS band 8Today we have a 3 Keys IELTS Success Story!

Learn about the two things that Renata did to get a 9 on IELTS Reading and an overall score of 8 on IELTS!

Let’s learn from Renata to get the secrets to this amazing score!

How did Renata get an 8?

She did two things: She chose the right course and she worked hard!

Renata knew that she was naturally a slow reader so she had to really work hard on those reading strategies that we present in our course.

To prepare she kept practicing with the techniques in our course and by the end of her preparation she was much better.

During the test she felt like she could manage timing well on the IELTS Reading.

Before taking our course Renata had no idea how to get started with IELTS.

She didn’t know what to do each day.

She worked very hard in our course.

She spent a lot of time with the video lessons and really focused well.


What is Renata going to do now?

She and her family are involved in the immigration process to Canada.

She kept focused on her dream of immigrating to Canada throughout the course and this helped her put in the number of hours that she needed to in order to build her skills.


What was most helpful for test day?

The day before the test she did the rookie mistake lessons in our course one more time.

She did all of the module summaries again in the course.

She reviewed our templates for the Writing test.

She had a very graphic vision of how the Writing Tasks should look because she had prepared and memorized the structure thoroughly.

She was fully, 100% prepared when she walked into the test!


What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

We have heard “I reckon” being used by Australian native English speakers.

It’s not used at all in the US except for in old country western movies.

Today we’ll show you five ways to use “‘I guess” to express different feelings and communicate different ideas.

When we use “I guess” sometimes it can show that we’re not sure about what we are saying and if we’re not careful it could communicate a lack of confidence.

Pro tip! Be careful when you’re mirroring the speech of native speakers.

Sometimes native speakers convey a lack of confidence in their voice and you don’t want to repeat the way they sound.

Listen to a variety of voices to avoid this pitfall.

How to use “I guess” in English:

  1. At the beginning of a phrase to show that you’re unsure. “I guess it’s at the end of the street”
  2. At the end of the phrase to show that you’re unsure. “There’s no other way to get there I guess.”
  3. To make an assumption and put it into a question. “Oh you’re not coming home for Christmas I guess.”
  4. To let someone down lightly and empathize. “So I guess all of the New Years tickets are sold out.”
  5. To reserve your agreement, to show that you don’t agree with someone. “Yeah I guess Macy’s is a good place to shop but it gets so crowded there around Christmas.”
  6.  To take a guess. “Can you guess what’s in this bag?”

Listen to the episode to hear how “I guess” is used in real conversations.

What did you think about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll learn about 5 IELTS preparation approaches that destroy your score.

We’ll show you why it’s almost too late for one listener to get their target score but we’ll show you how you can turn it around if you are in this situation too.

“To tell you the truth I have never been that bad in English but IELTS is bringing out the bouts of anxiety within me.

I feel I am lagging behind in all four modules.

In the mock tests I have just about managed to score Band 6 in Reading which makes me panic about the whole situation.”

 We get a lot of responses like this one.

First of all, he needs to take a step back.

Slow down.

Think about how you are going about this.

It sounds like you have a high level of English.

Mistake #1: Your first mistake was in thinking that your high level of English was enough. It’s not. You need strategies and you need to know what the examiner is looking for.

Mistake #2: Maybe you thought you would practice a few times to see what the exam looks like with the Cambridge practice tests.

Mistake #3: You don’t have any reading strategies. You don’t have time management skills on reading.

You are now in a downward spiral of anxiety which is taking your further away from your target score because of your first three mistakes. Here’s more from your letter….

“Writing is something which obviously has no standard marking and so is the Speaking part, both of which I do hope to pull of with ease and get a 7 in both.

My biggest fear is the Listening module.

My problem with Listening is the recording is too fast for me to follow and jot down the answers.”

You have awesome vocabulary so that’s a huge advantage for you that you could use on your next test, but…..

Mistake #4: You have done NO research on IELTS. How can you say that Writing and Speaking have no standard marking system? Of course there is a strict standard marking criteria that examiners must follow and you MUST learn it to score high.

We know that you are trying to prepare and the mistakes that you have made are common for so many students but you need to realize that you must ask for help sometimes.

Even for a native speaker, you need to know what the examiner is looking for on Writing Task 1 and in Speaking Part 2.

It’s not logical or obvious.

The instructions can actually be misleading.

If you are studying with an IELTS professional then you’ll know exactly what you need to do to get the score you need because we know what you need to do to get that score.

And it gets worse….

“I’ve watched several videos with tips on Listening and Reading but I find it hard to improve since I am doing self study and I only have 20 days left I feel that I am panicking more than ever.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

I hope I get Band 8.5 in my first attempt but my innermost desire is to get Band 9.”

Mistake #5: You are doing self study and you have said that it’s not working. You can’t prepare for IELTS by yourself. Why are you continuing to use those self study videos if they aren’t working? STOP and change your approach!!!

Mistake #6: Now that you only have 20 days (and no plan) you are panicking and looking for help. It’s basically too late. If you had 30 days you would be OK but if you continue on the track you’re on for the next 20 days you WILL NOT get your target score.

This situation reminds of a situation that a native speaker would get in.

This person has the English level he needs but he cannot do it by himself.

A native speaker would probably assume they could prepare by themselves too but they also wouldn’t get a great score.

What do you think about this situation?

Are you in a similar situation right now?

Let us know in the comments below.

It’s almost the weekend! Are you feeling great?

Do you want to know how to talk about the upcoming weekend in English with your friends or colleagues?

Today you’ll find out how to do it.

Phrases to talk about the weekend:

  • Thank goodness it’s Friday
  • Happy Friday, Happy weekend
  • Enjoy your weekend (this would be used at the end of a conversation)
  • What are you up to this weekend?
  • Have a great weekend!
  • I’m so glad it’s the weekend
  • I’m really looking forward to the weekend
  • TGIF = Thank Goodness It’s Friday

Listen to the episode to get the conversations between Lindsay and Michelle!

Leave us your sample sentences below.

Can IELTS Writing feedback actually hurt your score?

Yes it can!

We’ll show you how it can hurt you if you get bad writing advice in today’s episode.

When should you get writing feedback?

Where should you get it?

One of Jessica’s students made the mistake of getting feedback from her mother who did not know what the examiner looks for when it comes to writing.

As a result, she was getting good grammar tips but she wasn’t getting ready for IELTS but when she started working with Jessica she got the 7.5 she needed right away. She only had to meet with Jessica twice and she got her 7.5.

As we have seen in this example you have to work with someone who knows about the IELTS Exam.

If you already have the English skills that you need for the life of freedom that you are looking for, all you need is simple feedback from a good IELTS professional to get your target score.

One key is to learn the strategies before you get feedback.

You need to make sure that you build the foundation first then invest time and money into getting IELTS feedback.

You can use our strategies from our 3 Keys IELTS course or you can try to put together your own strategies.

What questions do you have about IELTS Writing?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you a pushover?

Do you want to “put your foot down” more often?

Today find out how to say what you prefer to do in any situation using the right English phrases.

It’s important to say what you really want to do when you prefer to do one thing over another.

This can be hard to do but the phrases you’ll get today will help you be assertive and direct while maintaining connections that matter to you.

The key to becoming a leader is being direct about what you want to do while saying it in the right way and not sounding rude or immature.

Phrases you can use:

  • I think I’d rather….
  • I’d rather…
  • It would be better to…
  • Let’s do this…
  • I’d prefer to do this/that…


Listen to the conversation and then leave us your sample sentences below!

Today  INSTANT study plan created for one 3 Keys IELTS student!

What happens when plans change?

Today find out how to deal with IELTS preparation surprises and changes.

If you are in a course like ours you can get immediate answers to your questions like these.

Our student got into the following situation:

“When I applied to 3 Keys IELTS I made a mistake.

I wanted to get started quickly but I hadn’t booked my test.

I had planned to do the test in December 2015 but I found out that there were no spaces available in 2015 in Brazil.

My test will be on February 20th 2016. I started my 60-day study plan in October but I have 90 more days. I am afraid I will get rusty before my exam.

What should I do? “

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It could be an opportunity.

You now have more time to prepare.

Instead of two months to prepare you now have four months.

For now, go back to focusing on your general fluency skills with our extra activity recommendations in our study plan.

Then, two months before the exam you should go back and start the study plan again and do the test-prep strategy activities.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

We got a great question from a listener named Simon.

Simon wanted to know why we say, “What will we be doing?” or “Where will they be meeting?”

Great question Simon!

The key is to understand context and know what situations we would use this in instead of other forms of the future.

In formal situations like an organized event or a meeting we would be likely to use this tense.

For example at a conference we might use this tense a lot.

At a conference it is a structured, pre-planned event, where a lot of time blocks are scheduled out and we know what will be happening at specific times.

We use this when we are certain that things will be happening at a specific time.


  • I will be leaving for the airport at 2 pm
  • We will be meeting in the Green room for the keynote speech
  • We’ll be serving breakfast in the cafe between 8 am and 10 am tomorrow morning. Will you be joining us?


Listen to the conversation and role play between Lindsay and Michelle.

Leave us your questions in the comment section below or write your examples!

Jessica bought a new car! She got a VW Beetle!

Today you’ll get four things you can learn from Jessica’s car-buying experience about the IELTS Exam.

What should you consider when you buy a car and when you take IELTS?

  • Consider your motivation: What do you want to do with your life? What will the IELTS get you? Will it get you freedom? Opportunities? Always keep the big dream in mind so that you can stay motivated. Think big when you consider this. What will happen because you are able to get an academic credential? Will your family be in a better financial situation? Will you become a leader in your community? Focusing on these things will keep you on track.
  • Put in the research and be an educated shopper: You probably don’t know much about how to choose a good IELTS course just like Jessica didn’t know how to buy a car. But she put in the time and learned the key questions to ask to find out about the quality of the cars. You also need to know the right questions to ask a potential teacher.
  • Don’t assume you can do it by yourself: Jessica had to ask a friend to help her inspect her new car and you need someone to show you what you don’t know about IELTS. Reach out and get help. Make sure that the person you ask knows the test and does not also teacher other exams.
  • Make sure you have personal support and someone to answer your questions: In our course we have a private Facebook group and we get back to you within the same day or the next day. You need some level of personal support in the course you choose.

Do you have a question from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

The holidays are coming up and if you are living in the US then maybe you are wondering if you should send your friends or colleagues a Christmas card or a New Year’s card. Good question!

One listener wrote in with this question:

“Is it weird to send Christmas cards to my American friends because I am not a Christian? 

Is there some American standard for Christmas cards?

I just want to say thank you and keep in touch next year.

Is it better to send a Happy New Year card?”

-Eri, from Japan


What should you do?

  • Look at the context: Some social circles give cards and gifts but others do not. Some groups do Secret Santa and some groups don’t do gifts at all.
  • Ask someone in the group: Don’t be afraid to ask. Say, “So do we usually do gifts or cards?”
  • Stay on the safe side: If you are really concerned just send a Happy New Year card. This won’t offend anyone and it will be positive and forward- thinking.


What happened at Starbucks?

This year Starbucks took off their holiday decorations and just kept the red cup.

Some people were offended that they did this and called it the “War on Christmas.”


What do you think about what happened at Starbucks?

Let us know in the comments below.

Recently, a shocking case emerged in the IELTS test center where I work.

A candidate entered the test center, gave the finger print, and then somehow switched places with a candidate who looked similar to him.

The candidate he switched with had a very high level of English, and was paid a handsome sum of money for this deception.

This ‘professional’ candidate made it through the Listening, Reading and halfway through the Writing, before a proctor became suspicious.

The proctor had helped check in the real candidate in the morning, and, while walking around checking ID’s during the Writing exam, she took a double take when comparing the student to his passport picture.

She asked him to accompany her to the administrator’s office, and this paid test taker told the truth immediately.

He was afraid of getting in trouble himself.

After all, he didn’t care about the real candidate.

He had already received his payment.

This insane series of events got me thinking about why the ethics of honesty and sincere effort are so important, and how we can bring our ethical life into our IELTS preparation.

1. Be honest about who you’re placing your trust in

This professional candidate, the fake person, did not care about the person who paid him the money.

He confessed right away, preferring to save himself than lie any more for the real candidate.

You, as an IELTS candidate, need to place your trust in an IELTS professional before you take the exam.

A teacher who can not only help you pass the exam, but also greatly improve your English ability at the same time.

Think about it: what if the person had actually gotten away with this crime?

Then, he would go to an English-speaking university, and not understand a thing.

Then, he would fail all of his classes, and still be forced home in disgrace, still having achieved nothing.

When you place your future dreams of immigration or prestigious study in someone else’s hands, make sure they deserve it.

Research the teacher and the course, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions.

Then, work hard, and make sure you deserve the highest possible grade on the IELTS exam.

2. Be honest about the amount of work it takes to reach your goals

The dishonest student chose the easy way, the short cut, the loser’s way out.

And now that his scheme has been uncovered, he cannot take the IELTS exam again.

Therefore, he may not be able to attend the university of his choice, never get the position he’s hoping for, and never have the pride in himself that he so hoped for in the future.

You are a good person!

You will not make these same mistakes.

As an adult, you have enough life experience to know that there is no magic key to success.

Sure, we may get helped along our path by luck or good timing, but it’s our work ethic that allows us to use this luck and timing along our unique path.

If you need to get a 7+ on IELTS, if you want to create a better life for you and your family, there is no shortcut.

There are many opportunities to waste time, however, and that is why choosing a proven IELTS course with a sound and solid study plan is just the beginning.

The rest is up to you: only by completing all the activities, investing your time according to the study plan, and putting your best effort into the test practice, will you reach your goals.

You can hear how one student used our course to achieve a 7.5 on IELTS here.

3. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and use them!

In our case study of today, the student should have been honest with himself about his lack of English skills, and focused on improving himself.

Instead, he thought his clever plan would be his strength, his savior; however, it only got him into a more dire situation.

Lindsay and I talk exactly about this pitfall in your IELTS test preparation journey in this episode.

You have to be honest with yourself first and foremost.

Are you better at Listening than Speaking?

Then you must force yourself to face your fears, and seek out a speaking partner.

Do you try a practice reading test, fail, and blame the material instead of yourself?


Find a professional who will teach you the strategies you need, such as in our online IELTS course, and practice, practice, practice.

4. On the Speaking exam, be honest about what’s happening with you

Sometimes, we have to admit defeat before we can gather our strength to move on.

Perhaps this is where our poor student went awry.

He tried a practice test, performed abysmally, and tried to lie his way out of his problems.

Being honest is actually one IELTS strategy unique to IELTS Energy and All Ears English.

On this podcast we discuss how you can use your blank and nervous mind to your advantage on the IELTS Speaking test. We have a strategy for everything!

In short, you have to trust in yourself- that your hard work, determination and honesty will not only lead you to the IELTS score you need, but guide you in achieving all that you dream of in the future.

Let’s go!

What do you think about today’s article?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today we’ll show you how to add this tiny phrase to your repertoire to put a positive spin on what happens in life.

Americans have a reputation for being overly optimistic and positive.

We did an episode about this a few years ago called Does American Optimism Annoy You?

We did another episode on how to use “yet” to put a positive spin on your goals and dreams.

But today we’ll show you how to use “at least.”

We think you can become more successful at work if you are optimistic.

In fact, our language and word choices can determine our thought patterns so we can indeed create our own reality.

What we pay attention to is what actually exists so if you want to bake this mindset into your English phrases you could insert “at least” into your phrases.


  • “I got yelled at by my boss today but at least I still have a job.”
  • “You can’t visit your friend in the hospital but you can at least send flowers.”


Listen to the conversation between Lindsay and Michelle to get examples on how to use this in a real situation.


What do you think?

What other phrases could you add to your English repertoire to be more positive?

Let us know in the comments.

Today you’ll hear the rumor that pulls people’s IELTS Speaking test scores  down to a 2.

You’ll also find out how to make sure you don’t get a low score and what you should do instead of following this bad advice to get the highest possible score.

There is a rumor that students repeat which says this: “Using memorized phrases could lower your score.”

But this doesn’t make sense because to some extent all phrases have to be “memorized” to learn them.

But if you memorize a full 2-minute speech before the exam and you launch into your memorized speech and it has nothing to do with the Speaking topic and question then of course you will get a terrible score because those aren’t your words and your answer is not relevant to the question.

Don’t ever memorize whole answers because you don’t know what the questions will be.

That is  RIDICULOUS waste of time.

Now, what about the transition phrases we talk about?

You do have to memorize them.

Memorization is inherent in learning vocabulary in some ways.

Everything we say has been memorized at some point but just memorizing them is not enough for you 7 or higher.

You need to see and understand how to use these phrases in context.

The reason that phrases can sound memorized is that they are used in the wrong context.

Type your transition phrase that you want to use on the test into Google search and let Google show you how these phrases are used. Look at the top 5 Google examples.

So, memorization is important so that you use the phrases correctly but you also have to see them in context so that you know when and how to use them if you really want to score high on IELTS Writing and IELTS Speaking.

Any questions from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

What is an invigilator?

What does their job have to do with timing?

How could they impact your score on Reading and Writing?

One of our listeners was in the Reading exam a few weeks ago and he got thrown off by the person who was keeping the time.

He thought that the invigilator would remind him after 20 minutes had gone by but maybe he misunderstood what this person was going to do so this caused him to get thrown off and confused.

The “invigilator” is supposed to do the following:

  • Control the morning exam by checking your passport
  • Fingerprint you
  • Check your belongings and give you a ticket
  • Give you the rules
  • Tell you what time you can enter the test room
  • Assign you a desk
  • Control the time during the test (they should give you clear instructions and write the time on the board). They should write the time remaining at 60 minutes, 40 minutes, and 20 minutes left.

What you need to know:

Sometimes these invigilators are not trained professionals.

They might be college students trying to make extra money.

They have many tasks to do.

For this reason they might not do everything right.

They might make a mistake.

They might forget to write the time warning on the board.

Don’t rely on the invigilator:

Timing is YOUR responsibility.

Keep your eye on the clock in the room.

If the invigilator makes a mistake and you don’t time your test correctly because of that then you won’t be able to do the test again. You won’t be able to blame it on anyone.

Take on some of the responsibility yourself and you will see a higher score.

How to avoid problems with timing:

It’s important to prepare under test conditions so that you know what 20 minutes feels like and what 40 minutes feels like.

You need to practice timing yourself doing each step (plan, write, check) to get a sense of the correct timing for each step.

This should become second-nature by the time you walk into the test because you need to have done it many many times before test day.

Do you have any questions about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

What can you learn about speech patterns from the story of a gay man from New York City?

Today hear about a documentary about a gay man who hired a speech therapist to get rid of his gay-sounding voice and find out what this means for you as a learner of English.

This weekend we watched a movie called Do I Sound Gay and it reminded us of some of the challenges that our listeners go through when they want to get rid of their own accents from their home countries.

We can draw parallels between what this man went through and what you might go through if you relocate to the US and try to start a life for yourself.

What is a typical “gay male voice”?

Of course this might be a stereotype in itself but here are some of the characteristics according to speech therapists:

  • Careful pronunciation
  • High, rapidly changing pitch
  • Lisp
  • Nasal tone
  • Breathy tone


In this documentary the man tried to figure out how and when he started talking with this voice and started trying to get rid of it.

He was “covering” as linguists would say. He was trying to cover up his natural voice.

He was doing activities and exercises to get rid of his speech patterns.

Eventually he stopped doing the exercises because he realized he was disconnected with himself.


Is “covering” always healthy?

Sometimes covering can be healthy.

Healthy covering is getting pronunciation training to have more success in business and be understood in everyday situations when we are living in a new country.

There is also a difference between having an accent and having good pronunciation.

The idea of developing a 100% American accent is not always the thing to work toward.

Sometimes covering can he unhealthy if you are spending a lot of time trying to stop being the person you are. It can also become a form of aggression that we display to ourselves by not allowing anything but “perfection.”


What does this mean for you as an English learner?

  • Ask yourself, is your desire to change your pronunciation coming from a healthy place or an unhealthy place? Are you feeling vulnerable? Maybe you are feeling scared if you are living in a new country and you don’t want to stand out and you prefer to blend in?
  • Are you looking for perfection or connection? Do you want to learn in a way that helps you connect with people or do you want to be “perfect”? What are your priorities? What are your values?
  • Are you looking for a connection to yourself? If we are feeling disconnected to ourselves or our bodies we could see a therapist or do yoga or meditation. What are you actually looking for? Is “perfect” English pronunciation really the solution?


The extent to which you want to lose your original accent when you speak English is your own personal choice but we are asking you to reflect on that question today.


What do you think?

Let us know in the comments below.

What is the toughest IELTS Writing Task 2 question?

It’s a question that combines opinion, argument, and problem solution questions.

How can you tackle it so that you get the score you need?

Today find out how to deal with this question to get the highest possible score on IELTS Writing Task 2.

Normally the way we approach Task 2 is by looking at the different types of essay that you might have to write.

The three types are:

  • Argument Essay
  • Problem/Solution Essay
  • Opinion Essay

But the problem is that sometimes IELTS gives you a combo question.

What should you do if you get that type of question?

Don’t think about writing a specific type of essay for this type of question.

Answer the question directly instead.

For example, here is a typical question:

“Some people feel that we are wasting our money in the Space Race. We need to spend money on earth. Do you agree or disagree with this?”

This question does not present two opinions so it’s less clear.

So in this case, since there are two parts to the question you can talk about sentence 1 in paragraph 2 and sentence 2 in the next paragraph.

First, talk about the fact that yes, we are wasting money on the Space Race.

The second part of the question is: “We should be spending money here on earth.”

So address that part in the next paragraph.

If you see a question with two parts then don’t waste your time thinking about what kind of essay to write.

Instead just directly answer those questions in the two body paragraphs.

You can use this strategy on every single question for Writing Task 2.

You still need to practice the 3 different types of essay structures before you can start moving things around like we’re showing you in this strategy.

You need to know the strategies and rules before you can break them.

What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

What should you do if someone doesn’t reply to your email?

How do you ask them if they got it and give them the “gentle nudge” in English to get them to respond?

We’ll show you exactly how to do it today so that you can get the message across and still maintain that connection.

What should you think about?

  • What is your relationship with the person? How well do you know them?
  • What is the timing? You need to get this right and not make them feel pressured
  • How can get their attention just to give them a friendly reminder without nagging

How can you maintain the connection but also be somewhat direct in English?

One useful key word here is “just.”

We have already talked about this word. Check out this episode.

Even though we can eliminate “just” in many contexts to sound more direct, when it’s a follow up email you can use it strategically to be more polite in English and to not come off as nagging or bothering someone.

By saying “just” you are recognizing that you are not the only thing in the person’s life.

Phrases to use:

  • “Hey just checking in. I emailed you last week. Did you get (receive) my email?”
  • “Hey I haven’t heard back from you. What’s going on?” (this is more direct and less formal)
  • “Hi I sent you an email last week about the party. Hope you can make it. Please let me know either way.”
  • “I emailed you last week about the meeting on Friday. If you could get back to me by this Wednesday that would be great.”

What phrases do you use in English to remind people to get back to you?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you worried that you will “lose it” on the map completion questions on the IELTS Listening test?

This kind of question is rare but it does happen and it can be tough.

However, today you’ll find out what happened to one student in this part of the IELTS test and learn how you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you too.

What happened to this student?

The student got lost and didn’t know where he was on the test.

He didn’t know where on the test the speaker was referencing.

He skipped the initial step of looking at the question before he listened.

He didn’t use his prediction strategy to see what would come next.

The skill you need to succeed on this type of question:

Prediction strategies: On a map completion question all of the answers are in order so all you have to do is follow along in order.

What should you do to follow along? Before you listen find question #1 right away. Circle it and then circle all of the questions in order so that you see where all of the questions are.

You need to start predicting direction words in your head.

Look at where things are on the map and describe it to yourself in your head before you listen.

These are the signal words.

Read more about prediction when it comes to IELTS Listening and Reading.

You can get maps online to practice this.

Also get more tips on this in the IELTS Brain box episode here.

How can you practice this?

Go to a tourist office in your city and get maps in English.

Highlight all direction words on the map.

Go back and describe the map in your own words.

You could extend this into speaking test practice by engaging in conversation with the person who works at the tourist center by asking them some questions about the map.

What questions do you have about this strategy?

Let us know in the comments below.

What should you do when the barista at Starbucks or another coffee shop gets your order wrong?

Today find out how to correct them and fix the problem in English without ruining the person’s day.

Do you spend a lot of time at Starbucks?

Lindsay is a Starbucks bum. She goes every day to the Starbucks down by her house.

Sometimes when you go a cafe the server gets the order wrong.

How do you fix the problem and get the correct drink without making the server feel bad or ruin their day?

Phrases to correct the server in English:

  • “Actually I asked for hazelnut.”
  • “Excuse me I think my order got confused.”
  • “Ya know what, I think there was a mistake.”
  • “Sorry I think I got the wrong order.”

What other phrases do you know when it comes to fixing your order at a cafe?

Please share them in the comments below.

What should you do when you receive your IELTS results?

After two long weeks of nail biting and bated breath, your IELTS results were released.

With dreams of 7’s, or even 8’s, you opened the envelope, or clicked on the appropriate link, and your face fell.

No 7’s.

Maybe a 6 or two, but definitely not the scores that you need to send in to the immigration agency, the admitting committee for your university, or the overseas job recruiters.

I know this is not ideal, but there is good news! You can still reach your target scores!

3-part IELTS Masterclass

Ready to get our free 3-part IELTS Masterclass?

Learn the top ticks, tricks, and secrets you need for success

Click here to get Video 1 instantly

Analyze your strengths

You got your results, and, hopefully, they’re not all bad!

Perhaps you scored a couple 6’s, maybe in the Reading and Writing, but you still couldn’t get beyond that 5.5 for Speaking, and Writing was maybe a 5.

Chin up!

The good news is that you have nowhere to go but up!

So, start by being positive.

List your strengths for each section of the exam.

For example, in Speaking, you feel like your fluency was actually ok, but you know that you need to learn a wider range of vocabulary.

You can use your strengths and weaknesses to help you improve, for example, even if you feel like you are an introvert, and you believe this inability to be gregarious is holding you back, use it to your advantage!

We did a podcast on this specific topic, analyzing your personality type and using it to help formulate your study plan.

The fact is that you most likely do have a strong base of English skills, and you can build on that.

You just need to right guidance from a IELTS professional.

Analyze your weaknesses

If you’re reading this article, you probably didn’t hit that target score in every section of the IELTS exam.

Good news! You can still get there!

Remember that almost nobody hits their target score on their first attempt, and, if this is your second, third, or even eighth attempt, it’s time to change the way your are preparing.

This video is a good place to start: Why Do I keep Getting a 5.5?

See the full video lesson below.

You cannot keep doing the same methods of preparation, the same IELTS prep class at the local language school, the same Cambridge practice test book at home, and expect to get different results.

If you are strong in fluency, for example, or vocabulary, but you still can’t get beyond that 6 in Speaking or Writing, maybe you need to focus on pronunciation.

Most likely, if you are a good student who simply cannot reach the score you need, even after preparing, you are just missing some key information about the test that your teachers and your books aren’t giving you.

In fact, unfortunately, some teachers are actually passing on the wrong information to their pupils, directly hurting their scores.

On our podcast, we’ve heard many cases of this, where a teacher is claiming to be an ‘ex-examiner’ in some cases, charging higher fees, and actually sabotaging their students’ preparation.

Learn how to improve in the areas you need.

You cannot teach yourself what you don’t know.

You must admit that there are areas for improvement, and find a teacher who can bring you up to the level you need to be for the exam.

There are strategies that only a real IELTS professional can teach you, for example, which numbers the examiners wants to see in Writing Task 1  or what the examiner wants to hear specifically in Speaking Part 2

For Speaking and Writing, the fact is that you cannot improve those areas by yourself.

You need to learn from someone who knows, intimately and in great detail, what the examiner is looking and listening for on the writing and speaking tests.

That’s why in our course 3 Keys IELTS, for example, every piece of advice stems from the descriptors that the examiner uses to give you band scores.

Likewise, Reading and Listening skills can be practiced at home in your room, but, you still need an IELTS professional who can teach you the simple strategies you need to feel confident on test day.

On our podcast, we discuss some of these specific reading and listening strategies.

Make a study plan

On our podcast, we are firm believers in plans, lists and organized preparation.

When we have a huge goal before us, like passing the IELTS to get our Masters degree and bring our skills home to improve our town and support our family, we cannot expect to reach any of those targets without putting in the work.

However, at the same time, you don’t want to just start ‘working’ when you’re actually wasting your time with the wrong resources.

In this episode, https://www.allearsenglish.com/ielts-study-plan-create/, we explain how to start forming an IELTS study plan for yourself so you don’t waste your time and money.

The video below also provides some valuable advice on how to create a study plan.

In short, you know you have to work hard, but you’re not sure what exactly that looks like in terms of IELTS preparation.

In 3 Keys IELTS, we have 30 day and 60 day study plans, which outline two activities you can do daily which strengthen every English skill for the exam and give you all the strategies that you need.

Basically, if you need to improve by half a band score, make a 30 day plan.

If you need to improve by one band point, try a 60 day plan.

If you need more improvement than that, allow yourself 3 months of preparation before you retake the exam. (Of course, if you are not working, or studying something else, and have lots of time to practice, you can reduce this.)

Schedule a new IELTS test date

After analyzing your strengths and weaknesses and making a study plan, you know that you will be ready for the test in 1-3 months, depending on your situation.

Don’t wait to schedule your next exam, though, because many test centers are booked up months in advance.

Find out when IELTS is testing again in your area.

Refer to this blog post for dates and advice on scheduling.

Why aren’t you understanding what you read?

IELTS Reading is a major stress point for a lot of IELTS candidates.

Today you’ll get a simple, 3-step activity to help you increase your ability to understand what you read and to also increase your vocabulary!

You must NEVER expect to understand every word you read.

You don’t need this to get a high score on IELTS and you don’t need it to succeed in English in everyday life.

What you do need for IELTS is comprehension strategies and you also need test strategies.

We have noticed a bad habit.

What many students do is they try to translate the meaning of a sentence or passage word for word.

This does not work and we see it all of the time so we need to stop doing this!

We know that you want to learn vocabulary but you can’t take vocabulary by itself.

It needs to come through other things like listening or reading but with this bad habit, when you try to translate words you are not focusing on context like you should.

Focus on Connection NOT Perfection.

What is the writer trying to convey  to us?

What is the feeling that we should feel?

Read between the lines.

Understand the feeling and the gist.

Even try to understand what’s not being said.

What is the undertone?

This is what you are aiming for even if it does not come right away.

This connects directly when you answer Yes/No/Not Given Reading Questions.

Don’t focus on individual words and sentences.

Start by understanding the context and work backwards from there.

So how do you do it? Good question! We’ll show you how to do it now.

3 steps to get better at reading comprehension:

  • Step 1: Read the whole article and essay, read for context and take a minute to think about what you just read (without your dictionary) and do not underline any words or phrases. Next, try to summarize the ideas in your own words, what is the author trying to tell you?  Think about it.
  • Step 2: Dictionary step! Read it again and choose 3 or 4 key words that you think are important for comprehension and then use your dictionary. You can write the translation but we prefer that you avoid that.
  • Step 3: Next read the whole thing again, don’t underline or translate and then add to your summary again.

This framework helps you focus, step by step, on what you are reading and adding new meaning each time.

Any questions about today’s strategy?

Let us know in the comments below.

Things don’t always work the way we want them to.

Today find out what to say in English when something stops working or when someone misbehaves.

Michelle has been having problems with her headphones lately.

Her headphones have been “acting up.”

Gustavo, one of our listeners, asked us if we can say, “My email server is goofing off” but we can’t say that.

If you use the phrasal verb “goof off” you need to be talking about a person with a personality who is misbehaving.

What do you do when your computer “acts up”?


Phrases to use for people misbehaving or things not working:

  • To act up: This can be used to describe a person or a thing not working well. For example, “That kid started acting up at the restaurant” or “My computer is acting up.”
  • To mess up: You can say this for a person, “I messed up on my IELTS Exam.” Sometimes we could use this when we talk about an item for example, “My phone keeps messing up.”
  • To not work: This is only used for an item. “My watch isn’t working.”
  • To give someone problems: You can say this for both people and things. “My friend is giving me problems” or “My microphone is giving me problems”
  • To goof off: This is usually used for a person only because they need to have a personality to goof off. “Stop goofing off in class.”
  • To mess around: This is only used for a person, not a thing.


Listen to the role play conversations to see how these are used in a real conversation!

Let us know your questions in the comments section below.

Today you will get 3 habit changes that will directly increase your IELTS Writing score and will give you unstoppable confidence on test day.

Are you typing your IELTS practice essays? If so then you are making a big mistake!

This is not the way you should practice.

You must make your practice as close to exam conditions as you can and then on test day you will be ready.

You need to practice correctly!

If you are using Microsoft Word here are the problems:

  • You won’t be typing on test day so it’s not realistic practice
  • If you are also using spell check then you are not getting used to looking for your own mistakes and that will bring your score down

You need to hand write your essays first then you can type them into the spell check to find mistakes to learn that way but you can’t type out your essays the first time.

If your IELTS teacher asks you to email them all of your essays (typed) and you never practice writing an essay with a pen and paper then there is a problem with that class and that is a red flag regarding the quality of the teacher and the course.

Go here to the IELTS Writing exam paper and use this for your practice.

The best way to make sure anxiety doesn’t bring down your score is to prepare as close to exam conditions as possible many many times before test day.

Also practice the correct timing:

  • Writing Task 1: 20 minutes
  • Writing Task 2: 40 minutes

You must be able to plan, write, and check in those times to get the highest score.

There is no other way to get the score you need.

When should you start practicing timing.

If you have a few months, don’t start timing yet.

You need to learn strategies, practice grammar, spelling, etc. before you can do it under test conditions, especially for Writing Task 1.

You also need to know what to proofread for first then two weeks before the exam you start putting yourself under test conditions with a timer.

If you do it this way, by the time test day comes you will be GOLDEN!

If you have done everything right in your preparation then test day should be straightforward and not stressful.

That’s what Pedro said after he took our course.

He said that he knew exactly what to expect because he had been told what to expect in the course.

What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today find out how to save your friend from an embarrassing moment in English!

Do you have trouble pronouncing people’s names in English or does your friend have that problem?

Today find out how to correct them without making them feel bad in English.

Here are some phrases you could use:

  • “His name is hard to pronounce…”
  • “Oh the pronunciation is kind of hard…”
  • “My mom made that mistake too.”
  • “Actually the way you pronounce it is….”
  • “The pronunciation is actually ____”


If your friends are making pronunciation mistakes then don’t be afraid to correct them!

It’s better to have that short moment of awkwardness than to realize later that they have been continuing to make the same mistake over and over, especially because names are so important.

Also if you struggle with names, check out Episode 277 with Alan Headbloom on how to remember someone’s name.


Leave us a comment below!

Today we are going to directly answer a question that we received from a listener about some advice that he received from an ex-examiner of the IELTS Exam in a book that he purchased. Here is the question from our listener:

“When I was reading a book called IELTS Speaking I came across some tips. What I got confused about is that the author suggested candidates use as many linking phrases as possible in Speaking part 2. He also said that content is not important for Part 2. He recommended focusing on linking phrases instead.”

-IELTS Energy listener

Is this advice true?

First of all, when it comes to the advice about linking phrases, yes, they are important to use on the Speaking test.

It does feel unnatural to use them.

We don’t normally use them in everyday conversation BUT if you want to score a 7 or higher for fluency and coherence, the examiner does listen to your linking words so you must use transition phrases such as:

  • Nevertheless
  • Subsequently
  • Having said that
  • Not only…but also
  • He, she, it, they (pronouns)
  • This means that….

How can you practice these?

Find an academic linking words list online.

Choose three linking words from each category that are high level.

Write them down and as you are talking, make yourself use these words.

If you don’t practice it you won’t do it on the exam.

You need to make these phrases part of your repertoire.

So that advice about linking words is correct that our listener got.

However, the ex-examiner also said that “content is not important” and we don’t agree with that.

Content is super important.

Your ideas need to make sense.

They need to directly answer the question.

Just focusing on using linking words will not get you a 7.

It is sometimes ok to transition into another topic if you can’t stay on the topic but you need to at least start out by answering or attempting to answer the question.

We have talked about how to answer the question if your mind goes blank in previous episodes.

When it comes to your fluency and coherence score and your vocabulary score it’s important to at least try to address the question directly.

You also need to create your culture of thinking when you prepare for IELTS so that you’ll have content in your mind to answer the questions.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Do you know how to use the phrase “take for granted” in English?

We can use this phrase when we don’t appreciate someone or something in our lives.

Listen to this role play between Lindsay and Michelle to see how we use “take for granted” in a natural way.

Other vocabulary:

  1. Newness wears off
  2. To wake up
  3. To fall into a routine

What do you take for granted?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you lying to yourself about IELTS?

Today find out if you are doing this and how and why you should stop doing this.

Remember, just because you say to yourself that you studied or that you did our study plan, that doesn’t mean that you really did it or that you went deep enough with the material.

The recommendations on our study plan are not suggestions.

They are commands.

Every recommendation in our study plan is designed to help you increase your score.

Don’t waste your time complaining.

Spend that time building your IELTS skills.

Also if you just take a practice test without learning strategies then you are not preparing.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Sabrina Fletcher online English teacher

Today find out how meditation could change your English-learning life.

Sabrina takes a different view on how we should learn languages.

She believes in using a contemplative approach.

This means that as we learn English we need to understand that we already have all of the knowledge we need inside of us.

However, sometimes the mind interferes with our learning process and makes us nervous and anxious.


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Today Sabrina will give us 3 ways to use contemplative learning to improve our English skills:

  • Use meditation: Sit in silence for 30 seconds and concentrate on your breathing. This will help you relax and prepare to be present during your lesson.
  • Use a mindfulness bell: Use a bell that goes off at times that you determine. When it rings it serves as a reminder to be present.
  • Keep a Journal: It could be a gratitude journal or you could use it to review what you have been learning.

Sabrina’s Bio

Sabrina Fletcher in an English teacher who specializes in teaching conversational English. She helps low-intermediate through advanced English learners learn to speak REAL English that they can use in conversations with REAL native English speakers.

In her unique conversation, American pronunciation, and writing courses, she uses meditation, visualizations and art to help students feel relaxed while speaking – therefore helping them speak English well!
She also writes articles and posts videos about conversational English on her site Speak English Live with Sabrina.  (www.speak-english-live.com)


How to Work with Sabrina:

Step 1: Please register here to get $10 off your second lesson.

Step 2: Find Sabrina’s profile on italki and schedule a lesson

Are you getting ready to take IELTS?

If so, it’s a great idea to know upcoming IELTS test dates.

Knowing your test date will help you create your IELTS study plan so you’ll know when to start learning strategies and when to start practicing under test conditions.

The best way to get your 7 or higher fast is to prepare well.

You want to focus on strategies that are directly linked to the scoring system.

Be careful when you choose an IELTS course or an IELTS tutor.

You need to ask the right questions to see if the tutor really understands the test as well as they should.

Read on to get the information you need regarding test dates but remember that reserving your test date is only step 1. Come back to this blog and podcast for more tips and strategies.

IELTS is usually offered three Saturdays a month and sometimes on one Thursday.

However, not every IELTS test center observes every test date, and may only offer the exam once or twice a month.

Please go to ielts.org to research your local test center.

Also, you should know if you are taking the Academic (A) or General (G) exams, as Academic is offered more than General.

Please see the list below to find out what test dates are offered for the rest of this year (2015) as well as for all of 2016.

(A)= Academic

(G)= General

November 2015

19 Thursday A

21 Saturday AG

December 2015

3 Thursday A

5 Saturday AG

12 Saturday AG

19 Saturday A

January 2016

9 Saturday AG

14 Thursday A

23 Saturday AG

30 Saturday A

February 2016

13 Saturday A

18 Thursday AG

20 Saturday AG

27 Saturday A

March 2016

5 Saturday AG

12 Saturday A

19 Saturday AG

31 Thursday A

April 2016

2 Saturday AG

16 Saturday A

21 Thursday A

30 Saturday AG

May 2016

7 Saturday A

19 Thursday AG

21 Saturday AG

28 Saturday A

June 2016

4 Saturday AG

16 Thursday A

18 Saturday A

25 Saturday AG

July 2016

9 Saturday A

14 Thursday A

16 Saturday AG

30 Saturday AG

August 2016

4 Thursday AG

13 Saturday A

20 Saturday AG

27 Saturday A

September 2016

3 Saturday A

10 Saturday AG

15 Thursday A

24 Saturday AG

October 2016

8 Saturday AG

13 Thursday A

22 Saturday A

29 Saturday AG

November 2016

3 Thursday AG

5 Saturday A

19 Saturday AG

26 Saturday A

December 2016

3 Saturday AG

10 Saturday AG

15 Thursday A

17 Saturday A

One way to be prepared to get your 7 or higher on IELTS is to make sure you know the facts about your testing center beforehand.

When you have the information you need about what’s going to happen on test day, you are able to focus on building the skills that you need.

Check out today’s article for information on the testing centers for IELTS.

1. When they give IELTS exams

IELTS exams are offered three Saturdays a month and one Thursday a month.

However, not all test centers will administer all of these exam dates, due to not having enough candidates sign up or other staffing/scheduling issues.

Go to www.ielts.org to find the test center near you and look at their test dates.

Pay attention as well to which exam(s) they are offering.

The Academic Exam is offered on every test date, but the General Exam is not.

In addition, some test centers are so busy that they are booked up for the next two months, or more.

Try to schedule your exam at least 3 months in advance to secure the date that you desire.

2. Your options for Speaking exams

In general, the whole IELTS exam (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) is completed in one day.

This means, though, that after a grueling three hour exam session in the morning, you have to wait around and fill up to 6 hours before your designated Speaking interview time.

Some centers are now offering Speaking exams during the week before or the week following the exam, so this might be a better option for some candidates, especially those who live far from the test center.

3. The area around the test center

As mentioned above, it is common for candidates to have to kill time in or around the test center before their Speaking exam.

Look at a map online of your test center.

Find a cafe or restaurant for lunch, a coffee shop for energy boosting if needed (and with wifi so you can also let your brain relax and watch a video), and make sure to locate a park or other pedestrian area so you can have a walk and get those positive endorphins flowing prior to your interview with the examiner.

4. What the acoustics are like

Not all test centers are created equal.

Some are in buildings which feature rooms with quite poor acoustics, and it may make the Listening Exam more of a challenge.

Try to find students who have taken the test there before and ask them how the Listening Exam was.

If the acoustics are poor and echoey, you may want to ready yourself by doing some listening practice in a similar environment, such as school gymnasium.

5. Rules for what you can/cannot bring with you

IELTS test centers are very strict about what you are allowed to bring into the examination room- usually no more than a pen/pencil, water bottle with no label and your passport.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with your local test center’s rules and requirements.


How are special requirements made?

Additionally, let the test center know if you have any special requirements.

In this video, Jessica explains what “special requirements” are on the IELTS Exam, and how you can arrange for these if needed.

If you are vision-impared, hearing-impaired, or differently-abled in any way, IELTS will help you take the Exam.

Remember, though, you must organize this with the test center administrator 6 weeks before your test!


Watch the video now!

Do you know how to deal with the toughest Reading and Listening questions on the IELTS Exam?

Today you’ll get a strategy that will pull you through the toughest parts of the Reading and the Listening tests and help you come out with a 7.

The big idea here is that you have to be an active test taker on the Listening and Reading versus being a passive student who waits for the answers to come to them.

When things get tough toward the end of both sections you need strategies to help you.

You don’t have time to read everything on the Reading and understand it all.

In our course we outline the 3-step strategies you need for Listening and Reading and specific question types.

However, an essential part of every strategy for Listening and Reading is prediction.

Why is it essential?

It forces your mind to be active.

It lets you know what to expect on the Listening and what answers to look for on the Reading.

This strategy  cuts out so much time wasting.

We talked about this when we discussed our brain box strategy for Listening.

This helps us comprehend quickly.

It’s all about speed and timing on the IELTS.

The faster we can predict and activate our brain box, the faster we can get the answer and move on.

Listen to the episode for examples of how we predict what parts of speech to expect when we begin reading.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Soongjae wrote in with these great questions:

“What are the cultural characteristics regarding age in the US?

Can those of a different age still be considered friends?

Does age affect how people act in relationships?”

Great question!

We did an Episode about how to talk about your age in Episode 177.

In English we don’t have too many special phrases that we use when we talk to someone who is older or younger than we are.

In the US people of different ages can be called friends and we don’t address people differently when they are of a different age.

Listen to the episode for more!

What follow up questions do you have from today?

Do you want to move beyond IELTS in your life?

The best way to do that is to get your 7 or higher and the best way to get your 7 or higher on the IELTS Speaking test is to use idioms as much as you can.

What kind of idioms?

Well today we will show you five nature-related idioms that will get you your target score and will impress the examiner.

Remember guys, when it comes to IELTS, learn vocabulary and expressions in context.

Do not attempt to memorize a list of words or study the dictionary.

It’s too easy and it won’t get you a high score.

#1) Down to earth

Someone who has their feet planted firmly on the ground and thinks about life in a practical, realistic way.

#2) To become second-nature

Something becomes natural to us.

It becomes so natural that we could do it in our sleep.

Riding a bike could be second-nature to us.

#3) Mother nature

This is great if you are talking or writing about the environment.

You need to paraphrase a lot on the Writing test.

#4) To be good-natured

To be easygoing and easy to talk to.

Someone who is not easygoing might be short-tempered.

#5) To be a natural at something

When you don’t have to work hard at something and you are naturally talented.

Practice using these phrases in your own samples sentences below in the comments.

Do you get confused about how to use “other,” “another,” and “others” in English?

Our listener Naomi wrote in and asked us how to use these three words.

Great question!


We use this to talk about one more. We use it with a singular noun.

  • “I want another plate of food”
  • “I’ll have another beer”
  • “Let’s take another question”



We use this with a plural noun.

  • “There are other people here.”
  • “I want to see other people”
  • “Are there any other options?”



This takes the place of the noun that comes after “other.”

Instead of saying , “other people” you can just say “the others.”



Listen to the episode to get more examples.

Write your examples in the comments below.

Do you have any follow up questions?

Will your Speaking score go down if you go off topic on the IELTS Speaking test?

Great question! And we’ll answer it for you today.

We’ll show you how to veer off the topic without losing points using transition phrases.

One of our listeners said during her Speaking test she had spoken without pausing but she went a bit off topic and she didn’t use the linking words that she needed.

When you start talking about a totally different topic right away you will lose points because your answer won’t make sense and you will lose cohesion/coherence and vocabulary points.

However, if you start talking about the topic then later you start to wander to another topic that is fine.

You need the transition phrase to say that you are going to into another topic.

That would increase your score because of the linking phrases and you would not lose points for cohesion and coherence if you did it this way.

Use transition phrases such as:

  • “Side note…”
  • “You know, this makes me think of….”
  • “This reminds me of….”

Keep in mind that this kind of wandering off topic is NOT ok on Writing.

Every single sentence must be related to the question.

You will lose points if you don’t stay on topic for Writing.

Listen to the conversation and role play between Lindsay and Jessica to see how transitioning into a different topic can be done well with good transition phrases.

One of our listeners asked us how to disagree politely with your boss in English

This is a great business English topic and a great question.

When we talk about how to disagree in English, we always need to consider culture.

It’s not just the country culture that we’re in but what about company culture?

Some businesses have an open culture and you can feel comfortable disagreeing but other companies are much more serious and you can’t disagree with someone above you.

Regardless of where we work, we need to be able to speak up and defend our point if we disagree with what’s happening at work.

Phrases to politely disagree with your boss:

  • “I have to disagree.” This sounds a bit less confrontational because we’re taking one step back from saying “I disagree.”
  • “Can I share my opinion?” This would be a softer way to get into this conversation
  • “I have a slightly different perspective.” When we add “slightly” to this we are taking one more step back, making it more indirect
  • “Actually, I can’t completely disagree.” In this phrase using “actually” softens the phrase.
  • “I need to respectfully disagree”
  • “I’m not on board with that” or “I can’t get on board with that”: To be on board with something means that you are agreeing to participate and that you approve of it.

Listen to the conversation between Lindsay and Michelle so that you can hear these phrases being used in a real situation.

What do you think about these phrases?

Have you tried them? How did they work for you?

Today you’ll get the two biggest mistakes that immediately lower your Task 1 Writing score.

Find out what they are so that you can get the highest possible score on your IELTS Exam.

The common mistakes are that people don’t include what they need in their introduction in Writing Task 1.

Let’s talk about the introduction to Writing Task 1.

It should only be two sentences:

  • Sentence 1: Re-phrase the test question
  • Sentence 2: Have an overall trend

If you don’t put the re-phrase of the test question in  your introduction you will lose points for cohesion and coherence.

To do this you only need to look at the test question and change the words.

BUT you cannot copy the test question.

If you use the same words that you see in the test question then your score will go down.

Those words will be taken off your word count.

This happens for both Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2.

Check out this episode on how to paraphrase in Writing Task 2.

For the second sentence you need the overall trend.

In our course, the 3 Keys IELTS Success System we show you how to write the overall trend.

What this does is it summarizes the information.

How do the numbers change?

What is the biggest trend you notice when you look at the table.

This MUST be part of your essay.

The examiner looks for it.

Remember that there are three different question types: Change Over Time, Static, and the Nature Diagram/Map question.

In our course we show you examples of everything you might see in Writing Task 1 and you learn exactly how to find the overall trend quickly before you start writing your essay.

That’s why we need strategies and we need to practice them.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments.

Don’t just say, “I don’t like it.” You want to mix it up and say something more interesting to connect with people.

Today get five interesting ways to say this in English.

Today we are not talking about what we say when we are actually in a restaurant.

Today’s phrases can be used when you are just generally talking about your food likes and dislikes with your friends.

Five Ways to Say You Don’t Like a Kind of Food:

  • “I don’t care for wine”: This sounds a bit more formal, polite, respectful and articulate. Use this in a more formal situation with your colleagues at a business lunch.
  • “I don’t like olives” : This is very direct and casual. We could use this around people we know well or around kids.
  • “I’m not a huge fan of licorice”
  • “Corn on the cob is/are not my thing.”
  • “I usually pass on burgers”
  • “I’m going to pass on the bread” : This can be used if we are at the dinner table and we don’t want to eat something but this could come off as rude if you are in a more formal situation or if the person has put in a lot of work cooking the meal so be careful with this one.

Listen to the episode to hear the expressions being used between Lindsay and Michelle.

What other ways do you know to say that you dislike something in English?

Do you ever get into a conversation where the person you are speaking with goes off on a tangent?

Maybe they don’t even realize that they have gotten away from the topic but you need to bring them back.

You don’t want to get side tracked.

Find out how to bring someone back to the main objective of the conversation today.

In a more informal situation like at a party it’s great to go off on tangents because that’s how you build relationships and build great conversations.

A few weeks ago we talked about how to use “anyways” which can be used in different situations when the atmosphere is awkward but today we’ll talk about something that is related but slightly different.

Here are some way to bring someone back from a tangent:

  • “So you were saying….?”
  • “OK so anyways….”
  • “Where was I?”
  • “Where were we?”
  • “So what were you saying?”


In American culture we tend to get down to business right away when we enter a business meeting whereas in other cultures we know that there is more relationship building required and in that case it would be ok to go off on a tangent.

Pay attention to culture when it comes to going off on tangents.


What other phrases do you know to come back from a tangent?

Have you ever tried to use them?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we’ll show you how to BECOME a native speaker for that native speaker 9!

Today find out how you can step into a native speaker character and pretend to a be a native speaker to get more confidence on the IELTS Speaking test.

What can it do for you when you create a new character for yourself when you speak a new language?

You can become empowered, less self-conscious, and step out of your old way of thinking and being to become a new person.

This is a powerful learning methodology called “Suggestopedia” that is used by great English teachers all over the world.

This is also a great strategy if you have hit a wall and you can’t get above a 6 in IELTS Speaking.

If this is you then you need a new way to attack the Speaking test and this would be a good way to do it.

How to create your character:

  • Pick your own name: Make it a native speaker’s name. Make it something you like and you want to identify with.
  • Choose the city that you want to live in: Choose a city that fits with your own personality. New York is for high-powered business professionals or artists.  If you want to have a more laid-back life, you can be from Portland.
  • Choose the character you want: Do you want to be relaxed and cool or high-strung and achievement oriented?
  • Choose a dream job for the character: It could be something you will never have or it could be your target job for the future.
  • Consume media that your character would consume: Find authentic newspapers from your character’s city and read a lot of them as part of your preparation.


Jessica would be a journalist from Madrid because she wants to write in her career.

Why should you do this?

It gives you confidence which improves your fluency and raises your pronunciation score.

Also when you’re in the test and your mind goes blank you can go to this personality and think about how they might answer it.

This will help you come up with stories and will help you avoid silence.

Make a character board!

Make this real.

Create a board and cut out materials and photos that describe this special character.

What is your character?

Describe him or her in the comments below.

We want to see your examples!

Do you feel insecure when you speak English?

Is there a big voice in your head that criticizes you?

Does it tell you that you are not good enough?

Or that you cannot speak English?

Today find out about our theory on how you can quiet the critical voice in your head by challenging yourself more, not less.

That voice in your head can make you feel like you can’t be spontaneous or like you are not good enough.

In order to quiet the voice you need to be challenged to a certain level.

The thing that we are doing cannot be too easy.

If it is too easy there is too much time and space in our minds for the voice to show up and start to sabotage you.

If you are repeating the same phrases and words that you have always used then you aren’t using much mental energy on the language.

The trick is to challenge yourself more, not less!

How can you challenge yourself more:

  • Ask yourself, “How can I continue this conversation a little bit longer?” Add one more piece to the conversation to challenge yourself more. Extend yourself just a little bit more.
  • Take something that you already know how to say and think of a new way to say it. Don’t fall back on the same phrases. It’s safe to do that but safety is not always good for you.
  • Think of a new phrasal verb or idiom to replace the word that you always use.

So if you feel that the voice in your head is strong when you speak English it could be that you are not challenging yourself enough.

So put into action some of our tips today and let us know how it goes.

What do you think about this strategy?

Have you tried to implement these tips yet?

Let us know in the comments below.

Why is paraphrasing a golden opportunity for a 7 or higher on IELTS Writing?

We have talked in the past about how to paraphrase in the Speaking test.

Today we’ll talk about where and when you should paraphrase on Writing Task 2, especially on the Argument Essay and how you can get better at it.

On Writing Task 2 you have to mention all parts of the question in your essay.

For example, if there are two sentences in the question such as “Some people say that studying art in school is very beneficial. However, other people say that it should be an elective because it doesn’t benefit everyone.”

In your essay you have to explore both sides of the question and you can’t copy the question word for word. Why? If you do that those words won’t be counted as part of your essay.

They’ll be taken out.

When you paraphrase you need to use new words and show the examiner your ability to come up with parallel expressions.

It’s an opportunity to show off your vocabulary and stand out as a 7 candidate.


When you paraphrase it doesn’t have to be amazing words. You can paraphrase in simpler language and it’s still going to help your score.

For example, say “drawing lessons” instead of “art classes.”

*Tip- you need a lot of phrases to use when you talk about opinions:

  •  “Some argue that…”
  • “Some are of the opinion that…”
  • “A certain portion of the population believe that…”


  • “It is generally believed that” = “Most people think that”
  • “Some people are born with certain talents” = “A certain portion of the population is born with natural abilities.”
  • “However it is sometimes claimed that any child can be taught to be a good sports player or musician” = “Some people feel that anyone can learn to be good at athletics.”

What do you think about today’s episode?

Do you know how to paraphrase on the IELTS?

Leave us a comment below.

Are you stuffed up?

Are you coming down with something?

Today find out how to talk about being sick in English.

If you are living in the US or if you do a business trip to the US and you get sick, you need to know how to talk about it in a casual and natural way to stay connected with people.

In the US, we are often very private about being sick.

If we have something serious we are likely to keep it private unless we are talking with a close family member.

See our Episode 422 for more about privacy in American culture.

How can you say that you’re sick?

  • “Hey I’m not feeling well this week.”
  • “I have come down with a cold.”
  • “I thought I was over it but I am not.”
  • “I’m feeling a little under the weather.”
  • “I’m not feeling so hot today.”
  • “I have a sniffle today.”
  • “I’m stuffed up today.”
  • “I feel a little light-headed.”
  • “I’m achy.”

How to respond:

  • “I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.”
  • “Do you feel achy?”
  • “I hope you feel better soon.”
  • “Get well soon.” (this is only used for cards and balloons, not spoken)

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Today find out how to read your way to a better IELTS score!

Today get 3 reading questions that one 6.5 reading candidate asked us and learn how to push this score of 6.5 higher.

The more you read, the higher your IELTS score will be.

Seek out reading topics such as science, health, and technology.

You don’t need to worry about reading about politics.

You won’t find politics on IELTS.

Start paying attention to these different reading sources.

Create a culture of thinking.

Push yourself to read about and think about ideas that you wouldn’t normally think about.

This can also help you create better conversations.

We had another reading question from a student who has done all of the Cambridge IELTS books 1-10 and he is frustrated because he is at a 6.5 and can’t get higher than that.

Just doing practice test books won’t get you beyond that 6.5.

Instead, challenge yourself with native speaker reading material and balance that with strategies.

In our course, 3 Keys IELTS we have boiled down every section into simple steps.

You can’t just keep doing the test with no strategies and expect to get better.

Read this article to learn about a common reading worry for all IELTS students.

Is your reading score stuck at a 6.5?

What will you do differently after today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Many language schools and private universities offer test preparation courses.

They are usually quite intense schedules, with many hours packed into a short amount of time, and sometimes they follow similar formats to regular ESL classes.

Additionally, there are many tutors online, and in real life, who market themselves as “test prep specialists.”

With so many options available, how can you make sure you choose the course that will get you results?

We’ll show you how in today’s article.

Why is “test prep specialist” a myth?

Firstly, allow me to dispel the myth of an instructor or private tutor as being a “test prep specialist.”

This is impossible.

In order to truly prepare another person for an exam, the teacher has to be intimately familiar with the test format, question types, scoring systems and examiner expectations.

Knowing this much information about a variety of tests would require decades of experience with each exam, which, if you are not studying with someone who is 100 years old, is impossible.

Personally speaking, I’ve been working with IELTS for over a decade, and it took me at least half that long to really develop the appropriate systems and strategies for my students to use on the exam.

I can’t imagine reaching my level of knowledge about the IELTS exam AND TOEFL AND TOEIC AND SAT AND GRE, etc.

There are, to be certain, some test taking strategies that are applicable to some if not all exams; however, each exam has a very unique set of expectations and guidelines that have to be followed in order to reach your target score, and move beyond it to the dreams you want to achieve in your life.

Basically, when faced with the numerous options available in IELTS preparation, you have to choose a course and teacher that is ONLY IELTS.

The class cannot also prepare your for TOEFL, for example.

The test-taking strategies, question types and format vary significantly between these two high-level exams, and one class teaching both tests will not prepare you fully for either one.

You can save yourself a lot of money and time if you choose the right course. Follow these three steps to do it.

Step 1) Make sure your teacher knows IELTS

Secondly, do not be afraid to ask questions about the person teaching the class.

She or he must be an IELTS professional and know what the examiner is looking for.

For instance, she or he must be able to answer these questions:

  • How is a 6 for grammar different from a 7?
  • How can I ensure a 7 or higher for vocabulary on the Speaking exam?
  • What does the examiner want to see in Writing Task 1?
  • How can I plan my Writing Task 1 answer in less than 3 minutes, in order to definitely hit the scoring criteria for a 7 or an 8?

If the teacher cannot answer these questions in a simple, clear, direct way that is immediately understandable to you, do not trust this person to prepare you for the test.

Step 2) Get success stories

Also, try to find students who have previously been through this course and subsequently achieved their target score, and thus were able to immigrate or attend a reputable university and obtain their degree.

On our website, for example, you can see student testimonials from candidates who enrolled in our system, diligently followed our 30 day study plan, and achieved 7.5s and 8s.

Most courses, in traditional classrooms and online, will not be able to offer you this proof of success, let alone the guarantee of a score increase, as 3 Keys IELTS Success System our course, does.

Step 3) Invest in your own success

In short, you realize that you have to invest in your future.

You cannot prepare for IELTS on your own.

Nevertheless, you do not want to waste your money and time on lessons that simply will not prepare you for success.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and spend time researching before you choose.

Just because the course comes with a recognizable name and a high price tag does not mean it works.

What questions do you have from this article?

Have you made the mistake of hiring the wrong IELTS teacher?

What lessons did you learn from this mistake? Let us know in the comments.

Are you giving people TMI (Too Much Information)?

Today you’ll find out why privacy is a huge value in American culture and how to avoid making cultural mistakes when you visit the US.

We have lived in many different parts of the world such as Japan, Argentina, Guatemala, and Paris.

During our travels we have noticed that Americans seem to value privacy more than other cultures in the world.


What does this mean for you if you visit the US?

Find out more today.

What is TMI?

TMI means Too Much Information.

It’s a common acronym in the US that we use when someone has shared a bit too much.

For example, Michelle had a student once who told her that she had diarrhea.

This could also be called the “overshare.”


When someone asks us, “how are you?” we don’t say much. We just say “good, how about you?”

This is another example of the American cultural value of privacy.

We don’t want to share too much.

Maybe we don’t want to be vulnerable.

Asking about Someone’s Job:

When the economy was bad in the US, a lot of people avoided asking, “What do you do?” because many people were unemployed and we don’t want to embarrass people.

There can be a lot of shame if someone is unemployed.

We don’t want to put people “on the spot.”

Extended Families:

Sometimes we don’t share much with extended family members.

In Lindsay’s case, her extended family is not close at all.

She lives very far away from her extended family.

Compared with other cultures, it seems to us that our families are much more distant than extended families from other cultures.


In the US we don’t share with our families that we’re pregnant until after the first three months.

The reason is that miscarriages are common during the first three months. We may only share this information with our partner and the doctor, often not even our parents or siblings.

What topics/questions should you avoid?

  • “How much money do you make?”
  • “How much money do you have?”
  • “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” “How many kids do you have?”
  • “How old are you?” – don’t ask anyone this question if they are older than 19 or 20
  • “How much do you weigh?”
  • “Who did you vote for?”

What surprised you in today’s episode?

How is your culture similar or not?

Let us know in the comments below.

Pedro, 3 Keys IELTS Success Story, band 7.5Today meet a 3 Keys IELTS student who got a 7.5 on IELTS his first time taking the test.

His name is Pedro.

He is from Peru.

His goal was a 7.

It’s very rare to get a 7.5 on your first try with the IELTS.

How did he do it?

He chose the 3 Keys IELTS Success System because he had been listening to our IELTS Energy Podcast and found it useful.

He had previously bought some IELTS practice books with practice tests and vocabulary words.

Pedro found out that 3 Keys IELTS works.

“On the day of IELTS nothing surprised me because previously in the program you gave me all of the information that I needed for every part of IELTS.”

 -Pedro Ramirez, Peru

He says that you need to make a promise with yourself to study and prepare a lot.

He needed some kind of discipline and the 30-day study plan was what he needed.

The study plan:

How did the study plan help him?

He liked the fact that he got all of the necessary tips for the test and how to be prepared for everything.

He also liked the idioms, linking words, and vocabulary words that he needed to use on the test to get the score he was aiming for.



He also found that the course helped him for timing.

The 3-step strategies that he used, especially for Reading and Writing, helped him to manage time well on the test.

“With the correct preparation, IELTS is not a monster. With the correct programs and books you can be prepared. Forget about the rumors and practice. Study. Prepare.



Pedro’s preparation:

He worked very hard. What helped him the most was doing a lot of outside reading.

He read articles from the Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times.

He followed sports writers in Twitter.

He watched TV programs in English including his favorite series.


Final tips:

  • Practice without headphones, using speakers, choose a big room that is similar to the test center
  • Read a lot
  • Get a good study plan and follow it closely
  • Dedicate yourself to your goal
  • Choose a good course and do your work to prepare


We are so proud of Pedro’s accomplishment!

Leave us a comment or question below if you have a question about Pedro’s study plan.

Remember, you can try out our course for just $1 for the first 3 days.

We have created a key strategy to help you deal with a blank mind on IELTS Speaking Part 2.

Learn about the common traps and how not to fall into them in today’s episode.

On Speaking Part 2 you will be asked to describe a person, a place, or an object.

The best strategy when you have a blank mind on Speaking Part 2 is that you should always immediately tell a story.

When you are asked to describe an object you can tell a story about when you bought it, why you bought it, what your life was like without it and after it, and what it means to you.

Or if you want to buy it you can describe why your life isn’t complete without it.

This makes your pronunciation sound more natural so it increases your pronunciation score.

How to practice this?

Sit in your house and choose an object.

Stare at it.

Come up with a story that you can tell about the object.

Practice describing the object and your story about it for the full 2 minutes.

Do you need to answer the bullet points on the card?

No! You do not need to address these points.

They are just meant to give you suggestions.

It’s a rumor if someone tells you that you need to answer these bullet points. Find a better IELTS Professional if your tutor is telling you these rumors.

Sometimes it hurts your score if you do address all of those points because your answer will sound disconnected and it will not flow from idea to idea.

This could hurt your score.

How can you fill the whole 2 minutes?

Two minutes feels a lot longer than it sounds.

How can you make sure you speak long enough?

Practice under test conditions.

If you can’t think of anything else to say, go to immediate personal experience.

When is the next time you’ll use this object?

Or you can go back and give more details about the story- how you felt when you first got the object, for example.

If you stop too early and the examiner asks you if there is anything else you can say, just reply: “Actually there are a few more details I could add” and keep going.

Your score will be fine for fluency and coherence because you will show that you are flexible in that situation and you will also increase your vocabulary score by taking advantage of a chance to use new phrases.

Leave us a comment below.

Have you used this strategy on Speaking Part 2?

How did it go for you?

What is confidence and how can you get more of it when you speak English and when you are out in the world?

We have been defining confidence in the wrong way.

What does confidence actually mean and how can you build it?

We have been reading a lot about Evolutionary Psychology.

There is a lot to learn in this field because so much of what we do has been hard-wired into us through years of evolution.

We have to know the actions and behaviors that our ancestors had and took hundreds of years ago to understand ourselves today.

In the past on this show we have said that confidence is about nonverbal communication. and we have also talked about the “fake it til you make it” theory which means that if you pretend to be confident you will become more confident eventually.

However, we think these techniques don’t really give you much confidence.

They are only icing on the cake.

They are not the foundation.

If you already have confidence then it helps to show it through your body language but it will not give you confidence if you haven’t developed skills.

Geoffrey Miller from the University of New Mexico talked about the definition of confidence.

Here it is:

“Confidence is the realistic expectation you have about being successful at something given a) your competence at it and b) the risk involved in doing it.”

What does this mean for us?

It means practice makes perfect (or almost perfect).

Confidence is not built by wishful thinking, visualization, or motivational quotes.

If you already have confidence then those will help you perform better but if you don’t have the foundation of skills then you won’t succeed.


You don’t need to be “over-confident’ by taking crazy risks.

Should you speak English immediately as a beginner or right when you learn a new word or term as an intermediate or advanced speaker? Maybe not!

Instead you can build confidence by taking small, gradual actions toward practicing on a daily basis.

This is great news because it means that we can actually build confidence.

It’s under our control if we are intentional about it.


How can you build confidence:

  • Set small, daily goals: “Today I will make eye contact and start three conversations in English at work”


Anyone can have confidence if you choose one domain of your life and focus on skill building.

Is it your English conversation skills? Your IELTS or TOEFL Exam?

Then you need to write down your specific goals and execute on them.

Come back to us after a few weeks or a month and let us know how your confidence-building experiments went.

What is the difference between “things” and “stuff” in English?

Flavia from Brazil asked us this great question and we are excited to answer it for our listeners!

What you need to know:

  • We don’t say “stuffs” with “s”: Stuff is already plural. It means more than one thing. It’s uncountable. We say “You have a lot of stuff” or “There is so much stuff in your trunk.”
  • “To stuff”: This can also be used as a verb. It means to fill something with materials. We use “stuffed animal” to describe a soft toy that is filled with cotton. We might also eat “stuffing” at Thanksgiving.
  • “Things”: This is countable. We can say “thing” or “things.’ This is sometimes more formal than “stuff.”


Listen to the conversation and role play between Lindsay and Michelle to understand how we use “things” and “stuff” differently in a typical conversation between two new college roommates.

Leave us your questions below.

Today you’ll get five fantastic phrases that you can use when you’re feeling frightened on the IELTS Exam.

There are a lot of places on the IELTS Exam such as Writing Task 2 or on the Speaking test when you have to describe a scary movie or differences between your culture and another culture.

You might also see some of these idioms that we’ll teach you today in a Reading test passage if you had to read a movie review or a blurb on why horror movies are bad for kids.

All of the idioms we’ll teach you today will definitely get you the 7 or higher that you need.

Remember, you need interesting expressions on the IELTS to get a 7 or higher and these idioms are perfect for your target score!

Fear Idioms for IELTS:

  • To be a scaredy cat: someone who is easily frightened
  • To scare the pants off someone: To scare someone in a very extreme way
  • It gives me the heebie-jeebies: it gives you shivers
  • To make someone’s blood run cold: When something serious and terrifying happens
  • To be afraid of your own shadow: This can be used in a sarcastic way to make fun of someone who is easily scared.

Listen to the episode for examples on how you can use these on the Speaking, Reading, or Writing Tests.

Leave us your practice sentences below.

If you want to get a 7 or an 8 on your IELTS Writing test then you need to use the right prepositions, especially to describe graphs and charts in IELTS Writing Task 1.

Today get the prepositions and the sentences that the examiner wants to see on this part of the test, especially for Change Over Time questions.

Key phrases and prepositions:

“From ____ to ______” (“….from 1980 to 1990”)

“Between ______ and ______” (“….between 1980 and 1990”)

Remember, you must show numbers in your essay when you talk about changes.

For example, you can say “The population increased from 100 to 300.”

You can also say how much something changed by.

For example, you can say “The population increased by 200.”

You also need to tell the examiner the highest point and the lowest point.

For example, “The population peaked at 1 million in 2015.”
Another great vocabulary word is “bottomed out.”

For example, “The population bottomed out at 300,000 in 2014.”

You need to use interesting phrases, vocabulary, and idioms to get a 7 or higher.

Sometimes even native speakers can get a 6 in Writing Task 1 because they don’t know that they have to use idioms to describe numbers.

Now come up with your own example!

Look at a chart or graph in the newspaper and share your phrases to summarize it.

Do you make mistakes in your sentences when you write emails in English?

We received an email from someone and we noticed a few key mistakes. We want to correct those mistakes now and make sure that you don’t make these mistakes yourself!

Here is the sentence: “Kindly, what about the price of one session?”

Two ways to improve this sentence:

  • Using “Kindly”: When you use “kindly” it sounds old fashioned. My grandmother used to say “kindly bring me my sherry.”Instead of “kindly” you could start the sentence by saying:
    • “Would you mind telling me the price?”
    • “Could you tell me the price?”
    • “What is the price?”
    • “Do you mind telling me?”
  • Using “What about…”: When you say this it’s being used at the wrong time. “What about” is used as a follow up question and not as the first question. You need more context to ask this question.

Listen to the conversation examples in the episode to see how to use “what about” correctly.

Leave us your questions in the comments.

You want a band 7 or 8 on the IELTS.

One simple technique can get you that score faster than any other framework, strategy, or method.

Today we’ll show you how to use this technique to get the score you need and get your dream life.

On the IELTS Energy podcast, Lindsay and I often talk about creating and promoting a “culture of thinking”.

This idea came to us as we heard more and more students saying they just felt they didn’t have ideas for the Speaking and Writing answers, or they were faced with topics in Listening and Reading that they had never been exposed to before.

I would define a culture of thinking as the notion of an educated and open-minded society.

A group of people who are thirsty for new ideas and information which can give them insights into themselves and the world around them.

As Lindsay and I talked about this more and more, we realized that encouraging students in this endeavor had a much larger scope than the IELTS exam.

What are the other ways in which a “culture of thinking” can help you reach your dreams?

Find out in this article!

It can help you before the exam

Keeping this goal in the back of your mind while you prepare for IELTS will help inform and guide your study plan.

Searching for information which pertains to a culture of thinking will lead you to resources such as NPR (www.npr.org), a non-profit media outlet in America, and high-level newspapers such as the New York Times (www.nytimes.com).

Both of these example resources contain such a wide scope of shows and articles that you cannot help but be exposed to topics and information that you never would have come across before.

Plus, spending time with these native speaker resources will push you out of your comfort zone in your preparation, and force you to learn complicated vocabulary items that you can reproduce on exam day.

It can help you during the exam

Firstly, you never know what topics will be on the Reading exam, or Listening Sections 3 and 4.

Material for the Reading exam can be drawn from newspapers, magazines or journals, and the last two sections of the Listening are more ‘academic’, according to IELTS.

So, the more exposure you have to a plethora of topics, the better prepared you will be.

Plus, on the Speaking and Writing, when you are asked for your opinions on topics you, honestly, probably don’t even talk about in your native language, let alone English, you will now have something to say and write.

Furthermore, you will be able to support your opinions and ideas with very specific examples and details that you have read or heard, impressing the examiner with your high-level resources.

It can help you after the exam

On a fundamental level, gaining new information and ideas helps you to gain new perspective on your own life, culture and society.

You become a more well-rounded individual who can be a more productive member of the community, and a person who can share and teach valuable information to friends, family and neighbors.

Plus, when you do get your high IELTS score and enter into an English-speaking university or immigrate to an English-speaking country, you will be able to carry on conversations in groups of Americans, or Canadians, or Brits.

You will be an interesting person that people want to talk to.

So, for numerous reasons, you should seek to create a culture of thinking: for yourself, and the world around you.

So go now and start creating your culture of thinking!

It’s not as hard as you think.

It also helps to surround yourself with the right people, who are also interesting in being in this culture.

Leave a comment below and let us know how it goes.

Time, time, time!

It’s such a commodity in American culture!

You can’t waste people’s time in the US, especially in the large cities like Boston, New York, or Los Angeles.

It’s important to let people know when you start an English conversation with them that you won’t take much of their time.

It’s a solid way to start the conversation when you show that you respect their time.

Phrases to use:

  • “Hey, real quick…” or “Hey, really quick…”
  • “(hey) one quick thing…”
  • “I’ll be brief with this but….”
  • “Just one thing…”
  • “This will only take a second…”

Show us your sample phrases in the sentences below.

Let us know your questions from today’s episode.

When it comes to the IELTS Listening test, you’ll want to know exactly what to expect so that you can relax and get the best possible score.

Knowing what to expect will help you feel more confident and able to focus on the recording which will help you get a better score.

There are two key things that you need to expect when you take the Listening test.

Find out what they are today.

Details on the sections of the test:

There are always four listening sections.

There are two types of conversations.

There is a monologue and there is a dialogue.

Section one is a dialogue. Section two is a monologue. Section three is a dialogue.

With section four, it’s a monologue and an academic topic.

That’s why section four is the hardest.

The difficulty of the topics gradually increases.

Sections one and two are more general- planning a party, renting an apartment, or visiting a friend.

In sections three and four the topics focus on academic or professional ideas.

These topics are more high-level.

What accents should you expect on the exam?

Ten years ago it was only British accents but these days you’ll find all English accents on the test.

You’ll hear American, British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand accents.

You might even hear a Scottish accent.

You need to prepare by listening to podcasts from different countries. Find a TV show from a different country.

Click here to learn more about how to prepare with different accents.

Don’t worry, you won’t come across very rare accents but you do need to seek out different accents to prepare.

Also, when you prepare you need to listen to lectures like TED Talks and get used to listening to a monologue, one person speaking the entire time.

How to prepare for IELTS Listening?

When you prepare for the IELTS Exam, make sure that the IELTS professional you are working with really understands the different sections of the Listening test.

Your teacher should also find outside resources for you to improve your general listening skills.

When it comes to the Listening test and every other section of the test, you need balanced practice.

That means that you prepare by learning test strategies and also building your general fluency skills.

What questions do you have after today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today get four terrific answers for IELTS Speaking Part 3 when you get a question about transportation on the exam.

Listen to the episode to get the sample answers.

A few things to remember from today:

  • Remember, your Speaking Part 3 answer doesn’t have to be too long. If the examiner stops you it’s fine. That’s their job.
  • Use linking words like “having said that…” to transition to a different side of the point that you are making.
  • Use “to sum up” to finish up your answer
  • Use natural phrasal verbs like “end up in”
  • A good speaking answer summarizes what has been said at the end. This keeps your answer organized and will help your fluency and coherence score and will keep you on topic.

Let us know your questions from today’s episode.

Leave us a comment below

What are you afraid of?

Do you know how to talk about your fears in English?

Halloween is coming up in just a few days!

Learn how to talk about your fears in English today.

Phrases to talk about what you’re afraid of:

  • “I have a fear of…”
  • “I am afraid of…”
  • “I am scared of…”
  • “I get really freaked out by…”
  • “I am terrified of….”


Write in the comments what your fear is.

What are you afraid of?

Let us know below.

Read more about fears.

Are you afraid of success??

Click here to learn more.

Are you making any small talk topic taboos when do you do business across cultures? Find out today!
Small talk can be a tricky topic when it comes to interacting across cultures.
While one topic is polite and almost required in one culture it can be a huge taboo in another culture.
Today we have a special guest on the show to clear up any small talk confusion you might have.
Jennifer Kumar works as a cross-cultural trainer and coach in India.
She works primarily with Indian professional who do business with American companies.
Key differences in small talk between India and the US:
  •  Greetings: In the US we tend to say “Hi, how are you?” but in India they might say “Did you have your lunch?” The common response is “Yes, I had my lunch and it was good.” If you say “No I didn’t have my lunch” then people may get concerned and may want to offer you food. This is very different from American culture. Common mistakes that Indians might make when they answer “how are you?” is that they might give too much information and details when it’s more of a greeting, not a question.
  •  Asking people where they live: In the US we might ask a general question, like “Where do you live?” but in India they may build on this question and ask “What street do you live on?” “What side of the street do you live on?” but in the US these more specific questions would feel like an invasion of privacy.
  •  Asking about the person’s relationship or marriage status: In India it’s much more common to ask “Are you married?” If you ask an American this question too early they might think you are romantically interested in them. On the other hand, if this question isn’t asked in India then people may become offended. This is an example of a drastic difference in small talk across cultures!

Clearly, small talk can create problems if don’t look beyond vocabulary and grammar.

We need to look at culture on a deeper level.

What topics are acceptable?

How are certain questions received in different cultures?

 Let us know your questions in the comments section below.
Jennifer’s Bio:
Jennifer Kumar, is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys based in Kochi,India.
She has provided cross-cultural preparation for over 2,000 global offshore or expat professionals working with Americans.
While about 70% of those served work offshore, remotely with their US, Canadian or English counterparts, the other 30% go onsite to client sites in the US, Canada or the UK for short, long-term or permanent expat assignments.

Today you’ll get four phrasal verbs to break your score ceiling for the IELTS Exam!

In the past we have shown you other phrasal verbs and idioms for a 7 or higher when you talk about work, family, or your hometown.

Today find out exactly how to push your score higher than you ever imagined with four phrasal verbs using “break.”

You could also use these phrasal verbs in the Writing test in your body paragraphs.

You could say, “Let’s now break down this topic and examine it in detail.”

Four phrasal verbs with “break”:

  • To break it down: To divide something into small pieces, to examine it in a more simple way, to look closely at something.
  • To break out: To start singing such as “I broke out in song when I got my 7 score” or this could mean to develop a lot of acne on the face, “Kids in middle school always broke out in zits.”
  • To break up: To end a relationship or to split a period of time or an object into smaller pieces. You could use this on Speaking Part 2 when you describe an experience or if you describe a movie or a song.
    • Sample sentences:
      • “IELTS test day is broken up into a few different time chunks”
      • “I don’t mean to break up this meeting but I have to make an announcement.
      • “I broke up with my boyfriend last week.
  • To break in: To enter a home or building without being invited with the intention to steal something.

Have you used any of these phrasal verbs on your IELTS Exam?

Let us know in the comments below.

Your preposition problems will be over when we answer today’s question!

Well, not completely but we’ll give you a few good tips to conquer those pesky prepositions in English.


You’ll also find out how to agree with someone’s plans in English using natural English chunks.

AEE Listener Question!

“I am confused about the differences between “to me,” “for me,” and “with me.”

-Naomi, Japan

Naomi, today we’ll clear up your confusion and we’ll show you how to use these prepositions and chunks to agree with someone’s plans.

Our best advice is to treat these as chunks.

Learn the most common ones and link them to a conversation situation if you can.

Always listen for those same chunks after you have learned them.

Think about how natives are using them.

Then go out and try to use them in a conversation.

Some people believe you should start using a phrase right away but we think it’s better if you wait a while and listen to the phrase being used by natives.

Then when you feel comfortable you can start to throw them into the right context.


native English teachersAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

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Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Here are the key phrases to agree with someone’s plans:

  • “That’s fine with me”
  • “That sounds good to me.”
  • “That’s alright with me.”
  • “That works for me.”

*Remember, learn the whole phrase as a chunk and use them in specific conversation situations.

Don’t try to figure out which preposition belongs.

Listen to the episode to see how Lindsay and Michelle used these in real English conversations.

Leave us a comment below or practice forming your own sentence.

Want to get your target IELTS Writing score?

Today we’ll give you four illustrious phrases that will impress the examiner, make you stand out as exceptional, and will get you your target score

We’ll show you where on the exam you can use these phrases and why they’ll increase your score.

We’ll pull these phrases from great quotes about writing.

Check it out below!

Quote #1) “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it’s raining but the feeling of being rained upon.”

Vocabulary you can use on IELTS: “Evoke sensation”

  • Evoke: To bring about, to call up, to create
  • Sensation: A feeling

You could use this phrase in Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2 when you are talking about your own opinions.

For example:

  • “Looking at art can evoke sensations within me”
  • “Violent video games evoke tragic sensations within me.”

Quote #2) “I think all good writing is a struggle. To write as well as you feel you can has to be a struggle, almost by definition, because you could always improve.”

Key words to use:

  • “Struggle”: A huge challenge, something that’s not easy to do (great for Writing Task 2 or the Speaking test)
  • “By definition”: It is defined by something. You can use this in your introduction on IELTS Writing Task 2 to introduce a topic. Anytime we want to say that something means something else, we can use this. Another example: “New York City, by definition, is a hectic place.”

Quote #3) “We write to taste life twice- in the moment and in retrospect.”

Key words to use:

  • “In retrospect”: Considering something after the fact, looking back on something. You can use this anytime you are talking about your own actions or someone else’s actions in the past that should not have happened.

For example, “I went to college in Virginia but in retrospect I should have gone to college in California.”

You could also say “this is so retro” and this would mean that something reminds you of the past.

“Bell-bottoms are so retro”

This is easy to use!

Anytime you are talking about a regret you can throw it in there.

Remember, high-level vocabulary phrases like these WILL get you a 7 or higher and maybe even an 8!

Now practice on your own.

Leave your comments below.

Are you taking IELTS for the first time?

If you are new to the world of IELTS, you probably have some questions.

The information below should serve as a good introduction for you, and also help set you on the path to reaching your IELTS score and whatever goals lie beyond!

What does IELTS stand for?

IELTS is an acronym for the International English Language Testing System.

Why are there two different versions?

The Academic version is for candidates who need a certain score to enter university.

These are usually non-native English speakers who want to attend an English-language university.

The General version is for candidates who need a certain score to work in another country, immigrate, or for other visa requirements.

Where can I take the test?

Go to www.ielts.org to find a testing center near you.

Testing centers are all over the world, usually in language schools or universities, and sometimes in British Council or IDP offices.

When can I take the test?

Exams are offered 3 Saturdays a month and sometimes on Thursdays.

However, not all testing centers offer that many exams.

You have to check with your local center.

How long is the exam?

The first three sections of the exam, Listening, Reading, and Writing, are finished in a 3 hour period in the morning.

Then, the 15 minute Speaking exam is usually held in the afternoon on the same day.

Sometimes, though, centers offer Speaking exams the week before or the week after.

How long should I prepare for the exam before I take it?

This all depends on your English level.

If you are an intermediate student, you should prepare for at least 3 months.

If you are upper-intermediate to advanced, you could get by on a 60 day or a 30 day study plan.

However, no matter what level, preparation is intense.

You need to study 5-6 days a week, and do a wide variety of activities which strengthen your overall English ability and your testing skills.

Is the test in American or British English?

Both! The Listening exam will feature a variety of accents.

The Reading, also, will feature passages drawn from both American and British publications.

The version of English you speak/write with also doesn’t matter- if you spell ‘color’ or ‘colour’, you get the same amount of points.

As long as the language is correct in either American or British English, you will be fine.

What are the examiners like?

The examiners are almost always native speakers, and they can be male or female, young or old.

Keep in mind, though, that the examiners have all undergone exactly the same training, all over the world, and they are checked and rechecked constantly to ensure they are following the testing requirements and grading correctly.

The examiner you speak to on test day could be serious or relaxed- do not let a serious face make you nervous.

Just remember to smile and be respectful and nice, and the examiner will do the same.

IELTS is hard.

Preparing for IELTS can be hard.

But don’t become an IELTS victim!

Today we’ll show you why it’s important not to become a victim and why you have no time to make excuses.

You’ll get six key phrases that you might be using if you’re a victim and find out how to change your mentality if you’re on the wrong track.

Here is the key thing to remember: You always have the choice about how you’re going to look at something.

Are you going to look at the negatives or are you going to look at the positives?

When you are looking at the negatives, it’s just laziness.

We say that because it’s easier to look at negatives than it is to just stop talking, put your head down, and do the work.

It’s also weakness.

You need to make the stronger choice and the stronger decision to focus and spend your time preparing for your exam.

Here are the thoughts and actions that you are having/doing if you are an IELTS victim:

  • You trust the wrong people when it comes to IELTS instead of getting the facts: We received a message where the person had been told by a friend that there would be headphones provided at the exam. It would only take a few minutes to do the research yourself to see if this is true. Instead, the student relied on bad information from his friend and it probably affected his score. This is laziness. If he had taken the time to verify that information he would have realized that that is a myth and he would have prepared accordingly.
  • You are blaming other people: If you don’t get the results you need, it’s your fault! This sounds harsh but it’s true. It’s your responsibility to make sure you get on the right track to your target score.
  • You waste time saying that you don’t have time: This is not a valid excuse if your dreams are strong enough. Sleep one hour less every day to prepare. You had the time to come up with a dream of moving abroad. So now make the time to get the dream. Anything worth having is not easy. Don’t waste time thinking about your lack of time. To save time, invest your money into a course that will tell you exactly what to do every day, like our course, the 3 Keys IELTS Success System.
  • After the exam you say, “Oh the examiner was so mean!”: Sometimes examiners are grumpy.  Maybe they had a difficult candidate just before you. They are people too. They are still grading you on the same things as the “nice” examiners. Look at this as a challenge. If you think the examiner is grumpy, smile even more. See if you can change their mood. Don’t look outside yourself. Don’t blame other people for your difficulties.
  • You say, “the acoustics of the room were bad”: Sometimes this can be true. Research the test center beforehand. If you find this out, book your test at a different test center. This may be the only time when you want to listen to any information about which test center is “easier.” The other thing you can do is make sure your practice under test conditions does not always happen in situations where the acoustics are perfect.  Acoustics are never perfect in real life when you are speaking English! Why should they be perfect in the exam center? You could practice your listening in a large gym where there would be a lot of echo. This would get you ready for a possible bad acoustic situation on test day.
  • You complain about timing: You say, “oh they didn’t start the test on time” or “Oh my speaking test was so late and I fell asleep beforehand.” The best thing that you can do with timing is show up at least 45 minutes early. Get there early enough and let them take care of it. As far as the Speaking test time, yes, it can be late. In our course we have an entire bonus module which gives you information about how to deal with that long gap before the Speaking test. You need to have a plan for this time.
  • You say that the Reading topic was unfamiliar to you: Yes, you may get a random topic on the Reading test that you have never heard of. That is ok. Its about preparation. Read as widely as you can before the test. But you can’t know everything and IELTS doesn’t expect you to. All you have to do is get the right Reading strategies and practice them enough before the exam.

Taking the IELTS is like running a marathon.

We have to reach deep within ourselves.

Why? Because the dream life that is on the other side is worth working for, isn’t it?

The most successful people in life do not let the difficulty of this sidetrack them.

It is not going to be easy and it shouldn’t be easy. Don’t be a victim!

Go get your target score.

Do you want to become awesome at English conversation?

Do you want to make it your superpower?

Today we’ll show you how to do it.

We’ll also add a bonus in today’s episode where we’ll talk about how you can identify what you’re really good at in life and build a life and a career around that, rather than trying to get better at skills that don’t come naturally to you.

Today we’ll read a question that we got from our listener from South Korea, here it is:

“Sometimes I have a hard time keeping the conversation going with people and I think it’s mostly because I have little to say when it comes to replying to others.

I try to come up with follow up questions but it doesn’t work. But when I listen to Lindsay interacting with guests it seems like she’s really cut out for the job. She seems to always have something to say. How can I talk like Lindsay?”

Soongjae, South Korea, AEE Listener


Lindsay’s formula for great conversation:

  • Collect facts about everything and store them for conversation later: To make good conversation it helps to know a little bit about a lot. Have a lot of information and cultural knowledge in your head. For example, I know from talking to friends that Austin, Texas has a great live music scene so when I meet someone from Austin, I will pull up that fact and see how it relates to that person. For example, “Oh I heard Austin has a great live music scene. Are you into live music?” You can build a lot of random facts if you travel a lot. If you can’t travel internationally then the key is watching the news, reading books, staying open to what is going on out in the world.


  • Make it about the other person: Be interested in the other person and listen well. It’s too easy to get caught up in our own heads and in our own world. If you’re not interested in that person then stop talking to them. Be “all ears.” That idioms means to listen well (in case you didn’t know!)


  • Find your own connection style: My connection style is digging for the person’s unique vision or their “why.” I always like to find out what motivates people and why they have chosen their hobbies or their career path. I like to find the reason or vision behind the person’s interests. But maybe you connect by using humor or by being animated. Maybe you use silence to build connection. If you love people then that’s another connection style. Focus on the fact that you just enjoy forming a new connection. When you find your connection style, grammar and vocabulary becomes much less relevant and all of a sudden, you are really communicating.


  • Treat everyone the same way: Don’t show that you’re intimidated by anyone. My friend Diego is from Ecuador. He can walk into a room and talk to anyone (native speakers or non-native speakers) and he’d use the same tone of voice that he uses with his friends. He’s respectful but he doesn’t give the impression that someone is above him. This has allowed him to build a career as an art curator in New York City.  He doesn’t get scared in these situations so he can build amazing connections. Be on the same level as everyone else. This may be hard if you come from different cultures especially if you are from a culture where there is a very hierarchical structure in place but see if you can implement this into your style in your own way.



native English teachersAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!



How can you find what you’re good at it?

On some level we all need to be able to build conversation skills.

But Lindsay is exceptionally good at conversation so she has built her career around this podcast and around teaching people how to communicate better.

She is trying to leverage her skills as much as possible.

If you don’t feel that conversation is one of your core natural talents then you don’t need to build a career that is based on it.

For example, don’t go into sales and marketing.

Don’t go into communications.

Instead, find out what you do well and build a career around that.

How can you figure out what you’re good at and build your career and life around it?

We have already talked about this with Laura Garnett when we talked about the Zone of Genius.

We also recommend using the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment to figure out what you’re natural talents and skills are.

“Your personality is your greatest differentiator.”

-Sally Hogshead

Here are some ways to find your natural skills:

  • Ask yourself: What did you do as a kid? What activities did you take part in? What did you enjoy most? What made the time pass fast? Michelle used to pretend to be a teacher and she would put on plays (performance) and now she works as as a performer on this podcast.


  • What skills did your parents reinforce? Lindsay’s parents reinforced verbal communication skills. What did your parents applaud or encourage you to cultivate. Whatever that is has probably become a deep skill of yours where you may be exceptional and not even know it.


  • What satisfies you deeply? For Michelle she feels a deep sense of relaxation around music. What is the activity that makes you feel peaceful? What feels natural to you? Find that activity and allow yourself to do more of it. You don’t have to get paid for it. Just do it a little bit more each day.


  • Step into your talent: There may be a moment where you can become a leader using this special talent or skill.  It may be a career opportunity or a chance to build an organization of some sort. Don’t be afraid to step into the spotlight at that time. You will be ready if you have followed the advice above.


So today we have shown you how to become better at conversation.

Everyone needs basic skills in this area.

At the same time, if conversation doesn’t feel natural to you then don’t build a career or a life around it.

Instead, go back and think about discovering your own “superpower” and what you do better than anyone else.

Build your career or hobbies or life around that.


Today let’s finish with a quote:

“Find your God-given talent, cherish it, refine it, and find a way to get paid for (or to help a lot of people with it)”



What’s your superpower?

Tell us in the comments!


Today get the three top strategies for the best preparation for both TOEFL and IELTS!

Jaime Miller from English Success Academy is back on the show today!

She has been working with TOEFL students for more than five years.

She knows TOEFL!

She’ll talk with Jessica about some insider tips and strategies that works for both exams so that you can

IELTS Writing:

For Task 1 you describe a bar chart or a graph in a short essay.

Task 2 is your standard 4-paragraph argument essay.

TOEFL Writing:

TOEFL has an opinion essay also but the first writing activity is very different.

You don’t get the bar chart. You listen to a lecture and read a passage about an academic debate. You summarize how the two people speaking view the topic differently.

Final Tips:

  • #1) Pick a system! You can blend different strategy systems. It will hurt your score. Jamie suggests that you choose a teacher or a school and then master the concepts from that school. Don’t leave that school or system until you have gotten the score that you need. Many teachers don’t even know what the test graders want. Do your research in the beginning and then commit to it.
  • #2) Support your ideas with examples from your life: Use your own life as the place to start. Have you lived in different countries? What have you done in your career? When you get a writing topic you usually have something you can say about it. On the TOEFL, just writing stories about your life is too simplistic. Jamie believes that it’s better to use a “research style” to report your own life experience. To do this you can make your own experience a generalization.
  • #3) Look at sample essays that have scored high: Read good models! Make sure the person who wrote the essay has taken the test or knows the scoring system very well. Looking at these essays will help you start thinking in the right direction.

If you need help with TOEFL, go check out what Jaimie has available to help you!

TOEFL English Success Academy Jaime MillerJamie’s Bio:

Learn more about Jaime Miller on jaimemiller.com, an online school that matches motivated students with dedicated teachers for private, customized online lessons.

Jaime knows why some students get TOEFL speaking scores of 26 or higher, while others are stuck with scores of 24 – and she creates customized exam study plans that get results.

Kevin English literature tutor

In today’s episode you’ll find out how to use literature to deepen your fluency and connect with other English speakers.

Practicing grammar and vocabulary are not the only ways to improve your English.

Try grabbing Shakespeare or Walden!

Today let’s meet Kevin.

Kevin is an English teacher with a passion for literature.

He helps his students use literature to dive deeper into the English language and strengthen their skills.

Today Kevin is going to show us 3 things we can do to use literature to push to the next level.

3 Tips:

  • Tip #1) Make sure you’re choosing literature that is relevant to you:  Don’t use Shakespeare if it doesn’t interest you. There are no correct titles to pursue if they are not right for us. How can you find the right literature for you? Librarians are great for this task. Go ask a librarian. You can also look online. There are forums. You can ask your friends. Don’t trust a single source of authority. There are good books everywhere.
  • Tip #2) Stop after you have made a list of 10 new words: Every time you come across a new and interesting phrase or word write it down. Make sure that these words get transferred into your active memory. Dedicate some time to using these words in your speech over the next few days. This will help build your active vocabulary quickly.  It’s a great idea to work with a teacher online to solidify these words into your vocabulary repertoire.
  • Tip #3) Get a community to motivate you. Try a book club. This group will make sure you have a goal. You can discuss the new vocabulary with them. You will also start to understand new layers of the story that you may not have caught the first time. Another thing to do is take lessons with a teacher to really deepen your vocabulary.


Kevin’s Bio:

“Hi, I’m Kevin!

I’m a professional, CELTA qualified English Language and Literature tutor. I grew up in Birmingham, England and have been teaching ever since graduating in English Literature from the University of Cambridge 2 years ago. He is based in Berlin. I teach both online and offline, for all ages and abilities, though I specialise in high level studies. If you’re interested in taking your linguistic, literary and cultural understanding to the next level I’d love to hear from you! You can find me athttp://www.italki.com/kevinsexton

“Kevin is a professional, CELTA qualified English Language and Literature tutor. He grew up in Birmingham, England and has been teaching ever since graduating in English Literature from the University of Cambridge 2 years ago. He has taught English and German in several schools and is now based in Berlin. Our guest today is Kevin Sexton Let’s get to the show

He teaches both online and offline, for all ages and abilities, though he specialises in high level studies. If you’re interested in taking your linguistic, literary and cultural understanding to the next level he’d love to hear from you! You can find him athttp://www.italki.com/kevinsexton


How to work with Kevin:

  • Step 2: After you have registered please search for Kevin’s profile, send him a message, and schedule a lesson.


What did you think about today’s episode?

What are your favorite books? Why do you like them?

What book do you want to read in English this year?

Do you want to be in control on the IELTS Listening Exam?

Do you feel out of control when you listen to English?

It can be a scary feeling.

Today you’ll find out how to create a confident relationship between you and your English listening skills.

Are you worried that you won’t understand what they say on the Listening test?

Maybe you will feel like you are drowning and your IELTS dreams will go out the window as you forget to listen to the rest of the test.

We’re going to give you three steps that you can take at home to increase your listening comprehension.

Today we’re not talking about IELTS strategy or skills.

This is just how to improve your general listening skills.

Our tips to build listening confidence:

  • Step #1) Listen to a movie and put the subtitles on: This will improve your listening because you are increasing your chances of understanding. We practice in an easy way first with this step then we get better then we move to the next level and challenge ourselves more. This can be a simple You Tube video, a TV sitcom, a drama, or anything else. Choose what is interesting to you. We suggest “Wild” or “Into the Wild.” These are both great movies that will inspire you and keep you interested. You will forget that you are watching a movie and that you are practicing English. These movies will make you cry. When you have tears running down your face you are not thinking about grammar anymore
  • Step #2) Listen to a podcast/TED Talks/Radio with your eyes closed: This will increase your comprehension. You will absorb the sounds of English. Practice immersing yourself in the sounds. On the test you are not expected to understand every word so don’t put that pressure on yourself. You need to change the way you think about listening comprehension. Don’t be a perfectionist. Create a new way to feel when you listen to English. Try the All Ears English Podcast.
  • Step #3) Watch or listen with no help or tools: This is your last step. No subtitles. No crutches. You could do this with the same resource that you used for step 1. You could also choose something new and watch it fresh from the beginning. Relax. Try to watch something for pleasure. Choose something that is good quality. Connection NOT Perfection! That means you want to connect with the movie as art. Don’t obsess over understanding every word.

What are your tips and tricks for improving your listening comprehension?

Let us know in the comments below.

It’s important to be able to talk about your interests and passions in order to connect with people.

We’ll show you how to do it today.

Why do we need passions in life?

The word “passion” is a big word and can stress people out.

It’s ok if you have a lot of smaller passions or interests. It doesn’t have to be something huge.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”


I think Oprah is right.

When we find something that we love it gives us energy.

It comes from a deep place inside of us that is honest and true.

It feels very natural to participate in your passion.

It’s not work. The wind is at your back.

It is better to have one passion and focus heavily on that or is it better to have many passions and just enjoy all of them?

Michelle thinks it depends on what you are using your passion for.

Some people want to have their work be their passion.

Other people want to explore their passions outside of the workplace.

If it’s your work then Michelle thinks you should focus 100% on it but if it’s a hobby then maybe it’s better to keep it lighter and use it to build a dynamic life.

Phrases to talk about your passion:

  • “I’m (really) into…” = I’m interested in.
    • Example: “I’m really into comedy”
  • “These days I’m jazzed about…”
    • Example: “These days I’m jazzed about entrepreneurship, testing ideas, and the marketplace.”
  • “I feel passionate about…”
    • Example: “I feel passionate about cooking.”
  • “I get really fired up about…”
    • Example: “I get really fired up about comedy.”

What are you passionate about?

Practice what you learned in the episode today.

Write your responses in the comments section below.

Wondering how you can impress the examiner on IELTS Writing Task 1?

Today we’ll give you three sentence structures that are very high level and will get you the target score that you need for your grammar score in this task.

This is the most important thing to consider when it comes to grammar on the IELTS.

Remember that on Task 1 you will have to write about numbers and you need to show your ability to compare the numbers.

Today you’ll get two different complex structures and a compound structure.

On test day you don’t have to take risks.

Just use these structures and you’ll do fine.

Grammar structures:

  • Structure #1) “As X increases, Y decreases.”- this is higher level because most students don’t use “as.”
    • Sample: “As the population of Taiwan increased to hit 20 million in 2014, the population of Cambodia decreased to hit 500,000.”
  • Structure #2) “In contrast to Y increasing, X actually decreased.”- here if you use “actually” it further emphasizes the contrast. It sounds more high level if you use this word.
    • Sample: In contrast to the population in Taiwan increasing, the population of Cambodia actually decreased at the same time.”
  • Structure #3) “Y increased; however, X decreased”
    • Sample: “The population of Taiwan increased; however, the population of Cambodia decreased.

How can you practice these?

  • Look for graphs in the media. Look at The Economist or The Wall Street Journal and try to apply these sentence structures to what you see. Take a graph about sales, population, politics, the economy, stock prices and write out what you see using these structures.
  • Think about trends in your own life of change. For example, “As I run more miles every day, my weight decreases”

How can you use these structures to comment on trends in your life?

Leave your example in the comments section below!

Let us know your questions in the comments below.

job interview english

Do you want to get your dream job?

If you are interviewing for a competitive position then you need to have a smart formula to follow to persuade the interviewer and convince them that you are the right person for the job.

Learn the SMART formula to get your dream job in English today.

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking and scary but if you work with someone like Keiran or use the formula he’ll talk about today then you’ll have a much better chance of getting the job that you want.


Keiran’s Tips:

  • Research the company: If the interviewer meets with ten people and you are the only person who knows the company history then you can stand out right from the beginning. The person running the interview wants to know that the company matters to you and that you are a good fit.


  • Be concise and have a powerful answer: Have some answers ready in advance. How did you help the business that you worked at before? How did you make the customers happier? Paint a picture with details and exact situations and examples. You can’t be vague.
    • Set up the situation: Talk about your past experience, the work environment, the industry.
    • Task: What task were you faced with? What did you have to do?
    • Actions: What actions did you take to confront the challenge. What exactly did you do? How did you make the customers happy?
    • Results: Keep it as concise as possible. You never want to bore the interviewer. Just answer with impact and move on to the next question.


  • Have good questions: Remember that you are interviewing them too. Be selective or at least convey the sense that you are selective in where you are going to work. Show your value. Have your questions prepared. This will help the employer see you differently. There are certain ways to form your questions that are tactful and assertive at the same time.

Remember, in interviews words are key. If you say “I think I can do a good job” instead of “I can do a good job” it conveys weakness.

Watch out for weak words!

You need to work with a teacher to prepare to make sure you aren’t using weak words.

Keiran’s Bio:

I’ve always been teaching or coaching in some way or form. I started as a swim instructor at the age of 16,  I taught swimming to children, teenagers and adults for about 8 years. After completing my university education in psychology at McGill, I traveled to South Korea where I taught children and adults for 2 years. Shortly after living in South Korea I moved to Mongolia where my wife gave birth to our daughter while I continued to teach voluntarily. We returned home and I started working for a large company selling conference tickets to directors and VPs of fortune 500 companies. It was a brutal job which didn’t work out but I learned a lot about how important it is to be prepared for  interviews. I returned to teaching in language schools for a while until I got into teaching online which is where I am now.

Want to work with Keiran?

  • Step 1: Register as a new user to get $10 off your second lesson. Click here.
  • Step 2: Find Keiran’s profile and send him a message to schedule a lesson.


Leave us a comment below.

What do you think about this framework?

Have you used it?

Let us know.

Do you experience awkward silences when you speak English?

How can you fill these silences, connect with the person, and make it feel a bit less awkward?

Find out how to use “anyways” today when there is an awkward silence and when you want to get the conversation back on track.

Listen to the audio to get examples of how Lindsay and Michelle use it in a real conversation.

When do we use anyways?

  • When we want to get the conversation back on track
  • When there is an awkward moment and someone has said something strange

What else can we say?

  • “In any event”
  • “In any case”
  • “At any rate”

Leave us a comment below.

Have you used “anyways” or “anyway” in your conversations in English?

Let us know.

Always Be Confident (ABC) in front of the Examiner!

How can you do it and why does it help your score on the IELTS?

Find out today.

This ABC (Always Be Confident) strategy especially helps on the Speaking test and the Writing test.

If you are starting to feel uncomfortable you can use this strategy.

Check out this video about how to take up more space when you want to increase confidence.

What to do:

  • Sit up straight: This will automatically change your brain and body chemistry. You will appear confident. Put your shoulders down and back. Face the person on their level.
  • Remember that your opinion is never wrong: No one is going to judge your opinions. Don’t doubt yourself because when you do that you will lose the specificity. If you have an idea or an opinion that pops up then say it. Don’t second- guess yourself. Own your ideas!
  • Your life is excellent material: Use your own experiences. Tell stories. That is the only resource you have to come up with strong examples. This is for the formal and informal parts of the exam. Even on Writing Task 2 you are asked to support your ideas with personal opinions.  Go into the exam with the mindset that you are a rock star and that you want to share your stories and your experiences.

-Jessica Beck, IELTS Energy Podcast

Need a little extra help?

In our course the 3 Keys IELTS Success System we offer a speaking test success day plan as a special bonus where we show you what to do to remain calm and confident on the day of the exam while you are waiting to go into your speaking test.

We also have an entire module called The Anti-anxiety Plan which gives you 3 steps to deal with anxiety on the test.

Leave us a comment below.

What is your biggest challenge with confidence on the IELTS Exam?

Let us know!

3 Keys IELTS Success SystemToday we have a guest on the show.

We are honored to have 3 Keys IELTS student Fatima Hassan on the show!

Fatima took IELTS for the first time this summer after taking our course.

Her scores were:

Listening: 6

Reading 6.5

Writing: 5

Speaking: 6


Overall: 6


What was Fatima’s biggest challenge on the Writing test?

In Writing Task 1 she had a timing challenge.

She took too much time to brainstorm.

She felt pressured by the time and she got nervous.

Because of the timing issue she wasn’t able to write the essay in an organized way.


How did Fatima prepare?

She learned how to analyze graphs in our course and how to structure her essays but she did not have a chance to practice timing on the Writing test.

It’s important to sit down three times per week and give yourself 1 hour to complete the two full essays during your preparation.

The timing is what killed her score.

She didn’t realize that the time was passing as fast as it was.


What should she do now?

She will go back and practice writing the essays under test conditions.

She will also spend more time practicing the basic writing strategies that we teach in our course.

She is also thinking about reading more business articles.

Even though these articles are not super interesting, she does feel that she is building her vocabulary using these materials.

We are confident that Fatima can get the score she needs next time if she implements the suggestions we made today and if she follows the daily study plan!


Good luck Fatima!

We respect your dedication and hard work!

We know you can achieve your dreams if you keep working hard!


Leave us a comment below!

Are you working as hard as Fatima is in your preparation?

Let us know.

Is it possible to get bad advice from big IELTS brand name courses?

Yes it is! Why? Sometimes these brands enroll teachers in test prep courses when they don’t know the test as well as they should.

How can you protect yourself from being a victim of bad IELTS advice?

Read today’s article to find out.

Here’s the story…

Recently, a listener of our podcast wrote in with some worries.

This students had been enrolled in a test preparation course at the British Council, and, during a practice speaking  exam, was given some advice which differed from advice that we give on the IELTS Energy podcast.

First of all, let me say that I have 100% confidence in everything I say on the podcast, on our IELTS Energy TV YouTube Channel, and in our 3 Keys IELTS Success System course.

I have been involved professionally with IELTS in a variety of capacities and positions, including teaching webinars for IDP Australia, for over a decade.

I know this student who wrote in is confused, because, since the British Council is one of the organizations involved in creating IELTS, the student felt that any advice given by one of their staff must be correct.

The first way I can debunk this worry is to state that the British Council has schools and offices all over the world.

They have thousands of staff members and teachers.

It is impossible for every one of their staff members and teachers to be an IELTS professional.

The British Council, in fact, gives many exams besides IELTS, such as the TKT, a test for teachers’ teaching skills, and TOLES, a test of legal English.

It is impossible for every teacher to know well all the exams that the British Council gives.

And, any teacher there may be called upon to teach any number of test prep classes for an exam they give, so the specific advice they give may be true for TOLES, for instance, and not IELTS.

What happened?

Let’s use our listener’s questions as examples of how a teacher at a name brand school may not necessarily provide you the best information, just because they work at a school with a respected name.

In Speaking Part 2, the student was asked to describe a museum.

As the student does not go to museums, he/she made up a story which ended with going out to dinner with friends after the museum tour.

This was a fantastic answer!

It sounds well organized, fulfilled the 2-minute requirement, and told a story about the topic.

However, the teacher told the student that he/she should have talked about all the bullet points and shouldn’t have talked about dinner because it didn’t relate to the topic.

How do we know the student got bad advice?

I know the band descriptors very, very well.

I know exactly what the examiner needs to hear in order to give you every score, from a 0 to a 9.

And, nowhere, NOWHERE, in the descriptors does it say the student must talk about the bullet points. (They are only there to help with ideas. The examiner does not care about them.)

Also, a fluent student, such as a native speaker, would naturally mention that dinner followed the museum tour.

It is a fluent and coherent way to communicate, and, as such, would rate highly for this category.

More bad advice….

The bad advice didn’t stop there, however, in the Speaking Part 3 practice, the student answered a question about graffiti being good or bad.

The student gave specific examples of both sides being true. Then the teacher told him/her that he/she could not support both sides in the answer.

That’s ridiculous!!

That advice has no connection, whatsoever, to the Speaking score descriptors.

In fact, the student’s answer sounds like it would actually rate quite highly, judging from the specific support and vocabulary used.

Again, this teacher gave horrible advice, and none of it is true as far as IELTS is concerned.

Who can you trust?

So, how do you know who to trust?

That’s the question.

In this case, I would challenge the teacher to tell me EXACTLY where in the band descriptors this advice came from.

There is a publicly available band score descriptor table on the British Council site, that can be referenced at any time.

And even though the Examiner’s table has more information and detail, the teacher should still know this in order to give correct and useful feedback.

Don’t blindly trust a name

Don’t trust a name just because it’s a name.

Research the teacher, the course and the material first before you invest any money, and don’t pay extra just for a recognizable name that may not help you anyway.

Be confident in your decisions, and do not sit by passively while someone pretends to be a professional.

Challenge them and receive the instruction you deserve.

Have you made the mistake of trusting a big brand name and then found out that the professional you were working with didn’t have the credibility that you thought?

Let us know your stories in the comments below.

What do Americans think about smoking?

What does it mean for you if you are visiting the US or moving here on a work assignment?

The way we view smoking in the US has changed a ton in the last thirty years.

Find out more today!


Is it a taboo in the US to smoke?

It’s not completely a taboo yet but it’s getting to that point.

A taboo is something that is looked down upon in a society.

First of all, we want to acknowledge that smoking is a real, medical addiction.

We understand that you can’t just snap your fingers and quit.


Smoking in the 1980’s:

You could walk into a restaurant and they would ask you “smoking or non?” so most restaurants had a smoking section.

These days we rarely see a smoking section in a restaurant, at least in the Northeastern part of the US.


Smoking in the 1990’s:

It was much less of a taboo in the ’90’s.

It was almost considered cool and of course it was considered fashionable and sexy back in the 1930’s, 1940’s, etc.

Back in the 1980’s we had the Just Say No campaign which was run by the DARE (Drug Abuse Reduction Campaign).

As early as age 8, 9, 10, they taught kids in schools to say no to drugs and smoking.


What are the laws?

The smoking laws are different in every state but 81% of the US lives under some kind of smoking ban, whether it’s a ban from the city or the state.

Click here to read the laws.


What should you be prepared for if you are a smoker in the US?

You should know that people might judge you.

People are going to have an opinion especially if you are walking around and your smoke gets into someone’s face they might say something to you.

Try to walk away from the group of people that you are with.

Observe the norms in the places where you hang out.

It depends on your social group.


What do you think about today’s episode? Are you a smoker?

If you have been to the US what was your experience?

Let us know in the comments below.

The IELTS is all about timing!

If you don’t know how to manage your time well on all four sections then you will not get the score you need.

Today we’ll talk about the timing strategies you need for success.

Timing strategies for IELTS:

  • The Listening test: Follow what they say for the timing. Remember that you have ten minutes at the end to transfer your answers. That is crucial to remember.
  • The Reading test: You need to practice timing before test day for the Reading (and for all of the tests). You have three passages. The first step is skimming. Take one minute to skim the passage. Read bits and pieces to get an understanding of what they are talking about. If you don’t take that minute your brain won’t be ready when you look at the questions. When you are searching for answers don’t take more than one minute on one answer. Skip to the next question if it’s taking too long.
  • The Writing test: Practice timing for all 3 steps. Plan. Write. Check. If you have 20 minutes for Task 1 then it’s 3 minutes to plan, 14 minutes to write, and 3 minutes to check. Make sure you leave time for all steps.
  • The Speaking test: Here the examiner controls the time for you. You have to be aware of how much the examiner wants to hear. In Speaking Part 1 you should give 2-5 complete sentences. In Speaking Part 2, take the full minute to plan. Take the full 2 minutes to talk. In Part 3 every answer should be 30 seconds, more or less.

Remember, the foundation of your timing strategy is having a solid strategy system for all parts of the test.

In our course we teach you 3-step systems for each part of the test.

You can learn more about our course here.

Leave us a comment below!

What questions do you have about IELTS timing?

When you lose a thought in your head while you’re speaking English and your mind goes blank there are things you can say to build the connection between you and the other person.

Does this happen to you often?

You don’t need to fear that moment.

Instead, you can use that moment to build the connection.

We always say that it’s about Connection NOT Perfection!

Everyone forgets things!

What to say when your mind goes blank:

  • “It’s on the tip of my tongue”: This is used not only when we forget our thought mid-sentence but also when we are trying to recall facts, figures, or names.
  • “I completely lost my train of thought”: This is great because its natural and you are using descriptive language.
  • “What was I gonna (going to) say?”: Another great way to show the person what is going on in your mind and to ask them to help you recall what you were going to say.


Have you used these phrases before in a conversation with a native English speaker?

Let us know if they helped you build the connection with the person!

On the IELTS Speaking test  and the IELTS Writing test the examiner wants to hear you make contrasts!

It is a high-level language skill that will immediately impress the examiner so that you can get the score you need.

You need to be able to give a balanced opinion.

You need to recognize that the other side has some points. This shows that you really know how to communicate in English.

You can use these phrases that we’ll give you today in Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2.

If you use these phrases you’ll get a 7 or higher for fluency on the Speaking test and a 7 or higher for cohesion and coherence on the Writing test.

This makes your answer more organized and organization is super important.

So make these phrases a part of your repertoire!

We have chosen these phrases because they are more interesting than your typical “6” phrases and will get you a better score.

You need to go beyond the typical phrases to get a 7 or higher.

Phrases to show contrast:

1) “Having said this…”

  • Q: How healthy is your country’s food?
  • A: Well, I suppose you could argue that my country’s food isn’t healthy. Having said this, there is a new trend now toward vegan or vegetarian food and there is a new restaurant in my neighborhood. I feel great when I eat there!

2) “At the same time…”

  • Q: What changes will happen in the education space in the future?
  • A: Well I think we’re moving towards technology for every kid in the classroom. At the same time I know there are a lot of school districts who can’t afford that kind of technology.

3) “On the other hand…”

  • Q: Why do people like watching television
  • A: Clearly television is addictive and people like it because they like to see beautiful people and escape their lives. I can understand that. On the other hand, I think it would be better if people would read a bit more.

4) “Nevertheless…”

  • Q: How do most people travel long distances in your country?
  • A: Well I’m from the US where long distances are long. In my country people generally fly nevertheless there is a romantic notion of the road trip. Americans love road trips. Both ways are still used today.

Have you used these phrases on your Speaking or Writing tests?

Let us know in the comments below!

Are you looking for some other great IELTS resources on the web?

Video lessons are a great way to prepare for IELTS.

In today’s episode we’ll show you where to find information about IELTS to supplement what you read and listen to here at IELTS Energy and All Ears English.

Preparing for IELTS with video lessons is a great idea because it will keep you engaged and you need to be engaged and motivated in order to remember what you learn!

So grab some of these video lessons and get started today.

#1) Eng Vid

This is an excellent resource for video lessons.

The lessons all feature a teacher in front of a white board, writing notes on it and talking; so, if you are used to a traditional learning environment in a classroom, this would be a comfortable and familiar resource for you.

Most of the lessons are from 10 minutes to 20 minutes long, and they are also available on YouTube.

Plus, below the video on the engVid site, there is a quiz button.

You can take the quiz after watching the lesson.

Visit here

#2) British Council

There are 6 videos here, and they are all quite short- less than 4 minutes.

There are quick tips for every module of the exam, including grammar.

In addition, since they were created by the British Council, one of the organizations involved in governing IELTS, you know you can trust the information.

All the videos are also on YouTube.

There are a couple downsides, however.

The videos are all illustrated, so you don’t see a real person talking, making it a bit difficult to understand.

Also, quite high level vocabulary is used, so these videos would be good for a student who is already at an upper-intermediate level.

Lastly, there is no practice or quizzes provided.

Visit here

#3) IELTS Liz

This website features many, many videos.

The teacher in every video is Liz, who is British, so watching these videos is good practice for understanding that accent.

In every video, Liz sits in front of a whiteboard, talks and takes notes.

Video lessons range from 5 to 30 minutes, and there are tips for every part of the exam.

Most of them seem like lessons you would get in a traditional classroom, with a teacher standing at the board, asking you to do something and then writing the answers on the board.

There is not a lot of movement, so it may be difficult to become engaged in the videos.

One great thing, though, about this site, is there is a blog as well with free practice lessons.

All videos are also on YouTube.

Visit here

#4) Academic English Help

These videos are from another website, but I recommend watching them on YouTube, because the original site will interrupt your browsing by trying to sell you their course.

However, these free videos on YouTube can be very helpful, and most of them come with transcripts that you can read before, during or after you watch the lessons.

The lesson videos are all from 5 to 35 minutes, and are about many different aspects of the exam.

Most of them feature the same male teacher with a North American accent.

He appears on the video with a plain white background in the beginning, and then there are slides which he narrates.

Most useful, in my opinion, are the example Speaking Exam videos so you can learn what will happen during your own Speaking exam.

Visit the site here

#5) IELTS Energy TV

On this YouTube channel, there are many short videos, less than 5 minutes, with tips and specific advice that is easy to understand and consume.

I am biased towards loving this channel because… the teacher is me!

The channel is called IELTS Energy TV for a reason- I love to talk about IELTS, and this comes through in my videos.

There are additional resources, such as our podcast, on allearsenglish.com.

Check it out!

Click here

Do you need a digital detox?

Today find out how to invite your friends to take part in a digital detox weekend where you leave technology behind and enjoy being together or being out in nature!

Lindsay took a digital detox weekend on an island on Lake Winnepesaukee a few weekends ago.

When she came back she felt a deep sense of relaxation. She felt more creative and more motivated.

Would you like to take a digital detox weekend too? Get the right phrases to invite your friends below.


native English teachersAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Phrases to invite your friends to a digital detox weekend:

  • “Why don’t we try disconnecting this weekend?”: This is not forceful. It’s not saying that it’s imperative. It’s just making a suggestion.
  • “Let’s swear off technology for the weekend, what do you say?” If you add “what do you say?” or “what do you think” at the end of your statement then you are asking the person what they think and it makes the statement a bit softer.
  • “Let’s do a tech boycott”:
  • “I think we should stay away from our phones this weekend. Are you in?” When you use the question “are you in?” it makes it sound like you are going on an adventure. Give this one a try!


Did you try using these phrases with your friends?

How did it go?

Describe your digital detox experience for us in the comments below.

There is one cool trick that you can use to get yourself a higher score on the IELTS Speaking test.

If you use a strategic pause when you deliver your speaking answers it will give you a sense of momentum and it will allow you to re-center your mind.

If you slow down your answers will be more organized.

You will be more fluent and coherent.

You will use better vocabulary.

It’s never a bad idea to slow down on the Speaking test.

This  may also help us feel more centered in our body and less anxious.

Remember, this doesn’t mean that we are pausing due to lack of words.

This is a strategic communication device.

Find out exactly what you need to do every step of the way to get your target score.

Stop guessing what you should be doing to prepare!

Click here to get the checklist.

How to use the strategic pause in the Speaking test:

  • Pause after a heavy “well” + pause: You could also use a smile just after or during the pause. Why does this help? It impacts our natural-sounding pronunciation and it would show the examiner that we are aware of how native speakers sound. This is completely different and much better than saying “ugh…umm…”
    • Example:
      • Q: What do people in your culture think about the importance of being on time
      • A: Well…..I think it’s important to be on time but my friends don’t since they are always making me wait for them. On the other hand, I show up at least 10 minutes early every time we meet.
  • Use the phrase “wait for it” + pause : You can use this when you are about to say something surprising. This would immediately put the examiner in the mind frame of a 7 for you for vocabulary as well as fluency and coherence. If you can add a sarcastic point like a surprise after saying “wait for it” then you will definitely impress the examiner because you’ll be using a very high level language tactic.
    • Example:
      • Q: What is your job?
      • A: Wait for it….I am a clown on the weekend. Yep, I go to birthday parties and I know how to juggle.

Leave us a comment below.

Have you used the dramatic pause in your Speaking test?

How did it work?

When is “hello!!” not a friendly greeting in English?

Sometimes we use “hello” to greet someone.

Other times we use it to get someone’s attention.

It’s often used with an abrasive tone of voice and you hear it in large cities like New York City and Boston.

Find out how to know the difference today- and learn how to respond appropriately every time.

How to tell the difference between the two “hellos”

Pay attention to the tone of voice of the person speaking to you.

When someone is saying “hello” to get your attention or to get you to wake up their voice is usually kind of irritated and sometimes it feels rude.

Listen to the episode to hear the difference in our voices.

People might also say this to you if something is flying towards you, like a soccer ball.

Where does this come from?

It comes from Back to the Future!

Biff would always go around and bang Marty McFly on the head and he would say, “Hello, McFly!”

Watch the clip here!

What do you need to know about this?

The most important thing to remember is this: “Hello” is not always a greeting.

Sometimes people are using it to get your attention.

The way to tell the difference is by listening to the tone of voice.
Leave us a comment below!

Have you ever heard someone say, “hello!” in a more abrasive way, trying to get your attention.

What should you do if you get a broad topic like globalization on the IELTS Exam?

Today we’ll show you how to get specific quickly, for a higher Speaking score.

How should you prepare for the hot topic of globalization for the IELTS?

This is a huge topic!

Even for native speakers who believe in the culture of thinking it takes them a long time to figure out how to approach this topic because it’s so broad.

As we have said in a previous episode, it’s always good to go back to your personal stories when your mind goes blank on the IELTS.

Also, when you connect the separate ideas that come to mind on a topic like globalization you need to use great linking phrases.

If the questions ask you about both advantages and disadvantages, it’s great if you can link both ideas together and weigh both sides of the idea.

Listen to our examples in the episodes and listen to how we talk about globalization.

The most important thing to do is break it down into manageable chunks and examples.

Break it down into smaller pieces such as:

  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Religion
  • Language
  • Gender roles
  • Marriage
  • Exercise
  • Media and movies

Practice thinking about this.

Write down the above topics and compare your culture 10 years ago to your culture today.

We are sure that many of the changes will be due to globalization.

Write down some practice answers.

The key to mastering this topic is to be specific.

Grab onto a personal experience and a specific example and you will immediately feel much more comfortable.

DO NOT try to be general in your answer.

Your fluency and coherence scores will go up if you do this.

Leave us a comment.

How has globalization affected your country?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you get confused between “look,” “see, ” and “view”?

These three verbs can be confusing.

They mean similar things but they are used in different, very specific ways.

Today we want to start with a great quote:

“The only way to assure long term comfort is to create continuous, short-term moments of discomfort.”

-Tim Ferris

You should set up situations in your daily life that are a little bit uncomfortable so that you can stretch your limits and boundaries and open your life up to new opportunities.

How can you do this:

Look at your goals.

See what you can reach for.

View every day as a new way to create discomfort and create a satisfying life.

What’s the difference between look/see/view:

  • Look: When you actively move your head and try to point your eyes in a specific direction.
  • See: This is more passive. I might see someone go by but I am not going to actively try to look at the person
  • View: More formal and can be used to talk about a movie or a show or an event. There are also a lot of related phrases and other ways to use this verb such as:
    • To come into view: To be able to see something
    •  A viewing: An event where you have a chance to see a home that is for sale, something is on display
    • The view: The scenery
    • In my view: In my opinion, the way I see it
    • My point of view

Listen to the conversation in the episode to get the differences between these verbs in a few role plays.

Leave a comment below and practice these three verbs.

Show us that you understand the differences.

Do you listen to IELTS rumors?

Do you let IELTS rumors get you scared and push you off of your center?

Today we’ll show you why you need to stop listening to rumors and what you should do instead.

We’ll tell you who to listen to for the best possible score and who you should ignore.

There are people out there who spread rumors and the rumors they spread are due to their own insecurities.

Common rumors that go between students include:

  • “IELTS Center A is easier” or “IELTS Center B is the best place to take IELTS”
  • Certain topics that were used on the exams in previous weeks

What should you do?

  • Evaluate the source: Who is giving you the information? Do not pay attention to anyone that is not an IELTS professional.
  • Evaluate the nature of the comments: Are they giving you basic logistics or is the comment more emotion based? People make comments and start rumors when they are nervous and anxious.
  • Choose a system that works and follow it: Don’t take pieces of separate systems. Don’t go back and forth between courses or systems. Choose the one that works for you. It should have a good daily IELTS study plan. The study plan will keep you busy so that you won’t have time to think about the rumors that you have heard. If you are just grabbing free materials on the internet then you might have a problem focusing because there is no step-by-step plan.
  • Focus on what you need to know: You must learn what the examiner wants and how to give that to them. Those are facts and discrete practice points. The examiner wants to hear linking words. Practice using them. Don’t just say “I need to be more fluent.” Be specific and not general.

Keep your head down and keep working.

Don’t let yourself get pushed around by rumors and other people’s emotions and fear.

Follow your own path.

Have confidence in it.

Don’t let people distract you from that path.

In today’s episode you’ll find out how to become free when it becomes to your fear of rejection so that you can start more English conversations and accomplish anything you want in life.

Today we are honored to have an exciting guest on the show!

Jia Jiang is a sought after TEDx speaker and author of “100 Days of Rejection.”

He did an experiment where he tried to get rejected every day for 100 days and today he will tell us what he learned and what it means for us.

Why did he do this experiment?

He felt that fear of rejection was holding him back from accomplishing his life dreams.

Then one day his business proposal was rejected so he decided to go out and try to get rejected every day for 100 days.

He asked for free food re-fills.

He asked to have a special doughnut made in a unique shape.

He asked to play soccer in a stranger’s backyard.

His goal was to get over the fear of rejection but he found that a lot of people started to say yes to him.

Jia found that the fear of rejection was worse than rejection.

He started to have the mentality of having fun and letting the world reject him.

Next he started to experiment on how to get a “yes.”

He wanted to know if there was anything he could do to turn around a “no” and negotiate to get a “yes.”


“We think we are the center of the universe. We think that everyone is looking at us, judging us, everything we say, that’s why we are so afraid.

Somehow (we think) we have to perform and make sure people like us.

The thing is, it’s that type of mentality that really holds you back.

If you want to speak English, the only way to do it is to go out and speak.”

-Jia Jiang


Three things you can do to become “rejection proof”:

  • Go look for rejection: What if you turn your fear of rejection on its head and go look for it? Jia asks, “Is it still scary?” What if you tried to exaggerate your foreign accent? Try to speak like someone who just barely learned English and see how people react. Most people will be very nice to you.


  • Do something weird: Ask for something strange. Go to Starbucks and when you order a coffee, ask for a discount. Say, “Can I get a 20% discount?” Try to negotiate. Offer to write them a great review. Offer to pay for the next person in front of you. Come up with ways to chat. You’ll find that behind the counter is a human being. You’ll learn that rejection says more about that person than you.


  • Ask “how”: Instead of asking, “Can I get a 15% discount?” ask “How can I get a 15% discount.” This invites the other person to help you. Most people are nice and they want to help. They are scared to say no. They don’t want to feel bad about saying no.  State your motivation and ask them how they can help you make something happen. For example, “How can we practice English together?”


Jia’s Bio:

Jia is the founder and CEO of Wuju Learning, a company that trains organizations to become fearless through rejection training. He is also known as the Rejection Guy.

Jia’s story started when several years after his career in the corporate world, he took a risk and stepped into the unknown world of entrepreneurship, which resulted in everyone’s biggest fear…REJECTION.

This became the catalyst that set Jia on the path to his true calling. To conquer the fear of rejection, Jia embarked on a personal quest and started a video blog to face 100 Days of Rejection. His journey revealed a world that was hidden in plain sight, a world where rejection can become an advantage instead of a setback, and where there are opportunities behind every rejection. It has become Jia’s mission to help others to discover that world for themselves.
Jia is the author of the bestselling book Rejection Proof, How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. Jia holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from Brigham Young University and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University.

Visit Jia’s website here


What have you done to get over your fear of rejection?

Let us know in the comments below.

Accept it.

Own it.

Stay centered.

Today you’ll find out how to do it in English.

When someone gives you a compliment and you reject it, it shows a lack of confidence and it causes the person who complimented you to feel awkward.

They might feel like they need to give the compliment again in another way.

Phrases to accept a compliment in English:

  • “Thanks I really appreciate that.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Thanks for that (compliment).”

How can you use the compliment to deepen the connection:

  • Give them a compliment if it’s genuine.
  • Accept your compliment and change the subject. “Thank you. So what’s going on with you?”
  • Accept it and move on and make a comment about your shared surroundings.

Do you reject compliments when you get them?

Let us know in the comments below.

“Always Be Thinking!” if you want a great score on the IELTS!

What does this phrase mean and why does it matter when it comes to IELTS?

Last week we did an episode about the environment as an IELTS Speaking topic and we realized that this topic overlaps and intersects with health and a bunch of other topics.

If you can articulate on the Speaking test how these topics link together and move from one topic to the next as you build your answers then you will impress the examiner.

It all starts with creating a culture of thinking.

How to connect topics with linking phrases:

  • “Oh that reminds me of…” (use this if one topic brings another topic to mind)
    • Example: “When we talk about public transportation it reminds me of the obesity crisis that we have in the US.”
  • “That makes me think of…”:
    • Example: “The pollution crisis makes me think of the lack of public transportation in my city.”
  • “Oh (XYZ) just came to mind!”
    • Example: “Oh! Our new mayor just came to mind because he is a huge fan of public transport and he is going to start a new train line.”
  • “Interestingly enough, this also has to do with…”
  • “In my mind, the concept of (X) intersects with (Y)”

Pro tip!

When you think of a concept that comes to mind because it relates to what you are talking about, you should use the intonation of surprise in your voice! This will get you a higher pronunciation score.

When you are talking with native speakers and discussing topics, always be thinking about how topics connect with other topics.

Remember, it’s “ABT: Always Be Thinking!”

What do you think about the ABT strategy?

Have you used it on the IELTS?

Did it work for you?

Today you’ll find out why you should surprise the examiner and how to do it with three easy phrases for a higher Speaking score!

One great way to set yourself apart from other students from your culture is to surprise the examiner.

Acknowledge the norms for a particular topic, articulate that, then surprise the examiner with a different answer.

You can use high-level phrases to do it.

Why does this work?

It’s an opportunity to use interesting vocabulary and you will keep the examiner awake, alert, and interested.

This could be done in Speaking Part 2 and 3 and in IELTS Writing Task 2.

Here are some examples and key phrases:

  • Examiner: What do you usually do on the weekends?
  • Student: You think I’ll say that I like to go to night markets but actually I don’t really go to night markets very often. I like to go for night bike rides. It’s not normal but that’s what I like to do.
  • Examiner: What is your favorite food from your country?
  • Student: Ok well you are expecting to hear that I love ramen but actually my favorite food is okonomiyake.
  • Examiner: What is your favorite food from your home country?
  • Student: I know everyone from my home country says Kabsa but that’s actually not my favorite food. My favorite food is Biryani.

Let us know in the comments if you have tried this strategy.

How did it work for you?

We want to hear your feedback!

Do you want to be more powerful in the business space in English?

If you do the right things, you can achieve this goal but you need the right skills, knowledge, and tools.

Today we have a guest on the show!

Leann will give you three things that you can do NOW to become more powerful, effective, and impressive while using English in the business space.

Today the global market is competitive. You must have strong business skills. Listen to today’s episode to get the skills you need.


The three secrets to being a more powerful business professional in English:


  • “Talk the talk” of your field: Get the key vocabulary and idioms for your field. If you are in insurance you need to know “liability” and “premium” and “policy.” You also need general business idioms such as “to think outside of the box” or “to take the bull by the horns.” If you can speak the language of your colleagues and partners in English-speaking countries then you can connect with them faster and have more success in business.


  • Immerse yourself in business materials: You can also listen to specific business podcasts and TED Talks.  Also read business articles. Go out and research companies in the field where you want to work. Research the business plan of Microsoft or Amazon to see what strategies they use. Do a mock interview with your English tutor. Resources we recommend:
    • Marketing Smarts
    • Entrepreneur on Fire
    • Forbes
    • Fortune
    • The Economist


  • Get your business emails right: Make it brief, to the point, formal, and polite. It should not be more than five sentences. Show the recipient that you value their time. Get right to the point. Keep it formal. Make sure your email has no mistakes with grammar or spelling. Read it aloud before you send it. It’s a balance of being present, accurate, and formal. Key email vocabulary for business emails:
    • “I look forward to your reply.”
    • “Respectfully yours…”


Leann’s Bio:

Leann has been a professional Italki teacher since 2013. She has over 10 years experience teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at the community college/university level.

She has Lifetime Teaching Certificate in Adult Education and Literacy. She also holds a Masters Degree in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Other Language).

Her specializations include  Academic English, Conversational English, Business English, TOEFL and IELTS Test Prep, Accent Reduction and more.

She currently lives in Texas.  Born and raised in Central Illinois.  She has also lived in Florida and Missouri.


How to reserve a lesson with Leann:

Sometimes, when there is such a big task in front of us, such as preparing for IELTS, it can be difficult to even get started.

Then, when we actually jump on that road, start working through our study plans one task at a time, we hit a wall.

We feel like we are investing so much time and energy that we lose our motivation to keep moving ahead.

So, today, we are going to look at 5 motivational quotes, and connect them directly to our IELTS practice.

Choose your favorite one and hang it on your wall!

Take positive steps toward achieving your dream, and feel better about yourself and your practice

#1) “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.”

Ralph Marston

Can watching a movie today really help you improve your IELTS score in the future?

Yes! Of course!

Find a way to enjoy your English practice and still directly connect it to the exam.

For example, after watching a movie, write a 4-paragraph essay about it.

You describe two sides in the body- one paragraph which talks about why the movie was fantastic, and one paragraph which talks about why the movie was terrible.

This would mirror the Argument essay you may have to write in the exam.

Get a simple checklist. Find out exactly what to do.

Stop wasting time on the wrong activities.

Click here to get your checklist now!

2) Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”  -W. Clement Stone

Even if all you need is a 6 or a 6.5 in IELTS, aim higher!

Learn what the examiner is looking for in order to get a band score 8, for example.

Then, you will move your practice to a higher level, and challenge yourself.

Even if you don’t end up getting an 8, perhaps you’ll at least get a 7!

3) “Don’t watch the clock. Do what it does. Keep going.”  -Sam Levenson

This is good motivation and a good guide for your Speaking exam practice.

Remember that in the Speaking exam, the examiner will control the time for you.

You don’t have to worry about that.

Just remember that the examiner wants to hear you speak English, so never, ever, give one word or one sentence answers.

Keep going!

4) “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”   -Confucius

Remember this motivational advice when preparing for the Writing exam.

In the months leading up to the exam, do not worry about timing.

You should go slowly, taking all the time you need to plan, write and check your essays, following the advice and strategies of your teacher.

Then, when the exam gets closer, you can start timing yourself and worrying about speed.

Try to only start timing your writing two weeks before the exam.

5) “In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.”  -Nikos Kazantzkis

This is so true!

If you don’t believe you can hit that 7+, you won’t be able to.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and be honest with yourself about the work it will take to improve.

But always, always believe you can!

Which of these quotes is the most inspiring to you?

What part of IELTS are you struggling with the most?

Let us know in the comments below.

think like lawyer when you learn English

Today find out how to think like a lawyer when you learn English!

Today we have Michael Chambers on the show. Michael used to be a litigation lawyer and now he helps English students communicate more powerfully.

How to think like a lawyer when you learn and speak English:

  • Prepare well: If you prepare well you will be able to deliver your speech in a calm and constructive way. This gives you confidence. Preparation makes you strong. Make it easy on yourself by being well prepared. Also, tell your listeners what you are going to say. Structure it by using transition words such as “first,” and “next” and “last.” Make it easy for your listeners.
  • Use formal and powerful expressions, collocations, and idioms:
    • “We need to consider all aspects…”
    • “We shouldn’t accept that at face value.”
    • “It is under warranty.”
  • Speak slowly and use pauses: This builds confidence and creates a dramatic effect. It can also intimidate people if you use it in negotiation. It also buys you some time to think and prepare. It makes people wait to hear and wonder what you are going to say.


Michael’s Bio:

Michael worked as a litigation (torts) lawyer in England for 12 years before moving into full-time online English teaching in summer 2014. 

Since then, Michael has taught more than 1,250 sessions on Italki to students worldwide, and has completed a Cambridge CELTA course to qualify as a TEFL teacher.

Michael provides regular commercial proofreading services to a European energy company, writes website content for Italian businesses, and gives regular language support to a local community charity in his current home town of Birmingham, where he got married last year to Belinda, a cardiac nurse.
Originally from London, Michael has an RP accent, is learning Italian, and is interested in developing his teaching career in the areas of pronunciation, advanced writing, financial and legal English.


How to Book a Lesson with Michael:

Step 1: Register here to get $10 off your second lesson

Step 2: You can see Michael’s Italki profile here : http://www.italki.com/teacher/1544642

Are you worried about the IELTS Reading test?

One student asked us this: if you don’t read the whole passage how are you going to know what the answers are?

We have already talked in general about Reading strategy and steps to follow on the test but today we’ll focus on this specific question.

It doesn’t seem logical to take a reading test and not read everything.

Why do we give you the advice to not read everything?

There is not enough time to read everything.

You have 40 questions that you have to answer and there are 3 passages that are between 600 and 900 words each.

They are not easy.

You have to do all of this in one hour.

You cannot read every word so you MUST have a strategy.

So how do you find the answer?

Understand the key words and scanning strategy.

Key words are nouns, important dates, names, numbers, or anything that stands out as being important.

The tricky part is being able to recognize a synonym for the key word.

If a key word is “high level education” then you also need to scan for “tertiary education” and “higher education.”

This is why you need to have a robust vocabulary.

Read the newspaper!

This will help you.

How do you scan?

You move your eyes over the page and look for something very specific.

You are not reading.

The word is a picture that you are looking for.

There is not enough time to read the whole thing and you will be distracted if you try reading.

*Hot tip! Use your finger or pen and move backwards over each line so that way you cannot read it because it’s not natural.

Let your eyes drift over each line, looking for the specific key word.

You must practice this strategy. This is not a natural skill.

What questions do you have?

Have you tried this strategy yet?

Let us know!

This is Episode 400! We are happy to hit this key milestone! Thank you for being a listener of All Ears English. We love our listeners!

Do you know how to navigate friendships and boundaries in the American workplace?

Find out how to connect and when not to connect at your job in the US in today’s episode.

We found an interesting article in the NY Times by Adam Grant. The article is called Friends at Work? Not So Much.

The article said that in 1985, 50% of Americans had close friends at work but by 2004 that number dropped down to 30%.

This tells us that these days the people at work are no longer our “second family.”

The vibe or atmosphere at work is more polite but impersonal.

However, it really depends on your field.

Michelle used to work in radio and she worked with a close-knit group of friends so she had a different experience.

Why have Americans become impersonal at work?

  • Careers are changing: We no longer stick with the same company for our entire career. People freelance, they have multiple jobs, they switch jobs quickly. They don’t have a chance to develop the type of connections that they used to.
  • Virtual work and flex time are more common: A lot of people are working from home where it’s much harder to build close relationships.
  • People don’t feel the need to build new connections: The article suggested that if you can be on Facebook all day with your Facebook friends then why should you bother forming new friendships at work?
  • Protestant work ethic: This goes back to US history. The term “goofing off” means to play around and to not work. Historically this has been looked down upon in US culture.

What should you keep in mind if you work in the US?

  • Know the boundaries: Don’t ask about people’s relationship or family status. It’s rude to say, “So are you married?”
  • Ask people what you can call them: Don’t assume you can use their first name or their title like “Dr.” or “Mr.”
  • Try to have in-person meetings when possible: Make an effort to get to know your colleagues and see what happens. If you are working online from home, meet them once per month in a cafe.
  • Try to open up at work: Start small. If someone asks you how your weekend was they might not expect much of a response but say more than “it was great.” Instead, give them bits and pieces like “I went hiking” and see how they react. Do they ask a follow up question? Do they share something about themselves?

Leave us a comment.

What do you think?

What’s the workplace culture like in your country?

Do people tend to become close with their colleagues?

Are you throwing money down the toilet with your IELTS preparation?

If you don’t get the target score you need and then you immediately sign up for another exam two weeks later then yes, you are throwing money away and you need to stop doing it!

Let’s get smart.

We’ll show you why you should not invest in $600+ per month in taking the IELTS three times and what you should do instead.

Don’t take the exam more than once in a month. Just re-taking the test is not going to change your scores.

Sometimes people’s scores decrease when they do that.

You need testing strategies and you need solid English skills. It’s an English proficiency exam.

Read the story of Biff who took the test too many times and wasted his money.

Go about this logically. You know it’s a hard test. You know that your scores won’t increase within two weeks.

What should you do instead?

Wait at least one month before you take the test again.

You also need to get into a solid course that teaches you a good strategy system. These strategies are what will change your score along with increasing your fluency.

If you have already signed up for a class or worked with a tutor, don’t sign up for that class or work with that tutor again.

Try a different method. Don’t just register to take the test again and again.

You can try our course which is much more affordable than the price of taking the exam 3 times in a month.

What questions do you have?

How many times have you taken the test?

What methods have you tried?

Do you want to know how to invite someone to join your group in English?

Today you’ll hear a fun story and you’ll get English phrases to invite someone to join you.

Last weekend Lindsay went hiking and had an interesting experience.

A group of people invited her to join them in their Flags on 48 project.

In this project, groups of 5-10 people summit the 48 mountains that are over 4,000 feet tall in New England the weekend after September 11th.

They carry the parts of the flag to the top of the mountain and then assemble it.

They fly the flag for two hours in memory of the people who died on 9/11.

  • “Hey you’re welcome to join our group” or “You’re welcome to come with us.”
  • “Why don’t you join us?”
  • “Would you like to tag along with us?”

Listen to the conversation in the episode between Lindsay and Michelle to hear how we use these phrases to invite someone to join our group.

Next, if someone is inviting you, how do you know if the person really wants you to join them?

Sometimes in American culture we extend invitations but we don’t actually mean it.

Click here to find out if the invitation is real.

Have you used these phrases to ask someone to join your group?

Leave us a comment below.

Do you need to prepare for the IELTS Speaking and IELTS Writing tests?

Try setting up an IELTS mastermind group!

This will help you bring your IELTS skills to a whole new level and get the feedback you need.

We now offer IELTS Power Hour for members of our course, 3 Keys IELTS Success System.

Remember! A mastermind practice group is not a tutorial or a lecture!

You should have already prepared by learning strategies (preferably the same strategies as other people in the group).

You come into the group already knowing the strategies but being ready to practice them.

Participating in this kind of group can give you a huge boost in your IELTS motivation.

Today we’ll show you how to design your own group.

How to design your own IELTS mastermind group:

  • Choose people in your group carefully:  Get people in the group who are ahead of you in level and in understanding of the test. Send an invitation out on Facebook and say what your previous score was and what your target score is. If you get members of a higher level then you they will push you and motivate you to stretch your limits.
  • Know the strategies beforehand: This is not a lecture or a class. It’s a practice group. You learn your strategies, listen to lectures, and get to know what the examiner wants through video lessons before the practice group meets. Next, you come together with people in the group and you practice and put into play what you have learned. This is the best way to maximize your time and be smart about your preparation routine.
  • Have a good facilitator: Even though you are giving your peers feedback, you need someone who is facilitating the group who knows the scoring system and what the examiner is looking for. Be smart when you choose your IELTS professional. They can’t just be a native speaker. They must understand the scoring system very well. The facilitator will also make you feel comfortable and will create a positive atmosphere in the group so that everyone feels inspired and motivated.

Go and set up your own IELTS mastermind practice group now!

If you can’t set up your own then you can join our course and you will be invited to join one of our 3 Keys IELTS Power Hours every month.

Leave a comment below and let us know if you have created your own mastermind!

Typical and common answers get average scores on the IELTS Speaking test!

Do you want to stand out in the examiner’s eyes and be unique to get a higher speaking score?

Do you know how to do that?

Today we’ll show you exactly what you can do to surprise the examiner with your answers.

On the IELTS Energy podcast, we often talk about surprising the examiner, standing out from the crowd, and showing your own unique English abilities on the Speaking and Writing exams.

This is important because examiners interview many people in one day.

You want to make them notice you and think, “Hey, wow, this student is interesting and different!”

The most common band score among candidates is a 6, and, if this is what you are aiming for, just keep studying like every other student and you’ll probably be fine.

However, if you are looking to get a 6.5 or higher, you need to show the examiner that you have special English abilities, and that you are of a higher level than other students.

To stand out from the other students and impress the examiner, try these strategies:

#1) Don’t give the same answers as everyone else from your culture/country.

We recently did an episode about this, and gave many additional example answers in addition to those provided below.

The strategy here is to not blend in with the crowd- stand out!

For example, if the examiner says, “What is your favorite sport?” and I don’t want to sound like every other American, I could say:

You think I’ll say American football or basketball, but it’s actually soccer.

 You’re expecting me to say American football or basketball, but it’s actually soccer.

I know a lot of people from my country love American football and basketball, but I actually love soccer

#2) Use some words or phrases that native speakers use.

Slang, for example, is not taught in most textbooks or IELTS classes, so other candidates will not be able to use it.

In order to get a high vocabulary score, you must show the examiner that you have range, using informal and formal words and phrases.

For example, if the examiner says, “Who is your favorite famous person?”

I could say:

Oh, goodness, that’s a tough one.

My mind goes blank sometimes when I’m put on the spot, even with easy questions!

Well, right now, Amy Schumer is my number one celebrity.

Her comedy is so on point and honest. She’s not afraid to stand up for her opinions.

#3) Provide support for your answers with news items you heard on the radio or read in the newspaper.

We talk sometimes about creating a “culture of thinking.”

We use this phrase to describe a society who reads and/or listens to the news about current events, both national and international.

By reading an English-language newspaper at least once a week, you will have tons of interesting ideas to use on the Speaking and Writing exams.

Plus, you will increase your vocabulary knowledge, and more quickly understand a wide a variety of topics that come up on the Listening and Reading tests.

For example, if the Writing Task 2 question asks me to talk about people who believe in global warming and people who don’t believe in global warming, I could say:

Traditionally, it has been a more conservative stance to claim that global warming and climate change was a false assertion of only a minority of scientists.

However, recently, the Pope, leader of one of the most conservative and enormous organizations in the world, the Catholic Church, asked his followers to make efforts to curb the impending environmental catastrophe.

In fact, NPR broadcast the Pope’s speech to Congress, where he addressed issues such as climate change as shocked the world.

To sum up, in order to increase your chances of gaining the highest score possible on the IELTS Speaking and Writing exams, show that you are unique from other students.

Impress the examiner by being different and get your target score!


Discussing surprises on IELTS

You may also be asked to talk about surprises on IELTS, and you need high level vocabulary for this!

In this video, Aubrey shares high-level vocabulary for talking about surprises.

Synonyms for surprised:

  • Dumbfounded
  • Astounded
  • Awestruck
  • Flabbergasted

Synonyms for sneaky:

  • Stealthy
  • Furtive

Idioms for making someone feel special:

  • On cloud nine
  • Feel like a million dollars

Watch the video now!

Have you given typical answers or have you surprised the examiner before?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Sometimes you’ll get questions about the environments on the IELTS Exam.

The questions might come on the Speaking test or on the Writing test or there may be a passage about it in the Reading test.

How can you prepare for these questions?

Make sure you know some great vocabulary words that are related to the environment.

Today we’ll show you the words you need to know to get your 7 or higher when it comes to questions about the environment.

Movies to watch:

  • Erin Brokovich: She is an environmental activist and she changed the legislation in a small town and supported people in the town who were being made sick because of corporate pollution. This movie is inspiring and you could bring this into Speaking Part 3.
  • Food, Inc,: This movie highlights the issue of food production in the US. They explore Genetically Modified Food and how it’s affecting our economy and our health. If you watch this movie and look into the topic more you will have a great answer if you get a question about the environment in Speaking Part 3.

Terms to use on the exam:

  • Farmer’s Market: An open-air market where farmers come directly to the city to sell what they have grown on the farm. They sell “locally grown” food.
  • Environmental activist: Someone who is fighting to bring about change when it comes to the environment.
  • Fracking: A new technique that is being used in parts of the United States. They drill deep into the rock using a liquid pressurized tube. Please go here to learn more.
  • Carbon footprint: This is how much pollution you are personally responsible for. Riding a bike or taking public transportation both reduce your carbon footprint. There are a lot of places on the Speaking test where you could use this term.
  • Throw- away culture: As consumers we throw things away after using them once. This creates more pollution and waste in the environment.

What other terms do you know that focus on the environment?

Let us know in the comments below.

Michelle just got married!

Have you ever attended a wedding in the United States?

If you do attend an American wedding someday, there are 5 things that you should keep in mind to have a successful experience!

5 Things to Remember if You Attend an American Wedding:

  • Make small talk: You will meet a lot of new people at the wedding. You may or may not be sitting with people that you know. You need to introduce yourself while you are sitting and eating or waiting for the ceremony to start. Try this phrase:
    • “How do you know the bride/groom”?


  • Know that the bride and groom are busy: Don’t be offended if the bride and groom don’t have much time to talk with you. They have a lot going on. They have to greet everyone. You can briefly congratulate them but don’t feel bad if they have to rush off.


  • Pay attention to the dress code: Usually weddings in the US are formal. If you’re not sure what to wear you can reach out to someone in the family of the bride. On the wedding invitation they state the dress code. “Black tie” is the most formal kind of event. A man would wear a tuxedo. A woman would wear a long gown. If the attire is “Black tie optional” then the formal wear is not required, a woman could wear a cocktail dress. If you are a woman don’t wear white.


  • Place the gift in the right place: When you enter there will be a gift table or there will be a box where you can put your gift. If you don’t see a table or a box then you should ask someone in the bridal party. Don’t walk up to the bride and give her the gift directly. There will not be an opportunity to open gifts with the bridal party. They will open it later.


  • Enjoy yourself! A wedding is a special and happy occasion. Get up and dance. Let your hair down. Don’t be too stiff. Use it as another chance to connect with someone. Practice your English. It’s such a cool experience to go to a wedding in another country.


Have you been to an American wedding?

How did it go?

What happened? 

Tell us a story about your experiences.

Do you want to make your English pronunciation more natural?

Our guest today is Shellye Thomas.

Shellye is a classically trained singer and an English pronunciation coach.

How to pronounce clearly in English:

  • Carry your line: When we speak we don’t use abrupt stops between the words. Carry the air through the whole sentence. Start at the beginning of the sentence and breathe at the end of the thought. Connect all of the words. Keep it flowing especially when you use consonants such as the “F” sound.
  • Get good content to emulate and open your vowel sounds: Vowel sounds are the most important sounds in English. Make sure you stay open with these sounds.  Get a podcast where you hear a native accent. Listen to one sentence and the try to mirror what you hear. You can also use TV shows or movies.
  • Use a song: This is not only a great way to learn pronunciation but also to learn the language and new vocabulary words. Follow your interest to get the right song for you. Keep the air going throughout the thought when you emulate the

Remember there is nothing wrong with having an accent.

You just want people to understand you.

American people love hearing accents but if you open your vowel sounds and carry your line people will be able to understand you better.


Shellye’s Bio:

Shellye is a classically trained singer with a minor in theater.  She loves to work with people on their accents and help them be effective with their English. 
She feels that English is very much like singing and follows the same basic principles.  Shellye also has 25 years of high level corporate experience which she finds beneficial when working with her business professionals. 
She also loves to work with people to change their syntax in writing and conversation.  She’s fun loving and enjoys every minute she spends with her students. 
If you’d like more information on how you can schedule some time with Shellye, please email her at EnglishwithShellye@gmail.com
She has also started a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Englishwithshellye/
Be sure to check out her page, it’s new, but information will be added soon and you can post your questions to her page and we can all learn together. 

One listener asked us how to use the word “figure” so today we’ll show you how to use it in real English conversations.

Our listener said that he was confused about all of the different ways to use this word.

Today we’ll show you five of the most common ways to use it.


5 Ways to use “figure”:

#1) I figure- I think, I assume

#2) To figure out- To seek out and find information,

#3) To figure in- To account for, to consider something in an equation

#4) Your figure- Your body, your shape

#5) The figures- The numbers

#6) Go figure- It’s obvious, expected


Listen to the episode to see examples of how each phrase is used in a real English conversation.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll find out how to be the highest scoring IELTS candidate EVER!

And you’ll find out how to exaggerate on the IELTS Speaking test and why that will help your score.

Native speakers exaggerate all of the time, especially Americans.

We did an episode about American optimism last year.

Why does exaggerating make your score go up?

When you exaggerate you say interesting things.

You use language that you didn’t learn in a textbook.

You also show feeling in your voice when you exaggerate and that will help your pronunciation score.

You sound enthusiastic and positive which helps your score!

How to exaggerate:

  • “Ever”: “I had the most delicious cup of coffee ever!
  • “In the whole world”: “The restaurant by my house has the best tacos in the whole world”
  • “In the history of ____”:  “That was the most difficult cycling class in the history of all cycling classes.”
  • “Of all time”: “Life Alive is the best restaurant of all time.”
  • “Super”/”totally”/”absolutely”: “My apartment is super close to the university. It’s super small but I totally love it. It’s absolutely the best apartment ever.”

How do you plan to use exaggeration on your IELTS Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you know how to confirm your plans if you have a meeting or an appointment set up in English?

Today you’ll find out exactly how to do it.

It’s great to confirm plans when it’s about a business meeting or a professional appointment when the details are up in the air.

When it comes to your social life it may be less important.

Find out how to do it today.

How to confirm your plans:

  • To touch base: “I wanted to touch base with you and check and see if we’re still on for Friday at 8pm at the Red Sox game?”
  • To check in: “I wanted to check in. Can you still meet tomorrow morning for coffee?”
  • To check and make sure: “I called to check and make sure you can make it to our meeting on Tuesday”
  • To confirm: “I just wanted to confirm our business lunch for 1 pm at the Four Seasons.”
  • To be sure we’re still on: “I’d like to be sure we’re still on for this weekend.”

What happens if you want to change the plans at the last minute when someone tries to confirm with you?

Listen to this episode on how to change plans.

Any questions from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you have tons of IELTS questions?

Today we’ll give you 5 answers to your 5 super common IELTS questions!

We’ll give you all of the information you need to get to your target score.

Question #1) What should I do if I need a 7 but I can only get a 5? 

Answer: You need to invest in a course. It’s simple. When you invest in a step-by-step system you will not waste your time. You will get the strategies that you need.

Start with the 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher.

Question #2) What should I do if I don’t have time to proofread?

Answer: You must have a strategy for writing that allows time for proofreading.  It should be built into your routine when you do test practice and exercises. Two weeks before the exam you need to start practicing under test conditions and this would include proofreading your essays. Make sure you have a good IELTS professional to show you how to break down your time on the test.

Question #3) Which test is easier- the Academic or the General Exam?

Answer: Look at your goals. What are the requirements for the goals? For immigration you probably need the General Exam and for education you probably need the Academic Exam. The Academic Exam is harder than the General. The Reading test is harder. The Writing Task 1 question is different. Don’t waste your time thinking about which one is harder. Choose one. Commit to it. Learn a strategy system. Pass the test and move on.

Question #4) Do I need to answer all questions on the card in IELTS Speaking Part 2?

Answer: No! You don’t have to answer those questions. The bullet points on the card don’t need to be answered. They are there to provide ideas. It won’t factor into your grade if you ignore the questions on the note card. Did your teacher tell you something different? If so, this teacher does not know IELTS. We recommend you stop working with them.

Question #5) On the morning of the test I feel nervous. What can I do?

Answer: You need some relaxation strategies to help you. Plan for this ahead of time. In our course we created a Test Day Plan that tells you what to do to release the anxiety right before the Speaking test. You need to plan ahead of time so that you know what to do when you are in this situation.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Have you ever heard a Boston accent? You will today!

Today you’ll hear a real Boston accent and you’ll get 3 clues to know for sure that you are speaking to a Bostonian.

The Boston accent is linked to our history.

In 1621 Boston was settled by British people who came from 25 miles southwest of London and for 15o years  Boston was a very British city.

The accent has changed from British but you will see the similarities to the British accent if you listen closely.


How to know you are speaking to a Bostonian:

  • They drop their R’s: If someone says “Wow, that’s a wicked “bummah” (instead of bummer) then you know they are from Boston. Other examples of dropping the R are: “Pahk the cah in the Hahvad Yahd” (instead of Park the car in the Harvard Yard).
    • ** Bonus! They use the word “wicked”: This term can mean that something is incredibly good or it can be added to show that something is extreme. For example, a Bostonian might say that “it’s wicked cold” and not just “it’s cold” which means that it’s extremely cold.
  • They say “all set?”: When they say this they are asking you if you are ok or if you need any help. This might be used at a restaurant. The waiter might ask, “all set?” to ask if you need anything else?
  • They say “Grinda” (Grinder): This is a large sandwich that contains meat and vegetables. In other parts of the US we might say ” a sub sandwich” or just “a sandwich.”


Do you want to watch some movies to hear more of the Boston accent?

  • Good Will Hunting
  • The Town
  • The Departed


Languages marks us!

When we hear someone we make assumptions about where people are from and we may have certain stereotypes.

Diana has had a few challenges where she has tried to order food using the Boston accent but people couldn’t understand what she said.

It can be frustrating when people don’t understand what you are trying to say, even when you have been in this city your whole life.


Diana’s Bio:

Diana Lynch is an ESL writing instructor and has been teaching for the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University for the past five years. 

Diana has taught both graduate ESL writing classes and undergraduate classes and continues to research and write about composition and culture and the challenges faced by international students within the university.

She holds a Master’s Degree from Tufts University in Educational Studies.

When Diana is not teaching or researching she can be found tending her garden, writing short stories, and cooking for friends.

She lives in Cambridge, MA.


What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below!

Are you wondering how to choose an IELTS course?

Today we’ll give you our top 6 tips for choosing a great course that will help you get to your goal!

#1) Think about your priorities:  What is important to you? What do you need? What are you looking for? Do you want to save money? Are you willing to spend more money to get quality? Are you willing to drive across your city to a school? Do you have time to do homework? If traffic is terrible in your city then consider an online course.

#2) Consider both online and offline options: The possibilities with online learning are enormous. The goal of an online course is usually to save your time and the goal of an offline course is to fill your time. Which makes more sense?  A teacher in an in-person course might waste your time. They may fill the time with activities that aren’t related to the test because they have teaching hours to fill. We like the fact that online courses give you control over the content. You can go at your own pace. You can listen to a lecture more than once to make sure you understand it. It’s important to know yourself. If you study online there is more responsibility so make sure that you are self motivated and committed to your course if you choose the online option.

#3) Find a clear study system with simple steps to follow:

  • Strategies: You must have clear and simple strategies to approach the test.
  • Step by step plan: The course should give you a step-by-step plan. It should be organized into the sections of the test. The writing module should be dense. You need a lot of skills for that part of the test and it should have examples for all of the different types of writing questions. If you rely only on free materials you will not get this step-by-step strategy system and you will get on the wrong track. When you invest in a course, you are investing in a clear system.
  • Created by an IELTS specialist: Make sure the people who create the course know the test.  There are a lot of people out there who say they know IELTS but they don’t. They can’t know IELTS if they also know TOEFL, TOEIC, etc. You need an IELTS specialist.  IELTS is complicated. The teacher needs to know strategies, timing, what the examiner is looking for. There is a lot to know before you can teach it. Don’t hire the wrong teacher. It will be reflected in your score.
  • Balanced practice: Be willing to spend money and invest in a good course that offers balanced practice. This means that the course should assign you work that helps you build your general English as well as your test strategies and knowledge.
  • Daily learning plan: The course should tell you exactly what to do each day to get the practice and preparation that you need.

#4) The course should have documented results or a guarantee: Do they stand behind their material by offering a score increase guarantee if you do all of the work? Are there testimonials of people who have taken the course before and have achieved their target score? Look for social proof! Talk to people who have taken it.

#5) Make sure there is a community of test takers: This can be online or offline. For an online course it’s great to have a private Facebook group where you can ask questions, share your target score, and get support from other test takers. Be careful with the large textbook publishers who put their courses online. They aren’t adding the extras that you need when you are online like the community. In many cases they are just taking their textbook content and putting it online. They are selling you the download without much support.

#6) Make sure there is good support: Some of the bigger names are test- taking factories. If you email someone for support you won’t talk to a teacher. You will talk to a customer service person who won’t give you a personalized answer and the person will not know IELTS. They will just refer you back to a part of the course. Is there someone you can go to personally and ask for advice. Don’t get fooled by the big brand names! They don’t always offer the support that you need.

What courses are you currently considering?

What questions do you have about our tips today?

Beware of the Over-prepare! Here is a story of a student who got on the wrong track!

Once upon a time, there was student.

This student wanted desperately to get a 7.5 on the IELTS exam.

In fact, this student, let’s call him Biff, was a quite high-level English student, having completed every level in the local language school.

Any teacher who spoke with Biff was sure he was at the upper-intermediate to advanced level in his English abilities.

Biff had big dreams.

He wanted to study marketing in a respected university in England, then take his degree back to his home country.

With these skills, knowledge of Western culture and business practices, as well as being fluent in English, he would definitely land a dream job, making his parents and future wife proud.

He would also be able to provide an enviable life for his future wife and children.

However, in order to achieve these dreams, Biff needed, first, to pass the IELTS exam with at least an overall band score of 7.

Of course, Biff is an overachiever by nature, so he is aiming for a 7.5.

Seeing as Biff is already confident in his English ability, he decides that all he really needs is test practice.

So, he goes to a bookstore and purchases 10 test preparation books.

Actually, these books are not really test preparation, as they only have sample tests and no tips or strategies.

Biff works through the first couple books, and is pretty happy with his results.

On the reading and listening portions, he is consistently getting at least 34 out of 40 answers correct.

He decides to just go for the exam.

So, he pays his fees and takes the test.

Two weeks later, he gets his scores: Writing 6, Speaking 7, Reading 6.5, Listening 6.

“What!” he thinks.

How is this possible?

Biff decides he needs to practice more.

So, he goes through all 10 books, many times.

He does at least 2 full tests a day.

After a week or so, he finds that his scores are actually going down!

He is now only getting 25-30 out of 40.

But, how is that possible?

He’s practicing so much!

Shouldn’t he improve?!

What is Biff doing wrong?

He is not approaching his preparation correctly.

It doesn’t matter what level of English you have, or how advanced you think you are.

If you do too much test practice, your scores will go down.

I’ve seen it a million times!

What you must have, in order to get the score you need on IELTS and, ultimately, achieve your dreams, is a BALANCED IELTS study plan.

You must work on your weaknesses, maintain confidence in your strengths, and work on you testing skills AND your overall English ability.

In our course, 3 Keys IELTS Success System, we provide you with a 30 day and a 60 day study plan.

For 5-6 days a week, you are given one activity that improves your testing skills, along with one activity that improves your overall English.

Every task and activity in this course is aimed at improving your testing confidence and your English ability.

The modules provide simple strategies for even the most difficult parts of the test, such as answering Y/N/NG questions, and also give you the motivation you need to work hard and keep increasing your testing and language skills.

So, don’t be like Biff!

Don’t over-prepare on one side, and actually make your scores decrease.

Improve your scores AND your English ability with a balanced study plan and a solid course.

Have you prepared for IELTS like Biff?

Let us know in the comments!

How are you doing it differently now?

Find out how to score a 9 with these sample Part 3 IELTS Speaking test answers.

Today Lindsay and Jessica will demonstrate great ways to answer common speaking questions using idioms, expressions, interesting vocabulary, and great intonation.

Q: What is your opinion on the way that languages are taught in schools today?

Listen to the episode at 4:00 to hear the sample response.

In this example Jessica weighed two different sides of the topic, gave details, and was specific.

She also gave strong opinions which is important for a high score on IELTS Speaking Part 3.

Q: Why do you think different cultures have different table manners?

Listen to the example at 6:30.

In this example Lindsay used adjectives such as “striking” and “fascinating.”

She gave a personal example which is a great way to answer Speaking Part 3 questions.

Q: How are eating habits now different from eating habits in your country in the past.

Listen to her example at 8:00

In this example Jessica told a personal story and compared two examples.

Q: Is water pollution a problem in your country?

Listen to the sample response at 10:00

Lindsay used idioms such as “sick as a dog.” You need to find a way to insert idioms in this part of the Speaking test.

One thing to remember: Slow down when you respond to Speaking Part 3 questions so that you can include idioms and expressions that might not come to your mind immediately.

There is nothing wrong with a few seconds of silence.

What are your questions from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you making this huge mistake when you ask for directions in English?

Stop making this mistake now!

What’s the mistake?

Many English learners approach English speakers and ask, “Charles River?” or “Brooklyn Bridge?”

It is lazy and can sound rude when you just use the name of your destination as your question.

You need to add more details and make your questions a bit more nuanced in order to come off as polite and friendly.

In today’s episode we’ll show you some better ways to ask for directions in English.

Here are some better ways to ask directions in English:

  • “Hi where is the Charles River?”
  • “How do I get to the Charles River?”
  • “What’s the best way to get to the Charles River?”
  • “Hi is the Charles River nearby?”


Leave us your sample sentences in the comments!

Ask us how to get somewhere and practice.

What should you do after you get your IELTS score?

What should you do if the scores you get are not as high as you wanted?

Today find out what to do and what NOT to do with Lindsay and Jessica.

We DO NOT recommend asking for a re-score if you aren’t happy with your score? Why? It costs a lot of money. You will probably not see a score change. Instead of asking for a re-score, the smarter thing to do is to spend that money on a course and use it to learn strategies that will guarantee you a better score next time.

Also if you didn’t get your target score, don’t waste your time feeling bad.

Most people don’t get the score they need the first time.

Focus on the positives. Maybe you got a 6.5 in Listening and 5 in Writing. So, your Listening is strong. Now you need to focus on Writing.

Figure out what was missing in your preparation before the test.

You could have done something differently to get a better score.

Don’t use the same study schedule and study activities again.

Change your study plan.

Be honest with yourself. Did you put in as much as effort as you should have in your daily study plan?

If you didn’t do enough, add on some extra time to your study schedule before your next exam.

Remember, you can’t teach yourself what you don’t know.

Find an IELTS professional who can tell you exactly what the examiner wants.

The professional or the course should be able to teach you solid strategies for the exam.

Don’t only use free content. If the content is free then there is probably a reason for that. It might not be the best content.

Make sure you have a clearly mapped out study plan.

You should know exactly what to do every single day to improve not only your testing skills but also your general English.

Also don’t be afraid to leave the classroom.

You don’t need to study in a traditional IELTS classroom.

Try an online IELTS course.

How are you going to change your strategy if you don’t get your target score the first time?

Let us know in the comments below.

How do you describe someone who is ambitious in English?

This summer and fall we have been teaching you how to go deeper when you describe personality.

We showed you how to describe someone who is an extrovert or introvert in English.

We also showed you how to describe a mean person in English.

Today we’ll show you four ways to talk about someone who has goals and dreams in English.

Someone who is ambitious:

  • Driven: Something is driving the person. Something is pushing them forward.
  • Motivated:
  • Goal oriented:
  • Hard working:
  • Determined: To stick to your guns, to keep following and moving towards your goal.


Someone who is not ambitious:

  • Lazy
  • A slacker
  • Passive
  • Lost


Now describe yourself or your friends and family members in the comments.

Who do you know who is motivated, determined, or goal oriented?

Your biggest IELTS worry will be solved today!

Do you worry that your mind will go blank on the IELTS Speaking test?

Are you afraid that the examiner will ask you a question and you will have no idea what to say?

Are you concerned that this will bring down your speaking score and your overall IELTS score?

Don’t let this happen to you!

Don’t worry!

We are here to help.

Today we’ll show you the best technique for what to do if your mind goes blank and how to use this technique to get your 7 or higher on the IELTS.

**Click the audio player above to meet Lindsay and Jessica and to listen to this episode!

Get the 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS!

Are you confused about where to start and how to prepare?

Get our 7 step checklist and make it easy!

Click here to get it now

Why does your mind go blank?

You are nervous.

You are anxious.

You are analyzing your answers while you are speaking then you hit a wall and you can’t be spontaneous.

You can no longer be confident.

Here is the strategy to use when your mind goes blank:

The problem is that you don’t know which direction to go in to think of ideas.

Instead of getting stuck there you should go straight to your personal examples.

Talk about yourself.

Tell your story and how it relates to the question.

If you practice this enough and get good at this strategy it will definitely help increase your score on the test.

Steps to use this strategy:

  • Step 2: Go straight to a personal story or something that has happened in your life. Tell what happened in your life, give your point of view, and add details. You can also add idioms, expressions, and interesting vocabulary here. It’s OK if you start by stumbling as long as you go straight into your personal experience quickly.

 If this happens to you then you need one direction to go into right away.

Start immediately talking about yourself with personal examples so that you don’t waste any time.

Go straight to your own life examples.

It’s easy to talk about yourself and it will increase your fluency instantly for a 7 or higher on Speaking. “

-Jessica Beck, IELTS Professional at All Ears English

Example #1:

Question: Why do we need role models?

Answer:In my personal experience we need role models because there are so many times when we don’t know which direction to take.

Personally, my dad is a great role model because he is also an entrepreneur and he has spent his life building up a successful business.

His example has helped me take my own direction in life. That’s the reason I think it’s important to have good role models.”

Key phrases from this example:

  • “In my personal experience…”
  • “Personally,…”

Example #2:

Question: How have shopping habits changed over recent years?

Answer: “Oh that’s a good question. Wow. Well, if I use myself as an example, I used to do all of my shopping in traditional stores.

I guess that’s true for most people in the world but these days I have bought an Amazon Prime membership and that’s a huge motivation for me to save time.

I spend two minutes, go on Amazon, buy something awesome, and it’s shipped to my house two days later so I’d say that’s how shopping habits have changed.”

Key phrases in this example:

  • “If I use myself as an example…”
  • “I used to…”

Example #3

Question: In your country why do people watch so much television?

Answer: “Oh that’s a good question. Well, in my opinion, the reason that people watch so much television is that they have a passive attitude.

So when I was a teenager, I used to watch a lot of TV.

I watched 90210.

That was a classic and a bunch of other shows that put garbage into my head. I just wanted to sit back and receive the ideas.

I think that’s the reason that people are watching a lot of TV.

They are lazy, not just in the physical sense but in the intellectual sense.”

Key phrases in this example:

  • “Well, in my opinion…”
  • “So when I was a teenager…”

Example #4:

Question: Do you think the types of sports that are popular will change in the future?

Answer: “Wow, that’s tough. I’m gonna say yeah. Just take my city, for example. If you look, I think in general, say, even five years ago, a lot of people in Portland were all about basketball.

I see a big change in the types of sports that people are into and passionate about. Soccer is becoming huge. Even women’s soccer.

After the women’s world cup our professional women’s team sold out every game. That would have been unthinkable last year.

I’m going to say more people are going to support women’s sports.”

Key phrases in this example:

  • “I’m going to say yeah…”
  • “Just take my city, for example…”
  • “I see a big change in….”

Lindsay McMahon IELTS Energy Co-host, All Ears English“The examiner will note the change in your voice when you talk about your personal stories.

Your voice will become relaxed, fluid, and loose.

You will sound more like a native speaker.

This will cause the examiner to give you a higher score in pronunciation and general fluency.”

-Lindsay McMahon, Co-host of IELTS Energy Podcast

What changes in your voice when you use personal examples?

The examiner will notice a change in the flow of your voice if you use personal stories, experiences, and examples.

You will become more relaxed and confident and loose.

You will feel more free to add details without worrying that you will make a mistake.

It will sound like you are just having coffee with a friend.

How can you practice this?

Get used to talking about your personal stories, experiences, and opinions out in the world and at social events.

Be confident that your life is interesting enough to share.

Open up about yourself and practice this with people you meet.

Have you used this strategy on your IELTS exam yet?

Let us know in the comments below.

What other questions do you have about IELTS?

Write your comments!

What should you say when you’re unsure of your plans in English?

Today we’ll show you one native English phrase to express your uncertainty about your social life and your plans.

When you aren’t sure what’s going to happen you can say that your plans are “up in the air.”

Learn more by listening to the episode.


native English teachersAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Sample sentences:

  • “My plans with my friend were up in the air until he actually arrived in Boston.”
  • “With the wedding everything was up in the air so I couldn’t make plans to hang out with my good friends.”
  • “Things were up in the air with my plans and unfortunately they fell through.”
  • “Next summer is still up in the air. I have a loose vision of what I want to do. It’s going to be a commitment to make the choice.”
  • “Is anything still up in the air with your wedding?”


Practice this phrase in the comments below!

Did you know that using idioms can move your IELTS Speaking score form good to great!

In today’s episode find out exactly how to do it and what idioms to use.

Are you worried that the examiner will use idioms in his or her questions?

Don’t worry about this.

The examiner will not use idioms.

However, you should use idioms in your answer.

Use interesting idioms to get a higher score on speaking!

Listen to this episode to know what to do if you don’t understand the examiner’s questions.

Here are five idioms you can use to express your opinion about things that are good:

#1) “Out of this world”

  • “Have you seen any good movies lately?”
  • “Yes I saw a great movie. It was out of this world.”

This can also be used to talk about food. For example, “My dessert was out of this world.”

#2) “The most incredible (thing) ever!”


“This is the most incredible apartment ever!”

#3) “It’s one in a million.”

Out of a million people, this person is the best.


“My favorite soccer player is Renaldo. He is one in a million.”

#4) “I couldn’t be happier with (thing)”


“I couldn’t be happier with my neighborhood.”

#5) “It is mind-blowing.”


“The ideas in this book are mind-blowing.”

“I just attended a mind-blowing TED Talk.”

These idioms exaggerate your point.

It’s a good idea to exaggerate because it puts more feeling into your tone of voice.

This will get you a higher pronunciation score.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you wondering what your goals are and what you should be aiming for on IELTS Speaking Part 2?

Today find out exactly what the examiner will be listening for on this part of the exam.

In Part 2 of the IELTS Speaking exam, the examiner will give you directions, telling you that you can make notes for one minute, and that you should speak for one to two minutes.

They will then hand you a piece of paper and a pencil for notes, and a booklet.

The booklet will be open to a specific page, and there is a card printed on the page.

The card looks like this:

Describe your favorite place to exercise.

You should say:

  • where it is
  • what it looks like
  • what you do there

and explain why you like it.

This is the topic you must speak about, and you cannot turn the page or choose another card.

The phrase at the top of the card tells you to describe something, usually a person, place, object, event or experience.

The bullet points underneath give you ideas of what to say.

**You DO NOT have to talk about the bullet points in your Part 2 speech.

These phrases are only there to help you, the candidate, be able to talk for the whole two minutes.

Many students are surprised when they hear that the bullet point questions are not important, but it’s true!

In fact, many examiners do not even look at this part of the card, because these questions have nothing to do with your grade.

The examiners have a lot to think about while they listen to you talk, and these questions are not important.

So, here is what the examiner is listening for in Speaking Part 2:

  • Fluency and Coherence: Although the examiner tells you to speak for one to two minutes, you must speak for the whole two minutes to score highly in this category. This is the fluency part of the grade. Another factor of fluency is not having a lot of pauses, or fillers. Fillers are words such as, “uh, um, like, yeah, you know.” The coherence grade is based on how well your ideas are organized, and how many linking words you use. That is why, if you can, telling a story in Speaking Part 2 is a good idea. Stories are easily and clearly organized, using time linking words, and they make it easy to keep talking for the whole two minutes.
  • Vocabulary: Seeing as this is still not a formal, academic topic, you are not expected to produce these kinds of words. The examiner is listening for interesting words and phrases that are less common among students. These are words that you probably did not learn in your English textbook; rather, these are words and phrases that you picked up from TV, movies, or native-speaker friends. For example, “My closest friend in the world is Megan, and, honestly, I can’t imagine not having her in my life. I’ll tell you about her personality first. She is super sweet, and she would give anyone the shirt off her back if they asked….”
  • Grammar: Many candidates are nervous about their grammar, because it is not perfect. Well, guess what- it doesn’t have to be! In fact, all the way up to band score 8, you are expected to have some errors that stick around. Having said that, you cannot have loads and loads of mistakes. Pay attention to improving your accuracy in the obvious areas, such as verb tense and singular/plural nouns. Those are mistakes that the examiner will notice, and you can improve these errors on your own by recording yourself and paying attention to these specific points. Other than this, the examiner is listening for varied sentence structure. Try to use more relative clauses (which, that, who, when, where clauses) and other types of dependent clauses (because, so, although, etc.). Listen to this episode about our grammar philosophy for IELTS.
  • Pronunciation: To score well in this category, you must put emotion in your voice. This is your chance to show some personality. The examiner wants to hear intonation in your voice, or your voice going up and down, and stress, or emphasis on important words. For example:

↗                 ↗

I absolutely love my best friend. She’s amazing!

Now you know what your goals are for IELTS Speaking Part 2.

Follow the guidelines above, stick to a clear strategy system, and you will reach your target score.

Your path is clear! Now you just have to work hard and put in the required time.

We think you can do it!

Leave us a comment below.

What questions do you have from this article?

There are traps on the IELTS Listening test!

These traps will lower your score!

But don’t worry.

We’ll show you how to identify them and how to avoid them in today’s episode.

Today we’ll show you the 5 things that could hurt your score on the Listening test.

Top 5 IELTS Listening Traps:

Trap #1) Trying to figure out your score while you are taking the test: If you are doing this then you are not paying attention to the listening and you are not identifying key words, listening for them, and listening for the answer. If you use too much mental space trying to calculate your score you will lose points! Don’t do it.

Trap #2) Writing your answer and second guessing yourself: Don’t doubt your answer. Go with your first thoughts. If you write an answer and then go back and change it then it’s probably going to be wrong. If you do this you will miss the next answer. The test doesn’t stop for you. You will lose points if you do this. If you MUST change your answer, you will have time to change it later.

Trap #3) Not following the test instructions and the strategies: You are not smarter than the test. The test will tell you exactly what to do. Follow the steps. Some teachers have different advice here. Some teachers tell you to use the answer checking time to look ahead at the next group of questions. We don’t believe that you should skip ahead and do this. You need the time to check your answers. You will be able to catch spelling, grammar, and logic mistakes.

Trap #4) Taking notes while you’re listening: IELTS is not TOEFL. On TOEFL you take notes but on IELTS you don’t. You do not have the time. If you take notes you will be missing the next answers. Do not take notes. Make sure you work with an IELTS professional who will give you the right advice on this.

Trap #5) Stressing out because you don’t understand every word you hear: Even native speakers don’t understand every word that they hear in English. You just need to get the answers. IELTS won’t surround the answer with so many tough words that it’s impossible to understand. You will understand enough to get the answers. Don’t waste time stressing about this.

Try to find listening practice that you enjoy in your free time.

That will give you the confidence that you need on test day.

Have you fallen into any of these Listening traps?

Let us know in the comments below. What will you do differently next time?

Today find out how to start an English conversation with a friend of a friend!

Sometimes you might know someone indirectly.

Maybe you have heard something about the person but you are meeting them for the first time.

How can you start that conversation smoothly without feeling awkward?

Today we’ll show you four ways to do that in English using the information that you already have about the person.

Phrases to start the conversation:

  • “So (our common friend) tells me that you’re a (hobby, job)”
  • “Oh so I heard you’re from (home city)?”
  • “Aren’t you working as a (job)”?
  • “Oh you’re a (job) right?”

The key goal is just to get the person talking.

Say one of these phrases and let them start talking.

That is all you need to do to start that connection.

What other phrases have you used to start this type of conversation?

Let us know in the comments below.

You have a 50% chance of getting questions about your hometown on IELTS Speaking Part 1.

Today you’ll get sample answers to common speaking answers about your hometown.

The first question on IELTS Speaking Part 1 is always about:

  • Your hometown or your current city OR
  • Your work or studies

Here are some typical questions for Speaking Part 1 about your hometown:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • How long did you live there?
  • Why did you like your hometown?
  • Why did you not like your hometown?
  • Does your family still live there?
  • Where are you living now?
  • How is your current city different from where you grew up?
  • Why did you move to your current city?
  • What are the main industries in your city?

Remember, in today’s role play the person asking the question responded a bit but on the actual test the examiner will not respond with a comment.

Tell us about your hometown?

How would you answer some of these questions? Use the same level of detail, intonation, and interesting vocabulary.

Are you an adventurer?

Today we’ll show you three things you can learn from an American adventurer that we admire.

You’ll also learn three new idioms from our conversation.

In today’s episode Lindsay and Michelle talked about a boy named Chris McCandless who decided to escape everyday life to spend time in the wild, living off the land.

The story is called Into the Wild.

This move strikes a chord with many people who watch it.

Many fans of this movie look at their own life and realize that they are not spending enough time in nature.

What can we learn from Chris McCandless?

  • Know what you want, have a specific goal in mind: Stick to your guns. If you have a goal, don’t let anyone sway you away from it. Chris knew that his ultimate goal was to live on his own in Alaska. A lot of people told him not to go and that it would be too dangerous but he stuck with his goal and eventually went on his adventure.
  • Enjoy and appreciate nature: Chris spent all of his time outdoors and he loved “to be one with nature.”
  • Connect with people: Chris made incredible eye contact when he talked to people. Even though he was running away from some of his relationships with family members by going on the trip, he formed some strong relationships while he was traveling. Chris really touched people.


Idioms from today’s episode:

  • To strike a chord
  • To stick to your guns
  • To be one with nature
  • To touch people


Practice using the idioms below by creating sentences in the comments below!

In American culture it’s good to be opinionated!

It’s good to have preferences for certain things over other things because it makes people respect you.

The same is true on the IELTS.

You need to be able to express your opinion in a few different sections on the IELTS Exam.

On the Writing test you need to put your opinion in the essay on Writing Task 2.

You must show a strong “position” or opinion to get a 7 or above.

On the IELTS Speaking test it doesn’t carry the same weight of importance to share your opinion but you are asked about your opinions, especially in Speaking Part 3.

So if you are going to show strong opinions on the IELTS then you need to develop strong opinions.

We have already shown you how to create a culture of thinking for IELTS.

You need to read newspapers, watch the news, read books, and expose yourself to what is happening out in the world.

Here are some phrases to express your opinion:

  • “My frank and honest opinion is that…”- using the word “frank” is a good way to stand out because it’s less common vocabulary
  • “It is my firm belief that…” – this shows an awesome grammar structure and good vocabulary
  • “To my mind/in my mind…”
  • “I’m inclined to believe that…”

Practice opportunity!!

Go right now to iTunes and leave us a review for the podcast.

Tell us your honest opinion about our show and use these phrases! Click here to go to iTunes.

We appreciate your review.

Do you know how to use “whatever” in English?

American English speakers use it all of the time but it’s important to know how to use it in the right places and with the right tone of voice.

With this word, tone of voice is key to getting your point across accurately. Today we’ll show you how to do it.

Meanings of “whatever”:

  • To say that you are flexible and open to different options or ideas
  • To show that you are indecisive or wishy-washy
  • To show frustration or anger or resentment

“Whatever” is used a lot by teenagers. It was especially common for teenagers back in the ’90’s. Watch the movie Clueless to hear it used this way.

Sample conversations (listen to the episode to hear these):

L: I think we should get a new website look.

M: I personally like the yellow but whatever you want.

*with this response Michelle used an upward intonation to show that she was interested in the question but wasn’t sure how to respond, she was flexible.

M: Lindsay did you really get stood up last week? What are you going to do?

L: Ughh whatever. I am not going to get in touch with him. He can contact me

*In this case Lindsay’s tone of voice indicated that she was frustrated and annoyed. Listen to the episode.


Leave us a sample sentence in the comments below!

Use whatever in one of the three ways!

We want to see your examples.

Are you wondering what verb tenses and grammar forms matter on IELTS?

On our podcast, IELTS Energy, and in our course, 3 Keys IELTS Success System, we tell people to not worry so much about their grammar on IELTS.

There are many reasons for this.

First of all, if you are trying to improve your speaking and writing score, your time is better spent on improving your fluency, coherence, vocabulary and pronunciation.

These categories provide more reachable ways to make your band score jump higher.

In the category of grammar, however, it is not easy to internalize and produce new and more complex structures with few mistakes.

Many people who study English for years, and are considered fluent, still make grammar mistakes.

Native speakers still make grammar mistakes!

Having said that, there is one part of grammar that you must think about when speaking and writing.

This is verb tense.

Errors in tense and time are very noticeable to the examiner, and, if you make too many of these mistakes, it could severely impact your score.

Remember, you do not have to have perfect grammar to get a 7.

To score a 6 for grammar, you are actually allowed quite a few grammar errors, as long as you are using a variety of sentence structures.

However, if the examiner notices too many errors, your score may drop down to a 5.

With that in mind, I’m going to provide examples below of where the most common verb tenses are used on the test.

The fewer mistakes, the better!

Present Simple

This tense describes general truths, habits, and descriptions of things or events that are currently happening.

Speaking Part 1

Tell me about your apartment.

Student: “My apartment is near the university. It is quite small, but comfortable. I live there with two of my friends, and we like to throw parties there sometimes.

Speaking Part 2

Describe a person who you think is intelligent.

Student: My friend Marta is super smart. She goes to school at Harvard University, and she wants to be a doctor. It’s interesting, because I think most people as smart as Marta do not have good social skills. Marta, however, loves going out dancing and she has a lot of friends…

Writing Task 2 / Speaking Part 3

Some people think that reading comic books, or graphic novels, is only for children, and mature adults should not be wasting time on these things. What is your opinion?

Student: These days, comic books are definitely not just for kids. There actually exists a specific literary vehicle called the graphic novel that many novices mix up with comic books, but they are far from the same. Graphic novels feature many adult themes and violent scenes, and are written and drawn by some very well respected artists in their own right.

Past Simple

This tense describes actions or things that are finished in the past.

Speaking Part 1

What did you do yesterday?

Student: Yesterday, I had school, actually. So, I woke up around 8 in the morning, grabbed some coffee on my way to campus, and went to 3 classes in a row. It was pretty tiring, to be honest.

Speaking Part 2

Describe a place you went to that was really quiet.

Student: Last year, I visited Taipei with a friend. My friend, Chloe, had some meetings to go to, so I tagged along for a little vacation. One day, when Chloe was at work, I decided to go to the mountains and hike. It was incredible! The trail started right in the city, practically, and I could bike there easily from my hotel…

Writing Task 1

The graph shows the amount of students in three different majors from 2000 to 2010.

Student: In 2000, the number of students in the tech courses stood at 3,000. Then, in the next 5 years, this number rocketed to over 1 million.

Present Perfect

This tense is usually used to introduce information about a past experience. It is almost always followed by the past simple to give details about the experience.

Speaking Part 1

Do you travel often?

Student: I have traveled to over 30 countries, by myself. I went to Europe for the first time in 1998, then I traveled around India in 2001.
Remember, do not worry too much about having perfect grammar.

That is nearly impossible.

However, you should also not make basic errors, such as those with verb tense.

Do you have any questions about grammar on IELTS?

Leave us your question or practice your own sentences in the comments below.

Are you worried about multiple choice questions on the IELTS Reading test?

Today you’ll find out how to reduce stress and handle multiple choice questions when they come up on the IELTS Listening and the Reading test.

This can be stressful because you are faced with four possible answers.

You are trying to keep all of the different information in your head while you are listening to the recording or reading the passage.

A test strategy that you need here is elimination!

It’s often easier to find the wrong answer than it is to find the right answer.

Before you start listening and reading, read the question and look at the answers.

Trust your logic.

There is often one answer that is not logical, it does not make sense.

Put an “X” next to that.

This could reduce stress.

Next, don’t look for the answers.

Listen for the key words from the question.

When you hear the key words or see them in the passage, pay close attention because the answer is always next to the key words.

If you are left with a few answers, use your logic to make an educated guess about what the right answer is.

Remember, the key to using this skill on the test is to practice it as much as possible before the exam within a larger system and with well-written exercises.

These exercises should focus on specific skills and strategies and not just the test practice.

What questions do you have about multiple choice questions?

Let us know in the comments below!

A great way to connect with more people is to use natural American English expressions.

Today you’ll get four expressions that include the word “speak.”

Here are today’s expressions:

  • “Speak of the devil” When we are talking about someone and then they contact us by phone or they show up. This does not mean that the person is “the devil.” This is usually used when the person is close to you. It indicates that it’s a coincidence that the person showed up at that time.


  • “To speak ill of someone” : To say something bad about someone. This is a common expression but it’s a bit more formal. It could be used more in writing.


  • “Speaking of….”: This will help you transition in your conversations. Use this to move to the next topic when you find a common link. Our goal with English is Connection NOT Perfection. Use this phrase to change the subject from a boring topic and bring it back to getting to know someone better.


  • “Speak your mind”: To say what you think and to say it firmly and with confidence. You can also use this to invite someone to speak by saying, “Go ahead, speak your mind.”


Leave us a sample sentence.

Practice these phrases in the comments below.

Do you know how to write an awesome concluding paragraph on your IELTS Writing test?

Earlier this year we showed you how to write an introduction and how to write a body paragraph.

Today we’ll show you how to write a concluding paragraph that will get you the 7 that you need!

Your conclusion only needs to be a few sentences.

You can start it with a phrase like:

  • “In sum…”
  • “To conclude…”
  • “In summary…”

If you use a phrase like “In conclusion…” you may get a band 6 because that is a common textbook phrase.

If you try new phrases like the ones above then you’ll be likely to get a 7 because you will go beyond the textbook.

Next, give a one-sentence summary of your main ideas.

“To conclude, the government should pass a law requiring citizens to exercise to alleviate the obesity epidemic.”

Remember, don’t repeat the same words.

Learn how to paraphrase and show the examiner that you have enough vocabulary to not repeat yourself.

In the last sentence you should give your opinion about the future of this problem.

Start by saying:

  • “It is my belief that…”
  • “It is my firm belief that…”
  • “In my opinion…”

What questions do you have about writing a concluding paragraph?

In our 3 Keys IELTS Success System we go into much more detail on how to write this.

Follow the steps and get the score you need!

Time is so important, especially in American culture!

We spend a lot of time asking what time it is, talking about times for appointments, and worrying about being on time.

Since we talk about time often, today we’ll help you to avoid sounding strange when you talk about time in English.

Last week we talked about how to not sound awkward when you use numbers to talk about money, years, phone numbers, etc.

Today you’ll get four tips on how to talk about time in English.


Tip #1)

Do not say “zero” when you talk about time.

For example, you can say “It’s three-o-four” when it’s 3:04.


Tip #2)

In American culture we say “It’s three thirty” for 3:30. You could say “it’s half past three” but it’s much less common. In British English it’s common to say “half three” but we don’t say that in American English.


Tip #3)

If it’s 3:15 you can say “it’s quarter past three” but it’s a little bit old fashioned.

If it’s 2:45 you can say “It’s quarter to three” or “quarter of three.”

If it’s 3:20 you can say “It’s three twenty”


Tip #4)

We don’t use military time in the US.

When you use military time people will understand it but we don’t use it.

Instead use 10 am or 1o pm to tell the difference between the morning or the evening.


What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Ask us in the comments below.

Are you ready for the IELTS Speaking test?

You can prepare by knowing what the specific Speaking topics are and selecting two to three idioms that you will use if you get those common questions.

If you use idioms on your Speaking test you can dramatically increase your vocabulary score.

We have already shown you how to use work idioms, happiness idioms and party idioms and today we’ll show you some great idioms to use if you get a question about museums or art.

If you can throw these idioms in at the beginning in Speaking Part 1 to give an immediate positive impression and then at the end in Speaking Part 3 you will be sure to get an increased vocabulary score.

Here are 5 art/museum idioms that you can use:

  • “A work of art”: Anything that could be considered art. This can include a song, a painting, or a photograph.
  • “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”: If you think something is beautiful then it’s beautiful. You could use this to talk about something that you like that other people don’t such as a painting or a piece of clothing, etc.
  •  “To paint a picture with words”: To describe something very clearly, specifically, and directly. To help someone envision something through words.  You can use this expression to describe what a great author does in your favorite book.
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words”: If you talk about photographs that you have taken this would be a great idiom to use.
  • “A starving artist”: The idea that if you follow what you love it’s not going to be easy, especially if you are working in a creative field such as painting, photography, writing, or music. This is a romantic notion in American culture.  A “starving artist” lives a life with minimal comforts to be able to do their creative work.

Remember, on the IELTS Speaking test you need to be as specific and descriptive as you can.

Check out these articles to learn how to describe someone with integrity and how to describe someone’s temperament.

Now, practice using these idioms in a sentence and leave your sentence in the comments below.

Do you have any questions from today’s episode?

Have you visited a museum as part of your IELTS preparation?

Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

In American culture we tend to misunderstand introverts.

Find out what it really means to be introverted and find out how to get more nuanced when you describe personality types in English.

A lot of people think that introverts are just shy but research has shown that introverts are not always shy.

Introverts get their energy from being alone and extroverts get their energy from interacting with people and other forms of stimulation like music and bright lights.

Today we’ll give you a bunch of vocabulary terms that you can use to describe different personalities.

You can use these nuanced terms on the IELTS Exam for a higher score or in your everyday conversations.

Check out the vocabulary terms below!


Ways to describe extroverts:

  • Social
  • Outgoing
  • Gregarious
  • Talkative
  • The life of the party


Ways to describe introverts:

  • Shy (be careful, this does not apply to all introverts)
  • Introspective
  • Thoughtful
  • Withdrawn (this has a negative connotation)
  • Quiet


Leave us a comment!

Practice using one of these terms to describe a friend or family member.

We want to see your examples below.

Did you know that adding a tiny word to your English phrases and sentences can change your mindset?

The way we communicate can affect the way we think.

Why not focus on building a growth mindset by adding the word “yet” when you talk about goals that you haven’t quite accomplished up to this point?

Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford, discovered two types of mindsets:

  • Fixed mindset: This person thinks that intelligence or talent will create your success rather than how hard you work. They believe that your intelligence is “fixed” and it will not change. People with this kind of mindset will spend more time measuring their intelligence rather than focusing on increasing their intelligence. This person thinks that only talent causes success and effort doesn’t have much to do with it. This person believes that your future is reliant on the traits that you already have.


  • Growth mindset: These people believe that success can be built through hard work. They love to learn.  They believe they can change their future if they work hard enough. They can increase their intelligence and skills.

We talked about Carol Dweck’s research when Sarah Scala came on the show to talk about grit and resilience.


What can you do to cultivate more of a growth mindset?

You can add the word “yet” to your sentences when you talk about something that you haven’t done or don’t have.


  • “I have always wanted to travel to Australia. I haven’t made it to Australia yet.”
  • “I haven’t met the love of my life yet.”
  • “I haven’t found my language exchange partner yet”
  • “I haven’t achieved a four-hour workweek yet.”


Now leave us your phrases in the comments.

What are you working toward that you haven’t accomplished yet?

Let us know!

Today we’ll show you how to follow the directions to get the highest possible score on IELTS Writing Task 1.

All Task 1 questions look the same.

They ask you to describe what the charts says.

They ask you to summarize the information by looking at the main features and making comparisons where it’s relevant. Many students get confused by this line of instructions.

These instructions don’t tell you how to organize the information.

It’s kind of vague and this does not tell you what they are expecting.

Don’t worry! You don’t even need to pay attention to this sentence.

Instead, you need to know what the examiner wants.

You need to be writing about the key features.

Learn what they are and how to organize them.

For example, if it’s a COT (Change Over Time) graph where you are looking at population change between 2000 and 2015. You need the following:

  • Key features: What are the topics (populations)
  • Main points: Specific numbers- highest, lowest

Next you need to organize this information. You also need to use grammar structures that are more complex and interesting vocabulary.

Most people make this more complicated than it needs to be.

However, you do need to have a step by step system for organizing and writing out your essay.

You should work with a qualified IELTS teacher to practice using a solid system.

What other questions do you have about this?

Let us know in the comments section.

Do you know how to use the phrase “might as well” like a native speaker in English?

If you start using this phrase as well as others like “long story short” or “worse comes to worst” you will be able to connect with people because you will no longer sound like a textbook!

Today we’ll give you one more phrase to add to your repertoire.

The phrase “might as well” or “may as well” can be used to say that you are going to take a logical action.

Here are some examples:

  • “You might as well get to the beach now because November is coming”
  • “I’m closer to the Jersey Shore than Long Beach so I might as well go there instead.”
  • “I figured I might as well (just) go to the beach and do my work.”


Write your sample sentence in the comments section below!

Let us know if you have any questions about today’s episode.

Do you think that IELTS writing is the same as academic writing?

The two are not the same and if you work with a teacher who does not understand the differences between the two you will end up with a low Writing score.

We recently got upset when we heard that one of the students in our 3 Keys IELTS Success System  got bad advice from an IELTS teacher who disagreed with our advice that students should use interesting adverbs in their essays.

#1) All advice must be connected to the scoring system:

The problem here is that the teacher is giving the student advice according to what works on academic essays but IELTS is different from other academic essays.

The teacher is not working from the perspective of the IELTS scoring system. He or she is probably an academic writing teacher.

Every single piece of IELTS advice must be connection to the scoring system.

Ask your teacher, “How is this piece of advice going to get me a higher score?”

For example, on an academic essay you should not use “I.”

The professor generally does not want to know your opinion on something.

However, on IELTS you often need to share you opinion and argue your point of view.

If you do not do this you will get a lower score.

#2) Stick to one system, don’t confuse yourself:

Even if you do find an IELTS teacher who really understands the IELTS scoring system it’s better not to try to work with many different teachers who all use different systems.

You need to choose one system with one professional who has real experience and only follow that system.

You cannot try to follow two or three different strategy systems.

You will get confused and this will lower your score.

#3) Invest in a course and get a better chance of success:

Also, don’t rely only on free advice when it comes to IELTS.

If you invest in a course you will be much more likely to focus your time and energy on getting the maximum results for your investment.

What is your experience?

Are you working with more than one teacher and trying to follow more than one system?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you worried that you don’t have the reading skills that you need for the IELTS?

You already have all the reading skills you need to do well on the IELTS exam.

In fact, you probably employ all three skills in your daily life, even when you are not preparing for the test.

Of course, you are using these skills in your first language; nevertheless, they transfer easily to English.

In today’s article, I am going to explain what these three skills are, when you use them in your “real” life (not preparing for IELTS), and how these skills will help you on the exam.

#1) Skimming

What is it?

Skimming is reading for gist, or main idea.

This is when you read only parts of an article, essay or story to understand, in general, what it is about.

When do I use it?

You use this when you first look at a newspaper, for example.

There are so many long articles in the newspaper, and most people don’t have time to read every word of every article.

First, you read the headline and decide if it interests you or not.

Then, if you find a headline that interests you, you read the first couple sentences.

If you are still not sure of the value of the article, you may skip ahead, reading a couple sentences in the beginning, maybe the end of the article.

By doing this, you have a good overall idea of what the article is about.

Also, when you are reviewing a chapter for a test, or a sales report before an important meeting, you skim.

You reread the title, then a few sentences in the beginning, middle and end of the chapter or report.

This gives you enough information to jog your memory, bringing to mind the details and data that you read at an earlier time.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

Skimming is actually the first thing you do when faced with a passage.

As soon as the exam starts, go to Passage 1 and spend 1-1 ½ minutes skimming.

This helps you understand the overall idea of the passage, and will help you access the information and vocabulary you already know related to it.

Then, when you look at the questions, you understand what they are about and what they are asking for.

#2) Scanning

What is it?

Scanning is, actually, not reading.

Reading is slow and scanning is fast, as I like to tell my students.

Scanning is when your eyes are roaming, or wandering, over words to find specific information, such as a name or a number.

When do I use it?

We scan a lot in our daily lives.

Say, for example, you access your work schedule online.

You are not going to read every name and time carefully.

Instead, you are going to scan the document, only looking for your specific name.

Or, perhaps you are looking at a schedule for a movie theater.

You know what movie you want to see, so you scan for that title, then look carefully at the times given.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

Scanning helps us find the location of the answers in a passage.

It doesn’t tell us what exactly the answer is, but it tells us where we can look for it.

After you identify the keywords in the questions, you scan for those key words.

Use your finger or pencil to help your eyes move over each line.

The answers are always next to keywords from the question.

#3) Reading for detail

What is it?

Reading for detail is what we think of when someone says the word “reading.”

That is to say, reading for detail is when you read every word of a text carefully.

When do I use it?

Hopefully this is part of your daily life!

If it isn’t, you should incorporate it into your routine for at least 10 minutes a day.

We read for detail when we read for pleasure, or for fun, such as when we enjoy a novel, a comic book, or an interesting essay.

When we study, though, we also do this.

I think you are doing it right now!

Textbooks, practice materials, articles related to our field of study- all of these things people read word for word.

How do I use it on the IELTS exam?

This is the skill you employ after you have scanned for and found the keyword.

After you find the key word, you read the sentence containing the keyword carefully.

Then, compare it to the question.

If the answer is not there, it will be in the sentence immediately before or the sentence immediately after.
As always, with any testing skills, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Click here to learn how to become a faster reader.

What additional questions do you have about IELTS Reading?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you sound awkward when you use numbers when it comes to years, money, and phone numbers in English?

Today we’ll show you how to stop sounding awkward and start sounding natural!


  • I was born in 1981: We don’t say “I was born in one thousand, nine hundred and eighty one” instead we say “I was born in nineteen eighty one.”


  • I was born in ’81: You can shorten a year by just saying the last two numbers of any year.


  • We are in 2015: You can say “we are in twenty fifteen” or “We are in two thousand fifteen.”



  • My rent is $330: We don’t say “My rent is three hundred and thirty dollars” but instead we say “My rent is three-thirty”


  •  My coffee cost $3.24: We don’t say “my coffee cost three dollars and twenty four cents” but instead we say “my coffee cost three twenty four”


 Phone numbers:


  • 347-554-1774: Sometimes we group together the last four digits of a phone number. We also group together the first sets of 3 numbers. You could finish this number by saying “seventeen seventy four” or by saying “one seven, seven, four”


  • We say “o” rather than “zero” when zero comes in a phone number, for example 352-2301


What other questions do you have about using numbers when it comes to money, phone numbers, and years?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you under the “illusion” that you are preparing for IELTS while spending time on social media?

Today we’ll talk about how to spend your time well and use social media to your advantage to pass the IELTS!

In our 3 Keys IELTS Success System our students get to join a private Facebook group where they can ask Lindsay or Jessica any questions they want.

This is a great way to build community and get support but make no mistake- while you are in Facebook, you are not preparing for IELTS.

To really prepare for IELTS you need to be spending time learning strategies, doing test practice, and following a daily study plan.

It is fine to spend time in the Facebook group or on other IELTS-related social media sites to “blow off steam,” reduce stress, and get some support but don’t tell yourself that you are actually preparing for IELTS during that time.

Your buddies on social media cannot give you your 7.

Only the examiner can give you 7 if you show that you have built the right skills and used the right strategies.

Don’t waste your time!

Go beyond the surface level of social media to get your target score on the IELTS.

Spend your time learning strategies, practicing them in structured exercises, and doing test practice.

Let us know your questions or comments below!

Do you spend your time preparing in Facebook groups and on social media?

How is it helping or hurting your score.

Do you want to be more spontaneous when you make plans in English?

Do you want to be able to make and change plans quickly in English?

Today you’ll get some solid English phrases that you can use when your plans change.

Here are some great ways to say that your plans have changed:

  • “Oh hey, quick change of plans….”
  • “We decided to make a change actually…”
  • “I think we’re going to change it up….”

What other phrases do you know to make changes to your plans in English?

Let us know your ideas in the comments below.

Do you feel overwhelmed on the IELTS Listening Test?

It’s hard when you have to listen, read, and write all at the same time.

Do you want to feel more confident on IELTS Listening?

Today find out how to manage it all with confidence and a clear head.

To conquer this challenge you need:

#1) Test strategies: Follow the directions.

Do what they tell you to do! 

You need to know what to expect.

You will hear the introduction which will tell you what kind of situation you are going to listen to and who is going to talk.

Pay attention to this introduction!

Don’t skip ahead and look at the questions.

At this time you can open your brain box and pull up the vocabulary that you already know.

This will put you one step ahead when it comes to the Listening test.

Next you’ll have time to look at the questions. Be active. Circle key words.

Know what you are listening for- is it a name? a number? a date?

Have that information in your head when you start listening.

Next you will listen to the conversation and listen for the answers.

This part is scary but if you do the two steps that we described before this, you will reduce your anxiety and you will be ready to write down the right answers.

Next you are going to go back and check your answers when the instructions tell you to do it. Don’t forget that your first answers are usually correct!

Don’t second guess yourself.

Don’t try to ignore the instructions or outsmart the test.

#2) Test practice:

After you have done step 1 and you have gotten good at the steps and strategies, next you can do test practice.

Get a booklet of practice tests and practice under test conditions.

Don’t skip step 1 because it you don’t learn the strategies then you will never increase your score through test practice.

Actually you will hurt your score and your confidence.

#3) General listening practice:

Get great listening material such as podcasts or You Tube movies or Ted Talks.

Don’t just stick to ESL material.

Listen to material designed for native speakers.

Try to listen to at least 15 minutes of English every single day and you will get more comfortable with the sounds of native English.

What questions do you have about the Listening Test advice?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we have Jaime Miller from English Success Academy back on the show for Episode 3 in a three-part series.

A few weeks ago Jamie told us about the differences between IELTS and TOEFL Writing.

Today you’ll hear about the differences between TOEFL and IELTS when it comes to the Speaking test.

What happens on IELTS speaking?

The biggest difference between IELTS and TOEFL with speaking is that on IELTS you are talking to the examiner.

IELTS is split up into three parts.

Speaking Part 1 includes easy questions about your hobbies, your job, your family.

In Speaking Part 2 you are given a topic card and you have one minute to brainstorm then you must speak for 1- 2 minutes.

In Speaking Part 3 the questions are more difficult but they are not personal questions.

You’ll get questions about society and the world.

This requires more high-level language.

The entire test is 11-14 minutes.

Learn more about IELTS Speaking here.

What happens on TOEFL speaking?

On TOEFL students are speaking into the computer.

There are six parts on TOEFL. It starts with personal questions for the first two parts.

In the third task you look at a campus dialogue. You are at an imaginary university and you listen to a dialogue between two people debating a recent change on campus. When you respond you summarize what you understand about the change.

In the fourth task you have a short reading passage. You get a new concept to look at. It will probably be something that you are not familiar with.

The sixth task is a lecture from a professor talking about a new concept. You need to summarize what you listen to.

The entire TOEFL Speaking test takes about 20 minutes.

A few tips to remember for both exams:

  • Never try to memorize answers for the exam
  • Be sure to get balanced practice (general fluency and test strategies)
  • Follow a clear, daily study plan

TOEFL English Success Academy Jaime MillerJaime Miller creates and teaches private, customized online lessons. Learn more at jaimemiller.com.

Jaime knows why some students get TOEFL speaking scores of 26 or higher, while others are stuck with scores of 24 – and she creates customized exam study plans that get results.

What questions do you have about the differences between TOEFL Speaking and IELTS Speaking?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you drink soda?

Do you know how to ask for a soda in a restaurant in English?

Do you know the difference between “soda,” “pop,” and “soft drinks”?

Today we’ll show you what we call soda in different parts of the world and we’ll talk about some controversial laws that ban consumption of large size soda in the United States.

In 2013 New York City banned the sale of the Big Gulp, a large size for a soda at 7-11.

Read more about it here.

Is it ok for New York City to ban a large size cup for soda? What do you think?

Names for soda around the United States:

  • “Pop”: This term is used for soda in the Midwestern part of the United States.
  • “Coke”: Sometimes just the word “Coke” is used as an umbrella term meaning soda. This is used in parts of the Southern United States.
  • “Soft drink”: This is used in more upscale restaurants instead of saying “soda.”


What do you think about the New York City ban on the Big Gulp?

Let us know in the comments.

Do you want to know how to be confident on the IELTS Listening Test?

Here is the answer: Prepare!

If you ask anyone who gets that magic score of a 7 or higher on the listening test, they will tell you that they practiced listening.

They didn’t just practice the listening exam, however.

Students who understand what they hear on the exam worked hard to strengthen their overall listening ability as well, outside of textbooks and test practice.

With that in mind, here are five activities to give you confidence on the listening exam.

All they require are a computer or smartphone, paper and something to write with.

Ready to get started?

Check out these resources below!

#1) Listen to a podcast, an IELTS listening practice test, or any recording of spoken English with an audio script.

Try to write out what you hear- word for word.

You can pause it anytime to write.

Compare your notes with the audio script.

Notice any words that you didn’t understand, and listen to that part again.

#2) Close your eyes and listen to a podcast, an IELTS Listening practice test, or any recording of spoken English with an audio script.

Listen again and follow along in the audio script.

#3) Choose a video that has subtitles or closed captioning (look for a button or icon with CC on it to turn on the closed captioning subtitles). Watch it with the subtitles so you can read and listen at the same time.

Watch the same video again with NO subtitles/closed captioning.

#4) Choose a song you like. Read the lyrics online, and sing along.

Try these websites for some great ideas to get started.

#5) Choose a song you like. Try and listen and write the lyrics as you hear them. You can pause the song at anytime to write.

Compare your notes with the lyrics.

Listen to the song again and sing along.

What else should you do?

Besides these activities, you should still watch movies and TV shows whenever you like, without turning it into a listening practice activity.

Just choose something you are interested in, watch, and enjoy!

Also, when you are doing IELTS test practice, do the listening practice test a couple of times.

After you do the test the first time, circle the answer you got incorrect.

Then, check the audio script, or tape script, and find the answer that you missed.

Next, you can listen to the whole thing one more time and follow along with the answers, listening for the correct ones.

Finally, you can listen for the last time, and follow along with the audio script.

This will help you get used to the speed at which they speak and the different accents that are used on the IELTS exam.

Most practice exams come with an audio script, so use it!

On test day, just remember to follow the directions.

The IELTS exam is very well designed, so just listen to what the person on the CD tells you to do, and do it.

For example, when she/he tells you to look at the questions 1 to 5, only look at those questions.

When the person tells you to check your answers for a section, check those answers.

Do not go ahead to the next section.

Try to work in as many of these activities as you can every day, working on improving your overall listening ability for 10 to 20 minutes a day.

That’s not too much time- and the investment will pay off on test day!

Good luck and let us know in the comments if you have any questions!

Do you get confused between “take care of” and “care about” in English?

These two phrases are easy to confuse but it’s important to know the difference and start using them correctly.


To take care of:

To help someone who might be vulnerable physically or emotional.

You take care of your pets and you take care of your children.

You might also take care of your house or take care of your health. You can take care of your body or your mind.

This is an action.

We also say “take care!” as a way to say goodbye.


To care about:

This is about your feelings regarding something.

You can care about your friends without taking care of them.

You can care about the environment without taking care of it.

This is a feeling, not an action.


Listen to the episode to hear the differences between the two expressions.

Leave a sample sentence below.

In today’s episode we’ll show you how creating a vision board will help you stay focused on your IELTS goals and the life that you want after you get your target score.

Making a vision board can help you focus your goals, keep track of how you are using your time, and feel good about what you are moving toward.

What is a vision board?

It’s a physical representation of what you want your life to look like.

Use images that represent what you want to be doing in your ideal life.

Why does this matter for IELTS?

When you are preparing for IELTS you need to keep your vision board in front of you.

You know that aspects of your ideal life, such as moving to a country like Canada, will only happen if you get your target score on the IELTS.

By seeing the vision board every day it will remind you to keep working hard.

Have you created your vision board yet?

Snap a picture of it and share it on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/allearsenglish

Share your vision board with the community!

In today’s episode you will get the exact way to organize your time for IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2.

Are you worried about time management on the Writing test?

When it comes to time management, here is what you should NOT do:

DON’T skip ahead to Writing Task 2 and spend most of your time on that. Many bad IELTS teachers suggest this but the problem is that if you do this you won’t have enough time for Writing Task 1.

Instead here is what you should do: DO complete the essays in order.

Complete Writing Task 1 first because it’s shorter.

Get it out of the way and use it as a warm up.

Do what the exam tells you.

Start with Task 1.

How to manage time on Writing Task 1:

We have three steps in the writing process.

We need to plan, write, and check.

It’s good to make sure that you spend enough time planning.

Spend 2-3 minutes planning for Task 1.

Write out a solid essay and plan. Brainstorm.  You must do the planning to get a high score in task achievement and cohesion and coherence (organization).

Spend 15 minutes writing.

Spend the few remaining minutes checking your essay. You must check your work to get a high score for vocabulary and grammar.

Each of these three steps are necessary to get a high score in Writing Task 1.

How to manage time for Writing Task 2:

In IELTS Writing Task 2 spend 5 minutes brainstorming and planning. There are no bad ideas. Try to write continuously for the full five minutes.

Spend 30 minutes writing.

Leave 5 minutes to check. Look for spelling mistakes and repeated vocabulary.

When should you start timing your test practice?

Don’t prepare under test conditions until you have learned the 3-step strategies and practiced them thoroughly.

At that time you can start worrying about time management but not before then.

In the 3 Keys IELTS Success System we go into more detail about this system and exactly how to use it. Check this page and watch the video to learn more.

What questions do you have?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll find out how to begin a conversation when you are about to explain something in great detail in English.

If you use the phrase “You see,…” it will show people that you are about to explain something or go into detail.

It can also be useful when you want to defend your choices or voice your opinion in English.

Here are the three ways that you can begin your explanation:

  • “Ya (you) see, ….”
  • “Well see,….”
  • “See,….”


Here are some phrases from our conversation in the episode:

L: Why do they make the train routes so confusing in New York on the weekends?

M: Well see, they do a lot of construction on the weekends because they figure it’s the perfect time to do it. Not as many people are going to work.


M: Why are you having so many break ins in your neighborhood?

L: Ya see, it’s because there are some homeless shelters near my neighborhood and in my neighborhood there are a lot of nice homes. So people from the homeless shelters are coming up and breaking into home.


Have you used “you see” in conversations with native speakers yet?

Let us know in the comments how it goes if you try using this phrase.

You already know that using phrasal verbs on your IELTS Speaking test will push your score higher. Today we’ll show you 6 English phrasal verbs using “keep” that you can throw into your response on the Speaking test.

These phrasal verbs will set you apart in the examiner’s mind as a student who goes beyond the textbook.

We have done episodes showing you English phrasal verbs using get and idioms about sports, work, and others.

Here are the phrasal verbs with “keep” for today:

  • Keep going- to continue moving
  • Keep (it) up- to continue moving or to maintain appearances
  • Keep at (something) – continue to do something
  • Keep out – do not enter
  • Keep off- do not get on
  • Keep away- do not get close

Go to Google Images and get examples of signs so that you can remember what these phrasal verbs mean.

Listen to this episode again.

Pay attention to the questions that we ask each other.

Answer these questions yourself using these phrasal verbs with keep.

What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

Is integrity important to you?

It’s important to us!

Do you want to know how to describe someone who is honest or dishonest using more specific English vocabulary words?

By going deeper with your vocabulary words you can connect more with people and create a better description of someone.

A few weeks ago we talked about how to use specific vocabulary words to describe someone who is mean in English.

Today you’ll learn some new English vocabulary terms to describe integrity and personality.

If you are taking the IELTS exam then using specific vocabulary words on your IELTS Speaking test or your IELTS Writing test will boost your score so this episode is for you!


How to describe someone who is dishonest:

  • Manipulative: Someone who understands the human mind and tries to control your mind to control what you do in order to serve or help that person in some way.
  • Sneaky: More often used to describe someone who is young and who takes little, dishonest actions.
  • Deceptive: Someone who hides things, who leads someone in the wrong direction.


How to describe someone who is honest:

  • Trustworthy: Someone who can be trusted with a secret or who is reliable.
  • Dependable: Someone who will always show up when they are expected to show up, someone who can be expected to deliver what they promise on time.
  • Loyal: Someone who will be true in a relationship, who will not cheat. We can also use this term to refer to a dog who has been well trained.


Practice these adjectives!

Please tell us about the people in your life.

Leave your comment below.

Do you have trouble coming up with ideas for the IELTS?

If so, you are not alone!

Many students struggle with this.

Today we’ll show you how you can be more creative, come up with ideas faster, and where you get resources online to move toward these goals.

If you come from a culture where coming up with ideas is not emphasized then you can train yourself on how to do it.

The worst thing that you can do is to put up a mental block, assume that you can’t do it, and not even try.

Don’t assume that you can’t do it before you have even tried!

Start by going back to our episode on how to brainstorm and come up with details for IELTS.

Remember, you can always fall back on this framework:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Next, find some writing topic ideas!

Where can you find them?

Go to creativewritingprompts.com

This website will give you tons of creative ideas to get your ideas flowing and to base your essays on.

Go to this website, choose a topic, and just start writing.

Get a journal and grab one of these topics every day and write.

Here is another idea:

You can also check out writingforward.com

You’ll get lots of advice, angles, and tips on the task of creative writing.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t seem like it’s direct IELTS practice.

These activities are going to help you get better at brainstorming and coming up with ideas.


To get better to coming up with ideas:

– remember HOW to brainstorm (who, what, when, where, why, how)

– know where to look for brainstorming ideas (see the websites above)

– start practicing- take out your pencil and a journal

Check out our other IELTS Writing episodes here

Have you tried using these sites to improve your ability to come up with new ideas in writing?

Let us know in the comments.

In today’s episode you’ll learn how to talk about the things that you regret using a great American English idiom.

You’ll also get a few more English idioms about eyes and eyesight.

Earlier this summer we learned a few other expressions such as “long story short”  and “worse comes to worst.”

Here is today’s key expression: “Hindsight is (always) 20/20.”

What does it mean?

It’s related to the concept of eyesight.

When eyesight is 20/20 it means that we have perfect vision.

We use this when we talk about things that we regret.

When we look back on something it becomes clear that we took the wrong action and we know what the right action would have been.

However, we didn’t know it at the time and maybe we couldn’t have known it.


More idioms with “eyesight”

  • An eye-opener: Something that is shocking or sobering, something that surprises you. “Arianna Huffington had an eye-opening experience when she passed out on her desk one day due to lack of sleep.”
  •  To see eye to eye: To agree with someone, to see things the same way someone else sees them. “Do you see eye to eye with your fiance when it comes to wedding planning?”


Try using these idioms in your own sample sentences.

We want to see your examples in the comments below.

Do you struggle to find time to learn English?

Is time your most valuable asset?

If so then today’s episode is for you.

Today Derek will show us 3 ways to be more efficient with our English learning routine:

  • Tip #1) Learn how to self correct when you are speaking. This is the best way to get better at speaking while focusing on both fluency and accuracy. You want to be making mistakes because it means that you are pushing yourself but you want to correct them on your own.
  • Tip #3) Don’t pretend that you know everything. If you are 80-90% sure that you know what someone is talking about but there is a tiny bit of doubt you should still ask. Don’t assume that you understand a word because you might get yourself into trouble. Use these phrases:
    • “Let me see if I got this…”
    • “I am sorry could you explain that a bit more.”
    • “Let me make sure I have that correct.”
    • “Let me see if I understood that.”
  • Tip #3) Study the types of mistakes that you make. Try to relate your mistakes to a wider area of study. See if there are any patterns in your mistakes. Know the difference between a random error and a systematic error.
    • Systematic error: A grammar mistake that keeps happening
    • Random error: A preposition mistake or another small mistake

Derek’s Bio

I was born and raised in the state of Colorado in the United States of America. I’ve travelled extensively throughout the States and I also lived in Memphis, Tennessee for a short time. I’m essentially a nomad, so I’ve had the chance to live in Brazil for more than two years, Colombia for about 9 months, Europe for over a year, Mexico for another 9 months and now I’m headed back to South America.

I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in December of 2010 with two bachelor’s degrees, one in physics and the other in Astronomy. Shortly after I graduated I moved to Rio de Janeiro where I earned my International Diploma in English Language Teaching (IDELT), which is an accredited TEFL certification, from Bridge Linguatec based in Denver, Colorado USA.

I have been teaching English as my primary profession since February 2011, first in Rio de Janeiro and then Salvador in Brazil. I have taught English to students of every level, from zero level beginners to the very advanced. I’m very patient and I try to make students feel relaxed and enjoy themselves in my classes. We always seem to have a fun time.
I speak Brazilian Portuguese and Latin American Spanish.

Today we have Jaime Miller from English Success Academy back on the show!

Jamie is back for episode 2 in a 3-part series.

Last week she chatted with Jessica about the overall differences between IELTS and TOEFL.

Today Jessica and Jamie talk about the main writing differences between IELTS and TOEFL.

They will also talk about what “integrated” means on the tests and what this means for you as an IELTS or TOEFL test taker.

On IELTS there are fewer writing tasks and they are more straightforward.

On TOEFL there are two different types of tasks.

The first one is the integrated task.

They want to know if you can read something from a textbook and take notes, listen to a lecture, and then respond to what you have read and listened to.

You may have to notice the similarities and differences in the arguments and write about them and talk about how both points of view disagree.

Here they are testing your ability to talk about and analyze a debate.

In the TOEFL integrated task you should not give any opinions.

In IELTS Writing Task 1 you are asked to analyze information from a graph or diagram of numbers and you need to describe what is going on.

Writing Task 1 is 20 minutes and you need to write 150 words. If you write more than 150 words you will lose points.

On Writing Task 2 for IELTS you write an opinion essay and the second task for TOEFL also asks you to write an opinion essay.

Another big difference is that on IELTS you have to write by hand and on TOEFL writing you type your answers.

We’ll be back next week to explore more differences between TOEFL and IELTS!

TOEFL English Success Academy Jaime MillerJamie’s Bio:

You can learn more about Jaime Miller and her private, customized online lessons at jaimemiller.com.

Jaime knows why some students get TOEFL speaking scores of 26 or higher, while others are stuck with scores of 24 – and she creates customized exam study plans that get results.

Do you have any questions about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Teachers, classes and textbooks are full of useful advice on how to get high scores on the IELTS exam.

Some of this information is useful, of course, but some of it is also too general to actually help you.

For example, teachers always tell students to “organize your ideas more clearly” or “use better vocabulary,” but do you know how to do this?

So, today, I’m not only going to tell you what to do, but what NOT to do.

I’m also going to tell you exactly what these gems of wisdom will do to affect your IELTS Writing Task 1 score.

#1) Do NOT write fewer than 150 words. If you write fewer than 150 words,

    • your Task Achievement score will automatically go down.
    • you will not have enough room to show a range of vocabulary, because you simply will not write enough words, so your vocabulary score will fall to a 5 or lower.
    • you will probably not have enough room to show a range of sentence structures, because you simply will not write enough sentences, so your grammar score will fall to a 5 or lower.

#2) Do NOT start describing the numbers right away in your essay.

  • Just like any academic essay, you must start Task 1 with an introduction. In the introduction you MUST rephrase the test question. If you do not do this, you risk not explaining clearly what the graph is about (for the Academic exam). This means scoring a 5 or lower on Task Achievement.

#3) Do NOT just state numbers.

  • You must describe the numbers, not just list them. You have to say why the number is important, such as describing it as the highest or the lowest. If you just list numbers, you will get no more than a 5 for Task Achievement.
    • For example:
      • WRONG: In 2013, the number of classes reached 100.
      • RIGHT: In 2013, the last year shown, the number of classes reached an all time high, with 100.
    •  You must also use linking words to join the sentences. If you do not, you will get a 5 or lower for Cohesion/Coherence.
      • For example:
        • WRONG: Numbers hit 700 in 1980. Numbers fell to 20 in 1990.
        • RIGHT: The number of full-time workers increased to 700 in 1980, the highest amount during the period. Then, 10 years later, this number fell to 20, reaching the lowest point.

#4) Do NOT use the same sentence structure over and over. If you do, you will get a 5 or lower for Grammar.

  • Some students memorize one or two structures, like “There was a decrease in 2014,” and use this same sentence structure throughout Academic Writing Task 1 so they are sure to not make any grammar mistakes. Well, even if there are no grammar mistakes, if you do not use varied sentence structure, the examiner can give you no higher than a 5 for Grammar.

To make sure you don’t make any of these mistakes, please read these rules more than once.

Then, the next time you practice a Task 1 essay, please check your work for these four things.

If you follow these rules, you are on your way to higher scores!

Check out our other articles on IELTS Writing Task 1

What questions do you have about IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic Essay?

Let us know in the comments below.

What is paraphrasing and when do we do it on IELTS and in our everyday lives?

Paraphrasing is when you use different words and vocabulary to express an idea.

In our daily lives we might use paraphrasing to tell our friend about our weekend.

We might summarize the whole weekend into three sentences.

Maybe we saw a movie and we will paraphrase the story in a short way.

When we read we also need to paraphrase to tell people what we have read in the newspaper or in a magazine.

We also might summarize our favorite novel.

When you are in an academic class at your college or university you are going to need to take notes during the lecture. This is a form of paraphrasing.

You may also need to paraphrase a lecture for a friend who missed a class.

When we write papers at the college level we also paraphrase when we add outside research and citations to a paper.

When do we paraphrase on IELTS?

In IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2 you have to paraphrase an idea, word or phrase in different ways.

If you use the word “school” in one paragraph then you need to use different words in the rest of the essay like “academic institution” or “university” or “college.”

How do we paraphrase on the IELTS Speaking test?

Part of getting a good vocabulary score is showing range and flexibility and that is how we can push up our entire speaking score. Try not to repeat the same word more than two or three times. Instead, try to say it in a different way.

You can also paraphrase what the examiner asks you on Speaking Part 1, 2, and 3 before you answer.

Why would you want to do this?

It would impress the examiner with your flexibility and it would give you more time to think and prepare your answer.

How can you practice paraphrasing for IELTS?

Read a newspaper and summarize it in your own words. Tell a friend about the article.

Create a culture of thinking.

Surround yourself with people who like to talk about what they read and see in the news.

Do you feel comfortable paraphrasing?

What questions do you have about this?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you making mistakes with your facial expressions and gestures when you visit the US?

Today Mark will show us the top 3 facial expressions and gestures that he has seen in parts of Latin America that you should avoid if you want to connect with American people when you visit the US.

Three facial expressions or body language gestures to avoid in the US:

  • Using a puckered lip gesture to point at something or someone (pucker means to bring your lips together and hold them tight). In American culture this looks very strange. We might use an eye or a head gesture to draw someone’s attention in one direction or another but we don’t use puckered lips.
  • Calling someone to come toward you by pulling your arm out straight, pointing your palm down, and moving your fingers toward you in a downward gesture. This is rude if you use this gesture in the US.
  • Kissing as a greeting. If you kiss an American on the cheek as a greeting they will feel awkward. Use a handshake instead or if there is a large group you could wave.

What should you do if you don’t know what gestures to make?

Observe. Sit back. Wait for other people to use their gestures and then do what they do.

Mark Esposito’s Bio:
From New Jersey, USA. B.A. Spanish Translating/Interpreting. ASL interpreter and instructor.
TEFL/TESOL Certificate for teaching English.  
Teaching English and Spanish for over 25 years.
I Worked as a Sign Language Interpreter for about ten years.
My wife and I are both teachers on italki. I’ve lived in 6 countries, including Spain and 5 Latin American countries. I’ve been living out of the U.S. for the past 15 years.
How to book a lesson with Mark:
  • Step 2: Search for Mark’s profile in people search: Mark Esposito

Today we bring you IELTS Energy Episode #100!!

We’ll give you 5 tips for improving when you think you can’t and we’ll tell you about a special invitation at the end of the episode.

The easiest way to get a 7 on IELTS Speaking is by working on your pronunciation!

For the next 100 hours you are invited to claim your special bonus called Power Packed Pronunciation with Jessica Beck. If you get into our 3 Keys IELTS Success System within the next 100 hours you will also get this super cool bonus. It’s a 5-minute video where Jessica will show you exactly how to increase your pronunciation score during the Speaking test.

Click here to get the course and your bonus now!

Offer ends on Monday August 17th!

Do you feel like you are plateauing with your IELTS preparation?

Are you not getting any better?

Can you say everything you need to and understand everything you hear?

But maybe you can’t understand difficult articles that use academic English.

Today we’ll show you 5 things you can do to get out of your comfort zone and push past this plateau in order to hit that 7 IELTS level.

Remember, you need to action on these points every single day.

It’s easy to do it once per week or just once per month but what are you doing every single day?

5 things to do:

  • Reading: You need to expose yourself to higher level words. Read the Washington Post or the Huffington Post or the New Yorker. If you don’t read these kinds of materials you won’t get a chance to see these high-level words that you need for the IELTS Exam.
  • Listening: Listen to what native speakers listen to. Try TED Talks on You Tube. Search for a specific topic that you are interested in. A lot of native speakers listen to NPR.org. You can find music, news, comics. Listen to The Moth Radio Hour and Snap Judgment on NPR.
  • Take a class: Take a class in a topic that is not focused on ESL. Take a cooking class in English. Take an art class. Go to EdX from MIT and take it online.
  •  Writing: Challenge yourself to write a short story. Interview someone in your family and write a biography about that person. Research a topic that interests you and write a short report on the topic. Take something that you like to read in your native language and translate it into English.
  •  Speaking: Push yourself to talk to native speakers. It’s easy to talk to other English learners but try to find a tutor or a language exchange for free where you can really hear correct English. Find a site where you can get a native partner online or in your city.

If you do these five things or even just one or two of these things you will have a much better chance of improving your IELTS score.

Let us know which of these activities you are already doing. How is it going?

Mt Liberty

Life is like mountain climbing!

Today find out how to accomplish big dreams by putting one foot in front of the other and taking life one step at a time.

Here is today’s quote:

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top and then you will see how low it was.”

-Dag Hammarskjold


Don’t be afraid to set big goals.

Don’t consider big goals to be insurmountable.

If you go ahead and accomplish your goal you will look back and realize that it wasn’t actually that hard.

In this episode Michelle told us that when she first moved to NY she felt that it was too hard to get around the city.

She didn’t know how to take the subway to meet friends or which train to take.

It all felt like a huge task.

She got lost.

Now, looking back on those days she doesn’t think it’s so hard.

Do you ever tell yourself, “I could never be fluent?”

Be careful when you say this.

Don’t just assume that you can’t do it.

Give yourself a chance.

Take the first step.

Do it one step at a time.

If you are taking an exam like the IELTS, this means that you need a step by step system or a course where someone can hold your hand and take you through the steps that you need.

Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right.”


How are you approaching your big dreams?

Are you taking them one step at a time or are you giving up on them before you even start?

Let us know in the comments below.

If you want to move your English to the next level then you need to make sure that each word adds value.

Today we’ll show you why you need to avoid being redundant in English  and we’ll give you seven phrases to avoid in order to speak more powerfully.

What does it mean to be redundant when you speak in English?

It means that you use two words that say the same thing.

Each word should bring something new to the table.


Seven redundant phrases that you should AVOID in English:

  • In my opinion I like chocolate”: Here you don’t need to say both “in my opinion” and “I like” because we know that when you say “I like” you are voicing your opinion.


  • “I like the fact that I live near in a fun area and also in addition I love the fact that I am right between Harvard and MIT”: In this conversation I said “also, in addition.” Using both of those words is not necessary because the words are saying the same thing.


  • “The best top colleges in the US are Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth”: Here we said “the best top colleges” and those two words mean the exact same thing. Instead of using both words you can just choose one. You can say “the best colleges are..” or “the top colleges are…:


  • “It’s critically important to think like an entrepreneur with your career in New York”: The words “critical” and “important” mean the same thing. You don’t need to use both.


  • “In graduate school we collaborated together all of the time to get projects done.” It isn’t necessary to use both “collaborate” and “together” because the word “collaborate” implies that you are working together with other people.


  • “In my past experience I have co-taught with other teachers.” The words “past” and “experience” have similar meanings. You can just say “in my experience I have co-taught with other teachers.”


  • “The reason why crime went down in New York is that the graffiti was taken off the trains.” This is a common redundancy that is used all of the time by native speakers. The word “reason” implies “why” so instead you can say “the reason crime has dropped..” or “the reason that crime has dropped…”


When you speak English you want each word to have value.

Less is more with the words that you choose when you want to speak powerfully and connect with people in English.

Do you know any other common redundancies in English?

Let us know in the comments.

What are the daily and weekly habits of the most successful IELTS students who get a 7?

Today you’ll find out exactly what smart students do to get their seven.

Students who get a 7 make English a part of their everyday life.

They don’t keep English at a distance.

They use it as entertainment.

They explore their interests using English.

They don’t think of it as work or “studying.”

Success is usually not the result one single action. It is often the result of multiple actions taken over an extended period of time.

What are those actions for a 7 IELTS student?

Find out below!

7 habits of highly successful “7” IELTS students:

  • #1) They are committed: They have a specific goal. They promise to work every day. They are intentional about the score they want. They share their commitment with someone in their life. They hold themselves accountable.
  • #2) They are not afraid to start random conversations and speak: When they run into someone they know in an English-speaking place, they start conversations and continue speaking. If they don’t live in an English-speaking country, they find a way to practice with a native conversation partner. They speak every day despite their fear.
  • #3) They plan a specific time every week to practice what they have learned each week: They are intentional about using new phrases or expressions in their practice conversations. They don’t cancel their practice sessions. They show up and get comfortable with the language.
  • #4) They have something they enjoy reading: A successful “7” student has a habit of reading. They like to read. They find reading material on a topic that they are passionate about. They use blogs, email newsletters, newspapers, and magazines.
  • #5) They watch movies and TV: They have a favorite TV show in English. It is part of their lifestyle to follow sitcoms that they consider fun. They don’t think about watching TV in English as studying. They consider it entertainment.
  • #6) They learn how to organize their thoughts into an academic essay for Task 1: Strategies are important for 7 students. Especially for the Writing test, you MUST learn what the examiner wants. You cannot just work on your general English.
  • #7) They know the IELTS exam: They know the test. They know the strategies, they have a step-by-step system, they know how the timing works. They work with a qualified professional or find a good course to help them.

Which habits do you currently have?

Which habits are you going to adopt moving forward?

Let us know in the comments below.

When we are practicing for the Speaking exam, we must remember what the examiner wants.

Today, we are going to focus on hitting that 7 or higher on the Speaking test in two ways:

  • Fluency and Coherence (having organized, specific ideas)
  • Vocabulary (not repeating words/ideas, using specific vocabulary)

The best way to hit a 7 or higher on Speaking Part 2 is to tell a story.

For some kinds of questions, this is easy, such as describing a movie, TV show, or book.

However, we can also turn our 2-minute answer into a story when we are asked to describe a situation or event.

Often, these questions begin with, “Describe a time/occasion when…”.

Below we’ll look at Speaking Part 2 on the exam, step by step.


Step 1:

Before you give your answer, you have one minute to plan and take notes.

The examiner will tell you the topic, hand you the booklet with the topic card on it, and also give you a pencil and piece of paper.

Then, you have a full minute to write down your ideas.

This is a crucial time, and I’ve seen many students who do not use this time well.

This is your chance to plan your answer so write down everything you think of- details, words, examples, everything.

When you choose to tell a story as your Part 2 answer, this first planning stage is easier as well.

Just start at the beginning of the story, and move through the story in your head, writing notes on everything that comes to mind.

Remember, there are no bad ideas!

Let’s look at an example:

Describe the last movie you saw in the cinema.

My notes:


  • Jupiter Ascending
  • mina kunis, channing tatum, future, sci-fi
  • maid in new york, russian, dad killed
  • lives with mom, aunt, all maids
  • tatum werewolf alien, comes earth
  • aliens try kill mina, saved
  • space family controls all planets, uses people as medicine, never grow old
  • three siblings control all, want kill/mary mina, she owns earth, forget why
  • lots action, flying shooting, earth, tatum rocket rollerblades
  • he saves her, they fall in love, she’s still maid


Now, you can see all the specific details I wrote down in my notes.

Also, my notes are organized by bullet point, from the beginning of the movie to the end.

Also notice that I did not remember everything (this was not the best written movie!), and that is fine.

Again, your ideas are never wrong on the Speaking exam– all the examiner wants is to hear you speak English.


Step 2:

After one minute for note taking, the examiner will ask you to start talking.

When you are talking, you must use linking words.

You are allowed to look at your notes, so you should do this if you forget what to say.

That is why you take notes! Use them, and keep talking!

An example answer with linking words looks like this:
Today I will tell you about a movie I saw recently named Jupiter Ascending, by the Wachowskis, the people that made the Matrix movies.

The Matrix movies are classics, but, sadly, in my humble opinion, they have not been able to replicate that genius.

Especially in this movie, Jupiter Ascending.

It was really pretty, but the story, writing and dialogue left a lot to be desired.

So, it starred Mina Kunis as a maid of Russian descent who lives with her mom and aunt in a small room in New York, very poor.

Channing Tatum is the other big name, and he’s a werewolf alien hybrid creature, who has crazy rocket rollerblades that he flies around on.

We find out in the beginning of the movie that Mina’s dad was a scientist, killed in Russia, although we don’t know why, and her mom came to America.

She actually gave birth to Mina/Jupiter on the ship.

There are many additional characters, but the ones that matter are three siblings who are, I think, sort of royalty in space, and they actually own all the planets.

For some reason, I forget why exactly, they have to get Mina in order to harvest Earth.

Oh, by the way, by “harvest” I mean they destroy the planet and use all the life as fuel for their immortality.

Yeah, pretty crazy.

Anyway, about 20 minutes into this disaster of a film, Channing wolf comes to Earth, saves Mina, but then loses her as one of the siblings grabs her.

One brother wants to kill her, the other brother tries to marry her, and the sister tries to befriend her.

The whole complex tale culminates in lots of shooting action and explosions on Earth that no Earthling seems to notice, with Channing rocketing around on his ridiculous rollerblades.

Of course, in the end, Mina and Earth are saved, her and Channing Tatum fall in love, even though he’s half dog, and she chooses to still be a maid.

All completely unbelievable, and this is from a girl who really digs her sci-fi.


Step 3:

Read my answer again and write down all the linking words/phrases.

Then, use them to practice telling your own story.


Good luck and have fun!

Get more episodes and articles on IELTS Speaking here.


What questions do you have about today’s activity?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Do you know someone who is mean?

Would you like to be able to describe that person in more specific terms in English?

You are at the right level to expand your vocabulary and use more specific words.

Don’t just use general terms.

If you want to connect with people, you need to be specific so they know exactly what you want to say!

On the IELTS Exam, the fastest way to get a 7 or higher on Speaking or Writing is to use specific vocabulary words.

In today’s episode we will show you 5 different words that you can use to describe a mean person in English.


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How to describe a mean person in English:

  • Rude: Not polite, short-tempered, to have a short fuse
  • A jerk: Someone who has a bad character and does not treat people with respect. We use this term more to describe a guy.
  • Selfish: Someone who only thinks about themselves
  • Cruel: Extremely mean and calculated in the bad actions that they take against you
  • Abusive: Someone who inflicts physical, emotional, or sexual harm on someone


Do you know anyone that you can describe using these terms?

Let us know in the comments below.

Can you write a quote by a famous person in your IELTS Writing test essays?

Can you quote someone famous on the IELTS Speaking test?

The answer is yes! You can use quotes on your Writing test and in the Speaking test. It could add a layer of depth and it could make your answer more interesting for the examiner.

However, you need to make sure that the quotes are introduced well and fit naturally into your essay or your speaking answer.

It’s ok if you don’t know the person’s name who said the topic.

If you can express the fact that you don’t know the name by using an idiom, you can score extra points.

For example, you can say, “The name of the person who said this slips my mind.”

If the quote doesn’t fit with the topic that you are covering, don’t try to force it into the essay.

Here are some of our favorite quotes that you could use:

“You are the average of the four people that you spend the most time with.”- Jim Rohn

This quote could be used in Speaking Part 1 for most questions.

What does this quote mean for your IELTS preparation?

Be careful who you spend time with when you are preparing for the exam.

Be around people who believe that you can pass the test and who support you and encourage you to work toward your goal.

“It’s not how much time you have. It’s what you do with it.”

Be smart about how you spend your time preparing for IELTS.

You need a clear study plan and you need to use the right materials.

How are you spending your IELTS preparation time?

Who are you surrounding yourself with? Do these people motivate you and inspire you to keep reaching for your IELTS dream?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll learn about one unique American speech habit that you can use to introduce ideas or to share quotes.

In English we use “like” in a few different ways.

  • It can be a filler word. “So, like, what are you doing tonight?”
  • It can be used to say “such as.” I enjoy foods like sushi.
  • It can be used to report an idea or something that you said. “I was like, ‘wow, we should take some time off.’”

Today we are going to focus on the third way that “like” is used when we use it to report what we said or what we thought in a past conversation.

In the episode Lindsay and Michelle used this expression in a few different ways. Listen to the episode to get the details!

To talk about something that was said in the past:

  • “I was like ‘wow, I gotta check that out.’”
  • “My mom heard the story and she was like, ‘oh yeah just take my car.’”

To tell a story that happened in the past using the present tense to pull people into the story and to hold their attention:

  • “On Saturday we’re hiking and we get to the top and it’s cloudy. My friend is like, ‘let’s just wait and see if the clouds clear’ and within a few minutes the clouds did clear.

Have you heard Americans use “like” in this way in English conversations?

Have you tried using it yourself?

Let us know in the comments below.

TOEFL English Success Academy Jaime MillerToday we have a guest on IELTS Energy!

We are happy to have Jaime.

Jaime is a TOEFL professional and in today’s episode she chats with Jessica about the main differences between the TOEFL Exam and the IELTS Exam.

Today is the first of a series of three episodes where Jaime and Jessica will tell you about the key differences between the two exams.

What are the differences between TOEFL and IELTS?

One of the biggest differences between IELTS and TOEFL is that on TOEFL it sometimes make sense to take notes while on IELTS there is no opportunity to take notes because you will miss answers and waste time.

Jaime has a 21-day course which helps students with this note-taking skill.

On TOEFL you are on a computer the whole time. On IELTS you don’t use a computer.


Are there any other reasons to take TOEFL if you aren’t going to university?

Some pharmacists, physical therapists, or doctors may need to take it if they want to get promoted within their career field while they are working in the United States.


What kinds of question types do you find on each test?

TOEFL has ten different types of questions for reading and the listening section has six different types of questions.

On TOEFL the reading and listening can vary from test to test. You may get 3 or 4 passages for reading. In contrast, IELTS has three passages for every test. It’s always 60 minutes and it’s exactly the same every week.

On TOEFL you drag and drop your answers for reading and listening but on IELTS you need to listen and spell the answer correctly or it’s counted as incorrect.


What topics are common for TOEFL and IELTS?

TOEFL has a lot of questions about physical and life sciences, history, psychology, anthropology.

A lot of the topics are from the academic perspective and may be harder for some people who are not used to that type of question.

Some people think that IELTS questions are a bit easier but the third reading passage for IELTS is a bit more academic.


Jaime’s Bio:

Jaime Miller is the director of an online school that matches motivated students with dedicated teachers for private, customized online lessons. Jaime knows why some students get TOEFL speaking scores of 26 or higher, while others are stuck with scores of 24 – and she creates customized exam study plans that get results. Learn more at jaimemiller.com.


What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you want to score a 7 or higher on IELTS Speaking?  

To get that high score you need to use idioms when you respond to the questions in Speaking Part 3 and Writing Task 2.

You may get a question about work-life balance in these parts of the test.

You could also use happiness idioms in Speaking Part 1 when you talk about how you feel about your life.

Using idioms will push your vocabulary score to a 7- guaranteed. We have already shown you how to use idioms to talk about work, parties,  sports, and travel.

Today you’ll get 5 idioms that you can use to answer questions about happiness on the Speaking test.

5 Idioms:

  • “Keeping up with the Joneses”: Keeping up with your neighbors, maintaining an image of success by having the material possessions that your neighbor has or something even better such as a flat screen TV, a pool in the backyard, or a nice car.
  • “Livin’ the dream”: When someone has an amazing life that you admire. They have the life that you want. This would be different for everyone, based on what you think a dream life is.
  •   “To be on cloud nine”: To be very happy. This would work well in Speaking Part 1 and Part 2. If the examiner asks you the following: “Do you like your apartment?” You could say, “Yes, I am on cloud nine in my new apartment.”
  • “To jump for joy”: To physically jump because you are excited and happy
  • “To be a happy camper”: Someone who is content at this moment. “Getting to sleep in until 10 in the morning really makes me a happy camper.”

Remember, use these idioms as much as you can on the Speaking test and you will get the 7 that you need!

Please leave your questions or comments below.

If you don’t entirely agree with someone, there are ways to express this in English.

Get four ways to slightly disagree with someone in English today!

Here are the 4 ways to disagree slightly in English:

  • “Not exactly”
    • Q: You must have a glamorous life, you live in New York!
    • A: Not exactly. My life is actually pretty average. I work hard and I go to the movies like normal people.


  • “Not really”
    • Q: It sounds cool to run your own business. Is it?
    • A: I mean, not really. It’s a lot more work than people think. I work a lot and when I am not working I am thinking about work.


  •  “Not quite”
    • Q: So you went to Montreal this summer? You must have eaten a lot of maple syrup, right?
    • A: Not quite. It’s too sweet for me.


  •  “Not so much”
    • Q: Your hair is so straight. It must be easy to take care of
    • A: Not so much. I use a hair straightener. It takes a lot of work.


Go out and use these four expressions to slightly disagree with someone in English.

Let us know if you have a question in the comments below.

American English pronunciation and phonics expert Martha Bashir

Today we have a guest on the show.

Our guest is an expert in phonics, the sounds of English and English pronunciation.

Martha will give you three actions that you can start taking today to sound more natural when you pronounce the sounds of English.

What is phonics?

Phonics is knowing the sounds that the letters make in different words.


3 Tips from Martha:

  • Tip #1) Read out loud. When you read out loud you hear the sounds that the letters make. Because you are used to listening to English you can catch yourself if you pronounce the words incorrectly. If you are worried that you are making mistakes then try using poetry because the words rhyme. Martha recommends poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.


  • Tip #2) Write your words down. When you write or type you are slowing down. Also say the sounds while you write it down. It’s not important what you write about. It’s about writing down new vocabulary words. Keep a resource of the words that you are learning so that you can review them.


  • Tip #3) Look for patterns in words. Eighty percent of the English language is logical. Don’t get hung up when words that don’t seem to fit the patten. Here is a pattern: The feature picture was about a treacherous journey. The pattern is the “TU” is read as “CH.” If you notice this pattern you can apply it to other words and save study time and energy.


native English teachersAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Martha’s Bio:

My name is Martha and I am from the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. I have a 4 year degree in elementary education. 
I taught in a private school for 8 years before I was married.  Now I have 5 children of my own and I have been teaching  them in my home for the past 9 years.  
I have 17 years experience in teaching phonics to beginning readers. I understand the challenges of learning English as a foreign language firsthand because I live in a bilingual home. My husband was not born in the United States so for him English was not his native tongue. 

I started teaching on italki  on June 20th of this year and since then I have taught over 100 sessions and now have nearly 50 students.   I have found that I really love teaching English as a foreign language.  Because of my background as a homeschooling teacher I find it easy to adapt lessons to fit my students needs.

Phonics is my specialty.  I believe phonics is the key that helps to decode the English language for speaking, reading, spelling and writing purposes.


How to book a lesson with Martha:

  •  Step 2- Search for Martha’s profile. Go to the bottom of the page on italki, click on Learn English, search for “Martha.” Martha recommends you book your lesson for a Saturday because her schedule is more open on those days.

To get the IELTS score you need you must not only work hard but you need to work SMART!

Today we will talk about whether it’s better to study for 3 hours at a time, 1 hour at a time or to study in small chunks when you have free time during your day.

To answer this question you need to know yourself and the way that you like to consume information and think about ideas and strategies.

Do you prefer to study for a short time and then go out and do something else or do you do better when you go into more depth?

Remember, regardless of how much time you spend on your tasks, don’t try to multi task by listening to a podcast and also checking your email. That is not a way to put quality attention into the task.

It’s ok to study for a short time but you need to go deep into the material.

When you split up your study time, sit down for one hour and set a goal. For example, during this time I am going to sit down, review this lesson video, write a sample essay, and check it.

Be very specific in what you are going to do.

The most important thing to remember is to be intentional about what you are going to do during your study time and then break up your study time based on how you like to consume information.

Be smart about the time you invest but work hard when you are working!

What is your study schedule?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll learn a very cool English expression that natives use to describe a very bad situation.

The expression is: “Worse comes to worst”

What’s the difference between “worse” and “worst”?

  • Worse: Comparing two things. The Boston T is worse than the New York City subway
  • Worst: This is a superlative. When one thing is THE worst. The worst thing about the subways in New York is the rats.

“If worst comes to worse”

  • Q: “Where are you going to sleep on your trip?” A: “If worse comes to worst I will sleep in my van.”
  • Q: “When are you going to see your family?” A: “I’d like to try to see them soon but if worst comes to worst I will see them this fall.”

Another way to say this: “Worst case scenario, I’ll sleep in my van.”

Listen to the episode to get examples of how to use “worse comes to worst” in realistic English conversations.

If you want to learn another cool native expression, check out our Episode 352 on how to use “Long story short.”

Remember, the more that you use these natural expressions, the more you will connect with people through English.

Leave us your comments below.

What questions do you have about this expression?

Have you ever tried to use it?

If you are not planning to apply to a university or immigrate to a new country should you still take IELTS as a personal goal?

Today Lindsay and Jessica ask this question and give you some hints and ideas about how to use IELTS to build your general English skills.

We think this is a great idea!

If you are planning to do this you can take the General Exam.

It’s a way to create a goal for yourself and create a study plan.

You will also create accountability for yourself to keep reaching toward your goal.

You could also add your IELTS score to your Linked In profile and possibly attract the attention of some international companies.

If you choose this plan, be careful!

Make sure that you take it seriously.

Keep your end goal in mind.

Try creating a vision board for your ideal life and think about how IELTS plays into that.

What do you want to do?

  • Do you want to be able to go to the theater in London and understand every word?
  • Do you want to be able to read a classic novel?
  • Do you want an international recruiter to find your profile on Linked In?

How can you make sure that you take your goal seriously?

Invest your money in a good course.

If you put your money into your goal you are much more likely to follow through on this goal.

Are you planning to take the IELTS as a personal goal?

Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Today is Lindsay’s 34th birthday! Let’s celebrate!

We are asking for 34 reviews in the iTunes store for Lindsay’s 34th!

Please go to the iTunes store now and leave a review for All Ears English- click here.

Today we’re going to talk about 7 questions that you should ask yourself at a turning point or a milestone in your life.

Another example of a milestone could be a graduation, a birth, a wedding, or another important day.

Here are the 7 questions you should ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you laughed?
  • When was the last time you cried?
  • How do you define success and what daily actions do you take to become successful?
  • What is your purpose in life?
  • What would you do if you didn’t need to work for money?
  • Where do you want to be at this time next year or in five years or in ten years?
  • What am I doing to strengthen my relationships? Am I surrounding myself with people who uplift me?


How would you answer one of these questions?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you worried that you will not understand a word on IELTS Writing Task 2?

A lot of students are worried about this happening.

We have already shown you what you should do if this happens on the Speaking test.  Today we’ll talk about what to do if it happens on the Writing test.

Here is what you SHOULD NOT do:

1) Do NOT explain that you don’t  know the meaning of the word in your essay

Unlike the Speaking test, the Writing test is academic and formal.

If you don’t know the meaning of the word you cannot explain that you don’t know the word in the essay.

You cannot write “I am sorry I hope I understood the meaning of this word.”

That would be considered more casual and would not work on the Writing test.

2) DO NOT pretend to know the word and use it

Also, don’t pretend that you know the word and throw it into a bunch of different sentences if you don’t know how to use it.

That strategy also will not work. It will be obvious that you don’t know what you are writing about and your score will drop quickly.

What SHOULD you do:

Don’t worry about that specific word. Look around the word. Take what you DO understand and use that.

Play to your strengths.

Consider the words that you do know in the question and work with those.

It will not kill your score completely if you don’t understand it.

As long as you respond to all of the other parts of the question you can still get a good score.

Has this ever happened to you?

Did you have an experience where you didn’t know the meaning of a word in IELTS Writing Task 2?

Write your questions in the comments!

On the IELTS Speaking test the best way to push your speaking score to a 7 or higher is to use idioms and phrasal verbs.

If you use these terms the examiner will be impressed and will most likely give you extra points in the vocabulary section.

Today we are going to show you some phrasal verbs with “get” that can be used to describe connections between people or relationships.

#1) To get over

When you are feeling sad about something you need to “get over it.”

This means that you need to stop feeling sad and move on.

#2) To get around

To avoid something.

With this phrasal verb you can say “there’s just no getting around it.”

This means there’s no way to avoid something.

You can also use this phrasal verb in the physical sense when you want to avoid an obstacle in the road or on the sidewalk.

Example: “There was something in the road but I got around it and kept going.”

#3) To get away

This means to escape or to take a vacation and go somewhere else.

Sample sentence: “My friend is busy in New York and it’s hard for him to get away”

#4) To get along with

To have a good relationship or connection with someone.

Sample: “Do you get along with your siblings?”

#5) To get across

To communicate an idea.

To make someone understand something.

Sample answer: “I was mad at my friend and it was hard for me to get across why I was angry.”

Choose two of these phrasal verbs and practice them.

Plan to use them on your IELTS Speaking test if you get questions about relationships or for any other questions where they might fit.

Phrasal verbs with “get” could work for a lot of speaking answers.

What other phrasal verbs do you know with “get”?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you an optimistic English student?

This week I worked with a student from Italy.

He inspired me because he only paid attention to his improvement.

He noticed that he was starting to understand spoken English a bit better.

What effect did this have?

It made him more motivated to keep improving and keep working on his English.

This created a positive feedback loop and now he is on track for even more improvement.

In contrast another student could have noticed the areas where he or she was not improving.

He could focus on that and that would have a negative effect on motivation and his future improvement.


Here is a great quote:

“Everything you see or hear or experience is specific to you.

You create the universe by perceiving it so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”

-Douglas Adams


What do you think about this topic?

Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?

Let us know in the comments below.

Tarle Speech and Language Jennifer Tarle English Pronunciation

Today we have a guest back on the show to talk about American English pronunciation!

Jennifer Tarle from Tarle Speech and Language is here to help you with your consonants in English!

Jennifer was on the show last month and she gave us 3 immediate action steps to improve our English vowel sounds.

Today we’ll talk about consonant sounds in English.

What is a consonant?

Consonants have a very specific place that they are made in your mouth (with your lips, with the tip of your tongue, with the back of your tongue).

They also have a specific manner in which they are created.

Sometimes the air stops in your mouth or the air continues.

Today we’ll find out the biggest mistakes that students make with English consonants.


Mistake #1) Touching the tip of the tongue to the teeth

With the “TH” sound you should not touch your top or bottom teeth and keep the air moving.

If you touch your teeth you won’t pronounce the sound properly.


With the “S” sound you have the tip of your tongue between the top teeth but if you make the mistake of touching your teeth you will make the wrong sound.

With the “SH” sound, if you touch the tongue to your teeth you will say the “CH” or “T” sound.

With the “Z” sound you need to avoid touching the tongue to your teeth or you will say the “D” sound or the “J” sound.


Mistake #2) Not paying attention to voicing

Many students don’t pay attention to whether their voice is vibrating in certain sounds.

Most people only struggle with this at the end of the word.

For example, the “S” sound is not voiced. You don’t feel any vibration in your voice. In contrast the “Z” sound does create a vibration in your throat. You need to pay attention to how these sounds are different.

Also “K” is not voiced and “G” is voiced.

You should clearly feel the difference if you put your hand on your throat.



Mistake #3) Making mistakes with specific sounds

  • “SH” versus “CH”: With the “SH” sound your tongue doesn’t touch your teeth but with the “CH” sound it quickly touches your teeth then it pulls back
  • “W” versus “V”: A lot of Indian students struggle with this as well as European students. This goes back to spelling confusion. For the “W” sound round your lips like you are blowing someone a kiss. With the “V” sound we gently bite our bottom lip.
  • “V” and “B”: Japanese and Spanish speakers make this mistake as well as Romanian students. For the “V” you are gently biting your bottom lip and for the “B” sound you are squeezing your lips together and then releasing.


What English consonant sounds do you struggle with?

What questions do you have for Jennifer?

Let us know in the comments below.


Jennifer’s Bio

Tarle Speech and Language was founded in 2005 by Jennifer Tarle in order to empower individuals at all stages of life through better communication skills. Jennifer is a Certified Speech Pathologist with over 19 years of experience in speech-related training and  pathologies.

Jennifer earned a BS degree and an MA degree in Speech Pathology from Kent State University. She is licensed in CA, IL, & OH, is certified with the State Boards of Education in IL and OH, is certified by the IL early intervention system, holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), and has earned several AHSA ACE Awards for continuing education.

Jennifer is a self-published author of accent workbooks, audio CDs, DVDs, and iBooks.  Materials are designed to be easy and effective.  Products are all downloadable so that you can practice on the go!  She distributes her pronunciation materials solely through www.tarlespeech.com and iTunes.

Jennifer recently launched a new website with more free Minute of Speech videos and tips on how to improve your speaking clarity.  She also introduced a new product line of  downloadable sound packages.  Each package includes instructions on how to make a sound, practice word lists and sentences, and audio & video examples.  Clients can design their own program or buy a quick start guide to address the top three vowel and consonant mistakes for each language.  

Introductory through advanced classes on foreign accents are taught throughout the city of Chicago, via video conferencing, and throughout the world.  To help even more people, she launched a video podcast, The Minute of Speech, in 2007.  It is available on iTunes, YouTube, and at www.tarlespeech.com.  She implemented her Tarle Speech pronunciation and accent reduction program at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China and at E4TG in Tokyo, Japan.  Contact her to schedule a consultation or class.

Jennifer strives to help individuals to improve their lives through better communication.

Do you need to move your IELTS score from a 6 to a 7?

Last week we showed you how to move from a 5 to a 6 on Speaking.

Today let’s talk about how to move from a 6 to a 7.

It’s not an easy jump but with today’s episode you will get on the right track.

We’ll show you exactly how to spend your time to move your score up to a 7.

To make this jump you need to push yourself and do the right things when you prepare.

Remember, just listening to this episode will not increase your score.

Here is what you need to do:

#1) Fluency and coherence

To get a 7 you need to be flexible with your linking words and use the linking words correctly.

In Speaking Parts 2 and 3 use linking words to organize your ideas in your responses. In Speaking Part 1 you don’t need to use linking words because it’s more casual.

In Part 3 use more high-level linking words.

The other key is your ability to keep speaking. A “6” student will say “um,” “well” and will hesitate.

A “7” student has no problem continuing speaking.

This kind of student is confident and does not hesitate.

Get some speaking models and sample answers. Read them out loud in front of the mirror.

Get a native speaker to practice with. Work with an IELTS professional.

#2) Vocabulary

This is an easy way to push up your score.

You need flexible vocabulary. Use idioms, phrasal verbs, and expressions.

Check out our episodes on work idioms for IELTS Speaking, family idioms for the Speaking test and others.

However, remember that you need to practice these new vocabulary terms in real conversations and in your practice tests.

Be specific and use the right terms. Do not use general terms like “people” or “things.”

Make your vocabulary interesting and “native like” and you will be a “7” student in this category.

#3) Grammar

This is not a great area to focus on because it’s very hard to get a 7 on grammar.

To get a 7 you need to have mostly error-free sentences. It’s very hard to do this if you have a short amount of time to prepare.

Make sure you have a variety of sentence structures.

It takes years to make this jump so you might want to spend your time on other areas when it comes to the Speaking test.

Learn more about our IELTS grammar philosophy at All Ears English.

#4) Pronunciation

This is an easy way to increase your Speaking score.

This is fun to improve and it’s totally possible.

You can’t do it in a day or two but with a good study plan you can do it in a few months.

To get a 7 the examiner needs to understand you.

You can still have your accent but it shouldn’t affect the examiner’s comprehension.

If it’s easy to understand you then you will get a 7 for pronunciation.

The next thing is the intonation and stress.

Put emotion in your voice.

Tell stories in the Speaking test that you care about so that you will have feeling in your voice.

Check out this episode on How to Be a Drama King or Queen on the Speaking test.

Remember, these tips are just the starting point.

We are showing you what you need to focus on but now you need to get the daily study plan, do the practice exercises, and put in the time.

If you want more information on our course which contains all of these focus areas, check the video at the top of this page and get into our course for $1 for the first 3 days.

Let us know your questions in the comments.

Do you get nervous during the IELTS Listening test?

Are you afraid that you will lose control during the Listening test and you won’t understand anything?

Are you worried about the different accents on the test?

Today we have a fun solution for your problem!

The trick is to get into a TV series.

You’ll have fun with it and you’ll forget that you’re practicing your English. By the time you get to the test you will be comfortable with different English accents.

You can find great series and other resources on Netflix.

Should you use subtitles when you watch these series?

Yes, you can turn on the subtitles for the first couple of episodes until you have gotten used to the accent.

After you have gotten used to it you can turn off the subtitles.

TV Series:

#1) Almighty Johnsons

This is a fun TV series that is made in New Zealand.

You can read more about it here.

#2) Downtown Abbey

This is a popular British TV show.

It’s a great chance for you to get used to the British accent.

Learn more about it here.

#3) Dr. Who

This is also a British series. Learn about it here.

Jessica loves this one. Check it out!

#4) Call the Midwife

#5) Sherlock


#6) Real Life Radio

This is a great podcast where you will hear the Australian accent. The guys who run this show are fun and you will finish every episode feeling motivated and ready to learn more.

Get more information here.

#7) Luke’s English Podcast

You will hear the British accent on this show.

Luke has fun and entertaining episodes where he talks about a variety of topics.

#8) Ron at English Funcast

Ron is a comedian and his podcasts are fun! He explains jokes and tells funny stories. He is from Canada so you will get to hear some small pronunciation differences between the American and the Canadian accent.

Get more listening resources here.

How to handle the Listening test:

In addition to practicing your general fluency and listening skills, you also need to do Listening test practice.

When it comes to test practice and the actual test, don’t take notes during the test.

When you have time to look at questions, underline the key words (names, numbers, verbs).

Next, predict answers. What do you need in the blank? Are you listening for a noun or for an adjective?

When they start speaking, follow along with your pen and fill in the answer as soon as you hear it.

You will have time to go back and check your answers.

By the time you get to the actual IELTS exam, you should be comfortable with hearing different types of accents.

Make sure that your study plan includes balanced practice which allows you to improve both your general fluency and also your test strategies.

Listening practice can be one of the most enjoyable parts of your IELTS study plan so grab some great resources and get started!

What other listening resources do you know?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you get confused between “grow” and “grow up” in English?

Today we’ll show you how to know the difference and use each term correctly.

We’ll also throw in some bonus English phrasal verbs with “grow” to help you sound more natural when you speak English with natives!

 When do we use “grow”?

We use this to talk about something getting physically bigger or longer. We can say “My grass is growing” or “My bank account is growing.”

Examples of “grow”:

  • “Does your hair grow fast or does it grow slowly?”
  • “What’s the best way to grow a business fast?”
  • “What should I do if I need to grow my bank account?”

When do we use “grow up”?

This is only used to talk about people becoming more mature.

Using “grow up” implies that the thing is human.

Examples of “grow up”:

  • “Where did you grow up?
  • “What movies were popular when you were growing up?”
  • “What was your favorite meal as a kid growing up?
  • “What’s the best thing about watching your niece grow up?”

Bonus phrasal verbs with “grow”:

  • “To grow into”: When a child gets big enough to wear clothing that had been too large before.
    • Sample sentence: “Oh don’t worry if that shirt is too big right now. He’ll grow into it.”
  • “To grow out”: To allow something to get long naturally
    • Sample sentence: “Are you going to grow out your beard this summer?”
  • “To grow out of something” To become too mature for something
    • Sample sentence: “I used to be a stubborn kid but I grew out of it.”
  • “To grow apart”: To no longer be close with someone because your lives diverge and you have different interests
    • Sample sentence: “My friend and I grew apart after high school because she got married and I moved to the city.”

What other phrasal verbs do you know with “grow”?

Let us know in the comments below and tell us if you have any questions from today’s episode.

Do you use the phrase “I wonder if…” to make a polite request in English?

If you use this phrase for that purpose it makes you sound old fashioned and irrelevant.

Today get six alternative phrases to make a request that are more up to date and modern.


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Here is the phrase that you should avoid using: “I wonder if you could tell the correct word” or “I wonder if you could get me a drink.”

This phrase sound old fashioned and indirect.

It does not sound strong enough.

Actually the phrase “I wonder if…” is used to contemplate or ponder something. It’s not used to make a request in modern American English.

For example, we might say “I wonder if there is life on other planets.” or “I wonder if I will ever get married.”


Here are some better phrases to make polite requests in English:

  • “Do you mind…?.”
  • “Would you mind…?
  • “Could I…?”
  • “Would it be ok if…?”
  • “Would it be possible…?”
  • “Would you be willing to…?”

These are better and more modern ways to make a request in English.

Listen to the episode to get role plays of Michelle and Lindsay using these phrases in a real conversation.


What other ways do you know to make a polite request in English?

Let us know in the comments below.

You want to score a 7 or higher on IELTS, right?

If so, when you choose an IELTS teacher you need to be careful!

Recently we have heard a lot of bad advice from IELTS teachers.

Students come to us and ask if the advice that they heard is true.

In today’s episode we are going to tell you the most common myths that students are hearing from bad IELTS teachers.

Myth #1) You need to speak British English on the IELTS

This is incorrect! If someone tells you this, run away from them!

They are not a qualified IELTS teacher.

The IELTS is an international exam.

Even though the company that makes the IELTS exam is a British company, it does not matter.

You can spell in British English or American English on the Writing and the Listening test.

On the Speaking test you can speak in any accent you want.

The accent doesn’t matter on the Speaking test.

What matters is being understood.

If you can be understood by the examiner, you will get a better score.

Read more here

Myth #2) You cannot make up facts on the Speaking or Writing test

This is also a lie.

Of course you can make up facts.

In many cases you have to make up facts and create fake research to support your ideas.

The examiner knows that you don’t have access to the internet.

Also, the examiner will love it if you are creative and spontaneous.

They will be more likely to give you a higher score if you are able to keep it fun and interesting by adding your own facts and statistics to support your ideas.

Myth #3) You should take notes while you listen

This is wrong.

There is no time to take notes on the Listening test.

You should not take your attention away from the Listening to write things down.

You should instead follow along, stare at key words that you underline, and predict the answer.

Myth #4) You must ALWAYS use high-level academic words for the entire Speaking test

You should NOT use formal, academic vocabulary for the entire Speaking test.

You only need academic vocabulary for Speaking Part 3.

For Speaking Parts 1 and 2 you should be using casual slang and natural idioms and expressions.

Myth #5) You should write a 4-paragraph essay format for Writing Task 1

No! This is also a myth.

Teachers will tell you this if they are not familiar with the IELTS exam. They will tell you to write the IELTS essay in the same way that they write a traditional academic essay but that is not the right way to do it.

There are very specific ways to do Writing Task 1 for the IELTS and you can learn more about it here.

If you hear any of these myths from your IELTS teacher you should stop working with them.

Why? If they are telling you one of these myths then they are probably telling you other things about IELTS that are incorrect.

You should not waste your time and money with someone who is a general test-prep expert and teaches TOEFL, IELTS, and other exams.

Has a teacher ever told you these myths?

Tell us in the comments below.

Do you like to party?

On the IELTS Speaking test there are a lot of questions about parties and celebrations.

If you get a question like this you should use idioms and expressions to boost your vocabulary score to a 7 or higher.

Today we’ll give you 6 idioms to increase your score with these questions.

Here are 6 great Speaking test idioms for questions about parties and celebrations:

  • To get down: To dance, to have fun, to enjoy, to get crazy
  • To throw a party: To host a party, to invite guests
  •  To crash a party: To show up uninvited, to go when you are not supposed to be at the party
  •  To be the life of the party: To be the person that everyone is looking at, to be entertaining everyone, to be the center of attention, telling jokes, making the party fun
  • To be a party pooper: Someone who doesn’t have fun at parties
  • To be a wallflower: Someone who is shy and stands in the corner at a party and does not socialize very much
  • To be a party animal: Someone who loves parties
  • To let your hair down: To relax, let loose, have fun, loosen up, chill out and have a good time

Use these idioms on your speaking test if you get a question about parties and celebrations. Why? When the examiner hears idioms like these they automatically push your vocabulary score up.

This increase in your vocabulary score could push your entire band score up and might mean the difference between a 6 and a 7.

Want more episodes like this one? Get idioms for questions about work

What idioms do you know that can be used to talk about parties and celebrations?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you feel happy in your life?

Do you feel happy at work?

We watched a video on the Today Show that showed us the three numbers that help us be happier at work.

What do you think about these three actions? Do you agree that they could make you happier at home and at work?

Here are the three numbers:

  • FIVE: 5 minutes of meditation. Meditation has been found to change your brain. Try focusing on your breath for just ten minutes a day.


  • THREE: Write down 3 good things in your life every day. What are you grateful for? What are the simple things in your life that you appreciate?


  • ONE: Do 1 act of kindness every day
    • “Oh let me help you with that.”
    • “How can I help?”
    • “Do you need any help?”
    • “I’m around if you want to talk.”


Do you feel happy at work?

Could you implement these three numbers into your life to make your day better?

Let us know your ideas in the comments below.

To get that 7 or higher on IELTS you need to use idioms in your answers.

In other articles we have talked about idioms to talk about work, idioms to discuss technology, and idioms to talk about sports and exercise.

If the examiner feels that your vocabulary is above and beyond what you would read in a textbook, he or she is likely to give you extra points for vocabulary which could bump up your entire speaking score.

The best way to prepare to use idioms on the IELTS Speaking test is to learn at least 2 idioms for each speaking question type and practice using them with a native speaker or with an IELTS professional.

Today we’ll give you four idioms that you can use when you get speaking questions about family.

You might get any of these questions:

  • How many people are in your family?
  • Do you all live together in the same house?
  • What do you like to do together as a family?
  • Who do you get along with the best?

In this article I will give you four great idioms that you can use to talk about your family on the Speaking test.

#1) It runs in the family

This means that a character trait or a physical feature is found in many people within the same family.

Here is a sample sentence: “I like to be active and I participate in a lot of marathons and road races. It runs in the family because my dad also runs in marathons sometimes. We often train for the big races together.”

Here is another example: “My dad has high blood pressure and I started to develop it this summer. I guess it runs in the family.”

#2) Flesh and blood

This means that you have the same genes and that you are related.

We usually use this idioms when we want to say that we will support someone if they are in our family regardless of their actions.

You might answer a question like this: “Even though my sister can be annoying sometimes I always stand up for her when she is in trouble because she is my own flesh and blood.”

#3) Sibling rivalry

This means that you and your sibling (brother or sister) often compete.

You might compete with your sibling on academic achievements, athletics, or you might compete for your parent’s attention.

Here is how you could use this on the Speaking test: “My brother and I get along well now that we are adults but when we were kids we had a major sibling rivalry and we would compete with each other constantly.”

#4) The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

This means that a son or daughter might repeat the behavior that they see in their father or mother.

This is often used to describe negative actions that a son or daughter might take that resemble the actions of their parent.

Here is an example: “My sister is just like my father. She jumps from job to job and can’t settle on one career path. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Remember, using idioms on the IELTS Speaking test is one of the easiest ways to increase your score.

Practice the idioms in today’s article with a native speaker or an IELTS professional and you will be on you way to your target score.

Good luck and let us know in the comments if you have any questions.

Are you worried about using the present perfect on your IELTS Speaking test?

Many students get stressed when it comes to grammar tenses like this one.

Today we’ll show you how to use the present perfect and the simple past to respond to typical Speaking questions for a 7 or higher.

We’ll give you some simple and easy rules to follow on the test.

We use present perfect to describe achievements and accomplishments in the past.

How is present perfect different from simple past?

With the present perfect it doesn’t matter when the accomplishment happened. For example, “I have traveled to more than 30 countries.”

With the simple past, the time that the event happened is important and the specific details are given. For example, “I went to Mexico in 2005 and I ate Mexican food.”

In Speaking Part 2 when you introduce a story and at the beginning you might use present perfect to introduce the overall experience and then when you get into specific details you can use the simple past.

You should mix in both tenses to get a more dynamic and interesting answer and a higher grammar score.

Sample Answers:

Q: Do you enjoy going to museums?

A: Yes, I have been to many museums. When I lived in New York I went to a museum every week. When I went to Italy I also spent a lot of time at museums because they are famous there. I think it’s great to go to museums and see works of art that we don’t get to see every day.

Q: What books do you enjoy reading?

A: Good question. I love reading books. I have always loved reading science fiction and horror. I have read every book by Steven King. The last book I read by him was Full Dark No Stars. I read it and scared myself before I fell asleep every night.

With both of these sample answers we mixed the present perfect and the simple past in the same idea to introduce different parts of the answer and to add details and main ideas. This is what you need to do on your Speaking test. Practice writing down our sample answers here and create your own using the same grammar structures.

What questions do you have about using present perfect and simple past on the IELTS Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you get confused between “remember” and “remind” in English?

We hear students make this mistake all of the time and we are going to fix it today!

Let’s talk about the difference between the two words:

  • To remind: To tell someone about something. This usually involves two people or the person and something else that helps the person “remember”
  • To remember: This only happens with one person. There is information that the person recalls on their own without anything that “reminds” them.


Here are some common phrases:

  • Would you remind me your name?
  • Will you remind me to take out the trash on Wednesday night?
  • Did you remember to stop at the post office?


Listen to the role play between Lindsay and Michelle to get some great examples of how to use “remind” and “remember.”


Do you have trouble with these two words?

Let us know in the comments and write your sample sentences!

Do you ever want to escape a bad conversation in English without sounding rude?

Sometimes you start a conversation but then you realize that the person is not very interested in you or they are not interesting to speak with at all.

Last week we learned some phrases to continue the conversation in English.

Today we’ll give you 7 English phrases to get out of the situation gracefully without burning bridges.

Here are some phrases to end a conversation politely:

  • “Ok well have a great night.”
  • “Have a good time.”
  • “Ok I’m going to get a drink.”
  • “Ok take care”
  • “I’m going to go mingle around a bit but have a great night.”
  • “It was great talking with you.”
  • “I’m going to go grab something to eat so I’ll talk to you later.”

What other phrases can you use to end a conversation in English?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you need to move your IELTS Speaking score from a 5 to a 6?

In today’s episode you’ll find out exactly what the examiner listens for and how to use this information to push up your score.

There is a big difference between a 5 and 6 on IELTS Speaking.

Here is what the examiner looks for:

  • Fluency and coherence: If you can keep talking and speak for the full two minutes and if you can use complete sentences you can get a 6. You will also get a 6 if you don’t use “um” and “uh.” If you use linking words then you can get a 6. On the other hand, if you speak slowly, pause often, use “um” or “ugh” or “like” then you will get a 5 for this grading category. Remember, fluency is the ability to keep talking and that is what you need to get a 6.
  • Vocabulary/Lexical Resources: If you have enough vocabulary to get your ideas across you can get a 6.  It may be wrong but the examiner understands what you want to say. If you can talk about familiar topics such as personal topics (going to the movies, shopping) with the correct vocabulary but when you get to unfamiliar topics in Speaking Part 3 you don’t have enough vocabulary words then you will get a 5. People who get a 5 here also use general words like “stuff” or “things” or “people.” These vocabulary words are too broad. Practice being specific with your choice of words and you will get a 6 in this category.
  • Grammar: To get a 6 you need a mix of sentence structures including compound, complex, and simple sentences. You can have some mistakes and still get a 6. Don’t focus on small grammar rules like prepositions. Read more about grammar on the IELTS here.
  • Pronunciation: This is the easiest place to improve your score. Someone who gets a 5 talks like a robot with no feeling in their voice and all of their words sound exactly the same. To get a 6 you need to put some feeling in your voice. Practice varying your tone of voice in your English conversation practice and you’ll be ready to do in the test.

A student who gets a 6 is able to get their ideas across and the examiner understands most of what they are saying.

A student who gets a 5 cannot communicate their ideas and be understood, especially when they get to Speaking Part 3

Are you ready to move your score from a 5 to 6 on IELTS Speaking?

Let us know what your study plan is in the comments below.

Today you’ll find out what English phrase you should eliminate from your vocabulary and you’ll get 5 or 6 new phrases to replace it with when you agree with someone in English.

Do you use the phrase “Very well” when you want to say that you understand or that you agree?

If you are using this phrase it sounds old fashioned, stiff, formal, and out of date.

There are some better phrases that you can use.

Instead we recommend the following phrases:

  • “Ok that’s fine.”
  • “Ok, agreed”
  • “Ok got it.”
  • “Ok sounds good.”
  • “Ok sounds great.”
  • “See you then.”
  • “Yeah that works.”
  • “That’s cool.”


https://www.allearsenglish.com/italkiAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

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Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Listen to the role plays between Michelle and Lindsay in this episode to see exactly how these phrases are used.


What other phrases do you know to agree with someone in English?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we are talking about the key differences between IELTS Writing Task 1 for the General Exam and the Academic Exam.

For the General Exam you will have to write a letter.

It is easier than the Academic Exam because they tell you exactly what to write.

There are a number of different letter types and you should practice them all in your preparation plan.

For the letter task you will get a situation and you will have 3 bullet points that you must talk about in your letter.

Make a paragraph for each bullet point.

Make sure you talk about each bullet point in your letter because that is part of your task achievement grade.

One common type of General essay question is the letter of complaint. For example, you could get a situation where you have stayed at a hotel and you had a problem.

Now you have to write a letter of complaint explaining what happened. You’ll need to be able to use formal vocabulary for a letter like this.

Remember these tips for the letter of complaint:

  • You need to include specific details of your stay
  • Use formal vocabulary that sounds polite
  • Use interesting vocabulary such as idioms, specific words, expressions, phrasal verbs
  • You must address all 3 bullet points to get the 7 or higher
  • You need to show a mix of sentence structures. You can’t just use simple sentence structures
  • You need to have paragraphs and you must use linking words to organize your ideas

Letters of complaint are always formal so you need to use high-level, polite language.

You could use the following:

  • “Would you mind if…”
  • “Would it be possible to…”

What questions do you have about writing a letter of complaint on the General Exam?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Michelle used to be a stand-up comic!

She performed at improv events and open mic nights around New York City.

There is so much to learn from comedians about how to communicate well in English

Here is what you can learn from a stand-up comedian about how to be a better English learner:

  • Be flexible: Never memorize things.  Keep your language alive. Don’t make it static and dead. Language is dynamic. It is ok to memorize small chunks but you need to be able to plug them into spontaneous and flexible conversations. If you notice that something is not working then you need to be able to change quickly.


  • Be playful: Be light on your feet. When someone doesn’t understand you, don’t take it too seriously. Use more of an experimental attitude toward language. If comedians tell a joke that “bombs” then they keep going. You can do the same with your English. If you make a mistake, keep going and “roll with the punches.”


  • Be self-deprecating: Make fun of yourself or “poke” fun at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t take life too seriously. If something makes you look bad then you are ok with it. Remember, Connection NOT Perfection!


What do you think?

Can you apply some of these ideas to your English learning skills?

What is the difference between the IELTS Academic Exam and IELTS General Exam?

Today we’ll show you the major differences and we’ll tell you exactly what to expect on the General IELTS Writing test.

There is not a huge difference between the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Exam.

The Reading test is slightly easier and the Writing test for Task 1 is different and the Writing Task 2 essay topic might be a bit easier.

On the IELTS General Exam for Writing Task 1 you will need to write a letter.

The key is to make sure that you use the right tone when you write the essay based on the goal of the letter.

For example, you might have to write a letter of complaint to return a product.

In this case you would need some formal vocabulary in the letter.

For Writing Task 1 on the IELTS Academic Exam you will see a graph and you will need to write about it.

We’ll give you more details on how to write an essay for the General Exam in future episodes.

Are you taking the IELTS General or the IELTS Academic?

Let us know in the comments below.

John Fotheringham Language Mastery Show

Today we have a special guest on the show.

Our guest is the creator of The Language Mastery Show.

Today John will show you how to take learning into your own hands using exchanges and paid lessons to hit that higher level of English that you are looking for! Check out John’s tips below.


Tip #1) Get a language tutor

You must apply what you are learning on your own through a book or a podcast.

John recommends italki. Apply what you are learning in your independent study with your native English tutor.

Try out different phrases that you hear and ask your tutor for connections.

When you know you have a meeting with a tutor coming up you are more likely to put in the time every day to prepare.

Thirty minutes is a good amount of time for a lesson.


Tip #2) Try lang8.com

This site will help you practice your writing.

It’s another great way to put into practice what you learn through reading and listening.

A lot of students overlook the importance of practicing writing.

You submit your essays to be corrected by a native.

You also correct essays in your native language.

Using the site is free if you are also helping people learn your native language.

You can submit a term paper, a blog post, a journal entry, even an email.


Tip #3) Try Rhinospike.com

You submit text and you have native speakers record the text in audio format.

The idea is that you get to hear what you write being spoken by a native speaker.

This is free because you also record something in your native language that someone else has submitted.


What do the most successful students do?

They are motivated and interested.

If you want to learn you can get by with average materials and a lack of time.

Having a need or a strong desire to learn is the key to success when it comes to independent English learning.


John’s Bio:

Howdy language lovers! I’m John Fotheringham, a linguist, author, entrepreneur, vagabond, and full-time silly goose. I have been learning and teaching languages for over a decade and have seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t. And what have I learned?

Anyone can learn a language regardless of age, income, or zip code with the right attitude, methods, and materials. Most adult learners fail because they spend all their time learning about the language instead of actually practicing in the language.

You DON’T need to spend thousands of dollars on classes but a little in the right tools and materials can go a long way.

You DON’T need to force yourself through boring textbooks. Fun, modern, relevant materials are readily available online.

You DON’T need to be “gifted” at languages, but you DO need to figure out what methods fit your learning style, schedule, and personality.

You DON’T need to move abroad. Creative use of technology allows you to create an immersion environment no matter where you live.

You DO need to maximize your exposure to the language everyday through listening and reading input and maximize your active practice through speaking and writing output.

For adult-friendly language learning tips, tools, and tech, check out my blog Language Mastery, my podcast, The Language Mastery Show, and my comprehensive language guides.



Have you tried these tools?

How did you like them?

Let us know in the comments below.

If you want to get the highest possible IELTS Writing score for Writing Task 2 then you need linking words!

What linking words should you use and how should you use them?

Find out today!

In our daily study plan in 3 Keys IELTS we give you all of the linking words you need for the exam.

In the last episode we said that in IELTS Writing Task 2 if you get an opinion essay then you can answer it using both sides of an argument because using that style you will find it easier to come up with examples.

Today we are going to talk about the kind of vocabulary that we have to use to get a 7 or higher on IELTS Writing Task 2.

We have to use linking words!

Every sentence should have a linking word.

Use them all of the time.

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Find out why our strategies are the most powerful in the IELTS world.

When you use our Insider Method you avoid the BIGGEST MISTAKES that most students make on IELTS.

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Here are the linking words that you can use for every body paragraph

Topic: gentrification in urban areas (lower income families are having to move out of their neighborhood away from the urban areas because their rent is going up)

As for those who believe that gentrification is good, they feel this way because their neighborhood becomes safer. For instance, a study last year found that crime had decreased by 17% in Park Slope last year. In addition, they believe that real estate investors should be able to increase rent as they deem fit. A fantastic example of this is, the house next to me rented for $1200 per month last year and now it’s renting for $1600 per month.

In contrast, other people hold the notion that gentrification is unfair. Firstly, this is because longtime residents can no longer afford to live there. For example, my friend at work had to leave her neighborhood after twenty five years. Moreover, this is pushing people out into areas that are farther away from home or school, creating more challenges for them to succeed. More specifically, my colleague used to commute one hour to work and now she has to commute for two hours.


A key part of your Writing score on Task 2 is using high-level linking words. You will lower your score to a 6 if you use linking words that every other student is using. 

Make your essay stand out in the eyes of the Examiner and become a 7 candidate by using these exact linking words to get a 7 or higher on your Writing Task 2 essay.

What questions do you have about Writing Task 2?

Ask us in the comments below.

Do you need a 7 or higher on the IELTS?

Do you have a limited amount of time and money to prepare?

If you are in this position then you must maximize the time that you do have and do the right things every single day to get ready for your exam.

If you don’t want to take the exam multiple times, it’s best to find a quality IELTS course where the IELTS study plan has already been created for you.

However, if you want to create your study plan by yourself, today you will learn four things that you need to think about when you create your study plan.

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Find out why our strategies are the most powerful in the IELTS world.

When you use our Insider Method you avoid the BIGGEST MISTAKES that most students make on IELTS.

Click here to get a score increase on IELTS.

It’s 100% guaranteed.

#1) Create a balanced study plan

To get a 7 or higher on IELTS you need to focus on two things: test strategy/practice and general fluency. You can’t ignore either one of these. They are both important.

When you create your study plan, you need the following:

  • Strategies and test practice: Make sure that the foundation of your course includes learning strategies (these strategies should come from a qualified IELTS professional that you trust)
  • Exercises to improve your general fluency such as listening to podcasts with different accents, meeting with a native English conversation partner for speaking practice, reading the NY Times or another high-level newspaper and other solid activities to help you build confidence.

Write out your daily preparation activities and be sure that each week includes general fluency build and test preparation.

If you leave either of these out then you are unlikely to get the score you need.

#2) Test practice comes at the end of your plan

Should you include practice tests under test conditions every week in your study plan or should you place most of the test practice at the end?

It’s better to do most of your practice tests during the final 25% of your preparation time.


You need to build your foundation by learning test strategies and improving your general fluency first.

This will help you get confident so that you when you take your practice tests, you will be able to use those strategies that you have learned.

Should you take a practice test before you start your study plan as a pre-test?

If you are at a lower level it’s best to avoid early practice tests and focus on strategy first.

Learn more here: When Should I Start Preparing Under Test Conditions?

#3) Check in with a qualified IELTS professional

The stakes are high when it comes to the IELTS.

This test will determine your future career opportunities and what happens in your life moving forward. It will also determine opportunities for your family if you move abroad with them.

Unless your level is already very high, it doesn’t make sense to do this by yourself.

Work with a qualified IELTS professional and have them check your IELTS Speaking and IELTS Writing practice tests.

You could create your IELTS study by yourself and have the professional check it and add a few ideas or you could ask them to create it for you.

Whether you take a full IELTS course or just check in with a professional every few weeks, you can’t do this by yourself.

When you select an IELTS professional, ask them the following questions:

  • How many students have you prepared for IELTS and what scores did they get?
  • What are your IELTS strategies and how do you know they work?
  • Can I speak with your former IELTS students?

There are many ESL teachers out there who say they can prepare you for IELTS but they don’t have the depth of knowledge that they need to help you get your target score.

Be careful when you make your choice!

#4) Don’t rely only on “tips and tricks”

Don’t make the mistake of believing that a simple “tip or trick” will help you get the score you need.

On our IELTS podcast we give you tons of “tips and tricks” but they are not meant to be your only practice.

They are meant to be a starting point or just a taste of the information that you need. You need to go deeper in your study plan.

When you create your study plan you need to include more substance where you are learning real strategies in a step-by-step manner and then practicing them in an intensive format.

If you rely entirely on free content such as quick tips and tricks then you will miss the in-depth practice and implementation of the strategies that you need.

Be smart when it comes to IELTS preparation.

Invest your time and money in your dream and you will see results but don’t try to take shortcuts tips and tricks.

Now get started!

If you follow the suggestions above you can create a great IELTS study plan which will give you the structure and daily actions that you need to get closer to your target score.

Remember, a daily study plan is not going to help you if you don’t use it!

Block off a specific time each day (2-3 hours for 30 days) to prepare for IELTS.

Put in the time, take the right actions, and use the right materials and you will get your target score.

What questions do you have about how to create an IELTS study plan?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we’ll answer a question from a student. Michelle’s student asked: How do I know if “girlfriend” means platonic friend or romantic interest?

The first thing we want to consider is the context.

What do you know about the person who is speaking and what exactly are they saying about the person?

If someone says, “I bought my girlfriend flowers” then the person is probably talking about a romantic interest.

It also depends on the gender of the person who is saying it.

When a man says “my girlfriend” it is definitely a romantic interest.

If a man wants to talk about a friend who is a girl he would say “my friend.”

If a man wants to talk about his friend who is a guy he would say “my buddy” or “my friend.”

If a girl says “my girlfriend” then it might be platonic but it might also mean that the person is a romantic interest.


Here are some examples:

  • “I went with a few girlfriends to the beach over the weekend.” In this case the person is probably talking about platonic friends because the person has more than one girlfriend.
  • “I have a girlfriend who works for that company.” This is probably also a platonic friend because the person said “I have a girlfriend” because it implies that this is one out of many friends that the person has.
  • “I went to the movies with my girlfriend.” This one sounds like a romantic interest because the use of the word “my” makes it sound more exclusive and as if there is only one girlfriend.

What are your thoughts on today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today you’ll get three solid steps to tackle IELTS Writing Task 2!

You’ll learn how to stay calm and get the best possible score on the IELTS Writing test when you are writing argument and opinion essays.

All Task 2 questions look the same. You might see this question: Many people today think that zoos are cruel to animals and should be closed. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

To answer this question it’s better to write an argument essay where you talk about both sides.

Why? If you write an opinion essay (one side only) it’s harder to write because you need to come up with more ideas and specific examples for one side. Therefore, answer every question as an argument essay (address both sides).

Where should you start?

Brainstorm the W questions:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Write down everything you can think of to support both sides of the issue.

Write down examples and main ideas.

Learn more here about how to brainstorm for IELTS Writing.


You must address everything that is asked in the essay question.

If the questions asks you to respond to both sides of the argument then you need to include both sides in order to get the highest possible score.

For that reason it’s best to always answer Task 2 questions as an argument essay, addressing both sides.

How to calm your nerves when you write the essay:

Before you write out your essay try to clear your mind and take three deep breaths.  Feel your feet on the floor. Next, start writing with a clear mind.

Steps to follow for IELTS Writing Task 2:

  • Step 1: Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths
  • Step 2: Look at the test question. Give yourself a few minutes to understand it
  • Step 3: Take 3-5 minutes to brainstorm
  • Step 4: Write your essay

What questions do you have about IELTS Writing Task 2  and how to structure your essays?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we have a guest on the show!

Scott from Scott’s English Success is here to give you his top 3 tips on how to pass the IELTS Exam.

Here are Scott’s top 3 tips:

  • Get to know the test: You need to know all four sections well. The more that you know, the easier it will be to anticipate what’s coming. You don’t want to be wasting time reading the instructions. You should already know the instructions by taking practice tests. There should be no surprises and nothing unfamiliar in terms of the format of the exam. Get familiar with all of the different question types on each test section. This can’t be done overnight. It takes time, effort, and energy. You need to plan ahead and give yourself the time you need to get to know the test well. This will save you money because it’s expensive to take this test.
  • Understand how you’ll be assessed: This is especially true for the IELTS Writing test. You need to know the four categories of assessment. They include:  Task Achievement, Grammar, Coherence and Cohesion, and Vocabulary. If you know that these are the things that the examiner is looking at then you can consider them when you write your essays. Use these guidelines to “begin with the end in mind.”
  •  Stick to an exam plan: The students who have a plan and stick to it always do better on the exam. You should have a plan for what you will do every day during your preparation time.  You also need solid strategies for each part of the exam. It’s important to use strategies so that you feel comfortable and oriented when you are in any part of the exam.

* Bonus tip! You need to have a large vocabulary. If you understand more words on the exam you won’t have to slow down to try to understand words as they come up on the IELTS Reading or the IELTS Listening test.

Don’t just learn the definitions of words. You need to know how to use the words and in what contexts. Practice them with a native speaking partner before your exam.

Spend a good chunk of your study time focusing on vocabulary for more confidence and speed on the exam.

Scott’s Bio:

Scott is the founder and creator of Scott’s English Success.

What are your thoughts on today’s episode?

Which tips will you implement into your IELTS study routine?

Let us know in the comments below!

Do you know how to talk about success in English like a native speaker?

Would you like to sound more natural when you talk about this topic?

In today’s episode we’ll show you how to do it and we’ll talk about what makes a person successful.

Here are the expressions from today:

  • “To stand out”: To draw focus to yourself. To be different in a way that draws attention or focus. Here is a sample sentence: “Successful people stand out in one way or another.”


  • “To keep up”: To try to be the same as everyone else, to stay at the same pace as everyone else. “People who succeed in the world don’t try to keep up with others. They only focus on competing with themselves.”


  • “To go above and beyond”: To do more than average. To do something more than most people do. “My friend goes above and beyond to please her customers.”


  • “To come out on top”: To succeed, to have a positive result if you are in some kind of competition.



https://www.allearsenglish.com/italkiAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


What do you think makes someone successful?

Leave us a message in the comments and use the vocabulary words from today.

Are you worried about anxiety on the IELTS Exam?

Are you afraid that you will become nervous and anxious on the IELTS Speaking test and the IELTS Writing test?

Maybe your mind will go blank during the Listening test and you won’t be able to focus on what you are hearing from the audio track?

Anxiety is a real problem for many IELTS students especially if you have already taken the exam and you didn’t get the score you needed.

Don’t worry! You don’t need to let it take over your exam.

The first step is being well prepared.

Preparation is your foundation.

You need to prepare with someone who knows the exam or with a high-quality course where you’ll learn the right strategies that will allow you to walk into the exam with confidence.

Today I will show you three things you can do to keep your anxiety under control and get the IELTS score you need.

Tip #1) Know where it is likely to occur

In order to prevent anxiety from throwing you off, you should know where on the test you are likely to start to feel anxious.

What parts of the test trigger your anxiety and why?

This is easier for people who have already taken the exam but if you work with a qualified IELTS professional, that person can help you anticipate anxiety-provoking test sections and help you learn what to do when anxiety comes up depending on where you are in the test.

For example, on the Reading test there are two situations that will probably provoke anxiety.

What should do in these situations?

  • Situation #1: You don’t understand every word you read.
    • IELTS doesn’t expect you to know every word. Don’t let one word distract you and throw you into anxiety. Keep moving forward with the passage.
  • Situation #2: You don’t have enough time to complete the full Reading test
    • Go back to the strategies that you should have learned during your IELTS preparation. You must have a solid strategy to complete the reading on time. This strategy will be a solid foundation and will give you a resource to turn to when you get anxious.

Tip #2) Notice when you are feeling anxious

The key to not letting any emotion or feeling take over is to recognize and acknowledge when you are feeling something. In this case, notice when anxiety occurs in your body.

Are your palms starting to sweat? Is your stomach nauseous?

Is your heart beating fast?

Don’t ignore this when you notice it.

It’s a natural way that your body is reacting to a big test where the stakes for you are high.

Accept the fact that you are feeling anxious so that you can start to move past it.

Take a few deep breaths. Feel your feet on the ground. Spend a few seconds coming into the present. Then move forward.

Tip #3) Use your anxiety to increase your score

This may be counter-intuitive but on some parts of the test you can use your anxiety as an opportunity to show your language resources such as vocabulary, flexibility, and fluency.

You can also show that you know how to use your sense of humor in English.

Let’s get more specific.

On the Speaking test, what should you do if your mind goes blank?

Instead of freezing, getting quiet, saying “um” and “uh” or letting your anxiety ruin your test, try articulating what is happening to the examiner.

Use an idiom or a native phrase to do it.

Use rhythm and feeling in your voice to increase your pronunciation score also.

You can say:

  • “I am sorry. My mind just went blank.” (great native idiom)
  • “Give me a second. It’s on the tip of my tongue.” (this means you almost have the answer)
  • “I am blanking on this topic right now. Let me see… (now tell a personal story if you can)

If you use advanced language like this with some feeling in your voice, you might be able to use the moment of anxiety to move your vocabulary and/or pronunciation scores from a 6 to a 7.

To get a 7 on vocabulary in the Speaking test you need to have phrases that natives actually use.

To get a 7 on pronunciation you should avoid sounding like a robot.

You should sound like a real human being with life in your voice.

Your voice should show some emotion.

A moment of anxiety is a great opportunity to do all of these things and increase your speaking score.

Here’s the key thing to remember

When you experience anxiety on the IELTS it doesn’t have to bring your score down. Don’t fear it. Know when it’s likely to occur.

Be well prepared so that you know exactly what to do.

Use it to increase your score.

Everyone experiences anxiety on the IELTS.

The candidates who know how to make use of it skillfully will be the ones who get the score they need.

What do you think about anxiety on the IELTS?

Have you experienced it before?

What happened and how did you react to it? What will you do differently next time?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you use emojis and emoticons when you text in English?

Today we’ll talk about what messages emojis can send and what impression it can leave about you.

What can an emoji be useful for? If you are saying something that is harsh you can use them to soften your message.

Emoji “etiquette” might vary across cultures. If you have just moved to the US then you should hang back and observe. See what people send to you.

In the US emojis are good for:

  • Flirting/talking with someone you are dating
  • Speaking with friends


They are not good for:

  • Acquaintances
  • Bosses or managers
  • Colleagues that you are not close to


Do you use emojis? How do you use them? Who do you send them to?

Let us know in the comments below.

The best way to instantly increase your Speaking score on IELTS is to insert native idioms!

What idioms should you use?

It depends on the speaking topic!

Today we’ll show you seven great idioms that you can use when you get questions about work, career, and business.

The idioms that you are going to learn today can be used on both the Speaking test and the Writing test.

Question Speaking Part 1

Q: Do you work or are you a student?

A: I do the “daily grind” but my daily grind is a bit different. I don’t do the “old nine to five.” My day is a little bit different. I work from 6am to 10pm.

Here we used the following idioms:

  • “The daily grind”: Working hard, commuting, showing up at work, dealing with co-workers and bosses, repetitive work that you do every day
  • “The old nine to five” or “To have a nine to five”: A traditional schedule, working 8 hours per day
  • “To climb the corporate ladder” or “to work your way up the corporate ladder”: To move up in a large corporation

Question Speaking Part 3

Q: How has the working world changed in recent years?

A: My mom talks about having a “glass ceiling” in her career. She couldn’t break through it because she was a woman. I know it still exists today but I think more and more women are breaking the “glass ceiling.” They are finding their own ways “to bring home the bacon” and being the “breadwinner” of the family. Traditional roles are changing. It’s not like before where we only wanted to make ends meet. Now we are thinking more about building a business where we can make money into the future.

Here we used the following idioms:

  • “The glass ceiling”: The barrier that women can’t break through due to their gender. They can only go so high in their careers.
  • “To bring home the bacon”: To bring home money, to earn money for the family
  • “To be the breadwinner”: To be the one who supports the family, your money pays the rent
  • “To make ends meet”: To survive, to be able to pay all of the bills

What idioms have you used on the IELTS Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today you will learn a very cool English phrase that will help you shorten your stories and will make you sound native and natural in English.

Here is the phrase that you can use:

  • “To make a long story short…”
  • “Long story short…”

Here are a few alternatives:

  • “I’ll give you the short version…”
  • “Basically what ended up happening was…”


Listen to the episode to hear how Lindsay and Michelle use these phrases!

This phrase would also be useful if you are taking the IELTS Speaking test.

When the time gets short towards the end of your answer in Speaking Part 1 or Speaking Part 2 you could throw this expression in at the end to bump up your speaking vocabulary score.

Learn more about how to increase your IELTS Speaking score here.


What other phrases do you know to shorten the story or conversation?

Share them in the comments section below.

Are you afraid that you are too shy to get a high score on the IELTS Speaking test?

A lot of our listeners feel being shy is going to hold them back from IELTS success.

Today we’ll show you what you can do if you have this problem.

One thing you can do is create a new character for yourself during the Speaking test.

You can imagine yourself as someone who is outgoing and gregarious.

Give yourself an English name.

Practice the Speaking test with your new character so that when you get into the Speaking test you will be someone else, not yourself. You will shift your mindset for the test.

Have fun with this technique.

3-step system to become more outgoing during the Speaking test:

  • Step 1: When you prepare by yourself, don’t worry about talking yet. During your preparation just write down 3-5 sentences to answer Speaking test questions. Use complete sentences. Add details. Answer the questions “who, what, when, where, why?”
  • Step 2: Read your answers out loud and practice saying them.
  •  Step 3: Practice answering the question without writing down the answer.

What questions do you have about the Speaking test?

What strategies have you been using? How are they working?

Let us know in the comments below.

What should you do when someone doesn’t understand your English on a conference call or in a business meeting?

Today we’ll give you four easy steps that you can take to explain your point without getting nervous or anxious.

What to do when people don’t understand you:

  • Step 1: Notice if you are feeling anxious. What is happening in your body?
  • Step 2: Go back to your breath- try to feel your feet on the floor. Feel your breath going in and out. Take just a few seconds to do this.
  • Step 3: Try to remember the main point that you wanted to communicate. What was the essential message? What do people have to understand? Do they need to take some action? Summarize this point in your own head first.
  •  Step 4: Now say the main point in a different way. Use these phrases to get started:
    • “What I meant to say was…”
    • “What I mean is…”
    • “The main point that I am trying to get across is…”
    • “Basically,….”

What other phrases do you know to get your point across?

Let us know in the comments!

IELTS Writing is a huge challenge for many students!

Are you worried about IELTS Writing Task 2? Do you know how to organize your paragraphs?

Today you’ll find out how to write an awesome body paragraph for Writing Task 2.

We’ll give you the formula, linking words, examples, and the steps that you need to follow to get a 7 or higher on this part of the IELTS Writing test.

Last week we talked about how write an introduction on Writing Task 2 and today we’ll talk about the body paragraph.

The best information in your essay should go into the body paragraph.

The introduction and conclusion should not contain any substantial information.

You’ll need two body paragraphs which describe two sides of the issue for an argument essay.

  • Sentence 1 (topic sentence): Basic summary of what you are going to talk about. Present the main idea of the paragraph. For example, “There are many reasons to support co-ed schools.” By using a broad sentence you leave it open to go into more detail
  • Sentence 2 (first reason): Give the reason for what you are saying in your topic sentence. Use a lot of linking words. For example, “Firstly, there is a lot to learn by going to school with the opposite gender.” Next you need to add more details to expand on that idea. You can use personal examples or fake research here. You do not need to use statistics that are actually real. You can make them up. Try to have 5-6 sentences.
  • At the end of the body paragraph you don’t have to summarize what you have said because you might run out of time to write the conclusion paragraph.

Stick to this structure, stay organized, and practice it many times before the exam.

Use a variety of topics when you practice.

This structure will become a habit for you and you will be able to increase your score on the IELTS Writing test.

What questions do you have about IELTS body paragraphs?

Let us know in the comments below.

How do you keep the English conversation moving after you have started the conversation?

After you have introduced yourself to the person and you have exchanged a few words, how do you keep it going if you want to connect with the person?

Do you feel like the conversation always ends abruptly?

The first thing you can do is avoid “yes/no” questions.

They will end the conversation if the person is shy.

To come up with great follow up questions you can ask:

(In this example we are at a Spanish language meetup)

  • Who: Who taught you Spanish?
  • What: What other languages do you know?
  • When: When did you start learning Spanish?
  • Where: Where did you hear about this meetup? Where do you live?
  • Why: Why did you decide to start learning Spanish?
  • How: How do you like this meetup? How often will you be coming to this meetup? How did you get here?

*** The “Why” question is useful because it gives you a lot of insight into the person’s motivations, intentions in life, and their general point of view on things.

This framework is great for social events and exams also!

If you are taking the IELTS Exam it’s important to learn how to extend your answers on the Speaking test to fill the amount of time.

Learn what to do if you run out of ideas on the IELTS Speaking test.

What challenges have you had when it comes to continuing English conversations?

Let us know in the comments below.

If you are taking the IELTS soon then you might ask yourself, “when should I start preparing for IELTS under test conditions?”

Great question!

There is a right and a wrong way to prepare for IELTS and today we’ll show you when to start mixing in test practice with your IELTS preparation.

Are you worried that you are spending a lot of time learning test strategies but not practicing them enough under real test conditions?

Here is what you need to do to create your IELTS study plan:

  • Step 1: Start by building your general fluency skills and test strategies for each section. Learn how to write the best possible essay for IELTS Writing Task 1 and Task 2. Build these skills slowly and step by step. Take the issue of timing out. Just build the skills. Don’t worry about test conditions.
  •  Step 2: After you have your IELTS strategies and your general fluency skills, then you can take those skills and practice them under real test conditions using IELTS practice tests.

Use this timeline:

  • If you have 30 days, give yourself 7-10 days of timing yourself using actual practice tests under test conditions. For the first 3 weeks you want to only learn the strategies and work on your general fluency skills.
  •  If you have 60 days, start the test prep under test conditions two weeks before the exam to work out timing issues and for the first 6 weeks you need to be working on the strategies and general fluency.

The best time ratio is 1/4 of your time is under test conditions and 3/4 of your time is spent learning strategies and building your general fluency.

Set up your study plan, be organized, keep working hard, and don’t panic!

If you are prepared and organized then you will be fine.

What questions do you have about today’s episode? Let us know in the comments below.

Sean Morgan English pronunciation

Today we have a guest on the show!

Sean Morgan is an English pronunciation specialist with an acting background.

He will give us three key English sounds that will make you sound like a native speaker.


Three key sounds to pronounce English more naturally:

  • “Er” sound: Think of a dog growling and try to repeat this sound. This sounds different in the British English or Australian English. This is one of the most important sounds in American English pronunciation.


  • Nasal “A” sound: This occurs in “land” or “pan”  or “band” or “and.” It sounds different in British English. The tone of this sound happens in the nasal cavity.


  • 5 long vowel sounds: Focus on these because they are super common.


Sean’s Bio:

Our guest today has been a teacher for over 9 years.

He is a songwriter and author.

Although our guest is certified to teach English as a foreign language, he credits his vocal and acting training for his ability to help people with pronunciation and accent reduction.  Through careful listening and reducing the English language to it’s most basic sounds, our guest is is able to identify student challenges and focus on the most important pronunciation issues.

Our guest today is Sean Morgan.

To work with Sean on italki go here and then search for Sean’s profile in the search bar.

Do you feel nervous about the IELTS Reading test especially when it comes to matching headings to paragraphs?

Today you’ll get the one-minute system for matching headings to paragraphs on the IELTS.

Last week we talked about Y/N/NG questions on the Reading test so check those out if you are confused about that.

Matching headings to paragraphs should not be hard if you have a good strategy and if you have spent a lot of time practicing your strategy.

Without a strategy you will struggle and you won’t get the score you need.

The main ideas come at the beginning and end of the paragraph.

At least 75% of the answers are in the beginning and the end of the paragraphs also.

Here is the strategy that you should follow for these question types:

  • Step 1: Skim the passage. Spend one minute doing this. Read the beginning and end of every paragraph.
  • Step 2: Go back to the headings. Underline key words (names, numbers, nouns that are important). Don’t over think this. There is not one right answer for key words. This is to help you focus.
  • Step 3: Next go to paragraph 1. Read the beginning. Read it in detail. Go back to the headings and try to match. Don’t think too much about meaning. You are matching vocabulary and parallel expressions. Do you see words in the paragraph that mean the same thing as the headings. If you can’t match from the beginning of the paragraph then try checking out the end of the paragraph. Try not to spend more than one minute on each heading.

Remember, it’s not enough just to know these steps. You must practice them and get comfortable with them. Find a great course or an IELTS professional to work with.

What questions do you have about this IELTS question type?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Maybe you need more than one way to say something in English.

You want to be able to express yourself more precisely.

Today you’ll learn about one tool that you can use to build a deeper and more sophisticated vocabulary.

The Kindle is a great way to improve your English vocabulary!


Here are three reasons you should use the Kindle:

  • It’s cost effective: It only costs about $100 to buy a Kindle and from there it’s very affordable or free to get hundreds of books on your Kindle.


  • It’s portable: You can use the Kindle on your way to work on the bus or on the train or even in the park. We don’t have time to attend a large class anymore. You need your learning to be mobile.


  • You’ll have access to different kinds of material: It’s not just for books. You can get the NY Times on your Kindle, blogs, or other publications.


** Special tip!

Be sure to use Vocabulary Builder if you get started with the Kindle.




Learn more about Chris:


Chris Ternosky is an English teacher currently living Taiwan.

He is the founder of http://learnenglishwithchris.com/ where you can get tons of free information, and tips on improving your English.

Do you know how to write an awesome introduction for IELTS Writing Task 2?

Today we’ll show you exactly what you need to say for a great introduction for your Writing test.

The majority of IELTS questions are about opinions. You’ll get questions like: “Do you agree or disagree?” or “To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

Remember that an IELTS essay is not long. It is about 250 words. Four paragraphs are fine.

How to structure your introduction:

  • Your introduction should be 3-4 sentences
  • Sentence 1: The hook. This is what pulls in the reader. How do you hook the reader and get them excited to read the essay and to get them interested in the topic? You must mention the topic right away. Be careful of cultural differences in writing. With the hook you can give an interesting statistic and you can make it up. You don’t need to base it on real research because you don’t have access to the internet or any kind of research. If you can’t give a statistic then give a short general history of the topic such as ” the topic of libraries has been in the news a lot lately”
    • Give a statistic
    • Say something surprising
    • Give a short history of the topic
  • Sentence 2: Introduce the two opinions on the topic: “Some people are of the opinion that libraries will close in the near future; however, I disagree.”
  • Sentence 3: Thesis statement. Keep it short, simple, clear, and get to the point. “In this essay I will discuss both opinions” or “In this essay I will discuss why libraries will disappear.”

Remember, your specific examples come into the essay in the body paragraph so you don’t need them in the introduction.

What questions do you have about the writing an introduction to your essay on IELTS?

Ask your question in the comments below.

In today’s IELTS Energy episode you’ll find out what to do if you don’t understand what the examiner is asking in Speaking Part 1, 2, and 3.

It can be really scary if you don’t understand the question that the examiner gives you.

What should you do?

  • In Part 1: You probably don’t understand the question because of one word. Ask specifically what the word means. You can say:
    • “Sorry, what does “x” mean please?”
    • “Sorry I didn’t understand the word “x.” Could you please explain what it means?”
  • In Speaking Part 2: You can’t ask for a different topic. The examiner can’t switch to a new topic. Find the thing that you don’t understand. Is it a vocabulary word?
    • Use the same phrases as Part 1 to ask what the word means
    • “Can you give an example of “x”? – this is an efficient and smart way to understand the question.
    • If you don’t understand the whole question you can say “I apologize. I am not familiar with this topic. Can you explain the question?”
  • In Speaking Part 3: For Part 3 use the same methods as Part 2 and Part 1. Ask for a word definition, an explanation of the topic, or an example. Don’t be afraid to be honest and articulate the fact that you don’t understand. Use more formal questions:
    • “Can you clarify please?”
    • “I’ve honestly never heard of this topic/word. Can you give me an example?”

Remember, it’s ok to say it if you don’t understand a question. Don’t forget to smile. Keep it lighthearted

Have you ever been in an IELTS situation where didn’t understand the Speaking test questions? What did you do?

Let us know in the comments below.

A few years ago Michelle did ten interviews with celebrities in New York City.

She noticed that they all do 7 things when they communicate.

These things that they do make them effective communicators.

Do you do these 7 things when you communicate in English?

In today’s episode we will talk about what celebrities do right when they communicate.

Here is what celebrities do when they communicate:

  • They have great body language: They make great eye contact, they look confident, they sit up or stand up straight, they use gestures, they nod their heads to let you know that they are listening to you. All of these gestures make them command a sense of respect.
  • They have good volume:  They speak up! They speak loudly and with good intonation. This causes people to listen to them. They have a certain strength in their voice.
  • They are flexible during the conversation: They are able to move from one topic to the next depending on what people say. It’s important to be able to “pivot” into the next topic.
  • They listen well: You need to listen well to be able to be flexible in your conversation. Try to be present as much as possible in your everyday conversations.
  •  They support the listener verbally: They use feedback like “ugh huh” or “oh” or “I see” to show the other person that they are listening. This makes the person more interested in talking with them.
  • They include the other person in the conversation: They make the other person feel included. They ask the person follow up questions.
  • They share their own personal experiences and thoughts: It’s always more interesting when you tell a personal story if it’s relevant. Be sure to do it at the right time and make sure you read people’s body language while you tell the story so that you don’t cause people to lose interest.

Which of these communication skills do you have?

Which ones do you want to build?

Let us know in the comments below

Today we have a special guest on the show!

Simone Braverman from IELTS Blog will show you three IELTS tricks for a higher score! These tricks will show you how to do better on the IELTS Reading test, the IELTS Listening test and how to plan your study time.

Simone reminds us that you need to prepare for the exam and use the structure to your advantage.

This will help you reduce errors, save time, and get a better score.

How to get a higher IELTS score:

  • Tip #1: Use the IELTS structure to your advantage: On the Listening test at the end of section 1, instead of checking your answers when the recording tells you to do it, go straight to section 2 questions and start reading them. You will still have time to check your answers at the end because you’ll have ten minutes to transfer your answers. Understand the test structure and be strategic about how you use your time to get a higher score.
  • Tip #2: Do things in the right order to save time: On the Reading test, time management is a problem for a lot of people. The order in which you do things on the Reading test can save time. Many people say that matching headings takes a long time but if you do it by paragraph order, you can save time. Do it paragraph by paragraph. Don’t go in the order of headings. Go to paragraph 1, look at the list of headings, pick a suitable one. Next, do the same with paragraph 2. This way you won’t read a paragraph more than once. You will not be wasting time. The less you read, the more time you save!

Do you need a 7 or higher on your next IELTS Exam?

Do you know where to start when it comes to preparation?

Get our free IELTS Cheat Sheet now!

Click here to download the 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS

  • Tip #3: Find out what your weaknesses and strengths are: Everyone is different. Try to find out where you need to focus as soon as possible. You can do a practice test at home under real exam conditions. Do the Listening test without stopping the recording and do the Reading test within 60 minutes. When you finish, take a look at where you got stuck. Did you run out of speaking ideas? Was the problem time management on the Reading test? Don’t just continue doing practice tests and repeating the same mistakes. Once you know your weaknesses, go back and focus on building the right strategies.

Simone’s Bio:

Simone Braverman helps busy people whose English is far from perfect to score high in IELTS (higher than they ever expected) after a short preparation in their spare time – even if they scored low previously, have a learning disability, spend all their time at work or are afraid to death of exams.

Simone is the creator of a very popular IELTS website www.IELTS-Blog.com, which was launched in 2005 to become a great study partner for anyone preparing for the IELTS test.

You can find there a large collection of exam questions, test tips, techniques, strategies and preparation materials (books, courses, practice tests) to help you maximize your score.

In 2014 IELTS-Blog.com has won People’s Choice Award in the Best Australian Blogs Competition.

Simone has published four IELTS preparation books.

Her most popular book “Target Band 7”, written in easy English and available as an e-book and in print, attracted over a hundred positive reviews on Amazon.com and helped thousands of test takers achieve great results in IELTS.

Her newest book series “IELTS Success Formula” will teach you all you need to know to get Band 8+ in IELTS.

Meetup is a great way to get an opportunity to connect with people and to practice your English!

If you are living in the US or even in your home country and you want to have a chance to make friends and speak English, sign on to Meetup.com and search for meetups according to your interests.

What questions can you ask to start a conversation with someone at a meetup?


Here are a few ideas to start a conversation:

  • “Is this your first meetup?” (this is a great icebreaker that can be used to help people loosen up and connect)
  • “How did you find out about this meetup?”
  • “What other meetups are you a part of”


How to invite someone to meet again:

  • “Hey we should hang out sometime.”
  • “Let’s get together and (go hiking) or (practice our Spanish).”
  • “Can I get your number? Maybe we can meet up sometime.”


https://www.allearsenglish.com/italkiAre you looking for a professional, native English teacher online?

Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Michelle recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE second English lesson at italki!


Have you been to a meetup yet?

What was your experience like?

What phrases did you use to start the conversation?

Let us know in the comments below!

We want you to ACE the IELTS Listening test!

Today you’ll get some great IELTS Listening resources that you can use to improve your overall confidence and general fluency for the test.

These resources will also help you always have something to say on the Speaking test because you will never run out of ideas.

Today you are going to learn how you can understand native English on TV and in the movies and we’ll give you some great resources to push up your listening skills before the IELTS.

What resources are you currently using to improve your listening?

Do you get frustrated if you don’t understand everything when you watch a movie or TV?

You don’t need to understand everything for the IELTS.

You aren’t expected to have the level of a native speaker.

Don’t forget to use closed captioning if you are watching a You Tube video to get the words.

Here are some fun resources to improve your overall listening skills. These resources also come with transcripts.

Resource #1) CNN

Go to video at the top menu bar.

Click on a video and hit the CC (closed captioning) button. Choose something that’s short and quick.

Resource #2) NPR

Click on “listen” and click on “Morning Edition” and you can get transcripts.

Resource #3) TED Talks

What other great IELTS Listening resources do you know?

Please share them in the comments below!

Today is a Deep Thoughts Thursday. Here it today’s quote:

“Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.”

This quote has two meanings:

  • Meaning 1: In life you need hard times to develop your character and strength.
  • Meaning 2: In photography you need the negatives (photographs before they are developed) to bring the material into a full photo.


Sometimes life throws us hard stuff.

We hit the bottom but we have to push and keep moving forward.

What can you do when you hit one of these moments life or in your English learning?

  • Expect the down moments to happen
  • Stay centered
  • Push through them but be kind to yourself
  • Get a support system
  • Join a meetup and meet people, build community
  • Know that it will pass


What do you do when you the negative times in life?

Who do you turn to?

How do you get out of those moments?

Learning with bite-sized English chunks

Today we have a guest on the show!

Vanessa from Speak English with Vanessa will show you how you can still learn English even if your life is super busy using “bite-sized chunks.”


Are you too busy to sit down in a traditional classroom?

There are plenty of things that you can do if you don’t have time for an English class.

Here are Vanessa’s suggestions:

  • Decide what is sustainable for you: How much time do you have each day? What amount of time can you dedicate every single day? Make sure you don’t overdose on learning one day. Instead, be consistent with your specific amount of time each day. This is especially important if you have an exam coming up such as the IELTS Exam.
  • Choose the same time every day to learn English: This will create a habit. Once it has become a habit you no longer have to decide if you are going to do it. If it’s a habit you will be more likely to continue with it. This will also help you prevent procrastination. You will take action every single day.
  • Try not to miss two days in a row: If you do this it’s hard to get back into the habit. It’s ok to miss one day but if you miss two then you need to make a conscious effort to re-start the habit.


Vanessa’s Bio:


Vanessa Prothe is a TESOL certified teacher who has been teaching English for the past 5 years in 3 different countries: the US, France, and South Korea. In 2014 she started teaching English online on her website www.speakenglishwithvanessa.com.
In her latest course “30 Days of English,” English learners can improve their conversational English with daily 5 minute video lessons.
She invites you to join her free 30 minute conversation training on June 26th at 8PM EST.

When it comes to IELTS Listening and IELTS Reading you need to know what details matter when you fill out your answer sheets.

Does it matter if you capitalize your letters?

Does spelling matter?

What about punctuation?

Find out today!

So what matters when you write your answers on the answer sheet?

Only two things matter and they are:

1) Having the correct word

2) Spelling

3) Clear handwriting

You don’t need to worry about:

1) Spacing

2) Hyphens

Remember to focus on Connection NOT Perfection when you prepare for the IELTS.

Don’t worry about the little details like tiny grammar points that won’t change your score.

You can’t bring your old English-learning mentality into your IELTS preparation.

You need to remember that your score is an average.

Focus on what matters most!

What questions do you have about IELTS Listening or IELTS Reading?

Let us know in the comments section below!

In today’s episode you’ll find out how to talk about your accomplishments in English without sounding rude, snobby, or tacky.

It’s important to be able to talk about the great things that you have done but there is a “fine line” between being proud of what you have done and sounding snobby or “full of yourself.”

Three ways to talk about your accomplishments:

1) Link it back to the other person with a question:

  • Michelle: “Lindsay what have you accomplished lately?”
  • Lindsay: “I hiked across Spain in 2010. Do you like to hike? Are you a hiker?”

In this case I mentioned the accomplishment but I quickly turned it around and made it into a conversation by asking the person if she liked to participate in that same activity.

2) Emphasize the other people that helped make it happen

  • Lindsay: “Michelle, what have you done in the past five years?”
  • Michelle: “I moved to New York by myself but I was lucky because my friends were really supportive. I couldn’t have done it on my own.”

In this case Michelle acknowledged what she did but she also talked about the people that helped her and the role that they played.

3) Be casual and humble when you mention the accomplishment

  • Lindsay: “Michelle guess what? Did you know that our podcast got nominated for an award?”
  • Michelle: “Oh that’s great. Congratulations!”

You can start a statement like this with “Guess what?” or “by the way” or “oh I meant to tell you.” The idea is to insert it casually and without focusing too much on it.

What should you avoid when you talk about your accomplishments:

  • Don’t downplay your accomplishment: Don’t say “Oh it’s no big deal.” It’s annoying when you do this. Be proud of what you have done but use the techniques that we mentioned above.

Is it ok to talk about your accomplishments in your home culture?

Let us know in the comment section below!

Today let’s talk about our IELTS Reading test strategy.

On this Reading test you need three skills.

These are skills that you already know how to do.

You just need to transfer them into the test and then you need to spend time practicing and getting familiar with how to use them on the test.

Skill 1: Skim

When you skim you get the main idea or the “gist” of the passage. You might skim a newspaper article to get the basic idea.

Skill 2: Scan

You look for specific information. You might do this when you look for information on a website or if you are looking at a movie schedule in the newspaper.

Skill 3: Reading for detail

When you read for detail you are reading slowly. You read every word. You would do this when you read a novel, textbook, or comic book. You do this after you scan and find the key word and then you start reading for detail to find the answer.

Remember, it’s not enough just to know that these are the 3 steps. You must know how to use them on the test and you must spend your time practicing these 3 skills. We show you how to do this in our 3 Keys IELTS Success System course.

Do you have any questions about the Reading test?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Do you use curse words in English?

Do you use them in your native language?

Today Michelle and Lindsay will talk about using curse words, what it says about you, and how it might bring you closer to the people around you.

These days it’s not as shocking as it used to be to use curse words.

We hear curse words in the media much more than we used to.

Has this also happened in your culture?

Ashely Fern wrote an article in Elite Daily where she talked about why cursing can be good for you. Here are our favorites from the article:

  • It makes you feel less pain: When you stub your toe and let out that curse word, scientists think you can feel less pain
  • It can make you feel stronger: Do you agree?
  • It is a coping mechanism: It makes it easier for you to deal with things that are hard that are going on in your life.
  • It helps create close bonds with other people: Cursing sometimes create a subculture and it could make you feel like you are part of an in-group.

What is it like to curse in your culture? Is it frowned upon?

Is it encouraged or discouraged? Is it okay to curse in your culture?

Has this changed in your culture in the same way that it has changed in US culture?

Let us know in the comments.

In today’s episode you’ll learn how to not “drop the ball” on the IELTS Speaking test and how to answer common Speaking questions about sports using idioms.

In IELTS Speaking Part 1 and Part 2 there are often questions about hobbies, sports, exercises or staying in shape.

In these questions you need to use idioms and phrasal verbs. When you use idioms your vocabulary score will go up instantly.

Listen to today’s episode to learn more.

Here are some typical speaking questions:

  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • How do you stay in shape? How do you keep fit?
  • Do you play sports? Did you play sports as a child?

Example 1 idioms:

To be a team player= someone who plays well on a team with other people

  • Question: How do you stay in shape? How do you keep fit?
  • Answer: I play tennis. I like to play tennis to stay fit. I am a team player when it comes to tennis and that’s why I played on a tennis team. In high school I was the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of my high school tennis team.

Example 2 idioms:

To drop the ball= to not do something you are supposed to do

To be down for the count= to be in trouble, to be held down for an extended period of time

To be the underdog= to be the weakest competitor that everyone expects will lose

  • Question: Do you play any sports in your free time?
  • Answer: I have been a soccer player my whole life. I played soccer for ten years straight and then I dropped the ball. I didn’t play for a decade then I started playing again. Now that I am playing again, I miss 1 in 20 shots.

Today you’ve learned some new idioms and how to use them on the Speaking test when you get a question about sports.

Try to use these same idioms when it comes to other Speaking test questions too.

Let us know in the comments if you have a question about the Speaking test.

Do you get nervous on the IELTS Speaking test and the IELTS Writing test?

When you get nervous it’s easy to spiral downward with anxiety and to lose your ability to think clearly.

Today we’ll show you how to keep it light and easy on these two sections of the test.

How can you reduce anxiety on the Speaking test?

  • Make a light joke: You can do this as long as the joke is relevant and well-placed. Don’t tell a random knock-knock joke.  It can be good to poke fun at yourself sometimes and it will show the examiner that you are flexible and have real communication skills.
  • If you stutter or get stuck, acknowledge it: Say something like “Oh my gosh that was really hard. I am sorry I stumbled there. I am just a bit nervous.” You need to be willing to articulate what’s going on with you. It’s ok to acknowledge that you’re embarrassed. It will help your vocabulary score and it will also increase your fluency score.
  • Tell a funny story about yourself: This can be done in Speaking Part 2, as an example in Speaking Part 3 or on Writing Task 2. It’s important to use personal examples from your own life in Writing Task 2 because you don’t have access to examples and research.

Remember, you are not graded on your ideas on IELTS Speaking or Writing.

You are graded on your English so when you stumble or when you run out of ideas, you have an opportunity to show your fluency.

You have a chance to articulate what is happening with high-level vocabulary.

The examiner doesn’t care how much you know.

They care how well you communicate in English.

Do you have questions about today’s topic?

Let us know in the comments below

Are you using certain English words in your emails that make you sound weak or not confident?

Find out the 5 words that you should eliminate from your English emails today.

Lily Herman posted an article on The Muse with these 5 words that make you sound less confident when you use them in an email.

Let’s review them today.

The 5 Words to Eliminate:


  • “Just”: Don’t start an email and say “Just checking in” or “I just wanted to say hi.” If you add “just” it takes away from what you are saying. It sounds less confident and less direct. You make it sound like you think you are bothering someone.


  • “Hopefully”: This sounds like you don’t have any firm expectations or that you aren’t committing to anything. This indicates that you aren’t reliable and that people can’t count on you.


  • “Actually”: This has become a filler word. It can be kind of annoying. It often doesn’t communicate much. It can sound redundant and not necessary.


  • “Kind of”: This makes you sound hesitant.


  • “Sorry”: This is important to use in many situations and when you have done something wrong you must say it but don’t overuse the word. When you don’t need to apologize for something you don’t need to say “sorry.” This could make you sound weak in business.


What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Your vocabulary problems may be coming to an end.

Today you’ll learn about a cool technology tool called Anki and you’ll find out how you can use it to get a deeper, more sophisticated vocabulary.

Anki is a flashcard system that helps you review the same words over and over again.

Anki uses the spacing effect. It improves learning because it spaces out the time between your review sessions. If you review something too soon you are wasting your time.

The system tracks how well we know a card and the card is put into a large equation.

The problem with learning vocabulary is that the new words are hard to remember.

With Anki you can continue to review the new words. Now Anki is available on your Smartphone so you can take your Anki words with you anywhere.

There is no need to be chained to your desk.

This tool could end your problems with vocabulary.

Check it out today!

This tool can also be used if you are preparing for IELTS. You can build a set of vocabulary words based on common Speaking test topics and Writing test topics.


Trip’s Bio:


Trip was born and grew up in New York City. He moved to Zurich in 1993 and for the last 18 years has taught at The Cambridge Institute, a school which he considers the premier center for learning English in Switzerland. Trip is also an oral examiner for Cambridge University Exams and a free-lance journalist.

This year Trip co-founded ‘The Cardists,’ a company which specializes in bringing the power of modern, computer-based flashcard learning to schools, corporations and individual students. For more information, visit his website thecardists.com or email him at Trip@thecardists.com.

If you want to get a 7 or higher you need to use idioms and native expressions on the IELTS Speaking test!

If you use the idioms in today’s episode on the IELTS Speaking test your examiner will immediately consider a score of 7 for your vocabulary score.

This may move your overall speaking score from a 6 to a 7.

A student with a score of a 6 will not use these native idioms.

These idioms are the extra edge that you need on the Speaking test.

Here are the tech idioms for today:

  • “Bells and whistles”: “I just bought a new phone and it has all of the bells and whistles.”  This means that something has all of the additional pieces and add-ons. You can use this to respond to a question in Speaking Part 2 such as “Describe a piece of electronic equipment that you find useful.”
  • “A hack,” “A life hack”: A shortcut, something that makes it easier to accomplish a goal. Listening to podcasts are a great life hack because you can shorten your learning time and learn on the go!
  • “It’s not rocket science”: This means that something is not as hard as most people think. “A lot of people think that making a website is hard but it’s not rocket science.”
  • “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel”: When there is a process already in place to achieve a goal you don’t need to create a new process. You can just follow the process.

More questions to practice on your own:

  • Speaking Part 2 question: “Describe a piece of electronic equipment that you no longer find useful.”
  • Speaking Part 3 question: “Do you think all new homes will be equipped with household machines in the future?”

Please answer and practice these questions at home using the idioms above.

Remember, these idioms are what you need to move your score from a 6 to a 7.

What questions do you have about these idioms or about the Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below.

Are you stressed about the IELTS Speaking test?

Are you worried that you are going to panic?

Are you afraid that you will forget everything you learned in your IELTS preparation?

Are you afraid that you won’t know the answer?

We understand how you feel so today in today’s post we’ll give you three key things that you need to know about the IELTS Speaking test to get the score you need.

Check them out below!

#1) You must use phrasal verbs to impress the examiner

One of the most efficient and smart ways to increase your Speaking score is to use native-like vocabulary including phrasal verbs, idioms, and expressions.

When you prepare for IELTS get a list of the common Speaking test topics and learn a few phrasal verbs for each topic.

You don’t need to memorize a random list of phrasal verbs. Make sure they are related to test topics.

Next, practice those phrasal verbs in everyday conversations with native speakers.

Also, practice them when you do your Speaking test practice with your IELTS professional teacher or coach.

You need to interact with these phrasal verbs in many ways and many times before the test.

Practice writing in your journal and use them in your writing.

Notice them in the material that you read.

Give yourself plenty of time to learn a group of phrasal verbs for each topic and by the time you get to the test you will be ready to use them in your answers. You can also try using Anki to learn new IELTS vocabulary.

If you use phrasal verbs you will get a 7 or higher on the vocabulary section of your Speaking test.

Learn more about how to use phrasal verbs on the Speaking test here!

#2) You DON’T need to speak fast

Many IELTS student think that you need to speak fast to get a higher score on IELTS Speaking.

It’s a myth!

If you speak fast and the examiner can’t understand you or if you speak fast and make a lot of mistakes you won’t get the score you need.

Instead, you need to slow down and use intonation in your voice.

Put some feeling behind your words.

This will push your fluency score up and your pronunciation score.

It’s more important to speak clearly and with confidence than it is to speak fast.

This is also true for everyday English fluency but it’s especially important on the IELTS.

Click here to learn more about how to use your intonation on the Speaking test.

Get our step-by-step IELTS Cheat Sheet.

Download the “7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS” now!

Click here to get it for free

#3) You don’t always have to know “the answer” on the Speaking test

Everyone’s biggest fear is that they will get into the Speaking test and they’ll get an unfamiliar question.

Are you worried about that happening to you?

What should you do if you the examiner asks you a question and you don’t know the answer?

The most important thing to remember is that you are not graded on your ideas on IELTS.

You are graded on your ability to articulate your ideas and communicate in English.

If you don’t have the answer to a question there are two things you can do:

  • You can make something up- it is totally ok to make up a fake answer. Again, no one is going to go and check your facts. This is not a history test or a test about your factual knowledge. If you make something up and you communicate your message well, you can easily get a 7 or higher. This is much better than freezing up if you don’t know the answer and saying nothing. Also remember that you can’t ask the examiner to give you a different question. You have to answer the question that you are given.
  • You can say that it’s a tough question- buy yourself some time by saying “wow, that’s a tough question” then try to share anything in your personal experience that’s related to the question topic. It’s always easier to share personal stories than to share boring facts. You can increase your vocabulary score by articulating the fact that it is a hard question. You can also use an idiom to increase your vocabulary score such as “my mind just went blank.”

Click here to learn more about what to do if you don’t know the answer on the Speaking test.

What questions do you have about the IELTS Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below!

Today find out how to casually and easily schedule plans in English with someone.

We’ll help you drop that formal English that you learned in school.

Today you’ll get the phrases and terms that you need to connect with someone and spend time with them.

Phrases to ask someone to spend time together:

  • “When are you free?” This is more direct than saying, “Would you like to hang out?” or “Would you like to meet up?” or “Are you free on the (date)?”
  •  “When is good for you”? This is similar to saying “When are you free?”
  •  “How about the (date)?” or you could say “cCan we do (date)”?
  •  “That’s no good for me” or “That doesn’t work for me”
  •  “Does the (date) work?” or “Is the (date) ok for you?”

Have you used any of these phrases to schedule plans with someone?

Let us know which phrases you have used!

Leave us a comment below.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with your IELTS preparation? Not sure how you can fit it all in if you have a family, a full-time job, and other obligations?

It can be a huge challenge to prepare for the IELTS if you are already have a busy life.

Today we’ll show you how to make it all work to get that 7 that you need.

Here are some key tips on how to prepare for IELTS:

  • Figure out your priorities: If you only have two months, are you willing to sacrifice an hour of sleep to get up a few hours early? Are you willing to give up your TV programs to spend that time studying? Focus on the “why.” Why are you taking the IELTS? What do you want to do when you get your target score? Thinking about your “why” and your bigger vision will get you out of bed early in the morning.
  • Seat deadlines and mini deadlines: You need to register for your exam before you start studying. Also, sit down and look at how many days you have to prepare. Break down the whole test and set deadlines for specific parts of the test. What will you be able to do and by when? For example, by March 15th I will be able to complete all Writing tasks within the allotted time.
  • Don’t waste your time doing the wrong things: You must work with an IELTS course or an IELTS professional who can tell you exactly what to do with the small amount of time that you have. Make the right choice when it comes to choosing who to work with. If you choose to work with an individual IELTS tutor then ask them about the scores of their previous students.
  • Don’t be too tough on yourself: It’s ok if you have a bad day. You can take a day off. But don’t take more than a few days off. Get back to it quickly.
  • Don’t spend too much time thinking about how stressed you are: This is a waste of time. Structure your schedule and get a study plan. Use that time to get to work. Be in control of your time. Be positive.

What did you think of today’s episode?

Are you feeling overwhelmed about the exam?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you know how to catch the attention of your audience right from the beginning of your presentation in English?

Today we’ll show you how to do it and we’ll give you the phrases you need.

In order to give a great presentation you need to start strong.

You don’t want your audience to “zone out” and get bored.

You want their attention on you.

Here are 3 tips on how to open strong:

  • Start by asking a question: You can say “I’d like to start today with a question (for you)” or “Let me ask you a question.” It can useful to use these openers to frame the question and to get the audience prepared and to make them curious about what you are going to ask. Or you could say “To start off, I’d like to take a poll.”
  • Start by telling a story or anecdote: You can just jump into the story or frame the story by saying, “Let me tell you a story about…” or “Here’s a quick story…” Pay attention to intonation when you deliver these phrases to build the anticipation. You can also say, “I’d like to open with a personal anecdote.”
  • Start by shocking them: Surprise your audience. Michelle tried this in a graduate school class by opening her presentation by using curse words and swearing in front of the class. People didn’t expect her to use these words so she had their full attention for the rest of the presentation.

Have you used these tactics to open a presentation or a speech in English?

Let us know in the comments below and ask us your questions!

Do you struggle with the IELTS reading test especially when it comes to T/F/NG and Y/N/NG questions?

Today we will give you a simple tactic to get it right and get that 7 you need in IELTS reading.

Top tips for this type of question:

  • Pay attention to whether they are asking you for T/F/NG or Y/N/NG. Don’t get too comfortable to the point that you aren’t paying attention to instructions.
  •  These questions are more straightforward than they appear.
  •  For the True (T) answer it means that the statement matches or agrees with the passage.
  • The most difficult thing is telling the difference between False (F) and Not Given (NG). The difference is clear cut but you need to make sure you practice a lot.
  • Here’s a trick- set it up like a cartoon- one cartoon character is the question statement and one cartoon character is the passage. They are talking to each other. If they agree with each other then the answer is Yes or True and if they disagree then the answer is No or Not Given. Draw two stick figures and write the questions and answers next to each other so that you can see if they agree with each other.
  •  When you look at these questions, first look at key words. Key words are names, negatives, numbers, and other words that contain important information. Now try to picture the statement and the passage trying to have a conversation and see if they agree. If they agree then your answer is Yes or True. If they don’t agree then your answer is No or False.

What questions do you have about the IELTS Reading test and this strategy?

Let us know in the comments below.

Having too much time on your hands can be a luxury but can it take you further away from your goals?

John F. Kennedy say, “We must use time as a tool not as a couch.”

If we have extra time we have to use it to do something and not waste it.

Parkinson’s Law says: The work that we have to do will expand to fit the allotted time.

This is extremely important to keep in mind if you are preparing for an exam like the IELTS Exam.

If we don’t approach our work with a sense of urgency then we will never get our work done.

Here’s an expression for today:

To pull an all-nighter: This means to stay up all night to get work done. A lot of people do this in college.

 What can you do?

  • 1- set deadlines
  • 2- get an accountability partner- get a support system. Set goals with this person and tell them each day whether or not you have achieved your goal.


What do you think?

Do you struggle with maximizing your time?

What is your strategy to get over this problem? Let us know in the comments below.

In today’s episode we’ll give you sixteen synonyms to get a 7 on your IELTS.

We’ll also show you how to come up with your own synonyms for a stronger score on the Speaking test and the Writing test.

If you want to get a 7 or higher on IELTS you must have interesting vocabulary that is a mixture between academic, formal, high-level and casual idioms.

Are you worried that you can’t think of any synonyms or that your vocabulary is limited?

You may know only one word to describe something.

Now it’s time to expand your vocabulary to think about more than one way to say things.

Strategies Created by a Former IELTS Examiner

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Word #1: Buy

Synonyms (casual): To grab something quickly, to get a good deal, to get a good bargain, to pick something up

Synonyms (formal): Purchase, acquire, consume (this is better for larger economic trends= great for Writing Task 1)

Word #2: Global warming

Synonyms: Environmental issues, harmful pollution, greenhouse effect, ecological degradation

Word #3: Travel

Synonyms: Explore, go on an adventure, take an adventure, go on an excursion, get away, wander, mosey

How can you come up with your own synonyms?

Take the main word and create two boxes, one is specific and one is general. Fill those boxes with new words.

Go to thesaurus.com and type in your main word.

Check out all of the synonyms that they give you.

The words that are dark orange are direct synonyms.

Lighter orange words are more indirect synonyms.

You can get between 5 and 20 synonyms for any word you type in. It’s also linked to dictionary.com.


If you want to do well on IELTS then you do need to use synonyms. Don’t try to memorize too many synonyms.

It’s important to not only know them but also be able to use them in many situations.

If you choose only a few of them to learn then you will be able to use them correctly.

Choose two synonyms for each word and put them in your IELTS vocabulary notebook.

Today we are going to do an experiment to create a culture of thinking so that you can get that 7 on your IELTS Exam!

We will look at a NY Times Sunday edition and we’ll pick out some articles to find out how we could bring in those topics on IELTS test day.

Article #1: The Frugal Traveler: High End Paris for 1/10th the Price

Reading this article could help you in many ways on the IELTS Exam. You could highlight it as a trend or you could discuss it if you get any speaking questions on travel. This would also help you on the Listening test. You may hear a conversation between two people taking a trip. You’ll get the vocabulary that you need. It will help you build your brain box on the topic of travel.

Article #2: Discovering Ara-Yaki, a Japanese Dish

This article would help you on the Speaking test if you got a question about food.

Article #3: Listen! The Ethicist’s Weekly Podcast

This is a Q and A article. People write in and email in questions. How could this article help you on the IELTS? On the Speaking test or Writing test it would be great to be able to refer to this podcast and some of the ideas in it.

These articles are just a few examples but you need to remember that we want to create a “culture of thinking” in our own minds where ideas are always coming in and going out.

New concepts are always bubbling in our mind and we will never go blank on the Speaking test.

Get started by subscribing to the NY Times today or subscribe to a few podcasts.


What are the Cambridge Advanced Exams?

Who should take these exams?

Why should someone take these exams?

Today we have Trip on the show who is an oral examiner for Cambridge University Exams and he’ll show you how to prepare for these exams.

Who should take the Cambridge Advanced Exams?

These exams are designed around specific levels. You can set a goal to pass a specific level and you either pass or you fail. In contrast, the IELTS gives you a band score.

These exams are also more common for business professionals and the IELTS is more common for academic goals or immigration.


How to Prepare for the Higher Level Exams:

At the high levels, the teachers can no longer teach you.

Trip says that grammar is not a good thing to focus on.

You have to know what’s on the test.

To pass the higher level exam you have to read.

You should get the language flowing through you. It’s better to read more of what is easy for you.

Trip says that it’s important to memorize at this level. You need to get to know the tricky parts of the language naturally. You need to be able to pull out those skills during the exam.


3 Tips on How to Pass the Exam:

1) Read as much as possible: English becomes more nuanced as we get into the higher levels. If you read more you will have the language “flowing through you more often” and you will get confident faster.

2) Take a preparation course: It may be hard to study for this exam alone. It’s a great idea to attend a school where you are in the company of other people taking the exam and you feel like you are not doing it alone.

3) Take practice tests but not too many: Don’t make the mistake of taking too many practice tests. Doing practice tests teaches you the format of the exam but it does not teach you English and you have to know English.


Trip’s Bio:

Trip was born and grew up in New York City. He moved to Zurich in 1993 and for the last 18 years has taught at The Cambridge Institute, a school which he considers the premier center for learning English in Switzerland. Trip is also an oral examiner for Cambridge University Exams and a free-lance journalist.

This year Trip co-founded ‘The Cardists,’ a company which specializes in bringing the power of modern, computer-based flashcard learning to schools, corporations and individual students. For more information, visit his website thecardists.com or email him at Trip@thecardists.com.

IELTS test takers make a lot of mistakes that make it hard for them to achieve their target score.

These mistakes cause them to get stuck at a band score of 6 when they need a 7.

In today’s episode we will talk about the mistakes and how you can make sure that you don’t make these mistakes yourself.

By the way, if you searched for “ILETS” or “ILTS” to find this page, remember that it’s IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

Now learn about the most common mistakes below!



Mistake #1) They don’t take the time to understand the exam


  • Research the exam: Many people, even general English teachers call it “ILETS” or “ILTS” but it’s “IELTS” and it is administered in most countries around the world. Learn about the exam here and find out where you can book your test. You need to book your exam date well in advance because test centers fill up quickly.
  • Know what to expect on test day: The test day usually looks like this: Listening comes first, then Reading and Writing tests are given. In the afternoon you do your Speaking test. The time between your Writing test and your Speaking test could be one hour or it could be 4 hours and you won’t know until you arrive on test day. You need to have a plan for how to fill that time. Knowing what to expect helps build confidence for exam day.



Mistake #2) They don’t learn solid strategies that work


  • Learn the strategies: There is no magic piece of advice or magic idea that is going to get you to your target score. The only way to increase your IELTS score is to learn simple but powerful strategies that actually work. Make sure you ask your teacher how many of his/her students have achieved their target score before you use his or her strategies. The strategies should provide a system that you can use for each part of the test. They should be a foundation to fall back on. They will help anchor you and will keep your mind clear so that you don’t get taken over by anxiety. Strategies will also help you manage your time well on the IELTS Reading test and the IELTS Writing test.


  • After you have the strategies, put in your practice time: This is a difficult test. You cannot just learn strategies in a few minutes and expect to be able to apply them on the exam to increase your score. You need to learn the strategies and then put them into practice. You must do practice exercises and practice tests with these new strategies until you find that your score is increasing. There are no shortcuts on this exam. Do the work if you want to see a score increase. Read more here



Mistake #3) They don’t get balanced practice


  • Get a study plan that includes test prep and general fluency building: Most students either do only test practice and don’t improve their general fluency or they do only general fluency and they don’t learn strategies or do test practice. You need to do both.


  • Write out your study plan: Create a chart that details exactly what you will do each day. The activities should be a balance of test practice and general fluency building and should also include enough time to give your mind a rest. If you have 30-60 days to prepare you should expect to spend at 2-3 hours per day, six days per week preparing for the exam.


Click on the link below to download our free IELTS Cheat Sheet.

This will give you the exact 7 steps that you need to follow to get on the right path for a 7 or higher.

Click here to get 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher



Mistake #4) They don’t plan their prep time well


  • Schedule a deadline: At the time that you get serious about the IELTS, choose a course, and start studying, you also need to set a test date. Why? Deadlines apply pressure that will motivate you to study every day. If you don’t set a test date then you won’t take your commitment seriously. You won’t put in the time that you need.


  • Leave enough time to prepare: You must leave at least thirty days to prepare for your IELTS exam. Thirty days is fine if you are already very advanced in your English level. If you are not advanced and you need to get a 7 or higher then you need to leave at least 3 months to prepare. The best thing you can do is spend a year and the first half of the year is spent focusing on general fluency and then later in the year you can focus on test strategy.



Mistake #5) They don’t work with a real IELTS professional


  • Ask about the teacher’s experience and student results: There are many English teachers out there who say they can help you with IELTS but they can’t. When you prepare for IELTS you cannot work with a general conversation teacher. A general conversation teacher does not know the exam and will not teach you the strategies that you need to get your target score. You will waste your time and money. When you consider hiring a teacher, ask about their previous students. What exam results did they get? What strategies did the teacher help them with? Don’t be afraid to question the teacher a bit. This is your future and you are making a significant investment. You need to get results. If the teacher doesn’t have the skills then look for someone new.


Are you making any of these IELTS mistakes?

Let us know in the comments below and ask us your IELTS questions!

We hope to hear from you.


Photo credits: http://bit.ly/1KZ0tf0


Today you will find out how you should plan your essay and whether or not you should count your words in IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2.

Gem of Wisdom 1:

Do not forget to plan your essay. You MUST plan your essay before you write it if you want to get a 7 or higher.

You can’t just randomly put all of your ideas down on the page.

It must be organized and well planned.

Gem of Wisdom 2:

Do not plan your essay in your native language.

This will take too much time because you will be brainstorming vocabulary and ideas and then you will have to translate into English from your native language.

Gem of Wisdom 3:

How should you plan your essay?

Start by coming up with your thesis statement or main point- what are you trying to say, what are you trying to get across?

What is your opinion?

It’s crucial to have an opinion on the IELTS Writing test.

Most of the time you’ll have two columns and you’ll brainstorm reasons and examples for both sides.

It may be easier to think of ideas for the side that you don’t agree with.

Don’t worry about having an organized outline. Use two columns and that is enough.

Go deeper with your brainstorming to find a unique idea.

Gem of Wisdom 4:

Should you count the number of words that you have in your essay? No! It takes too long.

First, get used to the timing of planning and the timing of writing the paragraphs.

Once you get a feel for how much you are supposed to write you can start counting your lines to make sure you have enough.

By the time you get to the test you should already know what it feels like to write the required amount.

Most people write ten words per line.

Make sure you have at least 15-18 lines.

For Task 2 you need 25-28 lines.

Did any of these tips surprise you?

What additional questions do you have about the Writing test?

Let us know in the comments.

Today you’ll find out how to immediately grab someone’s attention in English by leading with their interests.

We’ll give you five English phrases that you can use to to do this today.

Pulling someone in from the beginning is one important key to connecting with someone through a conversation.

You want people to be interested in what you are saying.

You don’t want people to “zone out” when you start talking.

You want them to be tuned in to you and what you are saying.

Expressions to catch someone’s interest:

  • “I thought of you when I saw this…”
  • “I was hoping to get your opinion on this…”
  • “I know this is right up your alley…”
  • “You’d be interested in this…”

Which of these phrases do you use in your English conversations?

Let us know in the comments below.

In today’s episode you’ll get 4 Scottish English expressions to speak with a local in Scotland.

These expressions are super common in Scotland but you’ll never hear them in the United States.

Here are 4 Scottish English expressions:

  • ‘That’s me away”: This means “I am going now” or “I am leaving”
  •  “To go and get the messages”: To go food shopping in a supermarket or grocery store.
  •  “Away to your bed”: This means “go to your bed” and this is something that a mother might say to her child when she is frustrated or annoyed or wanting to be firm.
  •  Modal verbs such as “want” and “need”: In Scottish English they use the progressive tense. They say “will you be wanting that?” instead of “do you want that?”
  •  “Aye”: This means “yes” in Scotland. It can be used in a more formal situation.

Steven’s Bio:

Hello, I am Steven from Dundee, Scotland. I have over 12 years experience of teaching English as a foreign language, so if you are interested in learning English with me, then I’d be delighted to hear from you. I am also a language learner myself, so I understand the processes involved in learning, maintaining and improving your skills in a second or third language. Please contact me if you wish to receive lessons in either English or Scottish Gaelic. I hope to see you soon!

Have you ever been to Scotland? Did you understand the Scottish accent?

Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Spelling matters on the IELTS Listening test!

Would you like to know why?

If you spell a word incorrectly on the Listening test, Reading test, or Writing test, the answer is considered wrong.

How can you improve your spelling for IELTS?

You need to read as much as you can. You need to create a reading culture in your life.

As long as you read often you will be able to spell anything you need to spell on the IELTS exam.

Two activities you should try:

  • Envision the words in your mind while you speak. Envision the way that they are spelled.
  • Choose one paragraph and as you read, read with your finger, read out loud and point to each word as you say it. Focus your mind on each specific word and how it sounds and how it’s spelled.

You also need to focus on your spelling for the Writing test. It’s impossible to get a 7 if you have 3 or 4 words spelled wrong.

This is another reason to not take big risks on the test.

Don’t use new words that you have never written down before.

Take big risks during your preparation.

During the exam only use words that you know how to spell.

How is your spelling in English?

Have you experienced any challenges with this?

Let us know in the comments.

If you want a 7 or higher on the IELTS Exam you need to be spontaneous on the IELTS Speaking test.

Today we’ll show you how to build spontaneity and flexibility into your speaking skills.

Do you rehearse and memorize what you are going to say when it comes to the IELTS Speaking test?

Here is how rehearsing impacts your score:

If you memorize speaking answers you use them in the wrong context.

You’ll get a low score for coherence and you’ll get a low pronunciation score because you will have no variety in your tone of voice if you are using rehearsed phrases.

How can you get more spontaneous and natural?

Step 1: Stop worrying about perfect grammar

Step 2: Create an immersive environment. Watch English movies. Get a conversation partner.

Step 3: Join an improv group where you learn to come up with ideas on the spot and act them out. Learn more about improv from Jessica Coyle.

What are you doing to build your spontaneity in speaking?

Let us know below.

Michael DiGiacomo Happy English

Are you wondering if you should study English in a small town or in a big American city like New York?

Today our guest, Michael DiGiacomo from Happy English will show you how to decide where to study English.

You need to ask yourself what your goal is.

Why are you studying abroad?

What is the purpose of the investment?

What new skills do you want to have when you go home?


Pros of studying in the city:

  •  You get access to amazing museums, restaurants, clubs, cafes, etc. You’ll get a true cosmopolitan experience.


Cons of studying in the city:

  • You are likely to spend time with people from your home country. You won’t get many opportunities to speak English if you spend time with people from your home country.


Pros of studying in the countryside:

  • You may be the only person from your home country. This could be great because you’ll be forced to speak English. You’ll probably improve much faster.


Cons of studying in the countryside:

  • You might be lonely. You might feel culture shock. You may feel isolated.
  • You might be bored because there isn’t much to do in small towns.


Here’s a better option: Choose a city that is an hour or two outside of a major city.

You can get into the city on the weekends when you get bored but your daily life won’t include people from your home country.


Michael’s Bio:

Michael DiGiacomo is the founder of Happy English.

Based in NYC, he has been an English teacher for more than 20 years.

His mission at Happy English is to make English fun and practical and to help you feel confident when you speak.

In today’s episode you’ll get 3 steps to go from “slow reader” to “IELTS reading extraordinaire.

If you feel like you read slowly then today’s episode is for you.

Here is what you should do:

  • Read something you enjoy every day. It doesn’t matter what it is. Go to a bookstore. Browse and look around. See what you like. Create a reading culture in your own life. Learn to read for fun and you will be more confident on test day. At this point don’t worry about speed.
  • Next learn how to apply the reading skills on the test. This is where you need a strategy. Use the skills of skimming, scanning, and reading for detail. Do practice tests after you have learned the strategy and practiced it.
  • Try this exercise: choose a newspaper article, read it, write down everything you remember for 5 minutes only. If you do this every day your reading speed and your comprehension will improve quickly.

Click here to learn about one reading worry for all IELTS students.

What is your plan to improve your reading speed for the IELTS?

Let us know in the comments below.

Shayna from Espresso English

Today we are super excited to have Shayna from Espresso English Podcast on the show for the second time!

Today Shayna will show us how to push our level from intermediate to advanced with some new ideas that we have never talked about before.

It’s all about diversifying!

Keep reading to learn more.


How to push your English to the advanced level:

  • Look for material in various genres of English: If you currently listen to a lot of academic lectures like TED Talks, why not try poetry or classic English literature? You’ll see phrases being presented in different ways, from different angles. Diversify your input!
  • Seek out people with different types of English accents: Don’t limit yourself just to “American English” or “British English.” A great site to do this is ELLLO.ORG


Shayna’s Bio:

Shayna is the creator of Espresso English where she helps you move your Englsih to the next level with clear, concise, and easy-to-follow English lessons online.

She is from the US but she is currently living in London.

Shayna has a new course that is designed just for intermediate English learners who want to move to the advanced level. Check it out here.


Today you’ll hear the sad story of someone stuck at IELTS band score 6.

Is this you?

You’ll find out what you need to change if this is your situation.

What is this student doing wrong?

  •  She is trying to study alone, with a textbook and is trying to memorize things to prepare for IELTS just like she studied in her home country growing up. This doesn’t work when it comes to a language exam like IELTS. The IELTS requires spontaneity so memorization doesn’t help very much.
  •  She makes pages of lists of sentences and words by herself. She doesn’t interact with anyone else or any other material or input.
  •  She reads example essays and copies them. She doesn’t spend much time writing her own essays and using IELTS writing strategies.
  •  She refuses to admit that her way of studying isn’t working. She has been stuck at a 5.5 or 6 for three years.

version 1 JPGDo you know what steps to take to get a 7 or higher on the IELTS?

You can get our free IELTS Cheat Sheet now!

Download the “7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS”

Is this you? Here is what to do:

  • Admit that you need help and that what you are doing isn’t working. Be willing to change your preparation strategy.
  • Put in the hours with the CORRECT strategies.
  • Go out into the real world with your English to get the balanced practice. Be willing to spend time with native speakers, make mistakes, and feel vulnerable.
  • Remember that test practice is not a way to improve your IELTS skills. You need to prepare for the test by learning strategies and improving your skills then measure by taking practice tests.


Are you this student?

Are you stuck at a band score of 6?

What are you going to change starting today?

Tell us in the comments below.

Do you bore people when you speak English?

Do you ramble?

If you do then you need to get some new skills to keep people engaged and excited to talk to you.

Today we’ll show you how to do it.

Today we’ll show you how to engage someone in person and on the phone.

Situation #1: In Person

  • You need to be able to “take a hint” when someone in front of you is bored. People might look at their watch or look away from you. That means that the person wants you to stop talking. Learn to take the hint and stop talking.
  • Make eye contact- don’t look around the room. Make the person feel engaged. This is different across cultures but in American culture it’s important to make eye contact.
  •  Vary your tone of voice- Don’t be monotonous when you speak. Be interesting! Use your words like a song. Put feeling into your voice. This can even help you on the IELTS Speaking test.
  • Show the person that you are thinking about them- Use phrases like these “You are probably in a hurry” or “I want to respect your time.” It’s also great to ask the person questions about themselves. Show interest with these phrases like “what about you?”

Situation #2: On the phone

  • Use reference markers- Use phrases like “first of all…” and “the other thing is…” and “the last thing I want to say is…”

What do you do to keep people engaged?

Let us know in the comments below.

Have you set a test date yet for your IELTS Exam?

If you haven’t set a date yet, today you’ll find out why you MUST set a date as soon as possible and how to do it.

Why should you set a test date before you start preparing for IELTS?

When you don’t know when your test will be, you won’t know how to divide up your study time.

You won’t be able to use a specific IELTS daily plan.

If you don’t have a specific plan or test date you won’t approach your preparation with enough urgency.

You must feel the pressure to push yourself to really be ready.

You also need to know exactly how much work is involved when you are planning and preparing so that you know how much you can do each day.

version 1 JPGDo you know what steps you need to take to get a 7 or higher on the IELTS?

Get our free IELTS Cheat Sheet!

Click here to download the ” 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher”

What is your plan to reach a 7 or higher?

Have you set a test date yet?

If not, why not?

Let us know in the comments.

Sometimes life gets complicated!

It can hard to de-clutter your life.

Today find out how to simplify your English learning and your life.

How can you simplify your life?

  • Try to chase one goal at a time. Don’t go after more than one thing because you won’t achieve any of your goals if you “spread yourself too thin.”
  • Beware of “the curse of the expert.” When you know a lot about one topic it’s easy to get overwhelmed and it’s hard to simplify the concept.
  • Take a day off. This will help you to simplify things in your mind because it will change your state of mind. Go into nature. Go climb a mountain.

How do you simplify your life?

Let us know in the comments.

Do you have an IELTS vocabulary notebook for the Writing and Speaking tests?

If you don’t then you should and we’ll show you how to use it today.

To get a high vocabulary score you need:

  • Idiomatic phrases
  • Casual phrases
  • Native phrases
  • Academic phrases and words

You must improve your vocabulary for every part of the IELTS test.

You can do that with a vocabulary notebook. Get a simple notebook and follow the tips in this episode.

Where does the vocabulary come from?

  •  The newspaper: Read it once per week, get the Sunday edition, there are at least 20 different article topics. Make yourself read an article that you wouldn’t normally read. We recommend the New York Times. You will find common IELTS topics in a newspaper like New York Times. This will get you the academic vocabulary that you need for writing.
  • Watch your favorite TV sitcom: You can watch Friends and have your vocabulary notebook on your lap. TV shows like Friends would be a great way to get idiomatic speaking vocabulary. Write down no more than 2 words per episode.
  • Conversations:  You can eavesdrop on other people’s conversations in cafes or on the train. Take out your notebook and write down 1 or 2 words that you hear during a conversation.
  • Podcasts: Don’t just focus on ESL podcasts. Choose a topic that you like and search for it in the itunes store. Listen to different types of vocabulary and listen to different ways of speaking.
  •  Follow your interests: Google search your interests. Write down no more than two words that you read. Do this for 20 minutes and then move on to a new activity.

What do you write in your notebook?

Write the word and part of speech.

Write down the definition in your own words in English if you are intermediate or above.

Write two example sentences.

Get one sample sentence from Google.

Get the other sample sentence by creating it yourself. You need to come up with that second sentence to make the word stick in your head.

Then use the word in speaking and writing throughout the day or week.

Remember, when it comes to IELTS vocabulary, less is more!

Learn fewer words but learn them very well and be ready to use them with confidence.

Do you have your IELTS vocabulary notebook yet?

Let us know in the comments below.

Have you just relocated to the United States?

Today we have a guest on the show who will give you 3 smart tips to have a great experience during your first few months in the United States.

3 tips for a newcomer:

  • Always have a solid expat legal plan: You should always have your legal paperwork in order and be prepared. Understand the laws of the country. Understand the limitations of your visa and what you are allowed to do.
  • Continue to contribute your unique skills: Remember that people are people, regardless of culture. We respond to hard work, honesty, and integrity. Keep doing your work while you are here.
  • Learn to take rejection and move on: It will be challenging when you move abroad. Be prepared to get rejected and then to stand back up and keep trying.


Portia’s Bio:

Dr. Portia Ndlovu is an author, Associate Professor, a business woman and a lawyer.

She comes from Durban South Africa and she is now based in Cape Cod, MA.

In her consulting and teaching she inspires others to pursue their dreams in both the legal field and in business.

Check out her publications on Linked In

Learn more about Massachusetts Maritime Academy


On IELTS Writing Task 2 do you struggle to find ideas?

Do you know where to put your ideas when you come up with them?

Today we’ll show you how to brainstorm for Writing Task 2 and how to organize your ideas into your paragraphs in Writing Task 2.

How to brainstorm your ideas for IELTS Writing Task 2:

  • Write down anything that comes to mind
  • Go beyond the 2nd, 3rd idea- write down 4, 5, 6 ideas
  • Don’t stop brainstorming until you get an interesting angle, concept, point
  • Draw two columns, agree and disagree and write down everything you can think of
  • Don’t over-complicate it by trying to be too specific, it can be broad such as “Many people agree with X for the following reasons.”

How to organize your ideas:

  • Go back and circle the best ideas and then you are ready to write
  • In the body paragraph, the first sentence needs to have the topic sentence
  • In the next sentences, use more complicated sentences and build out your idea

A final tip:

  • Journal every day- close your eyes, point to something in the newspaper, take ten minutes to write about that topic

What other questions do you have about IELTS Writing Task 2?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today we’ll talk about delayed gratification versus instant gratification.

You’ll find out how you can use delayed gratification for better English skills and a better life overall.

Here is today’s quote:

“Today I will do the things that others won’t so that tomorrow I can do the things that others can’t”- Jerry Rice


What are the things that you could do to get ahead with your English?

Do you work every day. Don’t just show up when you feel inspired or motivated. You will get better if you set a regular time to work on your English every day.


What do you think?

What are you working hard on every day? Do you show up every day?

Tell us your story in the comments.

Do you have questions on your mind about the IELTS exam?

Today you’ll get 3 answers to 3 questions from a current IELTS student.

Question 1: Where can I take the IELTS?

Go to IELTS.org. Click on “find a test.” Choose your city.

Book your test at least 3 months in advance to be sure that you get your spot.

Test centers get booked very far in advance. Don’t miss your opportunity to take the test.

Question 2: The test seems so “daunting.” What should I do?

Yes, the test is huge and quite long.

The biggest issue is timing.

You need strategies for getting the timing right and to complete each test section.

Find an IELTS professional to give you the strategies that you need and then practice them.

Question 3: It seems hard to do all of the test subjects on the same day. What should I do?

Make sure you have enough energy for test day. Eat a good breakfast. Your brain and body need energy and calories.

Have a plan for what you are going to do between the Writing test and your Speaking test.

Your Speaking test could be scheduled for any time in the afternoon.

During that block of time you should be able to get some food.

Maybe do some casual English listening practice.

Plan to go watch a movie or get some exercise.

What are your questions about IELTS?

Leave them in the comments section below!

In today’s episode you’ll get the difference between “suppose” and “to be supposed to.”

What is the difference between the two terms?

  • “I suppose”= I think, I guess, I assume, I believe, I imagine (verb)
  • “I am supposed to”= I should, I need to, I am expected (adjective)


What are you going to do if your students don’t show up to class? I suppose I’ll stick around and wait for them.

People are supposed to pay for the subway in Boston but sometimes they don’t.

Now write your sample sentence in the comments.

Let us know if you understood today’s lesson!

Should you memorize when it comes to IELTS?

What happens to your score if you memorize an essay topic and use that to respond to the essay instead of answering the actual question that you receive?

This is a very bad idea. Don’t do it. Answer the actual essay question that you are given.

Is it always bad to memorize for the IELTS?

There are some situations where memorizing for the IELTS is good. Here are some examples:

  • You can memorize the essay structure. Memorize what kinds of structures you need for each type of essay on the IELTS Writing test.
  • You can memorize step-by-step systems for each part of the test. These systems will keep you from panicking.
  • You can and should memorize high level vocabulary, phrasal verbs, and idioms for the IELTS

Do you have any questions about today’s episode?

Ask us in the comments below.

Today we have a special guest on the show!  You’ll find out the 3 mistakes you are making with your American English vowel sounds and how to solve your problem today!

Jennifer Tarle from Tarle Speech and Language is here to show you 3 actions steps that you can take to immediately solve your problems with American English vowel sounds.

Jennifer believes that listening is key to pronunciation. It’s more important than learning phonetic symbols and studying a pronunciation chart.

You need to work on your listening and then put it into practice.

Here are 3 things you can do today to improve your American English vowel sounds:

  • Long versus short vowel sounds (“Eat” versus “it”): Listen to the difference in vowel length. These sounds are used often in American English. Make the “eat” sound long and make the “it” short.
  • Open vowels: Watch a TV program with the sound off in your native language and then watch a TV program in English with the sound off. Watch the person’s mouth, lips, and jaw. Americans move their mouths a lot when they speak compared with other languages. English has a lot of vowels. Consider the word “fantastic.” You have to open your mouth wide to say that word.
  •  Movement vowel:  A lot of students keep their mouths closed and don’t move their mouth from one sound to another. You need to focus on moving your jaw and your lips. Don’t cut off the sounds and shorten them. Continue the sound.

Jennifer’s Bio:

Tarle Speech and Language was founded in 2005 by Jennifer Tarle in order to empower individuals at all stages of life through better communication skills. Jennifer is a Certified Speech Pathologist with over 19 years of experience in speech-related training and  pathologies. Jennifer earned a BS degree and an MA degree in Speech Pathology from Kent State University. She is licensed in CA, IL, & OH, is certified with the State Boards of Education in IL and OH, is certified by the IL early intervention system, holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), and has earned several AHSA ACE Awards for continuing education.

Jennifer is a self-published author of accent workbooks, audio CDs, DVDs, and iBooks.  Materials are designed to be easy and effective.  Products are all downloadable so that you can practice on the go!  She distributes her pronunciation materials solely through www.tarlespeech.com and iTunes. Introductory through advanced classes on foreign accents are taught throughout the city of Chicago, via video conferencing, and throughout the world.  To help even more people, she launched a video podcast, The Minute of Speech, in 2007.  It is available on iTunes, YouTube, and at www.tarlespeech.com.  She implemented her Tarle Speech pronunciation and accent reduction program at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China and at E4TG in Tokyo, Japan.  Contact her to schedule a consultation or class.

Jennifer strives to help individuals to improve their lives through better communication.

Today you’ll get 4 ways to craft a life that you love!

Here is today’s quote: “Life is like a combination lock. Your job is to find the right numbers in the right order so you can have anything you want.”

-Brian Tracy

We like this quote because it means that we don’t have to live the way that others tell us we have to live.

We have the ability to create our own life and create our dream life.

How can we do this?

  • Don’t focus on improving your weaknesses. Focus on making your strengths or your unique genius better and become exceptional in one core area. In school we are taught a different strategy. We are taught to focus on the things that we aren’t good at.
  •  Find a mentor. Get someone who can steer you in the right direction. Successful people always have mentors.
  • Surround yourself with people who have big dreams. Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  You can also create a peer group through listening to podcasts.


What do you think?

Which of these steps are you currently taking?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today you’ll get four nonverbal ways to bump up your IELTS speaking score!

A few weeks ago we had Mark Bowden, body language expert on the AEE podcast and he told us that we need to know what messages our nonverbal communication is sending to others.

Your nonverbal communication will affect your scores on the speaking test.

Why? We all make subconscious judgments and when your body language is sending a message that you lack confidence or that you aren’t trustworthy, this may bring down your score because examiners are human.

Four ways to bump up your speaking score:

  • Smile consistently– it puts people at ease and makes them trust you.
  • Don’t slouch– don’t sit with your shoulders hunched over, with your head down. This does not make you look confident. Imagine there is a line going from the back of your neck to the ceiling.
  • Don’t sit with your legs wide open- This looks very rude for both men and women. If you are sitting up straight, this probably won’t happen. Crossing your legs is ok.
  • Use open gestures- Mark told us that when we have our hands open, out in front of us and at navel height, the person trusts us because they can see our hands. That makes us appear to be a safe, trustworthy person. On the Speaking test, don’t hide your hands in your lap. Don’t have them out of view of the examiner. Don’t put your elbows on the table, it’s informal. Use your hands to give emphasis to your speech. Use your hand gestures to show more meaning. This will help your pronunciation sound more natural too.

Here is another speaking test hint!

Have you used any of these nonverbal gestures on the speaking test?

Leave us your comments below!

Sean Watson International Business English Coach

Do you want to know how to thrive in the international business world?

Today you’ll meet our guest who helps students succeed in the world of international business.

Our guest Sean Watson will show you exactly how to become successful in business across cultures. You’ll get 3 tips to succeed in business across cultures.

How to succeed in business across cultures:

  • Be curious- do your homework before doing business abroad: Learn about the culture.  Learn a few words in the client’s language. Find out what nonverbal gestures are acceptable. If you want to be interesting, be interested. Be curious about other people and other cultures. You won’t get very far in business without making a genuine connection and it starts with understanding your client’s culture.
  • Be tolerant- keep an open mind: Learn to not judge people too quickly. This will go a long way to creating lifelong friendships and business partnerships.
  • Remember that nothing you learn is a waste of time: Don’t only focus on the things that you think you need to learn. It’s not just about the vocabulary, the grammar, and the pronunciation. There are many more angles to business than just the words. Try to learn from every situation you are in. Read other material and let it inform you when it comes to your business career. This is also important to generate ideas for small talk.


Sean’s Bio:

In today’s episode we have a special guest. Sean Watson has been in the English-teaching world since 1997.

Sean has traveled to 25 countries and has worked with CEOs from companies like Reuters, KPMG, Deloitte and Philips in Hungary.

He now specializes in teaching business English with a special focus on International Trade and advanced English conversation.

Sean is also a musician.


How to work with Sean:

  • Step 1- Register on this page to get $10 USD off your second lesson (*** If you don’t register here, you won’t get 10USD for free)
  • Step 2- Find Sean’s profile on italki and schedule a lesson: italki.com/teacherSean

“Say it once and say it well.” This is a great mentality that you can use when it comes to the IELTS Writing test.


Today you’ll find out how to take casual English phrases and turn them into academic phrases to get a higher IELTS score on the writing and the speaking.

Here are 3 casual sentences transformed into academic language:

  • Casual: I think traveling abroad is good.
  • Academic: I am of the opinion that undertaking exotic adventures is highly beneficial.

Rule#1: If you are using a word that you learned in your first year of learning English like “good” then it’s too basic.

Exchange it for a new one.

  • Casual: Too many people are fat today.
  • Academic: A growing number of individuals would be labeled as obese nowadays.

Rule #2: Make sure you know what words are considered rude such as “fat” and exchange these words for different, more polite ones.

  • Casual: Writing in cursive is not needed.
  • Academic: Pupils are wasting valuable time in learning an extinct skill such as writing in cursive.

Academic vocabulary from today:

  • Studious: To be intelligent, academic, well-read
  • A considerable amount, a great deal: this is better than saying too many or many

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave your questions in the comments!

In today’s episode you’ll find out if you should use cursive or printing on the Writing test on the IELTS.

If your handwriting is messy, it can impact your score negatively.

Practicing the timing on the Writing test is the key to making sure that your handwriting stays neat and easy to read.

Don’t make it hard for the examiner to read your essay.

If you have messy handwriting when using cursive, then try to print in block letters.


Some teachers might ask you to type out your essay for your IELTS practice.

Typing out your essay is not good practice.

If a teacher asks you to do that, don’t trust that teacher!

It is not valid test practice because on test day you will have to write your essays by hand.

Don’t skimp on your preparation:

You cannot skip steps.

Learn from an IELTS professional who is teaching you correctly and who is not wasting your time.

It’s not enough just to read an example essay, learn an outline and jump into the test.

You need to sit down, write out your practice essays, and get feedback.

Leave us your questions in the comments now!

Let’s have a conversation.

Do you want to command more respect when you share your opinion?

Do you want people to listen to you?

There are 4 phrases in English that you can use when you introduce an opinion that you feel strongly about.

Here they are:

  • “Look,…”
  • “Listen,….”
  • “Here’s how I see it,…”
  • “Here’s what I think….and here’s why….”

These phrases are especially useful if you work in the legal field or any field where you need to have a point of view and have people listen to you.

They could help in any field where you are an authority and you need to convince people of something.

These phrases could also be useful if you want to get a point across in your personal relationships.

Listen to the podcast for examples of how we use these phrases in conversation.

Have you ever used these phrases?

Let us know in the comments.

Today we have a former Silicon Valley hiring manager and professional in the high-tech industry.

Troy Lee will show you the exact changes that you need to make to get your resume noticed and to get an interview in the United States.

Troy specializes in interview strategy, resume writing, and personal statements.

He helps people get the job of their dreams!

Troy says there are three common mistakes that international professionals make on their resumes.

Here are the three mistakes:

  • They don’t use spell check on their resumes: Make sure your spell check is set to American English, not to your home country’s language. Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  •  They don’t know how to “market themselves”: Write your accomplishments. Quantify them. What specific value did you deliver to your former company? How did you help them increase their bottom line? Highlight your leadership experience. This is not the time to be humble. Silicon Valley and the rest of the US is competitive. You really need to stand out.
  •  They don’t study the company before they apply:  Make sure you study the company. Get some background information. Make them feel special. Learn about new projects that they working on or new products that they are introducing. Use the same words that they use in their job description. There is a program called Resumix. It’s a keyword finder where they search for everyone who used specific words in their resume. It is important to be very intentional about what keywords you put into your resume in order to get selected by this program.

Idiom from today:

“Good ole’ boy network”= your personal and professional network, who you know

Also remember, there is no need to put your photo on your resume and it’s good to leave some white space on your resume.

Troy’s Bio:

Troy is a certified, native English teacher, born and raised near Stanford, California, about 30 min. away from San Francisco, USA, and has been teaching on Italki since October 2009.

When he is not teaching students business English or helping them with their IELTS or TEOFL test on weekends and evenings (California Time), he works a full-time day job at a major Silicon Valley software company as a product manager. He has been in the high-tech industry for over 11 years.  He is well-versed in business English.

Troy has worked in many high-tech industries including healthcare, hardware, and software and has had a role as a hiring manager. He enjoys mentoring people to best position themselves, be contacted by hiring managers, succeed in interviews, and win the job of their dreams.

He even continues to help his students into their job by explaining the different cultural differences ESL students should be aware of that may differ from the work culture in the students home country.

Troy’s most popular course on Italki is Interviewing Strategy, Resume/CV, Cover Letter Wording & Layout, Personal Statement.  You can find him at http://www.italki.com/troyleeusa

Are you going to waste your money and time preparing in the wrong way for the IELTS speaking test?

Many students are wasting money and time doing the wrong things and we want to show you what NOT to do today.

To get the speaking score you need, you can’t just practice general conversation.

You can’t just grab a native speaker and try to speak with them.

What should you do differently?

You should learn the speaking strategies and understand the exam when you prepare for the speaking test.

You need to know the rules and the strategies so that you are not practice incorrectly.

You want to know what the examiner wants before you begin your speaking test practice.

The formula for success is to have two types of speaking preparation: Get a speaking partner, chat with them a few times a week to get your fluency up AND learn the format, rules, strategies of the speaking test and if you can, do some speaking test practice where you are pretending to be in the exam.

Even native speakers don’t always get a perfect score because they don’t have the strategies.

They usually get a 9 for pronunciation but they may not get a perfect score on vocabulary, fluency and coherence because they don’t know the rules of the exam.

In Part 1:

You must answer in complete sentences and you can’t give one-word answers.

Your fluency and coherence score will go way down if you do that.

In Part 2:

You are given a topic card and you have a minute to take notes and think about your answer.

People who have not studied for the test think they have to answer every question on the card.

That’s not the case.

The examiner doesn’t care if you answer every question on the card.

The questions are meant to guide you.

Click here to learn more about your goals for IELTS Speaking Part 2.

In Part 3:

A good rule of thumb is to organize your answer in the same you organize an academic essay.

Put an introduction, examples, details, and the conclusion.

Use the same structure for every question on Part 3.

Learn the linking words that you need to use.

Then you need to practice, practice, practice.

Read more about how to use idioms on the speaking test.

Leave us your comments below.

What questions do you have about preparing for the Speaking test?

What are you most nervous about?

Are you stressed about vocabulary on the IELTS exam?

You need a brain box to get a high score on the IELTS but do you feel that your brain box is empty?

Do you feel that you don’t have enough vocabulary for the IELTS?

Do you have a hard time coming up with words that relate to a specific topic in English?

Today we are going to show you how to brainstorm for new vocabulary words based on the topic.

You already have the words in your first language so you need to transfer the words into English.

Get 5 guaranteed ways to increase your speaking score.

Get the 4 rookie mistakes that many IELTS test takers make

Get your free IELTS checklist, click here.

How to create your “brain tree”:

  • Step 1- Start with your first language. Think of a common IELTS topic like food. Draw a tree with branches. On each branch write out all of the words that you know that are related to food in your native language. Get as specific as you can. Write down everything you think of. Go from general to specific. Give yourself a time limit for each brain tree. Do it for 5-10 minutes.
  • Step 2-After you finish your brain tree, go back and translate everything into English. This will increase your IELTS vocabulary and will show you that you already have the vocabulary but you just need to translate the words into English.
  •  Step 3- Put these English words into your vocabulary notebook. Organize your vocabulary notebook by topic.

How can you find a topic for your brain tree?

Check out IELTS courses online and look at the topics that they teach. Use those topics for your brain tree.

Click here to learn how to get a 7 for vocabulary when you speak or write about age.

Have you tried this activity?

Let us know in the comments. How did it work for you?

Mark Bowden, body language expert

Today you will meet one of the world’s top experts in body language, nonverbal communication, and human behavior.

You’ll get 3 simple things that you can do to establish trust with anyone using body language.

Mark says that our primitive brain makes quick, snap decisions about whether or not someone is safe based on their body language.

We need to understand this because if we do not use the right body language people will never listen to what we are actually saying.

Although some gestures vary across cultures, there are certain basic body language gestures that are universal and signal specific things in every culture.

How can we build trust using body language?

  • Smile: Mark says that when we smile we allow the people around us to relax and to think that it’s safe to interact with us.  When we smile we say “it’s good now.” We send a message that the relationship is good. Mark says that as much as you practice your English, you should also practice your smile!
  • Gestures with open body language: Open palms, not closed palms signal that you don’t have any weapons and it’s especially effective if you open your palms at the height of the belly button.
  • Keep your gestures consistent: Keep your hands at belly button height, keep your palms open. If you change your gestures often your brain gets confused. If the brain gets confused it will start to skew what you say in a negative direction.


When we do these 3 things that we have mentioned above, people are more likely to trust what we say and to take what we say and skew it in a positive direction.


Mark’s Bio:

Today we have Mark Bowden on the show. He is an expert on body language and human behavior.

He is ranked #1 in the Top 30 Body Language Professionals for 2014 by globalgurus.org and is the creator of Truthplane, a communication training company and methodology for anyone who wants to communicate with more impact.

In addition to being a TedX speaker, Mark has written the best-selling book, Winning Body Language and is the resident body language expert on CTV’s daily talk show, The Social.

Check out Mark’s TED Talk and his work at Truthplane

Also check Presentation Genius


What did you think about today’s episode?

Leave us a comment below and let us know if you have tried these tips.

You MUST use English idioms to get a 7 on the IELTS Speaking test and the IELTS Writing test.

If you use these idioms you will get those extra points because the examiner will realize that you have skills beyond the textbooks.

We have already done episodes on how to use idioms when you talk about happiness, art, and parties and celebrations.

Today you’ll get four idioms on different topics that you can “copy and paste” into your IELTS exam.

Get our free IELTS checklist

Find out how to save time and increase your IELTS score.

Click here to download it for free.

Four idioms to use on common Speaking and Writing topics:

Topic 1:  Questions about the home: “To make yourself at home”

I like to have my guests make themselves at home.

Topic 2: Questions about school or studies: “To hit the books”

I have really been hitting the books, trying to read some Spanish poetry.

Topic 3: Questions about food: “To eat and run”

My friends eat and run. They jump up and grab a banana and go.

Topic 4: Travel: “Off the beaten track”

I like to go off the beaten track and see things that most tourists don’t see.

Give us your sample sentences in the comments below!

Michelle took a Spanish class last year.

Today you’ll find out about the program that she used and the good points that helped her learn. You’ll also find out why she was not able to continue and how she quickly lost motivation.

The good points of the program:

The program was set up online and she had to build sentences using the foundation of a word such as a verb.

She would use translated words and create new combinations of words and new ways of saying things.


What went wrong:

She got too excited too fast. She watched 10 videos per night.

She quickly got overwhelmed and did not absorb the information.

She started “binging” on the information. She thinks that this was a setup for failure because she quickly burned out.


What was missing:

The human aspect.

It would have been better if she had combined the learning videos and an opportunity to practice with someone. You need to have a mix of different methods when you learn a language.

She also didn’t build momentum. She couldn’t measure and see her progress quickly.


What language learning programs do you use?

Do you ever binge on programs or podcasts to learn English?

Tell us in the comments below

In IELTS Writing Task 1 you’ll get Change Over Time questions.

Are you ready to use time prepositions in English to describe these charts and graphs?

Find out how to do it today.

A lot of students make mistakes with these prepositions on Task 1 questions:

  • During: Use only one word after it- The price of soda increased during the summer of 2012
  • From… to : The price of soda increased from June 2012 to September 2012
  • Between…and: Between May and February the price of soda went from $2.12 per can to $2.50 per can

How to practice these:

  • Look at a newspaper and look for graphs, tables, charts
  • Look in business or finance sections of magazines and newspapers
  • When you spot an accurate sentence describing change over time graphs and charts, write it down
  • Practice what you have written down on your own

Our free checklist will show you how to prepare in a step-by-step, clear way.

Find out how to maximize your time and increase your score.

Click here to get your free checklist.

Learn more about IELTS Writing Task 1:

Leave us your practice sentences in the comments below

Good luck and start practicing here!

We hear mistakes for English learners with “almost” and “most” all of the time!

Are you making this mistake?

Today, find out the difference between these two words and how to use them correctly and naturally.

Most Versus Almost:

Most: This means the majority. It is an adjective.

What do you do most mornings? Most mornings I roll out of bed. Most mornings I drink coffee. Most of the time I leave my apartment without eating breakfast. Most of the time I have breakfast on the go.

Most of the people in New York are busy and rushed all of the time. Most of the people are stressed out.

What do you have for lunch most days? Most days I have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

What do most people do on the weekends in New York? Most people walk outside or go to the park.

Almost: This means nearly. It’s an adverb.

Are you almost done with your wedding preparations?

I am almost done but I am still looking for someone who does hair and makeup.

We are almost ready to launch our new IELTS course!

Leave us your sample sentences in the comments section using “most” and “almost”!

Is this your first time taking the IELTS? If so, you are an “IELTS newbie” but don’t worry!

In today’s episode we are going to show you exactly what to do if you are an IELTS newbie!

We’ll give you three easy steps to follow. Check out today’s episode!

We’ll show you what to do if you have a month to prepare or if you have a year to prepare.

Get this free checklist and stop wondering what you should do next.

Learn how to prepare the right way. Save time. Get your target score.

Click here to download it for free.

If you have 1-2 months:

  • Step 1- Go to a bookstore and look at some of the practice tests. Get a sense of how hard this test will be for you.
  • Step 2- Find someone to help you. Don’t choose a general English conversation teacher. Work with someone who specializes in IELTS (not every ESL exam, just IELTS) and who has systems and strategies that work. Ask to talk with some of the teacher’s former students.
  • Step 3-Make a study plan and get started

If you have 6 months to one year:

  • Step 1- Do not start practicing the test right away! Focus on your general English skills. Take 3-4 months to improve your English. Listen to the All Ears English Podcast. Get a teacher on italki.
  • Step 2- Find good materials and a good course

Be smart about how you use your plan.

Don’t attempt to prepare for the IELTS without a plan.

Work for a few hours each day and you will do fine.

What questions do you have?

Leave your questions in the comments!

If you have a good study plan that you have created, please tell us about it in the comments or email us at Lindsay@allearsenglish.com

Mother’s Day was yesterday in the United States.

When is Mother’s Day in your culture?

Today you’ll find out how we celebrate Mother’s Day and you’ll find out what you should say to your mom today.

Here are some things you should say to your mom today from :

Some of these ideas came from an article by Megan Walgren on Family Share

  • Show your appreciation: “You’re the best mom in the world.” or “You’re the greatest mom in the world.” or “You mean so much to me.” or “I appreciate everything you do.”
  • Learn how to do things: “What is your recipe for potato salad?” – Your mom has a lot of wisdom so ask her how to do things!
  • Learn about your childhood: “Tell me about the day I was born.”

What do you want to say to your mom today?

Tell us in the comments!

Today you’ll find out exactly what happens on IELTS exam day.

The Listening test is first.

You listen for 30 minutes and then you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers.

Next you start the Reading test.

The Reading test has 3 passages, 40 questions, and you have to do it in 60 minutes.

There is no extra time for transferring your answers.

Next comes the Writing test. At this point you might be tired but you need to keep going. It’s important to eat a good breakfast before the test.

The Writing test is 60 minutes, 20 minutes for Task 1, 40 minutes for Task 2.

When you prepare, be sure to practice the timing for the Writing test.

After Writing, find out when your Speaking test is. It’s usually that afternoon.

Sometimes it’s at another time during the week.

During the time between the Writing and the Speaking tests, you may have a huge amount of time.

Have a plan for how you are going to fill those hours if you need to.

You can listen to a podcast in English during that time but also get some fresh air, go outside and take a walk. Give your brain some down time.

Which part do you think will be the hardest section on the test?

Let us know in the comments and tell us how you are preparing for that section.

Today we have a quote!

“Holding back is so close to stealing.” – Neil Young

To hold back means to withhold or to not do something or to not give something.

This episode is about taking chances in our lives.

You may feel like you can’t be yourself in English.

Maybe you are funny in your native language but you don’t know how to be funny in English so you hold back.

But if you do that then you are “stealing” from the moment as this quote says.


What do you think?

When have you erred on the side of perfection and protection by protecting yourself and when have you erred on the side of connection by taking a chance?

Let us know in the comments below.

It can be stressful when you get started preparing for the IELTS exam.

Maybe you don’t know where to start. You don’t know how to choose an IELTS course.

Today we’ll show you what you are probably missing when you get started with your IELTS prep.

 Most students make this mistake. They do one of these things:

1- Only focus on test strategy and practice


2- Only focus on general English skill building

Doing only test prep or only general English and not both is a huge mistake.

This is a test of your English skills and not just your ability to take the test.

You need to get exposure in all different ways including speaking, reading, writing, listening.

Also, you need to study the test and understand how to use strategies to get a high score.

The way to make sure that you balance your practice is to have a daily study plan that helps you do both.

What’s the problem with a lot of IELTS schools?

At many IELTS schools you have young teachers who have online resources and fun activities but the teacher often does not know the test.

On the other hand, you could get a teacher who knows the test and who has been teaching IELTS for many years and will only do test practice with you but is very inflexible and boring.

These are the two types of teachers that you will find at many IELTS schools.

Unfortunately both of these types of teachers won’t help you get the score you need.

It’s possible to spend a lot of money and not get the skills that you need when you finish the course at an IELTS school. Don’t let this happen to you!

If you really want to attend a traditional IELTS class, make sure you have the option to get your money back after your first class or if you are studying online, try to get some sample lessons before you have to buy the whole course.

What resources have you been using in your IELTS prep?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you think it’s important to obsess over something to become successful at it?

Another way to say it is ” to have tunnel vision.”

Another word for obsession could be “focus” but it has more of a positive connotation.

When we get really focused we have to be careful of burnout.

We could get exhausted.

When it comes to learning English you should chunk down the learning into bite-sized pieces and be sure that you are learning in a way that is fun for you.


What are you focused on?

What are you obsessed about?

Let us know in the comments below.

When it comes to the IELTS Speaking or Writing tests you may get a question about age groups.

Do you have the right vocabulary to talk about age groups in English?

Today you’ll get the vocabulary you need.

Here are some terms that you need to know:

  • Infant or baby: Under age 1
  • Toddler: Age 1-3
  • Child, kid: Age 3-12
  • Teen, teenager, adolescent: Age 13- 20
  • Young adult: age 18-30
  • Twenty-something: Someone who is in their twenties
  • Thirty-something: Someone who is in their thirties
  • Middle aged: 50’s/60’s
  • Elderly, elders: Age 70/80/90/100

Here’s another bonus vocabulary word:

“Mid-life crisis”: A time in your life when you become confused and distressed about the direction your life is going in and your life goals.

Use these vocabulary words to sound natural enough to get a 7 on your Speaking and Writing tests.


Describe the age groups of people in your life!

Get ready for your IELTS exam.

Do you know how to leave a great voicemail in English?

Today you’ll get the 5 steps that you need to follow to leave a great voicemail.

Listen to the sample role plays in today’s episode to hear what your message should sound like.

Here are the steps:

1) Greeting: “Hi it’s Lindsay” or “Hey it’s Michelle”

2) Why are you calling: “I just wanted to talk with you about tomorrow’s meeting” or “I’m calling to catch up.”

3) What they should do next: “Would you get back to me when you can” or “Give me a call whenever you’re free”

4) Your phone number: “My number is 359-284-9856” or “You can reach me at 617-593-0952

5)  Say goodbye: “Hope you’re having a good day” or “Take care” or “Have a great one”

Here are a few other tips:

1) Make sure they know how to get back to you

2) Don’t ramble, don’t go on and on, don’t leave a long message, make it concise and tight and to the point

3) Do leave a message- don’t call and hang up, it’s better to leave a message with some grammar mistakes than it is to not leave a message and not connect with the person

Have you left any successful English voicemails lately?

Let us know in the comments below!

Native speakers use the verb “to want” in the past tense when we are making a request in the present tense.

For example, you might call a colleague and say ” I wanted to confirm our lunch appointment for today.”

This makes the message a bit more polite and more indirect.

We think it’s also used more commonly for women.

How can you add this speech pattern into your conversations?

Give us some examples in the comments.

Did you know that your cultural IQ can affect your Speaking score on the IELTS exam?

It’s true!

Today you’ll find out how.

There are questions that can be traps on the IELTS exam.

Examiners are human and when they hear your response to a question like “what’s the difference between activities that men and women do?” they will have a negative gut reaction to your answer if you respond in a way that shows a lack of cultural sensitivity.

If you come from a culture where there are certain activities that women can’t do or that men can’t do and if you don’t articulate that you understand that this is different in different cultures, your score may be marked down.

The test is not completely objective.

You need to show that you understand cultural differences.

You can use these phrases:

  • “In my culture, this is what happens..”
  • “I know it’s not the same everywhere but this is how it is where I am from.”
  • “My culture is different from the West but…”
  • “In my experience.”
  • “This is what I’ve seen:…”
  • “I know it’s different here.”

Another important part of cultural differences is understanding points of view when you talk about ages across cultures. Listen to this episode for more information: How to Get a 7 When You Speak or Write About Age

What do you think about this topic?

Have you made any cultural IQ mistakes in the IELTS exam?

Let us know in the comments!

Are you preparing for IELTS in a way that works with your personality?

Do you assume that because you’re an introvert, you can’t succeed on the Speaking test?

What’s the difference between an introvert and an extrovert:

  • Introvert:  You lose energy from being around people and stimulation
  • Extrovert: You can get energy from outside stimulation like interaction with people, music, crowds, etc.

How should you change your study plan based on your personality?

The important thing is to realize your personality style and do what works for you.

If you are an introvert, you may have an easier time focusing and working by yourself at home.

You can focus more time on the Reading test and the Writing test.

If you are an extrovert, you may want to spend more time increasing your skills in your area of strength, like the Speaking test.

You know that you need human interaction to absorb concepts or to stay focused so go out and form a study group.

Talk about the strategies with your study group.

Don’t waste time trying to be what you’re not.

If you are an extrovert, don’t block out two hours to study by yourself.

If you are introvert, don’t push yourself to go out and find people to talk to all of the time. Try learning online. You don’t have to use the video and you can do it from home.

What is your personality style?

How does it affect your study plan that you follow?

Let us know in the comments below.

What makes you come alive?

To “come alive” means to become energized and excited about something.

Here is the question:

“Each day wake up and ask yourself, what will make you feel most alive that day.”

What makes you feel happier?

What makes you feel smaller or less alive?

We all owe it to ourselves to think about this every day.


Leave a comment for us today.

Tell us what makes you come alive?

Are you living in the US?

Have you avoided setting up your voicemail in English because you aren’t sure what to say?

Today we’ll show you exactly how to set it up and what to say.

If you don’t have your voicemail set up and you get a business call, most likely the person will not try to call back again so you will miss an opportunity.

What to say in your voicemail message (personal):

  • Part 1: Greeting- “Hi, it’s (name) or ” “Hi you’ve reached (name)” or “You’ve reached (name’s) mobile.”
  • Part 2: Explain the situation: “I”m not available now” or “I can’t come to the phone right now” or “I’m not here right now.”
  • Part 3: Call to action: “Please leave your name, number and a brief message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.” or “Please leave a message and I will get back to you.”


Business voice message in English:

  • Part 1: Greeting- “You’ve reached the desk of Michelle Kaplan”
  • Part 2: I am either away from my desk or on another call.”
  • Part 3: “For immediate assistance, please contact (name) and (number)” or “Please leave a message”
  • Part 4: “Thank you and have a great day.”



Have you set up your voicemail yet?

What questions do you have about how to do it?

Ask us your questions in the comments.

We have a HOT new IELTS video training out! Get it here and learn how to get a 7 or higher on your IELS exam.

This morning one of our listeners just took the Speaking test and we got a great question from her.

She had two questions:

1- “Is it bad that the examiner asked me to speak louder?”

2- “Is it ok that I took a quick sip of water during the test?”

Neither of these issues is a problem that will affect your grade.

But you must speak loudly enough that the examiner can hear you of course.

Also, it’s a great idea to record yourself when you practice the IELTS Speaking test and then go back and listen and note down if you are using any language crutches or making other mistakes.

What other questions do you have about the IELTS exam?

Ask us in the comments section below!

When someone has a bad idea and you don’t agree or you don’t want to accept the invitation, how can you say it in English without offending the person?

Today you will find out exactly how to do it.

Here are some nice ways to reject someone’s idea without being rude (how to validate someone’s idea):

  • “That’s a great idea but what do you think about….(another suggestion)”
  • “Hmm good thought. I think… (another suggestion)”
  • “Interesting idea. What about…”
  • “Unfortunately I don’t think that would work. Let’s…”


What other phrases do you use to validate someone’s idea in English?

Share your ideas in the comments below.


Are you using crutches when it comes to the IELTS Speaking test?

Today you’ll find out why crutches can be deadly on the IELTS exam.

Language crutches in English are “like,” “um,” “uh” and words like those. When you use those on the IELTS Speaking test you lose points for both fluency and vocabulary.

You lose fluency points because you are repeating yourself and you lose vocabulary points because it sounds like you don’t have the vocabulary words that you need.

You have to stop using them on the exam even though you hear native speakers using them all of the time and they are natural.

How to break this habit:

Record yourself speaking. Listen to the recording. If you hear “like” and  “um” too many times, you need to keep focusing on reducing those language crutches.

You can also join Toastmasters. When you join the group, your colleagues will listen to your speeches and will note down how many times you have used these filler words.

Do you use language crutches?

How do you plan to break this habit for the IELTS?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you struggle when it comes to dating in English?

It can be quite a challenge to try to find the “love of your life”!

In today’s episode, our dating consultant, Jessica Coyle will show you how to deal with it when you become discouraged or disappointed.

Here is Jessica’s advice:

  • Don’t be afraid to give in to sadness by crying. It’s good for your body to cry and it makes you feel better. In American culture it’s often not accepted for men to cry but it’s a healthy thing to do.
  • Get active! You don’t have to go to the gym. Get outside. Get the endorphins going. This also releases the toxins and makes you feel much better.
  •  Learn a new skill. Stretch your mind. Teach yourself to play the guitar. Set a personal goal. Use an app like Duolingo.
  • Get someone to talk to. Talk to a friend or a therapist or a coach. It always helps to talk it out. Other people can give you a sense of perspective.
  • Try meditation. Work on your breathing because our thoughts can become repetitive. You may have negative thoughts about your dating life. This could really change your outlook on things.


Jessica suggests this podcast: Invisibilia


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Jessica Coyle is our dating consultant at All Ears English.

She lives in New York City and writes a dating blog called Hopeful Disasters.

Check out her latest article called Punching Sadness Where It Hurts and It Hurts Everywhere



What did you think about today’s show?

Tell us your response to this question: Is it accepted for men to cry in your culture?

Let us know your thoughts!

Do you ever run out of things to say on the IELTS Speaking test?

What should you do in this situation?

This happens a lot in Part 2 of the Speaking test.

Follow two steps if your mind goes blank and you run out of ideas:

  • Be honest. Say something like “That’s all I can think of to say on that topic.” “I can’t believe it’s not two minutes yet.” This will also help with your anxiety. If you say what you are experiencing, you will feel much more relaxed.
  • Next, think of something else to say. Think of anything in your personal experience that connects to the topic in any way.

Click here to learn how to come up with creative ideas for IELTS Writing.

Follow these two steps the next time you run out of ideas on the Speaking test and let us know how it goes.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you know what the biggest myth about writing and speaking on the IELTS is?

What should you do if the questions that you get on the IELTS speaking test are too broad?

You should talk about examples from your personal life.

Tell your own stories. Think about your most recent experiences from the topic.

For example:

Q: Do you enjoy exercise?

A: Yeah just yesterday I was going on a bike ride and I saw cherry blossoms.

Don’t be afraid to “boast” about yourself.

Also use linking phrases to get a higher fluency and coherence score. Examiners listen for them.

Use linking words like:

  • “In fact…”
  • “Indeed”
  • “Actually”

What questions do you have about the IELTS exam?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you have a 5-year plan?

Do you think it’s important to have one?

Today we’ll talk about why sometimes it’s good to let your plans go and relax into life a bit.


Today we talked about a great quote:

“It is always wise to look ahead but difficult to look further than you can see.”

-Winston Churchill

You can make as many plans as you want in life but you never know what’s going to happen.


Here is another great quote:

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

-John Lennon


What do you think?

Should you have a 5-year plan?

Do you plan for the future?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


Did you know that you should spend LESS time on grammar when you prepare for the IELTS exam?

Does that sound strange to you?

If it does then you should listen to today’s episode.

Why shouldn’t you focus on grammar for IELTS?

It’s not worth the time and it’s almost impossible to improve your grammar score for the speaking section quickly. Don’t waste your time on grammar textbooks.

Instead of doing grammar exercises, you should try reading a newspaper to improve your reading score.

In speaking, you are graded on 4 things:

  • fluency and coherence- keep talking and don’t use “ums” and “uhs’
  • vocab- use exaggerated language, slangs, and idioms to get a 7
  • pronunciation- get a 7 by using intonation and emotions
  • grammar- this will be much harder to improve

Remember, your speaking score is an average. You can still get a speaking score of 7 without focusing on grammar.


What do you think?

Are you focusing a lot on grammar?

Are you going to change your strategy after today’s episode?

Let us know below.

English acronyms are fun and easy when it comes text messaging and emailing but you need to know what impression you give the person when you use them!

Today we’ll show you some common English acronyms and what impression they create. We’ll also give you some alternatives.

Here are some common acronyms in English when we send text messages:


  • BRB (“Be Right Back”) – This could sound relatively young. Some alternatives are “back in a minute” or “be back soon”
  • LOL (“Laughing out loud”)- A lot of people get annoyed by this one. This could be used in a text message. A good alternative is “haha”


  • TTYL (“Talk to you later”)- This one also sounds really young. A more mature alternative is “talk soon” or “talk to you soon” or actually writing out “talk to you later”
  • SMH (“Shaking My Head”)- This is a newer acronym. You can use this when you disapprove of something that someone has done.
  • OMG (“Oh my gosh”)- This can also be annoying. Other options are: “Oh wow” or “I can’t believe it.”


Which acronyms have you used?

Let us know in the comments below.

It was long, cold, and tough winter and now we want to talk about spring!

Do you know how to talk about spring in English?

This is a great way to start English conversations these days.

In today’s episode you’ll get a bunch of ways to talk about it with a native speaker.


Here are some expressions from today’s episode:

  • 300x257_web-FINALTo spring into action: To get going, to move into action, to act quickly, to get started quickly
  • To have a spring in your step: To have energy, to move easily and quickly, to be light on your feet
  • Spring cleaning: To clean out your home or space after the winter, to get rid of things that you don’t need anymore
  • To spring up: To come up, to arise spontaneously
  • To spring ahead: To advance
  • To spring something on someone: To surprise someone about something, to put someone under pressure with a surprise
  • To spring for something: To buy something that is slightly out of your budget


Do you love springtime?

What do you like to do in the spring?

Let us know in the comments!

Are you worried about the IELTS Listening test?

Do you think it’s stressful to answer questions and listen at the same time?

You don’t have to listen to every word and understand everything on the IELTS Listening test.

There are 3 different listening skills and you only use one of them on the IELTS:

  • Listening for detail: Listening for every word that the professor says and taking notes on everything they say. You might do this when you watch a movie and you need to hear every line. You don’t need to do this on IELTS. You do listen for details but you don’t listen to every word.
  • Listening for gist: Listening for the main idea. You don’t do this on the IELTS exam.
  • Listening for specific information: This is the skill that you need for the IELTS Listening test. This is a test strategy. On the test you look at the question, underline key words and then listen for those specific key words and the answer that is right next to them.


Remember, you don’t have to understand every word on the IELTS exam.

Use listening quizzes that you can find for free online. Try esl-lab.com

When you use these listening activities you should approach it the same way you would on the test.

That means that you should read the questions before you listen. Focus on the key words like names, numbers, special verbs and nouns.

Also, predict an answer. Know what to listen for- is it an adjective or a verb to go before one particular word.

Click here to learn more about how to listen, read, and write at the same time on the IELTS Listening test

What aspect of IELTS Listening are you struggling with?

Did this episode answer your questions?

Let us know other questions that you have below in the comments.

Do you know what to say to someone after a good or a bad date in English?

Today you will find out from our favorite dating consultant, Jessica Coyle.

You’ll also get some new English dating vocabulary and terms that you can use in the real world!

What should we do if we have just had a good date:

(1) Send a text message that evening and say:

  • “I had a really nice time.”
  • “Had a great time tonight. (I) Would like to see you again.”
  • “It was really nice meeting you, let’s hit up (go to) the MOMA.”
  • “Thanks so much for a great time.”
  • “I enjoyed meeting you.”


(2) Jessica likes to research the person online after a good first date to find out more about the person.


If you had a bad date you can say:

  • “I didn’t feel any chemistry but best of luck.”
  • “I got more of a friend vibe.”


Key vocab from today:

  • To ghost someone: To disappear and stop communicating after you have been on a date
  • To do the fade-away: Similar to ghosting (see above)
  • A vibe: A general feeling or impression
  • To go Dutch: To split the bill


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Jessica’s Bio:

Jessica Coyle has been teaching English since 2007.

She received her Master’s in TESOL in 2013, finishing with a professional project researching the use of improvisational comedy teaching techniques to teach English as a second language.

She has studied and performed improv comedy all over Korea, China, Canada and the United States.

She writes a dating blog called Hopeful Disasters.

Today you’ll find out why staying in the same place will never get you to where you want to go and how to make an effective change quickly and easily.

Here it today’s quote:

“To get something you never had you have to do something you never did.”


“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

-Tony Robbins

It’s so easy to get into a habit but we have to step back and ask ourselves if our habits are creating the results that we want.

Time goes by fast.

We often realize that we have been doing the same thing for years and we haven’t achieved our goals.

Here are some examples of our goals:

  • Michelle’s new goal: She wants to build upper body strength. How is she working towards the goal? She is using resistance bands at her home a few times every week.
  • Lindsay’s new goal: She wants to deepen her meditation practice. She has started going to her meditation center every morning.

What about you?

What are you going to change after listening to today’s episode?

What change do you want to create in your life?

Tell us in the comments below

Today we have our dating consultant, Jessica Coyle, back on the show!

Today Jessica is back to talk about the concept of chemistry in dating in urban US culture.

Jessica is going to tell us how to know if we actually have chemistry with someone.

Chemistry: A magnetic pull between two people where you seem to understand the other person and something is different about that person to you.


 Two different types of chemistry:

  • Slow burn chemistry: You start out as friends and then chemistry and attraction gradually builds over time. Features of the other person that seemed strange or unattractive initially start to become endearing and attractive.
  • Quick chemistry/limerance: This is more of an infatuation. Jessica thinks that online dating and set ups reward this type of attraction. These connections can be really intense at first and then can fizzle out and not end well. At the same time, sometimes these attractions can work in the long run.


What about in your culture?

What are your deal breakers when it comes to dating?

In your culture, how much influence do your parents and family have when it comes to your choice of a partner?


Here are some dating vocabulary words that we talked about today:

  • Limerance
  • Lukewarm feelings
  • Slow burn chemistry
  • Quirks (personality and physical)
  • Deal breakers
  • Red Flag


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Jessica Coyle has been teaching English since 2007.

She received her Master’s in TESOL in 2013, finishing with a professional project researching the use of improvisational comedy teaching techniques to teach English as a second language.

She has studied and performed improv comedy all over Korea, China, Canada and the United States.

How to find Jessica Online:

Her dating blog: https://hopefuldisasters.wordpress.com/


Let us know your thoughts on this topic.

What are your deal breakers?

How important is chemistry when it comes to dating in your home culture?

Are you STILL making this English mistake?

We hear a lot of intermediate learners still getting confused between “I would like” and “I like” in English.

Today you’ll get two examples of how to solve this mistake.

1) “Do you like coffee?” This means do you enjoy coffee?

2) “Would you like a coffee?” This means that someone is inviting you to have a coffee or is offering you a coffee.

Listen to the role plays in the episode to hear how Lindsay and Michelle use “Do you like” versus “Would you like.”

Are YOU still making this mistake?

Leave us a sample phrase or question in the comments below!

Today we have a special guest on the show!

Our guest will challenge your assumption that SPEAKING is the most important part of learning English.

Julian sees learning languages as a simple, two-step process:

Step 1: Learn the language that we need for our specific situation

Step 1: Apply the language and use it

Julian’s tips are useful not only if you are just working to improve your communication skills but also if you want to get a high score on the IELTS Exam or another big test.

You need a balanced study plan where you use all four skills to work toward that higher score.

Keep reading to get Julian’s tips!


Julian’s 3 Tips- How to Keep it Practical:

  • Try to do many different kinds of things in the language: English is a process. Spend time with it. You can’t HAVE it. You can’t GET it. You need to constantly maintain it.  Julian says that there is no difference between “experiencing” the language and “learning” the language, as far as your brain is concerned. By experiencing the language in many different ways, we can acquire chunks of English which will help us to sound more native-like. You should try to encounter the language through reading, speaking, listening, writing, etc. Get a more well-rounded experience of the language instead of just focusing on speaking.


  •  Try to get a balance between intensive activity and relaxed exposure: Some of your work should be deliberate, focused, practical, intensive study. At the same time, some of your work should be a more relaxed encounter with the language. You need to take it in in a way that is enjoyable and easy. You could try listening to music in the language or watching TV. The key is getting a balance between the two forms of learning.


  • Focus on things which are useful to YOU: Exclude things that aren’t useful to you. Don’t bother to learn things that you won’t need to use. According to Julian, we don’t become fluent in English. We become fluent in specific topics such as cooking, law, politics, art, etc. Choose your focus and pursue English in that area. Drop the idea of becoming “fluent” in English in general.


Julian’s Bio:

Our guest today is an English teacher from England, living in Japan. He is the father of three bilingual children, is halfway through a PhD program in Psycholinguistics and used his insight about language learning to go from speaking poor Japanese in 2008 to being a translator in 2010. Our guest today is Julian from DoingEnglish.com


What do you think?

Have you focused down on one specific area of English learning?

What area are you focusing on?

Let us know in the comments!

Do you have any enemies?

Do you have any “frenemies”?

Here is today’s quote for a Deep Thoughts Thursday: “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.”

– Oscar Wilde


What does this quote mean?

This quote is somewhat “cheeky” and it says that if we want to annoy our enemies even more, we can forgive them.

Also, the quote is telling us that it’s better for us to forgive.

It helps us lead healthier lives.

When you have an enemy you carry a lot of negative energy around and it takes up space in your body and in your brain.


According to Mayoclinic.org, the benefits of forgiveness include:

  • Stronger immune system
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure


A few great vocabulary words from today’s episode:

  • Frenemy: “Friend” + “enemy”= someone that you care about and you are there for them but you can’t get along with them on an everyday basis and many things about that person bother you.
  • To hold a grudge: You keep thinking about something that someone did to you, you hold on to your anger. You don’t move on.



Do you have someone to forgive?

What is holding you back from forgiving that person?

Share your experience in the comments.

This is our 300th episode!

We are happy to be able to continue All Ears English for our amazing listeners!

Today let’s talk about how All Ears English got started, what we do to publish each episode, and what it means for you if you want to put your creative vision out into the world!


Today we’ll talk about:

  • The idea: Lindsay was feeling frustrated with what she had seen in the ESL field. English learning didn’t seem to be working for many students. She was also listening to podcasts at the time and she felt an intuitive voice saying that maybe it was time to start a podcast so she found a partner to work with and got started. If you aren’t hearing any voices in your heart of mind about your creative project, look at what’s needed in the world and go out and investigate that idea.
  • The background research: We tried our best to avoid “analysis paralysis.” We did a little bit of research to see that other people were doing this and that people were downloading these types of podcasts. When you get started on your creative vision, don’t let “research” hold you back because it may be a form of procrastination. Research is a way of staying safe and not taking the risk of launching.
  • Production/recording: We kept in mind Seth Godin’s philosophy of “the dip.” We hit a dip in our first three months of producing this project. All Ears English almost failed.  We couldn’t get the audio right. There was a learning curve, especially with the technology. We had to throw out an entire day of work because it wasn’t good enough. If you are creating something, you are going to hit a dip. You need to keep pushing beyond the dip because in the long run you will be happy that you did.
  • Editing: Quality is king. This may sound contradictory to “Connection NOT Perfection” but it’s not because we consider our work to be art. We don’t seek perfection but we do seek the highest possible quality that we can reach. Remember, people want to see that you are human. You make mistakes and it’s fine but quality also matters. Find a balance. When you put out your vision keep this in mind.
  • Publishing: This is the crucial moment. You have finished your project and now it’s time to show your “art” to the world. In this moment a lot of people don’t publish or they don’t “ship” because they get scared. Why is it scary? It’s scary because you are vulnerable at this time and anyone can come and criticize what you have done. Reid Hoffman says, “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product then you have launched too late.”
  • Rinse and repeat: Four times per week we publish episodes. You need to put your work out into the world on a regular basis, not just once. This builds up a sense of resilience and self confidence. No matter what you’re working on, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like your work but that doesn’t matter.


** Get a chance to meet with Lindsay on Skype for 15 minutes!

If we get 300 comments we will choose one person to meet with Lindsay on Skype and practice English.


What are YOU working on?

What is your creative art or vision that you are putting out into the world?

Answer these questions:

1) What are you working on?

2) What challenges have you had?

3) What have you learned?

When you meet someone for the first time in English, whether it’s a date or just a first-time meeting with a friend or colleague, there are certain topics that you should NEVER discuss.

Today you’ll find out what they are with our favorite AEE dating consultant, Jessica Coyle.

A few weeks ago we talked about what four things you SHOULD talk about on a first date in English or at a first meeting but today we’ll show you what you should avoid.

4 Topics to AVOID on a first date or first meeting in English:

  • Politics: You can casually mention your political interests but don’t get drawn into a political debate or discussion. Jessica calls this “quicksand” because you can start to sink and you’ll get stuck and you won’t be able to get out of it. It’s better to bring up this topic once you already know someone well and after you know their triggers well.
  • Age:  You should definitely avoid asking the person their exact age. Also, this means that you should not ask people about their timeline in terms of when they want to get married or have kids. It’s too direct and too intense for a first date or first conversation. You might terrify the person if start asking these questions too early.
  • Religion: You probably have a rough idea of your date’s religion and it will be important later but it’s too personal to get into during a first date. It’s ok to share your own religion if you want to but don’t ask the person directly what their religion is.
  •  Education:  This is tricky. Jessica says that the goal in not asking this question is to avoid coming off as arrogant or judgmental. If you ask the person where they went to school or how many degrees they have, it will be clear that you are fishing for information regarding their intelligence or social status. You might make the other person feel bad if you ask this question. Try to figure out if there is an intellectual connection instead.

Jessica’s Bio:

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Jessica is the author of Hopeful Disasters where she explores dating in New York City.

She is also an ESL teacher in New York City.

Check out her blog here!

What is the difference between “come” and “go” in English?

This is a big mistake that a lot of English learners make!

Are you making this mistake? Let’s stop it today. Today you’ll get a simple strategy to use when you choose between “come” and “go.”

Here is the trick to remember “come” versus “go”: Where is the speaker?

If the speaker is in the place that he is talking about, he says “why don’t you come to New York?”

In this case, the speaker is in New York.

If he says, “I plan to go to Boston” then he is not in Boston.

Keep it simple! Stick to this rule and it will clear up your confusion every time.

Phrasal verbs with “come” and “go”:

  • To come around: To visit (at someone’s home) or to get better, to return to normal. Here is an example, “You are in an argument with a friend now but I hope your friend comes around.”
  • To come to: To regain awareness and consciousness after fainting or after passing out. “In hot yoga, if you faint and then you come to, everyone will be standing over you and staring.”
  • To go through: To deal with something, to struggle with something that is hard, maybe a break up, a divorce, a hard time financially. “Are you going through anything difficult these days?”
  • To go into: To enter something, to start to talk about something, an idea, a topic. “Today we went into a lot of great topics.”

Write a sample sentence below to show us that you understood today’s episode!

We hope to read your example soon!

What is the difference between being original and imitating?

Which one will get you further in life?

Today is a Deep Thoughts Thursday so we have a quote:

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”

-Herman Melville


What does this mean for English learners?

Don’t follow a formula.

Be creative with your words.

Don’t focus too much on being perfect.

Get creative with your tone of voice.

Learn different ways to say different things.


Check out this episode about the Zone of Genius.


Where does this quote resonate with you?

Let us know in the comments.

We want to hear from you!

Do you feel like you never get a chance to speak English?

Even when you attend an English class or work with an English tutor do you leave the class feeling like you haven’t spoken at all?

If so, then you are not alone.

A lot of students feels this way.

Today we have a guest, Jason Newnum, who is an American English teacher.

He teaches on the italki platform and he is available for lessons now!

Jason has a special class called “Student Speaks, Teacher Listens.”

Why did Jason create this class?

Jason created this class because when he took Spanish classes he noticed that he was not getting much speaking practice at all.

He felt discouraged and didn’t get much better.

He realized that the same problem was happening with English students.

Jason wants to solve this problem.

Why is Jason’s class different?

  • He makes sure that students talk more, about 80% of the time
  • He feels comfortable being quiet, he doesn’t get nervous like other teachers do sometimes when they are nervous so he doesn’t fill that space with meaningless chatter

A typical class with Jason:

  • He asks you what’s new with you
  • He gives you a short article or video clip and asks for your opinion
  • He asks great follow-up questions- directly related to YOU and YOUR experiences
  • He writes out your mistakes in the Skype chat box so that you have a record of your mistakes

Jason’s Bio:

Jason Newnum teaches English as a second language, in Bariloche, Argentina, and lives there with his family. Although he received his university degree in Spanish and now lives in a Spanish speaking country, his Argentine wife speaks English and Spanish equally. So it’s difficult to force himself to practice Spanish, when it’s easier to speak English with his wife. So he understands the frustrations of having to force ourselves to practice a foreign language everyday.

Do you have this problem with your English class?

Are you planning to try Jason’s class?

If so, let us know when you are going to get started with Jason.

Do you ever want to get the status of someone’s progress on a project or an assignment but do you get confused about how to ask without making the person feel pressured?

Today you’ll find out how to do it successfully in English.

Ways to check on progress:

  • “How’s it going? I look forward to receiving the files.”
  • “Any updates?
  • ” How are things progressing?”
  • “How are things moving forward?”
  • “How are things going?”
  • “Do you need any feedback on anything?”
  • “Do you want me to check your work?”

Slightly more direct ways to check on progress:

  • “What’s your timeline?”
  • “How’s your timeline looking?”
  • “I just wanted to check in. When do you think you’ll be able to get that done?”


What other phrases do you use when you want to check on someone’s progress?

Let us know in the comments below.

April Fool’s Day is coming up later this week.

Are you ready for it?

How do you celebrate April Fool’s Day in your culture?

Today you’ll learn what many Americans do on April Fool’s Day and you’ll get a few new vocabulary words for this day.

It’s common to play jokes on friends and colleagues at work or at college in the United States.

It’s especially common in colleges because students live together with their friends in dormitories.

Vocabulary for April Fool’s Day:

  • Gullible: To trust people and believe things that people say, even if those things are not true.
  • Practical Joke: A joke that you play on someone (not a spoken joke). You act out this kind of joke.
  • A prank: A practical joke, a joke that is acted out
  • Gag gift: A silly gift that is not meant to be serious but is meant to be a joke

What should you do if someone plays a joke on you?

Don’t take it too seriously.

Laugh at it.

Have a good time.

Leave a message in the comments.

How do you celebrate April Fool’s Day?

Let us know.

Today is a Deep Thoughts Thursday and we have an inspiring quote for you!

Let’s talk about success.


Here is the quote:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

-Winston Churchill


We can apply this quote to a lot of different aspects of our lives like learning English, dating, and our career paths.

We have to keep going and take on new challenges with a positive attitude even if we have failed many times in the past.

Try to avoid feeling bitter when you take on a challenge and try again.


What do you think about this quote?

Do you keep your heart open and stay enthusiastic when you try again with something?

Leave us a comment below and let’s discuss it!


What is your fashion style?

Would you like to be able to talk about fashion in English in a more sophisticated way?

Today you’ll get to expand your English fashion vocabulary in this episode with Lindsay and Michelle.


Fashion Vocabulary:


1) Umbrella term= Bag

  • Purse
  • Backpack
  • Satchel
  • Handbag
  • Pocketbook
  • Evening bag
  • Clutch
  • Wristlet


2) Umbrella term= Shoes

  • Sneakers
    • Tennis shoes
    • Walking shoes
  • Boots
    • Hiking boots
  • Heels
  • Flats
  • Sandals
      • Birkenstocks
  • Flip Flops


3) Umbrella term= Shirt

  • T-shirt
  • Blouse
  • Tank Top (Spaghetti straps, sleeveless)
  • Sweater
  • Sweatshirt
    • Hoodie (hooded sweatshirt)


4) Umbrella term= Jacket

  • Coat (heavier than a jacket)
  • Ski jacket
  • Leather jacket
  • Peacoat



What do you think?

How do you know when someone is fashionable?

What is your fashion style?

Share it with us in the comments.

In today’s episode you’ll find out how to use the words “crazy” and “insane” as slang words in conversations.

How to use the word “crazy” in a slang form:

  • “I know someone who’s totally crazy because he still hitchhikes.”
  • It was crazy for us to hitchhike. Those were my crazy days.”
  • “Are you crazy about your boyfriend?”
  • “What is the craziest thing you have ever done?”

The slang words “crazy” and “insane” mean wild and out of control.

They could also mean unexpected or out of control.

The words are also used a lot in song lyrics, especially love songs.

If you use these words in a literal way to describe someone who is mentally ill it is rude.

Instead you could say that they are “mentally disabled” or “mentally handicapped” or “mentally challenged.”

Have you ever tried using these slang words in your English conversations?

Share your questions with us in the comments below.

Let’s talk!

Are you busy?

In your home culture, is it considered “cool” to be busy?

In American culture everyone is busy and it’s almost in style to be busy.

We think that’s crazy! Today we are going to give our opinion on this article from the Washington Post called Exhaustion Is Not a Status Symbol.

In American culture, especially in large cities like New York and Boston, things move fast and we often define ourselves based on the things that we do.

We also measure our worth based on what we achieve.

We end up valuing perfectionism and accomplishing things over just living.

Americans don’t take much time off for vacation while in other cultures people take much more vacation time.

How do we know that this is a problem? People in the US always say:

  • “I’ve been crazy busy.”
  • “I have so much going on.”

What can we do about this?

  • Avoid checking emails every three minutes
  • When you complete a task, sit back and reflect, get feedback (this was a suggestion from the article)
  • Take more vacation time

What do you think?

Is being busy considered cool in your culture?

Let us know in the comments.

Are you getting ready for your IELTS exam?

One big challenge on the IELTS is timing on the Writing test.

Today we’ll help you with a great time-management strategy.

You have a total of 60 minutes to do the whole Writing test. Task 2 is 250 words and Task 1 is 150 words so you need to spend more time on Writing Task 2.

We recommend 20 minutes for Task 1 and 40 minutes for Task 2.

However, don’t start with Writing Task 2. Do Task 1 first.

You also need to allow time for planning.

It really depends on you and how you prefer to write but we recommend that you practice and see what’s right for you in terms of planning time.

As a general guideline, you could spend 4 minutes planning and then spend a few minutes after to check your work.

When you practice brainstorming and coming up with ideas in the planning step, don’t forget to write down everything you think of.

In Task 2, spend 5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing, 5 minutes to check.

You need to practice the timing for all of these steps and adjust it based on what you need.

Practice is the key with time management.

The biggest mistakes that people make with time management on IELTS Writing is when they skip both planning and checking at the end.

When you check, look for spelling, grammar, vocabulary, etc.

Listen to this episode to learn more about how to check your own IELTS Writing test.

What other questions do you have about IELTS Writing?

Let us know in the comments below.

Today let’s talk about how to sound more natural in English when you use the phrase “by the way.”

Michelle and Lindsay will show you some great examples of how to use this phrase.


This phrase is useful to do two things:

  • Bring up a random, unexpected topic
  • To continue with the same topic, to add an idea linked to a previous idea

Listen to the episode for a few great examples of how to use “by the way” in English conversations with Lindsay and Michelle.


How have you used “by the way” in the past?

Let us know in the comments!

Did you know that being imaginative and creative can get you a 7 on the IELTS exam especially for Speaking Part 3?

This is especially true when it comes to the IELTS Speaking test. Your ideas don’t need to be 100% realistic. What’ more important is the way you deliver your ideas. You can make stuff up and have fun with it!

Today we’ll show you how!

What should you do when you get a Speaking question about the future and you don’t know how to answer the question?

You need to open your mind and be willing to make up your own ideas quickly.

In Part 3 of the Speaking test, they often ask you to guess or predict the future. For example, they might ask, “How might the way people travel change in the future?” With this question you need to make up a creative answer.

A good response is this: “I predict that by 2025 we will all be riding in flying cars.”

This is also useful because when you make up a funny idea, it makes you laugh, which makes you relax and makes you speak more like a real person.

This will also help your vocabulary because you will end up using less common vocabulary when you make up ideas about the future.

If you aren’t used to coming up with your own ideas or if you haven’t learned this in school you can train your mind to be creative.

You already have the ability but you just need to practice it.

Creativity is a muscle.

Flex your imagination!

Try this:

Look at the news and look at the topics in the newspaper. Come up with a prediction for each article headline that you read. Predict what will happen with that specific topic in the future.

Try to entertain the Examiner.

The Examiner is going to give you your score right after Part 3 of the Speaking so it’s good to leave them on a funny and positive note because this could influence your overall Speaking score.

If you are already a naturally funny person then you should amplify that in the Speaking test.

Don’t be afraid of your own ideas and your own personality.

If you are enjoying yourself during the test then your Examiner is probably having fun too.

Next learn how to tell a story in IELTS Speaking Part 2.

Do you have other questions about the Speaking test?

Let us know in the comments below.

Do you ever get confused about whether or not you should tip in an American restaurant?

Do you wonder how much to leave?

When to leave it?

Today you’ll get insider information from Michelle, who used to be a waitress at an American restaurant.

In the United States you MUST tip in a restaurant. Servers only make a few dollars per hour.

They rely on your tips.

How much should you tip?

You should tip 18-20%. However, you do have a choice when it comes to leaving a tip. If you have bad service then you can tip less.

If the waitress is slow or has a bad attitude then you don’t have to leave a lot of money as a tip.

It’s up to you.


When should you leave the tip?

If you pay with a credit card they take your card and come back with a receipt and the receipt has a place to write in the tip and the total and then you need to sign the receipt before you leave.

If you are paying in cash it’s ok to leave the cash on the table but put it under a cup or a plate.


What if you are with a large party? (A group of 6 or more people):

In this case gratuity (tip) is usually included.

It’s added into the bill before you get the bill.

Make sure you ask if you don’t know if it has already been included.


In other episodes we will talk about tipping in a bar, a cafe, the hair salon, a taxi, etc.


What is your opinion when it comes to leaving tips in the US?

Have you ever made a mistake with this?

Do you have any additional questions? Please ask us in the comments below.

Are you nervous about the IELTS Speaking test?

Most people get super nervous about this part of the test!

Part of why you are nervous is because you don’t know what kind of questions to expect from the Examiner.

Today we’re going to show you what questions the Examiner is likely to ask on the Speaking test.

We’re also going to show you how to prepare for these questions.

On Part 1 of the Speaking test you will always have to talk about:

  • Work
  • Study
  • Home

 Sample questions for Speaking Part 1:

  • Do you like your apartment?
  • Are there many shops near your apartment?
  • What are you studying? Why did you choose this subject? What will you do when you finish?
  • Clothes
  • Driving a car
  • Excercise
  • Food
  • Health
  • School- what do you remember about your high school? Who was your favorite teacher? What do you like to read? Do you enjoy reading before you go to bed?

** Remember! You can’t give one-word answers. You must expand on your ideas. Give complete sentences or you will get marked down.

When the Examiner asks, “What are you studying?” don’t say “English” instead you can say “At the moment I am studying English at the university downtown.

You can practice Part 1 with a language exchange partner.

Speaking Part 2 and Speaking Part 3:

Questions in Part 2 and Part 3 will always be linked to each other.

Topic: Movies

Part 2: Describe your favorite movie (who, what, when, where, why). You can practice this part by yourself to get comfortable speaking for two minutes.

Part 3: What makes a movie successful? Do you think the director or the actors are more important?

For part 3, you should have 3 things in your answer:

  • Give your opinion
  • Give an example of your opinion
  • Give a concluding sentence

When you prepare for the test, you should write out your answers ahead of time. Later, when you get comfortable with that you can stop writing them out and get better at responding quickly.

Remember, planning ahead and preparing is the key to getting more confidence.

Final tip- check out the NY Times and look at the newspaper sections- those are typical IELTS Speaking topics.

 What other questions do you have for the Speaking test?

Please ask us in the comments below!

Do you ever get into trouble during English phone conversations?

This is one of the biggest challenge for English students, especially at work.

Today we will show you how to get out of trouble if you aren’t understanding someone on the phone.

We’ll give you 8 things to do before or during the call to get the help you need.


 How to Rescue Your Phone Call:

  •  Practice to listening to natives as much as possible in your daily life (podcasts, sitcoms, the news on TV)
  • Ask the person to help you:
    • “I’m sorry. I’m having trouble understanding you. Would you (be able to ) say that again?”
    • “Could you repeat that (for me) please?”
    • “Would you mind slowing down a bit? It’s hard to hear you.”
  • Ask the person to follow up with a summary of the conversation by email
  • See if it’s ok to record the conversation
  • Breathe deeply before you get on the call with a native speaker


It’s important not to be ashamed if you can’t understand someone in English on the phone.

Don’t pretend to understand when you don’t.

Use one of our strategies above to save your English conversations on the phone.


What other tactics have you tried to rescue your English conversations?

Share them with us in the comments!

Norman Viss Expat Coach

Are you going abroad sometime soon?

Have you set an intention for your time abroad?

In today’s episode Lindsay talks with Norman Viss, an expat coach who helps his clients make the most of their time abroad by setting intentions.

How can setting intentions make your life abroad more fulfilling?

  • Think about what kind of expat you are and decide how that will shape your expat life:
    • Are you a foreign assignee? Has your company moved you abroad to work?
    • Are you an international student or former international student?
    • Are you a “love-pat”? (someone who has gone abroad because they have met a partner, are you a traveling spouse?
    • Are you a “greener pastures expat”? This is someone who has gone abroad to find a better place to live including retirees.


  • Set goals and don’t just “go with the flow”

    • Do you want to learn a language? Be realistic about what will be possible based on the amount of time that you will be abroad.
    • Be intentional about what kinds of friendships you want while you are abroad.
    • What are your areas of interest? Do you like desserts? Sports? Do you like history? What kind of focus will you have during your time abroad? Will you create a theme for your life abroad?
    • What about your work? What professional goals do you want to accomplish while you are abroad?


  • Consider how your life will look after your time abroad:
    • What do you want your life to look like after you return from abroad?
    • What about retirement? If you are going abroad in your 40’s or 50’s then it’s a good idea to think about the future after your time abroad.


The key to a happy life abroad is being intentional!

Let us know in the comments below if you have been intentional in your life abroad and how it has affected your experience abroad.



Norman Viss put down roots in Nigeria (10 years) and the Netherlands (22 years).

He has worked for mission organizations, churches and in the public sector for the City of Amsterdam.

He holds B.A. and Master’s degrees, with majors in cross-cultural and urban studies and theology; he is also an ICF- credentialed coach.

Currently he runs an online business coaching expats around the world (Expat Everyday Support Center) and serves part-time as a clergyman in the Philadelphia area in the USA. Norman is a thankful husband, father and grandfather.

Visit Norman’s coaching website at expateverydaysupportcenter.com

Today get some strategies for how to cultivate more gratitude in your life in English!

Today’s quote:

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

– Willie Nelson


Vocabulary from the quote:

  • To count your blessings: To pay attention to the good things in your life
  • My whole life turned around: My whole life got better, changed direction


How can you cultivate more gratitude in your life?

  • Keep a gratitude journal every day, write down your “blessings” and what you are grateful for
  • Focus on the good things that you have in your life, not the bad things
  • Set an alarm on your phone. When the alarm goes off you can think about what you are grateful in that moment.


What do you do to cultivate gratitude in your life?

Let us know in the comments.

Today find out how to get a 7 on all 4 sections of the IELTS!

In the Speaking Section:

The examiner looks for four things:

  • Fluency and coherence: Use linking words, don’t pause, don’t repeat yourself
  • Vocabulary: Use a few slang words, a few idioms, a few phrasal verbs- get away from the textbook
  • Grammar: It’s hard to get a 7 in grammar. The only way you can do it is if most of your sentences don’t have mistakes but it’s ok not to get a 7 in grammar because the score is an average. Think about where your strengths are and if they are not in grammar then focus on other areas. Read more about our grammar strategy for IELTS.
  • Pronunciation: This is the easiest one to get a 7. You can do it! Show some personality. Use some intonation. Use drama! You don’t need “perfect English pronunciation.”

The Writing Section:

  • Task 1: Task achievement- you have to include all of the important numbers and you have to have an overall trend. For example, “Overall, numbers increase in this period.”
  • Task 2: They grade you on task response. Did you answer the question? Answer every single part of the question. Also, cohesion and coherence are important. Use linking words and have clear paragraphs. Have an obvious main idea.
  • Vocabulary: You need to use academic phrases and academic linking words.
  • Grammar: It’s hard to get a 7 on this. You need a variety of sentence structures and not a lot of mistakes.

The Reading and Listening Sections:

  • At least 27 correct answers out of 40 will get you an “acceptable” score

Now you know exactly what you need to do to get a 7 on all 4 sections of the IELTS.

Now go get started on your preparation and you will be ready to get that 7!

Let us know your questions in the comments section.

Today you’ll get 3 sentence structures to improve your grammar grade on IELTS Writing Task 1.

On IELTS Task 1 you are shown a graph, table, pie chart, or bar chart. They have numbers and you have to compare and contrast how they change.

You will see a graph that shows “Change Over Time”

The examiner wants you to use different sentence structures for this category.

Here they are:

1) Subject + verb + adverb : “The numbers increased dramatically in 2008.”

2) There was + adjective + noun: “There was a dramatic increase in 2008.”

3) Before +verb-ing: “Before increasing in 2008, the number of surfers experienced a decline.”

Where can you find graphs to use to practice these sentences?

  • Find IELTS forums
  • Go to IELTS.org
  • Go to a bookstore and write down some sentences with your notebook
  • New York Times and USA Today
  • Google Images, type in “bar chart” or “pie chart”

Where else have you found resources like pie charts or graphs to practice these sentence structures for Writing Task 1?

Let us know your ideas below!

Knock-kock jokes are super common in American culture.

Today you’ll find out how to tell a joke like this and make people laugh to build great connections with English speakers in your life.

These kinds of jokes are often told by kids.

They are fun, innocent and clever. They are a play on words.

Joke #1:

“knock knock”

“Who’s there?”


“Canoe who?”

Can-oe (can you) help me me with my homework?”


Joke #2:

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”


“Orange who?”

“Orange-ya (aren’t you) gonna let me in?”


Joke #3:

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”


“Harry who?”

“Harry up (hurry up) it’s cold out here”


What knock-knock jokes do you know in English?

Tell us your joke in the comment section below!

Are you nervous about your IELTS Speaking test?

Did you know that there are some easy things that you can do to increase your chances of a higher score on the Speaking test?

The IELTS exam is not completely objective because another person is giving you the score.

Yes, they are trained and there are very specific requirements for each score but they are still human and you can influence the examiner in a positive way to increase your score.

How to build a rapport with the examiner or get their attention:

  • Don’t shake the examiner’s hand. This is not a business deal.
  • Do follow their instructions about where to sit and be respectful.
  • Don’t try to negotiate with the examiner to get a better score.
  • Don’t ask the examiner how you did right after the speaking test is over. The final few minutes before you leave the room are very important so don’t make the examiner angry.
  • Do use your personality. Do Tell personal stories. Don’t say what you think the examiner wants to hear.
  • Do relax, smile, laugh a little bit.
  • Do be polite.
  • Do make eye contact if you can. If you can’t do that then you can look beyond the examiner.

Approach the Speaking section like a formal interview but also show a positive attitude.

It’s supposed to be formal but relaxed.

Final tip! Use these 5 phrasal verbs to impress the examiner on your Speaking test!

Do you have any other questions about the Speaking test on the IELTS?

Please ask your question below.

How can you quickly change the subject in an English conversation and get out of trouble when someone seems uncomfortable?

It’s important to know how to do this if you want to be able to make great connections with people.

How do we know when someone’s uncomfortable in American culture?

  • Their shoulders tense up
  • They don’t make eye contact
  • Their tone of voice changes
  • They hesitate
  • They use “um,” “ya know” and other filler words


Today let’s find out how to save the interaction when you have brought up a topic that makes someone uncomfortable.

What questions can you ask to change the topic?

  • “So how’s work going?” (ask about the person’s job or work projects)
  • “How are your parents doing?” (ask about the person’s family)
  • “It’s freezing today, isn’t it?” (or another weather comment)
  •  “Do you have any vacations coming up?’
  • “Have you seen any good movies lately?”


What questions do you use in your culture to change the topic if someone is uncomfortable?

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Today, learn 6 phrases to help you enter into conversations with confidence!


Entering into a conversation with native English speakers can be difficult.  They often speak fast and might not seem to offer you a chance to speak.  Instead, they will expect that you are going to jump in and speak if you have something to say.

This means that you need to show confidence if you want to get into a conversation.  You need to be able to assert yourself and use the phrases that signal to them that you have something to say.


Here are six phrases to help you do that:

“I see what you mean.”: This shows that you agree with the other speaker.  It also gives you the opportunity to follow it up with something extra that comes from you.  You could also say, “Yeah, I totally agree.”

“Actually, I think…”: If you want to disagree, this is a polite way to do it.  You don’t want to show too much disagreement if you’re trying to get into a conversation with a stranger, but polite disagreement might make for a deeper conversation.

“Hey, I have an idea.”: As it suggests, this phrase would help you express a new thought. You could also say: “What about this?”

“Me too!”: This can help show commonality and is a good way to start telling a story. It’s also a very relaxed phrase that sounds natural to Americans.


Do you find it intimidating to jump into conversations with English speakers?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Are you nervous about talking for two minutes in speaking section 2 of the IELTS?

Today, get some note taking strategies you can use to ace the IELTS speaking section!

In the IELTS speaking part 1, the examiner asks you about three topics.  But in part 2 you are given a single topic card.  No matter what this topic is, you cannot change it. You have one minute to prepare to speak for two full minutes. How you spend that minute is important.

Because you will have such a specific topic, and such a short amount of time, it’s probably best to write everything you can think of about the topic.  You could do this in a bullet list, or as a mind map.  But you need to have enough to say for those two minutes.

If you do not have practice brainstorming like this, you may want to practice.  Use a topic from a newspaper as an example.

Give yourself a minute (or more) to make a list of notes on the topic.

Then, see if you can use them to speak for two minutes.

Other tips:

  • Practice brainstorming/note-taking every day if possible.  You’re training your brain for thinking, speaking and writing in English.
  • Take all of these notes in English, not your native language!
  • Ideally, your notes will provide you enough to tell a story. Telling a story will enable you to speak for the full two minutes, and help you remain coherent.

Do you have much experience brainstorming?

How do you think it would go for the IELTS speaking section part 2?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Today, meet Kathleen from Canada, and get 3 phrases to connect with locals in the capital city, Ottawa!

Canada is a multicultural and diverse country, and Ottawa is a micro version of that.  It’s a city of one million inhabitants and numerous languages.  It is also a city in touch with nature.  With four distinct seasons, Ottawa has something for everyone.

Though Canada and the United States have some similarities, they also have many differences.  Among these are some subtle differences in using the English language. This includes pronunciation and some commonly used phrases.

Here are Kathleen’s top Canadian phrases to help you blend in when you’re in Ottawa!

  • I’m sorry: Canadians are known for being very polite.  In fact, the culture can be so polite it becomes apologetic.  Sometimes Canadians will begin a sentence, “I’m sorry,” even if they did nothing wrong and aren’t apologizing for anything.
  • Out and About: This means to go exploring or to check something out. A Canadian might say “Let’s go out and about,” or “I was out and about.”
  • Eh?: Often, this word is used the way an American might use the words “right?” or “huh?”  It shows agreement or clarification with other people.  You might hear someone say, “That was a great show, eh?”

Are you going to Ottawa, or Canada?

Have you ever been there?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Kathleen Kuracina italki teacher AEE gues interviewKathleen is a native English speaker from Ottawa, Canada. She has been teaching and tutoring students in  English and beginner French for over three years in Asia, Latin America and Canada. She also speaks French and Spanish, and so understands the challenges and joys of learning a new language. In her experience, conversation is the best way to improve language skills.

Kathleen has worked and continues to work in the areas of community development, and is currently completing her Bachelor of Education.  This summer she will be teaching in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. She loves meeting people from different cultures and learning new languages.

Today, we welcome back dating expert Jessica Coyle to give you four easy topics for conversation when dating!


Conversation can be tricky on a first date.  You might be nervous, and it can be hard to know what’s safe to talk about.  Jessica has a great acronym to help you with simple, safe discussion topics.  It’s FORD, and it stands for:

  • Friends: If you have mutual friends, ask how your date met them.  Or, if you don’t have mutual friends, ask if your date knows anybody in the area where you’re meeting.
  • Occupation: Asking about another person’s job is usually a good conversation starter.  You might say, “What do you do with your time?”  That way, if your date happens to be unemployed, they are still able to give an answer.
  • Recreation: Ask about what somebody likes to do for fun. You might follow up by asking, “How often do you get to do that?”
  • Dreams: This is good for asking hypothetical questions. You could ask things like “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” or “What would you do if you had a billion dollars?”


People love talking about themselves, so being interested in others is what might make you more interesting to them.  When starting a conversation, don’t just ask a list disconnected questions.  Follow-up with the other person’s answers to show that you are listening to what they are saying.


Are you dating in English?

What are your experiences?

Tell us how it’s going in the comments section below!


headshot (1)Jessica Coyle has been teaching English since 2007. She received her Master’s in TESOL in 2013, finishing with a professional project researching the use of improvisational comedy teaching techniques to teach English as a second language. She has studied and performed improv comedy all over Korea, China, Canada and the United States.


How to find Jessica Online:

Her dating blog: https://hopefuldisasters.wordpress.com/

Her comedy podcast: NY Pacific

What’s the difference between the IELTS and the TOEFL?

Today, learn what makes these two tests distinct, and how to choose between the them!

The IELTS and the TOEFL have some significant differences.  But that doesn’t mean one is easier than the other.  Many universities will accept either test, so you might be able to choose which one works best for you.  That means it’s a good idea to know how each is unique.

Here is are some points of difference between the two tests:

  • The IELTS exam is completed on paper and by speaking to a person. The TOEFL is done entirely on a computer (even the speaking portion).  For some people, IELTS might feel more “natural.”
  • The listening section in TOEFL uses only North American accents.  IELTS, on the other hand, uses a range of English accents from around the world.  If you have trouble with accents, you might find IELTS more difficult.
  • But IELTS is more predictable.  For example, the test has three reading passages every time.  TOEFL, on the other hand, always has a different number of reading passages.  It also might have longer listening and reading sections.
  • With TOEFL, on one section you have to listen to a conversation and give your opinion.  This means it’s both a writing and speaking section.  IELTS only has distinct listening and reading sections.

Learn more about IELTS and TOEFL differences:

Check out our episode series with Jamie Miller form English Success Academy.

Learn about IELTS and TOEFL writing differences

Which exam sounds easier to you?

Let us know why in the comments section below!

In Part 2 of today’s episode, Lindsay and Mo break down their unrehearsed, first time meeting from Part 1, and talk about what it means to you learning English!


In Part 1 of this episode, Lindsay met Mo.  They hadn’t met before and didn’t know what was going to come up in their spontaneous conversation.  Now, in Part 2, the two of them discuss what worked, and what didn’t.


Some of the discussion points in Part 2:

  • How can you feel confident in English conversations?
  • How can you be respectful about gender and other differences when meeting someone new?
  • How can you allow your true curiosity about the other person come out even though your English isn’t perfect?


What did you get out of this conversation?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

In Part 3 of today’s episode, Mo will show you three ways to develop authentic, bulletproof confidence when you speak English with his unique method!


In Part 1 and 2 of this episode, Lindsay and Mo had an authentic English conversation and analyzed what worked, and what didn’t.  Now, in Part 3, Mo discusses Be in English, his method for learning how to have the best conversations possible in English.


Here are the main principles of the Be in English system:

1. If you know enough English to listen to this podcast, you can discuss anything in English!  By using creativity, you are capable of joining a conversation and having a voice.

2. Be aware of your self-consciousness and shame about not speaking perfect English.  Accept it, realize that your English will never be “perfect,” but don’t get too close to the idea.

3. Work with “naked listening.”  That is, listen closely to a recording of English.  Listen several times if necessary until you can distinguish every sound.  Practicing this will change your orientation to listening.


You can find and work with Mo Riddiford and his Be in English system on italki.


What do you think about the Be in English system?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Today, listen to Part 1 of a real, authentic example of two people using English to get to know each other! 

In Part 1 of this episode, Lindsay meets Mo.  Mo is from New Zealand but has lived all over the world.  He currently lives in Germany and teaches English.  The two of them talk about this, and about learning a language and living in a different culture.

Some of the discussion points in Part 1:

  • Why do people want to learn English?
  • How can they be relaxed enough to learn it?
  • Is it okay to accept that you’ll never be a native speaker?

What did you get out of this conversation?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss the top taboos to look out for in American workplace culture!


A taboo is something that is improper or unacceptable based on culture or region.  Different companies might have their own taboos, but most American workplaces probably have many of the same ones.

An article by Barbara Mason outlines the biggest of these taboos.  Here are a few of them, and how to avoid them:

  • Spreading rumors: To spread a rumor is to make up an untrue story about somebody, and tell it to others.  Americans tend to look down on people who do this.  If you want to be trusted and have positive relationships, avoid gossip!
  • Taking credit for another’s work: This means telling others that you did the work or achieved a success when, in fact, somebody else did.  Again, Americans won’t trust anybody suspected of doing this, so don’t do it.
  • Falling asleep at work: It may not be natural to be completely energized for 8 straight hours, but at minimum your boss will expect you to be awake.  Try taking a break from your desk, going for a short walk or stepping outside to refresh yourself.
  • Lying about an academic background: Honesty is very important to American bosses.  If you lie about your academic background, you’re likely to be fired when you get caught. The best thing to do is to present the academic background that you do have in the best possible way.


What are the top workplace taboos where you live?

Tell us all about them in the comments section below!

How can you increase your vocabulary range for the IELTS? 

Today, learn 3 steps for building a more dynamic vocabulary for the IELTS exam!

You need to have words that are useful for academia and formal situations, but also with your friends on the street.

This is key to having a more natural sounding English.

But how do you build this range of vocabulary?

Jessica has three steps for building it.  They include:

Step 1: Getting the vocabulary: Newspapers are a great resource for this.  A newspaper like the USA Today is more understandable, while the New York Times is written at a higher level.  A magazine like the Economist is even higher.

Step 2: Recording it: For every article you read, choose maybe five new words to learn.  Keep them in context. Maybe write a summary of the article that uses these new words.

Step 3: Remembering it: Develop a system for studying these new vocabulary words.  Try to review the words at least two or three times a week. Also, try to use these new words in conversation.

Don’t stop here! Keep learning!

For more awesome vocabulary episodes, check out work idioms for IELTS and happiness idioms for the IELTS Speaking test.

What are you doing to build a range of vocabulary?

Tell us what you’re doing in the comments section below!

Are you worried about losing energy and focus on IELTS test day?

Today you’ll find out why some students lose focus and energy easily and quickly on the IELTS and why others are able to stay awake and energized throughout the entire exam.

How to Keep Your Energy High for IELTS Day:

  • Eat Breakfast: You need protein that will stick with you all day like eggs as well as carbohydrates that will give you the energy that you need like oatmeal. You can also try almond milk, nuts, fruit, etc.
  • Bring Water to the Test: Remember that when you bring your water bottle into the IELTS exam, you cannot have a label on the bottle. Tear the label off before you go in. Prepare for this ahead of time.
  •  Get Fresh Air and Exercise: This is a great way to keep your focus alive and to keep your mind awake. Ty to get in a short, brisk walk before you check in and at noon after you finish the Writing section. This will help you be ready for the Speaking test in the afternoon.

Do you have great strategies to maintain your energy on IELTS test day?

Let us know your ideas in the comments below!

Today you’ll find out which accents will be on the listening section of the IELTS and where you can practice those accents for free.

Are you confused about which English accents will be on the IELTS?

There are a variety of accents on IELTS. If you buy books from a British publisher then you will hear mostly British accents.

However, on the test you will hear a variety of accents from around the world. Still, you need to get used to British English and other accents.

You can find British accents on Luke’s English Podcast.

Here are a few other resources with a mix of accents but also a lot of videos from England:

** You can also view transcripts and take quizzes on these sites.

More Hot Resources!

Have you found any other great resources to prepare with a variety of accents?

Please let us know in the comments section below!

Today, learn three tactics to remember names in English, and why it’s important to do so!

A name is a person’s most basic possession and part of their identity.  It’s the sweetest sound to their ears.  For this reason, Alan believes it’s important to get a person’s name right, and to show an interest in it.  But it’s not always easy to do that, especially with names you are unfamiliar with.

Here are Alan’s tips for remembering new names:

  • If a name is unfamiliar, ask them to repeat it.  This helps you learn their name and also shows a respectful commitment to learning it.  Simply say, “Your name is a little difficult for me, but I’d really like to get it right. Could you say it again?”
  • Ask for their business card.  This works best in a business context, though students may also have business cards.  Reading the name might make it easier to remember.
  • Make up a mnemonic, or memory aid.  Think of what the unfamiliar name sounds like in your native language and use that to help you remember.  This is a way to bridge your language and English.

Alan suggests you also learn common names in the English-speaking world, and that you try asking others if their names have any special meanings or significances.

How do you deal with learning new names?

Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Alan Headbloom is an intercultural trainer, a professional English teacher and a talk show host. He frequently appears as a speaker on topics such as cultural diversity and workplace inclusion. He lives in Michigan, USA where he and his wife produce the show Feel Like You Belong, a show about immigrants creating a new life in the United States.

Visit Alan’s Website: Feel Like You Belong and Alan Headbloom- Cross Cultural Communication

Today you’ll learn what grammar risks you should take on IELTS to get a 7 and when to play it safe with your grammar choices.

Do you know how complex your grammar needs to be to get a score of 7?

For a 7 you need a mix of sentence structures for the IELTS.

To get a 7 you need simple (subject + verb “I go to the store”) and compound sentences (two simple sentences put together using conjunctions “I go to the store and I like to shop”) and complex sentences (adding a dependent clause such as “I go to the store which is near my house because I love to buy the food that they have”).

However, you also need to be sure that you don’t have a lot of mistakes.

It’s ok to make some mistakes. You can make mistakes up to a band score of 8.

You should play it safe on the IELTS and use the grammar structures that you are comfortable with.

Don’t try using rare grammar tenses like the past perfect.

Don’t experiment with new tenses on the IELTS exam.

To sum up, to get a 7 you need 80% of your sentences to have no mistakes. You should get comfortable with relative clauses because it’s a great way to mix in the more advanced grammar that you need and they are easy.

How can you add these more complex grammar points?

Try to make it relevant to you when you practice.

What tenses have you used on the IELTS exam?

Tell us in the comments!

Today, learn 3 ways to do it with italki teacher Arianne!


Arianne believes that reading is critical to learning English.  It’s a great way to expand your vocabulary and learn the grammar.  It’s also visual learning, and something you can do by yourself.


Here are Arianne’s 3 tips for improving your English with reading:

  • Choose something that interests you. Follow your interests and passions.  There are endless possibilities on the internet, whether blogs or news websites.  Make sure you’re connecting with the material you’re reading.
  • Read with a dictionary.  Reading is a great activity for building your vocabulary.  You may not want to look up every new word, but be active about learning words you see over and over.
  • Make reading a routine in your daily life.  Reading doesn’t have to be work.  In fact, it is one of the least stressful activities you can do.  Try to give it 15 or 30 minutes a day if possible.


Do you make reading a part of your English learning?

How do you do it?

Let us know in the comments section below!


Arianne is a CELTA certified professional teacher with seven years experience teaching ESL and other subjects.  She has worked with both adults and teenagers from around the world, and has taught in several different countries outside the US, including New Zealand and Spain. Arianne uses a very relaxed teaching style which she believes helps students learn English in a way that is both natural and enjoyable, while still being informative and useful.  She speaks Spanish and French, and so understands firsthand the difficulties of learning a second language.


Today, learn how interruption is a part of American speaking culture, and how you can participate!

Americans often interrupt each other.  It can appear rude, and can cause frustration, but it happens.  Don’t take it personally.  Instead, learn how it works so you can take part in this aspect of spoken American English culture.

There are many phrases you can use when being interrupted, or when interrupting others.  Some of them include:

  • Sorry or Oops: These might be said not only by the person doing the interrupting, but also by the person who is interrupted.
  • Go ‘head (ahead) and No, you go: These phrases permit the other person to interrupt you.
  • No problem: This indicates that you are okay with the interruption that just occurred.

Other common interruption phrases include:

  • What was that?
  • Uh huh.
  • Oh?

What other ways have you heard Lindsay and Michelle interrupt each other on past episodes of All Ears English?

Tell us in the comments section below!

Today, returning guest Jessica Coyle talks about some of the obstacles, and shares 3 tips to improve your odds of success!


Jessica doesn’t consider herself a relationship expert.  However, she goes on many dates, and blogs about her experiences.  She has found that there is no perfect solution to dating in a big city.  But you can increase your chances of finding someone you like by doing three things.


Here are Jessica’s suggestions:

Make Time!  Nobody has time in a big city.  Or, maybe nobody makes time.  It might be a matter of priorities.  If a relationship is a goal of yours, you need to treat it with the respect and effort that you would with any goal.  Approach it like a new job, or like learning English!

Join Groups and Be an Organizer!  It’s not easy to make friends in a new city when you don’t know anybody.  But there are many social activities available to you.  Make it your job to try something new every week, especially activities in which you can meet people.  Also, become a person who plans things.  Give people a reason to meet up with you.

Stay Local or Move Closer to the City!  Transportation can be an issue in the city.  It might take an hour to get across town to meet a potential date.  Consider searching for dates in your local area so meeting them isn’t such a hassle.  Or, think about where you live, and if you could afford to live closer to the center of the city.


Have you tried dating in a big city?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!


headshot (1)Jessica Coyle has been teaching English since 2007. She received her Master’s in TESOL in 2013, finishing with a professional project researching the use of improvisational comedy teaching techniques to teach English as a second language. She has studied and performed improv comedy all over Korea, China, Canada and the United States.

Check out Jessica’s dating blog at https://hopefuldisasters.wordpress.com/. Her comedy podcast is called NY Pacific.

Can’t find anyone to correct your IELTS writing practice?

A lot of people have this problem but it doesn’t mean that you can’t do some great preparation for the test by yourself!

Today you’ll find out exactly how to create a checklist for your writing to grade it yourself.

When you create your checklist you should organize it based on the descriptors. Descriptors are what the examiner looks at in order to give you a grade.

What to look for when you correct your own writing practice tests:

  • Task achievement/task response: Do you complete the required task? Do you actually answer the question? For Task 1, you need to include all the key points. You need a summary or overall trend. You need to say what happens to the numbers in general. For Task 2, did you stick to the topic and fully answer every part of the question. For example, if it’s an argument essay, did you talk about every part of the question?
  • Organization: Does every sentence connect to the topic? Are you repeating anything? Are you being direct and concise?
  • Coherence and Cohesion: Do you have good paragraphs? Do you use linking words between every sentence? Examiners look for the linking words! Don’t forget them. They are important! Don’t let your writing be choppy. It needs to flow with linking words.
  • Do your ideas make sense?
  • Vocabulary: Look for repeated words and circle them. Try to think of different ways to say words when you have repeated them.
  • Grammar: Look for a variety of sentence structures. Underline the complex sentences. Make sure you included them in your writing. A complex sentence is where you use a dependent clause with a simple sentence. Here is an example: “I like writing which has a lot of linking words.”
  • Mistakes: Make a list of the most common errors. Look at verb tenses, circle the different tenses. Make sure you are using them correctly.

It’s better to have a real person correct your IELTS writing but if you can’t do that, try using this checklist above.

Set up a very specific study schedule. Work on it every single day. Leave yourself plenty of time ahead of the test to prepare and you can do it!

Leave us a comment below!

Have you tried correcting your own IELTS writing?

How did it go?

Cathey-Armillas_headshotIn this episode you’ll learn how to get out of your head and how to get as confident as you can for the speaking section of the IELTS Exam!

Today our guest is Cathey Armillas.

Cathey is a professional TEDx speaker, a marketing professional, and she has been the leader of a Toastmaster’s public speaking organization in Portland, Oregon.

Today Cathey is going to offer us 3 tips for how to handle the IELTS Speaking test.

  • Step 1: Practice and prepare! Try recording yourself with audio or video and then go back and listen to the recording. This will help you start to see your patterns and pick up on problems that you could improve on.


  • Step 2: Get out of your head! Don’t get in your own way. Relax. The Examiner wants you to succeed. The test is designed for you to do well. Get into a confident mindset. Don’t focus too much on yourself. Try striking a “power pose.” Check this TED Talk to learn more.


  • Step 3: First, recognize your current emotions, be aware of them and then ignore them for the moment. Next ask yourself what your goal is. Remember your goal and don’t let your emotions take over!


To learn more about Cathey and her books and speaking philosophy, please go to her website here




What is the IELTS?

Who takes it, and why?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss all the basics of the IELTS exam!

The IELTS is an exam that’s usually taken by non-native English speakers.  The academic version of the exam is for students who want to study in a English-language university. A more general IELTS exam is taken by job candidates who want to work in English-speaking countries. The two versions are very similar – the only difference is that the academic test has more difficult reading and writing sections.

IELTS is completed with pencil and paper, and by speaking with a real person.  This is very different from something like TOEFL, which is computerized. However, the IELTS does have very specific rules.  This means that knowing what to expect can help you get a better score.

If you’re at intermediate level and you’re planning to take the exam, you should begin preparing for it least 3-6 months ahead. Also, be aware that the IELTS is very popular, so seats fill up fast.  Ielts.org has a list of where and when you can take the exam.

Many people who take the test don’t get the score they need the first time.  Don’t worry, you can take it again!  The best way to improve your chances is to know what to expect, and to prepare.

More details are coming soon about our 3 Keys IELTS System! Stay tuned to learn more!

Are you going to take the IELTS?

Tell us why, and how you’re preparing for it!

How can you achieve English fluency where you live?

Today, find out why you don’t have to live in an English-speaking country to become fluent in English!


Beth Donaghue taught herself Chinese without ever having visited China.  Her experience has shown her that it’s possible to learn a foreign language without leaving home.  But to do it, you need to get yourself “stuck”, or immersed, in the language. That can be difficult when you’re not surrounded by native speakers.  But it’s not impossible.


Here are 3 ways to get stuck in English wherever you are:

  • Read English: Spend as much time as possible doing this, whether it’s books, magazines or online articles.  It’s great for your vocabulary and your grammar, and allows you to explore not only the language, but the culture.
  • Small vocabulary list: Try focusing more intensely on ten words instead of loosely on fifty words. Don’t just learn new words – learn to use them! You have to really know a word so you can use it.
  • Use online tools: Consider something like Anki. It’s a space repetition software that can tell how well you’re remembering vocabulary, and force you to revisit it. Anki would also be useful to help you build vocabulary for the IELTS Speaking test.


Beth’s Bio:

I’m Beth, 37 years old and I’m from a little village in South England called Knaphill, where I currently live. I have also lived in London and Manchester. I live with my 2 boys and I teach English and Chinese as second languages on Italki. I started tutoring on Italki in 2011, and I have taught over 1000 lessons in that time. I majored in Chinese studies at the world renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, and use many of the techniques I learnt there studying Chinese in my English and Chinese classes. I’m a keen student of languages and can speak to varying degrees: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, and Spanish. ”


How are you getting stuck in English?

Tell us what you’re doing in the comments section below!

Today, learn how they’re not the same, and how to use them like a native speaker!

The words “by” and “until” are often confused.  Both deal with time, and both can send the same message.  However, they do have some subtle differences.

Until is used to talk about how long a situation continues.  If something happens “until” a particular time, then it stops when that time is up.  Americans often pronounce the word as ’til.

  • It snowed from Monday until Wednesday.
  • I’m going to work ’til I’m old.

By is used to say something must happen at or before a specific time.  It often indicates a deadline.

  • My report is due by 5PM.
  • I have to be home by midnight.

Let us know how you can use the words “by” and “until”!

Leave us a message in the comments section below!

Today, learn 3 reasons you might be talking in circles when it comes to business English, and how you can get your point across more precisely!

Is it common in your culture to be indirect when you speak to others?  Is it better to be direct and use the active voice in English?

When Americans speak to each other, they often get to the point quickly.  This may feel uncomfortable or even rude to a person from another culture.  But if you aren’t direct, there’s a danger of never getting to the point, and talking in circles.

Another problem is, if you don’t have the necessary vocabulary, you may be trying to go around what you really mean.  The only way to correct this is to find the precise words you need by expanding your vocabulary.

A third reason for talking in circles is nervousness.  Speaking another language can fill a person with anxiety, and when we’re nervous we might easily end up talking without getting to the point.  Fixing this is as simple as taking a deep breath and relaxing.

Have you had trouble with talking in circles?

Tell us about it in the comments section below! 

Do you want to impress the examiner in the IELTS speaking section?

Today, find out why exaggerating will give you a better score!

If you want to stand out in the IELTS speaking section, you need to energize the English you’re using.  You can’t just say something boring like “I’m hungry” when you can get more attention by saying “I’m starving – if I don’t eat now, I’m gonna die!”

Of course, you don’t need to exaggerate all the time when you speak English, but doing it during your speaking exam will definitely impress your teacher.

Use adverbs to magnify your adjectives, and use idioms and metaphors to add color to what you’re saying.  Also, use excited and dramatic intonation to show emotion.  Doing these will make you a more interesting and natural-sounding speaker, and get you a better score.

Here are some examples:

  • “I totally love my bedroom.  It’s by far the best room in my house!”
  • “The couch is so soft it’s like sitting on a cloud.”
  • “I like days when the sun’s beating down on me in total brilliance.”

How can you talk like a drama king or queen?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

On today’s Deep Thoughts Thursday, hear a quote that will inspire you to be specific in your career choice!


Actress and comedian Lily Tomlin has made many clever observations on life.  Among the most popular is the following: “I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”


To “be somebody” is to have a purpose, or be famous, which makes your life important and special.  But Lily is also using “be somebody” in a joking way, as if she should have picked some specific person to be (instead of being nobody).

It’s important to be intentional about where you want your life to go, and to think about who it is you want to become.  Here are some things that might help:

  • Consider finding a mentor or coach.  Usually this is someone who is older than you and who is willing to listen and maybe give good advice.
  • It’s good to have a process of narrowing down ideas about your life so you don’t spread yourself too thin.  Think about how you do that
  • Surround yourself with a supportive community.  Especially seek out people who are intentional about what they want, as well as people who want the same things as you.


Are you trying to “be somebody”?

Who do you want to be?

Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Are you in danger of making a cultural mistake in writing?

Today, learn the biggest cultural mistake people make in Writing Task 2 of the IELTS!

Your cultural and educational background influence how you organize your ideas.  When it comes to the IELTS, this can potentially affect how you score on the test.  The grading is not welcoming to cultural differences.  You must express your ideas in a way that fits western expectation.

This means getting straight to the point when writing your Writing Task 2 essay.  A common mistake test-takers make is saving the main idea of their essay for the end.  But the western expectation is that you state your main idea at the beginning, in the first sentence if possible.

Here is an example:

  • “In this essay, I am going to talk about why I think professional athletes are overpaid.”

Does your writing fit western expectations?

Why or why not?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay talks with TEDx speaker and ESL expert Mindy Young about how to use music, painting and poetry in learning English!


It can be hard to get out of your head when learning English.  Mindy suggests you start by getting out of your textbook and into the world.  If you’re enjoying learning and interacting, you’re no longer just learning — you’re communicating.

The arts are a great way to do this.  Consider the following:

  • Music: Learning song lyrics will probably be more fun than a textbook, and you’re likely to discover some new vocabulary.  A song can be listened to more than once.  It can stick in your head.  Singing can also help you with pronunciation and intonation.  Dancing with the music will make it easier to remember.
  • Poetry and scripts: Check out poems by Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky.  They’re short, silly and fun, and are written at an easy English level.  But they’re also intelligent and play with jokes and double meanings in English words.  If you have friends who are learning English, try reading a script from a television show.  Take on the role of a character and practice being a native speaker.
  • Visual art: Observe the image of a famous painting.  Write as many descriptive words about it as you can.  Then, try to make sentences using all of those words.  Write down what the painting makes you feel, and why.  Go deep.


To learn more about Mindy’s school go to ESL Arts Advantage


Do you use the arts in your English learning?

Let us know how in the comments section below!



Should you call them Dr., Mrs., Ms., or y’all? This can be tricky because there are so many possible titles and situations.


The best thing to do is watch what others do. In America today, things are often very relaxed, and most people (even bosses) prefer you to call them by their first names. Here are some tips:

  • Calling someone Mr. or Mrs. is not wrong, but you are likely to be told “Please, call me John.”
  • With doctors or professors, call them Dr. and their last name.
  • When shopping, address a young woman as Miss, an older woman as Ma’am and a man as Sir.

Don’t worry about making a mistake. Nobody’s going to be too upset, though they might correct you.

Do you want to know more about this topic? In the comments section below, let us know your questions.

What should you bring to your IELTS exam?

When should you go, and what should you watch out for?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss how you can be prepared to succeed on your IELTS test day!

On your IELTS exam day you should try to arrive 45 minutes early.  It’s critically important that you get there on time.  If you are late, you will miss the first section and can’t make it up.  Missing an entire section will make it impossible to get a good overall score.

You should plan to bring your passport for identification.  It is also okay to bring a bottle of water, but you must remove the label.  Your belongings will be stored in a separate room while you take the test.

Usually all four sections of the exam occur in a single day.  In the morning you will have the reading, writing and listening sections.  In the afternoon, you will have the speaking section.

It’s important to understand that the morning will probably be more stressful because it will be so busy.  On the other hand, you will likely have time to wait in the afternoon.  Some speaking sections are scheduled as late as 6PM!  For this reason, it is a good idea to know if there’s anyway near the test station where you could pass the time – a park, for example.

What else do you want to know about the IELTS exam?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Are you looking for English phrases to start a conversation?

Today, get 10 English conversation starters to fill the silence at your next dinner party!


Awkward silences can kill a dinner party. Nobody wants to sit in silence, but people must have something to talk about.  Creating this opportunity is as easy as asking a simple question.


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There are many kinds of questions that can be asked, but for a dinner party, the obvious topics are the food and the home where the party is being held.  Open-ended questions are also good because they provoke others to respond.  Here are some common questions for each of these categories.



  • “Did you make this?”
  • “Do you cook often?”
  • “What else do you cook?”



  • “How long have you lived here?”
  • “Did you make that?” or “Where did you get that?”


Open-ended Questions

  • “How do you spend your days?”
  • “What are you into?”
  • “What’s new in your life?”
  • “Are you reading anything interesting?”
  • “How did you two meet?” (for couples)


Have you been to any dinner parties lately?

What kind of questions do you ask to start conversations?

Share with us in the comments section below!

Should you speak American English or British English on the IELTS?

Today, Jessica and Lindsay talk about accents, and what you can expect on the exam!

The IELTS was developed in Cambridge, United Kingdom.  So does that mean you should speak English with a British accent when you take the exam?

The answer is no.  English is now a global language, and the IELTS is a global exam.  On the IELTS listening test, you are likely to hear American, British, Indian and other kinds of English accents.  And it doesn’t matter which you use when you speak – as long as your pronunciation is clear!

It’s a good idea to get used to different accents so you don’t have trouble understanding them on test day.  Consider listening to podcasts from the different places, and don’t be afraid to work with a teacher from anywhere.

Which English accents are you used to hearing?

Which ones are difficult for you to understand?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Why does the IELTS examiner stop you on the speaking test?

Today, Jessica and Lindsay talk about why this happens, and why you shouldn’t worry about it!

It can be frustrating if the IELTS examiner asks you a question, and you begin answering it, and then they stop you while you’re speaking.  You might think that you made an English mistake, or the examiner doesn’t like your answer.  But that’s not what’s happening.

Timing is the issue.  The examiner has only a certain amount of time to ask you about specific things.  As part of their job, they must stop you – and it has nothing to do with the quality of your English, or your answer.

Don’t let an abrupt interruption like this cause you extra anxiety!  Expect it to happen, and don’t take it personally.  All tests have to follow their timing.

Do you think being interrupted while you’re English speaking might cause you anxiety?

What do you plan to do about it?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss a tip to help you be a better self-guided learner!


A recent study on self discipline suggests that bribing yourself makes it easier for you to accomplish a specific goal.  So, if you indulge in enjoying a latte while you study English, you might not only enjoy the experience more, but it might also improve your chances for long-term success.

Bribing yourself can mean many things.  As said, you might enjoy a treat while you learn.  Or, if you’re listening to a podcast, maybe you can go outside for a walk in a beautiful place instead of sitting in a stuffy room.


Classrooms can give us discipline.  But we can also give ourselves discipline.  Studying doesn’t have to be miserable, and using a reward system might even make it something you look forward to.


Are you trying to take control of your learning?

Let us know how it’s going in the comment section below!

How do you talk about love in English?

Today, Lindsay and Michelle give you 8 English prepositions to use when discussing romance and finding the right person!

Everyone knows it’s important to say the right thing when you talk about love.  There are so many aspects to it, and so many ways to go wrong.  And while you might not think that having the right grammar is exactly romantic, it can only help!

Here are 8 prepositions that can be useful when talking about love:

  • Married to: “When are you getting married to him?”
  • Afraid of: “You shouldn’t be afraid of falling in love.”
  • Think about: “You might want to think about taking it slow.”
  • Interested in: “It helps to be interested in the same things.”
  • Focus on: “You need to focus on what you have in common.”
  • Depends on: “It depends on the connection you have with each other.”
  • Concentrate on:Concentrate on communicating so you understand each other.”
  • Apologize for: “Don’t apologize for who you are.”

What’s your advice on love?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Did the IELTS examiner ask you a difficult question?

Did your mind just go blank?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica share 6 phrases to help you fill that time void!

If you get asked a question that you can’t immediately answer during your IELTS exam, you don’t want to go silent.  It’s important to keep speaking even if you need a moment to decide how to answer the actual question.

Native English speakers use many different phrases to help them do this. It’s important to understand that using a time-filling phrase won’t hurt your score.  In fact, it’s likely to improve it!

Here are a few phrases to use if you need a moment to think about how to answer a question during your IELTS exam:

  • “Honestly, I am a little bit nervous right now and my mind just went blank.”  This says that you’re being honest, and trying. “My mind went blank” is also an idiom.
  • “Frankly, this isn’t something I’m used to talking about.”  Again, this is honest, and sounds like something a native speaker would say.
  • “That’s a good question.”  This welcomes good intonation, and that will help your pronunciation score.

Other simple and common English time-fillers:

  • “Wow, let me think about that.” 
  • “I’ve never thought about that before.” 
  • “Let’s see.”

Which phrases do you plan to use, and why?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle share 6 phrases to buy you some time in a rushed, stressful situation!


Sometimes it seems like everyone’s in a hurry.  People want an abrupt answer even if you’re not ready to give it.  This can be intimidating, especially if you’re still learning English.  But it doesn’t need to be.

The person trying to rush you needs to understand that you’re still making your decision, and that they can do something else for a moment while you decide.  There are several phrases in English that can convey that message.


Here are 6 phrases that can calm down a rushed person and give you some time:

  • “Gimme a second.”
  • “Hold on a second.”
  • “I’m still deciding.”
  • “Just a second, please.”
  • “Sorry, I need a minute.”
  • “I’m not quite ready yet.”


Have you ever been rushed while in the US?

Tell us your story in the comments section below!

Do you write English emails at work or to your friends and acquaintances?

Do you ever wonder if you are making any big mistakes in your emails?

There is one mistake that I see a lot in emails from students and I want you to stop making this mistake today!

In this video I will show you what that mistake is and three good alternatives.

Please watch the video below.


Are you making this mistake with your emails?



Instead of using “bye” at the end of your emails, you should try:

  •  “I hope to hear from you soon.”
  • “Take care.”
  • “All the best.”


Do you want to practice your email writing with a native speaker online? Get $10 USD off your second lesson at italki now!

What should you wear for the IELTS exam?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica talk about how to dress for success on exam day!

Our clothes affect how we feel, and how we conduct our behavior.  Other people can sense if we appear confident and comfortable.  Not only that, they might even reflect what they see in us.

On test day, it’s important to project an image that says you’re intelligent, that you take the exam seriously, and that you’re relaxed.  You want to be comfortable while sitting through the Writing and Reading sections of the test, but you also want to show your best self to the Speaking section examiner.

In order to do both, consider the following “business casual” items:

Slacks: These are the formal pants that would go with a suit.  If they’re black, they can go with almost anything.

Boots and leggings: For women, remember to stick with something comfortable — no high heels.

Blouse or collared shirt: For men, there’s probably no need for a necktie, but a nice button-up shirt can allow you to look and feel relaxed while appearing professional.

You might want to stay away from:

Sweat pants or suits: These might look lazy, even if they are comfortable.

Blue jeans: While jeans are better than sweat pants, you might look better and feel just as relaxed in a nice pair of slacks.

T-shirts: This might come off as too casual — especially if its a t-shirt with images or text on it.

What are you thinking of wearing for your IELTS exam?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

On today’s Deep Thoughts Thursday, learn the secret to success, and how you can apply it to learning English!


Mark Twain is one of the great heroes of American literature, a man who is famous for combining humor and wisdom.  One of his more popular statements was, “To succeed in life, you need two things: Ignorance and Confidence.”

By ignorance, Twain doesn’t mean stupidity.  He means something closer to innocence.  Children think they can succeed because they don’t know how difficult achieving success will be.  They don’t think about it, and so they don’t become paralyzed with fear.

Don’t let your self-consciousness paralyze you.  Change your perspective and stop worrying about the reasons behind the rules, or about how much you still have to learn.  Be confident, and seek connection, not perfection!


What do you think of Twain’s quote?

Does it make sense to you?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Should you connect not perfect when it comes to the IELTS exam?

Today, learn how to connect with the examiner, and something you probably don’t know about the exam day schedule!

In the IELTS, you’re not graded for being perfect.  You’re graded for communication ability.  It’s important to understand that this is connection, not perfection.

After you complete the Reading and Writing sections, there will probably be some waiting time before the Speaking section of your test.  While you’re waiting, don’t get nervous!  Instead, keep in mind that the examiner is not expecting you to be perfect.  He or she only wants you to communicate your ideas the best you can.  They want you to be able to connect with them.

Does connection not perfection work for you and your English learning?

How will you use it with your IELTS examiner?

Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss how to go from obsessing over the rules, to freeing your mind to get more creative with your English!


Learning English can be a lot like learning a musical instrument.  In the beginning, you might focus intensely on the rules.  You have to, because you need a foundation — you can’t improvise without that.

But once you know the basic rules, you need to think about exploring and experimenting, and fluency.  Think about learning English as a creative process.

Also, remember that connecting to other people isn’t a matter of rules.  It’s a matter of fluid interaction. For that, you need to put down the grammar book and be willing to make mistakes.


Are the rules holding you up?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Do you want that extra edge or advantage to push your score to a 7 on the IELTS exam?

You need some English phrasal verbs to stand apart from the crowd!

Today, Lindsay and Jessica share 5 English phrasal verbs you can use to stand out and get the score you need!

You will probably be asked to talk about the topics of home, shopping, food and studying in Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Section.  You need to prepare for this.  One way you can do that is have some phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbs are a way to sound more natural and native when speaking informally.  Though there are many of these to choose from, you only need to use of a few to stand out.

Here are five that are easy to use and will impress your examiner:

Bone up on: This means to learn.  It’s not only a phrasal verb, but also an idiom.  “I had to bone up on my English studies.”

Figure out: This means to learn the details of something, or discover how it works.  “I figured out how to fix the television.”

Goof off: When you are having fun, but not working or studying, you can say “I spent the afternoon goofing off.”

Clam up: This is another phrasal verb and idiom.  It means that you’re so nervous you couldn’t think of what to say.  “I clammed up when she asked me to answer the question.”

Catch up: If you’re behind, and you’re trying to shorten the distance, you might need to catch up.  This can be used physically, like you’re chasing someone, or with your studies.  “I fell behind in my homework and have to catch up.”

Do you have any other phrasal verbs you’d like to use in the IELTS exam?

Let us know what they are in the comments section below!

On today’s Tear Up Your Textbook Tuesday, learn when to (and when not to) use the verb “arrive” with native speakers!

For a native English speaker, “arrive” is not always the most natural-sounding word to use.  It probably fits best in formal situations, such as a job interview or a speech.

Instead of “When did you arrive?” a native speaker might ask “When did you get here?” or “When did you get in?”  Both mean the same thing as “arrive”, but are more common.

How can you use “get” instead of arrive?

Show us what you’ve got in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss why a few towns in the United States are banning a common winter activity for kids!

Most Americans live in places that get snow in the winter.  As children, they probably went sledding at least a few times. But today, some places are trying to ban sledding because it can be dangerous!  Towns with sled hills are afraid somebody will get hurt, and the town will be sued.

Some lawsuits are justified, but there is such a thing as a “frivolous lawsuit,” which is a lawsuit that has little merit but is being pursued for money, rather than justice.

What do you think about banning sledding?

What do think about suing a “haunted house” park because it’s too scary?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Do you try to speak fast to sound like a native English speaker?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss why you shouldn’t leave your heart behind on the IELTS Speaking Section!

Nobody expects you to sound exactly like a native speaker.  People just want to understand you.  So if you’re talking too fast and trying to sound like a native, you might actually become more difficult to understand.

Speed is not important.  If you speak with clarity and confidence, you will always sound better than if you’re in a rush.  You have to be able to relax, pause between sentences, and use intonation and emotion.

If you want a high score on the Speaking Section, the examiner must be able to understand what you’re saying.  Intonation is important — practice expressing your feelings so you DON’T sound like a robot!

Varied Intonation is Key for IELTS Speaking

You can’t have a monotone. 

If asked about fun, exciting things, you should sound excited and happy.

  • How often do you hang out with friends
  • What’s your favorite food or restaurant
  • Describe one of your hobbies

Let emotion sound in your voice.

It would sound strange if you answered these with a serious, formal tone.

Speaking Part 1 and Speaking Part 3 should sound different!

You should sound very different answering more serious Part 3 questions.

  • How can we reduce air pollution?
  • Are companies more likely to create environmentally friendly policies now than in the past?
  • What are some of the drawbacks to the increased use of technology?

 Watch the video now!

Strategies to improve intonation

Practice shadowing and mimicking.

Record yourself and listen to it back

Can you hear the emotion?

Is the tone appropriate for the question type?

How are you going to speak English with your heart?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Maybe you want to try to use phrasal verbs when you speak with natives?

In today’s lesson you’ll find out how to invite someone to spend time with you using 3 common English phrasal verbs.

Watch the video below to learn more!


3 Phrasal Verbs to Invite Someone Out



3 Phrasal Verbs to Invite Someone Out:

  • “Let’s catch up next week.”
  • “Do you want to hang out on Saturday?”
  • “Would you like to meet up on Friday?”


What other English phrasal verbs do you know to invite someone out?

Please share them with us in the comments section below!

On today’s Wisdom Wednesday, Lindsay and Michelle talk about why it’s important to pace yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed!


It’s hard not to want to do everything.  But it’s important to know when to slow down.  Doing as much as you can, as fast as you can, makes it nearly impossible to retain information.

Maybe you’re watching Youtube videos in English.  You might discover that you can learn more watching one per day than ten per day.  This is because watching only one allows you to learn in quality, rather than quantity.

When learning new words, don’t try to learn 50 or 100 new words at a time — it won’t work!  Instead, consider learning around 5-10 new words at a time.  Remember Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare: “Slow and steady wins the race!”


Do you try to learn too much at one time?

Does it cause you problems?

Tell us your story in the comments section below!

Are you afraid of being asked an unfamiliar question in the IELTS speaking section? Find out what to do in this situation!

Today, Lindsay and Jessica tell how NOT to handle it, and give you two tips on what you can do to unfreeze!

What happens if you get to the speaking section of the IELTS and the examiner asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to?

First, DON’T ask the examiner to switch topics!  They can’t do that for you.  So whatever question you are given, you must give some kind of answer even if you are feeling shy or confused.

Here are Jessica’s tips on what you can do so you don’t freeze:

Make something up! As said in a previous podcast, IELTS doesn’t care about the truth of your idea, only about your English.  Think of anything in your life that relates to the subject so you can answer the question.

Prepare for an unfamiliar topic: Memorize a phrase like, “I apologize, but I’m unfamiliar with that topic.”  Then you can answer the question by discussing how little you know about it, and why.

Go here to learn more about scoring for each section of the IELTS exam.

Are you prepared for the speaking section of the IELTS?

Tell us if you’re ready, and what you still need help with, in the comments section below!

Today, learn 3 places where you can find compelling, interesting content to move you to the next level!


We live in a time of abundant online resources for learning English.  In fact, there are so many that it can be overwhelming!  But Thaddeus believes finding the right ones are the key to keeping your interest so you stay motivated.


Here are Thaddeus’ 3 top resources to help you be an inspired English learner in 2015:

  • TED.com: TED stands for Technology, Education and Design.  The website features discussions on a wide variety of subjects, and includes transcripts.  Much of the language is academic, so it prepares listeners for education in English.
  • Storycorps.org: This site features real English conversations between people who share experiences.  Common themes are love, friendship, education and role models.  The conversations are usually short, and include transcripts.
  • Newsela.com: This site presents common news stories in English. The unique aspect is that allows you to adjust the difficulty level of how the story is written.


Have you explored any of these resources?

What did you think?

Share your experiences in the comments section below!


SAMSUNG CSCThaddeus is an Advanced English teacher with over five years of experience, an M.Ed. in TESOL, and an undergraduate degree in International Business.  He offers conversation practice and test preparation lessons through italki, and publishes free English learning resources on his website: www.enupgrade.com.

To get $10 off your second lesson with Thaddeus go to allearsenglish.com/italki, register on that page, then search for his username: English Upgrade

On today’s Tear Up Your Textbook Tuesday, find out how to stop using “if” all the time and start using “as long as”!

The phrase “as long as” is a connector similar to “if”, or “provided that”.  It means that meeting certain conditions will allow something to happen.  The emphasis is on the importance of meeting the conditions.

Here are a couple ways “as long as” might be used:

  • When do I have to be home?
  • Whenever you want, as long as you bring the car back in good condition.
  • “Is your landlord nice?”
  • “He is, as long as we pay the rent on time.”

How can you use “as long as”?

Write us a sample sentence in the comments section below!

Are you prepared for the IELTS Writing Task 2?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica give you 3 strategies to help you take charge!

Writing Task 2 of the IELTS requires you to be creative.  But don’t let that scare you.  If you practice ahead of time and approach it with a plan, you can stay focused and do well.

You might be asked a question like, “Why is living in the city better than living in the country?”  Jessica has three tips to help you be able to answer that:

  • Practice brainstorming: You need to be able to think creatively to gather a list of ideas about the topic.  This is a skill you can improve.  Don’t worry about bad ideas, just practice coming up with a lot of ideas, so you have many to choose from.
  • Learn a four-paragraph essay format: After you get your ideas, you need to be able to organize them.  This format is simple and easy to follow.  It includes an introduction, a thesis statement, a paragraph body, and a conclusion.
  • Make stuff up!  IELTS doesn’t really care about your whether your ideas are true or not.  It’s only interested in your English abilities.  You can make things up, or use personal experience.  Focus on having good sentence structures.

Are you preparing for the IELTS Writing Task 2?

What are you doing to get ready?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay talks with teacher and author Douglas Amrine about three key differences, and why these matter for you in a job interview!

Douglas has spent half his life in the United States and half in the United Kingdom, so his accent is somewhere in the middle of the two.  His experience has given him clarity about the differences in how Americans and British speak, and how speech is perceived in each country.

Here are three key differences between American and British English that Douglas believes are important for you in a job interview:

  • Accent: Both countries have many regional accents, but pronunciation of the consonants “t” and “r” distinguish between British and American.  In-between vowels, Americans pronounce “t” as “d”, so a word like “matter” might sound like “madder.”  Americans also pronounce “r” more strongly.  While they would pronounce “better” as it is written, a British person might say it like “betta.”
  • Vocabulary: The US and the UK occasionally use different words for the same object.  For example, Americans use the word “elevator,” but British say “lift.”
  • Temperature: Americans like to show enthusiasm and exaggeration, but Britons are masters of understatement, often describing something as smaller or less impressive than it really is.  Even if they are thinking the exact same thing, an American might show his emotions while Briton will be reserved.

Have you encountered these differences between British and American English?

Do you know any others? Let us know in the comments section below!

Douglas AmrineOur guest today is not only a CELTA-certified English teacher but also an award-winning travel guide editor and publisher. He has worked on titles and series such as Eyewitness Travel Guides and Top 10 Travel Guides as well as Where to Go When and The Road Less Traveled.
As an English teacher, our guest helps his students with business English, general conversation, and IELTS preparation. Our guest today is Douglas Amrine. Welcome Douglas!

Feeling anxious about the IELTS exam?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica talk about four tactics for overcoming fear and finding calm before test day!

It’s natural to be afraid when going into a test as difficult as the IELTS exam.  But you can’t let fear and anxiety dominate you.  Remember that your goal is to learn English, not just pass the test.  You need to let this goal strengthen and motivate you.

There are many ways to do this.  Jessica has four suggestions that might help:

  • Take a day or two off in which you don’t think about or work on IELTS.  This allows you to recharge and avoid burn out.
  • Make a realistic schedule about where you are in your English, and when you should really be taking the test.  You don’t want to take the exam before you’re truly ready.
  • When practicing, make sure you include practice materials that you enjoy.  These might be movies or podcasts that interest you.  Look at it as an exploration, not just as work.
  • Know what the examiner wants before you take the test.  This will help you do better and feel more confident.

Will these tips help you reduce your anxiety before taking the IELTS?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Do you ever attend English-only meetings at work but sit there with a great idea but not knowing how to enter the conversation politely and how to get people’s attention?

If you just sit there and don’t contribute your idea, you will miss your opportunity and your reputation at work might be in jeopardy.

Today we’ll show you how to speak up and get people to turn their attention toward you when you have something to say!

Watch the video below to get 3 useful phrases

Practice these phrases with a native speaker now and get 10 USD off your second lesson

-Click here-

3 Phrases to Speak Up in a Meeting:

  • “I’d like to share something.”
  • “Can I say something?”
  • “Could I add something?”

Let’s have a conversation in the comments section!

What other phrases do you know that you can use to speak up?

Have you used them before?

Let us know.

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss these two words, and how ‘false friends’ from other languages might cause trouble when translating!


False friends are words from two different languages that appear to come from the same source (and thus have the same meaning), but are actually completely different.

A good example is in the Spanish estoy decepcionada, which sounds like it might translate into the English ‘I am/feel deceived’.  Decepcionada reads like a Spanish version of the English word ‘deceived’.  But the actual meaning is ‘disappointed’.  So if you translate this false friend, you’re saying something complete different from your intention.


  • To be disappointed means to have an expectation of something, and then it doesn’t happen, so we’re sad.
  • To be deceived means we are being tricked or lied to about something.


When was the last time you felt disappointed?

When was the last time you felt deceived?

Share your stories with us in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay talks with Tyler Lockett from Austin about why that city is unique and “weird,” and how you can connect with locals using three phrases!

Texas is a U.S. state that’s bigger than France, and Austin is probably the state’s most unique city.  Unlike most of the rest of Texas, it’s very young, politically liberal, and filled with culture.  Keep Austin weird is the local motto.

Tyler believes that if you’re going to Austin, you may as well speak the language.  Though English does tend to be spoken by Texans, three southern phrases might help you sound more like a local.

Here are Tyler’s 3 phrases:

  • Howdy: This is an older or cowboy way of saying ‘Hello’.  It’s casual, but common across Texas and even other parts of the United States.
  • Y’all: This is contraction of ‘you all’ that refers to a group of people.  It might be used as “Are y’all going to the movies?”
  • Fixin’ to: This means you are about to, or intend to, do something.  You might say “I’m fixin’ to go to work.” or “She’s fixin’ to move to Austin.”

Have you ever heard Americans use Howdy, Y’all, or Fixin’ to?

Would you like to visit Austin?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Tyler Lockett- ESL TeacherTyler Lockett is a professional ESL teacher living and working in Austin, Texas. He has been teaching ESL for over 5 years and has lived in China and Japan. He graduated from Houston Community College with an A.A. degree and lived in New York City for 7 years where he graduated from Parsons School of Design In New York City with a B.A. degree. In addition, he received his Cambridge CELTA certification at International House in New York City. He has backpacked around France, Mongolia and Thailand and is hoping to travel to Istanbul, Vietnam, and Chile in the next two years. He loves Teaching ESL, making connections with his international students, and can’t wait to have more adventures abroad in his career.

ITALKI USERNAME: tyler lockett

Do you need resources to prepare for the IELTS exam?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica talk about three creative practice recommendations, and three textbooks to help you prepare for the IELTS exam!

Preparation for the IELTS can feel overwhelming.  It’s difficult to narrow down the best ways to practice, and the best textbooks for studying.  However you decide to do it, remember that you need to integrate both real skills practice and test practice.

Practice Resources: A native English speaker is definitely best for practicing for the speaking and listening parts of the test.  If you live in a large city, opportunities to talk to native speakers might be all around you, in the form of either students or ex-patriots.

  • For speaking, you want structured practice.  Look for opportunities at local libraries or universities.  Consider advertising for a language exchange or a skills exchange.  Practicing English while teaching a native English speaker something is a great way to gain confidence.
  • For listening, podcasts are excellent for improving your comprehension.  Find a topic that interests and motivates you.  There are podcasts about virtually every subject!
  • For writing, again check out local libraries or universities for writing lab opportunities.

Textbook Test Preparation: With a textbook, you want something interesting that includes brainstorming and vocabulary activities that help you come up with ideas.  Here are three good examples:

  • Introduction to Academic English (Ann Hogue, Alice Oshima).  This book has nice visuals and word maps to help give you ideas, but also to focus you so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Cambridge IELTS Series.  This series contains the best examples of what you will see on IELTS.  It’s not skills practice, only test practice.
  • IELTS Foundation Series.  This series is a good resource for middle-level skill building and preperation.

What resources have you used in preparing for the IELTS exam?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Or do you sound like a textbook when you speak?

Today, get 7 tricks to update your English and sound more natural by using real talk instead of textbook talk!


Speaking natural-sounding English can be difficult when you only work with textbooks.  While what your textbook says may be technically correct, some of the phrases might sound outdated or odd to native ears.


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Can’t get your English corrected by your native-speaking friends?

Get a professional, native English teacher in seconds at italki.

For a limited time, italki is offering 10 USD in free English lessons. Click here to get your 10USD in italki credits before this offer runs out!


Here are 7 ways your textbook might tell you how to say something, as well as the ways a native English speaker would really say it.


  • Textbook: Hello.
  • Real: Hi!, Hey!, or What’s up?


  • Textbook: Are you having a good day?
  • Real: Having a good day?


  • Textbook: How are you?, How do you do?
  • Real: How’s it going?, How you doin’?, or How’ve you been?


  • Textbook: I’m fine, thanks.
  • Real: Doin’ well., or Not bad.


  • Textbook: What are your hobbies?
  • Real: What do you like to do?, What are you into?, or What do you do for fun?


  • Textbook: I wish to (do something).
  • Real: I wanna (do something), or I’d like to (do something).


  • Textbook: See you.
  • Real: See ya., Take care., or Bye.


Do you speak textbook English?

Do you know any other differences between what your textbook says and how native English-speakers speak?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Today, learn how to take action and bet on yourself with an amazing opportunity!


Every challenge you face is like putting a bet on yourself.  But the only way to really lose is if you don’t even try.

This month, the italki.com Language Challenge can help you improve your English in a serious way.  A $10 sign up fee gets you into the game.  If you can complete 20 lessons (20 hours) with an online teacher by the end of February, italki will pay you $40 back in credit.

This comes out to 3-4 lessons per week.  Can you handle that?  Essentially, you are placing a bet on your commitment to learning English!


Three reasons to participate in a language challenge:

Motivation: All of us need to be pushed sometimes, and there’s never better time than NOW!

Defining your goal: Learning English is a lifetime project, but having defined goals will bring clarity to your progress.

Social experience: Even though you could do this by yourself, being accountable to others will focus you and help you follow through to the end.


Ready for the challenge?  Sign up at allearsenglish.com/italki.


Are you signing up for the challenge?

Share your goals in the comments section below!


Kevin Chen is an entrepreneur based in Shanghai, China.  He is co-founder of italki.com, a language learning community marketplace that connects students and teachers from around the world for online language lessons.  italki has over a million users, thousands of teachers, and thousands of language classes are scheduled through the site every day.

Kevin is also an organizer of Techyizu.org, a non-profit group that organizes startup and technology events in Shanghai, including Barcamp Shanghai and Designing Shanghai.

Kevin previously co-founded Famento, a startup focused on recording family history.  Before that, Kevin worked in the finance industry as a research analyst for Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

He has a masters degree from the London School of Economics, and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.


Today, Lindsay and Michelle talk about why it’s important, and give you three ways to be charismatic in English!


A lot of a person’s success in America depends on their personality.  If you’re confident and people want to be friends with you, you’ll probably do better.  Charisma is the ability of an individual to attract, influence or inspire others.  Some are born with it, but most of us have to learn it.

President Barack Obama has a lot of charisma.  This makes him likeable and powerful at the same time.  You want to learn English, but you also want others to find you pleasant and even magnetic.  Charisma is behind those connections.  So it’s important to understand how you can make yourself as charismatic as possible.


italki5Are You Ready to Practice? Get a Private, Native English Teacher Now!

Try italki to learn to speak like a native.

You’ll get your English mistakes corrected immediately!

For a limited time you’ll get 10UD to use towards private English lessons on italki.

Visit italki now to claim your 10USD in free English lessons.


Here are a few ways you can express charisma:

Exude joy: Be cheerful!  To do that, find what you’re excited about or what you love, and do as much of it as you can.  This can come out in your intonation: “I’m so excited to meet them!” or “I can’t wait to go!”

Appear confident: Show your strength in your abilities and don’t disparage others.  This is not the same as being cocky, which is being overly confident and disparaging of others.  Confident people say things like: “I’m on it.” or “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Be a great storyteller: People naturally love stories.  Use your voice and inflection to create drama and intrigue.  Also, use the present tense to talk about something that happened previously — this puts your listeners in the story as it’s being told.


What does charisma mean in your culture?

Does it matter as much there as it does in America?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Many many students ask us this question, “How can I speak English as fast as a native?”

That is the wrong question!

The question that you should be asking is this: “How can I speak clearly so that natives can understand me?”

The most important thing is not speed. The most important thing is to speak clearly.


Here are two tricks to speak clearly in English:

1- Separate your sentence into thought groups or “chunks”

2- Emphasize the last word in the thought group


Watch my video below to learn more!


Click here to get $10 off your second lesson with a native teacher at italki


So guys, go out there and don’t try to speak quickly. Try to speak clearly by using the two pronunciation tricks that I have taught you today.

Good luck with your pronunciation in 2015!


Today, get two quotes by two famous entrepreneurs, and learn how to talk about the impact you want to make on the world in 2015!


To impact, or make a difference, doesn’t require money or a stage.  Everything you do has some effect on the world around you.  Even a smile can make a huge impact on somebody else’s day.

But some people do want to change things in a bigger way.  Below are two quotes about making impacts; one big, the other not necessarily so big.


“I want to put a ding in the universe.”  Steve Jobs

A ding is like a dent, so what Jobs is saying is that he wants to have left a mark that remains when he is gone.

“Go make a ruckus.”  Seth Godin

A ruckus is a noise, so Godin is suggesting that you try to be heard.  Do something with your life, don’t just live quietly and disappear!


How are you going to put a ding in the universe?

How are you going to make a ruckus?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay chats with Marianna Du Bosq, a bilingual educator who has three ways to help you raise your child to speak more than one language!


The benefits of raising a bilingual child are many.  Not only will knowing more than one language open career opportunities for the child when they grow up, research is also finding significant positive cognitive advantages to having a bilingual brain.


Marianna believes bilingualism (and even tri-lingualism) is definitely achievable if parents are focused enough.  Here are Marianna’s three main points to focus on:

Expose your children to quality language input.  Read books, or even use audio books.  This way, your child is hearing voices other than those of their parents.

Create a need to use the language. If the child doesn’t have to use the language to get what they want, they’re naturally going to fall back on using the dominant language.  Ask your family members help by only speaking one language or the other.

Keep it fun! Children will be far more involved in the language if they are doing the kinds of things they already love to do.


Are you a parent interested in raising bilingual children?

Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below!


Marianna Du Bosq is a bilingual mother, former bilingual educator, and lifetime language learner.  She is the host of the Bilingual Avenue podcast and blog where she interviews parents and experts raising and teaching multilingual children, and provides an excellent collection of tips and strategies for anyone choosing this journey.

She is originally from Venezuela, has spent the last twenty years in the United States, and is currently on a one year adventure in the Black Forest in Germany with her husband and two year old daughter.

Click here to get “7 Ways to Increase Exposure in the Target Language” a free PDF guide

On today’s Tear-Up Your Textbook Tuesday, Lindsay and Michelle talk about four situations for using the term ‘even’, and how to use your tone of voice to make it work in an English conversation!


italki1Can’t find native speakers to practice English with you?

Can’t get your English corrected by your native-speaking friends?

Get a professional, native English teacher in seconds at italki.

For a limited time, italki is offering 10 USD in free English lessons. Click here to get your 10USD in italki credits before this offer runs out!


The word ‘even’ has many uses in English and can be confusing.  To make it even more confusing, in some cases the intonation is as important as the word itself!  Here are the four most common ways to use ‘even’:

For something that’s surprising.  When using it this way, stress the word ‘even’.

  • “I get lost even when I have a map!”
  • “I went to class and didn’t even remember my notebook!”

To compare and emphasize.  Using it this way, stress the comparative word.

  • “That coat is on sale for a great price but will be even cheaper next week.”
  • “There are a lot of people here but there were even more last night.”

To be in balance.  This means to be equal, or potentially to get revenge.  In this situation, ‘even’ does not require any intonation.

  • “We’re even now.”
  • “I have to find a way to get even with my brother.”

To talk about a kind of number.  The even numbers are 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.  The odd numbers are 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.  Again, ‘even’ does not require intonation when used this way.

  • “Eighty four is an even number.”


Can you tell us something about yourself using the word ‘even’?

Share with us in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay and Michelle discuss five easy English phrases to use for your intentions in the new year!


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Get a native English teacher online in seconds at italki.

Lindsay and Gabby recommend italki as our #1 English-learning solution online. Choose from more than 400 teachers to work on your business English or to pass your next big exam.

Get our special offer before it runs out! Go to italki and claim 10USD to go toward a FREE English lesson!


What are you going to do different in 2015?  A New Year’s resolution is your intention to change something about yourself from the previous year.  It’s not always easy to stick to changes, and often people don’t, but the point is to recognize that the new year is an opportunity to strengthen your resolve to be a better person than you already are.

To declare your intentions, it’s helpful to have the right words.  Here are five examples of how to talk about your resolutions:

  • I would like…  “I would like to travel to India.”
  • I hope to…  “I hope to stop biting my nails.”
  • I want to…  “I want to move into a new apartment.”
  • I’m going to…  “I’m going to start working out more.”
  • I will…  “I will speak more English.”


What are some typical New Year’s resolutions in your country?

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for yourself?

Tell us about it in the comments section below!

How can you prepare for the Reading Section of the IELTS?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss two strategies to help you answer questions quickly and correctly!

Timing and strategy are important for success on any test.  For a reading test, you need to be able to figure out answers quickly without having to re-read.  Jessica has two suggestions to help you with this.

  • Skim: Take one minute to skim the title, subtitle, and beginning of each paragraph.  This opens your “brain box,” and prepares you to understand what the passage is about.  If you can follow the passage more easily, you will be able to answer the questions faster.
  • Scan: When you read the text, look for names and key words, and underline them.  For many taking the IELTS exam, the most difficult part of the Reading Section are the matching questions.  Scanning for key words and underlining them is an active behavior that will help you answer these faster.

Do you use the strategy of skimming and scanning?

Let us know how it works for you!

Today, Lindsay chats with Jessica Coyle about some of the ways the art of improvisational technique can help you use your body to improve your English!


Improv is an art form in which a person uses their body to appear more spontaneous.  It’s a skill, a learned ability, and Jessica believes it can be powerful in learning English because most communication is nonverbal.  By taking care of this nonverbal part, the verbal part (the English) is more free and relaxed, which allows you to learn and use what you know.


Three ways improve can help you learn English:

  • Open up and use your body.  Think of your body as an instrument that needs to be fully extended.  Pull your shoulders back and lengthen your spine.  Take up space and be aware of how you look.  Open people are more approachable.  A person who is folded up appears uninterested in others.
  • Mirror your conversation partner.  Pay attention to what they’re doing.  Have a complete and solid idea of what your partner is feeling, and be conscious of what you’re doing in response.  Get a sense of what the person is trying to say about themselves.
  • Initiate with an action.  Comment on or use the environment around you.  Or, literally initiate with an action.  Do something that’s more an activity than a situation that requires a lot of speaking.  Activities can bring people closer together.  You don’t have to sit in a café trying to speak English to become friends with an English speaker.


How do you use your body to learn English?

Tell us all about it in the comments section below!



headshot (1)Jessica Coyle has been teaching English since 2007. She received her Master’s in TESOL in 2013, finishing with a professional project researching the use of improvisational comedy teaching techniques to teach English as a second language. She has studied and performed improv comedy all over Korea, China, Canada and the United States.


How to find Jessica Online:

Her dating blog: https://hopefuldisasters.wordpress.com/

Her comedy podcast: NY Pacific


Jessica’s Top 10 Podcast Recommendations:

1. Stuff You Should Know
2. Radiolab
3. The Moth
4. Thrilling Adventure Hour
5. The Truth
6. How To Do Everything
7. 60 Minutes
8. This American Life
9. Savage Love
10. Global News Update

How do you build a “Brain Box” for the IELTS Listening Exam?

Today Lindsay and Jessica talk about two strategies to make the listening part of the IELTS exam easier!


If you have a strategy or a system to approach the IELTS Listening Exam, you’ll probably do better.  Your first step should be to listen to the introduction.  It will tell you who will be talking, and what they’re talking about.

Many people who take this exam skip the introduction because they think they don’t need it.  This is a mistake, because the context will help you understand.  The “brain box” concept is that your brain puts topics in “boxes,” and accessing a specific box will put a conversation into context, and make it easier to comprehend.

After you’ve listened to the introduction, you will then have about ten seconds to read the questions before you hear them.  Use this time to circle the key words before they’re read aloud.  Making note of these key words will prepare you to answer the question quickly.  Speed is important, because you don’t want one question mix you up on the next one, and then the next one.

How do you plan to prepare for the listening portion of the IELTS exam?

Tell us about it in the comments section below!

In today’s Tear Up Your Textbook Tuesday, Lindsay and Michelle discuss 5 weird ways Americans use English, and how to understand what they’re saying!


It can be frustrating to watch a Hollywood movie in English and not understand what’s being said.  Often, this happens because of some of the distinct ways Americans use English. For example, Americans tend to:


  • Pronounce the letter ‘t’ as if it were a ‘d’.  This happens when the ‘t’ is between two vowels: ‘water’, ‘later’, ‘better’ and ‘daughter’ end up sound like ‘wader’, ‘lader’, ‘bedder’ and ‘daughder’.  It can even happen between two words: ‘I have a lot of time’ might sound like ‘I have a lada time’.


  • Use casual phrases. These include ‘like’ and ‘um’, but also ‘I was like’ (which reports from a previous conversation), or ‘you know’ or ‘I mean’. Note that these are not used in formal occasions.


  • Drop vowel sounds. This usually occurs when the last letter in the word is an ‘n’, and the previous vowel is dropped.  ‘Manhattan’ drops the final ‘a’ and sounds like ‘Manhattn’; ‘button’ drops final ‘o’ and sounds like ‘buttn’.  The same happens with words like ‘gotten’, ‘forgotten’, ‘eaten’ and ‘gluten’.


  • String words together. This happens in cases like ‘wanna’ (want to), ‘gonna’ (going to), ‘coulda’ (could have) and ‘woulda’ (would have).


  • Make a statement we believe to be true, then question it.  Sometimes you will hear Americans add a ‘huh?’ after saying something they know is true.  They probably aren’t really questioning it.  Examples include: ‘So you live in Manhattan, huh?’ and ‘It’s cold out today, huh?’


Have you heard Americans using any of these weird speech habits?

Let us know in the comments section below!

What’s so difficult about the IELTS Speaking Part 1?

What can you do to prepare?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss some tactics for avoiding the dangers and allowing yourself to stand out!

Speaking Part 1 of the IELTS includes questions about yourself.  You will be asked about three topics, and though it may seem like simple stuff, the danger is that you might become too relaxed and start using one-word answers.

You want to do better than that.  In fact, ideally your answers will be 2-4 sentences each!

How can you do come up with that?  Do some brainstorming.  Think of the question words.  Question words can help you think of better answers.

Vocabulary is also important in Speaking Part 1.  If you want to achieve a higher score, you will need to use a range of vocabulary, including slang and idioms.  The examiner wants to hear that you know more than what’s in your textbook.  A good strategy is to have a short list of slang and idioms ready to use.

What are some good English slang words or idioms that might be helpful to have for Speaking Part 1 of the IELTS test?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Are you a multi-tasker?

Today, Lindsay and Michelle talk about the famous “to do” list, and whether or not it really moves you forward in your life or your career!


It’s hard to make decisions.  But it’s important to choose one thing to focus on in your day or even your career.  Trying to do more is not the same as accomplishing more.  In fact, it might lead to more disappointment than success.

In school, you were probably trained to multi-task, but not how to prioritize.   This might lead a person to being a “jack of all trades and master of none.”  But even if you can’t choose only one thing, it may be wise to at least choose the most important thing, and do that first.  If possible, find and focus on an objective that makes the others irrelevant.


Do you think it makes sense to focus on one thing?

Or is it better to be a jack of all trades and a master of none?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Do you expect it to ever get easier?

Today, learn how a New York-based painter went from poverty to riches by sticking with it, and how you can achieve success by following his example!


A New York painter was so poor, he had to go to a public gym if he wanted a shower.  But he was talented, and he kept painting for years and trying to show his work.  Today, his paintings sell for $25,000 each!  His style is unique, and there is little competition at his level.  People want to buy his work.


Daniel Webster said, “There’s always room at the top.”  As you reach higher levels in life, things get easier.  There’s little competition among the highly successful.  But most people get stuck in the middle.

As an intermediate or advanced English learner, you are at a crucial point.  In learning English, what can you do to become the best?  How can you stick with it, until it gets easier?


How can you keep up your goals in the coming year?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!


Today, find out why mimicking phrases from movies can make it difficult to have natural-sounding English conversations!


Hollywood is drama.  Its stories are fiction.  This means that the language used by characters is often unrealistic.

Because of the unnatural dialogue, you don’t want to quote from movies unless it’s understood that you are quoting.  Native English speakers do it all the time by slightly changing the tone of their voice.  Even then, such quotes are usually made in a context that makes it clear that the usage is a little joke.


Some popular American movie quotes:

  • “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump
  • “May the odds be ever in your favor.” – The Hunger Games
  • “May the force be with you.” – Star Wars
  • “Houston, we have a problem.” – Apollo 13


While it can be fun to directly quote movies, you want to try to sound more like a real English speaker, not a fictional character.


Do you have any favorite movie quotes in English?

Share the ones you love in the comments section below!


Do you need a plan for Writing Task 1 on the IELTS exam?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica share two clear steps for helping you beat it!

The IELTS exam’s written section is divided into two tasks.  Task 1 requires you to interpret a map or chart in approximately 150 words, while Task 2 is about 250 words on your own thoughts.  Even though it is longer, Task 2 is often easier for test-takers.  Task 1, because of the vocabulary needed, can be much more difficult.

The Task 1 chart is usually some kind of line or graph that shows a change over time.  To give yourself the language needed to discuss this chart, a good tactic might be to read the business section of the newspaper and pick up the vocabulary you need – words like that describe change, like increase, decrease, decline and skyrocket.

In writing your answer for Task 1, keep it clear and simple.  A good plan might be to discuss increases in paragraph one, and decreases in paragraph two.  That way, your answer is organized.

How are you preparing for the IELTS exam’s Task 1?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below! 

Today, Lindsay and Michelle give you three crazy role-plays to understand when to use should, could and would!


Correct use of modals like should, could and would can be confusing.  All three deal with time and possibility, and all three involve telling or asking someone to do something.



Get a 5- step lesson guide for Episode 241!

cover for modal lesson guide 241Learn how to use modals like “could,” “should,” and “would” in everyday English conversations.

By the time you finish this lesson you’ll be able to: Know when, where, and how to use the correct modal with native speakers.

You’ll get:

  • Step 1: A short video lesson, going into more depth on how to use these modals
  • Step 2: The full episode without sponsor messages
  • Step 3: A comprehension quiz to check your understanding
  • Step 4: The full transcript from Episode 241
  • Step 5: Conversation questions to practice modals with a native
  • Bonus step: 3 REAL vocabulary words that we used in the conversation

Get the 5-step lesson guide now!


Should describes the strong possible likelihood of something.  It is also used to give advice.

  • “I should arrive on time.”
  • “You should apply for the job.”


Could describes a possibility in the past or the future.  It can also be used as a polite request.

  • “She could have eaten dinner already.”
  • “Could you pick me up at the airport?”


Would is most commonly used to make a polite request.

  • “Would you like to come with me?”
  • “Would you ask him about the book?”


How can you use should, could and would?

Give us some examples in the comments section below!

Are you preparing to take the IELTS exam?

Today, Lindsay and Jessica discuss what you need to know to pass with the score you want!

There are lots of questions about the IELTS exam.  It’s not an easy test to take, but it is the most widely accepted test for getting into universities and even for immigration and work visas.

One reason for this is that the test is face-to-face with another person, which makes it more real.  Though this might sound intimidating, many testers actually find it more relaxing when the examiner is another person, rather than a computer.

When students take the test and don’t get the score they wanted, it’s usually because they didn’t have enough real-life speaking practice – they only worked out of textbooks.  You need to practice speaking with an actual person.  You also need to be honest with yourself about where you are with your English abilities so that you have an obtainable goal.

How are you preparing to take the IELTS exam?

Let us know in the comments section below!

Do you have trouble writing an email in English?

Do you worry about what kind of impression you’re making?

Today, Lindsay and Michelle share four common email mistakes made by non-native English speakers, and how to correct them!


Communication involves more than words.  But when you send an email, your poise and facial expression do not come through.  Only your words matter, and that can be stressful when you’re still learning the language.

Everybody emails these days.  The ability to write a good email  is as important as the ability to speak proper English.

Fortunately, the four most common email mistakes non-native speakers make are easy to fix.  They are:

  • Your greeting is inappropriate.  Who is the email for?  Sometimes ‘Hi’ is appropriate, but ‘Dear’ might be more appropriate if you are applying for a job.  ‘Dear’ implies formality and distance.  Using ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ is more for colleagues and friends.
  • You get to the point too quickly.  In American culture, you need to include some small talk.  Start your email with a ‘thank you’ for a previous message, or ask how their new project is going, or how their previous weekend was.  Jumping right into your point might feel aggressive or rude to Americans.
  • Your email is unorganized.  Keep your email short, sweet, and to the point.  Nobody likes to read a long and unfocused email.
  • You don’t tell people what you expect them to do.  Be clear so your reader knows why you are writing them and what you expect from them.


Have you made any of these mistakes when writing emails in English?

Tell us about it in the comments section below!

On today’s Test Talk, Lindsay and Jessica talk about using prediction in testing, and how it can help!


When getting a bank account, cell phone, or internet connection in a foreign country, you need to be able to ask questions and know the right structures of conversation.  If you don’t, you might not be told all of the information you need to know.

By practicing, especially if you’re able to do so with a partner, you can learn to anticipate what might be said by the other person.  Doing this is learning to predict, and see what you’re missing.  It might make you a better test-taker.


Learn How to Avoid Common Traps on TOEIC Part 1

TOEIC 1 guide artGet this 5-step lesson guide and find out how to use your Powers of Prediction to not get tricked during the TOEIC.

In this 5-step lesson you’ll get:

  • The full strategy tip
  • A written summary of the strategy
  • A practice exercise
  • 3 independent resource ideas
  • 3 real practice questions

 Get the 5- step lesson guide for TOEIC Part 1



A practice conversation might go like this:

  • “I need to open a bank account.”
  • “Okay, to open an account, please complete this form.”


  • “Where should I take the form?”
  • “Give it to the woman in the office down the hall.”


  • “When can I have my account?  Today?”
  • “No, it takes two weeks.”


  • “Do you need my passport?”
  • “Yes, and your birth certificate.”


If you would like to learn about this strategy, hear advice on how to strengthen it with resources that are free online, and get a practice guide written by Jessica, purchase the full episode.


Are you taking the TOEIC Part 1?

If so, let us know in the comments section below!

Or do you let your critics decide what you will do?

On today’s Deep Thoughts Thursday, Lindsay and Michelle consider a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States.


When he was a child, Teddy Roosevelt was weak, sickly and asthmatic.  He had poor eyesight, too.  Yet he grew up to be one of America’s greatest symbols of achievement and individual strength.  His attitude continues to inspire today, and is summed up in the following quote:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Roosevelt suggests that we overcome trying to be perfect and instead develop a bias toward action.  Put emphasis on doing something, not fear of what others will say.  Don’t let critics overcome you or have power over you.  The critic is not taking a risk, and so they are weaker than you.


Do you think about this attitude?

How have you behaved this way in your life?

Share your story with us in the comments section below!

Today, Lindsay introduces Jessica, the Examiner of Excellence, who’s here to help you excel at your English tests!


Test preparation doesn’t have to be boring.  In fact, it should be interesting.  When you’re studying for an English test, it isn’t the same as studying for a math test.  You need to activate your emo