IELTS Speaking topics - Page 2 of 6 -

IELTS Speaking topic – Transport #3

le This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about a plane flight that was unexpectedly good or bad
You should say:

  • where were you flying to
  • who was with you
  • what was particularly good or bad about the flight

and say if the memory of that flight is a pleasant one.

Model answer

When I was still at school our family decided to go to Italy for a fortnight. The plan was to fly from Istanbul to Rome via Budapest. For some unfathomable reason the direct flight was much more expensive, so our father opted for a slightly longer journey. It actually didn’t sound too bad as we would get to see another country we have never been to, even if it was just its airport.

There were four of us – myself, my parents and my older brother. We have always packed lightly, and this trip was no exception – between the four of us we only had two bags and a backpack. So off we went early morning and by noon we were already enjoying the sights of Budapest out of the airport terminal window. But then disaster struck – it turned out that flight to our final destination had been cancelled. Thankfully, the air company was courteous enough to provide us with a hotel room in the airport building while they were looking to find us four places on another plane to Rome. The wait proved to be unexpectedly lengthy – we ended up spending almost ten hours before we were finally able to resume our journey.

Even though the delay is rarely a good thing, I have fond memories of that day. It was nice to walk around the airport, see all the duty free shops and eat at the food court. I guess you never know if something bad can actually turn out to be for the better.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Transport and the environment

Should car manufacturers be held accountable for the environmental impact their product has?

To the best of my knowledge they are. Governments impose stricter environmental regulations every years that car makers have to abide by. If the cars are not up to the emission standards, the manufacturers might end up having to pay environmental fines or be restricted from selling this car altogether. The latter is normally reserved for more severe cases where emissions are much higher than the currently set threshold. I think the regulations in some states will eventually force car makers to switch most of its line-up to electric vehicles.

Why do you think cycling is less popular than driving in most countries?

I think there are three main points that make people favour cars over bicycles – prestige, practicality in certain aspects, and infrastructure – I am listing these in no particular order. People see having a nice car as a mark of financial success, something that vast majority of us want to have or at least project. Similarly, if you don’t have one people can interpret it as that you are strapped for money – and not many people would want to send that kind of message. Personal vehicles are also nice to have when you have to drive people around or move things – spacious interior offers something that a bike doesn’t have. With a bike you can ride with one small child at most, so if you have two kids then you are out of luck – you will probably just spare yourself the grief and get a car.

The matter of car-centered infrastructure is probably the biggest culprit of popularising car ownership. The cities are built around driving, parking and maintaining cars. This comes at an expense of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport vehicles. Bike and bus lanes are a rare sight in many countries with only the main streets having them. Finally, an adult on a bike is something many people see as child-like behaviour. That’s probably because they associate bikes with something a younger person would use.

Should people be forced to use more eco-friendly modes of transportation? If so, how?

I think they should be encouraged, yes. Forcing somebody to do something is very likely to backfire in most cases. As the saying goes “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. Dramatic changes should follow two logical rules – they should be gradual as well as natural. By latter I mean that a person’s desire should come from reasonable rather than imposed factors. For instance, a bike lane that is almost empty during rush hour looks very attractive to a person sitting in traffic jam. This naturally makes them consider the option of biking to work instead of driving.

As for the gradual bit, I believe that any grand change should take time. Car ownership has been an integral part of many cultures for almost a century now. It’s a tall order to change that overnight. It is a matter of years before general public will come to terms with a simple fact – driving is not a sustainable option and the time to move on has come. Reluctantly at first, people will eventually switch to some other form of transport – be it an electric scooter, a monowheel or a bicycle. I firmly believe that the sooner we set these mindset changes in motion, the better off everyone is going to end up.

Cars and cities

What are some of the negative effects of a car-centered cities?

There are so many, to be frank. I would probably point out air and noise pollution, traffic congestion and surprisingly, social isolation. The first point should be self-explanatory: cars are loud and they emit a strong fuel odour. Both of these facts do not lend themselves nicely to a good quality of life, especially for people living in the city centre and next to busy highways. The constant hum of passing traffic can get quite maddening.

Traffic congestion is a topic that everyone rants about without realising that they are a part of the problem. Ironically though, we can’t blame them for this as a car-centric city leaves you little choice in terms of how to get to places. This is a Catch 22 situation where no matter how much you hate cars and driving in general you have little choice. It’s all because car is the most convenient way to get to work or go shopping. Using cars make the situation worse for everyone though and there is now way out of this. It is especially true for bigger metropolitan areas where crucial infrastructure object are too far apart. 

Finally, the matter of social isolation comes to mind. Cars introduce additional social barriers between people. It results in a loss of community cohesion because people spend more time isolated in their cars and less time interacting with neighbours and others in public spaces. While this might not sound too serious, but it is. It contributes to loss of  the feeling of belonging and ultimately affects quality of life negatively.

Is it more important for cities to prioritize public transportation or the use of personal cars?

Well, it really depends on the aims the city in question pursues. Comfort and convenience at the cost of commute time and carbon footprint? Then cars are the way to go, although the priorities here are very questionable. Do the authorities have foresight to think long-term? Public transport is the answer – it has much more impressive numbers when it comes to environmental friendliness, cost basis and contribution to traffic congestion. Imagine streets with no private cars, but trams and buses – these streets would be jam-free even in peak hours. Therefore, it all comes down to what we are really after – the superficial or tangible benefits.

What are some of the biggest challenges involved in transitioning to a car-less city?

Realistically, the biggest challenge would be making good use of the existing infrastructure and adjusting it to car-free environment. The majority of gas stations, service shops and other car-related services would be rendered useless, which means a lot of people and equipment becoming redundant. As they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Changes can be scary and come at a price, but change for the better is to everyone’s benefit. Some will have to pay the price of progress, and it is government’s responsibility to make the transition less shocking to the ones most affected, I believe.

Transport vocabulary

Pack lightly – when travelling, only take things you absolutely need to have as little baggage as possible.
Off we go – an expression that means the start of a journey, adventure or new activity. We use it to suggest excitement and enthusiasm for embarking on a new experience.
Emission standards – regulations imposed by the government to reduce harmful gases that cars and other fuel-burning things create.
Line-up (n) – a series of products that a producer presents. The current Apple laptop line-up covers needs of most users, however all of their devices are quite pricey.
Maintain (v) – to keep something in good working order by cleaning, lubricating or replacing components. My grandfather maintained his car regularly, that’s why it is still in top shape.
Rush hour – peak traffic time at early morning and evening when people go to and from work respectively. Rush hour traffic today is especially horrible – we’ve been stuck at this intersection for half an hour now.
Sustainable (adj) – able to be maintained or continued over a long period of time without depleting natural resources or causing harm to the environment. It refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Air and noise pollution – the excessive amount of harmful gases and car engine or tyre noises respectively. To reduce noise pollution, the state erected sound-proof walls between highways and the living quarters.
Traffic congestion – a situation when too many vehicles are on the road at the same time, causing traffic to slow down, stop or even become stuck. It can be a result of high volume of cars, traffic accidents or roadworks.
Fuel odour – unpleasant smell of fuel (petrol or diesel).  Even when operating under regular conditions, cars tends to emit noticeable fuel odour.
Metropolitan (adj) – relating to city rather than rural area.
Carbon footprint – the total amount of waste that one leaves measured in carbon monoxide (a harmful by-product). Reducing carbon footprint is one of the parts of environmental mindset.
Peak hours – see rush hour.

General vocabulary

Abide by (v) – to follow or obey something like a rule or a regulation. If you don’t abide by the traffic rules, sooner or later the police will fine you for it.
Altogether (adv) – completely. After three months we stopped seeing each other altogether.
Favour (v) – to show preference for something, to choose it over something else. The coach decided to favour the rookie player for the starting position.
Out of luck – if someone is out of luck, the situation they are in is unfavourable to them. You’re out of luck Chuck – your team has already left without you.
Spare somebody the grief – not to do something that would make somebody sad or offended. I’ll spare you the grief and won’t tell what exactly she had said about you.
Culprit (n) – a person or a thing responsible for some mistake, error or any other undesirable consequence. Our car wouldn’t start and the culprit turned out to be dead battery. Once we had charged it, the car came back to life.
At the expense of – when somebody wins or gets some benefit when the other person or party loses. I managed to find more time for studying at the expense of spending less time with my friends.
Backfire (v) – to cause or get unexpected negative effects. Skipping literature classes really backfired when it turned out that your attendance accounted for 50% of your mark.
Integral (adj) – vital, crucial.
Tall order – something that is challenging or impossible to do. Passing this exam with a high mark is a tall order because the professor is grumpy and really hard to please.
Come to terms with – to accept something, especially something you are uncomfortable or unhappy with. Lucy had to come to terms with the fact that singing career wasn’t a realistic option for her.
Reluctantly (adv) – in an unwilling manner, not wanting to. Reluctantly, she let me join the class despite me being late.
Eventually (adj) – at some point in the future, as opposed to right here and now. She eventually decided to apply for a job despite refusing to do so for quite some time.
Hum (n) – low-frequency, usually unpleasant sound made. Some examples are a fridge or a person who hums some melody under their breath, sometimes without realising it.
Rant about (v) – to complain about something, usually without taking any actions to actually do something about it. My grandfather loves ranting about the current government and they silly policies.
Catch 22 situation – a situation that is impossible to get out of because the action required to fix it relies on some other action or situation that is connected to the first one.
Foresight (n) – ability to understand or predict what is going to happen in the future. His foresight made him a great entrepreneur.
Come down to – used to emphasize what is really important. You can be the best friend with your manager but it really all comes down to your sales figures. If they are low, no matter how good your relationship is, you will never get a promotion.
Render (v) – (here) to make, to turn. All my attempts to get her attention were rendered useless by that new guy who just directly approached her and asked her out.
Transition (n) – the process of change. Transition from planned to market economy is not easy for any developing nation.

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IELTS Speaking topic – Home and hometown #3

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Describe a house or an apartment you had to stay in temporarily
You should say:

  • what the place was
  • how long and why you had to stay there
  • if there was anything unusual about it

and say if you enjoyed your stay.

Model answer

Once I had to go on a business trip to a nearby town. The company I was working for at the time arranged a flat for me that I would be sharing with two other employees who had been staying there on a semi-regular basis. It was a nice, three-bedroom flat with a spacious living room and a well-equipped kitchen. It was located in the centre of this town and the floor-to-ceiling windows of the living room overlooked the city square.

One thing that stuck in my mind after the trip is how unusually nice and well-furnished the apartment was. The town itself was unimpressive, most young people had long moved to the bigger neighbouring city, so the place was slowly decaying, figuratively speaking. This really contrasted with the place we had to stay in, which felt like a five-star hotel, and I know it for a fact that our company bought it for a laughably low sum of money. Anyway, I profoundly enjoyed my time there and would gladly go there again, given the chance.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Owning a home

Both flats and houses are getting more expensive nowadays. Do you think this trend will continue? Why/why not?
I’m guessing that there are many socioeconomic factors at play here. As many of us know, the economy is largely cyclical, following the simple pattern of crashing, recovering and booming between larger crises. In the later stages of a cycle we usually see prices go unreasonably high to the point where property becomes unattainable for the majority of buyers. This is normally followed by a housing crash, when real estate sees its estimated market value plummet. We have seen it before in 2008, and we are very likely to see it again in the future. Therefore, in the short-term, the trend is likely to reverse, but eventually we will see the same patterns emerge one after another, the cycle repeating over and over again.

What are some of the benefits of owning a home rather than renting it? Are there any disadvantages?
Having a place that you can call your own offers a number of benefits. First and foremost, it’s the sense of security. If your house is paid off, come what may, you will not end up homeless. Secondly, if you rent a place, the landlord will inevitably have a list of dos and don’ts, and sometimes they can make little sense. Some limitations can be understandable, like you not being allowed to have a cat or a dog because of the fur and the mess they can leave. Others can sound quite dystopian – for instance, forbidding you to have anyone over for a visit. Anyway, the limitations of a rented place can really get under your skin.

The disadvantages of home ownership mainly stem from the entry price. I mean, buying a place, even on a mortgage, is a financially audacious decision in the current economy. You have to have a high-paid job that you are sure you will still have in 10-15 years from now on. Another possible disadvantage is that once you buy a place, you are going to be stuck in that area for quite a while. Some dread such territorial commitment, and understandably so.

What role does location play in the value of a property?
Location is probably the biggest factor in property valuation. Land in the city centre has always been one of the most sought-after assets. There are plenty of reasons for that. First of all, living in the city centre is convenient. Since most businesses and big companies are dotted around it, it is much easier to find a job that you can simply walk to instead of having lengthy commutes from the suburbs or the outskirts. Secondly, it is very prestigious to live there. The architecture tends to be much nicer and older housing is normally of much higher quality. Finally, a place in the centre is an appreciating asset. As the city grows and expands, the price of flats located in the more desirable locations goes up as commute times slowly increase.

Contrastingly, a flat on the outskirts of a town or a city is going to be much more affordable for exactly the same reasons. There is another factor to keep in mind – population density. It tends to be much higher as greedy construction companies try to get as much money as they can from the land they build on. You end up with overpopulated districts, full of people who barely know each other. The feeling of community is difficult to foster at this scale so as a result you feel surrounded by people you barely know.

Home today

How can the place a person lives in affect their mood or productivity?
This can influence one’s performance both positively and negatively. A good example of the latter is a cluttered workspace. It will inevitably be a source of constant distraction, hampering productivity and leading to frustration as a result. We might not even realise this, but the subconscious side affects us just as much as the things we are aware of. Another case of negative impact is when a person has to live with others. Such cohabitation can get in the way of focus and concentration, especially if your flatmate is the noisy type.

Examples of positive influence include working in the fresh air – and whether it’s outside or in well-ventilated indoor areas does not seem to make much difference. Exposure to sunlight does wonders to one’s desire to work as well. This can be attributed to vitamin D that we get from the sun. Finally, a quiet environment tend to be more conducive to working fruitfully.

Has technology changed homes for the better of for the worse?

This is probably a point of contention, but I would prefer to focus on the positive development the technology has made possible. There is thing called “smart home” and it has pretty much revolutionised household management. What it does is it controls pretty much everything around the house. It adjusts the temperature in every room through the thermostat and keeps the desired level of humidity. It controls water heaters and radiators, and it can even shut the water system down if it detects a leak.

The system keeps track of your groceries in the fridge and it is able to order the food you are running low on. It is every housekeeper’s dream come true! Installing and setting it up can be rather costly, but it pays for itself in the long run because you can delegate most things you previously had to worry about yourself. This frees up a lot of time, which is admittedly more valuable than money.

How important is it for people to feel a sense of belonging in their neighbourhood or community? How does one achieve that?
It has to be a fundamental piece of happiness. Nobody wants to feel like a stranger in their own home. Spirit of camaraderie, mutual trust and respect is what makes communities thrive. It is easy to say what makes people feel better, but more tricky to understand how to get there. First of all, it is more likely when the community is reasonably sized. A neighbourhood with 500 people living there is unlikely to reach reasonable levels of social cohesion. A feeling of friendliness and solidarity is fostered in smaller communities. Secondly, likely-minded people gravitate towards each other in a natural way. Governments of various countries had numerous attempts to create such environments artificially, making smaller towns of engineers and scientists, and generally, such undertakings were fairly successful.

Home and hometown vocabulary

Arrange (v) – to organise something or to agree to something beforehand. We have arranged a visit to our grandparents next week
Call your own – to have something that belongs to you, or at least feel that way. After so many years, I can finally call this country my own home
Landlord (n) – a person who owns a flat or a house and rents it out to others
Commute (n) – a journey to work or place of study and back that happens every working day. My commute is forty minutes long and it is mostly highway driving, so it is not that stressful
Overpopulated (adj) – with too many people living in a particular place or area
Feeling of community – feeling that you are a part of the group you live in the same area, that you can trust each other and are ready to come to help if needed
Cluttered (adj) – full of unnecessary things, to the point where they gets in your way or make it hard to find something that you need. My desktop is very cluttered – I wish I had time to organise it properly
Cohabitation (n) – to live together, to share a flat or other living space
Conducive to something – creating better environment for something to be easier or more pleasant. A quiet room can be very conducive to being more productive
Camaraderie (n) – feeling of friendliness, joviality, merriment. John’s student years had camaraderie and genuine lust for knowledge
Social cohesion – the degree to which individuals within a society are bound together and cooperate to achieve shared goals and values. It is characterized by a sense of belonging and connectedness among individuals and groups.

General vocabulary

Overlook (v) – (here) about windows or a building – facing something e.g. a park or an industrial site. The windows of our bedroom overlook a small park
Stuck in one’s mind – something memorable, something you can remember vividly. The advice my father gave me about building my own business really stuck in my mind
Long (adv) – something that happened a long time ago. For three years with the company I had to do practically nothing and got paid well for that. Sadly, those days are long gone.
Given the chance – provided the opportunity. I would have completed the project in half the time, given the chance
At play – affecting, influencing something. One major thing at play in this situation is that we have less than an hour to come up with a solution
Unattainable (adj) – extremely difficult or impossible to get
Plummet (v) – to drop suddenly. The stock prices plummeted in March 2020 when the coronavirus announcement became official
Come what may – no matter what. Come what may, I am moving out of my parents house by the end of the week
Dystopian (adj) – so terrible that it can be hard to believe it is real. The dystopian pictures of people not having enough money to cover basic needs despite working two jobs.
Get under one’s skin – (here) to irritate somebody. Francis really got under my skin with his constant remarks about my poor academic performance
Audacious (adj) – daring and brave, often unreasonably so. Most of his audacious attempts at courting Jane failed, but eventually she gave in to his advances
Hamper (v) – to slow down, to get in the way of something. Having short attention span was really hampering his learning process
Do wonders – something that does wonders is extremely effective at achieving a goal. Regular sleep schedule does wonder to one’s quality of life and productivity
Attribute something to something – to connect two things as one affecting the other or vice versa. Meteorologists attribute increased magnetic activity to climate change
Point of contention – a claim or idea that leads to many argument. A thing people can’t agree upon. The ever-increasing environmental regulations have always been a point of contention
Run low on something – to have very little or nothing left. I’m running low on money, it would be cool if you lent me some!
Delegate (v) – to make somebody else do a particular task, either because they are more professional or less busy
Foster (v) – to create environment for something to flourish and develop

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IELTS Speaking topic – Hobbies and free time #3

IELTS Speaking topic - hobbies free time 3

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about a hobby that is popular in your country
You should say:

  • what the hobby is
  • how long it has been popular
  • what kind of people it is popular with

and say if you share passion for this hobby yourself

Model answer

My answer might surprise you, but one of the national pastimes our country has is birdwatching. This is a practice of observing everything related to birds, like trying to make out the species of birds, see any patterns in their behaviour, how they interact with each other and so on. It doesn’t sound like much, but once you get the hang of it the activity becomes almost addictive. It is surprising how quickly it grew in popularity among us. That said, I think it’s a fairly new trend – I don’t remember many of us being interested in birdwatching ten years ago. It has to be a rather recent phenomenon, yes.

The hobby is mostly popular with young adults and older people. I guess you can attribute it to the fact that much younger folks are too busy with their mobile apps and playing videogames. Learning to appreciate nature in its purest expression takes dedication and experience – both qualities are more likely to be found in older people. Therefore it should come as no surprise why the older you get, the more likely you are to get into such ruminative things.

As for me, I do enjoy the activity very much, however I don’t get to engage in it as often as I would have liked to. I have to study a lot nowadays, my academic pursuits take the lion’s share of my available time. And I have a part-time job to boot, so it leaves me with very little time to spare. But whenever I get a chance, I try to look up and see if there is an interesting species of sparrow or jackdaw flying over my head somewhere.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Hobbies today and tomorrow

What are some hobbies that are popular today that were not common in the past?

I’d say that the newly-emerging hobbies are in one way or another related to the recent advances in technology. One example is videogames, that became widely-available some thirty years ago and over the years turned from a niche thing for hobbyists into a billion dollar entertainment industry. I guess the rise of the Internet in general and streaming services like Twitch in particular helped popularise this activity and advertise it to the masses.

Similar thing could be said about casual mobile games which have shown a much more rapid growth with the cost of the industry well into tens of billions dollars yearly. Finally, virtual reality headsets are probably the newest addition to the tech-related family of leisure activities. This groundbreaking device enables you to fully immerse into whatever setting you wish – starting from an action or adventure game and going as far as turning you into a protagonist of an interactive movie.

Do you think traditional hobbies such as knitting, painting or gardening will still be popular in the future?

It’s hard to speculate on such things as future time and time again proves how wrong we can be about our idea of what it might look like ten or even five years from now. Named activities will undoubtedly survive, but I would not go so far as to say that they are going to be popular. If we look at today’s adults, knitting or gardening are a rather niche thing. They say the latter is quite popular in the UK, as popular as it has always been, but it is can be explained by the national peculiarities. The Brits have always been crazy about gardening, planting trees and taking care of plants, that kind of thing. But in general the listed hobbies might become more rare, but they will nonetheless find their followers.

Do you think people will have less time for hobbies in the future? Why or why not?

I believe the contrary is a more likely scenario. Consider the following – as AI slowly takes over menial tasks coupled with the increased usage of robotic machinery for such undertakings many people will find themselves out of job. This might sound alarming, but in fact they will simply have to work much less and do a completely different type of labour than most of us are used to. It is hard to imagine what exactly their occupation might be, but one can safely assume that the amount of free time an individual will have at their disposal is going be much more than today. This in turn will mean that the abundance of free time will have to be filled with something. Something like hobbies! Therefore, I’d say that people will finally be able to dedicate more time to what they truly love doing.

Advantages and disadvantages of hobbies

What are some of the drawbacks of having a hobby?

Some hobbies can get quite expensive. I have a friend who is really into collecting Funko Pops. These are basically dolls, or action figures, made in their own unique style. There are hundreds of different ones and it seems that once people get into buying and hoarding there is no stopping them. Long story short, the friend of mine ended up wasting all of his income and even getting into debt to get the latest and greatest editions of those dolls.

Another drawback I can think of is that one can get too engaged with the hobby, to the point where it comes at the expense of their productivity, social life and other important aspects. This is where the fine line between hobby and addiction is drawn. An innocuous activity like playing videogames can quickly overpower a weak mind, I know many such cases. They are right to say that everything can be good in moderation, but too much of anything is never good. Even if seems so at first.

Do you think there is an ideal age to start pursuing a hobby?

It largely depends in the nature of hobby. Hobbies with steep learning curve are best to take up in your late teens while you still have great aptitude for learning and at the same time already posses discipline and focus required to persevere in mastering something challenging. Some examples that come to mind are programming, robotics, maths. Other hobbies need considerable initial investment and are therefore better suited for individuals with steady income – in other word, adults. Whether you are into competitive cycling or collecting vintage cars, money goes a long way there. But when all is said and done, there is no such thing as ideal age for anything – I guess you just follow your passion and see how it all works out for you.

How can hobbies help connect with people and build relationships?

Hobbies can act as a great social equaliser – both a millionaire and a student with a part-time job can be avid readers and would both be eager to discuss a book they have recently read, all on equal terms. What I mean to say is that your hobby can lead to friendships and acquaintances you would have never thought to be possible. This is especially true for the more shy type of people who feel reluctant to connect with others just for the sake of connecting – usually it just doesn’t sit well with them.

Therefore, a hobby can be the proverbial middleman in bringing the meek together, the much needed social lubricant. It can be the first stepping stone in a great relationship. I can safely say that because I’ve gone through something similar, meeting great people through shared interests, many of whom I still get together with regularly to this day.

Hobbies and free time vocabulary

Pastime (n) – an activity that is done for fun in one’s free time. Basically a fancy synonym for ‘hobby’. It often comes with the adjective ‘national’. Watching and playing rugby is a national pastime in New Zealand
Get the hang of something – get better at doing something through practice and understanding. My mother got the hang of making spreadsheets in Excel in less than a week
Niche (adj)  – not very widespread due to its special or specific nature. Watching art house movies is a very niche hobby
Hobbyist (n) – a person interested and engaged in a particular activity for fun. Car hobbyists usually form groups focused around different car makes
Virtual reality (VR) headset – a special piece of high-tech equipment that you put on your head. It has two displays that show you two similar pictures at slightly different angle, creating an illusion of three-dimensional imagery.
Immere (v) – (here) to get deeply engaged in some thing or activity. He fully immersed himself in English to get better at it
To be into – if you are into something or someone, you are very fond of it (or them)
Hoard – to accumulate possessions that you do not necessarily need. She hoards all of her mother’s sound records even though she doesn’t even have a music player and she refuses to sell or share them
Engage in/with – to take part in some activity. The director has to be heavily engaged in production of the movie till the very end of filming
In moderation – if something is taken or done in moderation then it is done in reasonable amount, not too much, without excess. In moderation, red wine can be very good for your cardiovascular system
Steep learning curve – something that has that is very difficult to learn from the very beginning or becomes drastically more difficult at some point
Social equaliser – something that makes the rich and the not so rich seem equal because a situation like that does not take into account how much money or influence one has. Being stuck in an elevator can be a real social equaliser situation
Avid (adj) – enthusiastic about something and engaged in it
Social lubricant – something that helps people overcome natural shyness. They say that alcohol is the oldest social lubricant known to humanity. It puts you at ease and makes meeting new people much less stressful

General vocabulary

Make out – (here) to try to identify something that is difficult to see. Because of the darkness I couldn’t really make out the face of the man who was approaching me
Appreciate (v) – to value something. I appreciate your help, but to be frank I didn’t really need it.
Academic pursuits – a general term for learning-related activities. In context of more serious levels of research it can mean more specific goals. Joanne decided to quit her part-time job to focus on her academic pursuits
Lion’s share of – a bigger part of something
To boot – (informal) in addition too, as well as. We ordered six pizzas, four sushi sets and a big cake to boot
Advances (n) – (here) progress or success in some field. Thanks to modern advances in medicine many previously incurable diseases can now be dealt with
Well into – way more than. Last year the sales figures for the company were well into ten million
Setting (n) – a term for books movies and other forms of media. Refers to the time and place where the action takes place. The setting of her newest book was 12th century France
Protagonist (n) – the main character of a book, a movie etc.
Speculate (v) – to talk about something without much knowledge, experience or data on the subject. They speculate about what could have happened with him. He looked extremely depressed
Take over – to become in control of something. Big corporations taking over the market by forcing smaller companies out of business through price manipulation and aggressive practices
Undertaking (n) – an act of taking part or starting something, usually a business or a business-related activity
Abundance (n) – if there is abundance of something there is more than enough of it. There is an abundance of phones on the market today for everyone to find their perfect model
At the expense of something/somebody – if something is done at the expense of somebody, the action affects them negatively. We managed to increase management salaries at the expense of lower-ranked employees
Fine line – a difference that can be difficult to notice but that is important. A fine line between bravery and stupidity
Innocuous (adj) – without meaning harm or offense, harmless. He made an innocuous remark about her sales figures and all of a sudden she became furious
Aptitude (n) – a person with an aptitude for something finds it easier to learn and master it. Her aptitude for natural sciences paved her career path
Persevere (v) – to keep on doing something despite hardships or difficulties. He persevered with the diploma paper even though the pace of progress was almost non-existent
When all is said and done – at the end of the day, after all. Some people didn’t like Mary’s management style, but when all is said and done she is a great leader that will be hard to replace
Work out (for somebody) – if something works out it means it succeeds. If renting a flat doesn’t work out for you there is always an option of staying with your parents
Reluctant (adj) – not enthusiastic about something, unwilling. Joe was reluctant to leave the party so early but his girlfriend insisted that they left immediately
Not to sit well with somebody – to be unacceptable for somebody. My plan to spend the summer in the countryside didn’t sit well with my parents. They had planned a part-time job for me
Proverbial (adj) – something that is well-known or frequently spoken of because it is commonly used in proverbs or idiomatic expressions. It can also refer to something that is widely accepted as being true or characteristic of a particular situation or person, often used to describe a cliche. For example, the proverbial “apple a day keeps the doctor away” implies that eating healthy can help prevent sickness, while the proverbial “raining cats and dogs” suggests that it is raining heavily.
Middleman (n) – a person that helps run some deal between two other people to ensure safety of the transaction. If you don’t want to risk losing your money, consider hiring a middleman for a small fee.
Meek (adj) – shy and socially awkward. Also, not proud.
Stepping stone – something that means another stage on the way to your aim. Getting a good degree is an important stepping stone to successful career.

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IELTS Speaking topic – Job and career #3

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about an occupation someone you know has that is well-paid
You should say:

  • who the person is and how you know them
  • what they do
  • if you think they enjoy it

and say if you think they deserve getting paid well.

Model answer

I work at an accounting company. What we do is get paperwork delegated to us by smaller businesses that can’t afford to have a full-time accounting department because of their smaller scale of operation. A guy used to work with me there, but one day he got too fed up with the tedium of pen-pushing day in and day out, so he quit and took up plumbing. He slowly expanded his operation, working his way up from individual orders from his friends and relatives and through the sheer power of word of mouth, scaling his small business into a ten-man company.

I am still in touch with the guy, and we meet now and again. Whenever we do, he can’t stop telling me how much better it is to work with your hands and apply practical skills as well as to see the immediate results of your effort. He clearly loves what he does, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Oh, and he’s making a killing too. I’d wager he takes home at least twice the amount I do, and he also doesn’t have to put up with all the bureaucracy that comes with my job. Anyway, judging by how quickly he managed to expand his business, the money is well-deserved. I am really happy for him and also a bit jealous, to be frank.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Working with others

What are some of the benefits of working in a team rather than independently?
Working with other professionals opens up a wide array of options and opportunities. One perk of teamwork is that you can delegate responsibilities based on talents, preferences and skillsets. What I mean to say is that tasks within the team can be redistributed to people who would be best for each. Some are better at crunching numbers, others seem to enjoy client outreach and so on. Secondly, when you work with others, you naturally feel a good kind of pressure, when you do not want to let anyone down, and it pushes you to do your best. This positively affects productivity.

Of course, in order for a team to work, one needs a good leader. If there is no manager, usually a natural leader emerges from among the rank-and-file employees to take on this role upon themselves. As long as they do this for productivity sake rather than out of vanity, it should all be well. However, in order not to disrupt company hierarchy, an appointed leader makes more sense.

What methods do organisations use to improve teamwork among their employees?
An efficient team is every company’s dream come true, so they are usually prepared to go great lengths to get that. One thing that companies might opt for is team-work courses and workshops, where employees are taught the newest methods of working together, go through team-building exercises and see successful examples of other companies and industries. Another way to make people cooperate is less natural, but can be equally effective – financial incentives. Setting goals that can only be reached through collective effort and then promising a lucrative bonus for reaching the goal is a tried and proven method to bring professionals together to pool their resources for the task at hand. Finally, it is not uncommon to see the use of shared office spaces to foster collective approach to problem-solving.

How should employers handle conflicts that arise when working with others in a team setting?
Mediating a conflict is a tough task for any manager. They say that to err is human, and it is true indeed. Even the best of employees can sometimes have a mental lapse leading to misunderstandings that could build up over time and potentially lead to angry outbursts. To prevent such cases of escalation, employers have a number of tools at their disposal. One favoured by most is regularly held events paid for by the company. These can be karaoke bars, pubs, restaurants, even trips to the countryside. The purpose of such events is to bring employees closer to one another. Consequently, this ensures better understanding, which could potentially nip emerging conflicts in the bud


What are the advantages and disadvantages of being self-employed?
I can name the few, albeit serious, disadvantages of something like starting your own business. The biggest one is uncertainty and inconsistency of revenue, especially at the very beginning. As opposed to day jobs most people have, fending for yourself can be tough, more so at the very beginning when you haven’t quite figured out all the quirks of the thing you do and the client base hasn’t grown big enough. The other distinct disadvantage is that it requires a great deal of willpower and discipline and very few people have it, hence the relatively low amount engaged in self-employment.

The advantages, however, are quite numerous and easy to understand. Working for yourself means there is no wage ceiling, you can potentially be making much more money than you normally would at a regular job. You also have the luxury of flexible timetable most of the time, you can plan your day to your liking and this in itself is worth a lot in today’s world of fluster and needless haste. Finally, self-employment can scale and grow and eventually become a business, even a company of your own – a real dream for many people.

How can a self-employed person ensure a steady income stream?
The main thing to keep in mind is that laziness and procrastination are two surefire ways to go broke in no time when you work for yourself. If something needs to be done, do it, and if it is urgent, then do it right now. A motto like this is what you keep in mind at all times. Secondly, you might want to look into diversifying your income sources. When you just start the long and hard road of self-employment, money can be hard to get. You strive to get more important things at this stage: trust and respect of people you work with. So one shouldn’t feel bad working part time wherever else to make sure they can keep the self-employment occupation afloat.

What qualities are necessary to become successful when working self-employed?
The biggest factor is your self-discipline. Since there is nobody overseeing how productive you are, nobody forcing you to work harder – basically, no external stimuli that most of us need. This leads to slacking – nothing out of the ordinary, mind you, a common human propensity – something that comes at a price if you are working on your own and for yourself. Another quality is ability to understand the big picture. You don’t have to be a visionary, but rather realise that small failures are necessary stepping stones on the way to greatness. Therefore, having foresight is a must, otherwise it’s easy to feel discouraged after a few setbacks.

Job and career vocabulary

Delegate (v) – to transfer work or responsibilities to somebody else, usually more experienced or less busy.
Scale of operation – used to describe how big a company, business or other undertaking is. At this scale of operation, we should look into hiring additional staff.
Fed up with – tired and unhappy about something unpleasant because it happens often.
Day in day out – something that happens regularly and for a long period of time. He was working on his car day in day out to make sure it is ready for the next racing season.
Work your way up – to go up the career ladder, to get a promotion to a certain position. Over his five years with the company, he worked his way up to chief sales manager.
Make a killing – to make a lot of money doing something. Ted makes a killing from his YouTube videos; who would have thought that could be possible!
Take home – (about money) the amount of money that you make after taxes.
Perk (n) – perks of some job or activity are the nice extra things you get, benefits. Two perks of working here are free food and hefty discounts for employees.
Client outreach – getting in touch with new or current clients to build good relationships with them. Staff responsible for client outreach should have good people skills.
Rank-and-file – lower-ranked employees, the opposite of managerial staff.
Incentive (n) – a practice to encourage somebody to do something, such as with money or other benefits. Without additional incentives you are unlikely to make them work overtime.
Revenue (n) – the money that a business makes. It is different from profit in that profit is the net money that you get after all the expenses are deducted.
Fend for yourself – do something without help from the outside.
Wage ceiling – maximum amount of money an employee can earn. This artificial limitation is usually imposed by upper management.
Go broke – to run out of money; can be used both for a person and a business. Most businesses go broke within the first three years of operation.
Diversify (n) – to introduce variety of something. In economics, diversifying means having money in different spheres to reduce risks.
Strive (v) – to do your best to achieve something (strive to do something or strive for something).
Keep/stay afloat – to prevent something from stopping or ending, usually in terms of finance. To keep her business afloat, Michele had to take out a second mortgage.
External stimuli – something that pushes or motivates you to do something from the outside, e. g. a person or a thing. As opposed to internal motivation, like your own aims or desires.
Slack (v) – not to put effort into doing something. Kids at school tends to slack with their studies because they often see no benefits from a good education.
Visionary (n) – a person with a vision – a clear or innovative idea of something. Often used as a business term to describe a person that introduces some groundbreaking practices.

General vocabulary

Tedium (n) – a task or a job that makes you feel bored or frustrated. The tedium of writing business reports that nobody is going to read.
Take up – if you take up something e. g. a hobby, you become engaged in it. Matt took up fishing two years ago and since then have been spending summers at his cabin by the lake.
Word of mouth  – information passed from one person to another through recommendation. Word of mouth can be an effective tool in kickstarting small businesses.
Wager (v) – to bet, to be willing to put money on some statement because you are convinced that it is true. I’d wager that Tom will win this race no matter what.
Put up with something – to have to tolerate or accept something that you do not like or not happy about. I’m sorry my mother had to put up with my awful behaviour all these years.
Open up – (here) to create some opportunity. Getting an engineering diploma opened up many career paths for him.
Let somebody down – to fail or to upset somebody, especially when they relied on you.
Take something upon yourself – to volunteer for some role, job or task. My mother took it upon herself to teach me math because I was really struggling with it at school.
Vanity (n) – false sense of self-importance.
Opt for – to make a choice of something. We opted for a holiday abroad even though it was considerably more expensive than a comparable resort in our own country.
Lucrative (adj) – financially interesting or attractive. The lucrative offer of working abroad is something I simply couldn’t resist.
Pool something (v) – when people pool something, they combine something they have in order to use it more effectively. Car pooling is a great way to save on commute times and reduce traffic congestion.
Foster (v) – to promote and encourage growth or development of something.
Err (v) – to make a mistake. To err is human, to forgive is divine.
Albeit – even though, although.
Figure out – to understand something, how something works. I had nobody to teach me use the computer so I had to figure everything out on my own.
Quirk (n) – peculiarity or trait of something. This phone has its quirks like you can’t unlock it with your fingerprint because the sensor is broken.
Distinct (adj) – specific and easy to see. The difference between two groups of people was quite distinct. It wouldn’t be difficult to tell them apart.
Fluster (n) – unnecessary agitation, confusion or nervousness. She was about to be late for a very important meeting so she was all in fluster because of it.
Haste (n) – similar to fluster, however haste does not always mean confusion. Haste makes waste.
Procrastination – behaviour characterised by tendency to postpone or put everything off for later without any reason.
Surefire (adj) – likely to succeed, certain. One surefire method to get fit is to join your local gym, ideally with a private coach.
Motto (n) – a phrase that you try to stick and that characterises something that you do. My motto is “never give up, no matter how bad things might seem”.
Propensity (n) – tendency to do something or act in a particular manner. Kids of this age have unreasonable propensity to shoplifting.
Foresight (n) – being able to know or predict what is likely to happen in the future. Great foresight made him the perfect entrepreneur.
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IELTS Speaking topic – Friends and family #3

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about a friendly or family gathering that happens regularly
You should say:

  • what the occasion is
  • how often does it happen
  • what usually happens during this gathering

and say if you enjoy these gatherings as much as you did in the past

Model answer

Last year,  me and some of my friends really got into poker. For those not in the know, it’s a card game where both chance and skill determine the outcome. The first session was quite spontaneous, but it grew up on us so much that we decided to do it again. We ended up meeting up every other Friday, and to this day we spend the entire evening playing cards. If somebody can’t make it for one reason or another, we reschedule. Since we are all adults now, we tend to have rather busy schedule, but the group is fairly flexible so we can always make time for each other. There is a little bit of money involved to make things more interesting, but the stakes are never high, in order to keep things light-spirited.

Even though the occasion is supposed to revolve around the game, we normally use it as an excuse to stay in touch, share a bit of gossip, and have some drinks. Such gatherings are usually filled with banter and joviality, so everybody enjoys it. At least I hope they like it just as much as I do. And yes, the meetings feel just as good as they did last year when we just started it. The enthusiasm for the game as well as the company runs pretty strong!

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Friends and acquaintances

Has technology changed the way we meet new people? If so, how?
I know that many people nowadays use dating apps. Finding a partner has been pretty much commodified and made really quick and easy. On one hand it enables us to engage with more people than in the past, but on the other, it devalues the experience somewhat. Quality and quantity rarely come together, and in this case, the latter tends to dominate.

Conventional social networks like Facebook have altered meeting new people as well. The creators of it run algorithms that suggest new people to be added as friends. The suggestion can be based on multiple factors, like shared interest in films or music, similar occupation or educational background, even your location plays a role. I guess this occasionally can give you a person who could become your soulmate, but to date I have had no such experience.

What are some qualities that people often look for in a friend?
Everyone has their own criteria for what they look for in a friend, but some qualities are generally considered essential by many people. One of them has to be loyalty. A friend who stands by your side no matter how dire the situation is definitely one everyone needs. I think many have had a moment in their lives when a supposedly loyal person disappears as soon as things take a turning for the worse. Nobody would want that to happen to them.

Another important personal quality is honesty. Being honest can be tough. Imagine that you had to tell your friend that their fiancée is not a good fit for them. You know it for a fact, but you also treasure your friend’s feelings. However, ultimately you have to tell them the truth, being the honest person you are. That’s what they call brutal honesty, I guess.

Finally, a friend needs to be supportive. They have to encourage you to be your best self. I believe that friends should push each other to punch above their own weight.

How important is it for friends to have similar interests?
I’d say it is essential to become friends, but not necessary to stay friends. Common interests normally serve as a ground for people to gravitate towards one another. Similar doesn’t have to mean identical, though – on the contrary, it would help if friends introduced each other to new hobbies. I met one of my best friends at a music festival, so our taste in music brought as together, but other than that, we are poles apart as people. He later got me interested in hiking, doing something like that on my own would have never crossed my mind. I, in turn, encouraged him to take up playing the banjo. He ended up enjoying that profoundly, and he is an avid player to this day.

Family members

Do you think parents should have the right to choose their children’s partners?
That’s a tough one. If they have such rights, it sort of implies that they own their child, which is a very strange notion.  It goes without saying that parents might want to control this with the best of intentions, but it takes away the most precious thing an individual has – their freedom. In some countries arranged marriages are a part of cultural tradition and young people have to concede to their parents’ will. I believe that goes against everything that humanity strives for – independence, freedom, free will. Maybe this is an anachronism that will eventually go away, but the fact it exists in our day and age is truly disheartening.

How has the role of fathers changed over the years?
I don’t think such fundamental things experience dramatic changes. One noticeable difference is that fathers are no longer the sole bread-winners in the family. Gender equality at the workplace allowed women to earn the same, if not higher salaries than men. This can sometimes make the roles of the household reverse – fathers as housekeepers and mothers as breadwinning, working professionals. This is partially due to shift in perception of gender roles and destigmatisation of gender-specific activities. As a result, households in general and fathers in particular have become more flexible, no longer set in stone by age-long preconception of who should do what.

How does parental involvement impact a child’s academic performance?
It goes without saying that parental involvement is very likely to positively affect how well the child does at school. When parents are involved in their child’s education, they can help foster a supportive learning environment at home by monitoring their child’s homework and school assignments, providing resources such as books and other learning materials, and encouraging their child’s academic pursuits. The latter could be done through various incentives like increased allowance.

Parents who show interest in their child’s education will positively affect their motivation and attitude towards learning. They are likely to be more engaged in their schoolwork and more motivated to succeed academically. And to add, parents in the loop of the school curriculum will have a much easier time communicating with respective teachers as both will be on the same page regarding the current academic topics.

Friends and family vocabulary

Make time for smth/smb – to dedicate some of your time to a person or an activity. I can’t really make time for any meetings this week, I’m too overwhelmed with my current tasks.
Light-spirited (adj) – not meant to be serious; cheerful or joking. We had a light-spirited meeting with the director to discuss some insignificant details of the marketing campaign.
Share a bit of gossip – to talk about rumours.
Banter (n) – calling each other names in a non-offensive, friendly manner, usually as a joke.
Joviality (n) – fun and friendliness, characterised by humorous behaviour.
Soulmate (n) – a person you connect with on an deep personal and emotional level.
Loyalty (n) – if a person is loyal, they remain your friend and support you even in times of hardship.
Stand by your side – to support you either emotionally or literally i.e. in a fight.
A good fit – something that fits or matches. Often used about compatibility between people. Rachel is a really good fit for Michael, wouldn’t you agree?
Be your best self – to be as good and successful as you can – emotionally, spiritually and professionally.
To gravitate towards somebody – to feel natural attraction to someone, either on a romantic or just friendly way. Smart people tend to gravitate to one another.
Poles apart – if two things or people are poles apart, they are completely different or complete opposites of each other. Nick and Jane are poles apart when it comes to their opinion of the President.
Arranged marriage – a marital union in which the fiancé of one or both sides gets chosen by their families, for political, financial or other reasons. It can often be against of or both fiancé’s will and can result in an unhappy marriage.
Housekeeper (n) – a person who does chores around the house such as laundry, washing the dishes, cooking and others.
Foster (v) – (here) to encourage growth and development of something or somebody.

General vocabulary

Get into something – to start doing something, to take up something new.
In the know – if somebody is in the know it means they are well-informed about something that others are not. People in the know warned me that new economic crises might come soon.
To grow up on somebody – if something grows up on you it means that you start liking it more and more, especially if you didn’t enjoy it at first.
Commodify (v) – to turn something into commodity, a thing you can buy. Can also be used in a broader sense to mean that something has lost it’s value for one reason or another. Dating has become more commodified with the introduction of apps like Tinder.
Devalue (v) – to make something lose value, become less expensive or desirable.
Latter (adj) – usually used in pair with ‘former’. Latter is used to refer to the second thing mentioned in context. London and New York are quite different. The former is much older, however the latter is probably more developed.
To date – up to now, nowadays. He is the most prominent scientist in his field to date.
Criteria – a mark or quality used to characterise something. A good criteria for choosing a used bike is to look at its service history – when was the last time it had its wheels and chain changed etc.
Take a turning for the worseto become worse or more serious.
To know something for a fact – to be completely sure of something, to be certain.
To punch above your weight – to take part in something like a competition or an activity in which you seem no chance of winning or succeeding, respectively.
Ground for something – reason or basis for something. There was no ground for him to get upset about the result of the game – his team was unlikely to win it and he knew it all too well.
Avid (adj) – enthusiastic about something. She’s an avid gardener – she spends most of her weekend digging in the backyard planting flowers.
Imply (v) – to say something indirectly. By saying that I won’t have to come to work tomorrow she actually implied that I was fired.
With the best of intentions – meaning and wishing only good things. Your parents sent you to that fancy school with the best of intentions. They really want you to become professionally capable.
Concede to smth – to agree to something without much desire.
Disheartening (adj) – something that makes you upset or depressed because it makes you lose confidence and spirit. Seeing his brother’s business fail was really disheartening.
Bread-winner (n) – a person in a family who earns money to cover expenses.
Destigmatisation (n) – taking negative beliefs and ideas away, that previously surrounded something. Destigmatisation of gay marriages is a big topic nowadays.
Set in stone – something that doesn’t change, permanent. These rules are set in stone and we are not going to change them just because you don’t like them!
Preconception (n) – an idea that is not based on any prior experience.
In the loop – if somebody is in the loop it means they know something i.e. your plans because you have told them about it.
Respective – a contextual word that helps connect ideas together. The employee received their respective paychecks based on their position and work hours.

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IELTS Speaking topic – Money and shopping #2

IELTS Speaking topic - money and shopping 2 exam questions with sample answers and useful vocabulary

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Describe a time when you spent a lot of money on something.
You should say:

  • when and where it was
  • what it was
  • why you decided to spend money on it

and say if you thought this money was well-spent.

Model answer

When I was 25 I landed a new job with a big company. The offer was rather lucrative and I couldn’t resist, so I quit my previous position despite it being quite to my liking at the time. Anyway, my new salary was almost three times higher than the old one, so I decided to treat myself to a new car. Truth be told, I don’t know much about cars, I just wanted to have something reliable, comfortable as well as a bit flashy.

Since I didn’t really have the money yet, I took a car load. I had just enough money for the down-npayment and the monthly installments seemed reasonable at the time. I also had to splash out on a set of winter tyres and I spared no expense when it came to maintenance. Occasional repairs, weekly visits to the car wash and gas bills were eating into my savings. It wasn’t the worst bit though. The painful truth is that a car is a depreciating asset and unless it’s some sough-after model, it will likely lose half of its value within first two years. My financial literacy at the time was lacking so I had been oblivious to all of that.

Looking back, this had been a very bad decision because I sold the car three years later without having paid it off. Once the novelty wore off I didn’t enjoy it that much, I did have to pay for it though.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Money and finances

In your opinion, what are some ways to manage one’s finances?

I was taught to keep track of my expenses, that is write when, how much and what you spent your money on. Then it becomes easy to categorise your spending. You no longer wonder where all your money went to, you know it and can control this process. For instance, you see that a third of your money goes to dining out each month and can adjust your spending habits accordingly. Actually, nowadays you don’t have to write anything down as we mostly live in cashless society and pay with our cards. Your banking app does the tracking for you, some even warn you of unnecessary spending.

Another approach is to set a monthly limit that you cannot break. This forces you to be more frugal with finances and buy only the most essential things, albeit this can vary based on your self-imposed limit. In any case, such practice can help you understand the areas of budget that can be further optimised.

Do you think it’s better to spend money carefully or to enjoy one’s money while you have it?

To properly address this question, you have to keep in mind how many people depend on the money and income you have. Do you have children to raise, clothe, educate? Can your parents still provide for themselves? If the answer to all of this is “no” then you might consider seizing the day money-wise. However, the joy of excessive spending never lasts and you have to spend more and more to feel those endorphins kicking in. Naturally most people can’t sustain a lifestyle like that and end up either disappointed, disillusioned or simply broke. So I’d say if you have money to throw around, give it to a better cause, like an orphanage or an animal shelter. The feeling of having done something right is more precious than vanity and fleeting sense of enjoying expensive possessions.

Some people believe that money can buy happiness. Do you agree? Why/Why not?

Happiness is a very hazy concept. Some say it is a state of mind, some confuse happiness with absence of worry and obligations. For many happiness is more or less equal with love. The latter can’t be bought, that is for sure, they even make songs about that. But being well-off certainly does take the pressure off, and for many of use it is more than enough to feel much comfortable, incidentally making us happier. But money is ultimately a means to an end rather that a solution to every single problem one can encounter. Therefore money can facilitate happiness, but it does not equal happiness. In fact, one can be happy penniless as long as they find their calling, find themselves surrounded by loved ones and enjoy respect of people they value. So while it can “buy” happiness, it doesn’t always have to.

Shopping today and tomorrow

Are shopping centers becoming more popular than small shops?

I don’t think that is the case. Modern consumers are very discerning and picky, some are unsatisfied with run of the mill items one can buy at the supermarket so they turn to smaller shops. Unlike retail chains, smaller independent shops can have unique offers, albeit at a higher markup. This does not discourage people as they are ready to pay extra to get something that is truly special and nobody else has. Another reason shopping centres might not be too popular with some is how crowded they can get, especially at the weekend. By contrast, smaller independent venues can be cozy and comforting, lending themselves nicely to relaxed shopping experience.

Do you think people should be encouraged to buy locally produced goods rather than imported ones? Why?

Supporting your local producer is never a bad decision. You buy a locally made thing and the profits as well as taxes get funneled back into local economy. This trickles down into a growing and welcoming trading community. But there’s more than just buying it for the sake of being neighbourly. Think about this for a second – the price of an item is formed by all the costs it took to produce, advertise and deliver it. The latter can be taken out of the equation if you buy a locally made thing, so it makes sense financially, all else being equal. Therefore there are two sound reasons to buy stuff that comes from where you live.

What influence do commercials have on people’s shopping habits?

It is a given that a commercial’s only purpose is to increase sales of the item it advertises. However, this can be achieved in several ways and some of them are more ethical and sustainable than the others. Some commercials aim to be informative – they break it down why you should go for this particular product or brand. This makes for a more educated consumer who purchases an item that suits his needs better. Other commercials, the usual kind, just focus on indenting their brand name in prospective buyer’s head so that they would subconsciously feel the need to buy that. The latter kind is unfortunately much more popular among advertisers. The results in consumers getting bombarded by brand names when they watch TV, listen to the radio or browse the Internet. They end up with brand names engraved in their minds without even understanding what the brand produces.

IELTS Speaking topic – Health and well-being #2

IELTS Speaking topic - health well-being 2 Part 2 and 3 questions with answers and useful vocabulary

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Describe a time when you felt younger or older than you actually were.
You should say:

  • when and where it was
  • what you think made you feel that way
  • how long the feeling lasted

and say whether it was a pleasant feeling or not.

Model answer

It happened during lunchbreak at work last year. We were sitting at the cafeteria of the office building on the ground floor, talking shop and having coffee. The topic of discussion was mobile phones and applications. I was at the table with a couple of younger colleagues who were all too eager to tell me about the latest model they have pre-ordered and how it has the best camera and a battery that lasts all week. Applications for phones was also a major talking point, apparently nowadays they have an app for everything, ranging from dating and dieting and ending with learning how to knit.

It felt like their zeal and enthusiasm were wasted on me. They had so many things to tell one another, myself included, but it was all buzzwords and drivel to me. I felt a bit self-conscious, clutching my 6-year old phone in my pocket, wondering if it can do any of the things they were discussing. I only use it for calls, texts and as an alarm clock, you see. It made me feel really old and out of touch. It was not pleasant at all.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Staying healthy

What kinds of health issues do old people in your country face most often?

My country doesn’t seem to be an outlier in this regard. Despite free healthcare, older people face a number of afflictions. Senior citizens usually suffer from joint pain, hearing and sight loss, various heart problems – predominantly cardiovascular diseases – those that affect blood vessels. Senile dementia is a common case as well – that’s when their ability to process and use information gets impaired. For instance, they might fail to recognize you or can be unable to perform basic actions like pouring a glass of water. Most of these drastically reduce their quality of life, often to the point when they have to be looked after by someone – either a nurse or a younger relative.

Do you think healthcare should be free in every country? Why/Why not?

This makes total sense from the human rights point of view. But there are many factors to keep in mind. First, the healthcare services are provided by qualified personnel who have to get paid. Secondly, more often than not treatment involves various medication that are naturally not free – on the contrary, they can be quite expensive. If healthcare becomes free, both expenditure items will have to be paid from state budget, which effectively means taxpayers’ pockets. It is a well-known fact that you can’t get something from nothing, and this is one of those cases. Therefore, “free” healthcare will actually means everybody pays for health issues of others. An ethically complex subject, it makes sense to help others less fortunate, but I can also see how some might not be happy with arrangement like that. People might see themselves as paying for others’ mistakes and poor decisions, and justifiably so. To sum up, I struggle to find a cut and dry answer to this question.

Is being a doctor prestigious in your country?

People look up to you if you are a doctor. Doctors are naturally very educated, well-read people. They are down to earth and easy to get along with. Their line of work doesn’t pay much though, at least until they get several years of experience under their belt. So it all comes down to the understanding of the word “prestige”. They are respected, but most of them don’t really make bank. Addressing the latter, they are an integral part of society and I believe this should find reflection in their financial compensation.

Quality of life

What are some of the most important factors that contribute to a high quality of life?

When you think of such matters, a sense of security and community come to mind first. If you are surrounded by like-minded people, you start feeling like you truly belong to the place, you feel one with it. Similarly, when you sense no possible threat, either physical or psychological, your minds shifts gear and focuses on higher things. Secondly, it’s healthcare quality and availability. It makes sense for this aspect to take priority, but I tend to think fitting in and feeling comfortable in your own skin is more important short-term, whereas staying healthy is a more of a long-term arrangement. Finally, it’s education, again, in no particular order. By education I don’t mean practical things but rather a fundamental knowledge that gives you better understanding of the world around you and how it works. These three things combined make up for the bulk of the eerie concept we refer to as “quality of life”.

Is high income necessary to have good quality of life? Why or why not?

Many thing that constitute quality of life come at a price. Healthcare, education and of course accommodation can all get very pricey indeed. Some, if not all of it can be acquired through government programs such as grants, subsidies and many others. These take some effort, knowledge of how things work and ultimately, they never last. It does seem that money is the easier way out, but how easy to get the required sum is a whole different question. The answer therefore is quite straightforward – money does indeed seem to be a prerequisite for better quality of life, all other things being equal.

Are there any specific areas or regions in the world that are known for living happier lives? If so, what are they and would could be the reason people are happier there?

Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway always lead the these happiness charts. Naturally, happiness is difficult to quantify, so a number of metrics has to be used to get a clearer picture. Parameters like gross domestic product, access to quality healthcare, corruption and life expectancy are one of the main ones when calculating the happiness index. Many people believe that weather and climate are serious contributor to one’s mood and well-being.  Interestingly enough, this index does not factor it in. Maybe if it did, the results would be skewed towards territories with mild equatorial or warm continental climates, so they didn’t include it for that very reason. All things considered, it makes perfect sense for people who make enough money to afford things, have easy access to professional healthcare and live longer.

IELTS Speaking topic – Technology and progress #2

IELTS Speaking topic - technology and progress 2 sample questions for IELTS Speaking part 2 and 3 with model answers and useful vocabulary

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about a piece of technology that is now obsolete
You should say:

  • what it is
  • how long it has been obsolete
  • why you think it has become obsolete

and say whether you personally still use it

Model answer

I’d like to talk about the compact disc. Their heyday was from early nineties till mid-noughties and people would first use them for listening to music and later to store data such as pictures or software. They were pretty popular with people around me and I used them a lot myself. Coming to think of it, I haven’t seen one for well over a decade.

The reason people moved away from using it is very clear – the Internet. As the web gained higher adoption, no longer reserved for the few like it was in the mid-nineties, it proved to be much easier and efficient and storing and transferring data. People no longer had to burn CDs to share data. Another possible tech advancement that ousted the compact disc was USB flash drive, colloquially referred to as memory stick. It everything a CD would, but quicker, cheaper and in a much more compact form factor.

Do I still use CDs? Well, I have some old music CDs laying around, I play them occasionally for nostalgia’s sake. So I guess you could say I do use them to this day, yeah.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Technology and people

Some people argue that technology is making us more isolated and less social. Do you agree? Why?
On one hand, technology has allowed us to connect with more people than ever before through social media and messenger apps. However, such virtual communication can be superficial and lack the depth and intimacy of face-to-face interactions. Proponents of the argument that technology is making us more isolated and less social also believe that social media can create a false sense of connection and reduce the need for real-world interactions. And indeed, we can see the life examples of this happening in real time – teens are glued to the screens of their phones, paying little attention to people who are around them.

However, it’s not as bad as it might seem. Technology has also made it easier for people to stay in touch with friends and family who may live far away or have busy schedules. Another advantage worth noting is greater access and exposure to social events and communities, enabling people to connect with like-minded individuals they may not have met otherwise. Ultimately, whether technology is making us more reclusive and socially passive depends on how we use it and the balance we strike between virtual and real-world interactions.
With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, some experts predict that many jobs will be lost in the years ahead. What do you think about this?
This is becoming an issue of growing concern for many. It has been extremely prevalent in the past year, when we saw huge advances in AI and machine learning. People also now have public access to AI models they can play around with, throwing tasks at them and see how impressively effective they are at dealing with those. One particular field seems to be of interest now – programming. A well-phrases prompt that describes the programme you want from the AI will return an immaculately-written code, within seconds and free of charge. One can only guess how much better the machines can get at doing things like this, as well as many other spheres. This could indeed render many professions and even entire industries useless. This is not as horrible as it might sound and eventually the job market will adapt to make room for these newly unemployed specialists. However, the interim period of uncertainty might take a while and people of many professions may indeed struggle to find employment or purpose.
In what ways has technology helped to address some of the world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues?
I’d like to focus on two domains of science technology has helped to develop drastically. One is the education sector, where it made easier for people to get education and learn new skills. There are now numerous online courses, educational apps, and e-learning platforms that have made knowledge accessible to all. Even getting a degree online is possible, and it will have same credibility as the traditional one from university or college. Another sphere which benefitted greatly from progress in technology is agriculture. Various new systems can provide accurate and timely data regarding soil composition, weather patterns, and crop productivity. Farm machines, drip irrigation and other such technologies have also helped increase crop yields and reduce wastage. Consequently, farming is now not as labour intensive and more cost-efficient, which indirectly has made food more affordable.

Progress in our lives

In what ways has the development of technology affected the job market?
From a personal experience, I can say that one one the positive developments tech advancement has brought to the table is the job search procedure. In the past you had to sent your resumes to a number of prospective employers, show up for interviews. This process was pretty arduous and had huge opportunity costs.  Job hunting was a job in its own right, but without providing you any financial compensation, security or useful experience.

Thankfully, the job hunting game has changed thanks to career platforms like LinkedIn. The entire process has been streamlined – you only need to upload your CV to the website and make sure it is up to date. Now employers can search and filter the applicants without going through the hoops of having the person over for preliminary interviewing. The initial meeting now usually takes place online, and if both parties find the collaboration possible, then a formal face-to-face meeting takes place to finalise the employment contract. Isn’t technology wonderful?
Why is progress such an important element in human society?
Progress is a very general term, so in order to address the question in a more focused manner, we have to be specific. Let’s talk about scientific progress first. Developments in areas such as healthcare and medicine drastically improve the quality of life as well as enable people to live longer. Most incurable diseases are a thing of the past nowadays thanks to breakthroughs in biochemistry and medical practice in general. Same could be said about affordability of previously prohibitively expensive medication.

One other example of progress is that of a different kind – societal and cultural. Humanity has learned to understand confessional and cultural differences and be more acceptive to them. People are no longer oppressed for having an alternative lifestyle, like having to kids or not working full-time and enjoying their life instead. The population is more broad-minded nowadays, receptive and welcoming differences, all thanks to progress.
Can progress be achieved without sacrificing cultural values and traditions?
Yes, this is achievable. In fact, incorporating traditional values and cultural practices can often enhance progress and make way for sustainable development.  For instance, a cultural custom of many nationalities to pass on belongings from older generation to younger ones is a great environmental practice. Similarly, many cultures promote spirituality over materialism, which furthers helps reduce carbon print among other thing. Therefore, it is possible for modernization and traditional practices to coexist and complement each other, leading to a more sustainable, environmentally-savvy society.

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IELTS Speaking topic – Nature and the environment #2

IELTS Speaking topic - nature environment 2 with questions, sample answers and topical vocabulary

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Describe an environmental initiative your city or country had
You should say:

  • when it was
  • what was the initiative
  • whether it was effective

and say how people of your city or country reacted to the initiative.

Model answer

Traffic congestion in general and parking in the city centre in particular are two of the bigger problems in our city. The mayor decided to kill two birds with one stone and enforce paid parking throughout the centre of our city. In short, people would park their cars in the usual spots, but they would have to pay for that on per-hour basis. On paper, this would dissuade people from using their vehicles to get to work at the same time helping people to find parking spots who need to make a short stop and continue on their way. All of this made a lot of sense on paper, but life proved this plan to be less than optimal

It didn’t really work, in fact it truly backfired. If you ask people to pay for something they have always had for free, you only ask for trouble. There was a public outcry, a major one.  Leaving your car at a paid parking spot for 8 hours made no financial sense at all for most people, but old habits die hard. I think they ended up singing a petition to overrule the whole thing. It is currently in the process of being decided, a compromise is allegedly in in the works. Personally, I am not really sure about where they stand on the issue right now. I hope it gets resolved in a way that pleases everyone, even though it sounds a bit naïve.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Nature and humanity

Do you think spending time with nature is important for children’s development? Why or why not?

Interacting with nature definitely does help children to develop physically and cognitively, as well as emotionally and mentally. Children who spend time outside, like playing in the woods, tend to be more fit, have improved attention spans, and even better academic performance. An equally important aspect is that exposure to the natural world improves a child’s empathy. They get better at relating to other living things’ feelings, whether it is animals, other kids or even adults. Another important aspects is a long-overdue break from mobile devices. You know how kids can be nowadays – spending their entire day on their phone, playing their silly games. A day in the woods or a national park can be a welcome change from that.

How can people living in urban areas feel a stronger connection with nature?

Occasional visits to the countryside can remind them of where people naturally belong. Even though civilised humanity has been living in big metropolitan areas for thousands of years, at the end of the day man is one with nature and should live in closer connection to it. Small wonder the vast majority of upper class chooses to move out of the city and live in the suburbs or the countryside. To get back to the matter at hand, there aren’t many options for the urbanites to get much closer to nature. There are parks and squares, but they are mere artificial inserts into highly-urbanised landscapes and they feel accordingly. Another options is to cultivate plants in your own apartment. Vegetation tends to really liven one’s place up. Naturally, it takes a bit of looking after, but admittedly it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of feeling more connected with nature.

Should there be stricter penalties for those who harm the environment?

I agree that the general legislation regarding environmental damage is not severe enough. More often than not the fines are perfunctory at best. Individuals and businesses should both be held accountable for such infraction, not matter how insignificant they might be. By doing so the state will send a clear message to others. It is a necessary evil until the mindset of people changes and such penalties become unnecessary.

The environment

In your opinion, what should businesses prioritize – profit or environmental sustainability? Can they balance both?

By its definition, business is created for a scalable and consistent revenue. Naturally, it prioritises profits over everything else. This, however, doesn’t mean that it should be this way, especially given the current state of our planet. Caring about money and the environment are not always mutually exclusive though. Excessive environmental damage caused by having a business can stem from multiple sources. Potentially, one of them can be generally inefficiency of running your operation. Optimising overheads, streamlining processes and getting rid of excessive expenses can do wonders both to profit margins and carbon footprint. So in short, yes, the balance can be realistically achieved.

Do you think that international cooperation is necessary for sustainable environmental practices?

Carbon emission standards should be made stricter to make up for the ever-increasing volume of production. Moreover, there should be an international governing and monitoring body that would concern itself with enforcing said standards. Without cooperative effort individual endeavours of some countries will amount to nothing. A good case in point is the current CO emission of China, which has a much more lax environmental regulations to have a more competitive industrial sector. This is understandable from economic standpoint, but environmentally this is completely unacceptable. Another example is personal transportation. Countries like Norway plan to completely ban traditional gas and diesel engines by 2035, moving to much greener alternatives. At the same time, many third-world countries still have to use very old cars that don’t even have to pass any emission tests.

Are there any environmental challenges that you believe are too large to overcome?

One indirect environmental concern that we are unlikely to be able to control is demographic projection. World population is estimated to reach 10 billion people sometime around 2055. This doesn’t sound too bad compared to the current 8 billion, but the situation is not so straightforward. An average person’s carbon footprint has been slowly increasing over the years and this is now compounded by general population growth. Generally such projections are not necessarily accurate. However, the model is based on scientifically-proven data and seem fairly trustworthy. Ultimately, reproduction volume is one thing that cannot be controlled directly so  it is an issue of enormous scale with no evident solution.

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IELTS Speaking topic – Art (Movies) #2

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Talk about a movie you rewatch often
You should say:

  • the name and the genre of the movie
  • what it is about
  • what you like about it

and say why you rewatch it often

Model answer

There this movie that I have been revisiting now and then since I was introduced to it by an older colleague seven years ago. It’s called This is Spinal Tap and it’s a mockumentary about a rock band with the same name. A mockumentary is a genre of fake documentary, usually an ironic comedy. The movie shows us the rise and fall on the band in retrospect as they go on a disastrous music tour around the US. It shows us the dynamics within the band – the members, the manager and record company representatives as well as their multiple performances in different music venues.

There are several reasons why I am so very fond of this movie. First of all, the humour is superb. It’s a classic example of understated, dry British humour that you have to get used to, but once you do you just can’t get enough of it. Secondly, the plot is rather simply but still very engaging, the gripping story of the bands few successes and many failures is fascinating. Finally, the acting is spot on and is very believable. It truly feels like a documentary rather than a staged comedy set.

I go back to this movie again and again because it has so much to offer. It is full of jokes and references and every time I rewatch it I discover something new. I also find it to be a great movie by its own merit – a marvelous example of well-edited piece of film industry. It’s a brilliant ironic commentary on how pampered music artists can be. A real treat to watch, this movie.

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Movies and the cinema

Do you think watching movies is a good way to improve one’s English language skills? Why or why not?

It certainly does, and in more ways than one. The obvious benefit is exposure to the language in all its forms – words, pronunciation, intonation. We see those used naturally and subconsciously pick them up, all while enjoying your favourite film. The brain does not perceive this as an arduous training exercise, but rather a form of entertainment. This in turn facilitates learning. Another less straightforward benefit is diving into cultural aspects of the language. In order to use a foreign language efficiently you also have to have background knowledge of its culture. Any language is full of historical or pop references, and without at least basic knowledge of such no amount of learning will make you proficient at speaking or understanding.

Some people argue that movies can have a negative influence on young people. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Let’s start off by stating the obvious – young people tend to be quite impressionable. That is, they haven’t developed healthy skepticism that comes with age and experience and they tend to be gullible and easily inspired. Not always a bad thing in itself, it makes them vulnerable to various influences associated with movies and their antagonists or protagonists. As an example, the main character can be a heavy smoker, but a young person’s mind sees it as a cool thing, and they want to imitate it to look like their favourite movie hero without any regard for the danger smoking entails. Same could be said about violence that is a major trope in most movies nowadays. Exposure to constant shooting and fighting on screen normalises it in young peoples’ minds. 

Some people prefer to watch movies at home rather than in the cinema. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

When you go to the movies, you have several reasons to do so. One of them could be a recent release that can’t be watched anywhere else – so you either watch it now in the theatre or buy a Blu-ray disc months later. Some people can’t stomach such compromises and they absolutely have to see the latest flick as soon as possible, so cinema is their only option. Others enjoy the unprecedented sound and picture quality – a very understandable reason indeed! Finally, going to the cinema can be a romantic and glamorous experience if you want to treat your nearest and dearest to a nice, inexpensive night out.

Mind you, watching a movie at home has it perks too. It is much more affordable or even free and you don’t have to go anywhere for it. Some people simply dread leaving comfort of their home. You don’t have to sit through the mind-numbingly boring trailers before the movie either. This is a big turn-off for many movie-goers, myself included. Last but not least, thanks to the Internet you can watch older titles that are no longer shown in theatres.

Books and movies

In your opinion, what are the benefits of watching movies over reading books?

This is an unusual side of the argument as usually people discuss the benefits of reading over watching movies. But bear with me here, watching movies does have its upsides. First and foremost, despite a widely-held misconception, not every single movie is based on a book. There are many stories that were created as film scripts and therefore there’s no book, if you want the story you will have no choice but to watch the movie! Another one, and this one can be easily argued, but seeing a movie tends to be a more relaxing pastime. Reading a books requires focus and attention whereas turning on a film is much easier – a great way to decompress without any commitment to the act. And one more thing – if you are keen on discussing something with your friends or colleagues, movies are the way to go. As reading is much less popular than it used to be, you won’t have many kindred spirits to talk about it. On the contrary, movies are as popular as they have ever been so there’s plenty of other people to talk about them.

What role do you think technology has played in making movies and books accessible to a wider audience?

The ever-increasing reach of the Internet made access to all sorts of media ridiculously easy. Today you are a few keystrokes away from downloading your favourite book or a movie, in many cases toy won’t even have to pay a penny for it. These are the two main changes – universal accessibility and financial ease of procuring said pieces of media. Moreover, the web enables you to get something that is in a language different from your own. Say, you want to read a Harry Potter book in English but you just can’t because you’re from Poland or Mozambique or wherever else. This is no longer an issue as you can get that off the Internet, print it out and have yourself a book. So I think we should be very thankful to recent tech advancements that brought us closer to easily-accessible content.

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