It’s difficult to adjust my schedule, sorry.

Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I will meet my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

These days this kind of meeting is difficult to re-schedule. Academic staff are increasingly busy and the time allowed for consultation increasingly short. If you try to change the time you may lose the opportunity altogether. This plan is fixed. You may have written it down in a diary. if you only made a mental note then that note is burned into your subconscious. It’s an important meeting. In this case you need:

  • Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I’m meeting my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

I know, the meeting is due to take place in the future, but when a plan is difficult to change use present continuous tense, especially when you’re excusing yourself from some other offer.

Sorry but I have to go now. I’m teaching a class in 10 minutes!

Stress caused by the word ‘stress’

The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to get stress.

Collocation! For a stress-free life (and for a higher IELTS score for vocabulary), use one of the following instead:

  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to experience stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer from stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to feel stressed.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is stressful.

Take a look at some sentences using ‘stress’ and try to identify common collocations. Remember that stress can be a noun as well as a verb, and it also has different forms: stressful, stressed.

Advanced students can consult this comprehensive collocation table for stress.

Above all, try not to become too stressed out by ‘stress’.

The same blah

Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems with women.

A collocation issue: same…as (not same…with):

  • Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems as women.

(Notice the uncountable use of research). 

Occasionally you will see same and with used together, for example “Women’s emotional problems are to some extent influenced by hormones, and it’s the same with men.” But this is a more sophisticated form of comparison requiring a particular structure for it to work properly:

  • A is like this, and it is the same with B.

Indonesian flag For Indonesians translating sama dengan, start thinking same…as!

Fighting crime(s)

The government need to make more of an effort to fight crimes.

Crime can be countable or uncountable, and as with other nouns that behave like this, the uncountable form has a more general meaning and the countable more specific.

Another way to look at this is to notice that fight and crime (without ‘s’) collocate strongly:

  • The government need to make more of an effort to fight crime.

Try googling fight crime and fight crimes. Which is more common? What are the differences in meaning? 

It will likely blah!

Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will likely to decline slightly.

Another collocation problem. Use one of the following instead and never mind why. Just do it.

  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it is likely to decline slightly.
  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will most likely decline slightly.

And make sure you complete the structure with a verb:

  • s.th. / s.o. + is likely to + V1
  • s.th. / s.o. will most likely + V1

Research and Researches

Several researches have proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Actually there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this. I just looks odd to a native speaker because research is nearly always uncountable:

  • Much research has proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Investigate the differences between research and researches. Then try googling to see which form of the word is more common.

Having the right to rights

The principle of the social services is that people have rights to live happily and without discrimination.

I know, I know. You mention more than one right. Normally your teacher would be yelling at you to add an ‘s’. But this is a vocabulary/collocation issue.

  • The principle of the social services is that people have the right to live happily and without discrimination.

Indonesian flag You can think of it as a phrasal verb (Indonesians will be translating berhak untuk..). Sometimes it’s have the right to + V1. Sometimes have a right to + V1. 

Try googling “have the right to” and then “have rights to”. Which is more common? Which is the meaning that you want?

Age in Task 1 Writing

People in the 14-17 group of age were most affected by the changes.

I know, this seems to make sense, and your meaning is clear, but if you want a high score for vocabulary you need to use better collocation inside your noun phrases:

  • People in the 14-17 age group were most affected by the changes.

The following are all possible. Unfortunately you just have to memorise them. Try to use them as soon as possible in your writing practice and soon they will become automatic.

  • a person who is 49 years of age
  • a person who is 49 years old
  • a person who is 49
  • a 49 year-old person
  • a 49 year-old

More often in IELTS, ‘person’ is plural (= ‘people’), and so these noun phrases are also possible:

  • 49 year-olds
  • 49 year-old people
  • people in the 50-60 age group
  • people aged between 50 and 60
  • people aged 50-60
  • people (who are) 50-60 years old

Of course we could be more specific about ‘person’ or ‘people’:

  • A 49 year-old English teacher
  • English teachers in the 49-59 age group

Such as this and that

There are many factors that can contribute to failure such as students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

In this example, such as is followed by independent clauses whereas it should be followed by noun phrases:

  • There are many factors that can cause students to fail such as bad time management, or just laziness.

If you really want verb phrases, then use for example:

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example students do not manage their time well, or they are just lazy.

(Remember to put a comma before for example!)

Notice that for example is a more flexible signal as it can be used to introduce either a noun or a verb phrase. In the next example it is used to introduce nouns.

  • There are many factors that can contribute to failure, for example financial pressure and physical injury.

Not that sector, this one!

Agricultural sector is different from economic sector in the way research is conducted.

Indonesian flag First of all in English we tend not to label nouns as much as you do in Bahasa Indonesia. An easy example is colours. In English when we mention colours, it isn’t necessary to use the word ‘colour’:

  • Saya suka warna merah.
  • I like blue.

Therefore our opening example could easily be written:

  • Agriculture is different from economics in the way research is conducted.

However, if you must use the word ‘sector’, and if you are talking about specific sectors, then you need to communicate this one exactly:

  • The agricultural sector is different from the economic sector in the way research is conducted.

If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then you will receive a low score in IELTS for grammar and for coherence and cohesion. If you do not use ‘the’ when you mean this one exactly then your reader will stop reading and think “Does he mean this one exactly, or does he mean one of many, or does he mean all of them everywhere?” You must communicate one of these meanings if you want to be understood clearly.

If you want to communicate one of many then you need to use ‘a’:

  • Agriculture is a sector that requires different research approaches.
    (This implies that, in addition to agriculture, there are other sectors, like education, which also require different research approaches.)

If you want to communicate all of them everywhere then you need to use ‘s’:

  • Government sectors include health, education, agriculture and economics.