Recounting Rainy Rugby

In this post we practice the recount genre. This is a very common generic text form in IELTS Speaking Part 2, when you are asked to recount some kind of experience.

In this example the candidate might have been asked to describe a time when they experienced very bad weather. If you’ve experienced bad weather, why not tell us about it in the comments below?

Fill in the gaps with the correct forms of the verbs in brackets. then click ‘Check your answers!’. Continue reading

Who are ‘they’?

English should be taught from an early age. English is highly valued when pursuing study abroad, getting a job, and connecting business people all over the world. They use English, furthermore, in their activities, such as education, business, politics, travel, and others.

The IELTS examiner will be wondering who they refers to. In IELTS terms, the plural they and the singular it refer to or act as substitutes for the subject of the previous sentence. Referencing and substitution is something that the IELTS examiner is evaluating in your writing, so it pays to use it correctly.

Let’s investigate what this writer is trying to say: Continue reading

Mangkunegaran – recounting an experience

I already know the theory – give me the gapfill!

In IELTS speaking part 2 you are required to speak for between 1 and 2 minutes about a topic given by the examiner. Although it is difficult to predict the topic, the generic features of your spoken text are likely to follow one of two types. Here I demonstrate one of these types – recount.

First I’ll talk you through the predictable features of recount and then we’ll look at an example. Continue reading

Talking about marriage

Marriage often gets lost in translation, so let’s try some very old-school grammar translation!

  1. Read the text and translate it into your first language.
  2. Then – without looking at the original text – try to translate it back into English.
  3. Finally, fill in the gaps with words and phrases from the box.
  4. Click ‘Check your answers’ for feedback.

Continue reading

Boys and girls in school + expert opinion

Do boys and girls benefit from being taught together? Richard Cairns, head of Brighton College, says ‘yes’, Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, says ‘no’.

  1. Consider the claims below and discuss them with a friend. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. Read the text (below) and decide who the claims belong to – Richard Cairns or Helen Fraser?
  3. Add comments! Tell us about schools in your culture. What works best – single sex or coeducational?

Continue reading

Hours of rush hour!

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially in rush hours.

It’s true that in many cities,  including Indonesian cities, traffic is heavy early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Admittedly rush hour can last for more than one hour at a time – in Jakarta it can take 3 hours to get to work and another 3 to get home! However, rush hour is always singular, even if it lasts for 3 hours. Rush hour also begins and ends at predictable times, and so if you say rush hour people know you’re talking about a certain period of time in the morning and a certain period of time in the afternoon:

Many vehicles produce smoke in the street, especially at rush hour. (Maybe 7-9am and 4-6pm, depending on the city!)

There is also some collocation you might want to think about:

  • At rush hour, everybody is on the road!
  • Rush hour traffic is very heavy!
  • It’s best to stay off the road during rush hour!

And if you do find yourself stuck in rush hour traffic, open up guruEAP and turn rush hour into study hour!

Due to bad grammar!

This problem occurs due to people throw waste into the irrigation system.

Ok well it’s nice to use an alternative to because, but a change of cause effect signal can often mean a change of grammar.


The grammar for because is familiar to most people:

Prices increased because demand increased.

In this structure, Prices increased is an independent clause (= it can stand alone as a sentence), and demand increased is also an independent clause.

We could also think of this structure as:

because + cause sentence

Due to

The grammar for due to is slightly different:

Prices increased due to an increase in demand.

In this case Prices increased is an independent clause, while an increase in demand is a noun (or noun phrase).

Again, this structure could also be thought of as:

due to + cause noun

Because of

 A common error is to treat because of in the same way as because. For example it is incorrect to say:

Prices increased because of demand increased.

Because of follows the same structure as due to:

Prices increased because of an increase in demand.


So, let’s review these three cause effect signals:

  • Prices increased because demand increased. (because + cause sentence)
  • Prices increased because of an increase in demand. (because of + cause noun)
  • Prices increased due to an increase in demand. (due to + cause noun)

And if we apply these to our opening example then we get:

  • This problem occurs because people throw waste into the irrigation system.
  • This problem occurs because of the irresponsible behaviour of people who throw waste into the irrigation system.
  • This problem occurs due to the irresponsible behaviour of people who throw waste into the irrigation system.

Using a combination of these in your IELTS speaking and writing will help to increase your scores in all criteria.

To be or to do? Gapfill!

The behaviours of ‘western’ and Indonesian businessmen eloquently discussed by George B. Whitfield, III.

  • What advice would you give to foreign businessmen in Indonesia?!
  • Is there a right and a wrong way for them to behave?
  • Have you ever witnessed any ‘wrong’ behaviour? Comments below!

Fill in the gaps with words and phrases from the box. Then click ‘Check your answers!’ for feedback. (There are more words and phrases in the list than there are gaps!)

If you agree or disagree with any of the claims made by the writer, add a comment and let’s discuss! Continue reading