IELTS Listening – credit card numbers

(For more IELTS Listening Section 1 spelling practice, try these names and postcodes!)

Credit card numbers come in a predictable format – four groups of four digits, for example:

4567 5678 6789 7890

Zero‘ can also be read ‘oh‘, and sequences of the same digit can be read as ‘double‘, ‘triple‘, etc.

See if you can ‘spell’ these credit card numbers: Continue reading

Men and women and work

This article from the Economist includes some nice vocabulary and structures for IELTS Task 1 writing. Click linked words and phrases for more information or head directly to the analysis below.

Women in England and Wales are having 1.9 children on average, fewer than their mothers who had 2.2 offspring, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s a small decrease but the lowest level on record and continues the downward trend of the past few years. The decline is in part due to a growing number of women not having children, with one-fifth now childless. There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies. About 6% of women have a baby before their 20th birthday, again continuing a long-term downward trend. But “it’s not just childlessness,” said Emily Knipe of the Office for National Statistics. More and more women are having fewer babies. The data showed about one in 10 mothers today having four or more children, compared with one in eight of their mothers’ generation.
role reversal
Women are also having babies later. By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8. The ONS suggested this is because more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner. Ms Knipe said: “It’s not just a biological factor of people leaving it too late. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests people are choosing not to have children.”

Analysis

Trends

Indonesian flag The word ‘trend‘ is only used once, and even then it is used together with ‘downward‘! See this post for further discussion of ‘trend‘.

Although is used to contrast two trends at the same time. This is a good thing to do, if you can, in your IELTS Task 1 overview.

Indonesian flag Indonesians notice the contrasted items are separated with a comma without ‘but’ (akan tetapi).

  • Although female-dominated industries have suffered fewer job losses from globalisation and technological change, they also pay less.

Referencing and substitution

One way to avoid repetition in your writing is to refer to nouns using referencing words as substitutes (it, they, this, those, etc). using these will improve your score for coherence and cohesion (CC). Examples here include:
  • This form of segregation.. (= men and women pursue different lines of work)
  • ..those that have long employed women.. (those = ‘the fastest growing industries in America)
  • This does not mean.. (This = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..they also pay less. (they = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..the figure (= % of American doctors and lawyers who are women)
  • ..this process takes time (= changing male and female roles in the workplace)
  • At this rate.. (= the rate at which full gender equality is to be achieved)
Indonesian flag Notice that the pronoun ‘it’ is not used at all as a substitute! Read this post to find out why.

Vocabulary (Lexical Resource)

In IELTS terms there is some high-band vocabulary and interesting collocation:
  • pursue (v) + lines of work (n)
  • segregation (n) – in this case male / female
  • better off (adj) – comparative form of well-off (wealthy)
  • capture (v) + jobs (n)
  • mere (adj) – to emphasise a low figure
  • gender (adj) + parity (n) – sophisticated synonym for gender equality
  • the field – the work field (Make sure you establish a context before reducing a phrase like this!)

Tenses

Present simple is used for situations that are true all the time:
  • Men and women often pursue different lines of work.
  • etc.
Present perfect is used to talk about trends that began in the past and are still happening now:
  • ..many sectors…have grown much more slowly..
  • etc.
Will is used for prediction:
  • ..the field will not achieve gender parity for another 200 years.

Percentages

When a percentage is mentioned for the first time it is always followed by of + the whole. If you’re not sure what is meant by the whole, I suggest you read this.
  • In the 1960s, less than 10% of American doctors and lawyers were women.
  • Today over 60% of chefs and cooks are men.
  • ..a mere 10% of all nursing jobs.
If you’re preparing for IELTS Task 1, I strongly recommend that you read my other posts that deal with percentages.

Structures

The writer uses a participle clause to add information about a trend. In IELTS Task 1 this structure – comma + __ing – is often used to present the result(s) of a trend. For more information, see this post.
  • Today, women graduate from university at higher rates than men, putting them in a stronger position for many well-paid professional jobs that were once male-dominated.

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.

studentsandfastfood.jpg

OK the problem here is that ‘other‘ is rarely used as a noun. Generally it is used as a noun modifier: “other people“, “other things“, etc. In the above example, what is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:

  • Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.

Other‘ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly explain ‘something different from us‘, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness‘.

‘Stood at’ in a chocolate bar chart

In this post we’ll do two things. First, you will read a text and complete (draw) a bar chart based on the text. Next we’ll think about the use of ‘stood at’ in this kind of text, which is very similar to the writing you do in IELTS Task 1.

Reading (and drawing!)

  1. Copy this chart to a piece of paper:

Freddo

  1. Read this article. As you read, complete the bar chart on your paper.
  2. Check your completed chart against mine.

Stood at

Now let’s notice how the writer uses ‘stood at’:

  1. The time frame in the ‘stood at’ phrase is past and finished.
  2. The number being described in the ‘stood at’ phrase (in this case the price of Freddos) remained the same for a significant period of time (in this case 3 years).
  3. The number is represented as a number (and not, for example, as a percentage).
  4. The number is subject to some kind of change throughout the period.
  5. The following structure is applied: subject + stood at + number + past time expression

Note that the time expression can also appear at the beginning:

past time expression + subject + stood at + number

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed chart:

Freddo2

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Games of the future? Perfect!

In 2020, sales of all devices will increase.

In IELTS Task 1 writing candidates are often required to make future predictions based on data in graphs, tables, and charts.

This can be an opportunity to display some sophisticated grammar, in particular the future perfect tense!

In a previous post I showed you how to use a phrase beginning by + time expression to build a sentence using past perfect tense. In fact we can take the same approach with other perfect tenses:

Games of the future

In this example we can say:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased.

Here I used the structure:

by + future time expression + subject + will + have + V3

We can then add other information in the usual manner using will for prediction:

By 2020, sales of all devices will have increased. Sales of the PS4 will be double sales for the Xbox One, which will in turn be three times sales for the Wii U.

Future perfect is very rarely used by native speakers because there are very few opportunities to use it! This is one of the reasons why future perfect, and indeed the other ‘perfect’ tenses, helps to increase your IELTS score for grammar in both writing and speaking.

Pay careful attention to the structure of future perfect and good luck with your future predictions in IELTS task 1!

Change in graphs, tables and charts

fast food 550

In 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

This is a common error. Unfortunately there is no information about change in 2015, only from 2005 to 2015:

  • Between 2005 and 2015 sales of all 3 types of fast food increased dramatically.

If you are not specific about the time frame then your reporting of data will be inaccurate and you will receive a low score in IELTS for Task Achievement.

Before you write, decide exactly when the change happened and design a suitable time expression. These are the most commonly used:

  1. from time 1 to time 2
  2. between time 1 and time 2

How low can you go?

Women having a first child was low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Women was low(?!) Here we have some subject/verb disagreement, and so I’m guessing that it was actually a different singular countable noun that was low, and not ‘women‘!

  • The percentage of women having a first child was low in both years (1995 and 2005).

Your opening theme was ‘women‘. If the women you mention were indeed low then this could mean several things (click for captions):

When you’re describing numbers, you must describe numbers. Remember that numbers are represented by statistics words: number, amount, percentage,rate, ratio, etc. If you do not use one of these words then your writing becomes very difficult to follow, and obviously this affects your IELTS score.

Don’t forget the whole!

The graph illustrates information about the results of a poll of theatregoers regarding disturbances during theatre performances. In general the 4 most disturbing problems are coughing, rustling sweet papers, whispering and arriving late. Their percentages stand at above 50%.

Thanks to the context setting at the start of the essay, I can see that 50% means 50% of the  theatregoers who took part in the poll. But it’s not immediately obvious and I had to read the opening a second time to make sure I understood what you meant. If a text is difficult to understand then it will receive a low score in IELTS for coherence and cohesion (CC). In the example above it can also affect your score for task achievement (TA), because you don’t really say anything meaningful about ‘50%‘. (See IELTS Task 1 Writing public band descriptors)


A good strategy to introduce and develop percentages in IELTS Task 1 can be seen in this extract from an article in The Economist (analysis below):

Data collected by USC Annenberg (University of Southern California) demonstrate that the “hyper-sexualisation” of men in films has increased substantially in less than a decade. Of the 100 top-grossing films at the US box-office in 2007, 4.6% of male characters [1] were seen dressed in “sexualised attire” and 6.6% [2] were shown “with some nudity”. In 2014 those figures stood at 8.0% and 9.1% [3]. 2013 marked the highest point of this trend (the year that “Man of Steel”, featuring Mr Cavill, was released), with 9.7% of male characters [4] shot in sexually alluring clothing, and 11.7% [5] taking some—or all—of their kit off on film.

That said, Mr Cavill and Mr Harington would do well to remember that these figures are paltry when compared to those of actresses. In 2014, 27.9% of female characters [6] wore ‘sexy’ clothing and 26.4% [7] exposed their chests, legs, or other body parts on camera: they are roughly three times more likely to be objectified on screen than men.

(source)

What is ‘good’ about this reporting of percentages?

[1] The first percentage is expressed using the following pattern:

x% + of + noun (‘male characters’) + verb (‘were seen dressed..’)

Notice that the reader knows exactly what is meant by ‘male characters thanks to the clear context setting of the opening sentence. Setting a context like this makes your writing coherent. When you use this structure you explicitly state the ‘whole’ – in this case ‘male characters’.

[2] The second percentage obviously also applies to ‘male characters’, and so there is no need to repeat ‘..of male characters’.

[3] ‘Those figures’ signals back to the previous two percentages, which we understand refer to ‘male characters’. Notice the structure:

past time expression (‘In 2014’) + subject (‘those figures’) + ‘stood at‘ + x%

[4] ..follows the structure:

x% + ofnoun (‘male characters’)

[5] is in the same sentence as [4], and so we can assume the figure also refers to ‘male characters’.

[6] ..follows the structure:

x% of + noun (‘female characters’).

We’re not surprised to read ‘female characters’ because this new context was set in the opening sentence of the paragraph. Again, this context setting makes your writing both cohesive and coherent since you explicitly state the whole (now ‘female characters’).

[7] is in the same sentence as [6], and so we can assume the figure also refers to ‘female characters’, which is the new context of this second paragraph.

Whatever you do..

Make sure your first mention of a percentage includes an explicit reference to the whole:

x% of + noun (the whole)


Would anybody like to try and re-write the text about theatregoers to make the ‘50%’ figure mean what it’s supposed to mean? Answers in comments below! 🙂


PS. Another example of what I’m talking about just came to my attention:

Researchers identified 990 fatal shootings in 2015 – more than twice as many as had ever been recorded in a single year by the federal government – and Washington Post data journalists and graphic designers built an interactive, searchable database detailing those incidents.

A team of Washington Post reporters dug into the data and revealed that most of those who died were white men armed with guns who were killed by police in threatening circumstances. But The Post also uncovered some troubling patterns: A quarter of those killed were suicidal or had a history of mental illness. More than 50 of the officers involved had killed before. And while only 9 percent of people killed by police were not armed, unarmed black men were seven times more likely than whites to die by police gunfire.

source: Washington Post

Only 37% student?!

AAS students which have just about 37% students, submit assignments on time.

You seem to be saying that AAS students are not completely AAS students – 63% of each AAS student is not an AAS student!?

Perhaps you mean:

  • AAS students, who represent just about 37% of all students, submit assignments on time.

You are much more likely to make sense if you construct a noun phrase in which your percentage number is followed by ‘of’:

x% + of + ‘the whole’(???) + verb + etc.

Make sure you state the whole explicitly. For example if you are discussing male and female representation among students, then the ‘whole’ is students. If you want to say that 50% of students are female, do not write 50% of females are students. For a more detailed look at what I mean by the ‘whole’, take a look at my post Don’t forget the whole.

Use this structure with the first two or three numbers that apply to each new theme that you introduce and your reader will understand what the numbers refer to. You will also receive a good score in IELTS in all four assessment criteria (see public band descriptors).