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IELTS Vocabulary

Vocabulary and Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 1

July 5, 2018

Vocabulary and Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 1

Do you know how to prepare yourself for the IELTS Speaking Paper? Follow these tips and learn this vocabulary and you will improve your confidence (and score) on Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Exam.

First, three useful tips . . .

Vocabulary and Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 1

#1: Be able to describe where you are from and your job with 100% confidence.

Imagine this: A student works in the Human Resources office of a department in her government. When she comes to the U.S., she is not sure if the U.S. has the same department. She also is unsure of the translation of her government department into English. When she takes the IELTS exam, she cannot confidently talk about her career.

What a shame! Avoid this by making sure you can describe where you are from and what you do.


#2: Anticipate questions about your career and hometown and then use impressive phrasal verbs and idioms.

Saying where you are from and what you do for a living takes 5 seconds. What happens when you do not have the vocabulary to say more than “My name is _____. I am from _______. I am a ______”?

Before the test, make sure that you can speak about your hometown, describe it confidently, and talk about yourself using natural expressions. For example:

“My name is Amina. I was born in Lebanon but I grew up* in Germany. I am sort of the black sheep** of my family because I’m the only one who came to the U.S. to study: the rest of my siblings*** studied in the UK.”

*grew up: advance to maturity
** black sheep: something that is different within a group of things that are the same
*** siblings: brothers and sisters 

#3: Use natural expressions

Sometimes, students say that they feel like a robot during the speaking test. This is common when you do not have the small words and expressions that you use in your native language(s). The vocabulary below will help you speak more naturally. 

Vocabulary and Tips for IELTS Speaking Part 1

Vocabulary for IELTS Speaking Part 1

Talking about yourself

  • Your past. I grew up in (place), which is . . .  
  • Your job. I am (currently/presently) . . .
  • Where you live now. I’ve been living in (place) for (blank years/month).
  • Current plans. At the moment, I’m taking classes at . . . and . . .
  • Future plans. I’m hoping to . . .
  • Future plans. I’m planning on . . .


Asking for repetition

  • Could you please repeat the question?
  • One more time?
  • I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Would you mind repeating?



Inserting natural phrases

  • Well, I’d have to say that . . .
  • It’s tough to say, but I’d . . .
  • In my opinion, . . .


Negative statements

  • I’m not so sure that . . .
  • I’m not convinced that . . .
  • To be perfectly honest, I . . .
  • Between the two of us, . . .



  • For example, . . .
  • As an example, . . .
  • For instance, . . .
  • Perhaps you’re aware of . . .



  • What’s weird is . . .
  • Something surprising is . . .
  • One thing I never expected was . . .
  • Never in a million years did I . . .
  • I’m not ashamed to admit that . . .
  • Many are surprised to hear that . . .
  • It’s common knowledge that . . .


CISL San Diego IELTS Uncategorized

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

September 11, 2017

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

Are you planning to take the IELTS exam? Don’t stress: we have all of the tips you need to pass the test. Follow these recommendations and learn how to pass the IELTS exam.

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

Know the test format

This may sound obvious, but it’s very important. The IELTS test is long: it lasts many hours and has many parts and questions types. Know what is expected of you before you take the test. This will improve your confidence, your efficiency, and your score.

How to do this:

  • Take an IELTS preparation course.
  • Complete many practice tests.
  • Read the IELTS website for information about the test.

Have some strategies ready

Of course, you still can practice English that is specific to the test. For example, in the writing section, learn how to write a good thesis with predictors, how to begin your essay with an effective hook, and how to use a colon and semicolon. You can also study some useful idioms, slang, phrasal verbs, and vocabulary words to speak about yourself, your family, your education, and your future goals: these are common topics for the IELTS Speaking Part 1.

How to do this:

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

Practice the speaking exam

Don’t just practice speaking: practice the exact speaking exam. At CISL, students have mock (pretend) speaking tests that prepare them for this portion of IELTS. You will be surprised at how nervous you are, even when you are taking a practice test! After several practice exams, student confidence and scores improve greatly thanks to practice and teacher feedback. Don’t miss this important step.

How to do this:

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

Manage your time wisely

The IELTS test is long, but with so many questions and sections, students always find themselves pressed for time. Know how long each part of the test is and approximately how long each section will take you and you will manage your time better: this will allow you to spend more time on the sections that need more attention.

How to do this:

  • Practice makes perfect! The only way to know this information is to take several practice tests.

Learn English, not IELTS

Remember, the idea of preparing for IELTS is to improve your English (not just pass the exam)! Learn to love English, put some passion into learning the language, and enjoy. This will improve your relationship with the language . . . and your score will most definitely improve.

How to do this:

  • Consider studying for the IELTS exam in an English-speaking country.
  • Make friends who speak English.
  • Immerse yourself in English: change your phone to English, watch movies in English, and listen to some podcasts in English.
  • Read every day in English: make it a habit!

How to Pass the IELTS Exam

CISL San Diego offers intensive IELTS preparation classes for students of intermediate and advanced levels. The CISL small-class policy (never more than 8 students per class) allows students to improve their English and IELTS skills quickly, with more attention from the teacher and excellent feedback from qualified instructors. Contact CISL for information on IELTS classes in San Diego, California. 

Academic English Academic Year Abroad Cambridge Exams EAP IELTS Listening Practice TOEFL University Pathway

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

July 22, 2017

Forget listening to podcasts about learning English: instead, learn about English through podcasts about interesting subjects! If you need to improve your academic English skills for the American college or university setting, spend some time listening to these fascinating podcasts about science, the humanities, culture, and technology.

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Astronomy Cast

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Travel through space all learn all about the cosmos! Where did the Earth’s water come from? Do planets have seasons? How can you make a telescope at home? Who are some famous astronomers throughout history? Hosts Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela L. Gay answer questions you’ve always had about the universe.

National Public Radio (NPR)

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Science, news, comedy, education, culture, technology: take your pick! NPR has many award-winning, well researched and well produced podcasts on various subjects. The content will keep you interested as you improve your listening skills with one speaker, two speaker, three speaker, and interview style recordings.

NASA Science Casts

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

NASA offers many podcasts on different subjects. Some focus more on specific projects (such as the Space to Ground podcast about the International Space Station), some focus on education (check out The Beautiful Universe), and others are news-focused, like This Week@NASA.



5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Philosophy, history, science, and the human experience come together in RadioLab, and incredible podcast produced by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Converse International School of Languages offers English courses in San Diego and San Francisco, California. Improve your English through CISL’s small, eight-student classes: students can choose from Standard English, Intensive English, or specific courses such as TOEFL Preparation, IELTS Preparation, Cambridge Exam Preparation, and English for Academic Purposes. After EAP, students can attend college in the U.S. through CISL’s Academic Year Abroad and Pathway programs. 

Academic English Cambridge Exams EAP Featured IELTS TOEFL Writing

Exam Prep Writing: Beginning an Essay with an Effective Hook

December 16, 2016

Many writers (both native English speakers and English learners) agree that beginning the essay is often the most difficult part. For English proficiency exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge FCE and CAE, this is certainly the case!

Take a look at this sample TOEFL Agree/Disagree statement. How would you begin an essay? (For tips on TOEFL Agree/Disagree, check out our article that contains useful hints.)


Learn more TOEFL Writing Tips (and how to construct an Agree/Disagree essay) on the CISL Blog.

Writing Prompt:

Do you agree or disagree with the statement below?

There is nothing that younger people can teach older people. 

Use specific examples to support your arguments. 

Would you know how to begin an essay on this topic? Learn how to write a great “hook” (first sentence) and you will not have this problem again!

Students Writing

A strongly written essay will also include conjunctions: learn about how to use them effectively in our article about Coordinating Conjunctions.

Using the hook in writing

A “hook” is given its name because it hooks the reader. It’s the first sentence, and it entices the reader to continue through the paragraph and essay.

There are many types of hooks. Let’s look at a few.

Hook 1: A Question

Begin your essay by posing a question to your reader. It gets them thinking!

Example 1: Have you ever had a teacher who was younger than you?

Example 2: We become wiser as we get older . . . but can we learn from those who have experienced less of life?

Example 3: Have you ever had a teacher who was younger than you?

Hook 2: An anecdote

An anecdote is a personal story. Writing sections of proficiency exams ask you to use specific examples to support your opinion: with an anecdote, you are beginning with one!

Example 1: I will never forget walking into the classroom and seeing Vlad: even with his kind face, I thought to myself, “How can I teach someone who is significantly older than me?.” It turns out, I could.

Example 2: I’ve learned so much from my teachers and professors in elementary school, high school, and college . . . but I may have learned the most from my experience as teaching assistant to small children.

Example 3: Can the students be the teacher? I certainly think so after volunteering at a local elementary school.

Hook 3: A fact

In a test setting, it might be difficult to remember an exact fact or statistic. However, this is useful if you are writing research essays at home and can access a library or a computer. Even without a computer, this can still be a possible hook: check out some of these examples.

Example 1: You must complete four years of college and two years of additional training to become a high school teacher.

Example 2: Most companies ask for “2-5 years experience” from applicants.


Familiarize yourself with the many prompts you can get in TOEFL with our article on the Types of TOEFL Writing Prompts.

Hook 4: Set a scene

Grab their attention: tell a story! The reader will continue reading just to hear your ending!

Example 1: Jason watched as George slowly typed on the computer keyboard, carefully pushing one key at a time while looking confused and dismayed. “Can I help you?” Jason asked. “Sure,” George replied. “I’m trying to email my daughter a photo, but I don’t know how to attach it. This email thing is so confusing to me.”

Example 2: Looking around the classroom, Anna completed her lecture. “And that is how you publish your own webpage. Any questions?” A student in the back, a middle-aged gentleman with wire-rimmed glasses, raised his hand. “Just one question,” he said. “How did you learn all of this before learning how to drive?” The class laughed, and so did Anna. “Well,” Anna said, “I studied programming in high school and was well-versed in coding before I entered college last year.”

Hook 5: A quote

Without access to a computer, it might be difficult to remember exact quotes from famous individuals. However, your quote does not have to be from someone famous.

Example: “Yoga until you’re 90,” Sindhu kept saying during our yoga teacher training. With this in mind, we learned the best ways to practice yoga without putting strain on our bodies. Little did I know, in a few months my students would actually be near 90: I was soon to take a volunteer position as a yoga teacher for a retirement community in my town.

Hook 6: Your thesis!

Your thesis is the main idea of your paper. If you don’t feel like writing a catchy or creative hook, then begin your paper with your thesis. This direct approach is often very effective!

To write a powerful and concise thesis, check out our article on How to Write a Thesis with Predictors.

Example 1: I am a firm believer that everyone has something to offer, regardless of age; therefore, it is my opinion that the young have much to offer the elderly in regard to education.

Student Studying Writing Computer

Do you know how to write a thesis? Check out our article Writing a Thesis with Predictors for tips!

Hook 7: A misconception

Example 1: Many believe that the youth of today are misguided, self-centered, and irresponsible, and therefore have little to offer in regard to educating the wiser elderly population.

For more information on CISL’s intensive TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge CAE and FCE classes, check out CISL’s website.

Featured IELTS Learning Materials Listening Practice

IELTS Writing Part II + Lyrics Training

August 30, 2016

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
― Albert Einstein

Would you like to use music to improve your English? We suggest an incredible website, Lyrics Training!

With this website, you can watch music videos from some of the most popular artists. Under the video are the lyrics, but words are missing. You add the words while the music plays, and Lyrics Training will keep score to see how well you do! Players can choose different levels, such as Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, so that they can play at the appropriate level.

image1 IMG_1659

Check it out!

It’s incredible how the internet has changed language learning. The internet has also changed many things about the entertainment industry. We are looking at this topic, along with the IELTS Writing Part II.

IELTS Writing Part II

With the IELTS Writing Task 2, you must write a minimum of 250 words.

You are given a prompt (a topic). In the essay, the IELTS committee will see how well you:

  • Give an opinion and justify this opinion with reasoning, facts, etc.
  • Discuss a topic
  • Summarize details
  • Illustrate problems and provide solutions
  • Support all of this reasoning by presenting arguments, personal examples, etc.

In short, you must approach a topic, discuss it at length, and present an opinion or solutions.

Let’s look at some Writing Task 2 sample topics.


In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). You should use your personal experience, which would probably include:

  • If your government censors music.
  • Other types of censorship you’ve experience (did your parents censor the TV or computer when you were a child?)
  • Violence that you’ve encountered in movies, film, or video games.

In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). Your answer will probably include discussions on:

  • The laws on what minors can and can’t do in your country
  • Any examples you have of singers/performers who reached fame at any early age
  • Your government’s influence on matters such as these


Your answer might include the following:

  • How you obtain your music (do you download? Watch online? Buy CDs? Why?)
  • The laws your country currently has regarding illegally downloading music or movies
  • A discussion about who owns the internet and who can police it

For more information on the IELTS exam, check out the following:

 Cover photo from Shutterstock.