5 Cool Idioms for your IELTS exam

Using idiomatic language is a unique way to impress your examiner. Check these 5 idioms out…

1) “As easy as pie” or “Piece of cake”


When something is easy as pie, that means it is easy to do.

Sentence: I like to do Maths than most students because they say it is difficult, but for me, it is as easy as pie.

2) “Not my cup of tea”

Something that is not easy for you to do, like a skill.

Sentence: I tried skating many times at Alau Ice centre but I never did it well because it is not my cup of tea.

3) “In a nut shell”

Most of us in Russian say na karochi,..well next time all you have to say is “In a nutshell” when you want to summarize.

Sentence 1: Give me the facts in a nut-shell

Sentence 2: In a nut shell, you need to eat more because your quite skinny.

4) “Couch potato”

A couch potato is one who watches TV and does nothing all day. A lazy person.

Sentence 1: Tom isn’t even trying to find a new job, whats more he’s become a couch potato.

5) “Fish out of the water” 

Not feeling comfortable with something or a situation.

Sentence 1: In my first job, I always felt like a fish out of water because I didn’t know what I had to do.

How to write your Introduction – Writing Task II

Now this week I thought I would write a simple post about Introductions for Writing tasks. Those of you in my class should kind of know how to write a good introduction.

What’s the best way to write one? Most students write. “I am going to talk to you about…..”

If your thinking of writing the sentence above, Don’t…..yes….please don’t.

Here are 3 ways I think makes a good Intro.

1) Use a quote.

If you know a quote that you can link to your introduction. Use it as a starter to your essay. For example. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is often said by parents and teachers. However do we really follow this in the modern world, some people say…..
So you guessed our topic is related to unhealthy eating, obesity, health problems etc.

2) Use an example

Writing task 2 is all about examples in one way. So start your answer describing your essay with your experience. For example, if your talking about “Why capital punishment should be abolished ?. You can say:
In 1950, a US citizen convicted of murder was later found by investigators to be innocent 20 years after his sentence when they reopened the case. This shows that ….

3) Use a statistic 

“7 out of eight people in Japan were found to have started smoking by the age of 10”. This now grips your readers and they want to read your opinion. Don’t invent statistics, it is better if you write what you know already or something you read in a quality newspaper.

So now you know how to start your awesome essay of awesome-ness.

All the best my dear students and fellow readers.

For more information on IELTS writing task click here: www.ieltspodcast.com/ielts-writing-task/ielts-writing-start-ielts-writing-task-2/


Writing Task 2 – What Type Of Questions Will I get?

For this section of the IELTS Academic Writing Paper you have to write an essay of about 250 words in length.

The time you have to do this in is approximately 40 minutes, therefore just like Writing Task 1, a good structure will help you write a good essay in this short time.

What type of essay questions are there?

There are basically THREE different types of essay question that you might get in Writing Task 2 of the IELTS:
1) Agree or Disagree – This can also be called an Opinion Essay.
2) Problem/Solution – This can also be called Cause/Effect Essay.
3) Discussion – This can also be called an Argument Essay.

How do I know which essay it is?

Step 1

When attempting WRITING Task 2 is to identify and understand what question it is, so you can write an appropriate structure for it and answer the question.

Look at the following essay question and decide which essay type it is:

Television is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in today’s society. However, watching television is said to be bad for children. To what extent do you agree or disagree? Write an essay of about 250 words and state your own opinion.

You can usually tell what type of essay it is because of certain words. Sometimes, though, this is a little more difficult.

A: Identifying Agree/Disagree or Opinion Essays

Words that tell you the essay question is an Agree/Disagree one are:
•    Agree
•    Disagree
•    Statement
•    One Opinion or View
•    To what extent

Another way you can tell whether the essay question is an Agree/Disagree one, is that there is ONLY ONE opinion or statement about the IELTS topic. Look at the examples below and see if you can work out what the ONE opinion is.

1) Sport is popular in countries all over the world. However, professional sports people especially football players earn too much money. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? Write approximately 250 words and support the answer with your opinion.

2) Competition for jobs in today’s society has got more difficult. A university education is the only way to guarantee a well-paid job. Do you agree with this view? Write approximately 250 words to support your answer.

Hopefully you should now be able to identify an Agree/Disagree Essay question for Writing Task 2.

B: Identifying Problem/Solution or Cause/Effect Essays

Words that tell you the essay question is a Problem/Solution one are:
•    Problem/Issue/Concern/Difficulty
•    Solution/Answer/Remedy
•    Cause/Reason
•    Effect/Result/Consequence

Look at the following examples and identify the words which tell you they are Problem/Solution essays:

1) With an ever growing population, congestion has become a real problem in many cities all over the world. What do you think are some of the reasons why this is true? What solutions can you think of to ease it? Write approximately 250 words and give your own opinion to support your answer.

2) Illiteracy is a global concern. Many adults cannot read and write. What consequences do you think this has for them and how do you think we can remedy the situation? Write about 250 words to explain your answer.

3) Truancy is an issue in teenagers in today’s society. The law states that everybody should go to school, yet children still are still absent for long periods of time. What do you think are some of the causes of this? What suggestions can you give to stop this social problem? Write approximately 250 words and express your opinion too.

C: Identifying Discuss or Argument Essays

There are quite a few words that tell you that the essy question is a Discuss/Argument Essay:
•    Discuss/Compare
•    Advantages/Disadvantages
•    For/Against
•    Positive/Negatives
•    Some people think, others believe
•    Benefits/Drawbacks

Another way in which you can recognise that the essay question is a Discuss/Argument one is that unlike Agree/Disagree which only has ONE Opinion or View, there are TWO Views or Opinions in these essay questions.

Look at the examples below and see if you can work out what the TWO different Views or Opinions are:

1) Technology is growing at a very quick rate. As a result more and more people are using the internet which is according to them, advantageous. However, there are many drawbacks to using this innovation. What is your opinion? Write about 250 words to support your answer.



2) Vegetarianism is becoming very popular nowadays among many teenagers. Some people believe that is a healthy choice for the youth of today, while other people think it is an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Compare these two contrasting views and give your own opinion. Write about 250 words.

These are the 3 main types of closed essay question which you might get in WRITING TASK 2.

There are others, which are called Open Essay Questions.

An example of one of these is:

Is Television ruining our lives? Discuss. Write 250 words to support your answer.

This could be an Agree/Disagree or Discuss/Argument question. It is up to you how you want to write it and that is why it is called an Open Essay Question.
Lesson Summary

In this lesson you have learnt that there are three different types of essay question that you might get in your Writing Task 2 and that the most important step is to be able to recognise them.
•    Agree/Disagree or Opinion essays have 1 opinion or view and can be recognised by words such as agree, disagree, opinion, statement.
•    Problem/Solution or Cause/Effect essays can be recognised by words such as issue, concern, remedy, suggestions, reasons, consequences and result.
•    Discuss or Argument essays have 2 opinions or views and can be recognised by words such as advantages, disadvantages, positive, negative, for, against, some people think, other people think.
•    Open Essay questions, however, can be answered both as an agree/disagree or discuss essay.

Imagine you are sitting down in your IELTS exam. You have written your Writing Task 1. Now you turn the page and find this essay question for Writing Task 2. Identify which type of question it is:

Writing Task 2:
The recession is a global concern. There are people who believe it has positive effects, while other people who have a different view which is that of pessimism. What is your opinion? Write approximately 250 words to support your answer.



For more info on IELTS writing task click here: www.ieltspodcast.com/ielts-writing-task/ielts-writing-start-ielts-writing-task-2/

How to learn english fast – Focus on phrases, not vocabulary

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to take a moment today and talk about a strategy for learning new languages fast.

I’ve been learning languages for the past 12 years. I started by learning Russian. Then, when I met my wife who moved to Canada at the age of thirteen from switzerland, I started learning german & italian. She speaks three languages fluently.

My approach with russian was straight forward as I worked in a fabrication ship where half of the employees were imigrants from Russia. I didn’t start by picking up a book on russian that was full of vocabulary,  grammar rules and phrases. Instead, I learned by asking my co-workers how to say something that I could use and then I would use it with them on a daily basis. Sayings like ‘How do I do this’, or ‘how do I say this’, ‘where can find this’ and so on.

From there I started asking more vocabulary specific questions. After a few short months I was speaking half in Russian and half in english at work. Eventually though, it was time to take my russian to another level and start with a tutor. Fortunately, the wife of one of the Russians I worked with was a teacher in Russia for many years. I started taking lessons with her on a regular basis.

After 2 years of working at that job I finally left to pursue a trade in another industry.  I stopped using and learning russian for about three years until there was a family in our neighborhood who moved from germany to Canada. Their native language was russian but they also spoke german well. They however didn’t speak any english at the time. L

This was great for me! I now had a chance to use my russian again and learn more. Initially I was very unpracticed and found it difficult to recall much of what I had learned. So, I started my studies again and practiced with them. My approach this time was to use a flashcard program that had thousands of russian phrases. I practised everyday, making a concerted effort to use as much as I learned with my new russian friends. Today, my russian once again is unpracticed and difficult for me due to the fact that I Don’t use it as much.

With german and especially italian, I took two very different approaches. My german I learned fast, again by learning phrases instead of vocabulary. My advantage this time though, was that my wife spoke these languages fluently as well. More importantly, her family spoke only german or italian and lived in those repective countries. So, I had lots of native speakers to practice with.

When learning italian I stopped learning by phrases and started learning grammar rules and vocabulary.  For years it was a slow and painful process. I asked myself, why does italian seem to be much more dificult? Then I realized it was because my method was impractical.

Once again, I changed my method and started learning phrases instead of  words and grammar. I often get complimented on my italian, especially when speaking to italians outside of italy. I am by no means perfect, but my ideas are expressed much clearer and I am well understood.


How to use English idioms – Back into shape

Back into shape…

Getting ‘back into shape’ typically refers to returning to one’s former state of health. To get back into shape would involve exercise. When you hear this idiom spoken, the speaker will likely be referring to exercise. This expression however, is not limited to exercise or returning to one’s former state of health.


Referring to education a student whose grades have suffered and need improvement, could say ‘I need to get my grades back into shape’. Or perhaps, a teacher might say of her students: ‘I’ve allowed my students to fall behind in their courses. It’s my goal to get themback into shape this semester’.


A coach of a sports team might notice that his team has been performing badly in the last few games. He may say, referring to his team, ‘My team has not been performing well these last few games. I’m going to whip them back into shape!’


When using this to refer to yourself and your fitness or health goals, you could say ‘This has been a horrible year for my health. It’s time for me to get back into shape!’. Around new years many people set goals for themselves. Often the goals they set are related to fitness and health. Referring to your ‘new years’ goals, you could say ‘My new years goal for 2016 is getting back into shape


You could also use ‘back into shape’ to refer to objects instead of people. A homeowner might look at the bad state of his home and say ‘My home has seen a lot of wear. It’s going to take a lot of work to get it back into shape’.
A mechanic might look at a customers car and tell him ‘Your vehicle is in rough shape. Give me a couple of days with it. I’ll get it back into shape for you’.

Why you should use spaced repetition to learn English

As I mentioned in a previous article on the “top 6 tips to mastering English”, one of the best systems for remembering vocabulary is spaced repetition. This doesn’t apply strictly to vocabulary though.

Spaced repetition can be used to memorize a variety of information. We’ll look at using spaced repetition to remember phrases in the English language.

First of all, what is the value of learning phrases as opposed to vocabulary? While learning words is key to understanding written and spoken English, learning phrases will dramatically help you to improve your grammar. In fact, if you have difficulty remembering verb tenses, memorizing phrases will help you to dramatically improve.

What is spaced repetition?

To expand on my previous article, spaced repetition is a method that helps you to move knowledge and information from your short term memory to your long term memory.

When looking at a list of words, it is easy enough to remember it 5 even 10 minutes later, but would you remember it the following day? Week? or month? Likely not.

The key to spaced repetition is in how you review your word or phrase lists.

For reviewing phrases, keep your lists to a maximum of 20 phrases. Take this phrase list and review right now. In 10 minutes review it again, then 30 minutes from now, then 1 hour, 3 hours an 6 hours later. The next day, review the list twice. The following day, review the list once. And, for the following month review your list every few days until you are confident in your recollection of these phrases.

What tools should I use?

There are a number of flashcard like applications that you can find for your computer and mobile devices. These programs are very effective if used regularly.

At the moment, the website I use is Learn With Oliver. There are a few supported languages for those learning English. Though, the best part of the application is that you can choose the frequency of the words in your list based on your comfort.

Using online applications are great for their convenience and accessibility. If you have WiFi, you can review these flashcards any where.

My personal favorite though, is creating my own flashcards using pen and paper or index cards. There seems to be this link between using your hands to improve your memory. This is why I recommend writing them out by hand to help in the memorizing process.

I know of some language learners that carry a notebook with them. They use this notebook to fill in phrases and vocabulary. They carry it everywhere and when they are waiting in traffic, at the doctors office or at work while on their break, they pull out their notebook and review the information that they put in it.

The other option is to record yourself or preferably a native English speaker and listen to the audio while you are on the move. A great tool for recording yourself is Audacity. I use this program to record materials for my students to review. I also know of lots of other teachers that do the same.

ANKI is another great tool that you can use to create or download English flashcards. It’s available to use on Android, iPhone or your Computer. I use this program on occasion.

Another great website to use is LingQ. This site was created by Steve Kaufmann who is renowned in the language learning community as an expert. Steve has learned more than 10 languages in his lifetime. He also shares with people how they can learn languages at any age. You can find him on YouTube or at his Blog. Steve is also great at answering questions that his followers have.


Whatever tools or method you use to master English, remember, it is consistency that is the most important factor.

Never be afraid to ask for help or advice either, especially form those that have learned and mastered English. Everyone who has mastered English has done so because of their own unique approach. Learning what these approaches are can help you to craft your own method of learning English.


Answering questions – Products

An ‘offering’ is any service or product you sell or give away to a prospective client.

If you have a job selling products door to door or at a kiosk, then being able to describe your product is very important.

Let’s take a look at a few questions you may be asked and how you can answer them.

1. How long have you been selling this product?

Answer: I have been selling this product for over 2 years.

2. How long is the warranty?

Answer: The warranty is good for 2 years. Bring it back to this store and you will receive a new one free of charge.

3. Do you have any reviews of this product?

Answer: Yes, we have excellent reviews! You can find them at http://www.xyzcompany.com/reviews.

4. How long does your product take to deliver? Or When will I receive my product?

Answer: You will receive your product in 3 to 5 days. It will be delivered directly to your home.

5. Can I have my product sooner?

Answer: yes, if you pay an extra $15 we can ship it express and you will have it in 1 to 2 business days.

6. Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Answer: You can contact me directly at this number …….. or you can phone our toll free number at xxx.xxx.xxxx 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

As you can see, your answers can be short and to the point.

If you have other questions you would like to know how to answer in english then please contact me directly at tyson.london@hotmail.com.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list for more great english phrases regularly.

Also, if you haven’t booked your free 20 minute session in conversational or business english then don’t forget to do so by visiting our home page.

If you would like to have regular ESL sessions with a professional english teacher then consider one of our value packages.

Thanks for reading!

Tyson London

How to answer interview questions in english – Why did you leave your last job? Pt. 1

Let’s examine a question that is asked in every interview if you’ve had a job previous to the one you’re interviewing for.

Why did you leave your last job?

The interviewer wants to know the reason you no longer work at your previous job.

You can answer this question in several ways. What I’m going to show you is how to use more than just basic phrases.

If you were fired, you could say ‘I was fired!’. I would highly recommend you don’t respond this way. When you use the word ‘fired’ it has a negative meaning. It also implies that it was your fault.

Instead,  you can replace this phrase with ‘I was let go’. When you say ‘let go’, its not a negative thing. ‘Let go’ isn’t negative because it doesn’t imply that it was your fault. You can explain further by saying, ‘My position was no longer available, so i was let go’.

Here are some other explanations you can use.

‘The company i worked for had a change in management, so my position was no longer available.’

‘My department was disolved, so they let me go.’

‘They decided to go a diferent direction with a new employee, so i was let go’
There can be several reasons that an employee is let go. It’s important to use language that doesn’t carry a negative undertone. I’m sure if you apply this you’ll be well on your way to a great interview.

The best way to improve your english interview skills is to practice with a native speaker. After all, the reason many people learn english is to find a better paying job or to become more employable. If you have any questions about our business interview courses then visit our enrol page and fill out our form.

In the next article we’ll discuss how to answer the same question if you quit your last job.

As always, drop us a line if you have any questions or would like to see an article on a subject that interests you.