What’s the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’?

In IELTS, using vocabulary precisely is very important for getting a high score in lexical rescource. Affect and effect are often used incorrectly even by native speakers!

Lets look at the difference between these and how can they be used in a sentence accurately.

They are not exactly synonyms, they are homophones, which means they sound the same but are spelt differently. There are some exceptions when affect can be used as a verb or effect used as a noun, but generally speaking these are the rules below:

Affect is a verb   –   Effect is a noun

Read moreWhat’s the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’?

Learning New Vocabulary

Tips and points to consider for learning new vocabulary in IELTS.

I often get asked about the best way to learn new words that can be used in IELTS essays or the speaking section. I have not given any word lists on my website because I believe that vocabulary building is your responsibility, it is something that you will have to work on over a period of time.

One of the worst things you could ever do when studying IELTS is to just memorise lists of words and then randomly put those words into your writing, the same goes for speaking.

Read moreLearning New Vocabulary

IELTS Writing: Keeping it simple

Being concise and keeping it simple.

If someone asked me for my advice about the the best way to approach the IELTS essay tasks, I would say keep it simple and concise. I correct a lot of IELTS essays but the one thing that stands out is that so many IELTS students are trying too hard to use  ‘complex sentences’ and completely miss the point and end up using ‘complicated sentences’ that the reader would have trouble understanding.

Read moreIELTS Writing: Keeping it simple

Personal Pronouns in IELTS Essays

Can you use personal pronouns in IELTS Essays?

This is a question I have been asked a few times and there is some confusion even among IELTS teachers about this. The quick answer is that it is fine to use personal pronouns in IELTS essays. There is nothing in the marking criteria that says you should not use them either. As long as they are kept to a minimum that is ok.

Read morePersonal Pronouns in IELTS Essays

Using Collocations in IELTS

IELTS collocationsLearning collocations are highly recommended.

Some of the most important vocabulary needed for IELTS writing are collocations. These are essential for a higher score. Basically, collocations are 2 or 3 words that commonly go together and sound just right to a native speaker. For some tips on building your vocabulary take a look at this blog post here. If you do not know how to use collocations then they will sound or look ‘wrong’ to a native speaker .

For example if you go shopping, ‘use money’ sounds strange. The correct word is to ‘spend money‘ or if someone speaks in a loud way I can’t say he has a ‘big voice‘ I need to say he has a ‘loud voice’ or maybe he has a ‘big mouth‘ to describe him as arrogant , not a ‘large mouth‘. When I want to relax in the evening I wouldn’t ‘look at a movie‘ I would ‘watch a movie‘…. and so on.

Read moreUsing Collocations in IELTS

How to use Cohesive Devices effectively

Guide to Linking and Cohesion in IELTS.

One of the most important skills for getting a good score in the IELTS writing exam, is the way cohesive devices or linking devices are used. In the marking criteria for task 2 essays and Writing task 1 reports, Coherence and Cohesion accounts for 25% of your marks, therefore it is important to have an essay that flows naturally and is easy for the reader to understand. A key component of this is cohesive devices, however, use them correctly and sparingly.

Read moreHow to use Cohesive Devices effectively

IELTS Grammar: How to use complex sentences

Writing Complex Sentences in IELTS.

It is important to use some ‘complex sentences’ in IELTS writing task 2 otherwise you are unlikely to get a band 6.5 or above. However, not all of your sentences have to be  ‘complex’ you need to use simple sentences too. Remember that grammar accounts for 25% of your marks in the writing tasks but there is some confusion in IELTS about what a ‘complex sentence’ actually is.

Read moreIELTS Grammar: How to use complex sentences

IELTS Reading: Guessing meaning from context

Learn about the most important skill in IELTS reading.

In the IELTS reading exam you can’t look up words in a dictionary, and you don’t have the time to understand every word. Another point is that you shouldn’t read the whole text as you just won’t have the time.

Understanding where to find the answers and spotting how words are paraphrased is a crucial skill. The reading section is really about vocabulary, so it is absolutely crucial that you work on developing your vocabulary. Guessing meaning from context is another very important skill to develop for IELTS.

In this lesson we will look at:

1. What exactly is guessing meaning from context?
2. Example of how this skill works.
3. Why is this skill so important?.
4. Useful techniques for guessing meaning from context.
5. You can try, exercise on guessing the meaning from context.

1. What exactly is guessing meaning from context?

If you don’t understand a word, you will need to look at the information around that word. This means looking at the sentences before the difficult word and the sentences after it. Another method is to look at the paragraph before and after to get a better idea of what the meaning could be. The context is the surrounding information in the text or the theme of the text.

Native speakers also have trouble understanding certain words from the reading text in IELTS, however, it is possible to make an accurate guess. The title of the text will also give you a good idea of what the word could mean.

Key point: You do not have to understand every word in the IELTS reading texts and you shouldn’t read the whole text.

2. Example of guessing the meaning from context.

Blue= context    Red = unknown word

The emergency engineers worked on the project for almost two days without a break. By the end of it all, the team were completely drained, after that everyone went home and slept for most of the day.

Can you guess what ‘drained‘ means here…(you probably already know anyway)

If you were working for two days without a break how would you feel? very tired I think.. also the clue: ” …everyone went home and slept for most of the day..”   This shows that “drained ” means very tired.

3. Why is guessing the meaning from context so important?

This is important because you can’t use a dictionary or a phone to look up a new word in the exam, you would not have time to do that anyway. Another reason why it’s important is that you will feel more relaxed about doing the reading section, rather than feeling anxious when you find a new word.

If you are stressed when you come across a new word in the IELTS reading test, then you will panic and have problems completing all the questions in the reading tasks.

4. Useful techniques for guessing the meaning.

1. Words that signal answers in the text:

for instance, such as, a type of, like,  for example, that is.. usually this is followed by a definition or a hint where you can use logic to accurately guess the meaning.

(you can download the full reading here from the British Council)


In the above example, you can get a good idea of the meaning. The word ‘diurnal’ means that animals usually come out in the daytime. We didn’t need a dictionary to guess that one.

Again in the example above you can see a clear definition for the word ‘circadian rhythm’, using the phrase “this is…” and then a definition.

In this example above, the word ‘rouses’ is the unknown word, but there is a time and a hint in the following sentence.. I can guess correctly that ‘rouses’ means gets up or wakes up.. the word eye-blearing is not necessary to understand, its just extra information here.

2. Using opposites and synonyms

Some words in the text show opposites such as: in contrast to, however, although, on the other hand, unlike, despite.. Often this means there is an antonym or opposite phrase which helps to define unknown words.

In the example above the key phrase “in contrast to” shows that the 2 unknown words are opposite when looking at the whole sentence you can get a very good understanding of the meaning.

In this example above you can see how synonyms work.. ‘infuriated’ is a synonym of ‘very angry’.

Here is a very good Youtube video explanation of getting meaning from context with more examples.

Now you can try.

Here is a passage from an IELTS reading (you can download the full reading here from the British Council) Go through the passage without a dictionary and see if you can answer the questions below related to the highlighted words.

Choose the best answer

  1. Futuristic means:
    a) advanced technology    b) science fiction technology    c) scientific
  2. Marine Life means:
    a) people living in boats     b) animals living in the sea      c) animals that come out at night
  3. Creatures means:
    a) insects      b) animals     c) all living things
  4.  Nocturnal means:
    a) animals that come out at night     b) blind animals      c) animals that come out in the day
  5. Crepuscular means:
    a) animals that hibernate     b) animals that come out at midday   c) animals that come out at low light
  6. The passage of means:
    a) the amount of time        b) the length of time         c) the hours in a day
  7.  Identical means:
    a) exactly the same       b) nearly the same         c) a pair
  8. Alert means:
    a) confused       b) sleepy        c) very aware

Answers below

  • Futuristic means:
    a) advanced technology
  • Marine Life means:
    b) animals living in the sea
  • Creatures means:
    c) all living things
  •  Nocturnal means:
    a) animals that come out at night
  • Crepuscular means:
    c) animals that come out at low light
  • The passage of means:
    b) the length of time
  •  Identical means:
    a) exactly the same
  • Alert means:
    c) very aware

Any questions? leave a comment below…

Grammar Lesson: Instead / Instead of / Rather than

Mini Grammar lesson: How to use instead / instead of / rather than.

When writing essays in IELTS task 2 (It also comes in handy for the speaking test) , we often need to use “instead” or “rather than” to show preference, changing trends, opinions or facts. Here are some sentences based on the topic of technology and internet use.

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IELTS Writing task 1: Line graph with a future trend

IELTS graph future trendsWriting about graphs with future trends.

Occasionally in IELTS academic Writing task 1 a task graphs with predictions and future trends may come up.

In this case you need to use the future tense with some specific academic phrases for graphs with a future trend. Let’s have a look at the grammar needed for this kind of graph here. Note that the data in this task is dynamic, that means it changes over time.

Read moreIELTS Writing task 1: Line graph with a future trend