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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Government and the authorities

About Topic 10
The Government and the authorities topic mostly includes law and order, crime and
policing, justice and punishment. Occasionally the Task may refer to ways of managing public services, and relations between countries.

The Tasks may ask about public policy in terms of funding (Eg ‘How should prisons be run –
by governments or by private organisations?’) but will not ask for your political views or about actual events in specific countries.

Topic 10 example Task
Some observers say that police officers should be recruited from the communities where
they work, so that they have local knowledge. Other people say that this is unnecessary, or even undesirable. Where do you stand on this debate? Is local knowledge essential in modern policing?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Opinion>Personal viewpoint Task. You should introduce the topic and give your
opinion in the introduction, then explain why you have this view. You should briefly consider the opposing view, then restate your opinion in the conclusion. The Task has the specific instruction to decide if you think local knowledge is ‘essential,’ so you should refer to this as part of your opinion.

Band 9 model essay
The need for effective, trustworthy police officers is paramount in society today, especially
as criminals become more devious and creative. Regarding whether police should be locally hired, there is a case to be made on both sides of the debate.

Those who support local recruitment of officers point to the need for the police to understand the minutiae of the local community. For example, a community may have certain frictions or a history of a specific grievance, whether religious, political or otherwise. In such situations, the argument goes, the police need to show sensitivity, and also be able to anticipate the kinds of crimes that may be committed. Furthermore, local officers may find it easier to gain informants in the community, leading to stronger evidence at trials, higher conviction rates and a deterrent to crime through sentencing, imprisonment, fines or community service leading to rehabilitation of the offender.

On the other hand, it seems likely that officers from the community may in fact share some of the tendencies of the people they grew up with. For example, in countries such as Mexico, we see a high incidence of corruption among the local business and government community which is equalled by bribery among the police. A second objection is that local sensitivity may lead to the police failing to enforce laws fully, and effectively making exceptions for some offenders, which is unequitable towards law-abiding citizens. Finally, we must remember that police officers should have transferable skills, such as lateral thinking and investigative ability, which should transcend their background or the environment they are working in.

Overall, it seems to me that local knowledge is not absolutely essential for the police, whose
skills should be effective in any context. Indeed, I agree with those who say that the risks of local recruitment outweigh the benefits, because of the danger of corruption and over familiarity with potential offenders.
(318 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking
trustworthy = capable of being trusted
Example =In most countries, politicians are regarded as untrustworthy and possibly corrupt.

paramount = of the greatest importance
Example =It is paramount that we find a solution to the problem of Internet piracy.

devious = extremely clever in a dishonest way
Example =Online criminals today are devious, and use many different methods to deceive their victims.

minutiae (pronounced ‘my-new-shy’) = small details
Example =Nobody really understands the minutiae of the new tax code.

grievance = an issue which makes people upset or angry for a long time
Example =Some towns in the countryside have a grievance with central government because of land
reform laws.

sensitivity = being alert to the circumstances of a specific group of people
Example =Teachers should show sensitivity to students who have language difficulties.

to commit an offence/a crime = to do it
Example =The President committed murder when he arranged for his opponent to be assassinated.

informants = people who tell the police useful information about criminals in their area
Example =The police paid the informant for information about who organised the riots.

evidence = material presented in court to prove that someone is guilty or innocent
Example =The police had a lot of DNA evidence against her, but no witness statements.

a trial = the legal procedure of prosecuting someone for a crime
Example =A murder trial can last for many weeks and cost millions of Euros to conduct.

conviction rates = the percentage of accused people who are convicted of (= found to be
guilty of) a crime
Example =Conviction rates for burglary are low; only about 30% of trials result in a conviction.

a deterrent = something that makes people not want to do something (verb = to deter)
Example =We have a guard dog as a deterrent against intruders at night. It deters people from coming
into our garden.

sentencing = the action of telling a convicted criminal what the punishment is
(verb = to sentence)

Imprisonment = punishment by being in prison
Example =He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the armed robbery of a shop.

A fine = money paid as a punishment
Example =The fine for speeding in my country is about 200 Euros.

community service = punishment by doing manual work for the public
Example =Her community service consisted of cleaning the town parks and sweeping litter in the streets.

rehabilitation = the process of changing a criminal’s character so that he does not commit
more crimes (verb = to rehabilitate someone)
Example =Some prisons use music and drama to rehabilitate offenders. Others say there is no point in

an offender = a person who commits an offence
Example =The government should provide training for offenders in prison, so that they don’t turn to
crime again when they leave.

tendencies = inclinations due to your character (usually negative)
Example =Some young people in cities have tendencies towards graffiti and vandalism.

corruption = the crime when an official breaks laws to help people that he knows
Example =Corruption is widespread in the police in some developing countries.

bribery = the crime of giving money to officials to get something done (verb = to bribe
Example =I had to bribe a customs inspector to get my luggage through the airport.

to enforce laws = to apply them to people
Example =The police are not enforcing the laws about dropping litter in public. They should arrest more
people for this.

unequitable = unfair or different for different groups
Example =It is unequitable to arrest young people for speeding, but not older people.

law-abiding = following all the laws in a proper way
Example =I am a law-abiding citizen. I never break the speed limit or any other laws.

transferable skills = skills that can be used in different situations
Example =I have transferable skills which I use in both my professional career and my fund-raising work for charities.

lateral thinking = the ability to think creatively and in new ways
Example =Facebook and Google are great examples of companies that have grown on lateral thinking.

investigative = adjective from ‘to investigate’ = to enquire about the causes of a crime or a
Example =The police refused to investigate the Prime Minister, leading to accusations of corruption.

to transcend a situation = to be bigger or go beyond it
Example =The need for reducing financial waste transcends the government – everybody should be
spending money more carefully.

a context = a specific situation
Example =Armed police evidently work well in the American context, but would be less effective in a British context.

to outweigh = to be more important than
Example =The advantages of having a diesel car outweigh the costs.

over-familiarity = when an official is too friendly with the public
Example =We should discourage over-familiarity between judges and lawyers, because it could lead to corruption.


Countryside and agriculture

About topic 9
The Countryside and agriculture topic covers social and physical changes in the
countryside, rural versus urban lifestyles, ways of using the countryside, and methods of farming including animals and crops.

It may seem surprising, but agriculture is actually one of the most common topics in IELTS across the Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening tests. This means that you should definitely learn to use agriculture vocabulary as part of your exam preparation, even if the subject is not personally interesting for you.

Topic 9 example Task
It is sometimes said that the countryside offers a high quality of life, especially for
families. What are the arguments for and against families choosing to live and work in the countryside, for example as farmers? What is your own view about this?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Opinion>Discussion type Task. You should introduce the topic, present two or three ideas on each side of the discussion, and then give your opinion in the conclusion.

The Task asks you specifically to think of families and the example of farmers, so you should include some ideas about this. Always check carefully to see if the Task has any extra or specific instructions such as this – if you miss these, it may affect your score badly.

Band 9 model essay

There can be few choices in life more important than where to settle as a family, and the question of an urban or rural location is complex. There are strong arguments for and against living in the countryside, as we will discuss now.

On the one hand, it might be said that the countryside is rather a backwater, with fewer cultural amenities than a city in the form of museums, theatres and even sporting events. This may mean that families become isolated, especially as rural depopulation leaves fewer country dwellers in the area, as we see, for example, in central France. Added to this is the scarcity of schools and colleges, meaning that children may need to travel long distances for their education. Finally, career options may be more limited in the countryside for both parents and children, resulting in rural unemployment and long-term rural poverty in the worst cases.

Conversely, life in the countryside has rewards which go beyond material considerations. For example, the abundance of natural resources such as land, wildlife forestry and water bodies means that a comparatively simple life can be lived at a subsistence level. Many country residents are self-sufficient smallholders in this sense, safeguarding them from the changes in the wider economy which can afflict city dwellers. If the parents are farmers, children learn the importance of animal husbandry, methods of farming such as crop rotation and irrigation, and generally may become more in tune with the natural world as a result. Finally, as technology enables children to undertake distance learning or remote viewing of cultural attractions such as museums, they should
be less isolated from their cultural heritage.

Overall, it seems to me that quality of life in the countryside today is indeed quite high, with its advantages of resources, self-sufficiency and environmental awareness. This is especially true now that communications are reducing the risk of isolation in such far-flung communities.
(317 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking
rural = the adjective for ‘countryside’
Example =I come from a rural area originally, although these days I live in our capital city.

a backwater = an area of a country where little of interest happens
Example =I used to live in an agricultural town, but frankly it was such a backwater that I moved to one of the larger cities.

rural depopulation = the long-term trend for people to migrate from the countryside to cities, leaving the rural areas with few people
Example =Rural depopulation can cause huge problems with local infrastructure, as there aren’t enough people to run the services and transport.

country dwellers = people who live in the countryside (‘city dwellers’ = people who live in cities)
Example =My parents were country dwellers when they first married, but now we all live in a coastal town.

a scarcity = a lack or shortage of something
Example =The worst problem I experienced in the countryside was a real scarcity of sports events and music festivals.

rural unemployment = unemployment affecting rural workers specifically
Example =Rural unemployment has been ameliorated by innovative Internet start-ups.

rural poverty = being extremely poor in the countryside
Example =Rural poverty is a long-term situation exacerbated by lack of infrastructure and training.

material considerations = concerns about money and material possessions
Example =You can’t only think of material considerations when deciding who to marry, I feel.

an abundance = a very high level of supply or availability of something
Example =In the mountains, there’s an abundance of wild flowers and goats.

wildlife = animals living naturally in the wild
Example =It’s surprising how much wildlife you can see in the suburbs in Australia.

forestry = the industry of growing and cutting trees
Example =When I graduate, I want to work for a responsible forestry company.

water bodies = inland areas of water (rivers, lakes, reservoirs etc)
Example =My country is very arid and has almost no water bodies.

subsistence = adjective meaning ‘producing just enough to live on’
Example =Subsistence farmers grow their own food but have little left to sell for profit.

self-sufficient = not needing to import or buy resources from outside the farm or country
Example =During the war, our country became self-sufficient in crops and fuel.

smallholders = farmers managing very small farms, usually with their families
Example =I worked on a project training smallholders in South America in how to lobby politicians for reform.

the wider economy = the national economy in a country
Example =My business is growing, despite the decline in the wider economy.

to afflict = to affect (used for problems or diseases)
Example =Many forests in my area are afflicted by wood disease which attacks the trees.

animal husbandry = the skill of keeping animals
Example =My sister studied animal husbandry at college and enjoyed it enormously.

crop rotation = the process of using different fields each year to keep the soil healthy
Example =Some smallholders do not practise crop rotation, and so their land becomes infertile.

remote viewing = viewing places by Internet, not in person
Example =I took a remote viewing tour of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and found it very impressive.

environmental awareness = an understanding of environmental issues
Example =Environmental awareness is part of the school curriculum these days for most children.

far-flung = remote or far away
Example =My fiancé lives in a very far-flung village, but we keep in touch by Skype.


Cities and infrastructure

About Topic 8

The cities and infrastructure topic includes the organisation of urban transport,
communications and housing, trends in city life, social problems associated with cities such as overcrowding and petty crime, the growth of cities, possible future developments in city living, and comparisons of urban and rural lifestyles.

This topic is often used for Task 2 Ideas>problem/solution and Ideas>cause/effect type
essays. There is also sometimes a connection to Topic 9 Countryside and agriculture, so you may need to combine vocabulary from the two topics.

Topic 8 example Task
Transport delays and long journey times are a widespread phenomenon in many cities
today. What are the causes of this problem, and how could the situation be improved?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Ideas>Mixed>Causes/solutions type essay. It does not ask for your opinion, but
wants you to suggest some ideas about the causes of a problem situation and also some possible solutions. You should introduce the topic, describe two or three causes, then two or three solutions, and then summarise.

Task 2 sometimes mixes Cause/effect and Problem/solution Tasks in this way. You should
read the Task very carefully to see if it is a ‘mixed’ type. The word ‘problem’ does not necessarily mean it is a Problem/solution Task!

Band 9 model essay

Transport is an essential part of urban life, and lengthy journeys are frustrating and expensive for those concerned. There appear to be two main causes of this, and several possible solutions, as we will explain here.

Perhaps the main cause is the lack of investment or funding for infrastructure in the form of high-capacity public transport and increased road space for private vehicles. This means that too many vehicles use the existing network, and congestion is inevitable. We see this in most large cities globally, such as London or Tokyo. Many conurbations also lack finance for transport hubs, such as integrated road and rail facilities which could connect public and private transport, thus reducing bottlenecks. A further cause seems to be the problem of overcrowding in cities, whereby people migrate from the hinterland and settle in urban areas, putting strain on amenities, housing and above all on transport capacity. This means that an already stretched system is often pushed to a critical point, causing cancellations and breakdowns in the technology used, especially in situations of urban sprawl such as in Latin America.

Regarding potential solutions, probably the main remedy would be to encourage investment in better infrastructure, for example through subsidies or public-private partnerships as was tried successfully in Germany during the 1990’s. This enhances the network and fosters a sense of civic pride, to everyone’s benefit. Another solution may be to use tax incentives to allow more home working, so that there is less need to commute from the suburbs to the inner city for work. A final response might be the development of more flexible patterns of transport, such as communal carpooling, which would reduce reliance on existing systems and vehicles.

In conclusion, it seems that outdated infrastructure and overcrowding are the key factors
behind our transport frustrations. Possible solutions would involve better funding, and also
innovations in ways of working and travelling to reduce the burden on the system.
(311 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking

urban = adjective meaning ‘about cities’
Example =Urban crime is a great concern for the authorities in most countries today.

investment or funding = money to pay for an activity, either from government or business
Example =My home town secured investment from a charity for a new stadium, and funding from a local company for sponsorship.

infrastructure = the physical and system organisation of a city, area or country, especially in terms of transport and communications
Example =The UK railway infrastructure dates back to the 1860’s in many places.

high-capacity = able to handle high volumes of goods or people
Example =Sea container ships are high-capacity international freight providers.

public transport = transport such as buses and trains funded by the state (as opposed to
‘private transport’ such as cars owned by individuals)
Example =I usually get to work by public transport, even though it’s very crowded.

congestion = situation of too much traffic, causing delays (the phrase ‘traffic jam’ is not
generally used in Academic English)
Example =I have to leave home very early in the mornings, because of the congestion on the way to my college.

conurbations = very large cities which have absorbed other towns
Example =Sao Paolo is a huge conurbation in Brazil, and is still expanding.

transport hubs = centres where many routes converge
Example =Heathrow airport is the largest transport hub in Europe.

facilities and amenities = places providing any service to the public, either private or public
Example =My home city has many amenities such as swimming pools and parks, and several facilities for elderly people such as care homes.

a bottleneck = a place where congestion regularly happens
Example =The connection from a motorway to a local road is always a big bottleneck.

overcrowding = a situation where too many people try to live in one place
Example =Hong Kong has managed its overcrowding problem very skilfully.

hinterland = the area around a city affected by its development
Example =I live in the hinterland of our capital city, where we regularly go for shopping and for work projects.

to settle in a place = to move and live there permanently, usually with work and a family
Example =I was born in Asia, but my parents settled in the USA when I was very young.

urban sprawl = the situation where a city expands and buildings are constructed without
control or laws
Example =Urban sprawl has resulted in the rapid expansion of many Asian cities, with resulting damage to the environment.

public-private partnerships = projects funded jointly by the government and business, to
reduce the cost to the taxpayer
Example =My country has just installed a new tunnel under the central mountains, run by a public-private partnership.

civic pride = the pride felt in the town/city where you live, its people and infrastructure
Example =As a symbol of civic pride, we built a new park zone with sports amenities and educational exhibitions.

tax incentives = reductions in tax to encourage people to do or buy something
Example =We should use tax incentives to encourage more people to try using their own solar panels at home.

home working = working in your home for all or part of the week
Example =Home working can be quite an isolated way to do your job.

to commute = to travel a long distance to work every day
Example =I live in the suburbs and commute by train to the city centre.

suburbs = the residential areas around a city
Example =Life in the suburbs can be rather boring, to be honest.

the inner city = the older, central part of a city
Example =Inner city housing is often overcrowded and noisy.

communal car-pooling = a voluntary system for people to travel in a shared car, to reduce
fuel use
Example =I tried car-pooling, but it was difficult to arrange the journeys with three other people.

outdated = old-fashioned and not relevant today
Example =I find that our political parties are very outdated these days.

innovations = new ideas or things (which are usually useful or exciting)
Example =Mobile computing was one of the great innovations of the last ten years.

a burden = a weight or responsibility which is difficult to cope with
Example =The burden of income tax is much too high these days for normal people.