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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Global challenges

About Topic 7
The global challenges topic includes economic issues, their impact on people and society,
changes in demographics, movements of populations between countries and inside countries, long term trends in population and industry, severe global problems such as famine, drought and malnutrition, and also the possible causes of all these issues, their effects and possible solutions to them.

There are often connections between this topic and the other topics, especially 4 Nature, the environment and energy, 8 Cities and infrastructure, 9 The countryside and agriculture, and 10 Government and the authorities. This means that you may sometimes need to combine vocabulary from two (or possibly three) topics to answer a Task. For example, a Task may ask about the effect of economic problems on the countryside, and you would then use vocabulary from Topics 7 and 9.

Topic 7 example Task
‘Unemployment remains the biggest challenge to school-leavers in most countries’
How far do you agree with this assessment? What other challenges face young people
today? (school-leavers = young people who leave school without going on to further studies.)

Explanation of the Task
This is another Opinion>Personal viewpoint type essay (it asks how far you agree with an
idea.) 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. This particular Task has an extra element, which sometimes happens in Task 2: it asks you to suggest some other challenges also. You should combine these ideas in the main body of the essay, as in the example below.

Band 9 model essay
Youth unemployment is certainly a worrying challenge for most countries, especially at a time of economic instability and social unrest. However, to say that this is the largest issue is to overlook a range of equally pressing matters, as we will discuss now.

It must be admitted that joblessness can undermine a young person’s economic prospects and consequent social mobility. Nevertheless, this issue can be ameliorated by coordinated action between the state and the private sector, as we have seen, for instance, in Canada recently. When this is realized, we can see that other concerns are at least as serious.

Foremost among these is perhaps the issue of age demographics, whereby young people bear the burden for an increasingly elderly population with high longevity. This means that young people will pay higher taxes and work longer hours, possibly forcing them to migrate to countries where this pressure is lower. The effect of this is the ‘brain drain’ situation which can be seen in southern Europe, where young, ambitious people prefer to leave their countries altogether, exacerbating the problem for those remaining.

Furthermore, we must remember that a substantial proportion of young people globally face
existential threats such as famine, drought or outbreaks of disease. These problems are often caused by (or are compounded by) civil war, political instability or the corruption of people in power locally. Such risks are a danger to their safety in addition to their livelihood, and so would appear to be far more serious than unemployment.

To conclude, it seems logical to accept that joblessness is a major challenge for young people. However, persistent trends in demographics among developed countries and the presence of physical dangers in developing countries should be regarded as at least as severe.
(290 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking

a challenge = a problem or difficulty to be faced
Example =The West faces many challenges due to its ageing population.

economic or political instability = a rapid, unmanaged change in a country’s economy or
political situation
Example =Economic instability causes many people to move abroad to seek reliable work.

social unrest = riots, protests or fighting by the public against each other or the government
Example =Social unrest is spreading from the countryside to the cities, and the police are not responding.

an issue = a topic, subject or question that must be considered
Example =The issue of petrol price inflation is not often discussed in the media.

pressing matters = urgent, important issues
Example =I could not go to the college reunion because of more pressing matters at home with my family.

joblessness = a synonym for ‘unemployment’
Example =Joblessness among older people is actually higher than among recent graduates.

economic prospects = the future possibilities for a national economy
Example =The economic prospects for very small countries are quite positive these days.

social mobility = the ability of people to progress in terms of salary, lifestyle and social status
Example =The greatest aid to social mobility is good education and training.

the private sector = private businesses, as opposed to ‘the public sector’ meaning stateowned or controlled services
Example =I definitely want to work in the private sector after I graduate. It is a more stimulating environment than the public sector.

demographics = the changes in society in terms of age, income, numbers, origins and location in a country
Example =Demographic changes in Scandinavia have been dramatic, with substantial immigration and an ageing indigenous population.

longevity = the tendency to have a long life expectancy
Example =Japanese people have perhaps the highest longevity in the world.

to migrate = to move permanently between countries
Example =Migration within the Eurozone is a highly controversial issue at present.

brain drain’ = the tendency for intelligent or successful workers to migrate out of a country
(usually expressed in quotes ‘’)
Example =Southern Europe is experiencing a high ‘brain drain’ these days, because of the lack of economic prospects.

existential threats = a threat to existence or life
Example =The economy of my country faces an existential threat from collapsing oil revenues.

an outbreak = the start of a widespread problem such as disease or conflict
Example =The outbreak of Ebola is a great concern for doctors globally.

civil war = war between people inside a country
Example =It will take many years for our nation to recover from the civil war of the 1990s.

livelihood = the way a person makes a living
Example =Many villagers sell handicrafts, as this is the only livelihood they can find.

developed countries = countries considered to have advanced economies, industries and
social infrastructure
Example =Developed countries contribute aid to those nations affected by famine.

developing countries = countries not generally considered to be fully developed yet
Example =Illiteracy is a huge challenge for developing countries to overcome.


Healthcare, health and sport

About the topic
The Healthcare, health and sport topic includes health problems and disabilities (physical
and mental), ways of keeping fit and healthy, diet/nutrition and exercise, ways of providing (and educating people about) healthcare and health services, medical innovations and treatments, the benefits and management of common sports.

This is one topic especially where you need to remember not to give personal stories about
yourself or people that you know in the Task 2 Writing!

Topic 3 example Task
Many doctors are concerned about the high use of computer games by children and young
people. What mental and physical problems may arise from excessive use of these games? How could these problems be reduced?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Ideas>Problem/solution type Task.
It does not ask about whether computer games are good or not, but about your ideas regarding possible mental and physical problems due to excessive use, and also any solutions that you can think of.

You should introduce the topic, describe two or three problems, then two or three solutions,
and then summarise. Notice that the Task asks about mental and physical problems, so you should say something on each type of problem.

Band 9 model essay
Children appear to enjoy playing video games, and while there are undoubted benefits,
various negative effects stem from this too. Let us consider the main issues, and then outline possible remedies.

Perhaps the major physical problem is the sedentary lifestyle which these games encourage, meaning that youngsters may incline to obesity or inadequate development. Added to this is the strain on eyesight resulting from excessive use of screens and consoles, meaning that children may suffer symptoms of poor vision. There are also concerns about impairment of reflexes due to the repetitive nature of the hand muscles when playing these games, and about the poor diet of convenience food which often accompanies this lifestyle.

The most alarming psychological impact of such activities is possibly the risk of addiction,
meaning that children become obsessed with the games and are unable to socialise with family or peers. This undermines their interpersonal skills and makes them underperform both academically and socially.

Turning to possible solutions, perhaps the immediate step would be to promote a more active lifestyle through exercise regimes or sports programmes which would help to detoxify the lifestyles of children affected. This could be done through sponsorship of sports, or participation in competitive events such as races or matches, hopefully ameliorating the physical effects of excessive games use. Potential remedies for the danger of mental addiction may be, firstly, an initiative to raise awareness of the risks of the situation, for example through health warnings on games packaging or through high-profile spokespersons spreading such a message. For example, if sports champions or figureheads speak out about these dangers, the message may well get through to children.

To sum up, the risks posed by excessive gaming are connected to an unhealthy lifestyle and the possibility of dependency on the activity. Possible answers might involve stronger education about the dangers and the health benefits of more active pursuits.
(313 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking

to stem from = to come or derive from, often used for negative things
Example =A lot of delinquency these days stems from the use of drugs or alcohol.

sedentary lifestyle = a lifestyle where people sit for long periods and are generally inactive
Example =I used to keep fit, but since I started working as an architect my lifestyle had become mostly

obesity = the medical condition of being seriously overweight
In some countries, obesity is the major cause of death among young adults.

inadequate development = insufficient or obstructed growth of the body
If children smoke, this can cause inadequate development of their lungs and brains.

strain = stress or overwork, physical or mental
Example =I had to take a vacation due to the strain of working such long hours.

symptoms = indications that a medical problem is present
Example =A sore throat and headache are symptoms of a cold or flu.

impairment (verb = to impair = to hinder or damage an ability)
Example =His hearing was impaired when he heard a loud explosion as a child.

poor diet = a lifestyle diet without sufficient nutrients
Example =Malnutrition happens due to a poor diet and lack of medical care.
(‘a diet’ can also mean a programme of reduced calories intended to help you lose weight:
My sister is always trying new diets because she wants to lose 2 kilos before the summer’)

convenience food = food which is cooked in its packaging, usually in a microwave
Example =British and American people eat a large amount of convenience food.

addiction = the state of being unable to live without something
Example =Many young people are addicted to social media or Internet use.

to socialise = to meet with friends and other people in a friendly way
Example =At weekends, I like to socialise at parties and in cafes with my old friends.

interpersonal skills = the skills of dealing with people successfully
Example =My boss used to be very annoying, but then he went on a course to develop proper interpersonal skills.

to underperform = to perform below your peers or expectations
Example =My football team are underperforming badly this year.

active lifestyle = a lifestyle with proper exercise and fitness
Example =The government tries to promote an active lifestyle, but this is not successful.

a regime, a programme = a planned system of exercise, diet or sport
Example =I adopted a vegetarian regime for three months before my exams.
(‘regime’ also means a very strict government: ‘In the 1970’s, many South American
countries were ruled by police regimes.’)

to detoxify your body = to remove impurities and poisons
Example =I went to a clinic to detoxify because I was eating too much fatty food.

sponsorship = payment from a company to a sport or other activity in return for publicity
Example =Motor racing is often sponsored by energy drink brands.

participation = to participate in something = to join and take part in it
Example =I participated in wrestling when I was at college, but then I gave up.

competitive = the adjective of ‘competition’
Example =Canadians are very competitive about ice hockey teams.

ameliorating the physical effects = to ameliorate = to make a problem less damaging
Example =The effects of his injury were ameliorated by extensive physiotherapy.

remedies = cures or answers to a problem or situation
Example =There are many remedies for cold and flu available in pharmacy stores.

an initiative = a new programme or idea, usually in government or business
Example =We need initiatives to tackle obesity, anti-social behaviour and delinquency.

raise awareness = to make people more aware of or caring about an issue
Example =We organised a marathon to raise awareness of heart disease and ways to prevent it through exercise.

health warnings = notices on cigarette or alcohol packaging warning about the medical
Example =Almost all countries have health warnings on tobacco these days.

champions = highly successful people in sport or business
Example =Roger Federer is a champion tennis player, and a good role model too.

figureheads = people who represent part of society, officially or unofficially
Example =The singer Adele is a figurehead for many young women these days.

dependency = the condition of relying on something in an addictive way
Example =The player was treated for drug dependency at a detox clinic in Paris.

pursuits = hobbies or sports which people do for enjoyment
Example =Skiing and cycling are my main pursuits at weekends.


Culture, Art and traditions

About Topic 5

The Culture, art and traditions topic includes human folklore, ceremonies and rituals, myths and legends, social customs, traditional languages, dress and arts, the impact of modern life on traditional lifestyles and differences in national habits.

Please remember that IELTS will not ask specifically about religion, politics or spiritual beliefs, and you should not base your answers in the Writing or Speaking tests on your personal beliefs in these areas. For example, if the Task asks whether you agree with a certain idea, you would get a low mark if you say ‘Yes, because my religion agrees with it/ because my President has this policy’ or similar.

You can certainly use religious or political situations as evidence or examples to support an argument, but not as a starting point. For example, ‘We should give money to charity because it benefits society, as we can see for example in countries where religious observance requires people to do this regularly.’ This is a more logical and academic way to respond.

Topic 5 example Task
In many countries, traditional dress and costumes are considered effective ways of
maintaining links with the past. How effective can traditional costumes be, in this sense?
What other ways exist to help citizens connect with a country’s past?

Explanation of the Task
This is an Ideas/Evaluate type essay.
It does not ask for your opinion about whether costumes are good or bad, but it asks for you to decide whether these costumes are effective (or not effective) ways of maintaining links with the past, and to suggest other ways of connecting to the past.

You should say how effective costumes are, with examples and evidence, and then compare their effectiveness to some other possible ways of connecting to the past.
Remember that ‘Ideas/Evaluate’ means that you should compare things in the way that they are used in society, but not decide on your personal preference about these things.

Band 9 model essay

Most people would agree that preserving connections with our past is an admirable
objective, especially as the world evolves so rapidly. I feel that traditional costumes are one part of doing this, but they are by no means the most important, as we shall see.

Admittedly, historic dress plays a key role in social events such as religious rituals or military parades, and these events are helpful in transmitting social memes such as public duty and self-sacrifice. Traditional costumes also remind us of the origins of cultural traditions and mythologies, for instance the historic Swiss national dress which evokes their medieval independence.

However, it must be said that costumes are an accessory in these situations, and do not appear to constitute the central message. It is the ceremonies themselves which convey the cultural norms that help to maintain the fabric of society. In this sense, the costumes are of secondary importance. Furthermore, it seems that there are in fact much more powerful ways in which culture is conserved and handed down between the generations. Most countries have a rich heritage of legends and folklore about the birth and development of their nation, some of which are mythological and some being grounded in truth (as we see in the English stories about Robin Hood or George and the Dragon, for example.) These stories are a cultural inheritance which embodies important symbols and concepts far more effectively than dress. Similarly, we must remember the significance of art and music in passing on our traditions, in forms ranging from fine art to handicrafts, and from opera to traditional shanties and dirges. The presence of visual or linguistic messages in these media make them more effective than costumes, which convey no language.

Overall, we must recognise and welcome the use of traditional dress in helping to maintain our cultures. However, the forms of story, art and music would appear to be the driving forces in this invaluable process.
(321 words)

Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking

to preserve = to protect and keep something, usually because it is valuable for some reason
Example = The state preserves ancient buildings because they are part of our heritage.

rituals = highly traditional ceremonies which have meaning for the participants
Example = In some countries, wedding rituals continue for several days.

parades = organised processions in public by groups of people, usually to commemorate an event
Example = In my home town, we have a military parade each year to mark our Independence Day.

to transmit = to communicate a message, literal or symbolic
Example = The monarchy transmit symbols of power through dress and ritual.

social memes = social habits or patterns which are transmitted between people
Example = In Britain, punctuality is a social meme.

public duty = the willingness to serve the public or the state
Example = Civil servants need a sense of public duty.

self-sacrifice = the willingness to suffer or die for a cause
Example = We remember the self-sacrifice of our wartime generation each year.

cultural traditions = traditions carrying cultural importance
Example = Hospitality is a great cultural tradition in Mediterranean countries.

mythology, myth = a classic story from the past which people know is not true but which carries meaning
Example = There are old myths about gigantic animals in my part of the countryside.

to evoke = to bring back memories or feelings
Example = Our national flag evokes strong emotions whenever we see it.

medieval = adjective for the Middle Ages, roughly 1050 to 1400 in European history
Example = France has some superb medieval architecture, which I saw on my gap year.

ceremonies = a ceremony is similar to a ritual, usually involving people in authority
Example = The government enters office with a long ceremony at the presidential palace.

cultural norms = standards expected of behaviour or ideas
Example = In some countries, marriage between cousins is a cultural norm.

the fabric of society = the way that society is connected and maintained
Example = drugs and crime are damaging the fabric of society.

to conserve = a synonym for ‘to preserve’
Example = Conservation of old treasures is the main role of our city museum.

to hand something down (from one generation to the next) = to pass it from parents to children and to their children etc
Example = Cultural values have been handed down for hundreds of years, but now they are starting to disappear.

heritage = something inherited (= received/handed down) by one generation from the previous generation
Example = Our countryside is part of our national heritage and we should preserve it carefully.

legends = similar to myths, but sometimes containing an element of reality
Example = Robin Hood is a British legend, although most historians agree the character is based on a real person.

folklore = old stories and myths/legends, usually transmitted verbally
Example = African folklore is rich in stories of gods and monsters.

inheritance = a synonym for ‘heritage’
Example = Our greatest inheritance as a nation is our independence and fighting spirit.

fine art = art by famous or acclaimed painters
Example = Florence in Italy is a key destination for lovers of fine art.

handicrafts = skills of making objects by hand, and also the objects themselves
Example = Many indigenous people make a living by selling handicrafts to tourists.

opera = a very formal play with a musical score
Example = La Scala is the name of a famous opera venue in Italy, which I’d like to visit.

shanties and dirges = very traditional songs about basic subjects
Example = Children sometimes sing shanties at primary school.

linguistic = the adjective meaning ‘about language’
Example = Linguistic skills are essential for a tour guide in the modern economy.

media = a way of communicating
Example =Folklore is a very effective media for transmitting our cultural heritage.
(The phrase ‘the media’ is used to mean all the newspapers, broadcasters, websites and magazines commenting on issues in a country: The president resigned due to pressure from the media, who disliked his policies)