Category: IELTS Speaking

Parallel structures and IELTS

😦 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values and can cause misinterpretation or even losing their originality in cultural identity.

If you want to pack a list of items into one sentence, then these items need to be ‘parallel’. What do I mean by items and what do I mean by parallel?

  • Items are usually noun phrases or verb phrases, although they are sometimes preposition phrases.
  • Parallel means that all of the items are the same type – all nouns, all verb phrases, etc.

Parallel nouns

Our opening example could be written using noun phrases only:

🙂 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, misinterpretation, or even loss of originality in cultural identity. which we have one verb – cause – and three nouns separated by commas:

  • conflicts in existing cultural values
  • misinterpretation
  • loss of originality in cultural identity

(Notice that the final noun is preceded by or even as a substitute for and.)

Parallel verbs

Alternatively the sentence could be written using verb phrases only, again separated by commas:

🙂 Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, lead to  misinterpretation, or even result in loss of originality in cultural identity.

Parallelism and IELTS

Accurate parallel structures can help to increase your IELTS score for GRA (they’re ‘structural’), LR (noun phrases are probably the most common item), and CC (non-parallel structures are difficult to understand).

Ha! There – I just used a parallel structure built from nouns (GRA, LR, CC)!



Society and community revisited

😦 Space exploration does not improve conditions in the society.

Recently in class we were discussing the difference between society and community and it occurred to me that this might be an opportunity to contrast society and the society (see also previous post).

As you may be aware, there are so-called ‘uncontacted peoples‘ living in forests in different parts of the world. These people form communities whose social structures are very different from those found in ‘modern society‘. This is because uncontacted peoples – for whatever reason – are cut off from the rest of society.

In this case, society (uncountable, without the) refers to all of humanity. Meanwhile community (here countable) refers to a group having shared values, interests and lifestyle. Academics sometimes identify uncontacted peoples as ‘primitive societies‘ (plural countable), where each society can be counted as a separate group having unique social characteristics. Note, however, that the countable use of society tends to be restricted to the fields of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences.

If we wish to talk about society (uncountable, without the) to mean ‘all of humanity’, then our opening sentence should probably read:

🙂 Space exploration does not improve conditions in society.

flag-of-indonesia A common error made by Indonesian students is to write the society (a particular group) when you really mean society (all of humanity).

For further analysis of society and the society try here.


The same with as

😦 I experience the same problems with you.

flag-of-indonesia This is direct translation from Bahasa Indonesia (sama dengan). It’s not incorrect but I’m fairly certain it’s not what you mean!

Same as

In English when you want to say that things are the same, the collocation is usually same as:

I experience the same problems as you.

In this case you experience problem X, problem Y and problem Z, and I also experience problems X, Y and Z. We both experience the same problems, and we are sharing our problems with each other, as friends.

Same with

Same with communicates quite a different meaning:

I experience the same problems with you.

In this case I experience problems with somebody else – for example someone lies to me and never helps me – and I experience the same problems with you – you also lie to me and never help me!

Very often this is expressed using ‘it’:

That person always lies to me and never helps me, and it’s the same with you.

Here are some examples.

Most of the time you mean same as, so think carefully next time you write same with!


Getting an accident

😦 I drove to town this morning and got an accident.

flag-of-indonesia This is a direct translation from Bahasa Indonesia: mendapatkan kecelakaan. In English you don’t ‘get’ an accident, you ‘have’ one.

If you say you drove to town and got an accident, it sounds as though you bought an accident, perhaps from a shop that sells accidents? Depending on the type of accident, you might need a very large shopping bag!

Admittedly the context of your sentence makes meaning clear, but if you want a high score for vocabulary in IELTS writing, try to use stronger collocation:

🙂 I drove to town this morning and had an accident.


Searching (for) something

😦 Now I am searching ways to make the Lombok community aware of mental health.

Ok so there’s a big difference between search and search for.

Take a look at the following photographs. In the first photo police are searching the city. They’re searching for a suspect (= they haven’t found him yet!). In the second photo they have found the suspect and a police officer is searching him. Possibly the police officer is searching the man for weapons or drugs.

Traffic Stop - Pat Down

Police searching for suspect

Traffic Stop - Pat Down

Police searching suspect

If you’re searching someone, you’ve already found him and so you don’t need to search for him any more!

Look at these examples and notice the difference between search and search for.


Showing support(s)

😦 They have somehow shown their supports and encouraged me to pursue postgraduate study.

Right collocation (v. show, n. support), wrong form (at least in this context).

‘Support’ is one of those annoying words that can be countable and can be uncountable. In its countable form it refers to a physical support (or supports), for example the supports used to stop a building from falling down.

showing supports Bob

In its uncountable form, ‘support’ refers to a more abstract support that may be physical but can also be emotional. I think it was this second meaning that you were aiming to communicate:

🙂 They have somehow shown their support and encouraged me to pursue postgraduate study.

Again, the collocation is good: v. show, n. support!


This one and those ones

😦 Teachers should shift from individual learning to collaborative one.

flag-of-indonesia Here an Indonesian student is translating ‘yang’ but running into trouble because ‘learning’ is uncountable.

This is easy to solve by converting ‘individual learning’ into a countable noun:

🙂 Teachers should shift from an individual learning style to a collaborative one.

Notice, too that the same kind of translation is possible with plural count nouns:

🙂 Collaborative tasks are better than individual ones.

However, this is rather informal and is used more in speaking than in writing.