IELTS Writing: Might or May

One of my students asked me the difference between "might" and "may" yesterday. I assume that many of you might have the same question about use of synonyms. Here is a quicky explanation.

Might and may both express the idea of possibility. Nowadays, might and may express equal levels of possibility. Some people insist that you should use may (present tense) when talking about a current situation and might (past tense) when talking about an event that happened in the past. For example:

  • may go home early if I’m tired. (present tense)
  • He might have visited Italy before settling in Nuremberg. (past tense)

In practice, this distinction is rarely made today and the two words are generally interchangeable.
However, may can be used for permission. For example:

  • May I go to the concert?

(This means the same as "Am I allowed to go to the concert?")

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IELTS Writing: topic about “extreme sports”

Here is an IELTS writing topic that my students have been discussing:

Some sports are dangerous. Why people still take part in these sports? What can be done to reduce the dangers?

Here is my brainstorming:

  • Extreme sports cover all kinds of adventure activities like snowboarding, rock climbing, surfing, skydiving, and the like. There is something about an extreme sport that attracts men and women to take that plunge and just go for it. Some do it for the sense of challenge and fulfillment, while others do it to relieve pressure.
  • Whether one is young, old, or on the verge of being a senior citizen, the drive to push the envelope rages.
  • Through extreme sports, we receive a sense of pleasure and achievement.
  • It is a way to prove themselves to their peers.
  • Extreme sport athletes feed on the competition and the respect that comes with being able to overcome the hurdles of each event.
  • At the same time, engaging in extreme sports is stress released by your adrenal glands.
  • You would feel pump of adrenaline when you're seated in a roller coaster or scurrying to meet a deadline.
  • That heightened sensation of pressure building up in your chest, to your blood coursing through your veins at top speed, is what drives extreme sport lovers.
  • Safety first is a rule to live by in any activity but with extreme sports, safety becomes a very prominent issue. Each extreme sport has its own set of rules and safety guidelines that should be followed to reduce the occurrence of injury or fatalities. For example, weather and equipment condition are vital factors which must be put into serious consideration before commence skydiving.

IELTS Writing: anthropogenic impact on rainforest

Here is an IELTS Writing Task2 topic:

What negative impact are humans having on the rainforests?

some ideas and good expressions:

  • It is a sad fact that while any forest has positive effects on all human life, unfortunately human life on Earth has mostly negative impacts on the forests.
  • Billions tons of timber will be cut out of the forests on a global scale each year.
  • In many countries, especially in developing countries, the trees will be cleared for farming and the wood will be used for energy fuel.
  • A large number of animal and plant species become extinct because of logging industry.
  • When land no longer supports crops, it will then be abandoned and another piece of forest will be cut down in another place.
  • Because of this, many plants and animals are losing their different habitats. The human's capacity to harvest the trees for their wood is far greater than the ability of the forest to regenerate.
  • The water quality of the forests also suffers.
  • With the trees gone, rain will no longer seep into the forest's soil and water reserves that are underground are not being replaced.
  • This soil will then end up in rivers and streams and kill the fish.
  • The quality of air is also being reduced by forest destruction from all the dust and soot in the air.
  • With no trees, no oxygen is put back in the air. Gases are also building up in the Earth's atmosphere from pollution.
  • With no trees, no carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. This is raising the Earth's temperature, and could make further animal and plant species become extinct.

IELTS Writing: a hackneyed phrase

The phrase “With the development of science and technology, …” that many candidates like to use in IELTS Writing Task 2, and it becomes overused and misused. This phrase is not wrong or bad English and there are topics where it is suitable to use. Here is an example that an ex-examiner encountered – he said: I used to see situations where the topic was something such as, ‘Do you think students have too much homework?’ and the first sentence the essay was, "With the development of science and technology, …". Boring.

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IELTS Writing: Writing Style

What style of writing should an academic essay be? A lot of candidates, even some teachers think that IELTS Writing Task 2 is a very formal essay, but actually it’s not that formal. It's somewhere between normal spoken English, formal English and scientific, analytic English. Although many people know that we should avoid contractions (For example, instead of using “can’t”, you should write “cannot”), this is not a big issue that all candidates should focus on.

Some candidates write in an unsuitably formal style and often this kind of candidate makes many mistakes because he or she is writing above their natural sentence-making ability – that makes your essay sound really “forced”. Task 2 should not be written in the highest level of formality because, after all, candidates are encouraged to include examples from their own experience. This element of "writing personally" cannot be done at a high level of formality because writing at a high level of formality is impersonal in style. Therefore, you should not attempt to write your essay at the very highest level of formality.

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