How I Scored 9 in IELTS Reading

“How I got Band 9 in IELTS Reading.”
Manal got band score 9 in IELTS reading with band score 8.5 overall.  Learn how she did it …
Below are her tips for a high score in GT reading:
 Getting 9 in IELTS reading
Manal’s Story and Tips for Band 9 in Reading
Oh I couldn’t believe in my wildest dreams that I scored a 9.0 in Reading. Reading was one of my weakest areas. After I gave the test, I had a gut feeling telling me that probably I scored a 9.0 in Reading. I even got to check all my answers in Listening as well as Reading.
 I re-took the General test. The first time I attempted this test was in October – that time I scored an overall band score of 8.0 with L – 8.5, Reading – 7.0, W – 8.0, S – 9.0. I retook the test specifically to improve my Reading score so obviously I relentlessly practiced tests from the General section of Cambridge IELTS books. I was aiming for a minimum of 8.0 in reading.
Tips for Getting Band Score 9 in IELTS Reading
Here are some tips and strategies which you could post. Please feel free to make any editions necessary. I like to explain things in detail, otherwise I do not feel satisfied. You can make them more brief and concise.
Tip 1
Effective time management I can’t stress enough about it. One thing which I meticulously practiced when I did the reading tests was to enforce a strict time division for each section of Reading. Even though in the cambridge books, it states to keep a minimum of 20 minutes for each section. I’d suggest to keep 15 minutes OR less in Section 1 and 2 and to rely solely on skimming and scanning (I mastered to finish Section 1 and 2 in less than 15 minutes leaving me with ample time to solve Section 3 questions). Keep 30 minutes or more for Section 3- where you will need to do a little bit more than skimming and scanning. I usually managed to have 5-10 minutes for revision.
Tip 2
Do not bother reading the passages. It’s a waste of time.
 First, read the questions and circle the keywords and then try to look for those keywords or a synonym / paraphased text in the passage. For Section 1 and 2  – skimming and scanning will be your best friends. 
 I didn’t even waste time reading Section 3. I just read the text associated with the questions. 
Tip 3
One strategy that worked for me best was “not to overthink” when you are solving the reading questions and to go with your gut instincts – there is no time to think during the 60 minutes of tackling reading questions. Especially this applies to me, because I tend to overthink and over analyze a lot when I am stressed. I struggled a lot with the true false questions. But as I trained myself not to overthink, if the text is there either it will be the same meaning as the question or opposite. If text is not there – not given. 
Tip 4
For paragraph heading questions, only read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. A synonym or a related keyword in the heading title should be there. I also sometimes to be on the safe side for some questions read the second sentence as well.
Tip 5
Although, you will keep hearing from people practice and practice. I personally believe practice is inefficient if you do not learn from your incorrect answers. So it really helps to look at your mistakes and compare with the correct answers in the answer key and to reflect on where you made the mistake. I feel that way – you learn more efficiently.
Hope that helps.
Comments from IELTS Liz
Thanks so much for sharing your tips, Manal. I think many students will benefit from this and also be inspired to keep aiming for the higher scores 🙂
Anyone who would like to add more tips, please post them in the comments box below 🙂
Useful Links for IELTS Reading:

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Capital Letters in IELTS: Will it affect your score?

When to use capital letters in your IELTS listening and reading test. Will you get a lower score if you make a mistake with capital letters? Can you write your answers in all capital letters? What are the rules for capital letters in IELTS? Capital letters in IELTS 2017.

Using Capital Letters for Answers: IELTS Rules

Capital Letters in IELTS Listening and Reading

In IELTS listening and reading, you can write all your answers in capital letters if you want or not.

  • You can write your answers in small letters if you want.
  • You can mix both capitals and lower case if you want.
  • IELTS will NOT mark your capital letters in listening or reading.

Examples of capital letters in listening and reading:

  • Mr Brown = correct / mR bRown = correct / 9am = correct / 9Am = correct / monday = correct / MONDAY = correct
  • It doesn’t matter if you use capital letters, don’t use them or use them inappropriately – the answer will be correct. So don’t worry.

In IELTS listening, you will be given 10 mins extra to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Capital letters are not important and punctuation is not marked. If your handwriting is poor, write in capital letters so it is easy to read.

In IELTS reading, you will not get 10 extra mins to transfer your answers. You must write your answers directly on your answer sheet. But it is completely your choice how to write your answers. The most important factor is not capital letters but clear writing – same as for listening.

Capital Letters in IELTS Writing

In IELTS Writing, you can choose to write your essay in capital letters. But I wouldn’t recommend it because:

  1. you have a strict time limit and it takes too long to write in capital letters
  2. you WILL be marked on punctuation so the use of capital letters and lower case is important to show. You must have a capital letter at the start of a sentence, for example.

So, write your essay in lower case and remember to use capital letters when appropriate. The examiner will mark you down if you use capital letters incorrectly. Here is a list of typical words that use capital letters:

When to use capital letters in English grammar

  • Days/ Months = Thursday / September
  • Names and Titles = Mrs J Blogs / Dr Author Jones
  • Countries / Cities = India / Vietnam / Paris / Hong Kong
  • Names of Places = University of London
  • Acronyms = BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Start of a Sentence = “The majority of people use cars to go to work these days. However, it would be better if they used healthier means of transport such as the bicycle.”

Biggest Mistake with Capital Letters

  • but / because / and
    • These linking words NEVER start with a capital letter because they should NEVER be used to start a sentence. See my page of linking words for writing task 2 to learn tips and get a useful list: IELTS Writing Task 2 Linking Words

What about speaking part 2? Well, the notes you make for your talk are not marked and only you see them. The examiner will not check them or mark them. So, don’t write sentences or bother with punctuation, just write words, ideas and tips to help you present a good talk.

More IELTS Tips

What about using a pen or pencil? Click on this link: IELTS Pen or Pencil

How are words counted in IELTS Listening? Click on this link: How Words are Counted in IELTS

Can I use “I” or “my” in writing task 2? Click on this link: How to express your opinion in IELTS WT2

Tips & Practice for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking:

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IELTS Writing Task 1 Answer 2017

Below is an IELTS writing task 1 answer for 2017. The bar charts were reported by a student in February 2017 and recreated as accurately as possible. Please remember that IELTS do not release question or answers for each test. So, all reported tasks and questions are from students who have recently taken the test and have recreated their questions.

You can find links to more model answers for writing task 1 on this page: IELTS Writing Task 1, model answers & tips

IELTS Writing Task 1 Bar charts 2017

Download the above writing task 1 as pdf: IELTS 2017 Writing Task 1

IELTS Writing Task 1 Answer 2017

The two bar charts illustrate the population growth as well as the birth and death rates in England and Wales between 1700 and 2000. The population is given in millions, while the birth and death rates are per 1000 people.

Overall, there was a dramatic increase in the population of England and Wales over the 400 years. The birth and death rates initially witnessed a growth but then steadily declined over the period given. The birth rate was constantly higher than the death rate over the period given.

The population of England and Wales stood at under 10 million in 1700 which then doubled to around 15 million in 1800. By 2000, the figure had reached a high of almost 50 million, almost 5 times that of the population in 1700.

The birth rate was just under 10 per 1000 in 1700 and rose dramatically to peak at over 20 per 1000 in 1800 before dropping to slightly over 10 in the final century. The death rate showed a similar trend but was between 5 and 10 per 1000 less than the birth rate at all times.

187 words (I have put the word count for you. You shouldn’t do this in the test.)

Would you like to see more model answers for writing task 1? See the main pages below and click on IELTS Writing Task 1

Main IELTS Pages

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IELTS Tops Scores Feb 2017: Band Score 9

Hi guys,

I thought you would like to see some of the top scores that some students have achieved last month (Feb 2017). I want you all to know that top scores in IELTS are possible.

Below you can also find useful IELTS preparation tips 🙂

Overall Band Score 9

Two students achieved OVERALL BAND SCORE 9  !!!

ielts band score 9 top results

See their results below:

  1. Saif: L 8.5, R 8.5, W 9 and S 9 = overall band 9.  His personal details have been removed from the certificate. He mentioned in his email:

“You can also mention that I only used your videos as study material for test preparation. I watched around ten of your videos and that was good enough to get an understanding of the test layout.” 

  • Below are links to my videos and tips

Student Band Score 9


2. Niharika: L 9, R 9, W 8.5 and S 8.5 = overall band 9

“I already shared my scores on your blog post about the test results (N G CST is the username). Please feel free to share my results/experience with others. Reading others’ experiences helped me tremendously and I think sharing my experience will definitely be useful.  I resat for IELTS exam on 11 February 2017 in Saint Paul, USA.” Her speaking score went from 7.5 to band 8.5 after taking the test again. You can see her scores posted on my Post Results Page

Below are some of the tips for speaking I gave her:

Part 1 – Listen for the grammar in the question. Past tense question = past tense answer. Second conditional question = 2nd conditional answer. This is an English language test – show the accuracy of your language. For example:
Q: Can you swim?
A: Yes, I can but I wish you could do better and had more time to practice.
This demonstrates the right grammatical answer “can you = I can” and also future forms by adding hopes.
You will know the topics in part 1 because the examiner will say “Lets talk about sport” – then you know you will get 3 or 4 questions about sport. Or “moving on to weather” – now the topic has changed to weather. Listen for the topic and give examples of topic vocab.
Part 2
This is a chance for you to control the language you produce. A chance for you to show you deserve a high score by giving examples of great English.
Showcase your skills. You can add any information and change the prompts – but stick to the topic and pay attention to grammar tenses. Because you can add anything, it means you should be speaking for 2 mins. There is no reason to stop – you can say anything!!!!! So, show the examiner you have no problem to speak at length – fluency!!
Part 3
Discussion. This is chance to you to explain your ideas and develop ideas. It is not because you are marked on ideas, it is because you can show higher level language. The examiner doesn’t care what you think – only what your English is like. So, explain in depth and use higher level English.

Overall Band Score 8.5

6 students got an IELTS overall band score of 8.5 this month.
  • Gurinda = L 8, R 9, W 7.5 and S 8.5
  • Kristine = L 9, R 8.5, W 7.5 and S 9
  • Rohan =  L 8.5, R 9, W 7.5 and S 8.5
  • Patricia = L 9, R 9, W 8.5 and S 8.5
  • M Harris = L 9, R 8.5, W 7.5 and S 8.5
  • Ajuraj = L 8.5, R 8.5, W 9 and S 7

Overall Band Score 8 or 7.5

  • 11 students got an overall score of 8
  • 13 students got an overall score of 7.5

IELTS Preparation Tips

Nobody finds IELTS very easy. Even band score 9 students need to prepare and develop the right skills for the test. Here are a couple of tips for your preparation. Click the links to open useful pages:
  1. Learn everything you can about the test. Learn the rules. Learn what is allowed and not allowed.  See my IELTS Information page to learn as much as you can about the IELTS Test.
  2. Develop your English. For speaking and writing, you need to avoid making errors in vocabulary and grammar. Find some Useful Websites to help you.
  3. Learn tips to ensure you use the right techniques, practice and FREE VIDEO LESSONS. Click below to open page:
    1. IELTS Listening Tips
    2. IELTS Reading Tips
    3. IELTS Writing Task 1 Tips
    4. IELTS Writing task 2 Tips
    5. IELTS Speaking
  4. Start learning Ideas for IELTS Topics and also Vocabulary for IELTS Topics
  5. Never do your IELTS test until you have practiced a real IELTS test at home under the time limit. You need to get the IELTS Cambridge Test books

You can buy Advanced IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons from my online shop, if you want high band score training:

Liz’s Advanced Writing Task 2 Lessons

Well done to all of you who have done so well in your tests!!!

And good luck to all of you about to take your test!!


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IELTS Essay Ideas for Feb 2017: Open Plan Offices

Here are some IELTS essay ideas for a writing task 2 question which appeared in February, this year (2017)

IELTS Essay Question February

Reported by a number of IELTS students this month in IELTS writing task 2 (academic writing).

Nowadays, some buildings such as offices and schools have open-space design instead of separate rooms. Why is it so? Do you think this is a positive or negative development?

IELTS Essay Ideas (Feb 2017)

This essay question requires you to answer two questions.  The first one asks you to explain why are there so many more open plan offices these days. The second question requires you to decide if this change is positive or negative – it requires your opinion. Below are some ideas for this essay question:

Main reason why open plan is adopted as a common office floor design:

The main reason is, of course, cost. The cost of floor space in most major cities is increasing. Having an open plan design is cheaper. Without the walls and doors, more staff can work in the office space available. Desks are either joined together or separated by just a small amount of room.

Positive Change

  • better interaction between staff
  • less distinction between different levels of staff
  • improves communication between staff and departments
  • more natural light
  • flexible work space for high staff turn over
    • this means that if staff come and go, it’s easy to find a new desk for new staff

Negative Change

  • it is hard for staff to concentrate
  • lack of privacy
  • problems with constant noise which lowers staff performance
  • easy spread of illness
  • increased stress due to feeling of exposure and being watched

These ideas were found on 

IELTS Links for a Better IELTS Essay

Click the red links below to open the useful pages:

Keep up-to-date with IELTS essay topics. See my list of Essay Questions for 2017. Also see a Model IELTS Essay Feb 2017 for writing task 2.

See an IELTS Model Essay for Positive Negative Question and also an Opinion Essay Model

See all pages on which contain Ideas for IELTS Writing Task 2

Find out about the structure of an IELTS essay, learn How Many Paragraphs you need to have.

Get information about how your IELTS writing score is calculated as a total and also a page of useful Linking Words for IELTS Writing Task 2

Tips for All Section of IELTS, see below:

Main IELTS Pages

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New IELTS Speaking Topic February 2017: Riots

Riot: New IELTS Speaking Topic Feb 2017

The topic of Riots is a new IELTS speaking topic for February 2017. It appeared this month in IELTS speaking part 2 and part 3. Below are sample questions and ideas for the topic.

I’ll upload a pdf file to download later this week with the vocab and tips below.

Meaning: Riot & Demonstration

Lets look at the meaning of “riot” and “demonstration”.  Below you can see two pictures, one of a riot and one of a demonstration.

Riot:a violent disturbance by a crowd of people (in public areas), sometimes a violent protest

ielts riot topic 2017

Demonstration or street protest: an action by a mass or group of people in favour of or against something. This is often in the form of a peaceful march (a walk) with signs and messages.

deomonstration vocab ielts

Connection between demonstrations and riots

As you can see there are similarities, they both involve a group of people gathering in public. A demonstration might start peacefully but as strong emotions rise and people become angry, it may turn violent and become a riot.

Most people go to demonstrations because they want to share their message to the world and have peaceful intentions. However, some people go there because they want to start violence and their intention is not related to a message but an opportunity to start trouble. So, people’s intentions and aims are deeply involved in the difference between riots and demonstrations.

Reasons for riots

  1. people are provoked by police and turn angry
  2. society has broken down and rules no longer count
  3. an opportunity for violent people to enjoy themselves and cause trouble
  4. poverty and unemployment which creates desperation and anger towards the government and state
  5. government brutality towards a person or a group of people causing anger and violent protests
  6. once there is a trigger and anger turns violent, it starts building and grows in violence becoming a riot
  7. sometimes violent people see this as a chance to be violent because their identity is hidden in a group

Recent Riots and Demonstrations Worldwide:

France Riot: Violent protests over alleged police brutality that began in the mainly immigrant suburbs earlier this month spread to central Paris and other cities on Wednesday night (15th February 2017) and 49 people were arrested. Link: A newspaper article with video about this riot:

Greece: A protest which turned violent due to austerity measures in Greece, Dec 2015. Link: A newspaper article:

USA: Protests and demonstrations caused by Trump’s inauguration as President. Link: World Wide Protests: Riots in America:

Sri Lanka: The information below was written by a student called Thoshanka, who posted it on my Recent IELTS Exams Questions page. Thanks, Thoshanka.

Sri Lanka

I would like to share the following on riots if it may help anyone for their speaking test. I’m from Sri Lanka. My country accounts for a tale of woe in riots in 1983. In brief, the dominating ethnic group in the country Singhalese started attacking the minority of Tamils in the country based on the reason where an ambush by the LTTE (Tamil militant group) killed a number of Army soldiers. 

The violence in the country created such horrific consequences on people they burnt people’s houses and it was called “race riots”. People encountered great inconveniences due to the curfew that was imposed every now and then. It was an era of darkness until the Govt intervened and took necessary measures to control the situation.

Vocabulary and Collocations for Riots and Demonstrations Topic:

tear gas = gas that irritates the eyes and is sometimes used by police in riot control

police brutality = violence by the police

the protest drew people = the protest attracted people

normal life skidded to a halt = normal life stopped abruptly

molotov cocktails = a bottle which contains liquid that is flammable and acts like a fire bomb

looting = stealing goods from shops and houses during a riot or war

clash (between police and protesters) = violent confrontation

placards = signs which are carried and contain a message

outbreaks of violence = sudden occurrence of violence

participate in a demonstration = take part in …

This topic is very difficult to deal with in IELTS speaking so you definitely need to prepare for it. Hopefully the above comments will help you in part 2 and 3. Below are typical questions with some suggestions for ideas.

Riots: IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topic 2017

Riot: IELTS Cue Card February 2017

A time when you heard about riots in another country

  • what did you hear
  • when did you hear it
  • how did it make you feel to hear about it
  • what suggestions can you make for reducing riots

what you can talk about in your talk:

  1. talk about the news program when you heard about it or a person who told you about it
  2. talk about what happened in the riot
  3. when you heard it, where you were, who was with you
  4. talk about how you felt (confused, angry, frightened) and why you felt that
  5. talk about if you agree with riots or think they are wrong
  6. talk about why demonstrations are better as a way to deal with social problems and problems of justice
  7. talk about common attitudes in your country toward violence
  8. talk about how social problems or justice problems can be solved to reduce riots
    1. increase employment
    2. increase benefits
    3. investigate injustice
    4. control and monitor known violent people who participate in riots and encourage others to violence
    5. better police training to deal with riots and violence
    6. harsher punishment for those who participate in violence

You can add any information you want to your talk. Although there are only about 4 prompts, my suggestions create 8. Always expand your talk.

What happens if you can’t remember any riots in speaking part 2?

You can choose to talk about something close to the topic but explain that at the start of your talk “I haven’t been following news and don’t know about riots, so I’m going to tell you about a problem which happened recently in my country…” You won’t lose marks for doing this!!

Riots 2017: IELTS Speaking Part 3 Questions & Sample Answers

What are the advantages and disadvantages of riots?

There are few advantages but one is that sometimes social or injustice problems are solved quicker and more attention is brought to the issues. On the whole, riots are wrong and this is because they disrupt social order, cause damage to property, can result in deaths or serious injury. Also there are economic drawbacks, such as businesses having to close and lose business or tourists deciding not to go to that country.

Notice: If you think there are no advantages, just say that. The examiner is looking for you to take control of the question and express your views clearly – that will give you a high score.

How do riots affect society?

Riots have a really negative impact on society. People feel that rules are breaking down which means they feel threatened and feel less confidence in their police or government. Another problem is that riots can increase prejudice against groups of people which in turn can make people feel unsafe and sometimes lead to more violence.

IELTS Tips and Model Answers

You can find more useful IELTS tips and model answers on the main pages of my website:

Main IELTS Pages

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Update on IELTS Liz for Feb 2017

Hi guys,

I just wanted to let you know a few things:

  1. IELTS Writing Answer Sheet: A student informed me that the writing answer sheet she got in Russia this month was different. It had 16 lines on the first page. IELTS do not always release the latest answer sheets. So, just be prepared for a different one.
    1. You don’t have time to count your words in the writing test, but you do have time to count the lines. So, count your lines and then multiple it by the number of words on one line. This will give you a fast and clear estimate of word count. Remember aim for about 160-180 words in task 1 and 260 -280 words in task 2.
  2. Using Capital Letters: I have up-dated information for 2017. You can use capital letters or lower case in listening and reading – you decide which to use. You can even mix them up. It won’t affect your score. I’ve up-dated my video with a message and also the list of tips as well: 25 Essential Tips for IELTS Listening. See below for example answers:
    1. Mr brown = correct
    2. mr brown = correct
    3. MR BRoWn = correct
  3. Up-Date Recent Exams Questions Page: I’ve put the Recent IELTS Exam Questions comments into pages. This means that the page shows the first 165 comments. If you want to see exam questions from a few months before, you need to do to the end of the page and press the “Older Comments” link – it’s in red and not easy to see, unfortunately. I am hoping the page will load quicker by having less comments visible and also it’s easier to find the comments box. There were around 3,000 comments on that page before!!
  4. Finding Band Score Information: Some students are still not clear on band scores. Please see this page to learn about them:
  5. Using IELTS and Finding the Right Page: There are still students who can’t find the main pages of this website. There are over 300 pages of free tips and practice for IELTS and you can find them all through the main pages. The links to the main pages are below:

Main Pages for IELTS Tips, model answers and free practice:

That’s all for now 🙂

Good luck to anyone taking their test this month!! Always follow the recent topics in speaking and writing because they can be repeated: IELTS Writing Task 2, Jan 2017 and IELTS Speaking Jan 2017.

All the best


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Model Essay February 2017 IELTS Writing Task 2 & Tips

The model essay from February 2017 was reported by IELTS students appearing in their IELTS writing task 2 test this month. It is an opinion essay, otherwise known as an agree/disagree essay or an argumentative essay. Following current topics used in 2017 is essential for success in IELTS.

Also please see that I’ve put some useful links for you at the bottom of the page to help you with your IELTS writing task 2 essay.

IELTS Essay Question February 11th, 2017 (Academic)

It is better for the students to live away from the home during their university studies rather than staying with their parents. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

IELTS Model Essay Feb 2017

While some people think that students ought to live alone whilst studying at university, it is believed by others that it is better for them to remain living at home. In my opinion, I think students benefit from living alone unless their finances prevent it.

Firstly, one of the main reasons why it is advantageous for students to live alone is that they become totally independent of their parents and able to think for themselves. University is a time for students to spread their wings and try new ideas or ways of thinking and learn to cope with making life changing decisions. By living alone, without the influence of their parents, they develop rounder, decisive characters able to function well in the world.

Another advantage to students fleeing the parental nest is that they learn to manage money. Most students see university as a stepping stone to adulthood and so by learning to live on a budget, they develop the skills needed once they are earning a salary and balancing their finances. Renting property also comes with responsibilities to both landlords and housemates, and this is a further lesson to learn in useful life skills.

Finally, however, regardless of how beneficial living alone might be for university students, it might be financially impractical for some. For a small proportion of university students, their finances might require them to stay at home for as long as possible until they are finally able to support themselves through paid work.

In conclusion, while it might not be feasible for all students, living away from parents helps university students develop strength of character and useful life skills needed for when they enter working life.

How to Write Your IELTS Essay:

  1. Spend time anaylising the essay question and brainstorming. Choose your position (your point of view) and select the best ideas. See this page about how to plan your essay properly: IELTS Essay Planning Tips
  2. aim to have either 4 or 5 paragraphs in total. See this page: How many paragraphs in an IELTS essay. Your essay MUST be over 250 words. There is no upper word count. See this page: How long should your IELTS essay be?
  3. Use a range of linking words in your essay. The examiner will mark them and it will affect your score if you spelling them wrong or if you don’t know a good range. See this page: IELTS Linking Words
  4. Before your test, prepare ideas for trending topics in IELTS this year. See this page: IELTS Essay Questions 2017. This page gives a list of essay questions used so far in 2017.
  5. The essay above is an Opinion Essay which means you need to give your opinion. See this page about how you express your opinion correctly: How to Give your Opinion in Writing Task 2
  6. If you are taking the GT test, see this page about writing differences: GT Writing Test Differences
  7. If you can’t hit the score you want in IELTS writing, GET TRAINING from an expert. Purchase my advanced lessons below to help you

Advanced IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons

Click the following link to get my Advanced Writing Task 2 Lessons for a high score target: IELTS Liz Writing Task 2 Lessons

Main IELTS Pages

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