IELTS Letter Writing: 10 Essential Tips

These IELTS letter writing tips are essential to follow to get a good score in task 1 for the general training paper. The list of tips below will help you understand all the different types of letters, how to write them, how to structure you letter and how to fulfill the task for a high score. You will have 20 mins for this task. Remember only students taking the General Training Paper in IELTS will be required to write a letter for task 1.

1. Instructions

You will be given instructions and three points to include in your letter. It is essential that you follow use the three points to structure your letter and provide the foundation for the information. If you fail to include all the points in your letter, your band score will be lower. Here is an example of the type of instructions you can get:

You recently had a holiday visiting your friends and you stayed in their house.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • thank your friend for staying with them
  • tell them what you enjoyed most about the holiday
  • explain you are sending photos of the holiday with the letter

Further instructions for all GT writing task 1 state:

  • you must write over 150 words (aim for between 160 and 180 to be safe)
  • you do NOT need to write an address on the letter
  • how to begin your letter. For example Dear Sir/ Madam, or Dear …. When you see ‘Dear ….’, this means you should write a name for the person from your imagination – see below for tips on this)

2. Types of IELTS Letter

There are three different types of letters: personal, semi-formal and formal. Each type of letter will use different language. It will have a different beginning and a different way of signing off. Your first task, before you start writing, is to decide which type of letter you must write by identifying the task given. Below are examples of the three different types of letters.


You would like to invite a foreign friend to visit you for your birthday

Write a letter inviting your friend. In your letter:

  • tell your friend about your birthday
  • explain how much the visit would mean to you
  • suggest that your friend stays at your house for the visit



A personal letter is to someone you know personally about a social situation or a personal situation.



Your friend has a travel company and would like you to come and work with him.

Write a letter replying to your friends offer. In your letter:

  • explain what you know about your friends company
  • choose whether you accept or decline the offer
  • give reasons for your choice

A semi-formal letter is to someone you know about a formal or serious situation such as work



You are interested in applying for a scholarship program to study at a foreign University.

Write a letter to inquire about the course. In your letter:

  • explain which course you are interested in
  • tell what you know about the University
  • explain why you should receive the scholarship

A formal letter is to someone you don’t know about a serious or formal situation


3. Letter Aims

Letters can be based on different content which will affect the style of the letter. Below is a list of some of the common contents for letters. Although there are hints about whether the letters are usually formal or not, please note that you will know the style by reading the instructions given to you.

  • complaints (usually formal)
  • invitations (usually personal or semi-formal)
  • applications or resignations (usually formal)
  • request (any style common)
  • making arrangements (often formal)
  • explanation (sometimes semi-formal or personal)
  • informative / news letter (often personal/ semi-formal but formal can also appear)
  • apology (could be any style)


 4. Letter Openings

Letters usually start with an opening statement which explains the reason for writing the letter. This opening statement varies depending on whether you are writing a formal or informal letter. Below are two examples of an opening statement. Can you spot which one is formal and which one is informal?

A)  I am writing this letter with regards to the scholarship program to study at London University which I read in Sunday Times on December 1st, 2014.

B)  It’s been so long since we last were in touch but I haven’t forgotten all the wonderful times we spent together last year. It’s my birthday coming up and I wanted to invite you over to stay at my place for the celebration.

C) I’m just writing to say thank you for the offer of joining your company.


A is formal, B is personal (informal) and C is semi-formal


5. Signing Off

Depending on the style and aim of the letter, you will need to adapt your final sentence or comment.

  • Dear Sir / Madame = Yours faithfully, 
  • Dear Mr Robson = Yours sincerely,
  • Hi Dave / Dear Dave = See you soon, / Take care, / All the best

Note: We use “Sir / Madame” when we don’t know the person’s name that we are writing to, for example when we write to the manager of a hotel. We use “Mr Robson” (with a title Mr or Mrs or without) when we are writing a formal letter but we know the name of the person we are writing to. We use no title and no last name when we write to a friend.

Below are some examples of final comments before signing off, can you tell which ones are formal and which not?

It’ll be great to catch up again soon. Give my best to everyone in the family.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The first one is personal and the second one is formal.



You should write a name at the end of your letter. You can use your name or you can invest one.

  • Dear Sir = Yours faithfully, John Brown (always with a family name but with or without a title)
  • Dear Mr Robson = Yours sincerely, Mrs Susan Harper (always with a family name but with or without a title)
  • Hi Dave or Dear Dave = See you soon, Brian (not title and no family name because it is informal)

6. Grammar: Formal and Informal

Formal and informal (friendly) letters contain different language and style of writing. While informal letters can contain contractions (I’m writing …), these contractions are unacceptable in formal writing so you need to write the words in full (I am writing …. …).

In a formal letter, you could write “I am writing with regards to ….”. whereas for a semi-formal letter you can write “I’m writing about…” or “I’m writing to say..” or “I just want to let you know that..”. So, it is important to adapt your writing to suit the style of the letter. Also remember to use a range of different sentence structures in order to get a high score.

7. Vocabulary: Formal and Informal

For vocabulary, be very careful using academic language in a personal letter. This would be inappropriate and will reduce your band score rather than increase it. Here are some examples of the difference between formal and informal language:

  • You will be collected at the airport = I’ll pick you up at the airport
  • The next available appointment is on Thursday = how about we meet up on Thursday?
  • I would like to invite you to visit my house on…. = Why don’t you pop round to my place on …..
  • I highly recommend that you come in August = it’d be great if you came in August
  • Please respond at the earliest convenience = Get back to me as soon as you can
  • Unfortunately I will not be able to attend  on … = Sorry, but I won’t be able to make it on ….

8. Spelling and Punctuation

The examiner will check your accuracy in your spelling and your punctuation (this means your use of commas and full stops). If you make frequent errors in spelling or in punctuation it is unlikely to get over band score 6.

9. Structure and Paragraphs

You must also organise your letter into paragraphs. This is an essential part of your letter writing and the examiner will be marking you on your ability to use effective paragraphing. In IELTS writing task 1 (GT), the letter structure below is most common as it usually follows the three points which you must include in your letter. However you must adapt it to suit the task given to you by IELTS. So spend time reading the instructions and deciding your paragraphing.


  • title
  • opening statement – reason for writing
  • body paragraph A (one point with detail)
  • body paragraph B (another point with detail)
  • body paragraph C (final point with detail)
  • closing statement (if needed)
  • signing off
  • name (choose a name or use your own)

10. Planning Your Letter

You should spend at least 3 or 4 minutes planning your letter. Covering all the points in your letter, adding details, using the appropriate style of letter writing and using paragraphs well count for about 50% of your marks. So it’s worth taking time to plan your letter well. Follow the points below for a well planned letter:

  1. read the instructions
  2. identify what style of letter you must write
  3. read through the points you must include in your letter
  4. think about how many paragraphs you will have and where to put each point
  5. plan what information you will add to each point
  6. decide how to open the letter
  7. think about the language you will use (both grammar and vocabulary) – it must suit the style of the letter
  8. decide how to close the letter
  9. plan the content of each body paragraph
  10. start writing


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IELTS Reading Question Types: Information & Tips

In IELTS Reading, there are 14 different types of questions that you can be given. In IELTS reading, you will have only one hour to read 3 passages and answer 40 questions. These questions are always divided into different types of questions which you must complete. Each passage usually has about 3 or 4 different types of questions to answer.

In order to prepare well for your test, you must make sure that you practice each type of question. Below is a list of the question types  you can get in IELTS reading with information and tips to help you.

1. Matching Headings Questions

  • Task: Choose a heading from the list which matches a section or paragraph in the passage
  • Skills:
    • understanding the aim of a section
    • identifying the difference between a main idea and supporting points
    • understanding aims of paragraphs and sections
    • understanding general content of paragraphs or sections
  • Tips
    • read the headings before you read the passage
    • there are often more headings than you need
    • analyse the headings before trying to match them to sections or paragraphs
    • answers are often numerals (i, ii, iii, iv etc) – read instructions carefully to check
    • answers do not come in order
  • Click to practice a matching heading question.

2. True False Not Given / Yes No Not Given Questions

  • Task: Decide if the information or writer’s opinion in the question statements can be found in the passage
  • Skills:
    • identifying specific information in the passage
    • scanning and understanding information (T/F/NG questions)
    • understanding the opinions of the writer (Y/N/NG questions)
  • Tips
    • Understand the meaning of each answer
      • yes / true = the same information is found in the passage
      • no / false = the opposite information is found in the passage
      • not given = the information is not found in the passage
    • paraphrase the statements before trying to locate the answers
    • answers come in order
  • Click to practice some true, false not given questions and some yes, no, not given questions.

3. Matching Paragraph Information Questions

  • Task: Matching the information given in the question with information found in one of the paragraphs in the passage.
  • Skills:
    • identifying specific information
    • scanning for information
  •  Tips:
    • paraphrase the information in the question
    • find the information in the passage
    • answers do not come in order
    • the answer is often a letter (A, D, C, D…) – read instructions carefully to check
    • not all paragraphs may be used
  • Click to practice matching paragraph information questions.

4. Summary Completion Question

  • Task: Completing a summary by filling in the gaps using words from the passage or words given in a box
  • Skills:
    • scanning for specific information in the passage
    • understanding ideas and supporting points
    • selecting appropriate words
  • Tips:
    • identify the type of word needed for each gap (noun/verb/adjective etc)
    • locate the information in the passage in order to choose the right word
    • if you choose words from the passage, check how many words can be used for each answer
    • answers usually come in order
    • the summary must be grammatically correct which can help you in choosing the right word for the gap
  • Click to practice a summary completion question.

5. Sentence Completion Questions

  • Task: Completing sentences by filling in the gap with words from the passage
  • Skills:
    • scanning for specific information
    • selecting appropriate words
    • understanding information in the passage
  • Tips:
    • identify the type of word needed for each gap (noun/verb/adjective etc)
    • locate the information in the passage in order to choose the right word
    • the sentences must be grammatically correct which can help you in choosing the right word for the gap
    • check how many words can be used for each answer
    • answers usually come in order
  • Click to practice a sentence completion question.

6. Multiple Choice Questions

  • Task: Choose the correct answer to a question or the correct ending to a sentence from usually 3 or 4 possible options.
  • Skills:
    • scanning for specific Information
    • understanding information in the passage
  • Tips:
    • paraphrase the information in the question and options
    • locate the precise information in the passage
    • answers come in order
    • answers are usually letters (A,B,C or D) – read the instructions carefully to check
  • Click to practice a multiple choice questions

7. List Selection

  • Task: Choose the correct option from a list of words, information or names. This differs from multiple choice because the questions all relate to only one long list of possible answers.
  • Skills:
    • scanning for information
    • understanding information in the passage
    • identifying ideas relating to others
  • Tips:
    • read through the list and prepare paraphrases
    • read through the questions and identify key words
    • locate the information in the passage
    • answers come in order
    • answers are usually letters (A-G) – read the instructions carefully to check

8. Choosing a Title

  • Task: Choosing the most appropriate title from a list
  • Skills:
    • identifying aims of a passage
    • distinguishing between detail and main aims
  • Tips
    • look at the differences between the possible titles
    • pay attention to the opening paragraphs and closing paragraphs of the passage
    • don’t spend too much time on this question – it is only worth one point
  • Click to practice choosing a title

9. Categorisation Questions

  • Task: Decide which category the information belongs to from a list.
  • Skills:
    • locating information in the passage
    • categorising information
  • Tips:
    • find information in the passage
    • decide which category the information belongs to
    •  look out for paraphrases

10. Matching Sentence Endings

  • Task: Completing sentences by matching the start of the sentence with the correct ending given in a list.
  • Skills:
    • locating information in the passage
    • understanding information
  • Tips:
    • read through the sentences and then read through the possible endings
    • prepare paraphrases
    • find information in the passage
    • choose the best ending to match the information in the passage
    • the completed sentence must be grammatically correct
    • sentence beginnings follow the order of information the passage
    • answers are usually letters (A-G) – read instructions carefully to check
    • there are usually more endings given than you need
  • Click to practice matching sentence endings to improve your reading skills. Answers do not always come in order.

11. Table Completion

  • Task: Completing the table using the correct word from the passage.
  • Skills:
    • locating specific information in the passage
    • choosing appropriate words
    • understanding details
  • Tips:
    • read the column headings in the table
    • identify the type of word needed for each part of the table
    • scan the passage for information
    • answers are often located in a specific part of the passage
    • check how many words you can use for the answer

12. Flow Chart Completion Questions

  • Task: Completing the flow chart using the correct words from the passage.
  • Skills:
    • locating specific information in the passage
    • choosing appropriate words
    • understanding details and order of information
  • Tips:
    • identify the type of word needed for each part of the flow chart
    • scan the passage for information
    • answers do not always come in order
    • use the direction of the arrows and boxes to follow the order of information in the chart
    • select the appropriate words from the passage
    • check the number of words that can be used for each answer

13. Diagram Completion Questions

  • Task: Labelling a diagram
  • Skills:
    • locating information in the passage
    • relating the information to the diagram
    • choosing appropriate words
  • Tips
    • identify the type of word needed for the answer (noun / verb etc)
    • find the information in the passage
    • the information is usually located in one specific paragraph or two in the passage
    • check how many words you can use for the answer
    • answer do not always come in order

14. Short Answer Questions

  • Task: Answering questions regarding details in the passage.
  • Skills:
    • locating information in the passage
    • understanding detail and specific information
  • Tips:
    • identify the type of words you need for each answer (noun,verb etc)
    • paraphrase vocabulary in the questions
    • scan the passage to locate information
    • check how many words you can use for the answers
    • answers come in order
  • Click to practice short answer questions

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IELTS Listening Practice: Sentence Completion

Sentence Completion for IELTS Listening

This IELTS listening practice is based on sentence completion or gap fill questions. Read through the sentences, predict what types of answers you need for each gap and then listen to complete the sentences. Pay attention to the number of words possible for each answer. This is similar to listening in section 2.

Why we have festivals

Complete the sentences using no more than two words and/or a number.

  1. Festivals are useful to ……………… the cultural traditions of different countries.
  2. The majority of festivals can be traced back to a cultural ………..
  3. Festivals are a time when …………….. are put aside.
  4. Although countries have different festivals, their ……………. is often the same.


A festival is an event which is celebrated collectively. Festivals are mostly celebrated to propagate the cultural heritage of nations. Most festivals have their origins in a cultural belief which has been passed down through the generations. Festivals help to promote solidarity and the patriotic spirit in society by bring people closer together in harmony as they celebrate the festival. During this time, differences are forgotten and the national cultural identity predominates. By celebrating international festivals, it helps to promote tolerance, reduce racial conflict and encourages the acceptance of cultural diversity in a country. While there are marked differences in the way festivals are celebrated all over the world, there is a similarity in the purpose that the festival serves.

  1. propagate
  2. belief
  3. differences (the answer must be plural)
  4. purpose


Recommended Lessons

IELTS Listening Practice: Space Exploration Sentence Completion
IELTS Listening Practice: Mammoths Picture Multiple Choice
IELTS Video Lesson: Listening practice for Time

Vocabulary for Accurate Data in Writing Task 1

The video tutorial below explains why it is important to give accurate data when describing a chart in IELTS writing task 1 and provides a range of flexible vocabulary to help you achieve a better score. Transcript

Hello my name’s Liz and in this lesson I would like to look at giving accurate data for IELTS writing task 1. Now it’s very important that all the information you give is accurate the examiner will check and any mistakes will lower your band score. Now let’s have a look at an example of inaccurate information and then I will give you lots of vocabulary to help you give better accurate information.

This chart shows the percentage of smokers in England in 2010. We’ve got percentages here. It is divided into men and women and we’ve got three different age group we’ve got 20 -30 30 to 40 and forty-plus. Now here is a sentence: In the age group 20 to 30, 28% of men smoked compared to 30% of women. This is a typical sentence that I get from many students. What is the problem? Can you see any mistake? Well this is the problem here now we can see that women is correct 30 percent but men we can see it is under 30 but we cannot see that it is 28. We don’t know. The number is not given its not clear. So what we need to do is we need to use flexible language to give the accurate information let’s have a look.


  • under
  • below
  • less than
  • just under
  • slightly under
  • nearly
  • almost
  • close to
  • well under
  •  considerably less than


  • about
  • approximately
  • around


  • over
  • above
  • more than
  • just over
  • slightly over
  • marginally above
  • well over
  • considerably more than


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Sample Answers for Speaking Topic: Health

Below are some sample answers for the topic of health in IELTS speaking part 3. When you answer in speaking part 3, remember to extend you answers with lots of examples and explanation. Also remember to give a direct answer the question asked  and then develop your answer.

1. Do you think people pay enough attention to their health these days?

No, definitely not. The average person nowadays has a sedentary lifestyle and pays very little attention to their diet and also does hardly any exercise. If you take a typical English person, they eat a quick breakfast, such as a sugary cereal, they have a quick bite at lunch, like a sandwich, and for dinner they are either too tired to cook something healthy and nutritious or simply don’t have enough time. It’s pretty much the same with exercise. Few people these days have time to fit it into their daily routine.

2. Do you think the government is responsible for public health?

Well, to be honest, I think it the responsibility of both governments and individuals. Governments certainly could do more to educate people about ways to improve their health and I suppose it would be useful if they could some how have more controlled over the fast food industry. However, much of the responsibility falls on individual people to take exercise, eat well and have a balanced life style.

3. Do you think there are more unhealthy people these days than there were decades ago?

Yes, without a doubt. Generations ago, there was no fast food or convenience food so people generally ate healthy fresh produce instead of the junk food they eat today. Furthermore, people were also more active in the past as they either cycled or walked to get around and also had a healthier life style. Compared to now, they were much healthier.

4. How could parents encourage their children to be healthier?

I guess the best way would be to set an example. I always think that if adults lead by example, then children will  follow suit. What I mean is if parents need to get involved with sports and out-door activities, it will show children that exercise is fun. Another way would be for parents to get children involved in cooking health meals to encourage them to change their eating habits. Both methods, I’m sure will have a positive effect.

IELTS Conclusion Paragraph for Opinion Essay

This lesson looks at how to write an IELTS conclusion paragraph for an opinion essay given below. Before you practice the conclusion, make sure you have completed the other lessons for this topic:

Every one of us should become a vegetarian because eating meat can cause serious health problems.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

An IELTS conclusion paragraph should summarise the main opinion that you gave in your opinion essay – both in the introduction and the body paragraphs. The conclusion repeats the main points in brief and maintains your position.

This is the introduction for this essay: Eating meat is considered by some to damage our health and for that reason they believe all people should adopt a vegetarian diet. In my opinion, although a vegetarian diet is certainly a healthy option, having a balanced diet, which contains vegetables and some healthy meat, is the key.

The above introduction explains the main points and the position of this essay. Now you must restate the main points again for your conclusion paragraph. Use the tips below to help you.

Tips for an IELTS Conclusion Paragraph
  1. Paraphrase the main points introduced in your introduction
  2. Don’t put new main points in your conclusion
  3. Don’t change your opinion in the conclusion
  4. Don’t write over 40 words
  5. You can write either one or two sentences
  6. Can you have a concluding statement which is a predicting if you wish

Write your conclusion before you check the model. Model Conclusion

In conclusion, by balancing both vegetables and healthy meats, for instance fish and chicken, people will be able to adapt their diet more easily in order to benefit their health.


To conclude, by balancing mainly vegetables with fish or chicken, people will be able to adapt to a healthier diet more easily rather than become vegetarian. If people are educated about eating healthily, there will be less health problems in the future.

Recommended Lessons

IELTS Video Lesson: IELTS Conclusion Linkers
IELTS Video Lesson: Using the official answer sheet

A High Score Bar Chart Exercise

Fill in the gaps to complete the high score bar chart for  IELTS writing task 1. Use the completed bar chart report to model your own writing as it gives the right structure to use and a good range of sentence structures and language.

Below are useful sentence structures which are commonly used for bar charts for each paragraph (the introduction, overview and body paragraphs) to make up a complete task 1 writing model.

You will see a full report for the bar chart below and you must fill in the gaps to complete it by using the correct verb in their appropriate form.

The bar chart below shows the number of research students studying different subject in 2005.

IELTS bar chart

Model IELTS Bar Chart Report

Fill in the report below using the following verbs. You must put the verbs in the correct form and tense. Each verb can be used more than once.

to be   /   to see  / to study   /  to  illustrate  /  to show  /  to choose  / to learn  /  to prefer

The bar chart (1).  ………………… how many male and female research students (2). ……………….. six different subjects (linguistics, psychology, natural sciences, engineering, programming and mathematics) in 2005.

Overall, there (3). …………. more male research students than females in 2005. Although the most popular subject for both genders 4. …………..natural sciences, men least (5). …………….. linguistics and women (6). …………. little interest in mathematics. Linguistics was the only subject that 7. ………… favoured by women more than men.

There was a similar number of men and women in three subjects. There were equal numbers in research students (200) (8). ……………….. natural sciences. There was a difference between the genders of about 25 in both psychology and linguistic with more women (9). …………….. linguistics (around 110) and more men taking psychology (200).

A difference of about half (10)………… evident in engineering and programming where 150 men chose both subjects. By contrast, 200 men selected mathematics which was approximately five fold that of women (about 40).

  1. illustrates
  2. studied
  3. were
  4. was
  5. preferred
  6. showed
  7. was
  8. studying / learning
  9. studying / learning / choosing
  10. was


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Matching Sentence Endings: IELTS Reading Practice

In this type of question you need to choose the correct ending for each sentence by selecting the ending from a list given. This is not the most common question type in IELTS reading but it does appear in the test and it is worth practising.

This is one of my tough lessons which I’ve written to challenge the higher level students.

Skim read the passage and then read through the sentences with the possible endings. Pay attention to grammar in order to complete each sentence – the sentence must be grammatically correct. The information contained in a correctly completed sentence can be found in the passage.

NASA’s Orion ‘Mars Ship’ set for test flight

IELTS Space Topic

A US space capsule that could help get humans to Mars is about to make its maiden flight.Orion will be launched on a Delta rocket out of Cape Canaveral in Florida on a short journey above the Earth to test key technologies. The conical vessel is reminiscent of the Apollo command ships that took men to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, but bigger and with cutting-edge systems. Given that this is a first outing, there will be no people aboard.

Nonetheless, the US space agency describes the demonstration as a major event. Nasa has a window in which to launch Orion of about two-and-a-half hours, which began at 07:05 local time (12:05 GMT). The launch preparations had to be stopped shortly before the opening of the window because a boat strayed into the eastern part of the launch range. After that, the countdown had to be held because of strong winds and a technical issue.

Orion is being developed alongside a powerful new rocket that will have its own debut in 2017 or 2018. Together, they will form the core capabilities needed to send humans beyond the International Space Station to destinations such as the Red Planet. For Thursday’s flight, the Delta IV-Heavy rocket – currently the beefiest launcher in the world – is being used as a stand-in. It will send Orion twice around the globe, throwing the ship up to an altitude of almost 6,000km (3,600 miles). This will set up a fast fall back to Earth, with a re-entry speed into the atmosphere close to 30,000km/h (20,000mph) – near what would be expected of a capsule coming back from the Moon. It should give engineers the opportunity to check the performance of Orion’s critical heat shield, which is likely to experience temperatures in excess of 2,000C (4,000F). They will also watch how the parachutes deploy as they gently lower the capsule into Pacific waters off Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. (Passage from BBC News)

Questions 1-4

Complete the sentences by selecting the correct ending, A-G (not all letters will be used).

  1.  The first ever flight of Orion is aimed to ……
  2. Although the shape of Orion is similar to previous ships, it ………..
  3. A new rocket is also being developed which …………
  4. The rocket which will be used as a replacement will ………….
  5. As temperatures reach extreme levels on re-entry, this maiden flight will ……….
  • a. send Orion twice around the world.
  • b. has state of the art technology.
  • c. test the critical heat shield.
  • d. check Orion’s performance.
  • e. test the most important technology.
  • f. will have its first voyage in a few years.
  • g. help humans get to Mars


Click below to reveal the answers.

  1. e
  2. b
  3. f
  4. a
  5. c

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test.   


Vocab Builder
  • maiden flight / maiden voyage = first ever flight / first journey
  • conical = shaped narrowing to a point
  • similar to something in the past
  • cutting-edge = front-line / pioneering / brand-new
  • strayed = drifted
  • debut = first appearance
  • in excess of = more than
  • (parachute) deploys = opens


See all my IELTS Reading Tips and Practice Lessons