Neil McLaren

Neil McLaren

I live and work in Bratislava and have been teaching for more than twenty-five years. I’m the Social Community Manager in charge of the British Council’s global social media channels for learners.

Location Bratislava, Slovakia


  • Definitely @MariaAlessandraPecora - you can find recipes for them here:

  • It's lovely @GloriaL - very aromatic!

  • Masala just means a mix of spices @RaquelVarela and you can make your own at home from spices that you can easily find - check my comment here for recipes.

  • You can make your own easily @felixN - see my answer here:

  • You can easily make your own @YuriyG - see my answer here:

  • They're just ready-mixed blends of regular spices @KalinaManeva . You can probably find all the individual spices where you live, then mix them yourself using any of these recipes:...

  • I know what you mean @JuliaAllert - I've never been a dunker and none of my family do it either! I never really understood the attraction of soggy biscuits! And it always surprises me to hear that Claire, Tina Chris and Sally dunk!

  • Glad you liked it @NatalyGolubyk . It's one of my favourites and I'm sure you'll enjoy it when you make it :-)

  • Definitely @VladTkalenko . It's good to read things that are a LITTLE difficult, where you understand the main points but maybe don't know some vocabulary on every page, but there's no real benefit in reading things that are TOO hard so that you feel you're not sure what is going on and you have to check the dictionary every other sentence. You won't enjoy the...

  • Yes, congratulations @AlexeyAntipin ! It's great motivation to really focus on all four of these courses - they can make a real difference to your test experience.

  • If you practise, you definitely will @ThandekaNgwenya

  • Try again with the second one @IfeomaChidi-Ochiagha

  • Don't worry @AmnaAlabdulla - the more you practise with the techniques we share, the easier it will become.

  • That's great @AmnaAlabdulla - that's the right approach.

  • Twitter is great for improving your skimming and scanning skills @LuizaTalamini , and of course is also useful for finding longer articles that interest you by following up on shared links. But yes, as you say, you should also add longer, more diverse articles into the mix.

  • That's great to hear @OluwatosinAdeoye

  • Yes @ОбидАсадов reading for pleasure will definitely help you develop your skills, build your vocabulary and more. As we talk about during the course, it's good to mix the two - reading for your own enjoyment, but also reading the types of factual text and articles that you will meet in the test.

  • Yes @IvanaLenardic , that's right. The only time this does not apply is in things like matching headings etc where the task applies to the whole text.

  • Excellent @IvanaLenardic !

  • That's fine @VladTkalenko at this stage of first seeing the text you're only expected to have a basic understanding of they main points, not a detailed one.

  • Absolutely @VladTkalenko , the more you read in your daily life the easier it becomes to get used to quickly skimming texts. Don't worry about your second point - skimming is only the start - it gives you the general idea of the text and the topic of each part, but don't expect to understand more. That comes next when you focus on specific parts of the text...

  • Well done @AmnaAlabdulla !

  • That's still an excellent score though @NteyoA !

  • I don't think the word 'popular' belongs there @ThomasFUNG . Can you think of another way to say your opening sentence?

  • That's a very good start @AlexandraTyler . I'd think a little about the order you place things in your sentence. For example, 'in one particular country' - would it be better earlier? And I think you need to split this into two sentences, not one.

  • Well done @RosaSevilla - very clear!

  • Careful @BaryyA - the MATERIALS don't tell you that, the graph does. So how could you say that in another way?

  • That's great @RosianedaSilvaAfonsoLopes . Now you need to find some short, intersting writing opportunities for the other days in the week!

  • That's really where reading and listening come in @SuzanneLaw . As you say, practising output is one thing - and essential - but you need input too, and by watching, listening to and reading content that is related to the types of topics covered in IELTS you can build your writing and speaking skills too.

  • Yes, it's a good plan Alex. But if you find that heavy going, don't be afraid to take a little time off and try some of the other writing exercises we suggest. It will all help!

  • Yes @OleksandraGolubova , during the course we share those.

  • Yes @ElenaLu , although there is no age limit for IELTS, it's not recommended for students younger than 16, partly for that reason.

  • That's often a problem @ElenaLu . It's why we spend quite a bit of time on really thinking about the question, brainstorming ideasthen expanding on them before even starting to write.

  • Don't worry @RosianedaSilvaAfonsoLopes . Everything we cover for Task 2 will help you for the General test. All the skills that we help you develop apply to both tests. For Task 1 in the General test (the letter) you can find all the resources you need to practise here:

  • The work we do on this course will definitely help you with those things @AgnieszkaO. But the first step is to START using English every day, even if it's only for 20 minutes or half an hour. If you practise all four skills throughout the week, it will help you a lot with the problems you mention.

  • It will definitely help @HaiboLiu , but as we say, don't worry about yor mistakes here - jump right in and comment. People will be interested in what you have to say, not in whether or not it has some mistakes!

  • This course will definitely help you to clearly identify why that is happening and what areas you need to focus on to get your writing closer to your other skills @GanapathinathanPillai

  • That's a good start @AndreiPopescu

  • Hi @AlexandraKostina you can use a pen or HB pencil in the Writing test, but you must use an HB pencil in Listening and Reading to write the answers on the answer sheet.

  • Yes @MohamedMunthKamara , and that means you can erase any mistakes and make changes easily.

  • Good advice @PatrycjaC.

  • Sounds like you have a good system @PatrycjaC.

  • That's true @PatrycjaC. By the end of the course you'll have tried both and really you should just choose the one you are most comfortable with.

  • Well done @benedettasirelli !

  • So it should be @agathafum - that's a great result.

  • Excellent work @MichaelChude !

  • Yes @Micheld.S.Mesquita , @GreensBk , @BorgesMachado and @NteyoA that one is tricky! See my answer here for more detail on that.
    As Nteyo says, 'gender equality' would be correct in the terms of meaning, but the instructions say write ONE word only.

  • The noun phrase in the audio says 'problems with inequalities in terms of gender' @AnwlwMoyo , and that would have to be paraphrased as either 'gender issues' or 'gender inequality issues'. It could not be 'inequality issues' because that would change the meaning and be much broader - there are many types of inequality. As you can only use one word, then...

  • Hi @VitorAguiar , you don't actually need a Facebook accont to watch the live events - if you follow the link you can watch without having to sign in. But as Neeraj mentioned, you can watch them all, both live and older recorded ones on YouTube if you prefer.

  • I'm afraid there is only one answer @RehabAlyousuf - practice, practice and more practice! All the advice we have given on this course will help you, but you still need to put in the hard work of identifying where you have probems and then working to improve them. You can do it!

  • Very clearly explained @RumiI

  • Five mistakes is an excellent score @NesrinHajiyeva - equivalent to Band 8.0 , so higher than you need for most purposes. You can use this to calculate

  • Don't worry @NataliaMeczenowa , with practice you will imprve that score. You can always check your results using this claculator to see what Band Score you would get

  • Neil McLaren replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    That's a good score @AnwlwMoyo - 7.0

  • Not not allowed @RehabAlyousuf, but it's not necessary. You can have a pencil, pen, your ID, and an eraser on your desk.

  • They're in the next step @ElenaLu !

  • I'm afraid not @EllavanMelis . But you can move backwards and forwards through the computer test, highlight parts of the text, make notes etc.

  • Glad to hear that @SA and @DavidPius

  • Exactly @SA - short term memory is limited. That's why it's important to focus on identifying the important parts of the text, underlining key words etc. as you go.

  • Good advice @AlexandraKostina . You're right - it's very important to break the test down into manageable parts and take it step by step.

  • I'm glad to hear the course has helped @RosaSevilla