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IELTS with Fiona Members Academy

Day 8: Housing








close-knit community


skyscrapers/apartment blocks/flats/tower blocks

bungalow/ terraced house/ semi-detached

affordable housing

 Full PDF for Week 2 vocab here

Mind Map 5: Buildings




Reading_ why pagodas don’t fall down

A difficult Academic Part 1 – TFNG/Multiple Choice/Matching Criteria (Watch the YouTube video first if it helps)

Key vocab




steel and reinforced concrete

a masterpiece of modern engineering


a central/vertical pillar


building regulations

structural engineering


The Underground House – part of the Listening Course

Listen to the test first, then listen for my step-by-step explanations, or just go to the explanations (second half).

The underground house PDF and vocab




Part 1

Do you live in a house or an apartment?

What is your favourite room? Why?

What can you see from the window?

How long have you lived in your town?

What is there to do for young people?

Do you think you will live there for a long time?

Part 2:

Make a 2-minute video about a building you find interesting (password ieltsvip1).

NB Check out the Speaking Course Day 2 for more advice on how to talk about where you live.

(scroll down for more vocabulary for this)



Learning Link: Have a go with TubeQuizard

This site that has interactive grammar and vocabulary activities based on the subtitles and transcriptions from YouTube videos.

Learning Link: British Council LearnEnglishTeens is a great place to find clearly structured Writing models relevant to the IELTS Test.

The problem of sand depletion

This might help understand pagodas:



Writing Practice

General Training Task 1

You are a student at an English language school in London and you have been experiencing some problems in the flat. Write a letter to the landlord. In your letter

  • State your reason for writing
  • Describe the problems and explain how you feel
  • Propose a solution and ask the landlord to take action

Click here for a model answer

Dear Mr Smith

I am one of the tenants at your property in Brick Lane, and am writing to complain about the fact that we do not have any hot water or heating in our house.

As you know, we have been living in this house since June, and have always paid our rent on time. However, we have now been without heating or hot water for two weeks. This is making our lives very uncomfortable, especially as it is the middle of winter. 

Ten days ago you promised to send a workman to our house within 2 days but no one came. After calling many times, the workman eventually arrived at the house five days later. Unfortunately he said he could not fix the problem because the water heater was too old. We are now extremely unhappy about this situation.

We are unable to go on living in the house in these conditions and we would ask you to fix the problem urgently. Unless the heater is fixed or replaced within the next 24 hours, we will be forced to look for alternative accommodation. We also request a 50% refund on our rent for the period we have been without any hot water or heating.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Fiona Wattam

Task 2


People do not have such a close relationship with their neighbours as they did in the past.

Why is this so, and what can be done to improve contact between neighbours?

Click here for a model answer

In the past, neighbours formed an essential part of people’s social lives and they helped each other in times of need. Nowadays people often do not even know their neighbours and as a consequence they live more isolated lives. In my opinion, getting to know one’s neighbours requires time and energy, but the results will be hugely worthwhile.

There are a number of reasons why we have less contact with our neighbours. Firstly, our lifestyles are more mobile. This means that people move house quite frequently and relationships tend to become more superficial. Secondly, people often commute long distances to work. This leads to them forming closer relationships with work colleagues than with their neighbours. Finally, modern lifestyles make us spend more time inside our houses on screens than in the local pub.  As a result, we get fewer opportunities to build relationships within the community.

There are many ways in which neighbourhood ties could be strengthened. First of all, local authorities could provide more communal areas such as playgrounds and community halls so that there are places where neighbours can meet and make friends. In addition, I think that when new people come to a street, the local residents should make more of an effort to introduce themselves and welcome them. Lastly, people could set up neighbourhood associations that meet regularly to discuss the things which affect them.

Admittedly, these suggestions require a great deal of time and effort, both of which seem to be in very short supply in this day and age. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the community spirit is still alive and just needs a push in the right direction.

(275 words)


How much can you remember?



  • (all the) mod cons: technology at home that makes jobs easier such as a washing machine, dishwasher etc.
  • affordable housing- housing units that are affordable by that section of society whose income is below the average household income. 
  • apartment block: a large building made up of smaller units of apartments
  • back garden: a garden at the rear of the house
  • A close-knit community — whether a village or a city neighbourhood — is a place where people know their neighbours and look after them.
  • detached house: a house that is not physically connected to another property
  • to do up a property: to repair an old building
  • dream home: a home you regard as perfect
  • first-time buyer: someone buying a property for the first time, especially when taking out a loan (mortgage)
  • fully-furnished: a rented property with all furniture included
  • to get on the property ladder: to buy a property with the aim of buying another bigger or more expensive one later in life
  • hall of residence: a college or university building where students live
  • home comforts: things that make a home feel comfortable to live in
  • house-hunting: looking for a property to live in
  • house-warming party: a party to celebrate moving into a new home
  • ideal home: a perfect home
  • to live on campus: to live on the university or college grounds
  • mobile home: a home that can be moved by a vehicle or one that has its own engine
  • to move into: to begin to live in a property
  • to own your own home: to have bought the property you live in
  • to pay rent in advance: weekly or monthly rent paid at the beginning of the week or month
  • permanent address: a fixed address
  • property market: the buying and selling of land or buildings
  • to put down a deposit: to pay an amount of money as the first in a series of future payments
  • rented accommodation: property owned by someone else and for which a person pays a fixed amount to live in
  • a residential area = an area which is occupied by private houses
  • to restore (something old, especially a building) to a good state of repair.
  • single room: a room for one person
  • spacious room: a large room
  • student digs: student accommodation
  • the suburbs: a residential area on the edge of towns or cities
  • to take out a mortgage: to borrow a large amount of money, paid back over several years, in order to buy a house
  • terraced house: a house connected on both sides by other properties

Extra speaking vocab

Part 1 questions

Examiner: Do you live in a house or an apartment?

Student: Actually I live on campus … in a single room in halls of residence … it’s really convenient because it’s close to the university.

Examiner: Tell me about where you live.

Student: I live with my parents in the suburbs of Tokyo … we only moved in recently

Examiner: What kind of accommodation do most people live in in your city?

Student: In the city itself the majority of people live in apartment blocks … that’s what surprised me about England … most people seem to live in terraced houses 

Part 2

Describe a house or an apartment you would like to live in. You should say

  • what kind of accommodation it would be
  • where it would be
  • who would live there with you

and say why you would enjoy living in this place.

I think most people when answering this question would say they’d like to live in a big detached house with spacious rooms … views of the countryside and so on … but actually my ideal home would be a lot different … I’ve always loved the idea of having a mobile home … a really expensive one with all the mod cons … so I could live wherever I wanted or at least have lots of holidays and be able to take all my home comforts with me whenever I travelled … I realise this would have to be a second home as I’d need a base … a permanent address … but the mobile home would be the accommodation I’d find it exciting to live in … I suppose once I settle down and have children I’ll want to get on the property ladder … I’ll be like everyone else … saving up to put down a deposit on a house or an apartment … I don’t think my family would want to live in a mobile home … but I like to think I’ll still keep that dream home in mind …

Part 3 questions

Examiner: Is it better to own your own home or to rent?

Student: I think both have their advantages … living in rented accommodation isn’t necessarily a bad thing … you don’t have a huge debt like you do when you take out a mortgage but I suppose the property market offers you an investment for the future … I’m sure that’s why most people prefer to own their own home …

Examiner: What options are available to young couples looking for accommodation in your country?

Toni: If they want to buy their own home it isn’t easy for first-time buyers … mortgages are hard to get so most people live with their parents or in rented accommodation … but that can also be very expensive … you often have to pay rent in advance … and if the accommodation isn’t fully furnished you have the expense of buying furniture …

Examiner: What are some of the pleasures involved in making a home for ourselves?

Student: I suppose it starts with house-hunting … finding your ideal home … some people enjoy doing up an old property … giving a property that’s old and tired a new lease of life … others like making wherever they live feel like home with some home comforts …


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