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 notThis article will tell you two ways to go from a 7 band to an 8/9 band in IELTS speaking. It has some key secrets that native speakers know that you don’t. But if you read the article and do the exercises, you will have the secrets within the next 20 minutes.

One of the differences between band 7 and band 8 speaking is being about using the right tone of expression when you are speaking. Non-native speakers often sound impolite or short and abrupt when they are expressing dislikes. I’m going to tell you how to avoid this in three easy steps.

Another thing is that in band 8 you need to express exact meanings. A band 8 candidate can say whether they dislike something only a little or you dislike it very much with a natural choice of words. I’m going to give you some different expressions for these situations.

Everything you learn in this article is about speaking; different rules, words and expressions are needed for the writing test.

Words can sound sad, angry, happy…argumentative

One thing to learn is that we use softeners to make our negative spoken statements less direct.  These softeners avoid us from sounding like we want to argue. When you don’t use them, the native speaker might think you are angry with them or want to pick a fight with them.

You have probably seen a list of language functions for expressing likes that goes something like this:

  • It is my cup of tea
  • I am into
  • I enjoy

Here are two more expressions,

  • I am a big fan of…
  • I  am crazy about…

So do you think we can just put “not” with these phrases to make them negative?

It is not my cup of tea; I am not into; I do not enjoy…

Can we say them in this way?

The answer is going to be no, right? Or why would I be asking the question…

So, what are the first 3 rules for making yourself sound friendly and polite when expressing a dislike in English?

  1. Contract any not’s and auxiliary verbs
  2. Add adverbs
  3. Add discourse markers

Woah! Such technical language. Don’t worry; I’m going to show you in three easy steps with lots of examples.

Impolite1. Contract to make politer – adds informality
No, I do not enjoy swimmingNo, I don’t enjoy  swimming
2. Add adverbs to make politer still3. Add discourse markers to soften the tone
No, I don’t really enjoy swimmingAhh.  Well, no. I don’t really enjoy swimming

The following are all alternatives to “It is not my cup of tea” which are much more natural to say. I tell my students to avoid saying “it is not my cup of tea” because it sounds so old-fashioned. I hear people saying it, but those people are all over 65 years of age.

  • Oh, well, I’m not very much into nightclubs and dancing. Do you fancy a film instead?
  • Ahh, no, I don’t really enjoy my job, but it pays the bills, I guess
  • Actually, I’m not exactly crazy about the way people waste food
  • Hmm, I’m not really into zoos at all. In fact, they make me rather sad.
  • Well, I have to say, I’m not hugely a fan of football stars earning so much money
  • Well, I don’t care too much for the way people throw litter on the street

Can you put the words into columns according to which are discourse markers, contractions and adverbs? Work on paper – it will really help you.

The first two rows are done for you:

contractions             adverbs                 Discourse markers               expressions                   
I’m notVery muchOh wellTo be into
I don’treallyahhTo enjoy


You might have just realised rule 4 for expressing dislikes. This is something Brits do – we are masters of understatement! An understatement uses softer words when the feeling is actually very strong.

Try the exercise again and this time rate the feelings of the speaker. You can put dislike or “pet hate.” A pet hate is a hate that you keep close to your heart. Something you love to hate. The label them statement or understatement and see what pattern comes out.

As I promised earlier, here are some ways to express degrees of dislike.

IN IELTS Band 8 or 9 expressing different degrees of dislike is essential.

Can you guess these?

PhraseAbsolute fear and hatredSlight dislike or distasteIndifference – not really care that much
Oh zoos. Well  they’re not really my thing.
I’m an out and out bird hater. I can’t stand to be near them.
I think I’d rather cross the street than go near a dog.
Hmm, extreme weather. Well it doesn’t really bother me; I’ve got used to it living in Moscow.
I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of Apple products because I don’t want to get locked in.
Iphones. I guess they are okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one.
I’m not crazy about pizza.  Well, I try to avoid cheese in my diet.
I wouldn’t go near a jazz concert if you paid me
Coffee? Well, as far as I’m is concerned, I can take it or leave it. I am a green tea person, really

Do you remember everything? A useful summary of everything in the article is here. Go here also for the answers to both exercises. COMING SOON!!

Alternatively, if you would like to receive updates, you can download the whole article, plus the summary and answers as an ebook. I am writing a book on how to go from band 7 to 8 in IELTS. If you would like to see the content as I write it, please sign up for my email list. For a start, you will get a PDF of this blog post which I have specially designed so you can enter notes onto it. It also contains all the answers to the questions. COMING SOON!

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