In the past, I have spoken often about the value of learning vocabulary in topics. In fact, I strongly believe that you should do most of your IELTS studying by topic. For example, environment, childhood, and technology are three common IELTS topics that frequently appear in the exam and making study plans based on these topics can be more interesting and rewarding. Today, however, we are going to talk about shopping.
Shopping is a common topic of daily conversation all over the world, and so it is predictable that it would be an IELTS topic, too. It can appear in the speaking or writing test, and it is also possible that it may occur in the reading or listening section of the exam.
In this lesson, I am going to guide you through some sample questions about shopping and also suggest some listening material. I will even give you a few practice reading questions! 😀
IELTS Vocabulary: Shopping
Before we begin looking at some practice IELTS questions, let’s start with some vocabulary. I do not believe that it is helpful to learn words insolation so I can going to give you a few words and then the phrases and sentences in which they are normally used. You should try to learn the groups of words that go together rather than single words.
First of all, let’s look at the word buy and its synonyms: purchase, get, acquire, obtain, procure, pay for, and pick up. The most common of these words is “buy.” We can use it in a simple structure:
SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT
I will buy a car.
Of course, we can modify this by changing the verb tense or adding some sort of qualifier before the verb or an adjective before the noun:
I have never bought a car.
I will buy a used car.
We can more or less swap in the other words but remember that they are not exact synonyms. They just have close meanings. We can also divide them according to how formal or informal they are:
|Acquire||Pay for||Pick up|
Let’s look at a few examples then of how these words could be used in real sentences:
- She purchased fourteen movies on her streaming service during the quarantine period.
- This is slightly formal but not very formal.
- The bank is looking to acquire new properties.
- This is formal and refers less to paying and more to getting these lands.
- I wonder if it would be possible to procure more samples.
- Again, this is more about getting than paying.
- Can you grab me a can of coke from the shop?
- This is very informal language.
- Don’t forget to pay for those things that you put in your bag.
- This concentrates more on payment than ownership.
Ok, now let’s look more generally at going to the shops or buying things online. For some people this is a hobby, so let’s not think about buying as much as looking around at products.
Some of the words that we say for this are: shop, browse, look for, peruse, and hunt. We may also use more general terms like “go for a wander” or “have a look around” to refer to the fact that we will be walking and looking in shops.
We might say something like:
- I’m going into town later. I have a bit of shopping to do.
- Are you going shopping later? Can you pick up a few things for me?
- Don’t worry. I won’t spend too much. I’m just having a browse. (OR I’m just browsing.)
- I’m going into town to look for some new jeans.
- I love to peruse the bookshops.
- We were in town all weekend, hunting for bargains.
Note: the word “peruse” is uncommon and quite difficult to use correctly. I would not recommend it for IELTS unless you are really confident in its use.
Finally, we also use the term window shopping, but it’s not very frequently used. It means to look in the windows of shops without the intention of actually buying anything. Many people enjoyed doing this until the advent of the internet, and now it seems to have gotten less popular.
IELTS Speaking Questions: Shopping
In this section, I am going to show you some common IELTS speaking questions about the topic of shopping. I will also give you a few sample answers to these questions, so that you can begin to model your own answers. Feel free to post your ideas in the comment section below. 🙂
In part one of the IELTS speaking test, you will be given normal, everyday questions that require short, simple answers. Here are eight examples:
- Do you like shopping? (Why? Why not?)
- Do you often go shopping for personal items?
- Are there many shops near your home? (What kind?)
- Are there many shops where you live?
- Who usually does the shopping in your home?
- How often do you buy something in a shop?
- Do you like shopping on the internet?
- What kinds of things do you buy online?
Let’s look at the sort of answer you could give:
- Do you like shopping?
- No. To be honest, I don’t really like shopping. My girlfriend sometimes drags me into town and occasionally I need to buy things myself, but I can’t say that I enjoy it.
This is just three sentences, and the first sentence was just one word. You don’t need to say very much for part one. Try to give a straight answer, then add a little more detail. If you feel the need to talk a lot, just wait until the next parts, when your answers need to be longer.
In part two, you will be given a cue card that contains instructions for what you must talk about. You will need to talk for between 1-2 minutes. Here are two examples:
Describe your favourite shop.
You should say:
where it is
what it sells
how often you go there
and explain why you think it is a good shop.
Describe a time when you bought something for someone. You should say
when this was
what is was you bought
who you bought it for
and say how you felt about buying it for them.
Finally, in the third part of the IELTS speaking test, you must answers more difficult questions. These often include abstract ideas or relate the topic to age/gender/ethics. For example:
- Do you agree or disagree that women spend more time shopping than men?
- How do companies encourage the consumer to spend their money?
- Do people generally prefer to buy products from their own or from other countries?
- Do you think we will stop using paper money in the future?
- Why do you think some people purchase things that they do not need?
- What do you think shops need to do to create a positive shopping experience?
For these questions, you must talk at length. Make sure that your answer is fully developed and try not to repeat yourself too much while answering the question. Here is my sample answer to question #4.
- Do you think we will stop using paper money in the future?
- Yes, of course. In fact, it’s possible to see that certain places are already making the transition. In China, most money is spent by phone now. People just scan a QR code to pay for things online or even in shops. Other countries, like India and Sweden, are moving towards this model, and of course cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are another way that people are moving towards digital payments. I would be surprised if people are still handing coins and notes to each other in ten years.
You can see that this is pretty developed. I gave my answer first, then expanded it, then explained, and gave some examples.
IELTS Listening Practice: Shopping
Sometimes when we are presented with a topic for IELTS, it is actually a mixture of two or three topics. After all, that is just how life works. When we discuss the environment, it usually intersects with politics, society, and other such issues.
I would to show you a TED video and we can do some listening practice for it. This video is from 2015 and it features a woman who used 3D printing to make her own clothes. It’s quite amazing!
You should watch the video once and then do the questions below.
Fill in the Blanks
Read the following paragraph and then fill in the blanks with the missing word(s). You should write no more than THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER. This is from the very start of the video. You can find the answers at the bottom of this page.
In the past few months, I’ve been traveling for weeks at a time with only ____1____ of clothes. One day, I was invited to an important event, and I wanted to wear something special and new for it. So I looked through my suitcase and I couldn’t find _____2_____. I was lucky to be at the technology conference on that day, and I had access to 3D printers. So I quickly designed a ____3_____ on my computer, and I loaded the file on the printer. It just printed the pieces overnight. The next morning, I just took all the pieces, _____4_____ together in my hotel room, and this is actually the skirt that I’m wearing right now.
So it wasn’t the first time that I _____5_____. For my senior collection at fashion design school, I decided to try and 3D print an entire _____6_____ from my home. The problem was that I barely knew anything about 3D printing, and I had only nine months to figure out how to print five _____7_____ looks.
IELTS Reading Practice
Next, we are going to do some reading practice based upon the IELTS topic of shopping. This passage is taken from a recent article by CNBC, which you can find here. Please read the following passage and then answer the questions below.
FreshDirect co-founder and former CEO Jason Ackerman said customers’ growing interest in online grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic has whet venture capital firms’ appetites.
In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Alley,” he said the surge of online grocery shopping has inspired more investors to look closely at the sector.
“I’m seeing more deals in online grocery … than I’ve ever seen before,” he said.
In the U.S., customers have been slow to adopt online grocery shopping. Only 3% or 4% of grocery spending in the U.S. was online before the coronavirus outbreak.
During the pandemic, however, online grocery shopping has quickly gained popularity as people look for ways to avoid the grocery store. Grocers and delivery services, such as Instacart and FreshDirect, have struggled to ramp up to meet that sudden increase in demand.
Ackerman said the challenges have underscored the need for more investments in infrastructure to speed up order fulfillment, lower costs and improve the experience for customers. He said some manufacturers are limiting production to popular items and grocers are slimming down their selection of online offerings to have fewer out-of-stock items and substitutions.
True, False, or Not Given?
Read the following statements and decide whether they are TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN. (The answers are at the bottom of the page.)
- Mr. Ackerman thinks that venture capitalists are excited due to the rise in online shopping.
- A record number of investors is now looking at online retail.
- Online grocer retailers have easily managed to keep up with orders.
- Some retailers have reduced the number of products they sell online.
Finally… IELTS Writing: Shopping
Last of all, we can take a look at IELTS writing and how the topic of shopping might impact it. There are hundreds of questions about shopping that could appear, but let’s pick one as an example and explore what you would need to do.
Here is an example question:
Buying things on the internet, such as books, air tickets and groceries, is becoming more and more popular.
Do the advantages of shopping in this way outweigh the disadvantages?
So here we have an advantages and disadvantages question. You can learn all about this question type here, but for now let’s just say that you need to discuss the two sides (advantages/disadvantages) and then say whether or not one outweighs the other.
We need to brainstorm first, which means coming up with pros and cons to the situation:
|Convenient||Possibility of fraud|
|Quick||Mistakes easily made|
|More choice||Can’t see the products|
Obviously, there are many more ideas that could be included. You should think of the best ones, then narrow it down to just one or two ideas. Describe these in some coherent paragraphs and then offer a smart conclusion.
Sample Band 9 Answer
Here is my sample answer to the above question:
In the twenty-first century, an unprecedented level of convenience has descended upon the lives of people in the developed world. It is now easy to order food or shop over the internet at the click of a button. This has brought numerous advantages and a few disadvantages, too.
Buying things online has been a huge boon for the average person. Without overhead costs to pay, companies can afford to sell things for extraordinarily cheap prices, and they are all competing with one another for customers, giving the average person an incredible range of bargains. This applies to buying almost anything, from food to clothes to cars. Obviously, this is a tremendous advantage that has shaped the way we live. It is also good for businesses because small companies can now compete, to some extent, with major retailers.
However, there are disadvantages and these primarily affect the businesses. First and foremost, the rise of internet shopping has consolidated huge power in the hands of companies like Amazon, who were the first to really take advantage of the situation. As a result, high street shops have been closing at an alarming rate. With rent to pay, they simply cannot compete with online stores. This also affects customers to some degree because those who don’t want to shop online now have to walk through deserted city centres and find that their favourite shops are now closed. Soon, it seems, shopping online will be the only way to purchase things.
In conclusion, shopping online has greatly changed our society, and it has done so in both positive and negative ways, and it is hard to say whether one outweighs the other. If you are a customer, certainly the positives seem greater, but for business owners the negatives are definitely more severe.
My structure here was quite simple:
- Introduction (hint at balance)
- Advantages (price)
- Disadvantages (monopolies)
- Conclusion (balanced overall but more advantages for individuals and more negatives for businesses)
Note that I avoided saying too much for the advantages. I could have written many paragraphs about convenience and speed etc., but honestly it is better to say just one or two things and give more development. This allows you to show off your skills for Coherence and Cohesion.
- one suitcase
- anything to wear
- assembled them
- printed clothes
- fashion collection
- NOT GIVEN (It said “more” investors were inspired. We don’t know if this is a record or not.)
- FALSE (They have “struggled.”)