IELTS learning resources

Recently, I have taken the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test. The official result is not out yet, but I think it went quite smoothly. During my preparation, many friends have shared their learning resources and experience with me. So, in turn, I would like to help those who are going to sit the test by sharing my own resources and experience. I truly hope that you will find post useful.

Test format and preparation course:

First of all, test candidates should at least be familiar with the test format. Check out for details about test.

In addition, there is a free “IELTS Academic Test Preparation” course on Edx that you can enroll. I took the course and it was a big help.

Excerpt from the course’s intro:

Each section of this course includes engaging multi-media presentations reviewing key test-taking skills, strategies and techniques. These are accompanied by a wide variety of authentic IELTS-style exercises and interactive activities that provide focused practice of the skills, strategies and techniques that you need to perform at your best.


The next most important factor when learning a new language, in my opinion, is vocabulary. In all four of the IELTS tests, “Lexical Resources” is listed as an assessment criteria.

If you are at beginner to intermediate level and want to increase your “lexical resources”, I recommend taking notes of the words that you see or hear most often; and then review them regularly. In my early days learning English, I paid close attention new words that are in the Oxford 3000 common word list.

Please also note down the sample sentences in which you found the vocabulary. Learning a vocabulary without knowing how to use it is useless. Learn its pronunciation, too. Otherwise, you won’t recognize the word when you hear it. Check out It searches YouTube for videos that contain a certain word. With this, you learn not only the pronunciation, but also how the vocabulary is used by native speakers.

For more advanced learners, I heard that Verbal Advantage is quite decent.


Speaking has always been a challenge for us ESL (English as a Second Language) students. There are so many aspects that we need to pay attention to in order to speak well: pronunciation, grammar, stress, fluency, and more. I believe the reason why speaking is so challenging for us lies in how we learn English. While children learn their first language by listening to and mimicking the adults, ESL students often find themselves stringing words together to form perfect sentences. This impedes our ability to speak naturally.

So, to speak fluently, students should watch more English videos/movies and mimic the actors’ speech. Some useful resources:, and Rachel’s English’s imitation exercise playlist.

For people who can speak English somewhat fluently, but still want to improve their accents, take a look at Ben Franklin exercises.

Finally, for those who are going to take the IELTS speaking test soon, check out This website contains some practice speaking tests that you can do. It also allows you to record your own answers and playback for self-evaluation.

Exam tips:

My exam tips :)

  • Practice sample tests before sitting your IELTS test. Try to mimic the real test environment as much as possible. Time yourself. You can find test samples from the Cambridge IELTS series.
  • For reading and listening, remember that answer keys will appear in the same order as the questions.
  • For reading tasks, read the title first, then the questions, then scan the text for answers.
  • For writing, time yourself well. 20 mins for task 1, 40 mins for task 2. In task 1, 15-17 mins for writing and 3-5 mins for reviewing. In task 2, 5 mins outlining, 30 mins writing, 5 mins reviewing.
  • Extend your answers in speaking and writing with PREP (Point: state the point, Reason: give reasons, Example: give examples, Point: rephrase the point).
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New year resolution: Learning distributed systems

With the move towards DevOps and microservices. Distributed system skills will become increasingly valuable in the upcoming years. Design and implement distributed systems has always been an area of interest for me. I have taken one course on the topic but that alone is not enough to push my way into the industry. It is a hard topic and requires an appropriate level of preparedness. Therefore, this year, I am taking the initiative and make learning distributed systems my new year resolution.


After some research and conversations, this is my learning plan:

And the expected outcome:

  • Understand the basic concepts of distributed systems.
  • Understand the basis of parallel computing.
  • Capable of implementing simple distributed algorithms on a small cloud cluster.
  • Read and understand classical distributed system papers.


Let’s hope it all goes well.

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My first experience as Microsoft Intern

A little background here. I applied for Microsoft Internship a few months ago, back in May this year. It was a really good experience. I got accepted and prepared for visa as soon as I could.

I landed in Seattle last Saturday. It was a long flight. Luckily I was able to sleep on the plane so it wasn’t too bad for me despite there is a huge time difference between Sydney and Seattle. I got a taxi to get to the hotel arranged by Microsoft (MS).

My first impression about American was they are awesomely friendly. The driver who drove me was super friendly, he did a good job in introducing me to Seattle. I can see how significant Microsoft is to people here. They talk about it with an admiration. Something you don’t see very often.

The hotel room was big. Much much bigger than my room back in Sydney. Of course, this room costs around 1k4 a month compare to my humble half grand room. It’s more of a studio than a hotel room, There is a kitchen, a dining table and a working desk in the room; they also have a sofa and a television for entertainment; a closet of course; and a bathroom. I also got a cleanner every day, so, in that aspect, it’s more of a hotel. In addition to all that, the hotel offers daily breakfast which is great for a lazy guy like me.

So, the first day when I got to MS, I was astonished. They have free shuttles running from building to building. You can imagine how big the campus is. Wait, that should be campuses. Yes, they have a handful of campuses in Redmond. From my knowledge, they have West campus, East campus (old Main Campus), North West Campus and Redmond Town Center area. They have some other small campuses as well but I don’t really know their names.

The first day was a New Employee Orientation day. We need to fill out some forms to finish up the legal business so that we can focus on our work. It lasted half a day then we were sent off to see our managers.

It was quite funny when I first saw my manager. He was on the phone and I was standing outside. After a while, he went out, still with the phone on his hand, ignoring me and telling his teamate: “R, Could you help me with this, there is an intern here and I wasn’t expecting him”. I was thinking in my head “okay.. They already told me that my manager might change but just come here to have a look, so what do I do now?”. R was a nice person, she greeted me while my manager went back to his office to finish up his phone call. It was an awkward situation as they weren’t expecting me and here I am at their doorstep.

She pulled me into another of her teammate’s office and there we started talking about.. what to talk about as I am not suppose to be there. Anyhow, we talked vaguely about Microsoft structure and their team. After 15 minutes or so my manager came back and informed us that I will be with them for the next 3 months. Okay, so great. We talked some more. Then R headed back to her office and I was there with K, figuring out what I should do. K told me to start installing Visual Studio and start learning C# as I have no prior knowledge about the language and so I did. It took a while, we all went out for lunch while I left the computer installing Visual Studio. I spent the rest of the day playing around with the newly installed software and teaching up myself basic C#.

The first day went all well.

On the second day I got my office and a desktop computer. It was freaking awesome. I got a 4 core i7 machine with 2 monitors, 32GB of RAM and what not. I share the office with another intern from New Zealand, who helped me set up the computer. We had a little chat about our experiences. He also seems very happy with the setting here.

But that wasn’t the highlight of my second day. That morning, I went to a talked about Career Superpowers by James Whittaker (@docjamesw). He is super awesome, like super super awesome. For the first time in my life, I can sit for 3 hours presentation without being bored. Like they say, he got my undivided attention for 3 hours straight, and I believe all my peers felt the same. He really knows the art of story telling. He is confident, funny and, most of all, he knows people. He knows exactly how people think and what happens in their brains. That is why he is soooo good at attracting attentions and lecturing. It was the best 3 hours of my life (not literally).

My 3rd day involves learning the infrastructure and the tools that I will be working on. Nothing much, R helps me a lot, she spent more than half a day to teach me about the system. I still have some homework to do, including but not limited to C#, LINQ, javascript, windows internal (processes & threads, networking, crash dump). I’m feeling a bit lack of knowledge here but R was really patient when explaining things. I’m very grateful for her.

My communication with other interns are pretty good. I can talk to them normally. I think my English has improved. Who says spending 2 weeks watching the Big Bang Theorem doesn’t help? I can carry on a one-to-one or up to 3 persons conversation but couldn’t keep up with a group conversation. My brain just got saturated trying to interpret what people are saying. Hence, if you see me a group of interns with my eyes wide open looking around, I probably don’t know what everyone is saying.

Alright, that’s my first internship experience. How about yours?

As I learnt a new phrase from the American, I’m gonna use it now: Have a nice one!

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Làm chủ cuộc sống

Bí mật của cuộc sống, tình yêu và hạnh phúc có thể được giải mã với 3 từ đơn giản: Chơi. The. Sims.

Nó là một trò chơi mà bạn sẽ điều khiển cuộc sống của một con người bằng chuột. Muốn nói chuyện với bạn gái ngồi kia? Chỉ cần click vào cô ấy và chọn cái gì đó:

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I’m still going on facebook. Now I really love it. I also love this challenge. It helps me understand that facebook (and social network in general) isn’t all that bad. I only have the courage when I’m with people. Thank you, the Internet for allowing me to connect with my friends and my family. Thank you.

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It has almost be one week since I started this facebook diet. I feel like I’m going back to facebook more often than I expected. Mainly to communicate with friends that I know facebook is the easiest and fastest way to contact them.

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Language of use

I’m wondering should I write my blogs in English or Vietnamese. Each has their own benefits. I better have a list of what I would take into account when creating a blog. And here they are:

Just an image

Language mindmap

After a while I think it’s not necessary to blog in only one language. Do not constrain yourself as some body say.

Just a bit of thought. Thank you for reading this none-sense post.

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Facebook Graph Search và tiềm năng

Facebook vừa giới thiệu tính năng Graph Search hôm thứ Ba vừa rồi (15/01), làm rung chuyển cả giới công nghệ. Thế Graph Search là gì và tại sao nó lại có ảnh hưởng lớn đến thế?

Giới thiệu:

Đầu tiên phải nói Graph Search chính là một công cụ tìm kiếm như cái tên của nó. Tuy nhiên, nó không giống như Google hay Bing. Các kĩ sư của facebook đã phát biểu thế này: “Đối với Google, kết quả tìm kiếm của 1 cụm từ đối với mọi người là như nhau, nhưng đối với Graph Search, kết quả tìm kiếm của mỗi người là duy nhất”.

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IELTS Topic List

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