I just watched two IELTS speaking videos. The first one's result is 8.5-9.0 and the second one's result is 9.0.

IELTS speaking Band Score 8.5-9.0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzzOowpCryw

IELTS speaking Band Score 9.0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjrlnyFKVKU

In the first video, there is this simple question:

A: ...Do you work or study?
B: I am still studying in my final year

In the second video, there is more or less the same kind of question:

A: ...Where do you live in your country?
B: I live in Hyderabad....

I asked my two British native friends. One said it should be "I am working" or "I am living", but the other one said both of those are fine.

So my question is which one is better to answer such question?

  • "I work" vs "I am working" ?
  • "I live" vs "I am living" ?
  • I'd say 'Do you work?' sounds a lot more idiomatic than 'Do you study?' for a start, which gives me concern about the quality of these tests. However, for [1], 1B is the only correct answer here, and 2B could equally well be 'I live in Hyderabad' or 'I am living in Hyderabad at the moment'. Jun 25, 2018 at 12:02
  • @EdwinAshworth My listening skill isn't perfect. Therefore, it could be that I listened it wrong. For your answer, I am still wondering why both "live" and "work" are treated differently? Is there any further explanation about it? Jun 25, 2018 at 12:10
  • @EdwinAshworth if a speaking examiner sees a young person, who is still obviously a teenager (13-19) the question "Do you study" rather than "Do you go to school", which sounds a bit infantile to my European ears, is acceptable and idiomatic. I know Americans call college "school" but in Europe and the UK (maybe Brexit will change even that) people will say "university" Anyway, Do you study? sounds perfectly acceptable to me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25, 2018 at 16:17
  • The examiner in the first video is more British than Miss Marples or Dame Judi Dench.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25, 2018 at 16:21
  • ... And I'd say isn't using idiomatic 'BrE'. This Google search only gives the IELTS result as a relevant one in the first fifty or so. Jun 26, 2018 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


You question is about the differences between the present tense (I work) and the present progressive (I am working). Both are acceptable in both instances. The present progressive tense implies that you have been doing the activity for some period of time, and in the examples given (work, life), could imply that you are doing something in contrast to either what you did just before (I am living in New York [these days]), or what you plan to do afterwards (I am studying literature [but I plan to graduate and do other things with my life]).

These subtleties are minor, though, and highly contextual.

  • I'd have marked 'I study' wrong as unidiomatic without padding. And '... in my final year' doesn't cut it. 'I work' doesn't have the same problem. Jun 25, 2018 at 12:13
  • "What do you do at university?" "I study English." - Not necessarily unidiomatic, but the cliche expression is "I am studying...", yes.
    – tidbertum
    Jun 25, 2018 at 12:17
  • 'I study English' is fine – it contains acceptable padding. // –'What do you do at university?' –'I study' doesn't, and would be at best whimsical – possibly insolent. // –'Do you work or are you a student?' – 'I study' just sounds unnatural. Jun 25, 2018 at 12:36

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