What English textbooks, online tools and websites are good for IELTS Band 9 or CEFR C2?

These are my favorite English language learning books with all the titles and authors on one page. Ask me specifically which books / which sections / which chapters would be best for your purposes. 

Vocabulary Building Resources

These books offer chapters organized around topics, for creating topic-centred mind maps for IELTS Speaking. Please consider getting copies of these books. I can help you prioritize which ones to start with.

  • The (Canadian) Oxford Picture Dictionary | This is a comprehensive resource meant for newcomers to Canada and includes drawings of every object and place in daily life with all the vocabulary for little items, tools, utensils. This is an amazing resource for CELPIP, and for anyone who lives in Canada now.
  • Oxford Word Skills Intermediate | Gairns and Redman
  • Oxford Word Skills Advanced | Gairns and Redman
  • Elementary Vocabulary | BJ Thomas
  • Intermediate Vocabulary | BJ Thomas
  • Advanced Vocabulary | BJ Thomas
  • Collocations in Use Intermediate | McCarthy and O’Dell
  • Collocations in Use Advanced | McCarthy and O’Dell
  • Phrasal Verbs in Use Intermediate | McCarthy and O’Dell
  • Phrasal Verbs in Use Advanced | McCarthy and O’Dell

 IELTS Speaking Resources

Speaking for IELTS (for Band 6 / covers exam-related lexical resource and structures) | Karen Kovacs | Collins  

 IELTS Writing Resources

  • IELTS Advantage Writing Skills 6.5 ~ 7 | Richard Brown | Lewis Richards (how to organize essays, teaches the phrases you need in a systematic way)
  • Writing for IELTS with Answer Key 6.0 ~ 7.5 | Stephanie Dimond-Bayir | Macmillan (deals with vocabulary and structures for describing graphs)
  • Barron’s Writing for the IELTS | Dr Lin Lougheed | This is a good book for improving accuracy in sentences, for learning cohesion, to learn ways to ‘tackle’ different types of prompts. It includes Band 7-ish model responses i.e. ten Task 1 letters and ten Task 2 essays at the back of the book.
  • Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS | the writing section (pages 91 to 132) and eight practice exams have sample writing tests at the back that are worth looking at

 Academic Module Task 1 Resources

  • Writing about Graphs and Visuals | Gabi Duigu | e-book (a unique resource compiled by a teacher that specifically deals with how to write reports on simple graphs, charts and diagrams)

IELTS General Preparation Resources | Practice Exams

  • Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS – The Definitive Guide | Cullen, French, Jakeman Highly recommended / a must-have!
  • Cambridge 14,13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 Practice Tests (with answers! You’ll need the book that comes with answers!)
  • Barron’s IELTS Practice Exams (6 GT practice tests and 6 AC practice tests)
  • Kaplan 6 Practice Tests for the IELTS Very good!
  • Collins Practice Tests for IELTS 1 and 2 (four academic practice tests per book) The example Task 2 essays are good.
  • McGraw-Hill’s IELTS | (1 GT practice test and 4 AC practice tests)
  • (READING) IELTS Advantage Reading Skills 6.5 ~ 7 | Richard Brown | Lewis Richards |
  • (VOCABULARY) Barron’s Essential Words for IELTS | Bands 5.0 to 6.5 (10 units of three reading topics, organized by theme. The units provide practice in all four skills areas. The reading questions resemble the reading questions on the exam. The best feature of this book are the exercises on word families.

 English for Academic Purposes Resources

Academic English in Use | McCarthy and O’Dell | This book is GREAT.  Can’t recommend this unique book enough.

Oxford EAP: Course in English for Academic Purposes | Upper-Intermediate B2 | Edward de Chazel & Sam McCarter | Make sure you get the CD. This is for serious keeners who are planning to study at universities overseas and want help with listening to lectures, writing reviews of articles, writing major essays, giving presentations.  It’s dense, good for first year college or university students planning to do undergraduate studies in English. I bought my copy at the bookstore of a college in Toronto.

 General English Resources

  • Upstream Proficiency (CEFR C1+ | IELTS 7+) Student Book and Workbook | Virginia Evans and Jenny Dooley | The table of contents maps ‘English in Use’ (grammar) with readings with vocabulary so you’re covering writing skills / C1+ level grammar in context. The workbook is very thorough and substantive. The problem is the age of articles; you’ll read about life in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Jennifer ESL and ENGVID are popular youtube channels on tenses, concepts, structures that are worth mastering.  Jennifer ESL teaches very clear lessons on all aspects of grammar, whereas ENGVID is a consortium of teachers who provide entertaining ‘chalk and talk’ lectures on all aspects of English language learning (test-taking, grammar, reading, pronunciation)

 Grammar Reference

Intermediate Learners (B2):

  • How English Works | Michael Swan | This is my ‘go to’ book for my classes because the explanations and exercises are so clearly contexualised.
  • Collins COBUILD Intermediate English Grammar | Willis
  • Grammar in Use Intermediate | Murphy
  • Grammar in Use Upper-Intermediate | Murphy

 Advanced Learners (C1+):

  • Practical English Usage | Michael Swan
  • Collins COBUILD English Usage
  • Grammar in Use Advanced | Hewings
  • Grammar Scan Diagnostic Tests for Practical English Usage | Michael Swan & David Bakee | Take one of three tests (Upper Intermediate, Advanced or Expert) and see your results. For each mistake, you are directed to the section of PEU (Practical English Usage) to clarify the concept and see examples in use.

Other Resources

  • Teaching Tenses | Rosemary Aitken (includes comprehensive details for the form, meaning and use of tenses, active and passive voice, modals, conditionals)
  • The English Verb | Michael Lewis (for advanced learners, reveals the limits of prescriptive, pedagogical grammar ‘rules’)
  • What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? Paul Nation | An easy read with evidence-based ideas for how to organize your learning and what to prioritize.
  • Barron’s The Ins and Outs of Prepositions 2nd ed. | Jean Yates (a reference book that lists all the uses of each preposition, with common phrasal verbs and expressions for each, not so user-friendly but a unique, in-depth resource)
  • Academic Listening Strategies | Julia Salehzadeh (pages 28 to 38 about how spoken language is very different from written language and how understanding this helps listening) If you study in a pre-university EAP program in an English-speaking country, this is the kind of textbook you’d have for a course on Academic Listening Skills. 
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High | Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler | The authors present some unique ways to get through tough conversations assertively.  Their company, Vital Smarts, has some informative videos on youtube.