IELTS: 8 1/2 … Chasing 8 1/2

12th October 2020

8½ (1963) | The Criterion Collection

Let’s hit the ground running … my recent tests highlighted key areas on which all students, without exception, need to work, namely:

fluency

complex sentences

pronunciation including intonation and stress

Not forgetting, to constantly increase and expand their vocabulary. A reminder of some recent language:

gritty / industrial

quite / safe / residential

boring / peaceful / suburban

bustling / vibrant / city centre

apparently – something you believe to be true

conversely – the opposite, on the other hand, however

actually – saying something that is surprising or is the truth

New idioms

bear with me – please wait a very short time

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

hit the ground running – to start something immediately and with all your energy.

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, normal, usual, boring

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

Top Five Tips for Crossing the Street in Vietnam

Exercise 1: Using the new vocabulary. Fill in the blanks:

I live near some factories in a ___________ , ________________ area.

The traffic is my neighbourhood is a nightmare, I __________________ every time I go out or try to cross the road.

I was rather disappointed in the latest Bond film it was merely a ____________________ spy movie.

This is a library ? With all this noise ! It’s _______________________ here.

Let me check my files, __________________ a moment.

Don’t ask him about his test score, it’s a bit of a ____________ . He only got 65% although he was expecting to ace the test.

China is the biggest country in the world, oh, no, sorry ________________ it’s Russia.

The lockdown has affected many urban areas. What used to be a _________________ , ____________ city centre is now a ghost town.

Exercise 2: what is a ghost town ? Can you understand these lyrics ? The Specials with ‘Ghost Town’:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ2oXzrnti4

Ghost Town

The Specials

This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
All the clubs have been closed down
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
Bands won’t play no more
Too much fighting on the dance floor

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown

This town (town) is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Government leaving the youth on the shelf
This place (town) is coming like a ghost town
No job to be found in this country
Can’t go on no more
The people getting angry

This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town
This town is coming like a ghost town

Songwriters: Jerry Dammers

Exercise 3: What do you know about The Specials. Here’s some facts. Arrange them in the form of an IELTS-standard paragraph.

The Specials were formed in Coventry, in the British Midlands.

Formed in 1977. They had two main singers, Terry Hall and Neville Staple.

Their music is a mix of punk and reggae.

They had a number 1 song in 1980.

‘Ghost Town’ was also a number 1. It was released in 1981. This song is about the recession in the UK. Many people had no work, no money and no hope.

The Specials broke up (disbanded) in 1984 but later reformed. They still perform together.

Next blog will focus on pronunciation. To my classroom students, be prepared for a lot more speaking and practising so, yes ! You DO have to say it again … and again …

Bruce Lee quote: Practice makes perfect. After a long time of practicing,  our...

Attaining 8 1/2 … a piece of cake.

8 1/2 – Brisbane International Film Festival

IELTS, Adult Speaking Class, Level 3. Warm up conversation starters

9th October 2020

Sometimes students arrive at class after a long day, bereft of energy and motivation. In such situations, it’s best to hit the ground running, get them talking and ready for a lesson. This needs to be done before they pull out their mobiles and start concentrating on their cyberlife … after which time, they are lost to reality.

adults-casual-cellphone-1413653 - Study Finds

Therefore, before they can hit that ‘Post’ button, pair them up and make them ask each other various questions, demanding that the answers be as complex as possible, incorporating big words (‘Low-Frequency Words’), discourse markers and relative pronouns, along with appropriate expressions.

Example: Where would you most like to visit ?

Bad answer: Nowhere. Bad answer: New York.

Better answer:

Introduce your answer THEN state the location THEN explain why.

Ah, that’s an interesting question because I really need a holiday. However travelling now is not a good idea because of the COVID 19 which is an extremely serious pandemic. So, I have to think about after, when it is safe to go on holiday.

I have always wanted to visit Singapore, because it looks so clean and modern and, not forgetting, so many shopping malls. I love shopping, it is my passion. I would buy so many things such as clothes, makeup and presents for my family.

IELTS students should be able to add a number of idiomatic language to really spice up their presentation. I would expect to hear:

cost(s) an arm and a leg / prices (can be \ are) sky high / mouth-watering / world famous / ubiquitous / pristine / that’s a bit of a sore point (because we CAN’T travel) / such a wide array / shop till (I \ you) drop / overwhelming / spoilt for choice / retail therapy

Cheap Shopping Place in Singapore - Buy Souvenirs in the Bugis Street Area
Remember … there are some affordable shopping areas in Singapore although they tend to be away from the city centre but well worth a visit.

NOW … your turn

Questionnaire / Discussion

What kind of music do you like ? (do you play or listen ?)

Can you name any plays by Shakespeare ? (if not what writer do you like ?)

What time do you usually get up ? (weekdays and weekends)

How do you relax ? (do you have time or do you study, have family, work overtime ?)

Can you play a musical instrument ? (would you like to ? Why ?)

What skill(s) would you like to acquire ? (be creative here – what stops you learning ?)

What is the best thing about Sai Gon ? (or YOUR city)

However, this is not a one-way street. The person asking is expected to make small talk, to elicit – to encourage – the speaker to open up and expand on their answers.

Use small talk phrases such as:

Really ? That’s interesting // Tell me more // Why do you say that ? // Oh, me too // What do (did) you like best // Where is that (exactly) ? // I’ve heard about that // I haven’t heard about that, can you explain // Why do you say that ? // Oh, I get it // I’m not sure I follow.

And if your partner is stonewalling you (not talking), here’s a great idiom:

IDIOM OF THE WEEK: Cat Got Your Tongue... - Cairns Language Centre |  Facebook

IELTS: There are places I’ll remember …

6th October 2020

IELTS Mindset 1.Speaking lesson U2 – Places and buildings

English language, British culture – let’s kick off with two iconic parts of Liverpool, immortalised by The Beatles:

Penny Lane Tattoo - Trang chủ | Facebook
Forever Strawberry Field | The Salvation Army - YouTube

In case you are unaware of these classic songs, here’s ‘Penny Lane’, a song from 1967 which, amazingly, only reached Number 2 in the pop charts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-rB0pHI9fU

How much can you understand ?

A typical, run of the mill IELTS question will be about your hometown or about your neighbourhood.

First, some new vocabulary. I will expect you to learn these:

gritty / industrial

quite / safe / residential

boring / peaceful / suburban

bustling / vibrant / city centre

apparently – something you believe to be true

conversely – the opposite, on the other hand, however

actually – saying something that is surprising or is the truth

New idioms

bear with me – please wait a very short time

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, unusual, boring

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

NOW … your turn

Tell me about your neighbourhood

Remember, give me a great introduction, have a positive point, a negative point and a short conclusion.

Use some of the new vocabulary

Real estate news: Outstanding Housing Projects Of Kien A Investors
An apartment block in the Cat Lai area of Sai Gon. Artist’s impression.
HCM city aims to reduce seaport traffic jams
The reality of living in Cat Lai, one of the busiest ports in south east Asia

Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because I live in a terribly noisy gritty industrial area. My apartment is near the Cat Lai port which is one of the busiest in Vietnam. Consequently, we have containers driving past, day and night which, as you can imagine, creates so much pollution.

However, allow me to talk about the good points. Firstly, it is significantly cheaper than, say, District 1 or 3, as it is quite far to the centre. The shops, also, tend to be on the cheap side. Additionally we have some street markets where I can pick up some very cheap food and fresh fish. We are well-served with several convenience stores although, in my opinion, Family Mart charges an arm and a leg.

Conversely, my friends avoid visiting me because it is so dangerous to ride a motorbike here, we really take our lives in our hands every time we go out. Furthermore, I love fresh air so I open my windows, yet I have to dust and clean every day because so much dirt comes in. Finally, we have open-air karaoke nearly every night and street wedding parties most weekends which means loud and terrible singing. It’s like a madhouse, I really detest this horrible noise.

I am lucky with my neighbours, and the apartment is really spacious. Having said that, the area is so bad that as soon as possible, I will leave and find somewhere cleaner and safer.

British Food: IELTS sample answers continued

1st October 2020

Index of /wp-content/uploads/2019/01/

Today we’ll turn our attention to Part 2: uninterrupted speaking for up to two minutes.

Remember, you have a minute to write notes. Use the method which works best for you, but I suggest you write a keyword that will help you recall L-FWs or an idiom.

Look at the previous blogs to see some useful words: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/28/british-food-various-exercises-various-levels/

mouth-watering / nutritious / filling / spicy / bland / traditional /

prices can be sky-high / cost an arm and a leg / astronomical / not my cup of tea

And: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/29/british-food-part-2-sample-answers-for-ielts/

Indian Street Food in London Compilation - including some Restaurant Food  (Part 3). - YouTube
Indian street food in London

Part 2: What problems would you have with the food if you lived in the UK ?

You should say:

what UK food you know,

if you have ever tried it

if you have ever seen it

if you think you would enjoy it … and why (or why not).

Try to speak for the full 2 minutes. By now, you should know the formula: great introduction, some positive points, some negative, an anecdote, then a conclusion.

Well, that’s a very pertinent question because recently, I have been thinking about where I would like to study, and the UK is certainly top of my list. I am sure there would be some culture shock, especially when it comes to the food.

In class, we have seen some photos of traditional food such as toad in the hole, the full English breakfast and of course, the traditional Sunday roast. I think that British people have special food at Christmas time with … let me remember … turkey and vegetables then a special pudding which they set alight. I guess they use strong alcohol to make it burn. It looks tremendous fun.

I come from a small town, so I only had local food, but now I live in a big city, I can experience more western cuisine although we mostly eat fast food. So, no, I haven’t tried British food. Not yet, but the Christmas food looks mouth-watering.

Sometimes I watch a movie and I look out for what people eat. It looks very different from my country. Oh, of course, we use chopsticks here, as well as spoons, but they use a knife and fork in the UK. I tried once. My friend Jenny, who went to London on holiday, came back with a present for me. It was a knife and fork. I tried, I really tried but I couldn’t get the hang of it.

However when I see people eat in restaurants, I am a little nervous. They look so expensive. It must cost an arm and a leg to eat there.

Would I enjoy it ? I am not sure but I think so. My favourite food is chicken and sea food so I am sure I can get those easily. Maybe the food would possibly be bland compared to Asian food because we use lots of fresh vegetables and spices. On the other hand, new food is part of the new culture. Now I start to feel hungry !

What is 'mukbang'? Inside the viral Korean food YouTube trend

IELTS: Pre-speaking Test Review.

30th September 2020

Kill Bill: Volume 1 Review. “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”… | by  Dillon McCarty | incluvie | Medium
revenge is a dish best served cold- -The Godfather-Don vito Corleone |  Godfather quotes, Revenge quotes, Gangster quotes

Indeed … next week is the speaking test, so I get to interview the students, one-to-one, to see how much they have listened to me and retained the information.

For some students, the biggest test will be NOT using their phones for ten minutes. Be that as it may … No time for learning anything new, tonight will just be as many activities as reasonable, and then practice.

I shall offer my help to those that request it.

So, let’s kick off with the first game:

Two teams … on the board, single words. Teams have to complete the idiom and give the definition.

mouth // candle // cats // piece // arm // grindstone // sky // blue //.

Next, one team selects a word, then asks one member of the other team to use it in a sentence.

Moving on up: Complex sentences. I shall give the names of some famous companies and the teams have to compose a complex sentence using relative pronouns and discourse markers.

For example:

I have my heart set on buying a pair of Converse, which is an American company with a star logo, who make very fashionable, not to mention very cool, footwear.

The teams have to choose from:

The rare vintage Rolls-Royce that once carried the Lord Mayor of Manchester  and royalty - Manchester Evening News
Rolls Royce
McDonald's joins the plant revolution - New Food Magazine
McDonalds
Oppo mobile A9 2020 (Space Purple, 4GB RAM, 128GB Storage): Amazon.in:  Electronics
Oppo Chinese phone company
Ikea sells on external platform for the first time | RetailDetail
Ikea Swedish furniture

Keep the ball rolling with a pronunciation game. I’ll play two clips of native speakers. The teams, one by one, have to copy using correct intonation and stress.

First write down what they say. Then … say it.

For the young gentlemen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxwcQ1dapw8

For the young ladies: (from 6:24 – 6:34) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq7Sx4VOJa0&t=407s

Keeping things truckin’ next activity is:

‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Word ?’

The following is a list of words and expression I’ve used, and blogged, over the course of this course. How many do the teams know … I want definition and an example in a sentence:

without further ado // tricks up your sleeve //inevitably // ace the test // pass with flying colours // pertinent // do yourself proud // you are in the driver seat // occur

Think on your feet

The dog ate my homework - Family and Fertility Law

A classic excuse for British schoolchildren, when they haven’t done their homework, is to tell the teacher that their dog ate their homework.

I will give the teams some scenarios and they have to come up with a creative response:

You are late to class … why ?

You have been using your mobile phone the whole lesson, despite knowing the centre rules … why ?

You have been riding a motorbike with three people on it … why ?

You only got a 3.5 in your IELTS test … why ?

And now, it just remains to wish the teams all the luck they deserve.

See you next week … revenge is a dish best served cold

BBC Two - Mastermind - The history of Mastermind

British Food part 2: Sample answers for IELTS

29 September 2020.

Part 1: Have you ever tried western food ?

Well living in a big city, I have a wide choice of food, including American and European cuisine. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous so I have eaten, for example, burgers, KFC and pizza, which is my favourite.

In my opinion, younger people like western food. I often hang out with my friends at a mall and then grab a bite. It can be quite quick and very tasty. The restaurants are fun because they are colourful, have music and many happy people.

Having said that, fast food, especially burgers and fried chicken, is very unhealthy. There isn’t much salad. My mother, who is a great cook, doesn’t want me eating this food but I feel that it is OK if I only eat it occasionally.

Another point is the price. As a student, I think pizza costs an arm and a leg. It is so expensive compared to local street food. When I eat at, say, Pizza Hut, I usually order the sea food because it’s, I guess, better for me that the four-meat special !

Naturally there is a lot of western food that is mouth-watering and nutritious. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried much although I did go to an Italian restaurant once, when my uncle, who lives in Ha Noi, came to visit. I had spaghetti and meat balls, with a beautiful fresh salad and … allow me to add … a small glass of red wine. I would love to eat more western food, especially in a nice restaurant but that only happens once in blue moon.

More sample answers in the next blog. Happy eating

British Food: various exercises, various levels.

27th September 2020

A lesson to suit all palates (to suit all tastes). Let’s kick off with a brief overview of some UK food.

Young learners can look at the pictures and see food from the UK, and adults can talk about which food they would like to try.

IELTS students require something more challenging, so this can be utilised as an exercise in building complex sentences.

And now, without further ado …

UK food

Toad in the hole

Sunday roast

Full English breakfast 

Fish and chips

These are cooked by different methods:

which is which ?

frying

baking

deep frying

roasting

Peggie Neo - Took on the biggest full english breakfast... | Facebook

The answers:

Toad in the hole is sausage in batter, baked in the oven.

Traditional Sunday roast lunch is, of course, roasted in the oven.

Full English breakfast in mainly fried.

Fish and chips is deep fried … and delicious.

IELTS questions:

Part 1: Have you ever tried British food ?

Try to speak for at least 30 seconds

Part 2: What problems would you have with the food if you lived in the UK ?

You should say what UK food you know, if you have ever tried it, if you have ever seen it and if you think you would enjoy it … and why (or why not). Try to speak for the full 2 minutes.

Part 3: Do you think that western people eat very unhealthy food ?

Use your language skills to tackle this question. Give a great introduction, then explain how it is a very general question, so you will only answer based on YOUR experiences or opinions.

(if you need to review Part 3 skills, I have some blogs: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/15/ielts-speaking-test-part-3-how-to-nail-it/)

Try to speak for a minute, focusing on intonation and stress, as well as fluency. Check that you are not repeating yourself, or leaving too many pauses.

TIPS

What L-FWs or idioms could you use ?

Food can be:

mouth-watering / nutritious / filling / spicy / bland

Spice up your answer with adverbs.

Idioms – think about the cost of food in the UK, especially in a big cities such as London, Edinburgh or Manchester:

prices can be sky-high / cost an arm and a leg / astronomical

I’ll give sample answers in the next blog – stay tuned !

A longer blog, with various activities, dialogues and new vocabulary can be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/01/22/adult-speaking-class-level-3-theme-food/

IELTS, Speaking Test Part 3. Theme: Education

24th September 2020

Part 3 of the speaking test can be tremendously daunting. However, with some tricks up your sleeve, you will be able to ace the test, pass with flying colours and do yourself proud.

Captain Picard Facepalm Meme - Imgflip
An expression meaning to have a great idea or plan to help you be successful

I covered this in detail in a previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/15/ielts-speaking-test-part-3-how-to-nail-it/

So this is a brief summary, the ‘Cliffs Notes’ version, if you will.

CliffsComplete Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: Complete Study Edition (Cliffs  Notes): Amazon.co.uk: Shakespeare, William, Jacobson, Karin, Lamb, Sidney:  0785555026179: Books
Cliffs Notes are guides for students studying Literature. There are many similar concepts online, for example Sparknotes.com

Right off the bat, relax … be cool. You merely have:

1) To demonstrate you understand the question

2) To demonstrate you have IELTS-standard language to respond

3) To reply based on either your opinion or experience. YOU DECIDE

As per usual, let’s kick off with a killer introduction. Prepare some expressions so you can adapt them for the specific question. To refresh your memory:

Well, that’s a very complicated question …

What a hard question, I may have to think about this …

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however …

Next stage is to explain how you’re going to answer:

in my experience

allow me to tell you what I do

I can’t speak about other people, but I …

Finally, exactly, spot on; you answer … only now, YOU are in control, you are in the driver’s seat. Respond in a way that will earn you points. We want to hear low-frequency words, idioms, phrasal verbs, vernacular (“big time !”). Furthermore, frame your answers in complex sentences, use body language and intonation and stress. If you can illustrate your response with an anecdote, all the better.

Should I Take an IELTS Class?

Examples

What do you think schools will be like in the future ?

This type of question invites you to give YOUR thoughts (“In my opinion,” etc)

Well, I’m currently in my last year of high school, so this is a very pertinent question for me. Naturally, I can’t foresee the future however, I could offer some predictions though, of course, this is just my opinion.

To start with, I can only speak about …… (say your country) as I don’t know enough about the educational systems in other countries.

For me, I feel that technology will play a greater part in schools, such as using the internet, working on tablets and joining online groups. Personally, I’m in a small Facebook group to help with learning English and I find it tremendously helpful and rewarding.

On the other hand, this can be extremely expensive. Providing tablets for a whole school will cost an arm and a leg, so maybe this will only occur in private schools. Furthermore, as the population increases, there will be many more students. This could lead, inevitably, to larger class sizes.

I really hope our system continues to improve although we have to be realistic; higher standards means higher costs … but I feel it will be worth the expense.

Now, that was quite a long reply but let’s break it down:

The first paragraph personalises the question, as well as adapting an introduction expression.

The second explains how you are going to answer.

The third states your main point. Moreover, it includes an anecdote (this doesn’t have to be true).

The fourth gives an opposing view – thus affording you the chance to use a discourse marker, to alter your body language and intonation, and to throw in an idiom for good measure. Also, some L-FWs, which are always impressive (if used correctly).

The final paragraph is to conclude and is, as you can clearly see, purely personal. Did you also notice the poetic repetition ? Allow me to point it out – “Higher standards means higher costs.”

Use this as a model … and now

Drew's Reviews (at home): Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) | WRGB

IELTS: The UK school system

17th September 2020

Farewell, Baxendale and his Bash St Kids - spiked
The Bash Street Kids … from ‘The Beano’ which is a famous comic from the UK, first issued in 1938.

Tonight we have a listening lesson which, although tremendously important, not to say imperative, can be somewhat tedious for the students.

One factor is the vocabulary. If students don’t know some of the words, they will not be able to answer some of the questions; that stands to reason.

that stands to reason = it is obvious, it is common sense, it can be understood. I live in Vietnam but only speak a little Vietnamese. It stands to reason that if I spoke Vietnamese, I would be more independent.

Therefore, allow me to explain a little about the UK educational system while, at the same time, pre-teaching some new vocabulary.

First up, we have Kindergarten or nursery:

How to Help Children Achieve Kindergarten Success - Education and Career  News

As you can see, the age for Kindergarten is 3 – 5. It can be free, or parents can choose to send their children to a private Kindergarten or nursery.

Maybe the word Kindergarten looks a little strange in an English lesson – quite right, it is, in fact, a borrowed word from German. If you have seen my other IELTS posts, you may have come across ‘prima donna‘, which is a borrowed word from Italian. If you can use borrowed words in your IELTS tests, it will surely impress the examiner.

Next, we have primary school for children of 5 to 11. When I was at school, it was broken down into Infants and Juniors. Infants school was two years, then we moved up into a new building, attending four years of Junior school. This was a mixed school by which I mean boys and girls were in the same class.

Woodside Primary Academy © Julian Osley cc-by-sa/2.0 :: Geograph Britain  and Ireland
Woodside Primary school in north-east London

Following on from Primary school we have, quite logically, Secondary school:

A typical class photo from the late 1970s. As you can clearly see, this is a single-sex school. Furthermore, the pupils had to wear school uniform of trousers, blazer and school tie.

Pupils spent three years here, from ages 11 – 14 at Junior High, after which they progressed to Senior High:

Walthamstow Memories - George Monoux Grammar School

Pupils have to attend school until they are 16; it is compulsory.

You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

Read more on: https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

What options are open to you after 16 ?

Pupils can either stay at school and enter the VI (Sixth) Form, or go to a Further Education College which differ in that they offer a much wider selection of options such as vocational courses which are more practical and can help students train for a specific job. VI Forms, on the other hand, are academic (theory), preparing students for university.

The VI Form is usually in the same building as the Senior High, so pupils are familiar with the teachers and students. Going to a new college, meeting new staff and students means that time is needed to settle in or settle down.

Qualifications are imperative these days, so many students want to go to University.

149 PhD, Research and Academic Positions at the University of Cambridge, UK  - Scholar Idea

Finally, we have Adult Education which, as the name implies, is for adults who wish to further their job prospects, or simply learn for their own pleasure. As many people are working, these type of education often takes place in the evening or at weekends.

New Vocabulary:

term – part of the teaching year for example First Term is from September to December

it’s a pity – it is sad or it is unfortunate

Fresher’s Week – a week for new students (Freshmen in USA) to get to know what their college has to offer, such as clubs and events.

GCSE exams – tremendously important exams taken at age 15 or 16. Good results mean the student can to VI Form or have to re-sit the exam.

tertiary – means the third – after Primary (first) & Secondary (second), tertiary refers to Higher Education, taken after the age of 18.

NVQ National Vocational Qualification – this is more practical as opposed to academic, designed to teach skills needed for a particular job:

Construction Industry NVQ Assessments Provider | Up Level Ltd
An NVQ card stating that the holder has passed exams to work in the construction industry

BA or BSc – (Bachelor of Art or Science) degrees in the arts or science. Usually attained after a three-year course. The next step is a MA (Master’s Degree) and then a PhD.

internship – gaining real-life experience by working for a company, often for low or even no pay.

Graduate Fair – a chance for students to think about what career to follow, or what company to join. They can speak to people who represent organisations:

A trip to the fair... Okay a graduate recruitment fair. - NAO trainee blog
Fairs - The University of Nottingham

IELTS: Speaking Test, Part 3: How to nail it.

12th September 2020

Ten don'ts for the IELTS speaking test | British Council
Having to think on your feet.

My classes at campus have practised (and practised; I make those guys put their noses to the grindstone) Parts I and II of the speaking test. To recap:

Part I: 4 – 5 minutes, warm up questions. Answer with two, three or four sentences, throwing in a few L-FW (big words), idioms as appropriate, and demonstrate you know how to form a complex sentence.

Part II: 1 minute to make notes, 2 minutes solo speaking. This is your chance to shine, show all you’ve learnt, and score points for vocabulary (including idiomatic language, low-frequency words, adverbs and adjectives), grammar including, as you know, complex sentences which will earn you a higher score as well as being much more interesting to listen to as opposed to short simple sentences. Fluency, so make use of those multi-purpose sentences such as, “Well, that’s an interesting question,” “It’s funny you ask me that question because I have just been thinking about …” etc. Lastly, and not to be underrated, pronunciation, intonation and stress.

Now, we come to Part III

psycho scream

Yes, I know, it can be a nightmare ! The questions are so complex, how could you possibly answer even in your native language ? Well, you can’t … no one can, especially not in a minute or so and under the pressure of a test.

Take a look at this example:

Does the media have a positive or negative effect on the music people in your country buy ?

What a question ! You may be tempted to say, “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” “I haven’t a clue,” or “I have absolutely no idea, next question, please.”

i have no idea what you are talking about - LDS S.M.I.L.E.

The secret is to take power back – make yourself comfortable with the question … and here’s how:

Firstly, we need a great introduction. Some examples are:

Well, that’s a very complicated question …

What a hard question, I may have to think about this …

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however …

The secret is to take this general question and make it personal, so you can speak about what YOU know, as well as using IELTS language.

Show that you understand the question by defining ‘media’.

I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers.

For me, the internet is great for learning about new singers or groups with sites such as YouTube or Spotify as opposed to newspapers where I can only read about music.

The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour.

This time, instead of using expressions such as in my opinion, you can use:

in my experience

allow me to tell you what I do

I can’t speak about other people, but I

EXAMPLE:

Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer. I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers. Usually, I join a Facebook page of a band I like, or follow them on Instagram. Naturally, I look at YouTube which is great because it suggests other music I may like. Therefore, I am able to hear new artists. I’m not sure how much this affects how other people buy music. In my experience, I will buy music if I really like it, for example, downloading a song on iTunes. I can just buy the songs I like, so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

This time we can use examples:

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example. I remember when Taylor Swift won an award for best video but Kanye West stopped her speech. This made a lot of people think very badly about him, so maybe they stopped buying his music.

Why Taylor Swift and Kanye West hate each other

I’m not sure I know how to answer that, but let me try. The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour. I can’t speak about other people, but I rarely buy music anyway, just once in a blue moon.

Hyomin (T-ara) bất ngờ có mặt tại Nha Trang | Văn hóa | Thanh Niên

What a hard question, I may have to think about this … oh, I know, fans can follow their favourite singers on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I usually get my information from the internet. I would be over the moon if a music star replied to my comment. On the other hand, if they don’t answer, some people may stop liking them.

The Shins - Simple Song (Live On Letterman) - YouTube

Well, that’s certainly a hard question. I really don’t know what other people in Vietnam do, but allow me to tell you what I do. I like to listen to English songs, to help me improve my language skills. My friends and I tell each other about English or American bands and we look up the words … the lyrics … to help us. I can give you an example. My teacher played a song in class by a band called The Shins, who are from USA. I quite liked the song although most of the words are very difficult to understand. I know one of my friends bought the last CD because he liked it so much.

US singer Kacey Musgraves slammed for sexualising Vietnamese ao dai by  wearing only top half of outfit | South China Morning Post

That’s a very complicated question. However, I can think of one singer who upset many people in Vietnam and Vietnamese people in USA. Do you know Kacey Musgraves ? She sings country music, which is not really my cup of tea, but that is not why she is famous. She wore an ao dai on stage, but only the top part … she didn’t wear the trousers. Many people thought this was so disrespectful. For me, I don’t think I would buy her records after this, even if I did like them.