IELTS: Complex sentences – it’s not that complicated.

24th May 2020

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Following another speaking test, I’ve noticed that my students are still speaking simple sentences and thereby losing marks, whereas with a little work, not to mention a little, or a lot, of practice, this omission can be redressed.

Therefore today’s bog, in it’s entirety, will be devoted to the forming of longer, complex sentences, altering sentence structure and general tips to improve not just speaking, but writing as well.

As you should have noticed the above two paragraphs, rather like this third one, employ several clauses, that is, parts of a sentence to give extra information without the need of a full stop, serving as examples of how this can be achieved.

You will, no doubt, experience a feeling of triumph once you have mastered this technique which, I admit, does require some new thinking and extra effort on your part but will, without a shadow of a doubt, enable you to attain the score for which you are aiming.

And now, without further ado, let’s kick off. First, a warm-up. Of today’s three highlighted expressions, which would you use for:

1 When you are certain or 100% sure about something

2 To start immediately, with no more interruptions

3 Great happiness when you have achieved or won something

Answers at end of blog

Here are some standard IELTS-type questions, followed by a typical answer and then, by way of comparison, an extended response to demonstrate improvements.

1 Tell me about your hometown 2 How often do you go online ?

3 What jobs will be important in your country in the future ?

4 Tell me about a time you received good news

An average answer, which would probably result in a middle score, around 4 – 5 would be, to take one example, (Number 2):

I go online every day because I need the internet to help me study. I use the internet to check new words in English. I go online for information for my school.

black-girl-at-laptop-378x382 - GSDM

What do you notice about this ? Firstly, what are the mistakes ?

The candidate answers the question immediately, with no introduction. This is not necessarily wrong, but a sentence leading into the response will make for a longer answer.

The second sentence is not directly relevant to the question, though it is acceptable for providing more information. I advise students to be careful, in case they start deviating from the subject.

Lastly, the third sentence just repeats what has already been said, even using the same phrase “I go online“, and then explaining the reason for using the internet NOT how often it is used.

Here’s a different way of answering.

Well, that’s interesting because I have internet access at school, at home and on my phone so I would say I’m absolutely online every day. How much time I spend online varies from day to day, but I am probably online about three hours every day, sometimes more if I have a project or if I’m playing a cool game.

See how this answer only uses two sentences , but is much superior. Let’s break down how it earns points.

Initially, we have a short introduction and the question is answered directly in the first, extended sentence.

Secondly, the first sentence includes a list of three, so this is a chance to practise speech rhythm (one, two and three) – remember, you get points by HOW you say something as well as what you say.

Thirdly, the answer uses three everyday adverbs (highlighted). ‘so‘ can also be used as an adverb, but here it is a conjunction (a word such as ‘and’, ‘but’, etc).

Additionally, the sentences employs an expression, “from day to day,” which examiners like to hear, as it shows familiarity with figurative language.

Lastly, the candidate explains what the reasons for being online, and how it affects the time spent on the internet.

Now … your turn Try to answer the same question, following this pattern.

Now … let’s move on. Question 1, my hometown.

Vietnam Student Tour, Vietnam Student Trip, Vietnam Student Holidays.

This time, I will give you facts and you arrange in an answer.

My hometown is Da Nang. Fifth largest city in Viet Nam. Is in Central Vietnam. Near historic town Hoi An. Important port. Many tourists. Has a cable car and a dragon bridge. Famous for its beach.

Dragon Bridge in Da Nang - Attraction in Da Nang, Vietnam - Justgola
Dragon Bridge at Da Nang

Thank you for letting me introduce to you my hometown which is Da Nang, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, although it is much smaller than Ha Noi or Sai Gon. My hometown is in the middle … in central Viet Nam, I mean, sorry, and had many tourists. They come to see many things such as the Dragon Bridge, go on the cable car or for swimming. Also, Da Nang is very near many famous places such as Hoi An. As it is on the coast, my hometown is also a busy port.

Check for

Introduction

Information in first sentence

Discourse marker ‘ although

Correcting a mistake in line 3

A list of three items in lines 4 and 5

Change of sentence structure in the last line: instead of saying, “My hometown is also a busy port because it is on the coast,” I started with the end of that sentence (it is on the coast) and replaced ‘because’ with ‘as’ (though because would also be all right to use).

To practise:

Rearrange these sentences, starting with the section in italics.

The London Tube needs repairing because it is so old.

Many people have to stay home because of COVID 19

We must buy vegetables because Jenny doesn’t eat meat.

Colin is now studying in Boston because he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test.

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Answers at end of blog

Answers:

1 = without a shadow of a doubt

2 = without further ado

3 = feeling of triumph

Because it is so old the London Tube needs repairing.

As it is so old, the London Tube needs repairing.

As the London Tube is so old, it needs repairing (notice how the pronoun ‘it’ moves).

Due to / Because of COVID 19, many people have to stay home.

Because Jenny doesn’t eat meat, we must buy vegetables.

As he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test, Colin is now studying in Boston.

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Adult Speaking Class, level 3: Let’s go to San Francisco … or Boston … or Chicago.

18th May 2020

In our last blog lesson, we focused on what we needed to do BEFORE travelling to the States, all the boring logistics and organising, booking and planning. Now … we are all set. All we have to do is select which city to visit.

Which of these destinations are most appealing to you and why ?

Boston

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Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and gateway to New England. One of America’s oldest cities, it’s steeped in history – brimming with cobblestone streets and significant heritage sites – as well as gleaming skyscrapers.

Unlike many other US cities, it’s best explored on foot. One of the most popular tours is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path that passes 16 important sites, including America’s first state school, the oldest church in Boston, and several markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.

The tour is greatly enhanced by the costumed guides, who’ll passionately transport you back to the 1700s during the 90-minute walk.

Chicago

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Chicago, my kind of town! A unique city with a character all of its own, Chicago offers a wide variety of shopping, dining, museums, theatre, music and nightlife options.

Chicago is on Lake Michigan, boasts over 20 miles of beachfront and some of the most dynamic and visually stunning architecture in the world. The city is famous for its skyscrapers such as the Hancock Building and the Willis Tower, which features several glass-bottomed ledges at 1,300ft above the city streets, making it a fantastic photo opportunity for the brave!

North Michigan Avenue is also known as the “Magnificent Mile” as this is where most visitors and residents come to shop, with firm favourites lining the street such as Tiffany, Nike and Nordstrom.

San Francisco

San Francisco indulges the senses with the wonderful array of scenic beauty, arts, museums, bars, restaurants and nightlife. San Francisco is famously known as the “City on the Bay” and its stunning location and undulating surroundings have been taking visitor’s breath away for centuries.

Enjoy fresh seafood and spot playful sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, a fun and family-friendly district of the city; dine on authentic dim sum in the vast Chinatown or join the crowds of shoppers amidst the bustle and cable cars of Union Square.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the infamous prison at Alcatraz island. Rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for a scenic day out and fantastic photo opportunities; brave Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world” or bring many movie favourites to life as you stroll the city streets.

San Francisco is the perfect destination for exploring and creating new memories in, with world-class sports, dining and adventure. 

Video

Before you watch this video, what do you know about San Francisco ?

Which of the sights mentioned in the guide do you see ?

What really struck you (impressed) about San Francisco ?

What was intriguing (interesting, fascinating) ?

What did you make of (think of) the architecture ?

Did you see any mouth-watering (delicious) food ?

What adjectives would you use to describe San Francisco ? 

GRAMMAR

Make your comments stronger, and increase your English, by adding adverbs. 

unbelievably // incredibly // extremely // undeniably // amazingly //

quite // rather // somewhat //

Example: The house was old – the house was extremely old.

San Francisco is …

The food in San francisco is …

Riding cable cars must be …

Remember, if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

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Adult Speaking Class, level 2: Deciding what to buy.

11th May 2020

This was a one – to – one lesson for a lady about to retire and move from Vietnam to Boston, USA. The assigned book work was about a young man climbing mountains and hang-gliding; I felt this was more appropriate to my student’s needs.

Deciding what to buy

You are on a shopping trip to the USA

Which of these items would you buy ? Which appeal to you ? Which hold no interest ?

Vocabulary

That looks wonderful // I need to try it (them) on first // That’s good quality

No, that’s a rip off (too expensive) // That’s not my style // That really suits me

You must be joking ! // Brilliant ! // Wrap it up ! // Do you take credit cards ?

$75
$200
$145
$ 8,435
$47
$2,800
$9.95
$91.99
$25