A good introduction is not just beneficial but imperative for an impressive IELTS response. Therefore, this blog will mainly, although not exclusively, focus on a strong opening gambit, an attention-grabbing prologue.
If you need some time to think, employ one of these ‘time-buying’ expressions:
That’s a very interesting question
Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?
It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …
Let me think …
How can I put it …
Well, I would say …
Quick warm up: What do you do in your free time ?
I meet my friends for coffee
One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends
Which answer do you think would impress the examiner ?
Now … your turn
Where would you like to visit in Viet Nam (or your own country) ?
DON’T answer immediately; introduce the answer by repeating or rephrasing the question:
Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.
Vietnam is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and amazing nature but for me, Hoi An is the one place I would love to explore.
1 Tell me about your hometown
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.
2Talk about a film you like
Talk about cinema or films in general DON’T immediately talk about your favourite film.
Watching films and going to the cinema is one of my passions, so choosing just one film is going to be terribly difficult, not to say impossible. However, if I have to select one film, it would be ‘Lost in Translation’, with Scarlett Johannsson.
3 Do you use computers at work or school ?
Laptops are an incredibly useful piece of technology. They can be used for work, hobbies, music and to stay in touch with friends.
Practice: try forming introductions for these questions
Do you live alone or with friends / family ?
How long have you lived there ?
Is there anything you don’t like about living there ?
What sort of accommodation would you like to like in ?
Do you like going shopping for clothes
Is fashion important to you ?
Do you have to wear a uniform at school or work ?
Where do you normally buy your food and why there ?
Do you do any sporting activities ?
What do you like to do at weekends ?
What would you change about your daily routine ?
Review … from my recent classes, make sure you have learnt these words and expressions:
once in a blue moon (very rare) // put my nose to the grindstone (work especially hard) // achieve on merit (to get something by working for it) // burn the candle at both ends (work day and night) // give or take (about, approximately) // big time ! (absolutely, totally, very much) // I’ll mull it over (I’ll think about it) //
although // additionally // therefore // moreover // having said that // on the other hand
Rewrite the following using IELTS-language:
English grammar is (adverb) boring and I spend about two hours a day studying grammar. I work all day, and go to evening class and then study. I study all day and night.
I almost never have any free time. If I have free time, I go to drink coffee. Coffee shops are everywhere but in some the prices are not cheap.
My friend Tom never studies. His uncle will give him a job, but I want to deserve my job. Tom is (adverb) lazy. I tell him to try to study grammar, to work very hard / but / he never listens. He thinks video games are very interesting. He (adverb) says he’ll think about it but nothing changes
so the result will be a ‘FAIL’
Coffee shops in Sai Gon are ubiquitous although in some, the prices are sky-high.
Last week, I showed my class how to speak, and think, in longer sentences. I chose a basic question as an example:
Where do you want to visit in Vietnam ?
I showed them a plan:
Introduction / First good point / second good point / something bad / conclusion.
I choose Hoi An
Introduction: DON’T answer immediately but introduce the answer by repeating or rephrasing the question:
Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.
First Good Point:
Firstly, Hoi An is a historical city with a wonderful Japanese bridge and lovely old shops. At night, the shops use romantic lanterns.
Second Good Point:
Hoi An is close to Da Nang, so I can fly there easily and quickly. There are many things to see and do in the local area.
Now, something negative
However, Hoi An is very small and can be extremely crowded in summer. Maybe it will be difficult to find a hotel or a table at a good restaurant.
In my opinion, Hoi An is a very special place to visitbecause it is a town of Vietnamese culture.
How to build sentences:
Use adjectives to describe nouns (beautiful, historic, romantic)
adverbs to describe adjectives and verbs – give more information (very, easily)
opinion phrases (in my opinion)
linking words to connect positive to positive or positive to negative – discourse markers (however)
reasons why an action is being done (because)
Now – your turn: Where do you want to visit ? This can be in Vietnam or anywhere.
I like coffee
I like coffee so much because it tastes great and makes me wake up although too much will stop me from sleeping at night but, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
I teach a brother and sister; the sister is a bit of a handful always chatting or texting during class. In complete contrast, the brother is a really good student as well as being a young gentleman. I feel he is an ideal student.
Now – your turn. Try these:
Living in Sai Gon or in your city
Working and studying.
Sentence building – becoming fluent and coherent
EXAMPLE: I like coffee
how MUCH do you like it (adverbs) ?
What kind of coffee (adjectives) ?
What do you think about this ? (opinions)
WHY do you like it (give reasons)
interesting words, phrases, idioms
I really enjoy hot milky coffee because it helps bring people together as well as making our minds become quite active and somewhat excited. Coffee, in my point of view, is essentially useful if we use it in moderation. On the other hand coffee can be a dreadful waste of money as well as having a detrimental effect on our health. Despite the negative aspects, coffee makes me feel over the moon!
After Brasil, Vietnam is the world’s biggest exporter of coffee, and coffee shops are ubiquitous. There are high-end chain stores, with near London prices, down to street coffee which, being honest, is probably more ‘street’ than ‘coffee’.
Here are a few recent caffeine-driven excursions:
OK, this first one is no longer in operation. Can’t think why. Branding is important, even in a Socialist country. This joint is located at the base of an apartment complex in District 2. The lady that stays there is, I believe, an artist and is extremely friendly, not ‘grumpy’ in the least.
Now, staying in District 2, just a short ride away, is this library cafe:
It looks like it’s based in an old house, with large plants and dusty old books on even dustier shelves.
The coffee, however, was a disappointment, probably due to my ordering the wrong drink. I wanted a hot latte and got an ice version. Perfect for the heat, but not what I was expecting. Oh well, never mind.
Still in District 2, ‘Ventura Coffee’ was near my old apartment by the port of Cat Lai. This was a great place, and had live football and a beautiful dog:
Damn fine cappuccino, too.
Here are a couple of signs on the wall:
Back to my new manor (are in which I live). ‘Coffee Time’ on Nguyen Duy Trinh. Fine coffees and juices. Nice decoration, and outside seating. Free Wifi, naturally. We had a hot latte and an ice coffee. The cappuccino is also recommended.
And of course, all this coffee makes a guy hungry. Back at my new apartment, we have a restaurant where they catered to my no-meat diet. Delicious crab-noodle soup. Around 40 000 VND (about £1.35) and worth every penny. Extra chilli sauce !
motorbike. It’s quite / rather far and extremely stressful.
using Grabbike. It’s very convenient albeit rather expensive.
bus. Although it’s incredibly cheap, it’s not very pleasant.
Idioms and expressions
At work I / I’m …
find myself doing the same thing day in day out. It’s tedious.
up to eyes ! I’m always busy, attending meetings or writing reports.
have a variety of different jobs, I’m a jack of all trades; I don’t have time to get bored !
Notice the collocations
In my free time I …
enjoy watching films and playing sports. I am competitive !
adore hanging out with my friends and family.
love shopping. I can spot a bargain and I hate being ripped off !
is, for me, easy, a piece of cake. It’s very important and fun at the same time.
in my opinion, is vital for the future. It’s imperative we learn.
is a necessary task. It’s awkward and frustrating, but I need it.
is highly enjoyable and relaxing. I love to improve my mind.
Match the idiom with the meaning:
It’s raining cats and dogs // working very hard
Kick the bucket // no problem, very easy
working like a dog // to die
It costs an arm and a leg // very heavy rain
piece of cake // very expensive
FREE SPEAKING EXERCISE
ENGLISH – Why are you learning English ?
Do you enjoy learning – if so, why / if not, why not ?
What are the benefits ? Give examples.
Do you have problems with learning a language ?
Is it fair that you have to learn a second language in your own country ?
Does this open up career opportunities for you or your children ?
What, in your opinion, is the best way to learn a language ?
Interaction, free speech and a sharing of ideas
I’d like to share with you my passion which is / One of my major interests is
As you know, we (students / engineers) don’t have much free time, so when I have time to myself there’s nothing I like more than …
I have many hobbies such as … and … but tonight, I’d like to talk about …
Could you explain in more detail …. When did you start this hobby ?
How did you get into … ? Ah, that sounds interesting.
What does your girlfriend think about this ? Oh, you have no girlfriend.
Hhmmm, it’s not really my cup of tea, but I can see why you like it.
Does it take up much of your time ? Are you part of a club ?
I’m not sure I follow … (I don’t understand)
Dos and Don’ts
We have ‘free speech’ but this is tempered by social rules of politeness:
DO – appear interested and respond positively.
appropriate body language.
encourage the speaker to elucidate and expand.
ask question at a ‘turn-taking’ moment.
DON’T – say ‘I am bored because this isn’t interesting,’ or ‘I don’t care.’
start talking to your neighbour when someone else is speaking
sleep or yawn loudly
click your pen, kick your chair, make noises.
I love all types of music, but one of my favourites is Jazz. It can be exciting, or slow, but it’s always different.
Unlike other types of music, Jazz is spontaneous. This means that you never hear the same song the same way; each performance is different.
Jazz started in New Orleans but moved up to Chicago, New York and even west to California. The first records were made in 1917 and the first true Jazz genius was Louis Armstrong. If you want to hear jazz, you should listen to his records from the 1920s.
You may know some famous Jazz artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. I can recommend these musicians to you as first-rate examples of Jazz.
I hope this has made you curious about Jazz, and that you go online to listen for yourself. Who knows, maybe you too will learn to love Jazz.
One student spoke about his mother’s home-cooking:
My mother has a secret recipe; firstly, she boils the beef in water and then slices it finely. Along with this, she cooks vegetables and the aromais simply wonderful, after which she mixes them together. It is mouth-watering. The rice has to be pan-fried, that is to say, no oil, just dry. The next stage is to pound the rice and finally, she puts the rice on a dish and … bon apetite ! (French for good appetite, eat well)
Extra expressions: one student told us about breaking up with his girlfriend. Initially, he said that he dumped her, but the truth was she gave him the elbow !
Try to use these regularly:
obviously, typically, on the other hand, initially, that is to say
There are so many choices in Sai Gon. Tran Nguyen has the best quality but is very expensive. On the other hand, Milano is very cheap and very convenient however, many people smoke there. Highlands is really popular. Having said that, it is not cheap. Street coffee is extremely cheap but terrible quality ! Maybe fake coffee, just chemicals.
What are your favourite coffee shops ? Why ? What factors are important ?
what / who / where / when / why
1 _When/Where_ was it taken?
2 _____________ are they?
3 _____________ took the picture?
4 _____________ do you keep the photo?
5____________ kind of camera have you got?
6 _____________ are they doing?
One of my favourite photos is of my friend Pete, who lives in Birmingham, England.
His wife took the photo last March. Pete is playing bass guitar in a studio. It looks like he is having fun. He plays in a band called ‘The Deep Six’.
I keep this photo on my computer in a file called ‘Music in Birmingham’.
What is the name of my friend ?
Where does he live ?
What guitar does he play ?
What is the name of his band ?
Where do I keep this photo ?
This is a photograph of my friend Pete. This photo is of my friend Pete.
I think he is (he’s) having fun. It looks like he’s having fun.
He takes a photo (present tense). He took a photo (past tense).
He is (he’s) in a band. He plays in a band.
To practise question words and the past tense.
what / where / why / when / who / which / how
Jan & Tina are catching up
Jan What did you do last night ? Who did you meet ?
Tina I went out with friends. We saw a movie, then drank some coffee. How about you ?
Jan I just stayed at home and played computer games. Which cinema did you go to ?
Tina At Diamond Plaza. We bought popcorn which we ate before the film began.
Jan You were very hungry ! Was the film good ?
Tina Yeah, really exciting. The tickets were incredibly cheap too.
Jan How much were they ?
Tina Only 333 000 VND (three hundred and thirty-three thousand Dong).
Speaking practice:afternoon plans
Sid What are your plans for this afternoon ?
Viv Well, I need to buy some coffee as well as some bread and milk. How about you ?
Sid Oh, I’ve got to have a meeting with the new director. He seems very strict.
Viv Yeah, I get the impression that he is very serious. However, he is professional.
Sid Right, he doesn’t appear to be a barrel of laughs. Having said that, he’s honest.
Viv Honest and fair along with being very neat and tidy. Always a plain white shirt.
Sid Remember the old boss ? Such gaudy ties ! For me, that was unprofessional.
Viv Anyway, where can I get my groceries ? Is there a convenience store nearby ?
Sid Naturally. Take the second left, go as far as the bank, then cross over. Can’t miss it.