You buy a T-shirt from a shop, but when you get home, you see the quality is very bad.
How do you feel ? You feel terribly …
What would you do ?
When you return an item to the shop, what do you need in your country ?
Use this video for help. Listen out for new vocabulary or expressions as well as copying her accent.
I am sorry to have to say this but …
I’m sorry to say this but I am really quite upset/angry/disappointed
Perhaps there was a misunderstanding but …
There appears to be a problem here …”
I’m sorry but I’d like to make a complaint about …”
Could you help me with …?
One student is an shop assistant, the other an upset customer.
You have bought a dress but it is very bad quality.
How would you complain ? [Be polite, speak calmly and politely].
How about in this situation:
You go to a restaurant to celebrate a special event. When the bill arrives the amount is much, much more than you expected. It looks like you were charged for extra items you did not order.
What would you do ?
Try to speak in long sentences. Tell me about something you like – say why you like it, but also something negative. Remember to use good discourse markers.
I love Highland Coffee because I need damn fine coffee every morning and Highlands has a good choice as well as great quality. I can choose all different types of coffee, some hot, some cold, some with added flavour, and they come in different sizes. In addition, the chairs are comfortable, not to mention the free wifi and no-smoking policy. Having said that, it is rather expensive, especially compared with Milano however I feel the extra cost is worth it.
Now … your turn
Subjects – to help you, talk about smartphone // video games // sport // your pet // shopping // cooking // your best friend
Comparatives and superlatives.
Big / bigger / biggest
interesting / more interesting / the most interesting
Your apartment block is starting a chat-site for working parents. They invite anyone to join who has both a job and children. They ask you to send a photo and give some brief information.
Your apartment block is starting a chat-site for people who want to practise English
Write a short introduction about yourself for a blogpage.
What information do you need to add ? What is unimportant ?
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.
once in a blue moon / not as much as I use to / not as much as I’d like to / from time to time / now and then / occasionally / only in my dreams !
How often do you:
Watch foreign films ?
See your boss smile ?
Play badminton ?
Hang out with friends ?
Go to the movies ?
Get a pay rise ?
and / as well as / and also / along with
These link positives or negatives:
I like tea as well as coffee He plays football and also badminton
Big C is quite cheap and also has a great choice
but / however / having said that / on the other hand
These link positives to negatives / negatives to positives:
Jet Mart is convenient. Having said that, it is (it’s) extremely expensive.
Czech beer is not easy to find in Sai Gon, however it’s fantastic quality.
‘therefore’ is a conclusion word:
King BBQ is outstanding and has a magnificent salad bar. Mr Park is reasonable (so-so) quality, but more expensive. Therefore, we will eat at King BBQ in future.
Theme: coffee in Sai Gon
There are so many choices in Sai Gon. Tran Nguyen has the best quality but is very expensive. On the other hand, Milano is incredibly 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 !
Last Friday, I went out for dinner with Claire and Helen. Helen’s got a new job so we went out to celebrate. Claire booked a table for 7.30pm at her favourite Italian restaurant in town. When we arrived, the waiter showed us to our table, gave us some menus and took our drinks order. We were really hungry so we decided to have a starter and a main. We placed our order and chatted for a while. Our garlic bread soon arrived. We were hungry, so it disappeared very quickly! Next, the waiter brought our mains. He said, “Buon Appetito!”, which is Italian for ‘Enjoy your meal!’. Claire and Helen chose pasta and I had pizza. The food was delicious, but I couldn’t manage a dessert! Claire and Helen had some ice cream, but I just had a coffee. I can’t wait to go again!
As usual, I use bold font to highlight words, expressions and idioms that students can learn and then use in their everyday speech. Remember, some expressions are only used in some situations, but an IELTS instructor will always notice an attempt to use a wider variety of English.
Next week, one of my IELTS classes has their speaking test therefore this blog will help, I sincerely hope, to prepare them, and enable them to achieve a commendable result.
With that in mind, tonight’s class will just be practice, practice and … more practice.
I try to relax my students by telling them that passing IELTS is easy (that normally gets their attention). I have to elaborate; IELTS is easy because they
TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR
Namely, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and para linguistics (body language, eye contact, stress, intonation, rhythm) and fluency (the ability to speak without overlong pauses) as well as answering the question relevantly.
Let’s break that down:
Vocabulary: low-frequency words // idioms // expressions //
Structure: complex sentences employing discourse markers and clauses
Let’s kick off with complex sentences. Here’s a link to a previous blog regarding just that subject; there are a number of exercises for students to practise:
The above blog gives an example of answering a question about laptops, then allows students to compose their own response on subjects of their choice.
Finally, here are some expressions that can be used to ‘spice up’ a student’s talk as they are all everyday phrases though some will be UK-specific as they are part of the common culture:
Not my cup of tea = a polite way of saying you don’t like something.
I can take it or leave it = have no strong feelings about something.
I’m really into it = like or love something very much.
It doeswhat it says on the tin = something that does the job, no more, no less (this is from a UK TV commercial).
To pracise using low-frequency words, put students in teams, giving each team a set of IELTS words (or phrases, idioms). They have a set time, maybe a minute, to use as many as they can, speaking about any subject they choose.
Some students may prefer to be given a set topic, so choose typical general subjects such as shopping, food, their city or country, free time etc.
Words and expressions are:
ubiquitous // somewhat // not my cup of tea // significant or significantly // I can take it or leave it // exhausting // challenging // miserable // having said that // I’m keen on // all in all // consequently // allow me to explain // eventually // thrilling // put up with
Rewrite the following texts using new vocabulary, phrasal verbs or idioms, where appropriate. Feel free to change verbs into continuous. Correct the mistakes and use better syntax (sentence structure).
Use clauses to combine sentences about the same subject.
Use ‘however’, ‘having said that’ etc in place of ‘but’.
Incorporate any new language style you have learnt on the course e.g. negotiation language, polite language, and see if you can use alliteration (words beginning with the same letter).
Warm up: Here’s a short exercise. Try to rewrite using as few sentences as possible, which will entail employing complex sentences, linked by discourse markers. An example answer follows.
My friend will come to visit me. In HCM. I will show him city. In my city is many things to show him. Him like market. I show him market. And restaurants. And museums. Many museum in HCM. I hope he will likes.
My friend will soon pay me a visit here in Ho Chi Minh City and there is such an abundance of things to see and do, for example my friends enjoys markets therefore I shall take him to several, followed by some great local food in one of the countless restaurants. Additionally, he adores museums and we are spoilt for choice here with many fascinating exhibitions.
Now … your turn.
Firstly, this is one large chunk of text, no paragraph breaks, so organise the writing.
Avoid repeating the same word or words. Use a thesaurus to search for synonyms.
I’ve started you off with two example sentences however, the rest is up to you.
My name is Tony. I am 23 years old. I am a accountant. I very much don’t like my job. It is not exciting. Because I do the same thing every day. All day. I like travel. I like Thailand. I very want to go there. At there I can eat food spicy. I like football. I don’t like baseball. Sometimes I watch on TV football. I like very much listen music. I play piano. I play recorder. My friend asked me to be in his band but his music I don’t like. He is my friend. His music is horrible. He is very bad guitar man. I live in HCM. I don’t like sometime. Now it rain every day, very heavy. We have to live with bad rain. Every day. The traffic is bad. Much motorbikes. Air very not good. I like to shopping. I buy shirt. I have many shirt but I buy more shirt because I like shirt, I have red blue green yellow shirt and black. Today I gets email. Email is from friend. I have not see friend for long time. I was surprise.
My name is Tony and I am 23 years old. By profession, I’m a accountant. However,I don’t like my job very much . I do the same thing everyday so It is not that exciting.
I like travelling and I really want to visit Thailand where I can eat spicy food as well as seeing golden temples.
Who knows … maybe if you keep writing, you will become a Noble laureate like our writers
Today’s theme is the use … the correct use … of discourse markers.
Furthermore, speakers MUST NOT say ‘like’ or ‘kinda’.
It is a pet peeve of mine to hear people interrupt the flow of a conversation with the unnecessary and incredibly irritating application of the word ‘like’ as a … totally incorrect … discourse marker [or discourse particle]. To illustrate, at a previous centre, a centre with a very prestigious reputation, I heard some US teachers say the following:
“I went out last night and had, like, two beers.”
“Are you looking for, like, an apartment
This filters down to the students, some of whom deliberately say ‘like’, because they think it makes them sound American and cool. I correct that misconception; it makes them sound that they are unable to complete a simple sentence. When I notice this as a problem, I tell the student to listen to themselves and count how many times they use ‘like’ erroneously.
And so, to work …
Practice how to speak fluently and with the correct use of linking words. For example:
however // having said that // although
firstly // following that // after that // and then finally
Just a minute
Students must speak for a minute with no deviation, hesitation or repetition.
Students can select a subject and then ask another student or team to speak for a minutes. Otherwise, choices could be:
books // local food // foreign food // clothes shopping // music // siblings //
You meet a fellow traveller at the airport when your flight is delayed. Make small talk conversation including idioms and expressions.
To make this more of a competition, award two points for every idiom, one for every expression, and additional points for discourse markers.
Topics can be:
Talk about the flight. How bad the airline is, frequently late. Do they fly often ?
Introduce yourself. Why are they flying ? Business or pleasure ?
Ask about work – do they like it ? Where do they work ?
Ask about family … but not too personal
Ask about where they live
REMEMBER to react, and to use stress and intonation.
Oh, really // how interesting // tell me more // where is that exactly ? // Oh, right // Me too ! // I had a similar experience //
You have plans to go to a new restaurant but one of you can’t make it because something turned up. Apologise and give the reason why you must change the plan. Offer alternative suggestions.
Hello, Sharma ? I’m so sorry, I can’t make it tonight.
Sharma will ask why. Give your reason
Have to work late // family member is ill // have an exam tomorrow // missed bus // not feeling well // have to attend a family event //
In the UK we try to hide our emotions, keep a stiff upper lip, but sometimes people can get angry. Repeat the exercise, but this time, the person waiting is in a bad mood.
Now the person waiting does not accept your excuse.
This the the third time you’ve cancelled ! // I’ve already been waiting 30 minutes // You only tell me NOW ! // I don’t care, get here now or never call me again ! //
How could you apologise and offer to make it up to her ?
Today we’ll concentrate on building longer, more interesting sentences, altering sentence structure, and applying discourse markers and relative pronouns in order to be proficient in meeting the IELTS requirements.
Let’s kick off with some basic sentences, each containing one fact.
Park So-yeon is from South Korea. She performed under the name ‘Soyeon’. She was in the band T-ara from 2009 – 2017.
One possibility is to make a longer, main sentence (an independent clause) then break it up with some extra but not essential information (a dependent clause):
Park So-yeon, who performed under the stage name Soyeon, was a member of the South Korean group T-ara from 2009 until they broke up in 2017.
Here, I employed a relative pronoun (‘who’) to introduce the dependent clause, and altered the sentence slightly, adding some extra words.
Another, more advanced, option, which I recommend experimenting with as it will impress the examiner, is to start with a dependent clause. Allow me to demonstrate:
Performing under the name Soyeon, the South Korean singer Park So-yeon achieved fame as a member of the band T-ara, with whom she played from 2009 until 2017.
You will, no doubt, notice that the grammar may have to change, that is altering the verb form, by which I mean transforming the simple past into present continuous.
Now, you can guess what’s coming, it’s your turn to practise. I realise that not all of you are so enamoured of T-ara and South Korean women as I am, therefore, for that express purpose, I have selected three examples and you merely have to choose the person that most interests or appeals to you:
Daniel Craig is an actor. He is most famous for playing James Bond. His wife is Rachel Weisz. She is also an actor.
Thandie Newton is an English actress. She has three children. She studied at Cambridge University. She was in Mission Impossible II with Tom Cruise.
Tsai Ing-wen is president of Taiwan. The official name of the country is the Republic of China. She has been president since 20th May 2016. She was the first woman to be president of ROC Taiwan.
Next stage is to introduce some information and then offer up an alternate view, that is to say, a critical response which can be achieved by the use of appropriate discourse markers.
Let’s focus on the most recent Noble prize laureate ( Literature):
Peter Handke is an Austrian writer. His first novel was published in 1966. The English title is ‘The Hornets’. Handke was critical of the Noble Prize. In 2014, he called for the award to be abolished. Many people were critical of Hendke winning because he had supported the Serbia cause in the breakup of Yugoslavia.
There is a lot of information here, some purely factual (dates, nationality) some regarding the reaction to the award.
The Austrian writer Peter Hendke, whose first novel ‘The Hornets’ was published in 1966, was awarded the Noble laureate in 2019 despite his previous comments calling for the abolition of the award. Furthermore, there was a lot of criticism surrounded the announcement due to Hendke’s support of the Serbians during the Yugoslavian war.
Although there was a lot of negative critical reaction, Peter Hendke, an Austrian writer whose first book was published in 1966, received the Noble Prize for Literature in 2019 in spite of the fact that he had previously called for the award to be abolished. The writer, whose first book was titled ‘The Hornets’, had additionally expressed views supportive of Serbia which caused a backlash once the winner of the award was announced.
Either write about somebody famous, somebody you admire or write something about yourself, making sure to include something positive and negative.
Next time, we can work on introductions, how to respond to IELTS questions by leading into the answer as opposed to simply answering directly.