IELTS: Sisyphus as metaphor

10th May 2022

Last week I held an IELTS Speaking Test. Only one student hit 7.5 although, in fairness, I was probably on the generous side in awarding the student such an admirable score.

Or, to be precise, learn from their mistakes.

I can break them down into three main areas:

coherence

vocabulary

complex sentences

Kicking off with coherence; it doesn’t matter how fluent you are, unless you answer the question, you will loose marks.

The test allows us to assess your understanding of both question and task. An example: one question was

What is the most popular activity in your country ?

ASIDE: I’ve told students until I’m blue in the face, never repeat, “In (my) country,” but since when do teenage students ever actually listen ?

The question asks for ONE activity; several students talked about two or three. This is not answering the question.

Anyone who’s studied at University will know how imperative it is to follow instructions.

COMIC RELIEF: One student, from a previous test, replied that the most common activity, “In my country,” was brushing teeth, and that foreigners do this every day, but Vietnamese only do this once or twice a week. Said student had to continue for two minutes. Needless to say, there were no flying colours.

More disturbing was the lack of IELTS vocabulary. You have been told time and again what that means, and I can’t keep hitting my head against a brick wall.

And so to work … get out your notebooks (those that actually bother bringing notebooks to class), look up previous lessons and write down:

TEN L-FWs

FIVE less common idioms

FIVE everyday expressions

TEN phrasal verbs

TEN basic collocations

I have taught you these ad infinitum. If you are struggling with this exercise, you will probably only get a 5 for the Lexical Recourses section.

Lastly, the old chestnut, complex sentences.

I had nine students, each with about ten minutes of speaking time. How many complex sentences do you think I heard ?

Yes, Steve …
That’s right … ZERO

EXERCISES: Use at least two L-FWs, one idiom and other IELTS elements

(and if you think it’s funny to ask what I mean, after all this time, by ‘IELTS elements’, just get up and leave the class).

Speak for one minute about:

one of your cousins // your favourite gift // sports // your best memory from childhood // best films // problems in your city // typical local food.

Part Two: Critical Thinking

“Oh, teacher, I’m tired and feel lazy.”

Work in teams. Watch the following short clip about the ancient Greek king, Sisyphus:

Characters from Greek and Roman mythology permeate western culture, and references and allusions are ubiquitous.

You may watch the video again, writing down new words. There is a lot of background (in which you may encounter a character from ‘The Avengers’ movies), but the main feature starts around the 4:00 mark.

Your task is to relate this story to modern life. Choose a person you know, or something from your own experience. You may even project your thoughts about the future, once you have left education and joined the workforce.

To assist you, some pertinent L-FWs and idioms:

futile (adj) futility (noun) / absurd / pointless / meaningless / contemptable / repetitive / a metaphor

a total waste of time / flogging a dead horse

sick to the back teeth / day in, day out

cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

talking until (pronoun) blue in the face / the grind

putting an old head on young shoulders

Look up the meanings yourself. Your teacher won’t be with you to give you the answers in life. Think for yourself.

Athene, Goddess of wisdom

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Vocabulary bank to help you ace the test.

4th May 2022

Let’s kick off with an adjective review. What adjectives have you been taught recently ? I’ll give you a clue with the first letter:

f (means to be cheeky, a little impolite but in a funny way)

u (not usual, someone acting unlike their normal self)

p (very relevant, of interest at this time)

This is a test to see who has been making notes in class, and who has been coasting.

Hhhmmmm … this is not going to be a piece of cake

The answers are facetious, uncharacteristically & pertinent. For those that didn’t know, you now have to use them in a sentence. It may be one complex sentence, which would really impress me, or three basic sentences. What are you waiting for ?

Now some vocabulary building:

computer literacy (noun) computer literate (adjective)

flexible / flexibility / flexi-hours

to adapt / adaptability / prospects / standard of living

networking / future skills / essential workplace skills

prosaic [cf with ‘run of the mill’]

cf is Latin for ‘compare’

e.g. is Latin meaning ‘for example’

i.e. is Latin for ‘that is’.

Now … let’s go to work !

The inimitable Buster Keaton

Complete the sentences:

If you learn English you will increase your job ____________

Nowadays, most young people are _____________ _________________ . They are able to use programs such as Word, ___________ & ________

When selecting a university, you may have to be ______________ in case you don’t get into your first choice.

Getting a great, well-paying job is essential if you want a high ________________________ .

One student moved to Boston where the temperature can drop to below freezing. He’s really having ________ to the new culture.

My actor friend is busy 24/7, attending parties, setting up meeting, pitching ideas and Tweeting. That guy is constantly ______________ .

Phew!. The last time I wrote it was so long… | by Vaibhav Sinha | How I  Learnt Piano | Medium
Phew ! Thay Paul is a Tiger Teacher

Class Game

Split class into two teams.

One team selects an idiom and the other team has to use it, correctly of course, in a sentence.

EXAMPLE:

Rickenbacker 330 Left-Handed, Jetglo at Gear4music

I would love this guitar, a left-handed Rickenbacker which is a famous American company with a very distinctive look and sound yet, to my dismay, it costs ______________________

Idioms from Semester 2

Another string to (your) bow – a new skill or learning experience

bear with me – please wait a very short time (usually spoken as opposed to written)

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

down in the dumps – depressed, unhappy, feeling gloomy

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

up in arms – to be very angry about something, to protest strongly

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

Idioms from Semester 1

Which you should all know by heart and be able to reel off at the drop of a hat.

it’s raining cats and dogs

it costs an arm and a leg

piece of cake

I’m burning the candle at both ends

once in a blue moon

pass with flying colours

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it! | Chynna Pope: The Beacon Hellion

Remember these old chestnuts ?

without further ado // tricks up your sleeve  // ace the test

pass with flying colours  // do yourself proud // 

you are in the driver seat (or you are in the driving seat)  // 

occur // inevitably // pertinent

This taxi has put me in the driver's seat of my life': Female taxi driver  shares inspiring story - it s viral - Hindustan Times
Guess who’s in the driver’s seat ?

For those who really want to expand their horizons, an extensive collection of idioms, expressions and collocations can be found on this blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/08/25/adult-speaking-class-level-3-ielts-english-expressions/

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

David Bowie by request

23rd April 2022

My Princess requested some extra help with reading and gleaning information from text. Therefore, I prepared this little exercise about a Truly unique musical icon, David Bowie.

Who Was David Bowie?

The following text is taken from this website: https://www.biography.com/musician/david-bowie

David Bowie was born David Robert Jones in Brixton, South London, England, on January 8, 1947. Bowie’s first hit was the song ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969. The original pop chameleon, Bowie became a fantastical sci-fi character for his breakout Ziggy Stardust album. He later co-wrote ‘Fame’ with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, which became his first American No. 1 single in 1975. An accomplished actor, Bowie starred in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Shortly after releasing his final album, ‘Black Star’, Bowie died from cancer on January 10, 2016. 

Black Star
Ziggy Stardust

Questions

1. When was David Bowie born ?

2. What was his first hit ?

3. What was the name of his breakout album (LP) ?

4. With whom did he co-write ‘Fame’ ?

5. What film did he star in ?

6. When was he inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ?

7. When did David pass away ?

8. What was his last LP ?

Now … IELTS language

Your turn to be a chameleon. Change this run of the mill passage into a piece of text worthy of an IELTS student.

Today, David Bowie’s music is (everywhere) (but) this wasn’t always the case. When he was (beginning phrasal verb) he was not successful, and he felt (sad – use an idiom). People only heard his music on the radio (rarely – use an idiom). However, by (not giving up) he finally archived fame.

He worked incredibly hard (idiom) and played concerts across the USA. He (idiom) by acting in a big movie in 1976. Unfortunately, the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle was (bad) to his health, so he decided to (idiom), stop his bad habits, and move to Berlin, Germany.

Today, Bowie memorabilia can (idiom); for example, a lock of his hair sells for over £12, 000. That is out of this world !

Bye bye from David Bowie

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: tackling part 3

19th April 2022

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

I covered this in detail in a previous blog: 

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/15/ielts-speaking-test-part-3-how-to-nail-it/

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

1) demonstrate you understand the question

2) demonstrate you have IELTS-standard language to respond

3) 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 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.

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.”

Piece of cake, right ?

See you in the next blog

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: a heart of gold (and other expressions)

18th April 2022

Apart from idioms, phrasal verbs and low-frequency words (LFW), IELTS students need a collection of expressions and collocations to spice up their English.

With that in mind, here are some notes from the previous lesson, along with revision exercises and a splattering of vibrant vocabulary.

As for speaking tests, I listened to eight students last week and only heard one complex sentence. Now, it wasn’t one of my classes; my students know exactly what I will do if they don’t speak in IELTS-style sentences:

I just jammed around with two key words: ‘heart’ & ‘gold’.

Exercise 1: define these expressions & idioms

HEART

a heart of gold

a heart to heart

hand on heart

heart-felt greetings

heartbreaking

a heart of stone

GOLD

King Midas
The bard of Stratford

a heart of gold (yes, again, it’s called practice)

as good as gold

the golden touch

golden handshake

silence is golden (especially when one works in Vietnam)

Exercise 2: use these expressions & idioms in an IELTS style, employing complex sentence(s).

EXAMPLE: My mother, who works incredibly long shifts at the hospital, has a heart of gold. Even when she is exhausted, she always finds time for me.

Now … your turn. Tell me about your:

younger sister // older brother // uncle // best friend // neighbour

New vocabulary

facetious // uncharacteristically // overheads // euphemism // lingua franca // prima donna

shaking in my boots // going to powder my nose // going to see a man about a dog // footloose and fancy free

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Animals: idioms, phrases and interesting facts A – D (part 2)

6th April 2022

Alligators and Crocodiles

See you later, alligator

Meaning: informal way of saying goodbye.

Comes from a song written by Robert Charles Guidry, and released in 1955. The lines are:

“See you later, alligator, after while, crocodile.”

Crocodiles are bigger and more aggressive than alligators. A crocodile’s snout is V-shaped, an alligator’s is U-shaped. Viewed from the front, a crocodile will display both sets of teeth while the alligator only shows the top row.

Crocodiles

Crocodile tears

Meaning: shedding fake tears

“He acted like he was sad but they were just crocodile tears.”

Bats

Blind as a bat

Meaning: to have very bad eyesight

“I can’t see without my glasses, I’m blind as a bat.”

Bats, actually, are not blind but have very sensitive vision, especially for seeing in the dark. However, bats use a form of sonar called echolocation to search for food, and to help with navigation. They do this by producing sound waves above the range of human hearing. Additionally, the belief that bats always turn left when flying out of a cave is simply not true.

Buffalo

To be buffaloed

Meaning: to be confused, puzzled, or tricked by someone. This, I believe, is an idiom from the USA although I have never come across it, either in life or in the media.

Buffalos are native to Africa and Asia, bison in the USA and Europe. Although related, they are different species. Buffalo Bill, a soldier, hunter and showman, should really have been named Bison Bill

Butterfly

The butterfly effect

Meaning: a small, insignificant action can have enormous consequences. Based on Chaos Theory; if a butterfly flaps its wing in Brazil, will it cause a hurricane in Japan ?

The link between butterflies and Chaos Theory is actually based on the patterns made on paper when recording data:

Camels

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Meaning: a small but final event that causes someone to react strongly

“My boss kept making me overtime, but when he told me I had to work on my free day, I quit ! It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

A perennial question in my Young Learners’ class is “What does a camel store in its hump ?” the answer being fat (not water). Furthermore, camels have three sets of eyelashes. However it is perhaps not so widely known that camel milk is incredibly healthy.

Cows

Until the cows come home

Meaning: some thing that will take a long time, last a long time, or will never happen

“Steven owes me money but I’ll be waiting until the cows come home before he pays me.”

In the Marx Brothers film ‘Duck Soup’ (1933) Groucho declares, “I could dance with you ’til the cows come home. On second thoughts, I’d rather dance with the cows ’til you come home.”

Cows have 32 teeth but lack upper front ones. They have great memories and sense organs, being able to smell something up to six miles away.

Deer

Like a deer caught in the headlights

Meaning: paralysed with fear, unable to move. Totally shocked or surprised and unable to speak or react.

“When his mum caught him at the mall instead of being at school he was like a deer caught in the headlights.”

The Chinese water deer is the only species of deer not to have antlers. Deers, apart from having a great sense of smell and hearing, have a wide field of vision due to their eyes being on the side of their heads.

Ducks

Water off a duck’s back

Meaning: something done or said that has no effect

“She kept insulting her boyfriend about his laziness and being a slob but it was all water off a duck’s back.”

See you later, alligator !

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: hometowns & neighbourhoods. Speaking Test Part Two practice.

4th April 2022

Some London neighbourhoods

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

N.B. neighbourhood means the area in which you live; neighbours are the people living next or close to you.

First, some new vocabulary. I will expect you to learn these, to have them down pat:

gritty / industrial

quite / safe / residential

boring / peaceful / suburban

bustling / vibrant / city centre / lively / a happening place

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. You should be able to speak for two minutes without pause or repetition

Tips: Use some of the adjectives listed above to describe the area.

Say what amenities you have close by; shops, restaurants, entertainment, transport links etc.

Try to tell an anecdote – a short true story about something that happened to you.

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 from 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, but I have to dust and clean every day because so much dirt accumulates. 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, who are all so friendly, 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.

Landmark 81 in Sai Gon

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: speaking, writing, thinking the IELTS way

29th March 2022

Complex sentences, which use relative pronouns and subordinate clauses, are imperative in attaining a respectable IELTS score.

You will, no doubt, experience a feeling of triumph once you have mastered this technique which, I admit, does require 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:

1 when you are certain or 100% sure about something

2 to start immediately, with no more interruptions

3 to express 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 work.

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

The candidate answers the question immediately; a sentence leading into the response will make for a longer answer.

The second sentence is acceptable for providing more information although 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 daily, 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 far superior. Let’s break down how it earns points.

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

Secondly, the opening 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 vernacular language.

Lastly, the candidate explains 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: Tell me about your hometown.

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.

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, sorry, I mean in central Viet Nam, 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 place 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

Can you spot two grammatical errors ?

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).

Dragon Bridge at Da Nang. Bye bye – see you next blog

Answers:

1 = without a shadow of a doubt

2 = without further ado

3 = feeling of triumph

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Discourse Markers

18th February 2022

Image from lisalarter.com

By using discourse markers, students will be able to link their ideas together as well as increasing their fluency. Consequently speaking for two minutes without pauses or hesitation will be a piece of cake.

There is a great list on another blog: https://aliciateacher2.wordpress.com/grammar/discourse-markers/

I recommend students learn at least two from each section

Using discourse markers: I give teams two words which they have to incorporate into a short passage.

EXAMPLE:therefore‘ and ‘subsequently

The class had an extremely important speaking test, therefore they should have studied hard. One student preferred to play video games all night. Subsequently, he failed the exam and his mother, who is a real tiger mum, was absolutely furious.

Image from ucanr.edu

having said that & furthermore

moreover & consequently

initially & eventually

likewise & specifically

meanwhile & notwithstanding

on the whole & instead

Using discourse markers to tell a story

An exercise where students have to relate a story based on several photos may be found on this previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/06/ielts-4-5-speaking-class/

See you next week

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

IELTS: Relatives, relatively speaking

17th February 2022

One perennial IELTS speaking topic, an old chestnut in fact, is family. You will, no doubt, encounter such questions as, “Who do you live with ?” or “Which member of your family do you feel closest to and why.”

So, continuing on from the pervious posting, here are some exercises designed to increase your speaking prowess, and boost your score.

To kick off, a recap of expressions:

a heart of gold // firm but fair // as good as gold

life and soul of the party // a little angel // is a good sport

he looks out for me // he has my back //

never has a bad word to say about anybody

On the other hand

a real tiger mum // is a bit of a wallflower

is a little devil // drinks like a fish

is a real prima donna // is very touchy

Exercise 1

Tell me about your mother, using a subordinate clause and at least one of the above expressions.

Asian Mother Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash
Image from unsplash.com

EXAMPLE:

My mother, who works as a medical secretary, has a heart of gold.

Exercise 2

Tell me about your father, brother, sister, grandmother and uncle. Make sure you use a subordinate clause for each person. Endeavour (try) to make longer, jaw-dropping sentences.

Safe Houses – South Africa – Emmanuel Relief & Rehabilitation International  of Canada
Image from eicanada.org

Now, let’s kick it up a notch. Add at least one of the personality adjectives from below:

Personality adjectives:

aggressive / arrogant / calm / domineering /extrovert / fastidious / generous / honest / humorous / kind / mean / modest / outgoing / polite / quiet / reliable / rude / selfish / serious / thoughtless / trustworthy / unreliable

First, decide if these adjectives are positive or negative, then match with the expressions accordingly.

EXAMPLE:

My mother, who is very fastidious, is a bit of a tiger mum. By that I mean she always wants me to pass every test with flying colours. However, I know, deep down, she wants what’s best for me, and that she has a heart of gold.

Image from theprouditalian.com

Exercise 3

Tell me about your family. You have to speak for two minutes, and tell me what the members look like, their personality, their occupation, and an anecdote about them.

EXAMPLE:

My uncle Michael, who lives in Ha Noi where he works as a tour guide, is the life and soul of the party. He is so outgoing and a real extrovert. I recall one time he came to Sai Gon for Tet Holiday and he really enjoyed himself. To be honest, he drank like a fish, singing karaoke and dancing with everybody. My uncle, who is my mother’s brother, actually looks nothing like her as he is very tall and thin, and has a receding hairline.

Mens Receding Hairline Hair Cuts - Stylist225.com of Baton Rouge : Salon  Hair Stylist
A receding hairline. Image from stylist225.com

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