Tomorrow I have a class taking their IELTS speaking test. Thus, I present a reminder about what you need to say in order to:
ace the test
pass with flying colours
hit that baby right out of the ballpark
I will be listening for the following:
Fluency – use of discourse markers. WITHOUT A WIDE RANGE OF DISCOURSE MARKERS YOU WILL NOT GET HIGHER THAN A ‘5’.
Lexical resources – Low-frequency words (big words). Know synonyms and multi-syllable words to impress the examiner. Not to mention, a sprinkling of idioms, phrases, phrasal verbs. Paraphrasing is very important
Grammar – it’s OK to make a few mistakes, grammatically, but what we want to hear are complex structures – basically, altering the structure of a sentence or including several pieces of information in one sentence by using relative pronouns.
Stress and intonation – listen to native speakers and COPY how we speak, when we stress words, when we ‘swallow’ letters, our body language.
Fluency – Ability to speak at length without noticeable effort. A good range of discourse markers and connectives. Answer is coherent and pertinent. Self-correction is totally acceptable.
Lexical Resources – A wide vocabulary to cover a variety of topics. Low-frequency words. Ability to form collocations. Use of everyday as well as less common idioms and expressions. Paraphrasing, by which I mean rephrase the question you have been asked – don’t just repeat the exact wording.
Grammatical Range – A combination of simple and complex sentences. Generally error-free. Verb tenses must be correct, and subject must agree with verb form.
Pronunciation – Must be clear and easily understood. Effective use of stress, intonation and rhythm. If you are telling a happy story, sound happy.
Pedal to the metal, let’s dive in and hit the ground running !
We are licensed to review the previous lesson, a potpourri of quick thinking (thinking on your feet), dropping idioms at the drop of a hat and sentence building by employing as many relative clauses as humanly possible … big time ! Not forgetting the grammar lesson, prepositions, directions and map-reading, differentiating between locating (finding) and labelling (writing on something). Now, without further ado …
What do you see in the picture ?
Let’s break it down into three sections: the man, the car, the location, then the spatial relation between all three. Piece of cake ? OK, breaks down like this:
The man: Daniel Craig (actor), James Bond (character), tall, blonde, handsome, strong, highly-skilled, well-off (quite rich), talented, licensed to kill, British … what other adjectives ?
The car: expensive, beautiful, full of gadgets, exclusive, cost an arm and a leg, astronomical, Aston Martin DB10, luxury …
The location: Rome … no help here ! What do you know about Rome ?
NOW … YOUR TURN
Make an IELTS-style sentence featuring relative clauses and prepositions of place. You have two minutes … go !
Thay Paul, can you give us some help, please ?
Oh, you know I will ! OK, how’s this: Daniel Craig, who’s a world-famous British actor, is playing James Bond, a fictional spy who has been in over twenty films. Mr Craig, who is very tall and attractive, is standing in front of an incredibly exclusive Aston Martin DB10, which is an iconic British car, whose price is astronomical. Behind we can see the breathtaking skyline of Rome, which is the capital of Italy, a country famous for style, elegance and luxury.
Teamwork – utilise the internet to gather information. Quite simply, I am at St Paul’s Cathedral and I want to get to Shakespeare’s Globe.
Create a jaw-droppingly brilliant IELTS response telling me about St Paul’s, the Globe and how I can get there on foot.
You have five minutes … go !
Bonus points: What symbols can you identify on the map ? What do they signify ?
Now, time for some retail therapy, and we’re going to take it up a notch.
You will enter at OLI and meet your friend outside of Top Brand. From there, you want to visit The National, then Viking. Afterwards, your friend wants to pop into Books before you meet another friend inside Nortex. Your taxi will pick you up at IDEA.
This time give me directions as well as using relative clauses to explain something about the shops in question … or as much information as you can provide.
Followed by a game. I shall show photos of five of my friends, along with some personality adjectives and occupations. The class simply have to guess my friends’ job and what kind of people they are … and justify their decisions.
Happy St Patrick’s Day – St Patrick being the patron saint of Ireland, a country famous for enjoying a drink … and then some ! In Chicago, which is a bustling, vibrant city in USA’s mid-west, the river is coloured green. However, too much
Guiness will give me a bad headache the following morning. I will definitely have a hangover. That means it’s time to stop drinking so much, I need to change my bad habits … which brings us to an idiom for my new class; it’s time to turn over a new leaf.
In this case, a four leaf clover for good luck.
So, we have a new class and they need to start learning language that will help them ace the IELTS test.
Let’s hit the ground running and recap the basic idioms you’ll be using every week, as well as the new vocabulary from last night. Are you ready … ?
First off the bat, some basic idioms:
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
turn over a new leaf
put your nose to the grindstone
These are the basic idioms I introduce, as they can be employed in many situations.
A good introductory blog, with IELTS tips and advise may be accessed here:
The ability to use complex sentences, fluently and naturally, will greatly improve your IELTS score (in both speaking and writing). Therefore here’s a little exercise I used in last night’s class. Test your ability to speak in IELTS-style sentences.
Quite simply, take a basic subject and see how complex you can make it by adding information to every noun.
Good idea. Here is my friend Tony:
Tony is from Liverpool. He is 32. He is a reporter. He works on ‘The Daily Talk’. This is shown on ICB network.
Remember, relative pronouns who / which / where / whose
Tony, who is 32, is from Liverpool, which is famous for football as well as The Beatles. He occupation (or profession) is reporter, working for ‘The Daily News’ which is a show broadcast on the ICB network, which is located in London, where Tony now lives.
You wouldn’t usually include so many clauses, but it is an exercise, similar to a musician practising scales. Ideally, in the speaking test, you will be able to use complex sentences at the drop of a hat.
NOW … YOUR TURN
Make a complex sentence about your hometown.
Sai Gon / Tp HCM
Sai Gon: in southern Viet Nam / largest city in VN / population over nine million / many museums (such as History, War Remnants, Independence Palace) / traditional food (such as Phố) – what is Phố ? What is it served with ?
Next, tell me about someone in your family.
Who is that person ? What relation to you ? Where do they live, what is their profession ? Describe their physical appearance and personality and try to add an anecdote, to make your presentation more personal.
Finally, in last night’s listening practice, there was mention of the Hearst Castle in California:
William Randolph Hearst, who was a very famous newspaper tycoon, lived in this castle, which is in California. Hearst was immortalised in the film ‘Citizen Kane’, a classic movie from 1941 by Orson Welles, who directed and starred in the film which is often cited as being the best film ever made.
New vocabulary and expressions:
Last night’s class produced these:
The weather is Sai Gon is sweltering and terribly humid
monotonous (mono = one) = very tedious
I don’t give a monkey’s = I really don’t care
occupation (better word for job) / profession = need to be qualified such as doctor, nurse, lawyer, pilot, chef etc
most notably = Orson Welles made many films, most notably ‘Citizen Kane’.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression
A killer, jaw-droppingly brilliant introduction will really impress your examiner as well as boosting your confidence during what, to be honest, is a nerve-racking experience, namely, the IELTS speaking test.
With that in mind, here’s some tips, advise, guidance, what you will, on how to set up your response.
Let’s take a real-life example. Last week I asked my class a simple question:
I am exhausted and need a holiday. Where should I go to in Vietnam ?
Most answers were pretty run of the mill albeit with the occasional L-FW and an idiom relating to cost (it does or doesn’t cost an arm and a leg). However, I had a former student sitting in, my Princess (you may read about her here, if you so wish: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/09/04/6420/
My Princess began her recommendation thus:
Mr Paul is looking quite exhausted because he has been working extremely hard, burning the candle at both ends, so he really needs a holiday to relax. Vietnam has visually-stunning scenery and beautiful beaches. Allow me to tell you about some of these places …
The class responded thus:
Their jaws all dropped ! However, take heart, a great introduction is, with a little practice, a piece of cake. What follows is a compendium of opening lines, introductions, and templates for you to use and adapt as you see fit.
As with all skills, start slowly then you can build up to more elaborate introductions.
That’s a very interesting question
Allow me to tell you about …
Well, that’s a great 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 …
As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …
Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because …
More Advanced introductions, especially for Part 3:
Well, that’s a very complicated question …
Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer
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 …
I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example …
in my experience
allow me to tell you what I do
I can’t speak about other people, but I …
Allow me to introduce my family to you. Firstly there is …
I like many drinks however coffee is my favourite because …
Sai Gon has so many coffee shops, some are cheap while others can be quite expensive although they have a wide range of delicious coffee. Personally, I like going to …
As you may know, I’m a vegetarian. However, all my friends love fast food especially burgers and fries.
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.
Well, that’s a great question as I detest cooking. Having said that, I’m extremely lucky because in my neighbourhood, restaurants are ubiquitous, from expensive sea food to affordable street food.
Thank you for the question, because I can introduce you to some mouth-watering dishes from Vietnam. Allow me to mention just two which, in my opinion, are the most popular.
Free time / hobbies / shopping
Well, I’m a student at university, so I don’t really have much free time. However, when I’m not studying I like to …
After a hard day of (working, studying, shopping) there’s nothing I like better than watching a great movie and I tend to enjoy action, horror and Marvel films the most.
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.
I have to confess that one of my passions is shopping, be it at a mall, a street market or online. As a young person, I adore buying clothes, though I have to restrain myself as many items cost an arm and a leg.
Well, That’s an interesting question because I actually spend most of my time at school or studying. Most days I’m burning the candle at both ends. Having said that, when I do get free time, which is once in a blue moon, I love to just hang out with my friends, maybe go to coffee shops which are ubiquitous in my city. Although I enjoy movies, I rarely go nowadays.
I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to meet up with some friends and just hang out. We have all been so busy, we haven’t seen each other for ages. (for a long time).
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.
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.
It’s funny you put that question to me because just today I was thinking about where I want to study. I have my heart set on studying in the USA as I have some family in Seattle, which is a large city in Washington state. However, to follow my dream, I need a high score in IELTS, so I need to put my nose to the grindstone.
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.
Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.
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.
No preamble, let’s just dive in; how to boost your lexical resources.
Firstly, replace all your basic verbs with ‘better’ ones, L-FWs as IELTS refer to them. Thus, fifteen of the most common English verbs:
Activity 1: Assign three verbs to students (individually or in small groups). They must write a sentence (the more complex the better) utilising the substituted verb. Students can use a thesaurus for assistance.
I always donate my old clothes to charity.
Activity 2: Convert a simple sentence into a jaw-droppingly magnificent IELTS sentence, employing the whole spectrum of resources, by which I mean phrasal verbs, adverbs, LFWs, idioms etc.
I always donate my old clothes to charity.
I have to confess that one of my passions is shopping, be it at a mall, a street market or online. As a young person, I adore buying clothes, though I have to restrain myself as many items cost an arm and a leg. Naturally, I accrue a vast wardrobe. From time to time I have a good sort out, sometimes being quite brutal. If I haven’t worn something for, say, two years, then I get rid of it. However, instead of simply throwing them away, or giving to siblings or cousins, I choose to donate to various charities such as UNICEF, Save The Children or Cancer Research. That way, I can contribute to improving the world.
Study the above example. Can you pick out the elements that differentiate this from a basic English class response ?
Write down new vocabulary and make a point of using new words.
Observe how points are introduced, and answers expanded.
How many phrasal verbs are you familiar with ? How about fixed expressions (here I added ‘From time to time‘) which brings us nicely to our next section …
As far as I’m concerned // I can’t wait to … //
If there’s one thing that I (love, hate, detest) it’s … // I’m looking forward to … //
It may surprise you to learn that I … // It’s no surprise that … //
The first thing I’d going to do when I … // There’s nothing I like better than … //
Activity 3: Practice using these expressions
Example: After a hard day of teaching, there’s nothing I like better than watching a great movie. Only last night, I saw a fantastic film, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ by Aaron Sorkin who is a highly respected American writer.
Obviously, teachers don’t want to overwhelm the students with an unmanageable amount of new language. Far better to serve up bite-size pieces, then practice, practice and practice. When the language has become second nature to the students, move onwards and upwards.
The first step is to elevate your language; replace basic common or garden verbs with ‘better‘ ( that is, low-frequency) words.
For example, the verb ‘try’. Instead, we can have:
To keep trying, not giving up, we can use:
persevere or persist
Let’s take these new words out for a spin:
This year, I shall endeavour to learn Vietnamese. I’ve tried before but gave up as it was simply too hard. However, this time I’m going to persevere.
Can you think of an idiom that could be used to show someone planning to work much harder ?
Onwards and upwards:
get a qualification or certificate by hard work and study:
attain // achieve
to get somethingwithout the need for work or study:
obtain (you can obtain the application form in room 7A)
say / said:
exclaim // express // remark (add -ed to form past tense)
utilise (utilize USA) / apply
to eat, consume or do a lot of something:
devour (He devoured the whole pizza by himself // She loves reading, she absolutely devours books)
Transform this simple sentence into something more IELTS-like:
Sarah said that if she gets an ‘A’, her father will buy her a new iPhone.
Tony says he wants to get a visa which he can buy at the UK Embassy, so he can use his English skills in London.
Mary really wants to buy the ‘Fargo’ box set. She said it was the best TV show in years and she plans to watch all the episodes in one day !
Similarly, boost your lexical resources with regards to adjectives.
fundamental // elementary
difficult // challenging
delicious // mouth-watering // scrumptious
broaden my horizons // real-life knowledge // culture shock
Signpost language: (To help the listener or reader follow you)
Firstly / To begin with / I’d like to start by …
Secondly / additionally / another factor is …
What’s more / furthermore / not forgetting
Obviously / clearly / it is evident that …
Moving on / I’d like to change the topic / Let’s turn to …
Finally / all in all / all things considered
Put students into small teams. One teams challenges the other(s) to form a sentence using as many new L-FWs as they can. Award bonus points for the appropriate use of idioms or fixed expressions.
Students challenge each other to find a L-FW for a basic, prosaic verb or adjective. Teams are allowed a fixed time, say one minute, and are allowed to use a thesaurus such as here:
Then the group has to use the new word in an IELTS-style sentence by which I mean, an introduction, a signpost word or phrase and, obviously, a suitable idiom (examples – ‘put’, ‘big’, ‘interesting’, ‘watch’, ‘boring’, ‘eat’)
Teams are given a mix of L-FWs, idioms & signpost language. After a short preparation time, they have to construct an inspiring, fascinating and jaw-droppingly brilliant sentence. Piece of cake, n’est ce-pas ?
One student from each group starts answering an IELTS question (travel, food, study, neighbourhood). At a given point, the teacher stops the student and another group has to continue, and so on. Monitor the correct utilisation of signpost language as well as fluency, not forgetting the all-important pronunciation features.
Quick Fire / Rapid Fire Round
What is the correct word:
To get a certificate after study ?
Delicious food is …
London is brass monkeys in January so _______ bring warm clothes.
A L-FW for ‘use’
Strange behaviour – he is acting _______
Istanbul is famous for its covered market, known as a __________
Nose, jaw, mouth … use these features in phrases
Moving from Europe to Asia will undoubtedly result in a degree of ________ _____.
The unspeakably greedy child ______ all the doughnuts !
Actor Mark Hamill basically disagreed with everything in the film script.
I start by writing the word ‘travel’ on the board, and see how many avenues spread out from it. Start with the grammar; what type of word is it (noun) but it can be made into a verb (to travel, travelling) and the students should remember how to apply it to a person (traveller).
Then we have expressions such as ‘travel broadens the mind.’
We have this quote which introduces metaphor – the world as a book:
Then more pedestrian aspects of travel; how do we travel (transportation), preparation (booking tickets, hotels, visas etc), what do we bring with us (different clothes, sun cream, currency, sun glasses etc). How about culture shock ?
Next, what are the positive aspects of travelling (new cultures, fun, adventure, relaxation) and conversely, the negatives (delays, waiting in soulless airports, getting ripped off, tourist traps, bad hotels etc)
Pair work: students have to write a short passage using ‘although‘ and ‘despite‘ to encapsulate their travel experiences or wishes.
EXAMPLES: Although I absolutely love travelling, there are many drawbacks. Firstly, there is the cost; it can be incredibly expensive what with plane tickets and hotels not to mention having to eat out in restaurants. Despite these issues, travelling can be so relaxing or exciting, seeing new places and doing new things or simply as a break from our normal lives.
Vietnam has many beautiful towns and places of interest although I have only been to a few of them despite travel being relatively cheap in this country. We can fly everywhere within one or two hours, at very reasonable prices although some cheap airlines, such as Vietjet, are notorious for delays.
I have always wanted to visit Beijing in China which is not excessively far from Sai Gon. Despite that, I haven’t been because I am not sure about the visa and how expensive it would be to visit. Additionally, I hear some negative things such as terrible pollution and many tourist scams. Despite the drawbacks, I really want to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace and all the temples. Although Vietnam and China have a complicated relationship, most Vietnamese would agree that Chinese food is delicious.
These exercises help to increase vocabulary and confidence. Furthermore, the repetition helps to make the target language part of the students’ lexical resources.
Group work: Prepare a guide to Sai Gon for tourists.
Allow students access to the class computer for Google images if required.
What to see and do // where and what to eat // what to buy //
What they can do for entertainment
Safety and scams
Cultural differences – what should people do or NOT do in Vietnam ?
Use of interesting adjectives to describe the city centre.
Groups can then present to the class, with all students taking turns speaking. I shall be listening for relevance, pronunciation and use of expressions and discourse markers. Furthermore, I may learn some interesting tips.
My friend Andy is coming to Sai Gon
Using ‘should’ to give advice or information, make suggestions for Andy.
He loves history … what should he visit or see ?
He loves traditional food … what should he eat ?
He can’t ride a motorbike … how should he travel ?
He likes a beer a night (!) … where should he go ?
My Thai friend is coming to Vietnam:
Ms Namsum is young and energetic. She’s into (really enjoy) clubs, sightseeing and shopping.
I suggest she starts the day with a traditional bowl of pho then goes to Sai Gon centre. She can walk there from her hotel in District 1 or take a taxi (Vinasun or Malin ONLY). She will be out of the heat and has a lot of shopping choices and places to eat or grab a coffee. She could rest at her hotel in the afternoon, then go to Nguyen Hue walking street when it gets cooler in the evening. She has many restaurants in this area. Furthermore, there are many English-language menus. Finally, she can go to Bui Vien street where there are many clubs and bars, as well as many tourists speaking English.
What do they students think ? Is that a good plan ? Have I missed something important ?
Language to use:
I see your point
That’s a good idea but …
If I may make a suggestion …
I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
For example – That’s a good idea but you haven’t thought about sightseeing.
Bui Vien can be very noisy so I’m not sure that’s such a good idea for a young lady on her own.
Two of my friends, Tom and David who are both actors, are coming to Sai Gon. The students, in groups, have to arrange a fun day including sightseeing, shopping, eating and transportation. Then they have to compare their itineraries and exchange views and opinions. The students learn how to politely disagree with each and put forward their ideas and support their choices.
PLAN A DAY FOR TOM & DAVID
Where can they eat ?
What could they see or visit ?
How can they travel around ?
What can they buy as souvenirs ?
Where could they go at night ?
What safety advice would you give ?
What you need to know:
Both are 45-years old. They have good jobs and a good income. They like history and culture. They really enjoy good food and wine. Neither speaks any Vietnamese. They are too old for very loud clubs but they don’t mind having a few beers and maybe seeing some live music.
The students can make a presentation, and use the computer for images or maps to illustrate their plan. Then the other team can explain what they have organised, and the reasons why. I will decide which team has made the best choice.
Activity: Plan a day out for my friends.
I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon (or your city). They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:
Somewhere for a snack
An interesting building or location
Something to do in the evening
Give tips and advice.
How do they travel around ?
What are their options and estimate the prices.
Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.
Directions to Pham Ngo Lao Street District 1 // Directions to a city centre street.
Ask for help. Other must offer as much help – how to get there, the best way, the price, the dangers. Body language – distance, expression, intonation, eye contact etc
Is Sai Gon safe ?
Can you understand Vietnamese people speaking English ?
Do you agree with their points ?
Are there any words you didn’t understand ?
Do you have any bad experiences ? Tell the class your anecdote.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?