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.
In my opinion, younger people like western food. I often hang out with my friends at a mall and then grab a bite. It can be quite quick and very tasty. The restaurants are fun because they are colourful, have music and many happy people.
Having said that, fast food, especially burgers and fried chicken, is very unhealthy. There isn’t much salad. My mother, who is a great cook, doesn’t want me eating this food but I feel that it is OK if I only eat it occasionally.
Another point is the price. As a student, I think pizza costs an arm and a leg. It is so expensive compared to local street food. When I eat at, say, Pizza Hut, I usually order the sea food because it’s, I guess, better for me that the four-meat special !
Naturally there is a lot of western food that is mouth-watering and nutritious. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried much although I did go to an Italian restaurant once, when my uncle, who lives in Ha Noi, came to visit. I had spaghetti and meat balls, with a beautiful fresh salad and … allow me to add … a small glass of red wine. I would love to eat more western food, especially in a nice restaurant but that only happens once in blue moon.
More sample answers in the next blog. Happy eating
So this is a brief summary, the ‘Cliffs Notes’ version, if you will.
Right off the bat, relax … be cool. You merely have:
1) To demonstrate you understand the question
2) To demonstrate you have IELTS-standard language to respond
3) To 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, exactly, spot on; you answer … only now, YOU are in control, you are in the driving 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.
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.”
Some notes I found as I was cleaning my old Apple Mac. I’m not sure where they are from; a book, website or centre notes. I thought they may be of some use to teachers of IELTS.
Before I do a listening practice, I tell my students to R.U.P.
read, underline key words and predict the answer.
(Going from meaning to language, using background knowledge to understand the meaning of a message).
Students generate a list of things they already know about a topic and things they would like to learn more about, then listen and compare.
Students generate a set of questions they expect to hear about a topic, then listen to see if they are answered.
Students look at the question sheet and identify its structure before listening.
Students read a list of key points to be covered in a talk, then listen to see which ones are mentioned.
(Going from language to meaning, using linguistic knowledge clues to understand the message).
Students listen and distinguish between positive and negative statements.
Students listen and identify key words that occur in a spoken text.
Students listen to a conservation and complete a form.
Students use stress and intonation to identify word and sentence functions.
SOME EXAMPLES OF MICRO LISTENING SKILLS:
Discriminate among the distinctive sounds
Recognize the functions of stress patterns, intonation contours
Recognize reduced forms of words (contractions)
Recognize grammatical word classes (noun, verb, etc.), systems (tense, agreement, pluralization), patterns, rules and elliptical forms
Recognize that a particular meaning may be expressed in different grammatical forms
Recognize cohesive devices in spoken discourse
So, I made a lesson plan for teaching section 4 of the listening test like this.
1. read the instructions carefully to see what they are expected to do (especially the number of words they can write for each answer) R.U.P.
2. identify the topic of the lecture. Teacher can activate their background knowledge by asking them what they know about it, maybe showing a short video clip
3. identify the structure of the test (how many parts, key words) so that students do not get lost in the middle of the listening
4. pair a weak student and a strong student so that they can help each other in predicting the answers
a. part of speech (e.g. expressions or idioms)
c. meaning (make a list of guesses to help the weaker students)
1. Students listen to the recording and do the task individually.
2. Peer check
3. Task correction (the teacher then plays the recording again bit by bit to check the answers)
1. Students work in group to share their experience after doing the task. What difficulties they had or how they could recognize the answers. (5minutes).
To build confidence, I often play a recording up to three times, highlighting new vocabulary or expressions. I then let the students write the answer on the board, so everyone can see, correcting if necessary.
2. sharpening the macro skils:
Activity to help students recognize paraphrases:
Students stand in 2 lines. There are 2 circles in front. The teacher shows 1 word (e.g crowded) and plays the recording. When the students hear the paraphrase of that word (e.g a lot of people), the first pair jump into the circle. Who can do that first gets 1 point for his team. The first pair then go the back and the procedure is repeated with another word. This can be adapted for older and adult students.
Activity to teach new vocabulary after listening:
The teacher can choose 5 or 6 words that he would like to teach and print them out. Then, put students into groups with a set of words for each group and play the recording. When students hear the word from that set, they have to quickly knock on their desk and take that piece of paper. Who gets the most words wins. The students in group read the words and explain the meaning. Teacher checks the pronunciation and meaning as a class.
The Teacher may wish to set a speaking task related to the topic as a post-listening activity
I believe the students can do better if they are well-prepared in ‘pre-listening’, and for ‘post-listening’, if we can make use of the recording to teach them some skills in doing the task, they will perform better the next time.
Tonight we have a listening lesson which, although tremendously important, not to say imperative, can be somewhat tedious for the students.
One factor is the vocabulary. If students don’t know some of the words, they will not be able to answer some of the questions; that stands to reason.
that stands to reason = it is obvious, it is common sense, it can be understood. I live in Vietnam but only speak a little Vietnamese. It stands to reason that if I spoke Vietnamese, I would be more independent.
Therefore, allow me to explain a little about the UK educational system while, at the same time, pre-teaching some new vocabulary.
First up, we have Kindergarten or nursery:
As you can see, the age for Kindergarten is 3 – 5. It can be free, or parents can choose to send their children to a private Kindergarten or nursery.
Maybe the word Kindergarten looks a little strange in an English lesson – quite right, it is, in fact, a borrowed word from German. If you have seen my other IELTS posts, you may have come across ‘prima donna‘, which is a borrowed word from Italian. If you can use borrowed words in your IELTS tests, it will surely impress the examiner.
Next, we have primary school for children of 5 to 11. When I was at school, it was broken down into Infants and Juniors. Infants school was two years, then we moved up into a new building, attending four years of Junior school. This was a mixed school by which I mean boys and girls were in the same class.
Following on from Primary school we have, quite logically, Secondary school:
A typical class photo from the late 1970s. As you can clearly see, this is a single-sex school. Furthermore, the pupils had to wear school uniform of trousers, blazer and school tie.
Pupils spent three years here, from ages 11 – 14 at Junior High, after which they progressed to Senior High:
Pupils have to attend school until they are 16; it is compulsory.
You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:
stay in full-time education, for example at a college
Pupils can either stay at school and enter the VI (Sixth) Form, or go to a Further Education College which differ in that they offer a much wider selection of options such as vocational courses which are more practical and can help students train for a specific job. VI Forms, on the other hand, are academic (theory), preparing students for university.
The VI Form is usually in the same building as the Senior High, so pupils are familiar with the teachers and students. Going to a new college, meeting new staff and students means that time is needed to settle in or settle down.
Qualifications are imperative these days, so many students want to go to University.
Finally, we have Adult Education which, as the name implies, is for adults who wish to further their job prospects, or simply learn for their own pleasure. As many people are working, these type of education often takes place in the evening or at weekends.
term – part of the teaching year for example First Term is from September to December
it’s a pity – it is sad or it is unfortunate
Fresher’s Week – a week for new students (Freshmen in USA) to get to know what their college has to offer, such as clubs and events.
GCSEexams – tremendously important exams taken at age 15 or 16. Good results mean the student can to VI Form or have to re-sit the exam.
tertiary – means the third – after Primary (first) & Secondary (second), tertiary refers to Higher Education, taken after the age of 18.
NVQ National Vocational Qualification – this is more practical as opposed to academic, designed to teach skills needed for a particular job:
BA or BSc – (Bachelor of Art or Science) degrees in the arts or science. Usually attained after a three-year course. The next step is a MA (Master’s Degree) and then a PhD.
internship – gaining real-life experience by working for a company, often for low or even no pay.
Graduate Fair – a chance for students to think about what career to follow, or what company to join. They can speak to people who represent organisations:
My classes at campus have practised (and practised; I make those guys put their noses to the grindstone) Parts I and II of the speaking test. To recap:
Part I: 4 – 5 minutes, warm up questions. Answer with two, three or four sentences, throwing in a few L-FW (big words), idioms as appropriate, and demonstrate you know how to form a complex sentence.
Part II: 1 minute to make notes, 2 minutes solo speaking. This is your chance to shine, show all you’ve learnt, and score points for vocabulary (including idiomatic language, low-frequency words, adverbs and adjectives), grammar including, as you know, complex sentences which will earn you a higher score as well as being much more interesting to listen to as opposed to short simple sentences. Fluency, so make use of those multi-purpose sentences such as, “Well, that’s an interesting question,” “It’s funny you ask me that question because I have just been thinking about …” etc. Lastly, and not to be underrated, pronunciation, intonation and stress.
Now, we come to Part III
Yes, I know, it can be a nightmare ! The questions are so complex, how could you possibly answer even in your native language ? Well, you can’t … no one can, especially not in a minute or so and under the pressure of a test.
Take a look at this example:
Does the media have a positive or negative effect on the music people in your country buy ?
What a question ! You may be tempted to say, “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” “I haven’t a clue,” or “I have absolutely no idea, next question, please.”
The secret is to take power back – make yourself comfortable with the question … and here’s how:
Firstly, we need a great introduction. Some examples are:
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 …
The secret is to take this general question and make it personal, so you can speak about what YOU know, as well as using IELTS language.
Show that you understand the question by defining ‘media’.
I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers.
For me, the internet is great for learning about new singers or groups with sites such as YouTube or Spotify as opposed to newspapers where I can only read about music.
The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour.
This time, instead of using expressions such as in my opinion, you can use:
in my experience
allow me to tell you what I do
I can’t speak about other people, but I …
Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer. I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers. Usually, I join a Facebook page of a band I like, or follow them on Instagram. Naturally, I look at YouTube which is great because it suggests other music I may like. Therefore, I am able to hear new artists. I’m not sure how much this affects how other people buy music. In my experience, I will buy music if I really like it, for example, downloading a song on iTunes. I can just buy the songs I like, so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
This time we can use examples:
I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example. I remember when Taylor Swift won an award for best video but Kanye West stopped her speech. This made a lot of people think very badly about him, so maybe they stopped buying his music.
I’m not sure I know how to answer that, but let me try. The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour. I can’t speak about other people, but I rarely buy music anyway, just once in a blue moon.
What a hard question, I may have to think about this … oh, I know, fans can follow their favourite singers on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I usually get my information from the internet. I would be over the moon if a music star replied to my comment. On the other hand, if they don’t answer, some people may stop liking them.
Well, that’s certainly a hard question. I really don’t know what other people in Vietnam do, but allow me to tell you what I do. I like to listen to English songs, to help me improve my language skills. My friends and I tell each other about English or American bands and we look up the words … the lyrics … to help us. I can give you an example. My teacher played a song in class by a band called The Shins, who are from USA. I quite liked the song although most of the words are very difficult to understand. I know one of my friends bought the last CD because he liked it so much.
That’s a very complicated question. However, I can think of one singer who upset many people in Vietnam and Vietnamese people in USA. Do you know Kacey Musgraves ? She sings country music, which is not really my cup of tea, but that is not why she is famous. She wore an ao dai on stage, but only the top part … she didn’t wear the trousers. Many people thought this was so disrespectful. For me, I don’t think I would buy her records after this, even if I did like them.
very / extremely / amazingly / unbelievably / quite / rather / undeniably / remarkably / totally / absolutely /
Combine into a complex sentence with discourse markers and relative pronouns and clauses. If possible, paraphrase key words (here I substitute ‘attributes’ for ‘qualities’).
A police officer, in my opinion, needs to have many attributes such as being extremely brave and caring although they will also need to be totally healthy as well as being strong and undeniably energetic. Working for the police, which can be a very dangerous job, is not my cup of tea. Having said that, I really admire the honesty and loyalty of these amazing people.
Now … your turn
What qualities are needed to be a … ?
Sports person / Film star / Doctor / Musician / Mother
Last week, I asked a typical warm up question, “What did you do today ?”
Remember, when we ask questions we are just giving you a chance to show off and practice your English, so be creative. However, even if you can’t think on your feet, you can make even the most prosaic day more interesting. Allow me to demonstrate:
Today I met my friend and we went to see a movie. After that we had coffee and had some street food.
OK, we can easily make that more appropriate for IELTS.
Firstly, an introduction. Then … details, tell me about the film, about your friend, about the coffee shop and about the food … there is SO MUCH to talk about. Write a longer answer, I’ll give you three minutes.
I didn’t go to school (work) today so I had some free time
I met my friend Nancy who I have known for over five years
I had a date with my friend who is from USA
We were at the mall and decided to take in a movie
We were in the mood for a film
We had our heart set on seeing ‘Parasite’ which is Korean film that has won many awards
After, we needed some coffee so we headed for the nearest coffee shop, which was Highlands Coffee. The prices are sky-high however the coffee is delicious. Additionally, there is free Wi-fi.
Later on, we grabbed some coffee at one of the ubiquitous coffee shops. I had a large cappuccino which cost an arm and a leg, however it really woke me up.
It was late, so we felt quite hungry. There is a lot of affordable and delicious street food. I had some chicken and rice and my friend, who is vegetarian, had rice, eggs and salad.
After the movie, we were hungry but the food at the mall is not very exciting and the prices are sky-high, so we went for some street food which is ubiquitous in this city.
Now … you turn
What will you do on your next free day ?
Remember … this is future tense and you can express the uncertainty in your answer.
I’d love to … / I’m planning to / I have my heart set on … /
I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to … / I wish that I could …
I’ll probably … / I keep telling myself that I will finally …
Use at least one of the above expressions.
Use relative pronouns to give more information.
See if you can add an idiom (or two).
I really need a free day because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends this week.
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).
As you may know, I’m a vegetarian. However, all my friends love fast food especially burgers and fries. We often go to Lotteria which, I believe, started in Japan, and now they are ubiquitous in Sai Gon and easily seen with their bright red stores and big white ‘L’ logo. Despite not eating meat, I can order a fish burger but, in my opinion, the food is not exactly mouth-watering and the service can be rather slow.
Afterwards, I’ll probably go home as I have my heart set on playing a new computer game that my friend, Tony, lent me. Tony, who is actually from Ha Noi, is a real computer geek, he loves gaming, maybe too much. As for me, I get a little bored after an hour so then it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone and hit the books (study) again. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” That quote, from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, inspires me to work harder, even if sometimes the work is quite tedious.
For my students with a speaking test soon … Best of British !
A lesson for all ages and all levels, just adapt to suit your students’ ability. First, show the photos and try to elicit what the buildings are for, or their original function.
For Speaking Level 3 or IELTS-standard students, they can explain their reasons and use target language, adjectives, adverbs and LFW (low-frequency words). Furthermore, it shows students a different aspect of London (it’s not just Big Ben, London Eye and Tower Bridge).
Now, without further ado, the photos:
Was built 1947 – 1963 to be used as a power station (designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Battersea Power Station and the iconic red phone boxes).
Gallery opened in 2000 by the Queen
Shows British and international art
One of the largest museums in the world
in 2018, there were 5.8 million visitors
Was built 1599, burnt down 1613.
Rebuilt and opened in 1997
Has plays by Shakespeare, as well as modern plays.
Has 857 seats and 700 standing spaces. People who stand are known as ‘groundlings.’
“To be or not to be,” is from Hamlet.
Was built in the 1920s
Only big enough for two people
Has a telephone inside
Made from an old lamppost
Now used for storing brooms
Completed in 1986
Architect was Richard Rogers
Lloyds are a world famous insurance company.
The lifts are on the outside to make more space inside.
It is 95.1 m tall or 312 ft.
New Zealand House
The building was opened by the Queen in 1963
It is the only tall building in the area.
The House has 18 floors.
However … there is something very special for Vietnamese … can you see the blue circle ?
There used to be the Carlton Hotel here, but is was destroyed in World War II
Ho Chi Minh worked in the kitchen at the hotel
Stick fact sheets around the classroom. Students, in groups, have to collect information about basic facts such as when the building was opened, and an interesting fact, then present to the class.
Adult Speaking Classes
Elicit uses of bulidings, then ask them if there are any similar buildings in their city. What interesting buildings would they show tourists ? A student has to describe one of the buildings and the other have to guess which one.
Students are assigned a building and they have to make a presentation of up to two-minutes in length (to practise for the speaking test). They may be allowed to use the internet for additional information but they are NOT allowed to merely read verbatim from Wikipedia !
As this is an IELTS exercise, we are looking for;
Good, strong introduction
Creative use of adverbs + adjectives
Anecdote or a personal review, giving reasons for their thoughts
I cannot overstate how important it is how IELTS students present their answers. Look the examiner in the eye (but do not stare !), use body language … watch interviews to see how native-speakers use their face, hands and body in everyday conversation.
Try saying the following sentences with the appropriate intonation and stress.
Intonation is how we raise or lower the pitch of our voices to express meaning for example with positive adjectives, our voices become higher, while becoming slower and deeper with negative adjectives.
Stress is how we make some words louder to show they are the important words in the sentence.
Now … practice
Example: Turn off the music – I hate that song !
Turn off the music – I hate that song !
TIPS: decide if the sentence is positive, neutral or negative.
I love this film. I could watch it a hundred times.
My sister is such a prima donna, always taking selfies !
How much did you pay for that shirt ? Are you crazy ?
I’m not going out in this weather ! It’s raining cats and dogs.
Why are you so tired ?
I’ve been up all night studying for IELTS.
Oh, you’ve been burning the candle at both ends.
What the hell do you call this ?
I’m going to work much harder to pass IELTS, I’m going to put my nose to the grindstone.
Wait a minute, wait a minute … hmmmm, this is a damn fine cup of coffee !
How often does my husband clean the house ? Once in a blue moon.
Now … practice stress
How old are you ? (say this as a general question)
How old are you ? (someone is acting childish)
I don’t believe it (you see someone after a long time – happy)
I don’t believe it (something bad happens – angry)
If you are using these in class, the teacher will help you with pronunciation.
Remember: your IELTS score will also depend on how clearly you speak, your rhythm and correct use of intonation and stress. Therefore listen to native-speakers, copy and practice.
This one’s on me // Let me think about it // It doesn’t matter // Thanks for coming
I don’t believe a word of it // I’ll be with you in a minute // I see what you mean
It was lovely to see you // I don’t get the point // As I was saying
You look great today // I’ll be making a move then // Just looking, thanks
Match the phrase(s) with the situation
[answers at end of exercise]
Saying goodbye after meeting an old friend
You are asked a question but need time to consider
Someone tells you a story – you think it is false.
Friends drinking in a pub / bar
You go into a shop but not necessarily to buy anything
A customer arrives but you are busyfor that moment.
You don’t understand what someone is trying to prove
You understand what someone thinks (but not necessarily agree with)
There is a small problem / Someone upsets you but you want to make it OK
To continue with a conversation that was interrupted.
It was lovely to see you 2. You look great today 3. Let me think about it 4. I don’t believe a word of it 5. This one’s on me [I will pay for this drink] 6. Just looking, thanks 7. I’ll be with you in a minute 8. I don’t get the point 9. I see what you mean 10. It doesn’t matter 11. As I was saying
Expressing likes and dislikes
I absolutely love … I’m crazy about …
I (really) like I’m into // I’m a big fan of …
I’m quite keen on
I haven’t heard (seen/read) this before, but I think it’s great
No strong opinion:
I have mixed feelings about ….
I don’t really have any strong views / feelings either way