IELTS: Speaking Test, Part 3: How to nail it.

12th September 2020

Ten don'ts for the IELTS speaking test | British Council
Having to think on your feet.

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

psycho scream

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.”

i have no idea what you are talking about - LDS S.M.I.L.E.

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

EXAMPLE:

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.

Why Taylor Swift and Kanye West hate each other

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.

Hyomin (T-ara) bất ngờ có mặt tại Nha Trang | Văn hóa | Thanh Niên

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.

The Shins - Simple Song (Live On Letterman) - YouTube

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.

US singer Kacey Musgraves slammed for sexualising Vietnamese ao dai by  wearing only top half of outfit | South China Morning Post

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.

IELTS: complex sentences

7th September 2020

Last week, I asked a typical warm up question, “What did you do today ?”

Quarantine Memes - MemeZila.com

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.

Asian Girl Shows Emotions During Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free)  12386756 | Shutterstock

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.

EXAMPLE

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.

Target language:

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).

EXAMPLE

Vietnamese fast food

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.

53 Three Happy Chinese Students Having Fun Hong Kong China Stock Photos,  Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
Enjoy your free day

For my students with a speaking test soon … Best of British !

IELTS Speaking Practice: “Lend me your ears,” and take a tip from Thay Paul

16th July 2020

Julius Caesar Quote: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ...
A quote from Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language

Recap: to pass IELTS with flying colours, you will needs to demonstrate a command of everyday English, the ability to express it with stress and intonation, as well as being able to link your ideas with appropriate discourse markers.

I need to hear nouns described by interesting adjectives, verbs intensified by adverbs and conversation enlivened by low-frequency vocabulary.

Piece of cake, right ?

Low – frequency words (LFW)

Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded // expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.

Activity 1: Make sentences using the above five LFW

Introduce your answer by:

Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question

Useful expressions:

In my opinion // From my perspective // For me // Allow me to explain // By which I mean //

Discourse Markers:

as well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that

Activity 2: Give each student a discourse marker and they have to use it in a sentence

EXAMPLE ‘in addition’

I have a busy life; I have to study, work my part-time job and help my family. In addition, I go shopping for my neighbour because he is too old to go out.

NOTE: use of ‘because‘ to explain why you do something … and therefore construct a longer sentence.

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.

Activity 3: Who can use these idioms correctly ?

Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose

Activity 4: Use the correct relative pronoun:

We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.

A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know how to switch it off.

The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.

Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.

This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.

Buying time:

Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question

Model answer: What do you do in your free time ?

AsianBossG;r)

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from Japan and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues. Allow me to explain; we have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.

Use this an a plan – now tell me what YOU do in YOUR free time … DO NOT just copy the above example !

Now … Your turn

Conversation Practice: In pairs or small groups, ask each other these questions. If the answer is too short, ask the person to tell you more, to explain with more details.

How Dialogue Teaches Critical Thinking and Empathy

Family questions

Ask each other about your families

How many siblings do you have ?

[You can give names, ages, jobs, what and where they study, what they look like, what their personality is like, if you have something or nothing in common with them]

Do you live with your parents and grandparents ?

Do you often meet your cousins ?

Who is the youngest member of your family ? 

Who is the oldest ?

Who is your favourite person in your family and why ?

Useful expressions

Can you tell me more ? // In what way ? // Why do you say that ? //

Oh, that’s interesting … // well, // actually // in fact …

on the other hand // having said that // although

Keep the conversation going

Oh, really ? Tell me more Why do you say that ?

Could you explain what you mean ? Why did you do that ?

Three students talking to each other outdoor in a college ...

Final Review:

Coffee shops in Sai Gon are _________________________ .

I always forget my keys, I’m so __________________ .

In an IELTS listening test, we can sometimes _______________ the answer.

We wanted to stay at the Hotel California but the prices were _____________ .

The meeting was so long and extremely _____________________ .

IELTS: use adverbs frequently, correctly and confidently

3rd July 2020

IELTS students need to know an incredibly wide array of adverbs so, with that in mind, here’s an exercise which can be easily adapted as a team game. Complete the sentences with suitable adverbs. Piece of cake, right ?

Use a thesaurus and dictionary to boost your vocabulary.

Asian University Life Concept Group Young Asian College Students ...

Word Fill

Adverbs of manner & ‘but’, ‘so’ and ‘even though’

(Fast or quickly – both can be used as adverbs, fast more for speed, quickly for time e.g. the animal runs fast and eats quickly.)

Note: ‘well’, ‘fast’ and ‘hard’ are irregular adverbs of manner.

Use a positive adverb for (+) and a negative one for (-)

Example: She sings (+) beautifully but plays piano (-) terribly.

It is raining (-) heavily so I will bring an umbrella

UK weather forecast: London | London Evening Standard
WELCOME TO LONDON

I will go along with you ……I am not really hungry

……….I am not hungry, I will go with you to KFC

Grabbike is cheap …..they drive so (-). 

She failed her test ……..she studied (+)

Do I look like Batman ? Then why are you speaking so …..(-)

Christian Bale says Heath Ledger 'ruined my plans' for Batman and ...
Batman has amazingly good hearing … but not all teachers have so SPEAK UP !

We have learnt many idioms ….that is just the tip of the iceberg.

He loves music …much ….he sings (-).

She never eats the food ………she works there.

……..she speaks English very (+), she is afraid to speak to westerners.

Rosé (BLACKPINK) confessed that she used to be a terrible singer ...
She sang terribly even though she loves music

IELTS: Complex sentences – it’s not that complicated.

24th May 2020

Portrait of a confused asian girl standing | Free Photo

Following another speaking test, I’ve noticed that my students are still speaking simple sentences and thereby losing marks, whereas with a little work, not to mention a little, or a lot, of practice, this omission can be redressed.

Therefore today’s bog, in it’s entirety, will be devoted to the forming of longer, complex sentences, altering sentence structure and general tips to improve not just speaking, but writing as well.

As you should have noticed the above two paragraphs, rather like this third one, employ several clauses, that is, parts of a sentence to give extra information without the need of a full stop, serving as examples of how this can be achieved.

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

1 When you are certain or 100% sure about something

2 To start immediately, with no more interruptions

3 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 school.

black-girl-at-laptop-378x382 - GSDM

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

The candidate answers the question immediately, with no introduction. This is not necessarily wrong, but a sentence leading into the response will make for a longer answer.

The second sentence is not directly relevant to the question, though it is acceptable for providing more information. 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 every day, 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 much superior. Let’s break down how it earns points.

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

Secondly, the first 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 figurative language.

Lastly, the candidate explains what 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, my hometown.

Vietnam Student Tour, Vietnam Student Trip, Vietnam Student Holidays.

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.

Dragon Bridge in Da Nang - Attraction in Da Nang, Vietnam - Justgola
Dragon Bridge at Da Nang

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 … in central Viet Nam, I mean, sorry, 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 places 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

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).

To practise:

Rearrange these sentences, starting with the section in italics.

The London Tube needs repairing because it is so old.

Many people have to stay home because of COVID 19

We must buy vegetables because Jenny doesn’t eat meat.

Colin is now studying in Boston because he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test.

Meet the Five Harvard Students Who Testified in the Admissions Trial

Answers at end of blog

Answers:

1 = without a shadow of a doubt

2 = without further ado

3 = feeling of triumph

Because it is so old the London Tube needs repairing.

As it is so old, the London Tube needs repairing.

As the London Tube is so old, it needs repairing (notice how the pronoun ‘it’ moves).

Due to / Because of COVID 19, many people have to stay home.

Because Jenny doesn’t eat meat, we must buy vegetables.

As he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test, Colin is now studying in Boston.

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