IELTS, Mindset: Complex sentences

30th April 2020

The correct sequence of tenses for complex sentences

Today we’ll concentrate on building longer, more interesting sentences, altering sentence structure, and applying discourse markers and relative pronouns in order to be proficient in meeting the IELTS requirements.

Let’s kick off with some basic sentences, each containing one fact.

Park So Yeon ( 박소연) - MyDramaList

Park So-yeon is from South Korea. She performed under the name ‘Soyeon’. She was in the band T-ara from 2009 – 2017.

One possibility is to make a longer, main sentence (an independent clause) then break it up with some extra but not essential information (a dependent clause):

Park So-yeon, who performed under the stage name Soyeon, was a member of the South Korean group T-ara from 2009 until they broke up in 2017.

Here, I employed a relative pronoun (‘who’) to introduce the dependent clause, and altered the sentence slightly, adding some extra words.

Another, more advanced, option, which I recommend experimenting with as it will impress the examiner, is to start with a dependent clause. Allow me to demonstrate:

Performing under the name Soyeon, the South Korean singer Park So-yeon achieved fame as a member of the band T-ara, with whom she played from 2009 until 2017.

You will, no doubt, notice that the grammar may have to change, that is altering the verb form, by which I mean transforming the simple past into present continuous.

Now, you can guess what’s coming, it’s your turn to practise. I realise that not all of you are so enamoured of T-ara and South Korean women as I am, therefore, for that express purpose, I have selected three examples and you merely have to choose the person that most interests or appeals to you:

Daniel Craig thừa nhận sẽ thủ vai điệp viên 007 lần thứ năm - Phim ...

Daniel Craig is an actor. He is most famous for playing James Bond. His wife is Rachel Weisz. She is also an actor.

Thandie Newton Net Worth | Black actresses, Beautiful celebrities ...

Thandie Newton is an English actress. She has three children. She studied at Cambridge University. She was in Mission Impossible II with Tom Cruise.

Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen to visit US, angering Beijing - Nikkei Asian ...

Tsai Ing-wen is president of Taiwan. The official name of the country is the Republic of China. She has been president since 20th May 2016. She was the first woman to be president of ROC Taiwan.

Next stage is to introduce some information and then offer up an alternate view, that is to say, a critical response which can be achieved by the use of appropriate discourse markers.

Let’s focus on the most recent Noble prize laureate ( Literature):

Handke in 2006

Peter Handke is an Austrian writer. His first novel was published in 1966. The English title is ‘The Hornets’. Handke was critical of the Noble Prize. In 2014, he called for the award to be abolished. Many people were critical of Hendke winning because he had supported the Serbia cause in the breakup of Yugoslavia.

There is a lot of information here, some purely factual (dates, nationality) some regarding the reaction to the award.

The Austrian writer Peter Hendke, whose first novel ‘The Hornets’ was published in 1966, was awarded the Noble laureate in 2019 despite his previous comments calling for the abolition of the award. Furthermore, there was a lot of criticism surrounded the announcement due to Hendke’s support of the Serbians during the Yugoslavian war.


Although there was a lot of negative critical reaction, Peter Hendke, an Austrian writer whose first book was published in 1966, received the Noble Prize for Literature in 2019 in spite of the fact that he had previously called for the award to be abolished. The writer, whose first book was titled ‘The Hornets’, had additionally expressed views supportive of Serbia which caused a backlash once the winner of the award was announced.

Your Turn:

Either write about somebody famous, somebody you admire or write something about yourself, making sure to include something positive and negative.

Next time, we can work on introductions, how to respond to IELTS questions by leading into the answer as opposed to simply answering directly.

T-ARA Comeback Cancelled! - Soyeon And Boram Leave The Group But ...

Young Teens: course review.

27th February 2019

This is my final class with this group as they have tests next week, conducted by the Vietnamese staff. Therefore it is a review lesson, going over recently-acquired words and practising listening skills.

It threatens to be quite passive (although this class is anything but passive) so I need to start with some energetic team games, focussing especially on speaking.

To begin, a STB game based on the previous unit (‘Special Places’). I’ll show various pictures of world landmarks and ask about them, for example where is this:

Bonus points for naming the mythological creature, and for asking the riddle with which it is associated. Other sites include the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, a lighthouse, and the recently-discovered Hang Soon Dong cave here in Vietnam.

Here we can review UNESCO and world heritage sites. Vietnam currently has eight sites on the UNESCO list – how many can the students name ?

Next a ‘run ‘n’ write’ activity. I’ll board an incorrect sentence and the students must correct. I need about seven sentences to give everyone a chance to take part:

What London like

was the weather what like

We goes on a boot trap (in past tense)

It weres (ADVERB) interesting

£75 is ext … exp …

You should criss the rood careful

Dali were a really famous lawyer.

As a bonus, can they draw a Dali-esque clock ?

Next we can have small group work. I shall show various photos and they have to write a short piece using as many adjectives and adverbs as possible:

really / quite / very / not very /

expensive / popular / delicious / boring / exciting / scary

carefully / easily / quickly / noisily

psycho / palace / famous for / in common / gadget.

As usual, it helps to give a model to serve as an example. I shall use this photo:

‘Live and Let Die’ (1973)
James Bond escapes from some extremely scary alligators.

In this picture, the British spy James Bond is surrounded by some very scary alligators who are extremely hungry. He tries using his magnet gadget on his watch but it doesn’t work. Bond is famous for escaping from very dangerous situations. Quickly, he runs across the water stepping on the backs of the creatures. Bond films are incredibly popular because they are amazingly exciting. Do you find them interesting or boring ?

Now for the students:

Typical Vietnamese food
The magnificent Heath Ledger as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ 2009.
London’s Buckingham Palace, hone to the Queen.
Dali and friends.

To end the activity section, an opinion poll. This makes the students get up and ask classmates for their views, so listening and speaking skills are utilised – and no teacher-talking-time !

This survey will be based on Special Places. The students are offered a choice of four locations: The Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, The Taj Mahal in India and Buckingham Palace in England.

Which site do you want to visit most ?

Why ?

What is the weather like there (use adverbs) ?

What can you do there ?

What could be a problem ?

After this, it’s time for the book work and assigned lesson plan. As mentioned, there is a lot of listening and video watching, so that should occupy most of the remaining time.

To finish we need a high-energy game. ‘Family Fortunes’ is good as it makes the students work together, and can be a test of general knowledge. I could ask: name four countries in Europe, four typical dishes from USA, four famous singers etc.

A list of class games can be found in a previous post:

If the energy is just not there, I can always play a YouTube clip of funny animals, or a song (in English) that has been requested.

Let the students leave smiling … but also prepared for next week’s tests.