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.
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.
Replace the standard English words with idioms, expressions and low-frequency words
What do you do in your free time ?
[Suggested answers after photos]
I study at school many days. I study in morning and I study at night. When I have free time I like to meet friends and have coffee. I go to see movie but not very much.
Sometimes me and my friends go swimming. It is cheap. And I very like to read manga comics because I feel funny. Nothing more.
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.
Occasionally my friends and I go swimming because we don’t need much equipment and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Additionally, I really enjoy reading Manga comics, which are from Japan and are extremely popular, I believe, all over the world.
What food is popular in your country ?
In my country are many foods, yes, we have pho, banh mi and Banh xeo. Yes. If you come to my country, you should have pho. Yes. Pho is noodles and soup and beef and vegetables. Yes. Also in my country we have banh mi. Do you know banh mi ? Banh mi is, banh mi is bread, yes, with many delicious things. It is cheap. Banh mi is sold on the street. And banh xeo I very like.
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.
Firstly, we have pho, our national dish. Pho is noodle soup with different types of meat, with the addition of fresh herbs and vegetables. Don’t worry, you can find pho everywhere, it is ubiquitous.
Secondly, and great for a quick snack or food on the move, is banh mi which is … what’s the word ? Sandwich ? Yes, it is like a sandwich, filled with grilled meat, herbs and vegetables. The best thing is the price, which is really affordable. Again, you can pick these up anywhere in Sai Gon and it won’t cost an arm and a leg.
What country would you like to visit ?
The country I would like to visit is USA. I want to study in a big city in USA. I have family in USA. I will to stay with family. But I need the good mark in IELTS. I must work more harder. My family live in a big city. They say it is very cold and it is raining many days. In USA I will eat many fast food and I want to be in movies.
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. May I tell you about Seattle, where I plan to stay ? Unlike Sai Gon, it can be very cold, and it frequently rains cats and dogs,although we also have a rainy season here in Vietnam. Once in the States, I will eat fast food which is mouth-watering. Having said that, I know it is unhealthy, but still delicious. Maybe I will be a movie star ? In USA, anything is possible.
Today, lots of new words to help you describe the area in which you live (the area you live in). For my classroom-students, I can listen to pronunciation and help them with natural rhythms but online students should use a dictionary with sound … then practice, practice, practice.
Where do you live ? What’s the area like ?
Remember to link words together – it’s called ‘chunking’ in IELTS language.
I live in a:
quiet, residential street. Peaceful at night.
lively and busy commercial area, many shops
dirty and dusty industrial part of town. Very noisy.
I agree totally / I agree to an extent // I disagree // I disagree strongly
She makes a good point // She misses the point
She is spot on // She is way off // In my experience …
wierd = unusual / strange
Now, your turn. Do you agree with these statements:
Learning English is so important if you want a good job.
People who drink and drive should go to prison.
An African football team will win the World Cup before 2040.
Nobody should have to work more than 25 hours a week.
Men and women should earn the same money for doing the same job.
New Vocabulary / expressions
looking up = getting better (things are looking up).
Since we got a new manager, things are looking up.
Match the basic words on the left with words on the right, then complete the sentences with the right-hand words:
interesting // intelligent
on time // fascinating
forgetful // miserable
tired // punctual
smart (clever) // exhausted
unhappy // absent-minded
John forgot his keys again; he’s so _________
The documentary about ocean life was __________
Tony has been very ____________ since his girlfriend left him.
It would be incredible if Vietnamese students could be __________
ubiquitous = everywhere. In Viet Nam, coffee shops are ubiquitous.
incessant = never ending. The karaoke noise is incessant.
rewarding = doing something that makes you feel better about yourself. Nursing doesn’t pay much but it is tremendously rewarding.
Use these new adjectives with some of these nouns:
coffee shops / motorbikes / Vietjet / construction work / German trains
charity work / AI (artificial intelligence) / swimming / British weather
Meaning, pronunciation, structure
What is happening here?
I am thinking about a holiday.
Meaning: Am I having a holiday ? Where will I go ? Is it certain ? Alone / with friends ?
Pronunciation: In speech, we would contract “I am” to I’m and link “abouta“
Structure: What tense is being used … why ? Will it happen ?
Try these: Make as many questions / possibilities as possible
He’s having his car repaired
She having a dress made
He looked at a new apartment
My cousin will be applying for universities
I’m not sure about taking the new job.
stories that maybe aren’t true but people believe them
[urban = city // rural = countryside // haunted = a place with ghosts ]
Ten scary Vietnamese urban legends:
Project: Do you know any of these tales / legends ?
Do you know any other Vietnamese legends ?
Have you even been to the places in HCM City ?
Painting by Ferdinand keller ‘Scheherazade und Sultan Schariar’ (1880).
The main frame story concerns Shahryār ruling in “India and China”. He is shocked to learn that his brother’s wife is unfaithful; discovering that his own wife’s infidelity has been even more flagrant, he has her killed.
In his bitterness and grief, he decides that all women are the same. Shahryār begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning, before she has a chance to dishonour him.
Eventually the vizier, whose duty it is to provide them, cannot find any more virgins. Scheherazade the vizier’s daughter, offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly agrees.
On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale, but does not end it. The king, curious about how the story ends, is thus forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. The next night, as soon as she finishes the tale, she begins (and only begins) a new one, and the king, eager to hear the conclusion of this tale, postpones her execution once again. This goes on for 1,001 nights.
This is quite a long introduction; how could you reduce it to three sentences ?