IELTS: speaking, writing, thinking the IELTS way

29th March 2022

Complex sentences, which use relative pronouns and subordinate clauses, are imperative in attaining a respectable IELTS score.

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

1 when you are certain or 100% sure about something

2 to start immediately, with no more interruptions

3 to express 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 work.

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

The candidate answers the question immediately; a sentence leading into the response will make for a longer answer.

The second sentence is acceptable for providing more information although 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 daily, 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 far superior. Let’s break down how it earns points.

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

Secondly, the opening 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 vernacular language.

Lastly, the candidate explains 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: Tell me about your hometown.

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.

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, sorry, I mean in central Viet Nam, 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 place 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

Can you spot two grammatical errors ?

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).

Dragon Bridge at Da Nang. Bye bye – see you next blog

Answers:

1 = without a shadow of a doubt

2 = without further ado

3 = feeling of triumph

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The Doom of Zoom classes: Zoom Bingo to keep teaching staff sane.

18th May 2021

Learn the Untold History of Bingo! - Online Bingo
If only my Zoom classes were this sedate and genteel

With heavy heart (and a lighter wage packet) schools in Viet Nam shut down on the 10th May, and will remain closed at least until the end of the month, quite probably longer.

Can you hear the collective moans and groans of despair ?

5 ting du bør vite om Skrik - Munchmuseet

We now enter our third period of online classes and while some teachers, of infinite sense, said, “No way, Jose !” yours truly signed up for nine two-hour sessions.

I know, tell me about it, or rather DON’T … online teaching, for the Admin staff, for the TAs, for the company and its economic stability, not to mention the lowly teachers is:

Getting Angry with Students (Day 30)
Google images, but seems a fair representation

Maybe in another blog, probably after we have to returned to ‘normality’ (which is pretty crazy at the best of times), I’ll write down some highlights of the online experience but for now, here’s a coping mechanism.

Instead of being irritated by various phenomenon, turn them into a game. This is something I can try with the more amenable TAs (who fight tooth and nail to avoid working with me … being assigned to my class is seen as the equivalent to being sent to Siberia, and I can’t say I blame them, poor things).

So let’s dive in: here’s how it’s played

During the course of an online class, one is likely to encounter the following:

A shirtless man, Daddy or Grandfather, wandering into the screen

A sibling entering the picture and making faces into the camera

An irate parent, usually the Daddy, sometimes shirtless, shouting, “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello etc …” into the mic

A ‘student’ constantly changing their screen image, adding filters, wearing computer glasses, despite being told several times to keep a plain background and not play with the settings

A ‘student’ turning off their mic and / or camera after being told to turn on their mic and / or camera

‘Student’ saying, “I don’t know,” to every question

‘Student’ giving a stupid answer to a question. Example from last weekend, when shown a picture of a bat, a moody pre-teenage girl said that it was a swan, and I’m supposed to find that humourous and adorable and acceptable and be patient because [insert pathetic excuse here].

‘Student’, with mic muted, unmutes, makes a loud noise into mic, then mutes.

Lesson interrupted by the sound of a family screaming at each other (referred to as normal conversation in Viet Nam)

When these happen, and they will, oh, man, they will, players get points. Breaks down like this:

Shirtless Man (2 points) // Sibling action (2 points) //

Irate parent (5 points) // Filter action (1 point) //

Cam & mic on\off (1 point) // I don’t know (3 points) //

Stupid answer (4 points) // Random noises (2 points) //

Family noise (2 points)

This can be developed for teenagers, and adult classes e.g. ‘students’ saying their cameras aren’t working when we can all see them clearly, (likewise their mic) // refusing to turn on camera and mic despite paying for a speaking class // sitting in the dark and saying that they have no electricity (but wifi, computer, music all seem to work fine // ‘student’ deciding to go to the noisiest place possible for the lesson // ‘student’ thinking that an online lesson is simply TV and that the teacher is here to entertain them for two or three hours etc, etc, etc …

Maybe you, dear reader, have picked up on a certain vibe. Yes, I am lucky to have work, but work like this … is it worth it ?

Pin on Dark

Thank you, my Princess (again)

7th May 2021

Last week, the Vietnamese had a two, three or four day break. It was a chance for many to go to their hometown, see family and eat traditional food.

Last night, one lovely student, my Princess, came to class and presented me with the following:

Sweet food from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. Thank you, my Princess. See you soon

IELTS Mindset 1, lesson 7 Review

29th April 2021

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Ready for the lesson, ladies ? Yes, Thay Paul … hey ho, let’s go ! [Ha Noi 2015]

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 ?

Aston Martin James Bond Museum Nybro Sweden

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 !

Come, come my students … don’t disappoint me

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.

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Oh, piece of cake ! Thanks, Thay Paul.

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 !

St Paul's is exactly opposite Tate Modern on the Thames. | St pauls  cathedral, Saint paul, Bridge city

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.

Updated Interchange Mall LVL 1 Map based off feedback : EscapefromTarkov

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.

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Leave it to us, Thay Paul … piece of cake !

See you next week

Celebrate The Year Of The Ox With These Great Chinese Movies Available To  Stream Now | Urban List
Three hours with Thay Paul … sounds good ?

IELTS Mindset: Create narratives & April 30th

26th April 2021

No photo description available.
Grounds of the Independence palace, Sai Gon

Friday is Reunification Day in Viet Nam, so provides us with a topical subject for this week’s lessons.

First up, the relative clause game. To encourage students to speak more fluently, and to use complex sentences as a matter of course, a little speaking activity. I shall recite a short extract at various points, I shall stop and ask a student for extra information including the correct relative pronoun. Got it ?

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Yes, Thay Paul we got it … but can you give us an example, please ?

Oh, you know I will ! Let’s invent an English friend, Mr John … use adjectives to describe his personality and appearance, nouns to tell about his occupation and see how far we get. Ready ? Let’s go !

Mr John, WHO is from London, is on holiday in Sai Gon, WHICH is the biggest city in Viet Nam. John, WHO loves history, wants to visit the War Museum WHICH is located in District 1 and is an extremely thought-provoking experience. John, WHO is an estate agent, is quiet and a little serious although he is extremely friendly. John, WHO is 32 and unmarried, wants to learn about the war WHICH ended in 1975.

NOW … YOUR TURN

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Sai Gon 2015

Ms Kim, WHO ____________, works in Sai Gon, WHICH ______________________. Kim, WHO __________________, wants to visit Ben Thanh Market WHICH ______________________ additionally __________________. Kim, WHO _________________________, wants to buy a birthday present for her mother WHO ___________________.

No photo description available.
London 2010

Mr Peter, WHO loves ______________ , is killing two birds with one stone. He’s using his laptop WHICH _________________ to have a Zoom meeting with his business partner WHO _________________________ as well as drinking coffee at Mario’s WHICH ______________ . Because he lives in Italy, Peter WHO _____________________________ , speaks both English WHICH ________________________ and Italian because his wife WHO _________________________ was born in Rome WHICH ____________ .

Piece of cake, hey ? OK, on to this week’s exercises. We’ll continue with making a narrative.

I had a really bad day yesterday, Sunday. To help explain, here’s some extra vocabulary:

Vocabulary: cancellation / hyper-active / irritating / excruciating / connection / deafening / anti-smoking / culture shock / a real handful / “A plague on both your houses !”

William Shakespeare quote: A plague on both your houses.

The exercise can be found on this previous blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/01/14/ielts-lesson-3-may-the-force-be-with-you/

Finally, the lesson pertaining to April 30th. I have a whole blog dedicated to that subject, a blog which may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/04/05/adult-speaking-class-level-3-remembering-april-30th/

See you next week

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IELTS Mindset 1, Lesson 6. Speaking, speaking and more speaking

20th April 2021

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OK ? Let’s go !

Tonight’s lesson will focus on speaking, so I’ve shuffled through my memory and come up with some blogs which should prove extremely useful.

However, we shall kick off with a review from last week’s lesson: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/04/14/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-5-review/

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.

A link to that blog may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2018/12/28/friends-men-teaching-sheet/

Moving on, a blog designed to help students expand their answers and form great introductions: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/01/28/ielts-please-allow-me-to-introduce-myself/

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Take it easy ! See you next week.

Mindset 2, Lesson 1: Say it, feel it, ace it !

15th April 2021

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Are you ready for Level 2 ? All right, let’s hit the books !

First up, new and familiar idioms:

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

it’s raining cats and dogs

Another string to (your) bow – a new skill or learning experience

bear with me – please wait a very short time (usually spoken as opposed to written)

bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry

down in the dumps – depressed, unhappy, feeling gloomy

hit the ground running – to start something immediately and with all your energy

like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc

run of the mill – ordinary, typical, normal, usual, boring

up in arms – to be very angry about something, to protest strongly

you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous

NOW … your turn … what idioms fits ?

Lunatics Paradise: Australia's Renewables Fiasco Like Living in a Madhouse  – STOP THESE THINGS

At breaktimes, all the younglings come pouring out of their classes, screaming their little heads off …

it’s ___________________________________

Students protest against tuition fees - BBC News

Students are unhappy about tuition fees

They are _____________

You still can!': Music teacher champions adult students learning violin

She can speak five languages, do karate and is now learning violin

She has added __________________________

Yawning Girl Reading A Boring Book Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free  Image. Image 19559231.

She thought the novel would be extremely exciting.

Unfortunately, for her, it’s just a ___________________ story.

Street Photography in Austin - Assignment Chicago

Some areas of downtown are no-go areas.

You really _________________________________________ if you go after dark and alone.

buster-keaton-396846_640

Poor Buster is so funny, yet he always looks _______________________

Oh, dear …

This beautiful young lady seems to be upset about something.

Angry woman screaming against her husband with his face deformed - eniGma  Magazine

Possibly something the man said is a ______________________ with her ?

Excited Motivated Multiracial Business Team Stock Footage Video (100%  Royalty-free) 1037298239 | Shutterstock

We’re going to have a tremendous success with our new product which we shall be launching in Europe, the US and parts of Asia.

We’re really going to ________________________________

Marcello Mastroianni

Excuse me, I have to take this call _______________________

Extra exercises may be found on this blog: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/10/12/ielts-8-1-2-chasing-8-1-2/

IELTS students always need to concentrate on expanding their lexical resources. Having said that, I feel this class needs extra work on fluency and pronunciation. To that end, some exercises to assist:

Exercise 1: Just a minute. In pairs, one student has to speak for one minute without repetition, hesitation or deviation.

The subjects are: Your favourite gift // your neighbourhood // what you like about your city // shopping // your family

Exercise 2: Newsreader. Read the following extracts with appropriate pronunciation, intonation and stress, not forgetting body language.

Some stories are sombre (sad, solemn), others convey information that is somewhat depressing or raise concern. However, we end with some lighter entertainment gossip and football transfer speculation.

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II returned to royal duties just four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, with her first in-person event Tuesday.

The queen hosted a ceremony at Windsor Castle for William Peel, who retired after serving for 14 years as lord chamberlain, the most senior aide in the royal household.

A report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, or WTTC, has revealed the full extent of the damage done to the global travel industry in 2020 after business was devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Globally, the sector’s income slumped by almost $4.5 trillion last year. In 2019, travel and tourism was linked to one in four of all new jobs created around the world. But in 2020, more than 62 million jobs were lost.

HCMC – The Ministry of Health has confirmed 16 new imported Covid-19 cases in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Hanoi, Danang, Quang Nam and HCMC, taking the country’s tally to 2,733 as of tonight, April 14.

Five of the new cases were reported in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. The patients, aged between 29 and 39, returned to Vietnam from Russia on Flight VN5062 on April 12. They were immediately transported to Ba Ria-Vung Tau for quarantine after arriving at the HCMC-based Tan Son Nhat International Airport. All of them are being treated at Long Dien District Medical Center.

Who is Hey Stephen by Taylor Swift about?

The song is about a crush Taylor had on Stephen Barker Liles, who’s in the band Love and Theft.

The two reportedly met in 2008 when his band was opening up for her on tour.

Speaking to Access Online, Taylor said: “The song is actually about a guy who I had a crush on and never told him.

“So I wrote everything that I was thinking down in the song instead of telling him.”

Manchester United are eager to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus – according to Sai Gon Post.

The Red Devils will consider an exchange deal that would see Paul Pogba return to Turin in order to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer.

United are on course to receive a big payout for finishing in the Premier League’s top four again, and plan to put those funds towards the re-capture of a club legend.

See you next week

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Vietnam festival, London 2012 … it was raining cats and dogs !

IELTS Mindset 1: Lesson 5 Review

14th April 2021

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Do you want to join Thay Paul’s class ? “I willl give it my utmost consideration.”

New vocabulary

unique – one of a kind, nothing else like it

imminent – going to happen or start very soon

you get what you pay for (or you pay for what you get) – if you buy something cheap, you get bad quality

to romanticise – to make something ordinary more interesting

to fantasise (fantasize US English) – to wish for something great to happen

use your imagination / give your imagination free reign – it is OK to pretend, to make up a better story

I will give it my utmost consideration – I will think about it very, very carefully (and then say ‘no’).

firstly, secondly, additionally, another point is, on the other hand, however, finally, in conclusion, to sum up, all things considered – all ‘signpost language‘, to help organise your ideas.

Are you ready to rock ?

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Miss Ngoc in Sai Gon … hey, ho … let’s go !

I’ll be burning the candle at both ends because my IELTS test is _______________ .

Remember, you don’t have to tell the absolute truth in your speaking test. It’s totally OK to ________________________________ .

I picked up this shirt at Saigon Centre and, yeah, it cost an arm and a leg, but just feel the quality … you ____________________________________ .

We booked a really reasonable room at the beach, but the water was cold, the sheets were stained and there were bugs everywhere. We totally _____________________________________ (use past tense).

Thay Paul, we have a new class of students. They are extremely lazy and unmotivated and only want to play with their phones. Would you like to teach them ? ________________________________________________ .

What did you do last weekend ? “I sleep.” Is that all ? Ah, c’mon, do better, ______________________________________ .

Quick – fire round

No photo description available.

You planned a day out for my friend Ethan. Describe these photos using as many IELTS features as you can:

No photo description available.
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Highlands Coffee opposite the Rex Hotel 2012

Areas to focus on: being confident about answering the Part II questions, so we shall work on fluency and developing the ability to speak for longer periods without hesitation.

Just a minute

Speak for one minute on:

Food in your country

What you do in your free time

Your family

Holidays in your country (e.g. Tet, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc)

A link to last week’s notes: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/04/07/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-4-review/

See you next week

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Lockdown Lessons: A respectful reminder.

11th February 2021

Image result for online learning

Firstly, may I wish you all …

Image result for i/en|chuc mung nam moi 2021

Due to the return of COVID to Sai Gon, schools and language centres have been closed down, and online classes have restarted.

A big shout out to the staff at my centre. Instead of taking things easy in the build up to Tet, and enjoying time with their family, they had to work all hours to prepare for the change to distance learning.

To make these lessons work, we need students, and their parents, to follow these simple rules:

Respect your teacher and your teacher will respect you

tôn trọng giáo viên của bạn

You HAVE TO turn on your camera. If your camera is not working, you HAVE TO inform the centre.

Answer your teacher when you are asked a question.

Please control your background noise. No music, computer games or talking. Try to find somewhere quiet for the class.

Let’s work together and make the best of this situation and hopefully, we can all meet at the school in the near future.

Stay safe, stay well