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A word on IELTS test centres

I don’t know why I haven’t written this before to be honest. Please read this carefully!

It does NOT matter which IELTS centre you take the test at. You will not get a better mark in one centre than another because some centres are “easier”. It is a complete waste of your time and money travelling to a different centre to take the IELTS exam. Stick close to home so that you have more time to get a good night’s sleep and wake up in a familiar place. Please remember these things:

  • The examiners marking you are trained, experienced teachers. They are reassessed every two years and their marking is regularly checked to make sure that they are doing their jobs well.
  • Writing and Speaking tests are double marked so that the final bands are accurate
  • If somebody you know got a good mark at one centre, it’s because they deserved it! It isn’t because they did it at an easy centre.

I hope that this message reaches some people. I know that the IELTS exam is stressful, but the best way is to relax the day before. Extra travelling won’t help.

Good luck!

 

Simon

 

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#3 – The Death of Music

Perhaps I have made a mistake almost immediately. Perhaps number 3 should be “When people decide to write long lists of things they hate and then take so long to complete it that North Korea destroy the world before they have even reached #10”. Perhaps the time has come for me to hang up my hobnailed angerboots, put down my gun of vitriol, un-stab the unseen cloud of irritation that seems to cloud my every path.

The truth is, I haven’t been that angry recently. Well, not in any specifically-directed, coherent way, anyway. My recent anger has taken the form more of a general malaise than a focussed spew of tooth-shattering rage. I’m not going to misleadingly paint you a picture of a reformed gentleman, whistling his merry way down the sunny side of a cobbled street, handing out sweets to the young neighbourhood children – partly because this is now an arrestable offence – but still, all things considered, I’ve been fairly cheerful. I almost smiled the other day.

Smile!

“I love Mondays”

Unfortunately, a rule in life tends to be that if you stick your head up above the fog for too long, a seagull is going to poo on your head. In my case, the poo in which I have been recently covered is a musical poo. Not as novelty as you might expect, I’m afraid. It still smells bad. If I put my finger in it and give it a lick, it still tastes pretty awful. And if it happens in the middle of a crowded street, I still need to flee, red-faced, muttering “Oh, for God’s SAKE” under my breath repeatedly. Yes, that’s right. An extremely pooey poo.

I don’t like self-righteous, arrogant pseudo-folk – a subgenre represented by Frank Turner. I have no time for self-fellating, psychological-meltdown teen-idol gibberish – patented by Britney Spears, most “admirably” stepped up a few units of irritation by Justin “phallus-head” Bieber and Miley “chlamydia incubation device” Cyrus.  I am certainly not endeared in any way to sexual-assault banterpop or its sister genre, gangster rap…e (see R. Kelly, Robin Thicke and an all-star cast of angry, tracksuit-wearing miscreants shouting bad “poetry” loudly in to microphones at staged parties, while surrounded by gyrating crack-whores with dead, dead eyes). And as for One Direction… I’d rather vote Tory than ever hear of them again.

cameron cunt

“I will shoot Harry Styles right in the face if you vote for me.”

What has happened to the world? Generations of youth swept away on an unnervingly quickening tide of time, to be replaced with the musical equivalent of join-the-dots. The legacy of the 60s and 70s – The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Hendrix, Dylan, The Kinks, Clapton – through the 80s and 90s, glittering with gems as bright as Queen, Jacko, Sabbath, Metallica, Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, anything Dave Grohl has ever done, and, of course the mighty and transcendental Toto… all this has been confined to the archives, sealed away in a cage somewhere in a library (what’s one of those?) to gather dust, as our ears are overrun with dirge until, in an evolutionary change fitting of a very bad horror movie, the children of tomorrow are born without ears as our genes realise that deafness holds a much higher chance of survival than being constantly exposed to the brain-melting musical acid that is known today as “Nicki Minaj”.

the children

Maybe, somewhere out there is an adolescent who will read this. If that is you, young “Hashtag Dollar-Sign LOLington-Smythe”, please read my words of warning. Go back to the roots of your ancestors and write something with actual music in it. And guitars. Guitars are good. If you don’t, you will be personally responsible for humans ceasing to have ears. And what’s worse is that this mass ear exodus will almost certainly result in our once-essential and seemingly-benevolent, flappy bits of head skin retreating to the sea to form a master race of giant, amphibious ear people, and they will surely have their grim vengeance on the world that has forced them to swap being squashed up against pillows for the bed of a litter-filled ocean. When this happens – and it definitely will – the only sound left will be the sound of this grumpy old bastard saying “I told you so” (except nobody will hear it, because… oh, right, you get it).

 

I fear for you all.

 

Still, at least I’m angry again. Every cloud and all that.

ear attack

“I’m, er… watching you”

 

Simon

 

 

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IELTS Reading (mini-tip) – what order do you answer questions in?

Let’s think about tasks such as True / False / Not Given, sentence completion and short answer questions. You will find that the answers can be found in the text in order. But are you using this fact to your maximum advantage?

Have a look at this short example text below.

Chilies

Chilies originate in South America and have been eaten for at least 9,500 years. Organised cultivation began around 5,400BC. Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter chilies, when he landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. He thought it was a type of pepper and called it the “red pepper”, a name still used today. After their introduction to Europe they were an immediate sensation and were quickly incorporated into the diet. From there they spread to Africa, India and East Asia.
The reason for the chilli’s “hotness” lies in a chemical called Capsaisin. Capsaisin causes temporary irritation to the trigeminal cells, which are the pain receptors in the mouth, nose and throat. After the pain messages are transmitted to the brain, endorphins, natural pain killers, are released and these not only kill the pain but give the chili eater a short lived natural high. Other side effects include: an increased heart rate, a running nose and increased salivation and sweating, which can have a cooling effect in hot climates.

The reason for the presence of Capsaisin is thought to be to deter animals from eating the fruit. Only mammals feel the burning effects; birds feel nothing. As birds are a better method of distributing the seeds, which pass intact through their guts, Capsaisin would seem to be a result of natural selection.

The smaller chilies tend to be the hottest. This may reflect the fact that they tend to grow closer to the ground and are therefore more vulnerable to animals. The heat of a chili is measured on the Scoville scale. The hottest types such as the Habenero and the Scotch Bonnet rate between 100,000 and 300,000, the world famous Tabasco sauceÒ rates at 15,000 to 30,000, about the same as the Thai prik khee nu, while the popular Jalapeno is between 5,000 and 15,000. Powdered chili is 500 to 1,000 and the mild capsicins and paprikas can range between 100 and 0.

People have started to breed and grow chillies specifically to find hotter and hotter varieties, and what was once a pastime or the labour of practical joke production, has now become a competition worth a lot of money, particularly in the States. Not only is production big business, but the ability to consume and digest these spicy monsters has also become a gateway to fame and (small) fortune, with eating competitions on the rise year on year. While there is no direct link between eating these mutant chillies and ill-effects, there have been instances of hospitalisation on several occasions in the last few years, with this figure also on the rise.

 

Questions 1-4

1. Chilies became popular as soon as they were brought into Europe.
2. Capsaisin damages the mouth.
3. Chilies can be part of a birds diet.

 

4. Smaller chillies are generally hotter than larger chillies.

 

OK, so of course, we start off looking for information for question 1. (You can find it in line 3: “immediate sensation”) – so we mark it TRUE (not T, not Yes!)

But what next? In a longer text, I find that sometimes students perform better when the next question they answer is question 5, not question 2.

WHY?

Pretty simple, really. Sometimes, the final answer can be found a long way before the end of the text. (In this case, you can find the answer in line 1 of the second-to-last paragraph – “The smaller chillies tend to be the hottest”) If you can find the final answer position, you can then trap the remaining answers in between questions 1 and 5, so that you reduce the area of text that you have to scan. See below: Blue – question 1 answer / question 5 answer. BOLD = text containing answers 2-4.

 

Chilies

Chilies originate in South America and have been eaten for at least 9,500 years. Organised cultivation began around 5,400BC. Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter chilies, when he landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. He thought it was a type of pepper and called it the “red pepper”, a name still used today. After their introduction to Europe they were an immediate sensation and were quickly incorporated into the diet. From there they spread to Africa, India and East Asia.
The reason for the chilli’s “hotness” lies in a chemical called Capsaisin. Capsaisin causes temporary irritation to the trigeminal cells, which are the pain receptors in the mouth, nose and throat. After the pain messages are transmitted to the brain, endorphins, natural pain killers, are released and these not only kill the pain but give the chili eater a short lived natural high. Other side effects include: an increased heart rate, a running nose and increased salivation and sweating, which can have a cooling effect in hot climates.

The reason for the presence of Capsaisin is thought to be to deter animals from eating the fruit. Only mammals feel the burning effects; birds feel nothing. As birds are a better method of distributing the seeds, which pass intact through their guts, Capsaisin would seem to be a result of natural selection.

The smaller chilies tend to be the hottest. This may reflect the fact that they tend to grow closer to the ground and are therefore more vulnerable to animals. The heat of a chili is measured on the Scoville scale. The hottest types such as the Habenero and the Scotch Bonnet rate between 100,000 and 300,000, the world famous Tabasco sauceÒ rates at 15,000 to 30,000, about the same as the Thai prik khee nu, while the popular Jalapeno is between 5,000 and 15,000. Powdered chili is 500 to 1,000 and the mild capsicins and paprikas can range between 100 and 0.

People have started to breed and grow chillies specifically to find hotter and hotter varieties, and what was once a pastime or the labour of practical joke production, has now become a competition worth a lot of money, particularly in the States. Not only is production big business, but the ability to consume and digest these spicy monsters has also become a gateway to fame and (small) fortune, with eating competitions on the rise year on year. While there is no direct link between eating these mutant chillies and ill-effects, there have been instances of hospitalisation on several occasions in the last few years, with this figure also on the rise.

 

Have a try of this next time, and remember: IELTS is about finding a technique that you are comfortable with. There is not one “correct” way – if this tip works for you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. There will be another way that you are happy with.

 

Simon

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 3, Task 2)

Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a compulsory part of high school programmes (for example working for a charity, improving the neighbourhood or teaching sports to younger children).

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

It has long been a priority of educational authorities to widen and improve the overall experience of pupils. To that end, a recent suggestion has been made that children should be involved in community service tasks such as charity work or neighbourhood improvement as a mandatory part of their schooling. While this could be seen as a waste of school time, there are clear benefits which can not be ignored.

It could be argued that children today do not spend enough time learning, and that compulsory extra-curricular activities would only further decrease study time. Although community work is important, homework and self-study time would have a more direct benefit on the education and exam results of a child, in turn providing the opportunity for academic advancement to university. Alternatively, this time could be spent on physical exercise and team sports as a way of combatting the increase in free time activities which promote laziness, such as computer-based gaming or chatting. Moreover, neighbourhood tasks should be being undertaken by council employees, rather than being forced upon the younger members of a community. These issues could therefore form a valid argument against the incorporation of such activities in to school curricula.

However, the importance of children learning social values through experiencing and contributing to community spirit should not be ignored. Charity work would teach them to support one another in later life, and any activity related to improvement would teach them the importance of contribution to one’s own local area, thereby simultaneously discouraging anti-social or criminal behaviour. Furthermore, becoming involved in mentoring younger children would arguably promote a stronger sense of team spirit than merely engaging in competitive sport with age-group segregation. Therefore, it would be an excellent idea to consider some kind of monitored social activity to encourage personal growth in teenage pupils.

In conclusion, while it is understandable that the idea of community service may cause concern due to a perceived lack of educating, I strongly believe that these activities would teach children at high school level to be more rounded as individuals, as well as better able to positively contribute to society in later life.

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IELTS Writing – avoiding pronouns and vagueness

In IELTS writing part 2, it is important to make your final opinion in the conclusion clear, by using “I”. However, in the rest of the text it is often a good idea to present opinion as though it is fact – this includes the final sentence of the introduction. Let’s look at a few examples, using the following question (from Cambridge Book 9 Test 3)

Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a compulsory part of high school programmes (for example working for a charity, improving the neighbourhood or teaching sports to younger children).

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

1) Let’s imagine that I agree with this statement. I might write an introduction that looks like this:

In order to help children to understand the importance of community, people think that it would be beneficial for them to do some things in their neighbourhood as a mandatory part of their schooling. While some people say this is a waste of time, I believe that this idea has enormous potential.

 

Let’s look at the bold sections in order.

People think –> This is an example of vague language. “People” is a non-specific group, so we can change this in one of two ways. 1: specify a particular group of people, like parents or education experts. 2) Use the passive: “it has been suggested that…”

Some things –> Again, too vague. Using the word “things” suggests to the examiner that you don’t know the specific words, or a good synonym for “community service”. Either repeat the phrase, or think of a synonym, like “tasks”

Some people say –> Again, this is vague. A better way to phrase this might be “While there are those who may…” This is still vague, but a little better. You could also write “While there are is a case to be made for this being a waste of valuable time”

I believe –> The problem with using “I” in the introduction, is that it will make it look very similar to your conclusion. If you use passive or an “It” sentence here, it will make your conclusion stronger.

Here’s a rewrite of that introduction.

In order to help children to understand the importance of community, it has been suggested that it would be beneficial for them to do certain tasks in their neighbourhood as a mandatory part of their schooling. While there is a case to be made for this being a waste of time, it is clear that this idea has enormous potential.

 

Here are two more examples of words and phrases you could use in your essay

It is believed / said that… (instead of People / They believe that) –> It is often said that the most is not made out of the time a child has at school.

There is / are… (instead of a pronoun) –> There are a number of reasons to support the idea that children will benefit educationally from doing community work.

 

Do you have any example sentences you would like to rewrite or share here?

 

Simon

 

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Making Plans and Predictions

Making Plans

What is the difference between “will” and “going to”? Or the difference between “going to” and present continuous? I’ve drawn a picture that I think shows these differences clearly – click on and save the picture to see it in a larger size.

IMAG0964

So, what does this picture tell us?

  1. “will” is used to talk about future events that we haven’t planned yet. We haven’t planned them because this is the first time we’ve been told about them, or the first time we’ve thought about them. Two examples:
  • “I’ll help you with those books” – I’ve seen someone having trouble so I’ve offered to help
  • “I’ll come with you” – I’ve just been told a friend is going on holiday and I’ve decided I want to come.

Of course, we could use “might” or “may” if we’re less sure about the decision.

2.   “going to” is used when a plan has been made, but the future event is still quite far away in time (see example) – so we usually make the time very clear (“I’m going to see Harry Potter at the cinema next Saturday”) – this means I’ve already bought a ticket, so I made the plan some time before I said this.

3.   Present Continuous is used when the event is planned and is really soon. We often use this to talk about events that are happening on the same day. Remember, we must specify time, because if we don’t then the listener will understand that we are talking about something happening now! Example:

  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter later” – I know that this is soon, and therefore unlikely to change
  • “I’m seeing Harry Potter” – This is happening now, so you’re talking to me while the film is on

4.   We also use Present Simple to talk about future events. In this case they are happening very soon, they are extremely unlikely to change, and they are usually actions / events that we can not control. For this reason, we often talk about schedules (transport, for example) because they are on a timetable and being controlled by other people. Example:

  • “The train leaves from Platform 6 at 7:30pm” – this train will leave with or without me!

So, you can see that as you read down the page on my picture, you become more sure about the event as it gets closer to happening (have a look at the arrow).

 

OK, now lets look at how we can make a similar picture for making predictions

IMAG0965

 

Again, there is an arrow showing that as the event gets closer, you become more sure of your prediction. So, “going to” is a prediction we make when the event is almost happening, or is almost 100% certain. Example:

  • “Manchester City are going to win” – I say this after 45 minutes of the match, when Manchester City are already winning!
  • “Manchester City will definitely win” – I say this before the match, so it’s a prediction made with less evidence.

Notice that we can’t use present continuous / present simple to make predictions!

I hope this helps you! As always, email / comment with any questions!

 

Simon

 

 

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Cambridge IELTS 8 Writing Model Answer (Test 1, Task 2)

The question is here: Test 1 Task 2

In the life of a child, constant learning is not only a must but a natural way of life. This is often split in to learning at school and learning at home. Clearly, both parents and teachers have a role to play in the education of a child, but with the issue of educating a child in how to become a balanced member of society, there has been some debate as to whether teachers or parents should be taking the most responsibility.

Firstly, at school, children are effectively members of a community including peers and teachers. In order to succeed in primary and secondary education, they need to be aware of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. As teachers act as mentors and overseers in this environment, it is appropriate that they should be the ones to ensure that their students appreciate and adhere to the expectations of society, both inside and outside school. The experience of being at school ought to enable them to interact as part of a team, while being respectful and appreciative of others, and these skills are transferable to the outside world. Therefore, teachers should be acknowledged as playing a vital role in this area of development.

However, education does not begin and end in schools. Parents should always be the first point of contact and trust for children, and this means that they are responsible for planting the initial seeds of accepted behaviour, as well as providing real-world perspective, which often can not be accurately represented in schools due to the necessity for certain rules applying only within the walls of educational institutions. Evidently then, the role of a parent is absolutely key from a very early age.

In summary, children require guidance in all walks of life, whether it be at school or at home, and it is the responsibility both of parents and educators to provide this and to liaise with each other in order to ensure the best possible introduction to society and accepted behaviour for the children in their care.

Word Count: 339

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Cambridge IELTS 8 Writing Model Answer (Test 1 Task 1)

You can find the question below:

Test 1 Task 1

The pie chart and table illustrate the main reasons for farmland degradation worldwide and in three continental regions respectively. Overall, there are three main reasons for this decrease in productivity, with Europe being the most seriously affected.

First of all, from a global perspective, over-grazing is the biggest cause of deterioration, with 35%, which is slightly higher than deforestation and over-cultivation at 30% and 28% respectively. The final 7% is attributed to “other” reasons.

The three principal reasons for agricultural decline are then split by region in the table, and it is notable that Europe’s percentages for deforestation and over-cultivation are significantly higher than either Oceania or North America, with 9.8% compared with 1.7% and 0.2% respectively for deforestation, and 7.7% compared with 0% and 3.3% respectively for over-cultivation. However,  11.3% of Oceania’s land degradation is attributed to over-grazing, whereas Europe’s percentage is roughly half this at 5.5%, and North America’s is at 1.5%. This means that the total land degradation percentages stand at 5% for North America, 13% for Oceania and a much higher 23% for Europe.

(164 words)

Let’s have a look at the phrases in bold.

1) Overall: This is an important part of Task 1. Remember to include a sentence in your introduction (or as a conclusion), which makes a “general” observation. You don’t need to include any numbers or percentages.

2) with 35%: If you are struggling to fit your numbers in to the same sentences as your comparisons, sometimes using “,with…” can be quite useful. Writing a new sentence that just includes one statistic would mean a short sentence that would break up the flow of your writing.

3) respectively: A great word for task 1. You use it to show the order of your numbers if they are separate from the things they refer to. For example: John and Jane are 12 and 10 respectively. This means that the first number matches the first name and the second number matches the second name, so John is 12 and Jane is 10. You usually finish a sentence with “respectively”.

4) However: You need to find comparisons to make. Here, most of the percentages are in a similar order – Europe is higher than the other regions, but there is one figure where this isn’t true. Find that number and use a “but” linker to make a comparison.

 

 

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Cambridge Exams – Writing a Report / Proposal

A common question in Writing Part 2 is to write a report or proposal. This short article will give you two tips.

  • Structure

The accepted structure is headings and sub-headings. Have a look at this:

Introduction

Start with “The purpose of this proposal / report is to…” or a similar phrase. Then, outline what you are going to be writing about – you can basically paraphrase the question and signal what is going to come. Don’t make any of your points yet!

Findings / Positive Points / Specific Subject Heading

Remember to structure this using sequencers (firstly, furthermore, additionally…)

Another heading with another subject (if necessary)

Same as above

Recommendations / Problems / Solutions

Often, part of this kind of task is to suggest improvements or solutions, so here you are directly addressing the previous paragraph(s) and again, sequencing your ideas clearly.

Conclusion

Don’t forget this paragraph! A brief summary “Overall…” and a positive statement to finish.

Take a look here for some model answers: CAE-10-TESTS-Model Compositions

 

  • Language

Remember, the language you need here is neutral. I like to think of it as BORING. This means no colourful adjectives (amazing, superb, wonderful), no exaggeration or emotion (I really believe, it is absolutely / completely / totally…). Instead, use modals, passives and objective language. Think about the language used in terms and conditions of contracts. Not very interesting!

 

Remember to write between 220 and 260 words for CAE!

 

Simon

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CAE Speaking – Structures (Also for FCE / CPE)

I’ve been doing a lot of CAE exam preparation classes recently, and I’ve noticed that a lot of people are making three similar mistakes. This short article will hopefully help you avoid them. NB: These tips also apply to FCE and CPE, although the tasks I have chosen are CAE tasks.

1) Don’t feel you have to say too much in Part 1

It’s quite normal to learn the idea that “speaking more is better” at schools. This is only partly true. If you are asked a very simple question (Where do you live?), then it is unnatural to say something like this:

“I live in Barcelona, a city in the North of Spain. It’s a large, cosmopolitan city with a population of several million, and has a remarkable landscape including beaches, mountains and a fascinating mixture of architectural forms”

Does that answer the question? Really, you’ve answered the question “Can you tell me a bit about your city?”

Don’t feel the need to go too far in this part – just answer the question: “I live in Barcelona, a major city in the North of Spain”. Save the other information for when you’re actually asked about it!

2) Don’t spend too much time “describing” in Part 2

So, with Part 2, you are given three pictures and have to choose two to talk about / answer questions on. Have a look at the example below:

Compare the educational settings

Describe how they are feeling

caetask

 

A good start here is to make your choice first: “I’m gonna go for the first and second pictures…”

Remember, from here you have about 55 seconds to do three things:

  • Describe
  • Compare
  • Interpret

Of these, the easiest is describing, so this is the part that should take the least time. Have a look at the example below:

“In the first picture, the two students are engaged in some kind of practical experiment – groupwork in a science class, whereas the setting in picture 2 is a lecture, so the students are passive – listening, rather than active – doing.

That’s enough for describing! Now for interpreting:

“Well, I reckon that the students in picture 1 are feeling pretty motivated – learning by doing is supposed to be really effective, and being able to control a process and see its results can be quite exciting. Also, as a small group, they can interact with each other and are probably quite good friends as they’ve chosen each other, so they’re probably happy and quite comfortable too, whereas, in the second picture, obviously they’re not talking. It’s possible that they understand everything that is being said perfectly, and they’re interested and listening intently, but it could also be the case that they are confused by some things, and not in an environment in which they can ask questions, which can be a bit daunting. It’s a less relaxed environment and requires a lot of concentration and discipline, so I guess they probably aren’t feeling as good as the two students in the first picture.”

Much longer! You could signal that you are going to finish by including a brief comment on your own feelings:

“Personally, I would be happier in the situation of picture 1, because…”

Good! Now, if you’re the “second speaker…”

Don’t waste time describing what you see – speaker 1 already did this. Immediately try and interpret, using the question you are given. Remember, you only have thirty seconds!

3) The “making a decision together” part of part 3 is more important than the general overview of the pictures!

Take a look at the example below:

How do these pictures show the role of computers nowadays?

Which picture best reflects the difference computers have made to our lives?

cae9

 

  • You don’t need to describe every picture – just give a general picture (example below)

Well, these pictures show that computers have basically infiltrated every part of our lives – from work at home, to children’s games, education and even retail systems. Everything is now computerised!

That’s enough! The other speaker can agree / disagree / add a bit to what you’ve said, but after that it’s time to focus on the second task, in which you have the opportunity to get the most marks for “interactive communication” (20% of your mark for this exam).

Make sure you take the opportunity to speak, but also give the other speaker a chance. Here are a few strategies.

  • I want to speak: Say “mmm…”, “yeah” or “but” while the other speaker is talking. They will hear this and naturally give you a chance at the end of their sentence – you don’t need to start talking (this is interruption and will lose you marks)
  • I want to give the other person a chance: Ask a question: “What do you reckon?” “Don’t you think?” “So, do you think that….?”  Asking questions is an important part of acknowledging the other person.
  • I made my decision really early, but I want to consider other pictures: Phrases like “But then again…”, “Although…” and “Mind you…” allow you to reconsider, or move on to other pictures – make sure you use the 3 minutes and don’t finish early.
  • We have finished: A question, or a statement: “So, we’ve decided that this picture is…” or “So, have we come to the conclusion that…?”

I hope these help. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Good luck!

 

Simon

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Diagnostics / Needs Analyses

Have a look at the General English diagnostic / needs analysis below, as well as a (brief) IELTS one – in case you get sprung with a new class and need a way to check their prior knowledge of the exam at the beginning of your first class!

Simon

Diagnostic and NA

IELTS Needs Analysis

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Writing Model Answer (Test 1 Task 1)

Have a look at the attached document. Remember, it’s important to cover the main changes in enough detail, so in this kind of essay the paragraph describing “after” will be a lot longer than the paragraph describing “before”. Don’t worry – that’s not a problem!

Simon

IELTS 9 Writing 1 Model

 

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Using Thinking Hats for IELTS

This is a useful perspective for both students and teachers, so I’ve put it in to several categories.

You may have read my earlier article about using thinking hats to create balanced arguments (see here: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-oB ) – you’ll need to read this first.

What I’ve done here is write a colour-coded structure to agree / disagree and problem / solution essays, using the colours to show the structure and writing explanations instead of answering a question. I’d love to have some feedback on this – my classes have responded very positively.

I’ve attached the colour-coded essays as word documents in case you have any trouble viewing.

Thanks

Simon

IELTS Hat Writing

 

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#2 – Don’t you know how to talk proper, like?

I hate change. Suffice to say, puberty was not an easy time. I have come to believe of late that even the most erratic and impulsive of folk do in fact embrace some level of routine-steeped life, whether it be a set bedtime, a plan of the week’s meals or even “touch-oneself-o’clock”.  However, it would be something of a damp squib to devote part of my Sunday to writing about the trials and tribulations of that horrible moment when live Sport lasts longer than expected (resulting in the earth-shatteringly cataclysmic cancellation of ugly orange-faced posh people guffawing smugly at inanimate objects for 30 sodding minutes), so I won’t. Instead, I’m going to focus my twitchy anger on changes in language and, more specifically, why in gibbering ARSE it has become the norm to be as articulate or literate as a drunk parakeet with a toy shovel in its head.

5pm

Technically, this means that I NEVER have to stop masturbating

It isn’t just the old favourites. Don’t get me wrong though; Your / You’re and There / Their / They’re errors bring me out in a rash. It’s more the regression of language, the slide in to the lingual abyss, the inability to wear trousers that fit properly. Grammatically. I hear “could of”, “should of” and “would of”, I endure “irregardless”, “pronounce-iation” and “expresso”, my skin turns inside out and suffocates me half to death when I hear “LOL”, “OMG” and the dreaded “Literally”. I mean, what do people think this is? SPANISH? Wash your malapropic mouths out with minty word juice and then pick your teeth with a damned sharp apostrophe, the lot of you. But don’t you DARE attempt to retrieve said toothpick from a possessive pronoun (unless it happens to be “one’s”).

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Apparently the “price” doesn’t cover English lessons

I read an article in Metro recently. (The mere sound of those words leave the smell of rotting relative clauses lingering in the air like a language fart, so appalling is the overall standard of English found within). It was a piece on the evolution of slang or, as I’d prefer to call it, “how to decipher the moronic, structureless grunts of children”. Have a look at the picture below, but DON’T count the number of words that you actually understand. Instead, say them out loud to a friend and then you can both have a massive laugh at how unbelievably incapable other people are. Then go outside and punch a teenager. Punch some English back in to them. (NB: Don’t punch a foreign teenager and then use the previous sentence as an excuse, unless you’re fond of the EDL).

slang-graphic

 

I’ve almost finished now, but I’d like to leave you with a brief lesson. Next time you are subjected to a barrage of blarney, a deluge of drivel or a tirade of tittishness, please redirect the offending numskull to the below. It may save a life one day. Theirs. (NOT BLOODY THEIR’S).

Part 1: Your / You’re

“Your” is possessive, meaning it is used when indicating that something belongs to “you” (whoever that is).
Example: Your command of the English language is nothing short of atrocious. Get a grip, you arse.

“You’re” is an abbreviation of “you are”.
Example: You’re a poorly educated, ill-informed, illiterate moron. Avaunt, and quit my sight!

Part 2: There / Their / They’re

“There” is an adverb, usually indicating location or place.
Example 1: Look over there; it’s an English person with little command of his native language. See how his knuckles scrape against the floor.
Example 2: There is NO SODDING APOSTROPHE after that word, Angelica darling. I’m sorry I hit you. It’s for your own good.

Part 3: LOL / ROFL / OMG / BFF

These are NOT WORDS.
Example 1: Yes, your honour. I freely admit to using my favourite Thesaurus to brutally murder a young lady on the bus who I had overheard exclaiming “LOL” to her friend.

Part 4: Apostrophes.

Apostrophes are used to signify possession, meaning that the following noun belongs to the person / pronoun to which the apostrophe is attached. They are NOT required after plurals, nor are they necessary after “it”, unless you want to say “it is”. They are also used to abbreviate “is” or “has”.
Example 1: Simon’s fountain pen plunged in to Andrew’s heart, for he knew that to hear but one more misused personal pronoun would surely send him quite mad.
Example 2: A: “What’s happened to him? Is he…dead?” B: “I believe he’s split his last infinitive, yes.”
Example 3: His injuries, extensive as they were, were caused by a multitude of misspellings. (NOT “misspelling’s).

Part 5: Borrow / Lend

If you borrow something, you take it from somebody for a limited period of time, after which it is (usually) returned. If you lend something, then you give it temporarily to somebody else. You can NOT say:

“Can I lend a pen?”
“Can you borrow me ten pounds?”
“Can I have a lend of your tampon?”

Instead, say this:

“Can I borrow a pen?”
“Can you lend me ten pounds?”
“Can I borrow your tampon?”

Cleared that up? Good. Now bugger off.

Simon

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Some threat, that.

 

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Writing Model Answer (Test 1, Task 2)

Key:

Background statement – introduction
Thesis statement – introduction

Topic sentence – body
Supporting statements – body
Concluding statement – body

Summarising statement – conclusion
Judgement statement (opinion) – conclusion

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school.

Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

In a world where the concept of physical distance has been greatly reduced due to technological advances and globalisation, it has become increasingly beneficial to be proficient in a second language, especially in the workplace. As a result, there has been some discussion regarding the optimum age for exposure to a second language in schools with many suggesting that earlier is better, a view which, in my opinion, should be supported by education authorities.

Firstly, the idea that children should be introduced to a second language at an early age is supported by the principle of learning speed being inversely proportional to age. There is no doubt that capacity for learning is extremely high at primary education level. Younger children are able to hone pronunciation skills more quickly and in conjunction with their own natural improvement in their first language. Furthermore, fear of failure does not usually manifest itself in 7-11 year-old children, meaning that productive skills can be practised more freely in a low-pressure environment inspired by trial and error, which is proven as an effective language learning method and lends support to second language teaching at primary level. 

On the other hand, there are aspects of language learning that are difficult to study closely at a young age. While grammar is largely acquired naturally in one’s first language, an understanding of a second language is typically more heavily reliant on a mixture of theory and practice, which can be more difficult to encourage in younger pupils with a lower concentration span and less-developed critical thinking skills. In addition, it could be argued that the main focus in primary schools should be on arithmetic and first language proficiency, with the introduction of a second language proceeding the development of these traditional key skills. Accepting other subjects as priorities would naturally delay second language learning, with high school being a natural introduction point for such subjects. 

While it is clear that mathematical skills as well as first language literacy are vital, the importance of speaking a second language surely means that there is more pressure on children to speak two languages at a younger age. As a result, it is my strong feeling that primary school curricula must include an emphasis on encouraging second language exposure as early as possible. 

 

 

 

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Facebook buyout sparks mass unfounded cartoon-based hysteria

Facebook buyout sparks mass unfounded cartoon-based hysteria

American Internet giant Google have launched a successful $1tn takeover of Facebook, which will see Earth’s four largest powers combine in a move that has sent fear and reminiscence through the hearts of 1990s children all over the world. The move swiftly follows Facebook’s acquisition of Whatsapp, the world’s most popular time-wasting messenger service, and is thought to be the largest merger in the history of anything, ever.

‘It’s like he’s, y’know, becoming a Capitalist Captain Planet!’ shrieked Martha Atkinson, an unemployed single mother from Bedford.

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The Power is His!

‘It’s very simple – now that the four corners of the World – Google, YouTube, Facebook and Whatsapp have joined together, the force of these elements will transform me.’ boomed Larry Page, Google CEO, immaculately caped and masked, atop a $35,000 dollar replica of The Iron Throne.

 Experts have expressed concern over the sheer weight of the gold bullion used to make the purchase, stating that ‘polarisation of international wealth to this extent could cause a weight imbalance so catastrophic that the entire area could collapse in to the sea.’ However, retired Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg remained unperturbed. ‘I recently relocated my private bank to an undisclosed location in Africa in anticipation of such an issue. You see, nobody gives a shit if Africa sinks’ he smiled, casually lighting another $100 bill as he stepped on to his private submarine.

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IELTS Speaking – Finish your Part 2!

“And…er… that’s it…”

Have you ever finished your two-minute topic like this? How did it feel? I imagine there was a bit of silence as the examiner tried to work out if you had finished. It doesn’t need to be like that (it shouldn’t be like that!) Here are a few ideas to help you.

  • Sequence your ideas

If you are telling a story then you should be looking to use phrases like this:

Beginning

I remember when… / There was this one time… / I’ve got this story about when…

Setting the scene

It was (date) and we were / I was…. / So, I remember that I / we were -ing…

Moving On

Next / After that / Then / The next thing that happened was / So then

Ending

In the end / At the end / So anyway / Finally

Do you know any more?

Remember to finish your final sentence with a decreasing tone to your voice, so that the examiner can hear you have finished.

Here are some sequencers you could use when giving your opinion about something

Statement – your main topic

Well, I think / I reckon / Basically / I believe that…

Support

I guess that’s because / It’s all down to /

Sequencing – moving on

Also / I also think / Furthermore / Not only that, but

Ending

So, basically I / So yeah, that’s what I think / In brief / To recap / To put it simply

Let’s have a look at a couple of examples. The sequencing language is in bold. Read and think about what the topic is. Do you think the speaker would be successful? Try reading some of the sentences aloud – practise saying some of the sentences more and more quickly, but focus on a natural rhythm – remember, fluency DOES NOT mean speed!

1. Telling a story

I remember when I went to a really nice park with my best friend. It was about 4 years ago, I think, in the Summer, and… it was hot… So anyway, I remember we were walking along through like a forest-y bit, y’know, and then we realised that… it was… we were all alone and it was actually a bit dark. I…er… then I said to him, like, something like “This is a bit creepy – do you wanna get outta here?” and then he was like “Wait, did you here something?” and then there was like a creaking sound, which was really scary. So the next thing that happened was we were looking around trying to work out what was going on, and we saw some bushes moving. I think we were just creeped out because we were young and making each other more and more excited…er… scared. Anywaythen we like walked really slowly up to the er… bush, and we were crouching so that it was likely anyone would see us! Aaaaand… when my friend finally plucked up the courage to look in the hedge, in the end it was just two squirrels fighting – it was so embarrassing!

2. Giving an opinion

Well, I think that video games will pretty much take over our lives, to be honest because…well… technology and virtual reality has become so important in every day life. You can see examples of this in cinema, the home, even the street…all around us. Anyway, I think kids have come to expect a certain level of reality and…of absorption… immersion in a game. They, y’know… get bored and stuff really quickly… and  I guess it’s all down to what you’re used to. I reckon not only that, but that we’ll have VR headsets and 3d gaming in most first world houses within the next ten years, and then kids will refuse to leave the house. Also that kind of technology will be used in the workplace – y’know, for meetings and conferences, so people will go out less. So, to put it simply, I guess that technology has become the most important… thing in our lives, yeah.

Remember – your speaking test isn’t just about grammar, or speaking quickly. It’s also about being able to have a conversation in English, and part of that is signalling to other people either that you want to continue speaking, or that you are about to finish.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

 

Simon

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IELTS Listening – Vowel Problems (Mini-tip)

Do you speak a language where the vowel sounds are different from English when we spell words?

Example:

English A = /eɪ/ like way     E = /i:/ like me       I = /aɪ/ like why       O =  /əʊ/ like no       U = /ju:/ like university

Spanish A = /æ/ like cat      E = /eɪ/ like way    I = /i:/ like me           O = /ɒ/ like what     U = /u:/ like food

Other problem letters can be g / j and f /v.

In part 1 of the listening, you will often have to listen to people spelling names and addresses, and you will have to write the correct spelling of these words. This can be a problem if your alphabet has sounds which are mixed up with English sounds.

Tip

I saw one of my students today write the sounds of the vowels and g / j at the top of her question paper right at the beginning of an IELTS listening practice paper. She is Spanish and she wrote:

a = ei   e = eeeee    i = ai   o = phone    u = you     g = jeeee     j = jay

She then got the correct answers on the part 1 spelling, having previously found these really difficult!

Give it a try!

Simon