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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 4, Task 2)

Every year several languages die out. Some people think that this is not important because life will be easier if there are fewer languages in the world.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

With globalisation comes an almost inevitable joining together of cultures, experiences and languages. One of the consequences of this is that a great many lesser-spoken languages are dying, as they are no longer required in the context of the modern world. This could be either be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on whether a business or a cultural view is taken.

From a business perspective, moving towards a singular international language is not only sensible, but has in fact already begun. International trade and diplomatic relations are just two key areas that are made easier without a language barrier, and English has already positioned itself as the world’s leading language in these areas. The potential for misunderstanding and misrepresentation is dramatically lowered, and this extends to the public in general, with holidays and wider social communication made all the more possible by a singular, shared language.

On the other hand, culture and tradition is rooted within language. To lose one’s national tongue could be seen as losing one’s identity. If this happens, it could cause no small amount of resentment, in particular towards nations which speak the chosen international language as their first. This could actually lead to diplomatic issues rather than solutions, which is precisely what globalisation is seeking to reduce.

In conclusion, while I am entirely in favour or closer diplomatic relations between countries, I strongly believe that it is extremely important that traditional values and cultures are upheld. Seeing as I am convinced that language and culture are inseparable, I disagree with the idea that life would be better with fewer languages in the world.

(269 words)

A few points:

  1. You don’t need to start with “nowadays” or something that means the same thing!
  2. I don’t think you should put your opinion in the introduction, unless you know you won’t finish in time. Be neutral, acknowledging both sides to the argument, in the introduction, and then present your view in the conclusion.
  3. Remember, if you are running out of time, you must write a conclusion. A good thing to do is to make your second body paragraph in to a list of bullet points, like this:

On the other hand, culture and tradition is rooted within language.

  • Lose language = lose identity
  • Resentment towards some nations
  • Lead to diplomatic issues

Now, write the conclusion and spend some time on it!

You will lose fewer marks for doing this than you will for writing complete body paragraphs without a conclusion!

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Learning in Chunks – just a question of lexis?

It is not exactly revolutionary of me to mention the word “chunk” within the subject of ELT. It has been long established that vocabulary needs to be presented less as individual discrete items, but horizontally, so as to include and acknowledge collocation. Words are indeed the key to communicative language, but prepositions, adjective / noun or noun / verb combinations, and high-frequency connections are the glue that holds it together. Without these things, it is impossible to achieve any real level of productive fluency. None of this is in debate.

There is a particular part of this that is starting to interest me, though. It isn’t the fact that we ought to draw attention to collocation, or words “in chunks” though. It’s the implications of “chunking” for a learner. Chunking isn’t, in fact, just a method of expansion, for as it encourages learners to observe vocabulary in groups rather than individually, it also facilitates the breaking down of full, multiple-clause sentences, in to manageable, bite-sized chunks (Michael Lewis, The Lexical Approach). Again, not a new observation. But is the idea of “bite-sized” usable in other skills?

At this point, I’m going to switch to reading tasks, specifically, academic reading. As an IELTS teacher, I watch a lot of struggle. Students are faced with daunting amounts of text, answers hidden amongst technical terms and “distractors”, and a time limit that would have most native speakers struggling. Often, the sheer volume of text is enough to guarantee demotivation, and, ultimately, failure. I’ve looked at techniques, of course. We’ve scanned, skimmed and inferred until blue in the face, but often it just isn’t enough. Perhaps they aren’t up to it yet. Or perhaps they encounter problems because the task, not the text, isn’t “bite-sized”.

Let’s look at a typical task in an IELTS reading exam. True / False / Not Given questions typically present themselves in order in the text, and require the student to scan and skim in a linear fashion, albeit not necessarily having a clue about the percentage of the whole text covered by the task (unless there is a clear, “scannable” keyword). In general, students are presented with about seven questions, and 800 words of text. They then proceed to read question 1, scan the text, find the answer, write the answer, and repeat for question 2 et cetera. Of course, if they can’t find an answer, they don’t really have a point of reference from which to continue moving forward through the text. In other words, it is difficult to establish linear movement, and can result in time-costly rereading and doubling back. In an incredibly time sensitive exam (1 hour, 3 texts, 2400 words, 40 questions), this is not exactly ideal.

Now, let’s say that a student approaches this in a slightly different way. Upon receiving the task, they break the questions, and then the text, in to bite-sized chunks. They draw a line under question four, and look at questions 1-4 as a separate task. They are not only breaking the task down, but they are also immediately acknowledging that they are likely to be looking at less of the text; the first four-sevenths, roughly. Granted, this is still not exact enough to be comforting. The next stage then, is to isolate the text in a more precise way. The student scans for a keyword match in question 1. They aren’t looking necessarily to find the exact answer at this stage, merely to highlight the area of text in which the answer lies. They draw a line indicating where the text relating to questions 1-4 starts. The next part is to do the same again, but instead of doing this for question 2, they do it for question four. Once they have drawn this second line, they have created a text box, in which four answers lie. The text box is considerably smaller, and therefore less daunting, than the original text, and task, as a whole. They then go through the standard question-answering techniques as they are usually taught. This process is then repeated with questions 5-7, again focusing on isolating “answer-heavy” text, and eliminating time-wasting and a general feeling of being overwhelmed by volume.

While early in my research in to the benefits of this, results so far have been good. Not only have 100% of my students responded positively to this concept, which I believe is more than half the battle (for I am a disciple of the affective filter), but success rates in linear tasks have also gone up considerably in over 80% of these students. I am keen to acknowledge that reading methods and techniques are very much individually subjective, and, as a result, it is difficult to say that there is a “right” way. However, if learners feel that they can approach a task with more confidence than before, I am positive that this will directly contribute to an improvement in results alone, as so many learners are beaten before they step on to the pitch, to use a famous sporting analogy.

I’d love to hear from teachers and students who would like to give this a go. My contact details are on this site. Get in touch, and help me answer the following question: “Can we use the idea of chunking as a reading test technique in general English and exam settings?” And, even more interestingly: “Is there a practical use for a technique like this outside of the environment of comprehension-based tasks – could chunking improve reading ability as a whole?”

 

Simon Richardson

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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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IELTS Writing – Organising Your Essay (Part III – Conclusion)

Now you have your introduction and body (see Introduction lesson: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J and Body lesson http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4P ) you are ready to write your conclusion. First, some things to remember:

  • Your conclusion should not make any new points
  • It should include a short summary of the main points
  • It should include your final opinion
  • It should directly answer the question

The conclusion is only about 30-40 words, so don’t worry about it. Just make sure that you DO write a conclusion, even if it means you don’t finish your body. It is very important that the examiners see your final opinion.

OK, here are the question and the essay so far from the end of lesson 2:

Many newspapers and magazines feature stories about the private lives of famous people. We know what they eat, where they buy their clothes and who they love. We also often see pictures of them in private situations.

Is it appropriate for a magazine or newspaper to give this kind of private information about people?

Over the past two decades, interest in celebrity life has increased to the point where every aspect of their lives is examined, documented and published in the media. Clearly, this raises questions about whether it is right to deny a person the right to privacy. Not only that, but it would appear that these stories that are being printed are not useful in any way.

It is a basic human right to be entitled to one’s own privacy, and for good reason. Being forced to constantly live in the public eye can lead to immense stress on an individual, causing illness, stress and paranoia. It is doubtful that those who actively pursue celebrities day and night would themselves enjoy the same kind of scrutiny, making it a hypocritical activity. Furthermore, it could be argued that printing pictures, stories and gossip about a particular person without their express permission to do so constitutes a crime in itself. For these reasons, it is extremely important that tougher laws are put in place to protect famous people.

Secondly, it seems that the stories printed about celebrities are becoming more and more banal, leading to a decline in the quality of the country’s media. Articles about a person’s clothes, hair or diet are not newsworthy, and encourage an unhealthily aesthetic approach to life. Such a focus does not provide a good example to children and could lead to them growing up with a set of values that disregard sociopolitical issues, respect and empathy. Bearing this in mind, it is important that the media takes on the responsibility of carefully monitoring the levels of this content within their publications.

If you look above, I have highlighted the main points in black. You can see that they are found in the first and last sentences of the body paragraphs. Now we need to begin our conclusion with a few words that show the examiner that this is the final paragraph. Here are a few possibilities:

  • In summary, 
  • In conclusion,
  • To sum up,

All of these are followed by a full sentence starting with a subject.

Here is my example conclusion for the above essay:

In conclusion, I believe that it is inappropriate for the media to publish intimate stories about celebrities due to concerns over privacy and content. Because of this, it is important that the police and the media work together closely to regulate content more strictly.

My conclusion contains my opinion and repetition of the points and conclusions from the body that connect to my opinion. That is ALL you need to write in your conclusion.

Now, can you write a second body paragraph and a conclusion for the other essay from lessons 1 and 2? (Question, Introduction and Body paragraph 1 below)

Some people feel that certain workers like nurses, doctors and teachers are undervalued and should be paid more, especially when other people like film actors or company bosses are paid huge sums of money that are out of proportion to the importance of the work that they do.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Recently, there has been considerable concern over unfair pay rates for key workers when compared with seemingly over-inflated salaries for business figures and celebrities, which have been leading children to view these jobs as undesirable or less important. As a result, it has been widely suggested that pay should reflect the usefulness of a job to society.

Underpaying people such as teachers and nurses has a negative effect on young people. In an increasingly materialistic society, children have become more focused on the value of money and are therefore less likely to want to do lower-paid jobs. Furthermore, they may come to associate celebrities with positive role models because they represent a life that they desire, more than those who do work that is truly important to our countries. This could lead to a severe shortage of key workers in the future, leading to a decline in the quality of education and healthcare. Therefore, it is important that the divide between salaries is closed significantly in order to provide incentive for future generations.

If you would like to contact me about these lessons or with some of your answers to these questions, please do so at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com

Happy New Year everyone!

Simon