Saturday, September 16, 2017

a short speaking post for IELTS

Part two is probably the speaking section that students like the least.   On the one hand, they think two minutes is an eternity so they are nervous about speaking uninterrupted for  so long and on the other hand, they worry that they will not have time to answer all the questions so they jump into it and finish with all the sub questions long before their two minutes are up!

So, what can you do?    First of all, practice with a timer to get a feel for what two minutes actually is.  Some people speak slowly, some fast, so find out what your speed is so that you can make adjustments to ensure you give a fully developed answer in two minutes.

Most often, I find that my students run out of things to say, so my advice for this is to set up the situation.   Before you answer the first question on the card, give a little background information.  For example, if you have been asked to describe your best friend, you could first say something like, "I've heard people say that the best friends you can have in your life are the ones that you have from your childhood and while I am sure this is true for many, I suppose I am the exception to this rule because my best friend is someone who I met as an adult."  Then, you begin with the follow up questions.   My little introduction, with my natural pace took 14 seconds.  It's not much but it's 14 seconds LESS that you have to fill at the end of your talk when you have run out of things to say and are probably thinking, "Oh my goodness, how much time do I have left and what else can I possibly say now??"

So, give it a try and let me know in the comments if it works for you.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Model writing

I have been true to my word!   I have started writing a number of model essays, both task one and task two for  Academic IELTS.  As for task one, I have a number of line graphs, bar and pie charts so far.  I will continue with process diagrams and maps.   These are available through email only so please contact me for the files. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

writing models

I have been absent from my blog for a long time - too busy with other things.   However, I have decided to start writing some model essays to help visitors to this site see how I put some of the elements I write about into practice.   Rather than post them here, I ask you to email me and I will send you a copy.    If I get ambitious perhaps I will even take requests!! 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Do you hear what I hear? Recording yourself for speaking practice

Listening to yourself speak is always a little awkward.  Believe me, I know.   Once you overcome the initial awkwardness and surprise of, "Wow, is that what I really sound like,"   follows really strict scrutiny. 

That's why I recommend recording yourself when you practice speaking.  We are often our own worst critic so if you listen to yourself speaking you can pick up on some problem areas that need improvement. 

Just to show you that I practice what I preach, I signed up to, which has a voice recording feature, and recorded an old blog post about pronunciation. 

I am still figuring the site out so I don't know if you need to register in order to hear my track (let me know either way) but here is the link: (update 20/8/16:  I have since removed the track.  Email me for more information).

I hope you enjoy it!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

free advice

A lot of people approach me for free advice, tips or tricks for IELTS.   This is so common that I decided to write about it in this post. 

My first piece of advice is:  know your level.   There are tons of placement tests on the internet so you can see where you are on the CEFR scale.  If you  get A1 or A2 on these tests and you need a 6.5 or 7 on IELTS then you know you have quite a bit of work ahead of you.  You will first need to improve your overall English level before you can really prepare for IELTS.

Which brings me to my second piece of free advice:  don't wait until the last minute to prepare for IELTS.   How much time you need depends on many factors but it is best not to wait until a week or two before the exam.

Piece of advice #3:  Find a teacher who specializes in IELTS preparation.   This is true even if your English is at a high level.   The reason for this is that IELTS is a language test but there are some "speed bumps" that only an experienced IELTS tutor can help you overcome. When you self-prepare, you have no feedback on your performance and even if you do get a tutor to help you, unless the tutor knows the ins and outs of the exam,  you may not be prepared accurately or appropriately.

Speaking of being prepared accurately & appropriately, I recently wrote about the internet as a learning tool.  It is, and a wonderful one at that.  However, I have to caution you that all websites are not created equal.  While there are many websites on IELTS preparation, some of them with model essays and speaking,  the advice you may be getting may not be completely accurate.

So, in a nutshell, think of your IELTS preparation as an investment for your future.   Dedicate the time, resources and patience it deserves. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Google - a useful tool for English language learners

I was recently reading an IELTS essay about whether newspapers should publish information regarding the private lives of people.   The essay had the word "information" 10 times.  When I asked the writer of the essay why she didn't use any other words that carry the same meaning, she replied that she couldn't think of any.

This is when Google is your friend.   While Google Translate is a thorn in the side of most people, the site has other tools that are useful for language learning.   I recommended that when stuck for a synonym that she use Google's Define feature. That is, Google:  "Information define," and Google will give you both definitions AND synonyms.  If the essay writer had known that, she would have been able to use words like details and particulars which fit quite nicely into an essay like the one she wrote. 

So this is a quick and easy way to expand your vocabulary.  If you are unsure about whether a word fits a particular sentence, again you can use Google.   For example, with the word, particulars,   Google:  "particulars in a sentence," and you will find links to sites like  which provides examples of the word in a sentence.   

Thursday, November 6, 2014

IELTS task one - do you always need an overview?

Most IELTS test takers know that you need an overview when describing a line graph, bar chart or pie chart.  But what about the dreaded process diagrams and maps?  Do you need one there, too?  The answer is yes.  The public band descriptors for Task 1 do not differentiate, so you need an overview no matter what kind of diagram you get. 

So, how do you write an overview for a process diagram? It needn't be too complicated.  You could mention that there are a number of steps/ machines/ people/ stages involved and you could mention what  the beginning and the end are.  If there are two process diagrams or two maps shown, you could say what the main difference between them is, of course, without going into too much detail because the overview shouldn't be about detail.   It should be able to give the reader the main, overall image of the information you have in front of you.