Thursday, June 28, 2018

15 IELTS Speaking Cue Card Questions


Please note that the following questions can be used by teachers and students or anyone who wants to improve their spoken English. All you have to do is talk about the topic with your speaking partner or tutor.



For those taking the IELTS exam, please read the tips for Part 2 of the oral component of the test here:IELTS Speaking: Part 2 Sample Questions (List 1) & Tips.

You can find more information about the Speaking exam if you also read 
Useful Vocabulary Words for Speaking Exams 
IELTS Speaking: Part 1 Sample Questions (List 1)
IELTS Speaking: The Basics

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

C2 Sample Essay 21 (Capital Punishment)

Writing at C2 level (Proficient User) on English language examinations is the same no matter the awarding body when it comes to writing essays. If you are a candidate giving an exam in English, make sure you read my earlier post What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog? to get the most out of the sample essays provided on this blog. 

If you are not taking an exam but need ideas on whether capital punishment should be abolished, then read on and note down what you deem useful. If you intend to use this essay as part of an assignment, remember to paraphrase so as not to plagiarize.



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Useful Vocabulary Words for Speaking Exams

Depending on the English exam you're taking, the oral component will include questions that deal with things you already know about because the question will ask for information based on what you do, or about things that have to do with the country or city you live in.

As you already know from my blog post IELTS Speaking: The Basics (even though the post deals with the IELTS exam, the main ideas stated also refer to oral exams administered by other examination boards), examiners are looking for variety in grammatical structures and vocabulary as well as good, long answers that show you feel comfortable expressing yourself in English.
 

The following list deals with a number of topics that could crop up during the oral examination and has therefore been divided into topic categories. Each category is followed by a short list of words that can be used to either add somewhat more advanced vocabulary to your answers or give you ideas how to develop your answer.

For instance if the examiner asks you to describe the job you would most enjoy doing, make sure you find a way to add words such as "full-time job", "salary" and "work environment". So an answer that would score higher than if you just said "I prefer to have a high-paying job that would just make me feel happy" would be:

Monday, June 25, 2018

C2 Sample Essay 24 (Teacher Qualities)

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Writing at C2 level (Proficient User) on English language examinations is the same no matter the awarding body when it comes to writing essays. If you are a candidate giving an exam in English, make sure you read my earlier post What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog? to get the most out of the sample essays provided on this blog. 

If you are not taking an exam but need ideas on what qualities an effective teacher should have, then read on and note down what you deem useful. If you intend to use this essay as part of an assignment, remember to paraphrase so as not to plagiarize.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

IELTS Speaking: Part 2 Sample Questions (List 1) & Tips

After Part 1 of the oral exam (find a list of questions here), Part 2 of the IELTS exam requires candidates to talk for about two minutes on a topic given by the examiner. 

This blog post will provide you with a series of questions that could be asked at this stage of the test. 

Make sure you've read IELTS Speaking:The Basics so your answers will make it possible for you to score higher. 

After the questions, read some tips on how to answer your question for Part 2.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Agha Shahid Ali - Stationery

Poetry is an acquired taste. The more you sample it, the more flavors you extract.  -- Elle Greco

Reading a Kashmiri poet for me is a first, and first impressions when it comes to poetry mean the world to me. 
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Ali's poem troubled me. Nostalgia and loneliness exuded from the poem as a whole, but I had trouble realizing this until the very end, when in a world full of paper, the poem's persona has yet to hear news from a loved one. The trouble was decoding the choice of words in the first six verses. Reading and re-reading still couldn't provide me with definite motives that would help me build a definitive story which brought on such nostalgia.

And then, when you think the poem eludes you, you remember the one universal law embracing it: poetry is felt, and when feelings enter into the picture, the picture becomes subjective for each person. 

I suppose the biggest question is who "you" refers to.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Commentary - Visualizing the world in 2050


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What will the earth look like in 2050? 


Predicting the future is believed to be the domain of shamans, soothsayers, astromancers, druids who practiced divination by reading animal entrails, and a myriad other prophetic communal leaders. Predicting the future of our planet in non-spiritual terms, however, is the domain of any logical being willing to look at facts and drawing objective conclusions from them. In my view, by 2050, changes will become evident in areas such as the environment, energy and natural resources, demographics and technology. Ultimately, this will have an impact on our attitudes and behavior as human beings.

Reading Ulrich Eberl's 2011 book Life in 2050 is not a prerequisite to understanding and making assumptions about how things will unfold for our environment. Invasive production practices and lax legislature in the already dominant countries, namely BRICS, or in those set to dominate the world of manufacture (the N-11) are bound to ravage both ailing and pristine environments. Many would be quick to argue that laws exist to protect biomes, endangered species, water and air quality, or that protected areas have been set up and educational schemes introduced to inculcate younger generations as to how they should behave more responsibly. Brazil alone has implemented an entire array of laws since the mid-1980's to counteract environmental  destruction, but what hard facts are telling us is that despite such legislation, the destructive trend is still very much a threat. According to The Guardian, in

Sunday, June 17, 2018

We Love Football and so does the English Language


Seeing as the World Cup is a major obsession for people of all nations and all ages, it's a good time as ever to refresh or learn a few football (or soccer, if some of you prefer) phrases used idiomatically in everyday speech in English.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Essay Topics List 2

The following are topics teachers and students can use to practice writing for exams, as homework assignments, longer research projects, even as discussion topics or debates.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Writing Formal Letters Giving Information - Useful Phrases

As part of the series of blog posts on letter/email writing (read the previous one on letters of complaint here), the present post will turn towards formal letters giving information and making suggestions. Such letters, like letters of complaint, fall under the category of transactional letters.

The list of useful phrases for such letters can be used for tasks you have to write as part of an English examination (FCE, CPE, IELTS, to name a few), but in addition to this, can improve your speaking skills any time you are asked to give information or suggest a few things in a polite fashion. 

First of all, let's take a quick look at how a letter which provides information is organized.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Writing Formally - Quick Checklist of Do's and Don'ts



The following are key points to remember about a formal, academic piece of writing, whether it is for an exam or an assignment, an essay or a letter. 

There are conventions that need to be followed so here is a short list of things to keep in mind when writing to someone who is not an acquaintance or the finished work counts towards a grade.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Writing Letters of Complaint - Useful Phrases



Whether it's to complain about something you bought or a service you found was unsatisfactory, as part of your job or because you are preparing to take an exam in English at B2 or C2 level, it is a fact that you should know the basics about writing or even orally expressing your dissatisfaction. 



The following post should help you organize your letter or email (even an oral statement, if necessary) as well as give you some useful phrases you can use.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Essay Topics List 1

The following are topics teachers and students can use to practice writing for exams, as homework assignments, longer research projects, even as discussion topics or debates.

They have been divided into categories. 


Saturday, June 9, 2018

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 - Key Words and Phrases List

In Task 1 of the Academic IELTS exam, candidates are asked to summarize a diagram, graph, table or chart of some sort (oftentimes more than one) in a descriptive text of at least 150 words. 

As previously mentioned in my blog post IELTS: How To Grade Your Writing, examiners are looking for a wide lexical range, which in layman's terms means vocabulary. They want to see that a candidate can use a variety of words or phrases to navigate through a factual, academic description.

Therefore, a selection of words are bound to be required by candidates so that they can clearly present the most important facts seen in the rubric (i.e. the question given). 

In the case of process descriptions, this selection of words is not easy to pinpoint. The only phrases that may be of use for students are ones that have to do with 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Louise Erdrich - The Red Convertible (Overview)

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Native American culture had become synonymous with axe-wielding, bow-and-arrow-carrying savages chasing after homely pioneers to scalp them, as early Hollywood productions of the 20th century would have us believe. 

Fortunately for the world, those days are long past, and Native American writers have reclaimed their cultural heritage much in the same way as other writers from colonies struggling for independence successfully did whilst "writing back to the Empire" through works we now come to categorize under the term post-colonial literature.

Louise Erdrich has captured the torturous existence of individuals trapped within themselves and stripped of their very foundations in this story. To top it all, one of these characters is further stripped of his serenity as he is used by politicians and warmongers to fight in their stead, then cast aside to suffer the harrowing effects of modern-day warfare unassisted by a system willing to ship his remains back home in a body bag if need be. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

ECPE Speaking Exam (Stage 2): Bullet Point Starters

The following information can be used by any test taker, not only ECPE candidates. 

Taking a C2-level oral examination is never easy. Apart from the usual stress due to lack of time allowed for reflection, uneasiness with regard to face-to-face contact and fear of making mistakes that will lead to failure, there is also the issue of ideas. Candidates often question whether on the actual day of their exam they will be clearheaded and creative enough to have something to say.

Not all people are made to respond quickly. This may sound like a prejudicial statement, but experience has shown that people don't make the same connections others do when they hear a word spoken. And I say again, this is not prejudicial because it doesn't imply that someone who isn't quick to respond is slow-witted. No, it just means that different people have different processes unfolding in their minds every second they stand breathing in front of you, so it is natural that while one person's processes take them down a more direct path towards an answer, another person processes information in a different way which may offer more options that require further processing rather than a clear direct response.

It is therefore imperative that candidates taking an oral examination at Proficiency level be prepared and train how to respond to questions quickly. This, like any other skill, requires frequent practice: the more question types you cover, the better prepared you will be for the day of your exam.


So much for the general preamble. Now for specifics. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Mary Miller - Ferris Wheel (Overview)

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Ferris Wheel is an unexpected play in that it seems too simple on the surface, but when you sit to analyze it, more things become evident about the characters, their background and the lives they lead: all this in the space of 10-15 pages. One could say this is a short story disguised as a play.

The plot is basic, the dialogue is uncomplicated, the setting minimalist. But like the surface of a calm sea, what lies beneath is more than the eye can see at first glance. 

So dive into the depths of this play and discover the lives that reside among the seaweed and coral reefs. This play is the new land and funfair version of ships that pass in the night, fleeting, meeting, on their way again.

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