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IELTS Speaking Advice …..

Advice Key IELTS PTE.jpg

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Okay, here are a few important tips and answers to common IELTS Speaking questions.

IELTS Speaking Test is not a test of content or knowledge. It is a test of your language ability. Students are often worried about the quality of their ideas. Do not worry whether your answer is relevant or not as long as it is delivered in correct English.

Moreover, it is not a test of how accurately and truthfully you give an answer. In other words, you can LIE. Just make sure you do not make any grammar mistake or lose fluency while thinking of something creative.

Do not repeat your statement and/ or words. “I believe the sports are important because ….. important because …….”. No. You’ll lose score for that. Even if you’ve said something wrong, do not try to correct it. Doing so will unnecessarily create stress and will consume energy that you could have used in delivering the right answer (right = correct English).

Should I repeat the question statement? Well, try not to. Repeating the question statement is often construed as the candidate’s inability to present an answer in her own words. Practice speaking in your own language. Develop your vocabulary.

Speaking English is not meant for the IELTS class only. I advise students to speak on various common topics at home. Observe the things around you closely – family, technology, neighbors, city, television, newspaper, furniture, clothes, jewelry, books, college, job. The list is endless.

Record your voice and you can share it with me. I’ll be happy to offer some feedback. My WhatsApp number is +91 9888922203.

The more you practice speaking on these topics, the better will be your command over the language. This will not only give you greater firepower to extend your answers, but also develop the ability to talk about likes, dislikes, habits, and opinions.

Best wishes for your endeavor!

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Using Active Voice in IELTS Exam – Notes From Answer Checking.

active voice passive voice IELTS PTE.png

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An advice before you read this article:

“Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time” – Albert Einstein.

The secret of writing well is NOT to expect drastic changes in one day. Work on making continuous improvements every day and you will achieve your goal. With this message, let us begin our journey.

I’ve checked and published more than a hundred essays on this website so far and I’ve noticed that many students fail to use active voice. An active voice, with a clear subject in the beginning, is always better than the passive voice. I’ll present various instances in which students have committed this mistake along with suitable corrections.

It is contemplated by many (Passive Voice. Prefer Active.) that what should be taught to the young children: predominance of local history rather than the international history.

Rephrase: Many people contemplate whether children should be taught local history or international history.

The passive voice clearly makes things complex. Unlike passive voice, active voice places a SUBJECT at the beginning. Subject = Many People.

I am a resident of 43, Whitehall Close which was recommended by you (Passive Voice. Use Active.) as I have taken your services for finding this accommodation.

I took your services about a month ago to find the apartment I am living in currently.

The point is that if you eliminate the passive voice, things become simpler and ambiguity vanishes. Another active voice version of the above sentence could be:

“I am a resident of 43, Whitehall Close, which you recommended as a real estate agent.”

Let us look at another sentence:

I called you seven days ago but, unfortunately, any kind of service was not made available. (Passive voice. Prefer Active)

I called you seven days ago, however, you did not rectify the issue.

Isn’t active voice simpler to write and understand? It fetches you bands as well. Let us go through some more examples.

During the past two decades in Ghana, it has been reported by the local media (passive voice)  that prisoners who serve long-term sentences with difficult hardship turn out to be better and improved individuals after being released.

During the past two decades in Ghana, the local media has reported that prisoners who serve long-term sentences …..

Please note that “the local media” is placed at the head of the sentence. Let us look at an introductory sentence from task 1, academic.

The two pie charts compare the access to world wide web by the different internet browsers (Passive Voice. Try Active Voice.) in 2001 and 2010.

The two pie charts compare the use of different internet browsers to access the world wide web in 2001 and 2010.

I’ll keep adding more examples of active and passive voice in this article. Keep re-visiting this article to learn more.

Ask any doubts in the comments box below.

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IELTS Speaking Vocabulary – Point of View and Opinion.

IELTS Speaking Interview

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I’ve read in umpteen Facebook groups students’ looking for a vocabulary book to improve IELTS speaking and writing scores. There are two types of vocabulary you need to score well in the IELTS speaking test.

  1. General English vocabulary.
  2. Topic related vocabulary.

Most students I’ve interviewed tend to repeat a particular word or phrase to express an opinion. For instance, some students prefer “well” while others say “I think” to express a personal point of viewThis tends to make a conversation monotonous and reduces your band score. Try the following expressions:

  1. In my experience/ in my view/ in my opinion.
  2. I believe that.
  3. I’d suggest that/ I’d say that.

 

In several follow-up questions (part 3 of speaking test), the examiner asks for your opinions. For instance, in a follow-up question to a cue card on technology, an examiner asked: “Do you think the invention of the wheel was important?”. You can use the following expressions:

  1. Of course.
  2. I couldn’t agree more.
  3. I agree with that (you) entirely.

Or you can choose to disagree with the opinion. Common expressions to show disagreement are:

  1. I don’t think so.
  2. I’m afraid I have to disagree.
  3. I’m not sure about that.
  4. Of course not.

Ask any doubts in the comments box below.

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Organising Your Statement of Purpose.

Organising Your Statement of Purpose.

Power of Words

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Writing an ideal statement of purpose (college personal statement), either for an educational institution or a visa officer, is not an easy task. Since the college admission committee and the visa officer judge you (they have biases that I’ll discuss below) on the basis of this statement, you must create a document that is really powerful and communicates your objectives clearly.

This statement must be organized using the following elements.

  1. Your background.
  2. Educational and professional experience.
  3. Short, medium, and long-term goals.
  4. How will the intended education help you accomplish your goals?
  5. Any specialties you have.

Please understand that the admission committee and visa officers are trained to judge you using FACTS in the application. Most students tend to write absurd goals such as, I want to become a business tycoon. If you write this, your application will stand rejected. The selectors have the following biases:

  1. The applicant who writes well (English language) is more serious and honest than others. (Remember you’re competing with a pool of other students.)
  2. The facts you’ve written in the statement are true.
  3. Writing well signifies that the student is a good communicator and will succeed at school.

You can either smartly exploit these biases or choose to remain ignorant and reduce your chances of success.

How can we help?

We help you write a powerful statement of purpose by holding brainstorming sessions to collect most relevant facts. We organize these facts in a perfect English so that the reader has an impression that you are an excellent communicator. (Well, working with us indeed makes you a good communicator)

Writing a personal statement requires more than 7 sessions (about 10 to 15 days). We conduct the first two sessions free of cost, and if you do not like our service, you can simply decide not to continue with the service. No questions raised. No payment involved.

Please contact us to start the process of writing your personal statement.

Common Mistakes Many Students Commit in IELTS and PTE Writing Exam.

exam mistakes IELTS PTE

I repeat this advice every week before the class test,”Read the exam questions carefully. Answer what has been asked. Exactly!” However, students often commit these mistakes. Let me explain some of these mistakes.

A. I’m sorry. I didn’t read the question carefully.

I’ve heard this umpteen times and have concluded: “Human brain is wired to see things we WANT to see, not the reality”. Under extreme pressure and anxiety during exams, students often fail to read carefully and their brain fools them into reading something else. For instance, students wrongly read an essay on “Role of social media in education” as “Role of social media.” Omitting education leads to change in context and, unfortunately, a drastic fall in the score/ bands.

B. But I read the question carefully. How could I lose context?

Well, you can lose context and write what you know rather than what the question demands. All humans have a tendency to write a topic they know inside out and, surprisingly, this is often an unconscious decision. You mind again tricks you here. What should you do? Well, read the question carefully before writing each paragraph.

This mistake can be easily avoided if you do not commit the next mistake.

C. I refuse to write down an essay plan.

Why do I need a plan? I have just 40 minutes in IELTS exam and even lesser in PTE. I will not waste my time in planning.

Well, you must INVEST time in planning an essay. Trust me, it’s not a wastage. You must have noticed that all my essays contain the following structure:

  1. Introduction (Opinion + Mention reasons supporting opinion)
  2. Body Paragraph 1 (Reason 1 + Example 1)
  3. Body Paragraph 2 (Reason 2 + Example 2)
  4. Body Paragraph 3 (Reason 3 + Example 3)
  5. Conclusion (Future + Impact)

Just fill these points in about 5 minutes before starting your exam. Writing a structure and following it before writing an answer will help you stick to the topic and avoid mistakes A and B.

D. Running out of time.

Almost all students suffer from poor time management. You spend too much time on task 2 and could not complete task 1 in IELTS. Some commit the blunder of spending time on task 1 and are unable to complete task 2.  Time is crucial in essay writing and it must be proportionately divided – 40 minutes for task 2 and 20 minutes for task 1.

Feel free to write essays and share with us for a free appraisal. Please follow this blog and like our Facebook Page.

Learning from K’s Success in IELTS exam

key to success

K, one of our students, recently scored 7.0 bands in IELTS exam. Scoring these bands was no small achievement for K since he belongs to a village and has never been to an English medium school.

Let me first remove all assumptions of any fairy tale magic. It took him about one year, a lot of persistence, commitment and dedication that are rarely seen among students (I’m not de-motivating anyone, but that’s an observation). He worked for more than 10 hours a day and obstinately kept writing or speaking when all other candidates had left for home. He was hell-bent on achieving seven bands despite all odds. Let us interview him:

ELTEC: How did you improve your IELTS writing score?

K: Working on IELTS writing was the most uphill task among all modules. When I started writing I didn’t even know the structure of a sentence. So, the initial thing I did was learn the basics. Yes, my first lesson was that a sentence should have a subject followed by a verb and then an object. Surprisingly, most students don’t know this even today. I went step by step. It made the foundation stronger. I had never been to an English medium school before, remember.

ELTEC: What was your strategy to learn tenses?

K: The tenses were difficult and learning them was full of ups and downs. However, unlike other students, I always kept an English grammar book (Wren and Martin) with me. It was a constant companion, and I frequently used it during writing module. I gradually learned the usage of the present, the past and the future tense and their appropriate usage in speaking and writing.

ELTEC: Can you offer some tips on the IELTS reading module?

K: Well, reading was not easy initially. However, I worked regularly on improving my vocabulary and read the newspaper (The Indian Express) daily. Students fail to understand that reading module is not a module, but a test to judge whether you can read an article or a report correctly. Don’t restrict yourself to IELTS reading tasks only. Make reading a habit and you’ll score well.

ELTEC: What about the IELTS speaking module?

K: My speaking and listening strategy were to listen to the B.B.C news daily and send an audio to Sartaj sir. I sent him an audio sample daily, and he corrected my pronunciation and style daily via WhatsApp. The best thing about entire ELTEC team is that they always stay connected with all students through various mediums. I’ll suggest all students strike a conversation with their friends in English language only and send your teacher your voice samples as frequently as possible. 

ELTEC: Thank you so much for your time K.

K: It was my pleasure.

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Reading Books – Key to a Good IELTS, PTE, GRE, and GMAT score

Reading-Book-Outdoors

This article is inspired by Sunith Kollara’s excellent article written HERE.

I’ve seen numerous students complain “I don’t know how to finish reading passages in time?” or “When I begin writing, I’m short of words to express my ideas.”

These are not the problems. These are mere symptoms of a deep-rooted problem of lack of vocabulary to express oneself. And the solution if “read books”.

To improve reading, writing, speaking, and listening of non-native English students, I have the following suggestions:

A. Read books, magazines, and newspapers: To overcome the scarcity of words in your expression and any tendency to use Ummm… and AAAA….. in your speaking, you need a good foundation of books read over months, if not years.

B. What should I read? Well, read anything under the sun. Read English language newspapers and magazines for at least one hour every day. Read books on any topic that interests you for another hour. The topics can be science or arts or humanities. It makes no difference as long as it is not a textbook and not in a language other than English.

C. How should I read? Read loudly! That’s it. By loudly I mean loud enough so that you can listen to your own voice. You need to do this to improve your pronunciation and speaking style.

D. Why shouldn’t I learn new words from a vocabulary book? Here’s what you need to understand about human, that means your, brain. Our brain makes connections to remember things. It needs CONTEXT to keep something in your long-term memory. That’s why humans love stories. They create context. A vocabulary book will never create context. You’ll cram words one day only to forget the next day. On the other hand, a general book reading will send words in your long-term memory. Simple.

E. I’ve started reading. What next? Well, start communicating what you’ve learned. Don’t feel ashamed of your novice level in the English language. Talk to people in English and you’ll make significant improvements.

F. Whom should I talk to and about what topic? Talk to anyone. Your friends, family members, your dog. Anyone. Choose any topic. Choose weather, schools, hospitals, government, roads, transportation, house, siblings, parents, etc.

G. Start listening too. Listen to the English news, preferably the B.B.C. Do not listen to your native language news.

These activities will not only improve your reading, listening and speaking but also writing and grammar.

I’m no preacher. I’m a practitioner. Want to know the book I’m reading these days? It’s “A Man Called Ove.” Great book, if you ask for my advice.

Follow this blog to get great advice on your exams and to learn excellent English. You can follow our Facebook page too.

How to Write More Formally for Competitive Exams – the First Seven Rules

Various exams ranging from IELTS and PTE to GRE and GMAT lay emphasis on formal writing. And that’s for a reason. It is important for you, students and professionals, to effectively communicate in business settings. That requires formal English written communication.

Rule 1: Do not write contractions. I’m, we’re, he’s, don’t, won’t – are strictly prohibited.

Rule 2: Do not use abbreviations or short forms such as “info” or “asap”.

Rule 3: Reduce the usage of PASSIVE voice. Prefer active voice while writing a sentence. The active voice always consumes fewer words than the passive voice. For instance:

Active voice: Wright brothers created the first successful airplane in 1903. (nine words)

Passive voice: The first successful airplane was created by Wright brothers in 1903. (eleven words)

Note that in active voice the sentence starts with a subject (Wright brothers).

However, there may be situations when you may not be able to communicate the message in an active voice. For example, when there is no subject in a sentence. Then you’re forced to use passive voice.

The temples of Ajanta and cave paintings of Ellora in India were made in fifth century AD.” (We don’t know who made them.)

Rule 4: Prefer sophisticated intensifiers to make your nouns more expressive. These include extremely, entirely, exceptionally, usually, remarkably, etc.

Rule 5: Before you write, create a structure outlining what each paragraph will communicate. Break your essay or letter into introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. Remember, each body paragraph must communicate one idea only. You can see this practice in all the writing task 2 I have written so far.

Rule 6: Do not start a sentence with “but” and “and”. I have seen numerous student commit that blunder.

Wrong: But the best way to solve the problem is to avoid it.

Correct: We need to solve the problem, however, is to avoid it.

Rule 7: Follow parallelism principle.

Now, this requires an article in itself, but here is a short explanation. Compare APPLES to APPLES and ORANGES to ORANGES. Do not compare your shoes with me, as WRONGLY written in the sentence below.

Wrong: Your shoes are better than me.

Correct: Your shoes are better than my shoes./ Your shoes are better than mine.

There’s a LOT more to this principle and I’ll soon explain this in a fresh article.

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How to improve your vocabulary for competitive exams?

Expanding vocabulary is a challenging task for all students. Poor vocabulary is one of the primary reason why students score low in writing, speaking and reading modules of IELTS/ GRE/ GMAT/ PTE/ CAT. I often suggest students invest a significant amount of time in improving their vocabulary. However, this is easier said than done.

Any student who wants to learn new words must follow a certain set of principles and techniques to improve his vocabulary. The principles are enunciated as follows:

1. Learn a word on exposure.

When you read a new word look up its meaning and not it down either in your notebook or in your smartphone. Assuming that you will remember the word’s meaning

Follow this strategy no matter what. Do not let procrastination break this rule. If you feel lazy make a place to note the word and look up its meaning as soon as possible.

2. Repetition:

Once a word enters your list repeat it as frequently as possible. Many words won’t stick the first time. Do not expect to master these words the first time you read their meanings.

3. Use the words

Use the newly read words as frequently as possible. Use them with your friends, family members or write an essay using these words. Do not be afraid of the wrong usage. You will gradually improve by practice and eventually become perfect.

4. Read everyday

This is an over-said and under-listened advice. However, if you really wish to improve your vocabulary, read every day for about 30 minutes. Spending just 30 minutes a day translates to 5475 hours a hear. I’m sure you will tremendously improve your English by diligently following this strategy.

5. Be patient

The key to learning anything is patience. Keep your head down and work hard. Remember “learning is a marathon, not a sprint”. Read every day, write word meanings as soon as possible and keep using the words with your friends and family.

6. Understand your brain

This is how the human brain works: Our brain uses neurons to save memories. As we read, these neurons fire electrical signals that pass through neural paths to reach our brain. An event is registered as new memory if a neural pathway has never been traveled and an existing memory is it has been traveled earlier. The more a pathway is traversed, the easier it is for the brain to remember an event.

So, all you have to do is keep repeating things and keep practicing to become an expert. As your neural pathways for the English language become stronger, you will start remembering words and their usage.

7. 1+1+1 rule

Finally, follow this rule. Simply put, repeat what you learned on a particular day the same evening. Repeat what you learned throughout the week on every Sunday and on last Sunday of the month repeat what you read in the entire month. Three repetitions will make your neural pathways stronger.

Here are links to some of my blog posts related to vocabulary and speaking articles:

Improve your vocabulary with ELTEC’s Vocabulary articles.

 

 

Essay Writing Tips for IELTS, PTE, GRE and GMAT.

Here are a few precious words of advice for IELTS/ PTE/ GRE/ GMAT or any other professional essay writing task. These are the “DOs“. Anything that counters these DOs are automatically DON’Ts. DOs are the things you should do in a writing task.

  1. Follow the rule of 10: Write sentences with about 10 words. Words can range from 7 to 14. This is the ideal sentence size you can construct accurately and an examiner can understand easily.
  2. Create Flow: Others call it coherence. I call it flow. There must be LINKS between different parts of a passage. This works on two levels – Essay and sentence. All paragraphs from an essay should be linked to each other. Paragraph 2, for instance, should be seen as a continuation of paragraph 1. None of the paragraphs should exist in isolation. Similarly, next sentence must be seen as a continuation of previous sentence. Like a story.
  3. Clarity: Others call it cohesion, I call it clarity. Ideas must be very clear when expressed in a written form. The reader must understand them fairly easily. Clarity requires correct grammar usage and strictly adhering to Rule of 10.
  4. Express your opinion clearly by understanding and responding to all points in an essay. I’ve seen students failing to respond to all parts of a question. You’ll in all my blog post questions that I raise this issue several times.
  5. One paragraph, One idea, One example: I call it the rule of 1+1+1. Each paragraph must contain one idea that is clear from the paragraph’s first sentence. Explain that idea in about 2 to 3 sentences and give a suitable example. The example should not be long, but it must have data – dates, names, organisations, results supporting your opinion.
  6. Use a few constructions such as “While X, Y”, “Since X, Y”, “Although X, Y”, “If X, then Y”, etcetera.

That’s it. A few simple points implemented well will make wonders for your essay. However, all this requires proper planning. So, here’s the final suggestion. Plan before you leap. Spend about 5 minutes planning what you’ll write. Once your opinion is clear, reasons supporting the opinion are on paper, example with facts is available – LEAP!

Here is a link to all essays from this website to help you practice these tips. Do not forget to share your essays.

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Rephrasing Sentences in IELTS and PTE – Part 1

 

Rephrasing is a powerful tool to improve your written and spoken English and score high in IELTS/ PTE exam. Years of our experience in IELTS coaching has enabled us to offer umpteen examples of mistakes students make and how to correct them using the technique of rephrasing.

Here is a sentence one of our students wrote on online shopping.

1. With the advancement of technology, people want to stay at home and enjoy online shopping.

The problem with this sentence is that the student has used very simple words. IELTS wants you to make things a bit complex. Not too complex, of course. Let me rephrase.

The advancement of technology has made shopping a convenient experience.

The use of wordsconvenientandexperiencehas made the sentence look sharper and well structured.

Now let us look at another sentence on online shopping.

2. People think that shops provide them fewer number of products which they don’t like.

The student has not only written a very simple sentence but also failed to express his ideas clearly. The student wants to compare traditional shops with online platforms but failed to put his ideas in right words. IELTS and PTE examiners do not like such construction.

A better construction could be:

The variety of products at traditional shops and stores is very limited as compared to online platforms.

The use of words liketraditional,”limited,”as compared to,andplatforms,adds value to our sentence.

Similarly, in an essay on pollution, one of our students wrote a very simple sentence:

3. There is a crisis of pollution, and it would be foolish to ignore it.

We restructured it as:

Extreme pollution and its related problems cannot be ignored.

No need to usethere isanda crisis of pollution.” These can be replaced withextreme pollution.”Related problems,adds value to the sentence.

Let us take a closer look at another sentence on pollution. The student has clearly failed at following the principles of brevity.

4. These days, air pollution affects the environment most and this is mainly due to vehicles and industries.

A simple restructuring can make this sentence powerful.

Vehicular and industrial pollution is adversely affecting our environment.

The usage of wordsvehicularandindustrialcut a lot of useless fat from the sentence. Wordsadversely affecting,add value to the sentence.

So, by practicing rephrasing and restructuring you can convert simple but long sentences to powerful yet precise ones. Keep in touch with ELTEC to learn more.

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