Tuesday 31 January 2012

Listening Part 1

In Part 1 of the listening test you will hear people talking in different situations.  You will hear either a monologue or a short discussion.  There are 8 multiple choice questions, each carrying one mark and you have to choose the best answer. 

There are different types of questions that test your ability to understand the general idea of the conversation, such as HOW people are feeling, WHAT their opinions are, WHERE they are and WHO they are speaking to.

There are DISTRACTORS in this part of the test.  This means you may hear words or expressions that are in the question.  This does not mean that it is the correct answer and you should listen carefully for key words and expressions to help you decide on the best answer.  Here are some ideas to help you with this part of the listening test:
  1. Predict the content of the conversation by reading the main part of the question and underlining the key words.
  2. Read the options and think about the similarities and differences between them.  This will help you listen for key information.
  3. Focus on each conversation as you hear it.  Do not look back to the previous question or forward to the next question.
  4. Decide on one option after the first listening.
  5. Use the second listening to check your answers.
  6. If you're not sure, use a process of elimination to make a guess.  This means crossing out the one or two you decide can't be the answer and choosing from the remaining options.
  7. Do not listen for single words.  Try to get an overall understanding of the text.
Click here for some online listening practice of Part 1 of the FC Listening exam.

If you like music, you can practise your listening skills at www.lyricstraining.com

For other websites to help you with your listening skills, click on the listening tab under General English where you will find websites that include the text to help you improve your listening skills generally.  There are also other exam practice websites for extra online listening practice.

Keep studying and practising and you will only get better!


Tuesday 17 January 2012

Writing Part 2 - Essays

In this post, we'll be looking at how to write a good essay.  An essay is often an option in Part 2 of Paper 2, the Writing part of the exam.  There are 4 questions, numbered 2 to 5 from which you choose ONE option and write 120 and 180 words.  The options are:
•    Formal/Informal letter or email
•    Essay
•    Report
•    Review
•    Story
Question 5 is based on a book.  At ELI, most centres don't study the book so it's a good idea to ignore question 5, unless you've studied it with your teacher.

You should choose your question based on the vocabulary you know, and the type of writing you are best at.  Before you start, make sure you understand the question properly so that you can answer it.  Underline the key words in the question to help you focus, and to start thinking of ideas to write about.

Writing Essays
There are different types of essays and you need to read the question carefully to decide what you are being asked to do.  Here are two example questions:
1.    You have been discussing transport in your English class. Your teacher has asked you to write an essay giving your opinions on the following statement.
            Because cars are so convenient public transport has no future.

2.    You have been discussing society in your English class.  Your teacher has asked you to write an essay discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the following statement:

            Living in the city is better than living in the country.

In the examples, you are asked to do different things.  What types of language will you need to use in both examples?  See below for ideas.

Before you start writing your exam essay, plan what you are going to write.  You can write notes before you start writing the main essay then put a line through the notes when you have written your essay:
•    Brainstorm ideas and vocabulary relating to the topic
•    Brainstorm phrases and expressions
•    Start Writing
•    Write your introduction
•    Write at least two paragraphs to develop your arguments/opinions, etc.
•    Give reasons for arguments/opinions
•    Use a variety of linking words and phrases
•    Don't use contractions
•    Write a conclusion that reflects your arguments/opinions in the main part of the essay

Finally, check your work!  Some common basic mistakes include:

•    Not answering the question
•    3rd person singular
•    Spanglish
•    Spelling of common words
•    Missing words
•    Verb tenses (especially present perfect!)
•    Position of adverbs

Useful Expressions
Presenting two opposing views:
•    on the one hand, on the other hand

Expressing Contrast:
•    nevertheless
•    even so
•    even though
•    however
•    in spite of
•    despite
•    but
•    although

Giving examples:
•    such as
•    like
•    for example
•    for instance

Expressing results:
•    because of this
•    therefore
•    thus
•    as a result
•    for this reason
•    consequently

Expressing Personal Opinion
•    Personally, I think
•    I (strongly) believe
•    In my opinion
•    I think (that)…

Expressing the opinion of someone else
•    some people say
•    some people say that
•    many people say
•    many people say that
•    people often say
•    it is said
•    it is said that
•    according to

If you would like to look at other students' writing, and do some exercises, click here

Tuesday 10 January 2012

UoE Part 2

In Part 2 of the Use of English test there is a text with 12 gaps to be filled.  The test focuses mainly on grammar but it also tests your vocabulary by including gaps to complete fixed expressions, phrasal verbs, etc.  Here is a list of typical types of words that are omitted:
  • Auxiliary verbs
  • Articles
  • Personal Pronouns
  • Relative Pronouns
  • Possessive Adjectives
  • Intensifiers
  • Prepositions
  • Either the verb or the particle of phrasal verbs
  • Linking words or phrases
  • Fixed expressions
Here's an example of Part 2:

You will pass the exam, as __________ as you study hard.
(a)  What type of word is missing?  Is it an expression?  In the context of the sentence, which word is most appropriate?  See below for the answer.

The Exam
  1. Each question is worth one mark.
  2. Complete each gap with ONE word.
  3. Read the text quickly to get an idea of what it is about before starting to complete it.
  4. Decide what type of word is needed (preposition, pronoun, etc.) in each gap.
  5. Check that the sentence makes sense.
If you do not know the answer, make a guess.  You never know, but you might get the answer right and that will be extra points for you!

The missing word is "long" from the expression "as long as".  This expression has three meanings depending on the context:
  • During the time that: I'll study as long as I need to.
  • Since: As long as I study, I'll pass my exams. 
  • On the condition that: You will pass your exams as long as you study hard.
 If you would like more practice of Part 2, click here for some online exercises.