Clever Reading Skills to Improve your English (Part 1)

newspaper stack

Nowadays information can be taken in through an ever-increasing variety of media: newspapers, magazines, hoardings, flyers, blogs, phone messages, web chat, online posts, dictionaries, brochures, and so on. And the end result? Most of us are forced to deal with an endless stream of content in our daily lives, in both electronic and print form. However, the way we read these texts differs.

 

For starters, why we read is not always the same. Sometimes we read to gain information, at other times we do so for sheer pleasure. Understandably, WHY we read something influences HOW we read it. Another factor worth considering is writing style: the tone of a novel is quite different to that of a research paper, which means we change our reading style depending on what we are reading.

 

In an exam situation – for example, the IELTS Reading test – it is important that candidates use various sub-skills to read different texts efficiently.

 

Skimming

When we skim, we read a text very quickly to form an overall idea of the content. In other words, we move our eyes rapidly over the text to get an overview of it. While skimming, the reader:

  • reads just content words ‒ nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs, which generally give us the most important information in a passage.
  • takes a quick look at the heading and subheadings to understand how they are connected.
  • does not stop to ponder over the meaning of individual words or phrases.

 

So how easy or difficult is this technique? It may not seem all that simple at the beginning, but learners get better at using this skill with practice. Of course, once you master skimming, you may be able to go through about 700 to 1000 words per minute and obtain an overview of it all.

 

And that’s exactly the kind of ability that will help you perform better in a reading test.

Look out for Part 2 for more tips and skills to help improve your reading.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

for starters
Form : phrase
Meaning : to highlight the first in a list of reasons
Example : We are facing many problems – for starters, we don’t have enough staff.

 

sheer
Form : adjective
Meaning : complete or total
Example : Watching their daughter take her first few steps was sheer joy for Mathew and Lisa.

 

rapidly
Form : adverb
Meaning : very quickly
Example : Crime figures in some parts of the world are increasing rapidly.

 

overview
Form : noun
Meaning : an outline of something
Example : Our research provides an overview of the challenges faced by today’s youth.

 

 

ponder (over something)
Form : verb
Meaning : to carefully think about something
Example : Minnie spent hours pondering over her father’s comments about her career.

 

master
Form : verb
Meaning : to learn how to do something extremely well
Example : He still hasn’t mastered the skill of passing the ball to his teammates accurately.

 

 

 

IELTS Reading: Dealing with Difficult Question Types (Part 1)

group reading

The IELTS Reading test, in both Academic and General Training, has 40 questions. A wide range of reading skills are tested using a variety of question types, some of which are much more challenging than others.

 

In this part, we’ll take a closer look at a particular question type that most candidates feel is the hardest – identifying information (True/False/Not Given).

 

Here’s a simplified version of this question type to help us understand how best to deal with it.

 

Reading text

Mr Farrell, a revered professor at the university, walked into the room in a huff that day. Dressed in a pair of dark trousers, light-coloured shirt and red tie, his dapper appearance seemed to be in stark contrast with the foul mood he was in.   

 

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading text?

Write:

 

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information given in the text
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information given in the text
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

 

  1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
  2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
  3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.

 

So what do you think are the answers?

 

Tips to answer

 

Choose TRUE when you find information in the text that agrees with the statement in the question.
Example: 3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.
Explanation: Since pastel shades are pale or light-coloured, it’s safe to conclude that the statement agrees with the text.

 

 

Choose FALSE when you find information in the text that contradicts the statement in the question.
Example: 1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
Explanation: Black isn’t a light colour so this statement contradicts the information in the reading text.

 

Choose NOT GIVEN when you don’t have sufficient information to choose either TRUE or FALSE.
Example: 2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
Explanation: The colour blue is available in different hues, both light and dark. There simply isn’t sufficient information in the statement to choose either True or False so the answer is Not Given.

 

 

Remember, statements that are TRUE are the easiest to find; perhaps start with them and then move on to the others.

Discover further reading preparation and tips for the IELTS test here.

 

Happy reading!

 

How IELTS can help you get into Canada

maple leaf

Whether for study or work, Canada is a top destination for international entry. It’s a prosperous, safe and liberal country and the second largest in the world. So, how to go about proving your English level for immigration or study?

 

For study

As far as study is concerned, Canada is a huge draw with over 350,000 international students visiting last year and 95% of them recommending higher education in Canada to prospective students. To follow in their footsteps students will need to show their English level and the best way to do that is to take IELTS. More than 350 organisations across Canada accept IELTS, including University of Toronto and McGill University, Montreal, so you’ll be spoilt for choice of places to study.

 

For immigration

IELTS was the first test to be recognised by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Immigration Québec as proof of a person’s English language level for immigration and citizenship programs. There are other government programs for which a proof of English is required such as Express Entry, Citizenship and the Federal Skilled Workers programs.

 

All in all, there is only one real choice for entry to Canada and that is IELTS.

The View From Campus: Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

 

In the third edition of our View From Campus series, we look at five tips international students should follow when preparing for their studies in the U.S.

We spoke to Adina Lav, Assistant Provost for International Enrollment at George Washington University, about her college and the advice she gives new arrivals…

 

  • Describe your institution in five words? Innovative; diverse; ambitious; socially responsible.
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? We are a university with students and faculty members from every state and more than 130 countries. A GW education integrates intellectual discovery, interactive learning and unparalleled access to opportunities in every sector of society. In a city shaping the future, George Washington is a university where faculty and students not only study the world but also work to change it.
  • What are your top academic programs? GW is well known for its majors and research in political science and international affairs. We also have excellent programs in business, engineering, arts and the sciences.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? GW has 26,000 students, with nearly 2,400 students from 130 countries, 300 visiting international scholars, and a footprint in more than 80 percent of the countries in the world.  In Fall 2015, China, India, S. Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada were the top five countries represented in our student body. 
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? IELTS is used as an assessment of English language ability: writing, reading, speaking, and listening – in the admissions process. We use it as part of a larger, holistic review to understand a candidate’s chances of success and best fit for GW. 

 

Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

  1. Once students have got their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next? Students should focus on their arrival timeline. Most universities have a ‘report date’, which is the date by which the student must be on campus. This date may or may not align with the student’s orientation program. If housing is available, I recommend that students plan to arrive no later than two days prior to their orientation program. This gives them time to get into the country, settle in, and fight any impending jet lag before orientation starts.
  2. How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas? Students entering the United States on F1 or J1 visas can typically do so up to 30 days prior to their report date. Students entering early should confirm housing availability or have a temporary, alternative option set up.
  3. Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.? One of the best resources is the US. Department of State’s EducationUSA advising centres in the student’s country. These centres often have in-person or online pre-departure orientations, which offer a wealth of information to students before the leave for the U.S.
  4. How do U.S. colleges assist international students to prepare for their arrival on campus? In addition to assistance throughout the visa process, colleges typically offer their own pre-departure orientations, checklists, and resource guides. Social media is also a wonderful tool to not only get to know the school and community you’re moving to, but to meet other in-coming students as well. Many schools also offer summer send-off celebrations for students and parents through local alumni chapters.
  5. What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the U.S. to begin a degree program? Come into the country with an open mind and a sense of humour. Americans are naturally curious and straight-forward. Be a good ambassador for your community and remember that the U.S. is a very diverse country, with lots of ideas about the outside world, but generally little exposure. Students have the opportunity to represent themselves, their home communities, and eventually their new universities well.

Engineering your Future with an English-taught Degree in Germany

Germany and engineering go hand in hand. Germany has a great tradition of producing all things world-class, whether it’s automobiles or innovations in energy. So, it’s worth considering Germany as a destination for your studies.

But what if you don’t speak German?

Well, many courses are now taught in English and is a reason why Germany is fast becoming an extremely popular choice among international students. Here are three more reasons to consider a degree there:

 

  1. Low tuition fees

Almost all German universities (about 95%) are financed by the government. Since they receive direct funding, they charge low tuition fees, or sometimes no fees, as is the case with public universities. With living expenses (€600 – 800 a month) being the most significant cost, students find German university education quite affordable. To get additional financial support, international students can also apply for grants provided by the German Academic Exchange Service, locally known as Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD).

 

  1. Collaboration with German industries

Historically, there has always been a great deal of collaboration between German universities and industries. Study programmes are generally structured in a way such that students have to spend considerable time – anywhere between 6 to 12 months – working in the industrial environment. While in most countries an internship is considered an added benefit, in Germany this is mandatory – in engineering courses, for example, students need to complete practical experience. Such internships are invaluable, as they enable students to understand everyday working life in Germany, gain work experience and perhaps meet potential employers.

 

  1. Wide variety of courses

The German higher education system offers over 17,000 courses in almost every possible subject you can think of! Be it scientifically oriented studies, practice-oriented courses or even artistic subjects, there’s something for everyone. What’s more, they cover different academic levels too – bachelors, masters, state examinations, and doctorate degrees. Anyone looking to study in Germany is spoilt for choice.

 

In short, if you are looking for an engineering degree that’s cost-effective, unique and practice-oriented, think Germany.

To get proof of your English ability to study on a degree course, take IELTS.

 

GLOSSARY

 

go hand in hand
Form : phrase
Meaning : two things that are closely connected
Example : Success and money usually go hand in hand.

 

collaboration
Form : noun
Meaning : the process of working together with another person or group to produce something
Example : The singer worked in collaboration with local musicians on his new album.

 

internship
Form : noun
Meaning : a temporary job, paid or unpaid,  taken by a student to get practical experience in a job
Example : Luke learnt a lot of useful skills during his internship at the local radio station.

 

 

mandatory
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that must be done because of a rule
Example : It’s mandatory to wear a seat belt when an aircraft is taking off or landing.

 

spoilt for choice
Form : phrase
Meaning : confused because there are a lot of good things to choose from
Example : The city had such great restaurants that I was spoilt for choice.

 

cost-effective
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that gives the best possible benefits for the sum of money that is spent
Example : They decided to set up the new factory in Asia, as it was more cost-effective.

 

Thinking of Studying in Australia? IELTS is Your Key

 

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Why Australia?

Australia has a number of well-respected degree programmes that international students are flocking to in ever greater numbers.

 

Its higher education system is now the third most popular for international students in the English-speaking world, behind only the USA and UK, and is set to become more popular still.

 

It’s unsurprisingly a popular destination for higher learning, as it has built a reputation for academic excellence and career opportunities. It has seven of the world’s top 100 universities and because it is so remote, it often needs skilled professionals to meet shortages in labour.

 

International students are allowed to work 40 hours each fortnight whilst studying, so many take advantage of that opportunity to get some international workplace experience under their belts, particularly as international employers are increasingly looking for graduates who are comfortable working across borders and cultures.

 

Advance Australia Fair!

Australia is a young country (in relative terms) and full of a mix of peoples from every corner of the globe. In that way, Australia is a great environment for students to learn and develop in an international setting.

 

That internationalism is evident in her major cities too. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are excellent places to study and bases from which students can explore this vast and varied continent. From the Barrier Reef to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Australia is home to some of nature’s most awesome sights and unique animals, so don’t miss the chance to get out and see them!

 

Why IELTS?

IELTS has long been the world’s gold-standard for proving English language ability for international study and work. And Australia is no different.

IELTS test scores are accepted by top universities for studying in Australia, and over 9,000 institutions worldwide.

An IELTS test score can be the key to securing your place at an Australian institution and start you on the road to an international education.

To check what IELTS score you’re chosen Australian universities ask for search here.

IELTS Tips from the Teacher

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In the first of our ‘Tips from the Teacher’ series, we spoke to Claire Hunter, EFL Teacher and long-time IELTS expert, about her top tips for people learning English as a Foreign Language.

 

For how long and where have you taught EFL?

Only in Scotland. I taught at Basil Paterson for six years and have been at Edinburgh School of English for three years now.

 

From your experience, what are the biggest hurdles for a student learning English as a foreign language?

Putting the language that they’ve learned to use! Students learn all sorts of grammar rules etc, but need to develop a ‘feel’ for the language, and you can only do that by actually using it!

Also, the range of vocabulary and structures that we have in English can be difficult for learners. There’s not only one correct way to say something – that can be daunting!

 

What are your top three tips for students preparing for an IELTS test?

1.     Strike a balance between: a) language improvement, b) test techniques and strategies, and c) test practice. All three are important, not just the last one!

2.     Don’t worry about speed/timing straight away! Get your techniques right, then get faster. Think of it like driving; you don’t drive at 70mph straight away! Master the techniques at slower speeds first!

3.     Read as much as you can of whatever you can!  Read, read, read!  It’s a great way to collect vocabulary and grammar, and see how it’s used. You’ll also start to get the ‘feel’ of the language. Take every chance to talk about what you’ve read too. This helps recycle the vocabulary and structures you’ve learnt.

 

Where have your students gone on to study/work?

Everywhere! They’ve been all around the world, including: Oxford, MIT, Edinburgh… I’ve had students go on to work at the Roslin Institute (think Dolly the Sheep), Ernst and Young, as well as a number of fine artists, doctors, pilots…the list goes on!

The View From Campus: the low-down on U.S. student visas

We quizzed Martin A. Bennett, Director, International Admissions & Services, University of Findlay, Ohio about the ins and outs of getting a U.S student visa and what makes UF tick…

  • Describe your institution in 5 words? Innovative, Safe, Friendly, Affordable, Meaningful
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? Having a strong international community.
  • What are your top academic programs? Undergraduate: computer science, business, equestrian studies, animal science, nuclear medical technology.  For  Graduate:  MBA, environmental safety & occupational health management, TESOL, applied security & analytics, health informatics.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? Saudi Arabia, India, Nepal, China, Japan; 15% international
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? We accept IELTS for both undergraduate and graduate studies. Generally, a 6.0 allows a student direct entry in an undergraduate academic program, while for each graduate program the minimum scores range from a 6.5 to an 8.0 on the IELTS test.

 

Student Visas for the U.S. – Your questions answered

 

  • What is the I-20/DS-2019 form that a student receives after they have been admitted and documented funding? The I-20 or DS-2019 form is a non-immigrant document produced by the college that students are admitted to that is used to apply for an F-1 or J-1 student visa (respectively).
  • How soon can a student apply for a student visa after receiving the I-20/DS-2019 form? Students can apply for a student visa no more than 120 days before the program start date listed on their I-20/DS-2019.
  • What is the SEVIS fee students have to pay? The SEVIS fee is an administrative fee charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which helps to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Students must pay this fee before they can apply for their student visa interview at the U.S. consulate/embassy.
  • What advice would you give to students who are nervous about their student visa interview? Prepare by having all the right documents (I-20, admission letters, proof of funding, test scores, etc.); Relax; Dress appropriately; Be honest; Be yourself! Good luck!

Top Tips to Improve Your IELTS Speaking Score (Part 2)

In the previous part, we spoke of how it is best to avoid memorised answers in the IELTS Speaking test. Here’s another way to be yourself during the interview.

State YOUR opinion, not the examiner’s

 

Bad example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: Hmm… No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we then explain companies spending billions on advertisements?
Candidate: Oh, OK; I guess advertisements do influence people in some ways. Sorry!

 

The Speaking module has three parts:

  1. Introduction and interview (4 – 5 minutes)
  2. Individual long turn (3 – 4 minutes)
  3. Two-way discussion (4 – 5 minutes)

 

The third part gives candidates an opportunity to state their views on abstract topics and justify them. Sadly, some candidates don’t express how they really feel about a topic; instead they agree with whatever the examiner says the whole time!

 

As a candidate, you are assessed on your language, not your ideas or views. All the examiner wants to know is how wide your range of language is, so focus on exhibiting that. If your opinions are different to those of the examiner, feel free to disagree with him/her. Be confident and speak your mind.

 

Good example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we explain companies spending so much money on advertisements?
Candidate: In a highly competitive market, it becomes necessary for companies to promote their products and services. Advertising helps them reach out to billions of people. How else would people notice a particular product or come to know of its existence? But the question here is whether it influences consumer behaviour. Now, I strongly believe that there isn’t enough evidence to ….

 

Remember, always be frank and express your thoughts; do not change your opinion to mirror that of the examiner – just be yourself!

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

be yourself
Form : phrase
Meaning : behave or act naturally
Example : Why do you put on an accent, Tom? Have the confidence to be yourself!

 

abstract
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something based on general ideas, not anything in particular
Example : They spoke about love in abstract terms – for example, is it valued in today’s world?

 

justify
Form : verb
Meaning : to show that something is right, especially when others think it is wrong
Example : It’s difficult to justify paying huge salaries when the company is making a loss.

 

 

 

 

 

exhibit
Form : verb
Meaning : to show something such as a quality or skill
Example : He exhibited his skills during the football match.

 

speak your mind
Form : phrase
Meaning : to honestly say what you think, usually in a direct way
Example : Clara always speaks her mind, which sometimes gets her into trouble. 

 

frank
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes someone who is honest about their opinions
Example : Dan was completely frank about the problems he was facing in his marriage.

 

mirror
Form : verb
Meaning : to match the feelings of someone
Example : He always makes sure his views on office matters mirror those of his boss.

 

 

Top Tips to Improve Your IELTS Speaking Score (Part 1)

 

 

 

 

 

…don’t sound like a robot!

The IELTS Speaking test is a one-to-one discussion with an examiner, lasting between 11 and 14 minutes. It has three parts, with each testing a different speaking skill. Here is one simple way to improve the score you get:

 

Be natural, DON’T rehearse answers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an example of how not to do it:

Examiner: Can you tell me your full name, please?
Candidate: Certainly! My full name is Mariana Georgina Gama. Mariana is my first name, Georgina is my middle name, and Gama is my surname. My friends call me Maria so you may call me Maria too.

 

The IELTS Speaking is testing your ability to use English in real-life and many test takers say the interview is similar to a conversation with a friend. So, you should speak in a natural way. Don’t memorise answers and reproduce them – the examiner can tell and mark you down. You don’t want to sound like a robot!

 

Let’s consider the example given above – the candidate’s rather long answer to a very simple question makes them sound artificial. If you don’t speak like that in everyday conversations, why would you do things differently in a test?

 

Good example

Examiner: Can you tell me your full name, please?
Candidate: Sure! It’s Mariana Georgina Gama.

 

A note of caution: although the format of the speaking interview lets you interact freely with the examiner, avoid using informal language (e.g. wanna; gonna; cheers, mate; etc.) or sounding too causal.

 

So to recap, the best way to improve your IELTS Speaking score is to relax and not to reproduce memorised answers. Just be yourself!

 

GLOSSARY

 

one-to-one
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that involves only two people
Example : I have a one-to-one meeting with my manager every month.

 

note of caution
Form : phrase
Meaning : a piece of advice or warning
Example : The old man sounded a note of caution, warning them not to play near the train tracks.

 

 

interact
Form : verb
Meaning : to communicate or be directly involved with someone/something
Example : Our new CEO is amazing – he finds time to interact with everyone in the office.

 

recap
Form : verb
Meaning : to repeat what has been said in a brief manner
Example : I’m so sorry for being late! Can you please recap on what you’ve discussed so far?

 

 

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