OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

A Quick Guide to Question Tags (Part 2)

The first part in this series threw light on two aspects of question tags: some common uses and the grammatical form.  Let’s now consider how pronunciation can alter the meaning of a question tag and how tags can sometimes be used in unusual ways.  

Pronunciation

In speech, when we use a question tag, the stress is generally on the verb (e.g. isn’t she?, aren’t they?). The intonation is usually falling – i.e. the voice goes down – if we are fairly sure of the answer. However, if there is any doubt, a rising intonation is used to make the uncertainty clear. Here is a comparison:

You’re Cindy’s cousin, aren’t you? (↘)

You would use a falling intonation here if you are pretty sure of what you are saying.

You’re Cindy’s cousin, aren’t you? (↗)

A rising intonation would be the natural choice here if you are not very sure about this fact.

Special features   

In very informal situations, it is acceptable to use the words right and yeah instead of question tags. They are sometimes referred to as universal tags. Here are a couple of examples:

We don’t have to pay for it, right? (less informal – We don’t have to pay for it, do we?)

You will pick her up, yeah? (less informal – You will pick her up, won’t you?)

If you need to emphasise a positive statement, you can use what is called a statement tag. In such a structure, both the statement and the tag are positive.

E.g. He was a great sportsman, Shane was.

We use imperative clauses when we wish to tell somebody to do something. Such clauses are commonly used to offer advice, give suggestions, make requests, give instructions and issue commands. When an imperative clause beginning with the word let’s is used to make a suggestion, the modal verb plus pronoun combination of ‘shall we?’ often appears as the question tag.

E.g. Let’s go watch a movie, shall we?

       Let’s share a large pizza, shall we?

Similarly, when an imperative clause is used to offer advice, we often use the tags ‘will you?’ or ‘won’t you?’ in order to urge the listener to accept our suggestion.

 E.g. Do make it up with your sister, won’t you?

        Don’t stay up all night, will you?

So, if question tags are new to you, do make an effort to learn them because it is a great way to involve someone in a conversation.

You can find more English grammar lessons on our LearnEnglish website here.

A Quick Guide to Question Tags (Part 1)

A question tag is a small phrase, such as ‘isn’t it’ or ‘do they’, that is placed at the end of a statement to turn it into a question.  The use of tags is fairly informal, which means that it is much more common in speaking than in writing.

Uses

We generally use question tags:

  • to invite the listener to agree with what we say.

E.g. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?

  • to check if something is true.

E.g. We won’t be seeing them again, will we?

  • to make an imperative (order) sound polite.

E.g. Pass me the salt, will you?

  • to ask for information in a polite way.

E.g. You wouldn’t know where the nearest ATM is, would you?

Form

Question tags consist of two parts: a verb and subject. The verb can be a main verb (be), auxiliary verb (be, do, have) or modal verb (e.g. can, will). The subject is usually a pronoun (e.g. she, they).  Here are a few things to keep in mind while forming question tags.

  • The subject in the statement should usually match the subject in the tag. Mind you, sometimes it doesn’t have to.

E.g. You are going to be there, aren’t you? (subjects match)

        I can’t imagine him being a good husband, can you? (subjects do not match)

  • If the statement is positive, then the tag is typically negative. On the other hand, if the statement is negative, the tag is positive.

E.g. He will call us when he lands, won’t he?

       He won’t call us when he lands, will he?

  • The verb (main, auxiliary or modal) in the statement needs to usually match the verb in the tag.

E.g. She can come too, can’t she?

  • If the statement does not have an auxiliary or modal verb, then the auxiliary do, does or did is used in the tag. This generally happens when the statement is positive and in the present or past simple tense.

E.g. He called you last night, didn’t he?

Answering a tag

Quite often we respond to a question tag with a Yes or No. However, sometimes we reverse the tag and use it along with the Yes/No response. Here’s an example:

A: They don’t have to pay for the guided tour, do they?

B: Yes, they do. / No, they don’t.

Make sure you read the next part to know more about this unique language structure that appears regularly in conversational English.

You can find more English grammar lessons on our LearnEnglish website here.

The View From Campus: How has Life Changed in the U.S. College Classroom?

Over the last two years the Covid-19 pandemic had caused significant changes to how classes are taught on U.S. college campuses. Many lecture classes with 100, 200, or more students that met in big rooms or auditoriums have largely gone online, supplemented by smaller, in-person lab or discussion sections with 15-25 students each. Students on many campuses are still wearing masks indoors and are socially distanced within the classroom. Hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. All of these changes have been designed to stop the spread, but in the end, these are superficial changes to how different taking a university class in the United States is compared to many other countries.

For international students seeking to study in the United States there are and will continue to be several important parts of academic life that will remain. While many courses have been taught online and those taught in-person having significant physical changes to the classroom space, the following areas remain consistent.

The Informality

What surprises most international students when they get into their first classes at U.S. colleges is how professors can be so friendly. You may be used to a very formal relationship between students and faculty members in your educational institutions in your home country. For many professors in the United States, the opportunities to help students become what they hope to be is a calling. Faculty members are routinely required to have a set number of hours each week that they are available outside of class periods for students to schedule appointments about topics in class that need clarification or even drop by to have a conversation. International students often develop close relationships with faculty members in their academic program who serve as mentors for students as they progress through their degree program.

The Syllabus

Typically, the first time each class meets, all students in the room receive what is called a syllabus. This document serves as an informal contract between students & the professor. The syllabus outlines all requirements for the duration the class meets, what textbooks or other resources will be studied, when assignments or papers would be due as well as the dates of quizzes, tests, and/or exams. Oftentimes, the syllabus breaks down all content that will be covered as well as how grades will be determined. Quizzes might be worth 10%, a mid-term test 25%, a paper 20%, final exam 30%, and classroom participation 15%. That’s right, you read that last part of the preceding sentence correctly – how well you participate in class can count as a significant portion of your academic grade for a course!

Asking Questions

While you take a minute to digest that last part, let us explain that whether it’s simply asking questions to demonstrate you are engaged in the conversation or need explanations of certain topics, the expectation is that students participate. Speaking with new international students over the years, I have found that while they can usually adapt to the informality of relationships with professors, the real challenge is in changing the way they approach class. Faculty members, in general (certainly not all), encourage debate and discussions on the issues that the topics of the day’s class cover.

Academic Integrity

The realities of the differences in how classrooms operate here compared to your home country may take you some time to become comfortable with them. But one area of how U.S. classrooms operate on college campuses that must be understood immediately after classes begin is academic integrity. In effect, this means there are university policies that require students to practice academic honesty and not engage in plagiarism or other forms of cheating while enrolled. See what the University of North Carolina’s policy on academic integrity involves. MIT breaks down what that prestigious institution means into simple dos and don’ts for issues that may come up in the classroom.

In the end, you’ll need to prepare for the academic transition to a U.S. college. For additional resources on these topics and more, check out this video playlist from our colleagues at EducationUSA that answers questions on the different facets of the classroom experience in U.S. colleges and universities. EducationUSA is the U.S. Department of State’s network of advising centers in 175 countries and territories that serve as the official source on U.S. higher education. The website for this network also has some excellent advice about study options in the United States.

All You Need to Know about IELTS Study Pack (Part 2)

A previous blog post introduced you to British Council’s free IELTS Study Pack and listed advantages you could have by signing up for it. In this part, read about what you can expect to find in the pack and how you can access it.  

Contents

The IELTS Study Pack website is structured into three sections.

  • Webinars

You will find a series of webinars from qualified British Council IELTS experts which cover a wide range of topics across all four IELTS skills. Each webinar focuses on particular aspects of the test and answers common questions that test takers are likely to have. Webinar topics on the website include Introduction to IELTS, IELTS on computer and How to self-study

  • Study plans

This section has tailored self-study plans designed by IELTS experts that make use of a range of online resources to help you prepare for all four skills. To make the most of these study plans, see to it that you use each in tandem with the relevant ‘self-study guide’ webinar.

  • Practice tests

On completing the four self-study programmes, which are a combination of webinars and study plans, do not forget to put your English skills to test and find out just how much progress you have been able to make. Check your exam readiness by trying out either the Academic or General Training test on the website.

For those planning to retake IELTS, the Study Pack now has a brand new section just for you with extra practice materials. Along with six detailed videos from our IELTS experts that give comprehensive guidance to improve your performance in each of the four skills, you will also have access to one extra practice test each for the IELTS Academic and General Training tests.

Accessing IELTS Study Pack

Signing up for IELTS Study Pack is as easy as ABC – all you’ve got to do is visit our official website here and fill out a simple form. You will then receive an email with information to access the Study Pack website.

So, if the Covid-19 pandemic briefly stalled your efforts to study abroad, use IELTS Study Pack to do some self-study online, achieve IELTS success and get your plans back on track. Good luck!

All You Need to Know about IELTS Study Pack (Part 1)

Not so long ago, the Covid-19 pandemic brought parts of the world to a standstill, severely reducing the mobility of international students. In the wake of unprecedented challenges, many youngsters wishing to study overseas had to put their plans on hold. Since then, though, major international education hubs such as the UK, Canada, Australia and the US have reopened their borders to international students, both new and existing. 

If you are among those who have recently revived plans to study abroad and are in a hurry to do IELTS, then the British Council’s IELTS Study Pack could be just what the doctor ordered – it offers extensive guidance to help you prepare on your own.

About IELTS Study Pack

IELTS Study Pack is a unique British Council website created to get test takers prepped with a view to ensuring success on test day. It includes a range of preparation materials and general information about future tests. The materials cover all four sections of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) and are suitable for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training test takers.

Benefits

When you sign up for IELTS Study Pack, you open up for yourself the opportunity to prepare methodically within a short period and attain IELTS success.

  • Free learning materials in your inbox: The internet is, without doubt, a vast reservoir of IELTS study resources. However, not everything you find on the web is accurate or available for use free of cost. Signing up for the pack will mean having relevant practice materials and information sent straight to your inbox so that you have everything you need to succeed at your fingertips.
  • Chance to check progress: There are practice tests in the pack that can indicate your level of preparedness for IELTS. Once you do the recommended amount of self-study, use the tests to identify areas for improvement. Then, devote more time to improve your performance in those areas.
  • Access to IELTS expertise: Preparation for a high-stakes test like IELTS can sometimes get lonely and worrisome, but you really don’t have to do it all alone. Make full use of British Council’s long-standing experience in delivering language tests by seeking guidance from our panel of IELTS experts.

Do not miss the next part if you would like to know what the IELTS Study Pack contains and how you can access it.

The View From Campus: What’s Life Like On U.S. College Campuses in 2022?

Over the last two years there have been quite a few changes to everyday life on U.S. college campuses. With a global pandemic still impacting our daily lives in almost every country on earth, we’d be forgiven for thinking things may never be the same again. In many ways that may be true, but for many international students seeking to study in the United States there are and will continue to be several important parts of life that will remain the same.

Covid’s Impact in 2022

While the latest Omicron variant came soon after the Delta wave had affected the start of the academic year in August/September, the greater majority of college campuses are back with in-person classes this January. Many campuses had implemented Covid-19 vaccine requirements for students either at the beginning of the academic year or for this new academic term this January. Some U.S. colleges have even begun requiring students get booster shots to continue in-person education. While there may still be courses taught online, those taught in-person having significant physical changes to the classroom space with face masks required, social distancing with seats, the following areas remain consistent.

Implications for International Students

Because of new travel regulations to the United States that went into effect in November 2021, all travelers coming to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (unless you are coming from one of about fifty countries where vaccination rates are below 10%). If you are from one of those countries, most colleges will provide free vaccine shots after arrival, as well as booster shots (six months after you are fully vaccinated). For many international students, wearing a mask to protect yourself and others may be second nature, so that transition may be less of an issue.

The Informality

What surprises most international students when they get into their first classes at U.S. colleges is how professors can be so friendly. You may be used to a very formal relationship between students and faculty members in your educational institutions in your home country. For many professors in the United States, the opportunities to help students become what they hope to be is a calling. Faculty members are routinely required to have a set number of hours each week that they are available outside of class periods for students to schedule appointments about topics in class that need clarification or even drop by to have a conversation. International students often develop close relationships with faculty members in their academic program who serve as mentors for students as they progress through their degree program.

The Syllabus

Typically, the first time each class meets, all students in the room receive what is called a syllabus. This document serves as an informal contract between students & the professor. The syllabus outlines all requirements for the duration the class meets, what textbooks or other resources will be studied, when assignments or papers would be due as well as the dates of quizzes, tests, and/or exams. Oftentimes, the syllabus breaks down all content that will be covered as well as how grades will be determined. Quizzes might be worth 10%, a mid-term test 25%, a paper 20%, final exam 30%, and classroom participation 15%. That’s right, you read that last part of the preceding sentence correctly – how well you participate in class can count as a significant portion of your academic grade for a course!

Asking Questions

While you take a minute to digest that last part, let us explain that whether it’s simply asking questions to demonstrate you are engaged in the conversation or need explanations of certain topics, the expectation is that students participate. Speaking with new international students over the years, I have found that while they can usually adapt to the informality of relationships with professors, the real challenge is in changing the way they approach class. Faculty members, in general (certainly not all), encourage debate and discussions on the issues that the topics of the day’s class cover.

Academic Integrity

The realities of the differences in how classrooms operate here compared to your home country may take you some time to become comfortable with them. But one area of how U.S. classrooms operate on college campuses that must be understood immediately after classes begin is academic integrity. In effect, this means there are university policies that require students to practice academic honesty and not engage in plagiarism or other forms of cheating while enrolled. See what the University of North Carolina’s policy on academic integrity involves. MIT breaks down what that prestigious institution means into simple dos and don’ts for issues that may come up in the classroom.

In the end, you’ll need to prepare for the academic transition to a U.S. college. For additional resources on these topics and more, check out this video playlist from our colleagues at EducationUSA that answers questions on the different facets of campus life in U.S. colleges and universities.

Preparing for IELTS on Computer

IELTS, the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and migration, can now be taken on a computer.

In this blog post, we will talk about our online resources that can help you get acquainted with the IELTS on computer test.

Find out how it works

The British Council’s Take IELTS website has several video tutorials that will help you understand how computer-delivered testing works. As well as an introductory video that focuses on some general features, the website has tutorials on different sections of the test. You can also find videos that give step-by-step guidance on using various features of the test, such as highlighting text and making notes.

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/how-it-works

Access sample test questions

Finding IELTS materials online these days is as easy as falling off a log – there are scores of websites with information, tips and practice tests. Unfortunately, practice tests found on the internet may not contain task types that are similar to the ones used in the actual test, making them unsuitable for test preparation.

You needn’t fret about it, though, as you can access official sample test questions to have an authentic experience of three sections of IELTS on computer – Listening, Reading and Writing. And what is more, you will find sample task types for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/practice-tests

Attempt the familiarisation test

What better way to prepare for IELTS than by taking an official mock examination, that too for free? The IELTS on computer familiarisation test lets you do just that! Lasting 2 hours and 30 minutes, just like the real test, it is a full sample version that has the Listening, Reading and Writing sections. On completion, you get results for the Listening and Reading sections too. And as there is no need to book or register beforehand, you can take the familiarisation test at a moment’s notice. 

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/familiarisation-test

If you need to take IELTS, opting for computer-delivered testing will certainly be a smart move, as it has increased test availability and faster results turnaround times. Just make sure you find out in advance how your test day will look like.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This