OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

IELTS Reading: Dealing with Difficult Question Types (Part 3)

man-reading

Image courtesy of baraa_kell (CC Flickr)

 

So far in this series, we’ve considered two question types: Identifying information (True/False/Not Given) and Matching headings to paragraphs.

 

Let’s now look at a third variety that many find difficult: Multiple Choice (MCQ). Here, test takers have to choose the best answer from a list of alternatives that are lettered (A, B, C, etc.).

 

Here’s a sample exercise.

 

Reading text

Kathakali, a dance form that originated in the South Indian state of Kerala, is a visual treat, particularly to the discerning eye. A typical play entails dancers, who wear vibrant costumes and elaborate make-up, bringing to life characters from various Indian epics, while supported by musicians and vocalists. In doing so, they create the perfect blend of dance, music and acting. Artistes typically make use of various body parts while executing Kathakali movements, most of which are adopted from ancient martial art forms.

 

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
1. Which one of the following is mentioned in the paragraph?
A People with a good understanding of dance find Kathakali more enjoyable
B Colourful dresses are a part of only some Kathakali performances
C Music is a more integral part of Kathakali than dance
D Kathakali has influenced arts of olden times

 

Tips to answer

 

  • Begin by understanding what the question is asking – here, you need to identify which point appears in the text.
  • The easiest way to find the answer is by checking if any alternative appears in the text in a different form (i.e. a paraphrase). For example, here the answer is alternative A:

 

A People with a good understanding of dance find Kathakali more enjoyable
Text Kathakali is a visual treat, particularly to the discerning eye.

 

  • Sometimes spotting a paraphrase may be quite difficult, especially if your vocabulary is limited. Then, taking an indirect approach works better ‒ eliminate any alternative which you think cannot be correct. And how do you do it? Simple, by spotting contradictions (differences in what the text says and what the alternative says)!

 

B Colourful dresses are a part of only some Kathakali performances
Text A typical play entails dancers, who wear vibrant costumes and elaborate make-up…

 

C Music is a more integral part of Kathakali than dance
Text …while supported by musicians and vocalists.

 

D Kathakali has influenced arts of olden times
Text Kathakali movements, most of which are adopted from ancient martial art forms.

 

Remember, at first glance, it may look as though two (or more) alternatives may be correct. So, always read closely to identify contradictory information.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

alternative
Form : noun
Meaning : a thing you can choose out of two or more possibilities
Example : An apple is a healthier alternative to chocolate.

 

paraphrase
Form : noun
Meaning : a statement that expresses something using different words
Example : This is a paraphrase of what he actually said at the meeting.

 

The View From Campus – Homecoming: An American Tradition

homecoming

by Rasana Pradhan, Graduate Student at University of Findlay

 

For international students who are not familiar with what U.S. colleges call “Homecoming” can you please explain what that means?

Homecoming is the annual practice of welcoming back alumni to their former school. For those who have graduated, it’s the time for them to go back to their college and meet friends and faculty members, and catch up. It’s an annual tradition in high schools and colleges in the U.S., usually celebrated in October.

Homecoming centres around a specific game most often American football and occasionally basketball, hockey or soccer. The game is followed by a parade featuring marching bands. The homecoming game is played by home team usually against a weaker team, so the match is generally an easy win.  A homecoming dance ordinarily follows the game and coronation of homecoming king and queen is also done during the celebration.

     

What kind of activities happen around campus during Homecoming?

The homecoming at the University of Findlay started with different campus offices participating in the “Homecoming banners” and “Decorated door display” competition. The banners were judged in October 15 and Student Affairs and International Admissions and Services were declared as winners. As a part of homecoming itself, a Fruit n’ Veggie Derby was hosted by Findlay Green Campus Initiative, where participants constructed and raced fresh fruit and veggie derby cars for prizes. Homecoming also includes a tailgate party, fancy dress, reunion parties, pep rallies and picnics.

 

How can international students get involved in what takes place?

Most of the time invites will be sent to the students via email and if volunteers are required, it will be mentioned in the emails. All the events organised in the university seeks the involvement of not only domestic but also international students.

 

As an international student, do you think it is important to participate in these kinds of celebrations on campus?

As an international student, I think participating in these event is a must. Before coming to USA, I was an introvert and was very shy. And after joining this university, I took part in various activities and events, where I interacted with new people and learnt new things. All these activities helped my confidence and now after a year, I can give presentations in front of hundreds of students with full confidence.

 

 

An Insider’s IELTS Preparation Tips: Listening and Reading

newspaper stack

 

This week we’re going to look at preparation tips for the IELTS Listening and Reading components.

 

The Listening Test

The first, but most obvious point to remember is to listen carefully to the recording. Listen for overall meaning, but especially for those words that can give you a clear idea of what is being talked about. You will be listening for the answers to the questions on the paper, so try to follow the recording closely and write at the same time. You’ll have 10 minutes after the recording has ended to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

 

TIP: Good practice is to listen to English radio stations online or your favourite English language podcasts with a friend and then discuss what is being talked about.

 

  • Try and anticipate what the speaker will say; this will require concentration
  • Don’t worry if there is a word you don’t understand; you may not need to use it
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, attempt it but do not waste time; move quickly onto the next one

listening-video

 

 

The Reading Test

There are a number of different types of reading, as we’ve talked about on this blog before, so preparing for the Reading component should include practising these different skills.

 

TIP: Practice reading online and newspaper articles on a range of subjects and give yourself different time limits to do it. Then hide the text and write down everything you can that you took from the passage. You’ll then become familiar with reading different types of text and be able to quickly absorb and relay the information.

 

Remember, in the Reading test you shouldn’t try to read every word in the passage. For some questions, scanning the text will give you what you need, so long as you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for. Read with purpose. If you’re asked for something in particular – be on the lookout for it.

  • Make sure that you understand the questions and follow instructions carefully
  • Pay attention to timing; do not spend too long on one passage or question
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, attempt it but do not waste time; move quickly onto the next one
  • Don’t panic if you do not know anything about the subject of the text; all the answers can be found in the text

 

reading-video

 

 

 

How to Master Letter Writing in English (Part 2)

stamps

Image courtesy of Chris (CC Flickr)

 

In the first part, we looked at the concept of tone and its importance in making your letter sound appropriate. To decide what kind of tone is suitable, we said it’s useful to consider who you are writing to (the recipient).

 

Another important fact to think of is the purpose, i.e. the reason for writing.

 

The purpose

How we write may change depending on why we are writing, even if the recipient happens to be the same person. To understand this better, let’s consider the following:

 

Situation A: Write a letter to your manager informing him/her about some problem you face at work.

Situation B: Write a letter to your manager inviting him/her to your house-warming.

 

Though you’re writing to the same person in both cases, situation B is personal, whereas A is work-related. Naturally, situation B may make use of language that’s less formal than the one in A.

 

Consistent use of tone

Once you identify the appropriate tone, how do you then ensure it is used consistently across a letter or email? Here are some ways to do this:

 

More formal Less formal
Do NOT use contractions

E.g.: We are pleased to…

Use contractions

E.g.: We’re really happy to…

Use long words / less common vocabulary

E.g.: hold a discussion

Use simpler vocabulary

E.g.: have a chat

Do NOT use abbreviations

E.g.: February, Monday, as soon as possible

Use abbreviations

E.g.: FebMon, asap

Complete sentences

E.g.: I am sorry about the confusion.

Incomplete sentences

E.g.: Sorry about the confusion.

Use one-word verbs

E.g.: Can you visit my office and collect the files?

Use phrasal verbs

E.g.: Can you drop into my office and pick up the files?

 

So, the next time you attempt a letter writing task, begin by identifying what tone is appropriate for the given situation. Then, use various language features (some are given in the table above) to keep the tone consistent throughout your letter.

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

concept
Form : noun
Meaning : an idea related to something
Example : Oliver finds it difficult to understand even the simplest concepts of science.

 

appropriate
Form : adjective
Meaning : suitable for a particular situation
Example : I think it isn’t appropriate to wear jeans to work.

 

abbreviation
Form : noun
Meaning : a short form of a word or phrase
Example : St is an abbreviation for the word ‘Saint’.

 

The View From Campus: Whitworth University And The U.S. Application Process

 

whitworth-campus-shot-2

Marie Whalen, Associate Director of International Admissions and Recruitment at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, shares a brief overview of her institution, her views on the value of IELTS in evaluating students’ English readiness for university study, as well as an overview of the U.S. college admissions process.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words or less:

Rigorous, inclusive, supportive, faith-filled

 

For what is your institution known abroad?

Whitworth is best known for its academic excellence and a welcoming, supportive environment for international students.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)

  • Health Sciences
  • Business/Economics
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • English

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

  • Nigeria
  • South Korea
  • Mongolia
  • Nepal
  • Zimbabwe

 

How international is your institution?

We have students from 41 countries currently enrolled, which is an achievement for a smaller liberal arts institution, and that international diversity is intentional.

 

Do you accept IELTS scores for admissions and do you trust this as a good indicator of a student’s English ability?

IELTS enables us to assess the applicant’s skill overall as well as in the individual areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening.

As a well-recognized and reliable assessment tool, our international admissions committee can look at an IELTS band score and know instantly what the English level at which the applicant is able to function.

Additionally, we can see if there is one specific area where the student can be successful but may need some additional support, such as writing, for example.

We also appreciate that the verbal section is done with a live interview vs. with a computer.  IELTS is a critical part of determining admissibility in our international admission process.

 

Can you explain the difference between rolling admissions, early decision, early action, and regular decision at U.S. colleges?

Many U.S. colleges and universities offer rolling admission. This is a process that allows students to apply within a wide time range of time rather than submitting to specific tight deadline, like January 1st, for example.

However, rolling admission also means that students are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, so places can fill up. Once places for a class are full, applications won’t be accepted. If applying to a school with rolling admission, it can be better to apply earlier than later.

 

Some U.S. institutions, usually highly selective, offer Early Decision (ED). Students submit their applications early and receive a decision early. If a student applies to a university ED, then they are promising to attend that institution, if admitted.

An ED contract—and it is a contract—should be entered into carefully, as it is binding, and there is not necessarily a guarantee that the ED school will provide the level of financial aid a family needs.

If a student is admitted to their ED institution, they are required to withdraw all other college applications. Students should only apply ED if they are certain they want to attend the ED institution and they have assessed both their financial situation and type and level of aid offered by the ED school.

 

Early Action (EA), like ED, gives students the opportunity to apply early to institutions and receive a decision early.

However, unlike ED, Early Action is not a contract, and not binding. Students can apply to multiple institutions that offer EA. If a student is admitted EA to 5 U.S. colleges, for example, they can choose which one to attend.  There are a very limited number of colleges that offer Restrictive or Single Early Action, requiring students to apply EA to only one institution.

Many institutions offer some combination of ED, EA and Regular Decision. Whitworth, for example, offers Early Action I and Early Action II, as well as Regular Decision. A regular decision deadline is the deadline after any ED or EA deadlines and is usually considered the final deadline for applying.

How to Master Writing Emails/Letters in English

postbox-med

Image courtesy of Davina Ware (Flickr)

 

Letters may seem outdated in this digital age, but the skills needed to produce one are still considered important. Naturally, many international language tests evaluate the test taker’s ability to produce pieces of communication, such as letters, memos or emails.

 

In the IELTS General Training format, the writing module has two tasks. In the first one, candidates are given a situation and asked to write a letter. Depending on the situation, they have to choose from one of three kinds of tone – friendly, semi-formal, or formal.

 

Tone Example situation
Friendly Write a letter to a friend inviting him/her to a party you are having next month.
Semi-formal Write a letter to your manager requesting him/her for one week’s leave.
Formal Write a letter to the general manager of a restaurant complaining about the poor service you received during your visit there.

 

So, what exactly is tone? Simply put, it is the style of writing that is most suitable for a given situation.

 

Identifying the appropriate tone for a letter can be tricky at times. In fact, it is not uncommon in IELTS for test takers to get the tone horribly wrong. As a result, the letter sounds rude or inappropriate, thereby affecting their overall writing score.

 

So, how can you identify the appropriate tone? Well, here’s one key factor to consider:

 

The recipient

Is the person you are writing to (i.e. the recipient) someone you know? What sort of relationship do you share with them ‒ formal or friendly?

 

If the recipient is unknown, or if they are much senior to you (in age or rank), the letter needs to have a respectful tone (semi-formal to formal). On the other hand, if it’s a friend you’re writing to, the letter will certainly be chatty, looking more like a conversation.

More about tone in the next part!

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

outdated
Form : adjective
Meaning : no longer useful or fashionable
Example : The computer systems in Kevin’s company are really outdated.

 

tricky
Form : adjective
Meaning : difficult to deal with
Example : Aged people sometimes find smart phones tricky to operate.

 

horribly
Form : adverb
Meaning : in a bad way
Example : He got injured when a karate move went horribly wrong.

 

chatty
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes writing style that is friendly 
Example : Judith sent me a bright, chatty letter about her life in Greece.

 

 

How to Get a Part-time Job as an International Student (Part 1)

stand-out-from-the-crowd

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo (Flickr)

 

If you are an international student who has just arrived in the host country, one of the first things you may do is look for a part-time job. But has it ever occurred to you that you could be one among thousands who apply for part-time vacancies?

 

The UK, for instance, welcomed well over four hundred thousand new students in 2014-15. So, how do you stand out in a crowd? One way is to make sure you have enough employability skills – abilities that make a person productive at work.

 

Here are some that employers look for:

 

  1. Communication skills

The ability to express ideas and views clearly is extremely important, especially in customer-facing jobs. If someone doesn’t have sufficient language skills, they may sound impolite or unfriendly to a customer. Of course, no business would want to hire such an individual.

 

  1. Customer service

Many part-time jobs require you to interact directly with customers. This usually involves answering questions, getting them to buy something, dealing with complaints, etc. Only individuals with good communication and problem solving skills may be able to offer great customer service, and those are the kinds of people that companies want to recruit.

 

  1. Time management

This skill is all about developing methods to manage your time well at work, balancing various demands of the job. Most people who have it prioritise their work – they focus on urgent tasks first before moving on to other less important work.

 

  1. Numeracy

Whether you work in a shop, restaurant, or pub, it is essential to be good with numbers. Staff in such businesses use numeracy skills in a number of ways, right from giving customers the correct change to checking stock.

 

Remember, just adding these skills to your résumé alone won’t help; if required, you’ll have to prove that you actually possess them.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

host country
Form : noun
Meaning : a country where foreign students go to study
Example : The UK attracts more international students each year than any other host country.

 

occur to (someone)
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to come into the mind
Example : When they spoke of pizzas, it occurred to her that she hadn’t eaten all day.

 

stand out
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to be noticed easily
Example : Melvin is so tall that he stands out in a crowd.

 

customer-facing
Form : adjective
Meaning : dealing directly with customers
Example : If customer-facing staff are friendly, people usually have a great shopping experience.

 

 

numeracy
Form : noun
Meaning : the ability to do basic mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, etc.
Example : Numeracy is one of the most important skills that children learn at school.

 

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