OPPORTUNITIES ABROAD

An Insider’s IELTS Preparation Tips: Listening and Reading

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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)

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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

 

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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

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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.

 

The View From Campus: Researching U.S. Degrees

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This month’s interviewee Anna Wise, Assistant Director of Admissions, University of Delaware

 

University Quick Facts

Describe your institution in 5 words? Innovative, Engaging, Community, Opportunity, Passion.

What is your institution best known for overseas? It’s best known for Engineering, Business and being in a strong location.

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)? Our top programs are: Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Hotel and Hospitality Management, Physical Therapy, and Masters of Business Administration.

How international is your institution? We have 4000 international students, from 116 countries. The top countries are China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Mexico.

How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? Our admissions requirement is IELTS 6.5

 

 

Researching Options 

What do prospective undergraduate international students struggle with most when researching the thousands of college options in the U.S.? 

Students can struggle getting past the idea of rankings and “name brand” schools.

How do you define what a public institution means for an international student? 

Public institutions have funding for research and facilities from the government, so that means more research opportunities for you!

What do prospective international students who are beginning their research need to know about public/state universities in the United States?

Public universities are often great places to go for internship and research opportunities. Attending a big state school often also means more clubs and sports teams on campus, which means greater school spirit!

What are the advantages of attending public institutions in the U.S.?

It means there is a wider variety of degree options, more specialised degree programs, research and internship opportunities – as well as a larger alumni base for possible jobs after graduation.

 

Why Studying in Ireland Could Be For You

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World Class Universities

With all of its universities ranked in the top 5% in the world, Ireland can be a great choice to study with your IELTS score.

Though the Irish language (Gaelic) is spoken by around a third of the population and you’ll find it written regularly, the predominant language is English, and so is a great option for international students wanting to study degree programmes in English.

 

Research Excellence

More than 780 million euros is spent on research programmes at Ireland’s universities each year, helping to make it one of the leading countries for research across a number of subjects. From the arts and humanities to the sciences, this excellence is attracting talent from around the globe to Ireland’s shores. In fact, Ireland is now ranked 2nd in the world for both Chemistry and Nanotechnology.

It’s then no wonder why the international student population has reached around 35,000, with people coming from more than 161 countries to further their studies there.

 

Beyond the classroom

Downtime from study could never be boring in Ireland either.

It’s a country with a rich cultural history, producing giants of literature, science and song. It also boast some of the most welcoming people on the planet and a rugged and beautiful landscape to explore. Around half of Ireland’s total population is under 28 years old too, so there is plenty that cater to people of a student age!

Ireland will welcome you with open arms!

 

 

 

 

 

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