ESL and IELTS Help 4 U

Archive for October 2010

In the final section of the IELTS listening test, you are asked to listen to a lecture. The lecture is fairly long…or it seems long…:). And the topic of the lecture is almost always new to the student.

Please remember that listening is a process of receiving information, hearing it and taking it into the brain.

It’s not about attacking each word with your hearing to make sure you understand it. If you grab onto each word…as soon as you hear a word you don’t know, you will  stop listening and start trying to figure out that word. And, of course, the IELTS test goes right on and you find yourself lost.

So part of listening practice is learning to sit back and receive.

Here’s a website which will really help you. It’s called TED, Ideas Worth Spreading.

TED is a nonprofit which brings smart, creative people with revolutionary ideas and projects together for short lectures.  Over 700 of these lectures are on the website. They are no longer than 20 minutes, and they cover a wide range of topics.

So here’s my suggestion. Go to the website: At the top of the page, you can click on “Themes.” This will take you to a page where, on the left hand side, you will see a list of topics. Choose a topic that interests you and click again. Choose a talk and listen several times.

Then, next to “About this talk” at the top right of the page, click on “Open interactive script.” Here you’ll see the entire talk written out.  Compare what you think you know about the talk from listening to the written version. Find the confusing words and look them up. Then listen again.

Try this plan with two or three talks a week. Get into the habit of using the Ted Talks to help you listen more thoroughly and understand more completely.

Enjoy! I think you will love these listening opportunities!


The IELTS essays are challenging.  And when you write yours, you don’t want to look like this:

You want to look like this:

So…first, you get your topic. Then, usually one of two things happens.

1. Ideas fly around in your head.

2. You have no idea what to write.

In case number 1, your job is to get all those ideas and thoughts on paper. Write them all down. Notes or doodles or drawings are fine. No need to organize. Just get them in front of your eyes so you can see them. This will clear your mind. Then you can organize. Then you can begin to write.

In case number 2, your first task is to calm yourself. Breathe. Allow your breath to clear your mind. Look closely at the topic and separate it into sections. Begin to ask yourself small questions about each section. Answer one question at a time.

For example, let’s say this is your topic: Athletes come in two forms. Some are on teams, others participate in sports where they play alone. What are the benefits and challenges of being an athlete playing on a team and playing alone?

Maybe you’re not an athlete. Maybe you don’t care for sports at all. You think this is a topic you know nothing about.

But the key is not about athletics as much as it is about working at anything alone or in a group. You have had this experience. You know what it feels like to work with others and by yourself.

What is it like for you when you work as part of a group? What do you like? What are the problems?

When you are working alone, how does it feel? What do you like? What are the problems?

When you answer these questions, you have the points for your essay.

An IELTS essay is about your ability to think, organize and present. It is your opinion about the topic so there are no right or wrong answers. You can do it! You can think your way into the question, apply your own experience and write a clear, clean essay.

Have a beautiful day!

Improving your vocabulary is always

After writing the post on “how often” I continued to think about different words. I thought about the words that my students used over and over.

Often students would use the phrase “very good” or “very well” when they were really trying to say something was…

meaningful: something that adds meaning or effects

valuable: something that adds value or worth

crucial: critical importance

essential: necessary

fundamental: something that has to do with the basic facts or principals

key: an essential component

significant: an important effect or meaning

critical: extremely necessary

important: of significance or value

or vital: urgently needed

These words all mean “important” but each adds a slightly different meaning.  Here are some sentences to help you see how you might use them.

Today is an important day. It’s the first day that our team will meet and begin to work together.

We hope that everyone will make a valuable contribution to the team project.

Good teamwork skills are critical to our success so one of our fundamental goals is to improve our ability to work together as a team.

The attitude of each team member will be key to our success.

It will be vital that everyone attend and participate in each team session because each person brings a essential skill to the process.

Together, we will look at the most crucial issues facing our school.

In order for our project to succeed we will need to create meaningful and practical guidelines for students to follow.

If we are successful, we could have a significant impact on the future of our school.

Now…this is really important! Knowing new words is valuable but using them is essential! So look up these words. Begin to use them in your conversation and writing. Practice. Learn. Most of all, enjoy!!!