เตรียมสอบ IELTS ตอนที่ 6
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IELTS Sample Charts (Writing Task One)
IELTS Sample essays (Writing Task Two)
คอลัมน์ lelts PREPARATION ใน Bangkok Post
โดย อ. David Park
Seek good speaking test advice
In order to work as a doctor in the UK, a Thai candidate who sat for Ielts (the International English Language Testing System) needed a minimum score of 7.0 in each skill area.
Though the doctor got an overall band score of 7.5, he only got 6 for speaking. This meant he had to take the exam again. His outstanding band scores in the other skill areas (two 8s and a 7.5) suggested he should have done better than 6 in speaking.
The doctor was puzzled as to why his speaking test result was so low. I was, too, as his spoken English seemed better than average. His grammar was excellent, he could express his ideas and feelings well, he appeared to have a wide vocabulary, and he spoke fluently.
While he was talking about the preparation he'd done for the test, the doctor's problem became clear. He mentioned that a friend in the USA had told him the following: "In the speaking test, speak slowly to be understood by the examiner. Pay careful attention to your pronunciation. To help your ideas be understood, you should also keep your language simple by using simple words. Finally, keep your sentences short, and don't give long answers."
Unfortunately, his friend gave him poor advice. It was also similar to incorrect advice I've often seen on the Internet.
Don't speak too slowly
One Internet website gives the following advice: "You are not running a race, you are attempting to communicate clearly... Don't confuse the listener [the examiner] by running sentences together! Slow down! You need to reduce your rate of speech so that you are understood clearly!"
Like the advice given to the doctor by his friend, this website suggests that speaking slowly is a good way of being understood and getting a good score. The reality is you'll get a low mark for fluency if you speak slowly in the Ielts speaking test.
To get a fluency mark good enough for entry to university courses, you're required to speak at a normal talking rate, not at either an unnaturally slow or fast speed.
Don't worry too much about pronunciation
Many candidates believe that their Thai accent will get them a poor mark in the test.
In fact, having an accent is not a problem. It's possible for you to speak with a foreign accent and still get a high mark for pronunciation. Even if you occasionally pronounce a word incorrectly, you can still get a band score that's good enough for entry to most university courses or for migration to another country.
The problem with being careful with your pronunciation is that you'll probably start speaking slower than normal. If you do, you'll get a lower mark for fluency - yet it's very unlikely that your pronunciation mark will increase.
Don't use simple words only
The purpose of the speaking test is to assess your ability to communicate effectively in spoken English.
One thing the examiner looks for is whether you have the words to talk about familiar and unfamiliar topics. The examiner also assesses whether your vocabulary is good enough to talk at length on topics without using the same words all the time. Consequently, you're given a separate mark for your vocabulary. You'll get a high mark if you show you have a wide range of vocabulary which you can use appropriately.
This means you should be trying hard to show off your English. Show the examiner you have many words to express ideas. You should also be trying to use less commonly used words, phrases and idioms - but make sure you use them correctly. The more successfully you do that, the higher your mark for vocabulary will be.
In contrast, using simple words will only guarantee a lower mark for vocabulary.
Don't use short sentences only
The Internet website I referred to above gives this advice: "No compound sentences! Make your sentences and your thoughts simple. Don't confuse trying to be clever with trying to be clearly understood."
This is similar to the advice the doctor's friend gives. You could talk for the full 14 minutes of your speaking test using only simple or compound sentences. However, your speaking will seem childish or immature, as these simpler sentence types are often used by English-speaking children at first.
Keeping your sentences simple and short by overusing simple and compound sentences is a sure way to get a lower grammar score. If you need band 6 or higher, use complex and compound-complex sentence structures by combining ideas from several, short sentences to make single, longer and more complex sentences.
Don't use short answers only
Make the length of your answers appropriate for the question. In Part 1, when you're asked simple questions on familiar topics, answers can be brief. However, avoid giving a short phrase or simply saying "Yes" or "No." Answer all Part 1 questions directly, but give extra detail and information so that you speak for 20 to 40 seconds. A two-sentence answer is a good goal.
However, take the opportunity to speak for as long as you can in Parts 2 and 3. Use the full two minutes for your Part 2 talk, and try to take at least a minute to answer each Part 3 question. This shows you're willing to talk at length: one of the factors assessed in fluency and coherence.
As well, use lengthy sentences with as much detail as you can. The longer and more detailed your answers are during the speaking test, the higher your possible scores for grammar and fluency.
Here's the advice the doctor should have followed:
- speak at a normal speed;
- don't worry about pronunciation;
- use some high-level vocabulary;
- use lengthy sentences; and
- give full answers when appropriate.
David Park teaches Ielts courses and is involved with Ielts testing at IDP English Language Center. To ask about Ielts, write to email@example.com. Contact //www.idp.com/thailand to register for Ielts. Ielts is owned by Cambridge Esol, the British Council and IDP: Ielts Australia .
Improving English takes effort
I often speak with excellent users of English to get tips for students preparing for Ielts (International English Language Testing System). In this interview, Rattana "Amp" Lao, of Thammasat University, gives her ideas about learning English.
DAVID: Do you use English or Thai at university?
AMP: In my international program, I speak English 80 percent of the time with my teachers and friends. If my friends and I are discussing our lessons or a test, we'll do it all in English so we won't get confused between Thai and English. If we're just chatting, we'll speak a combination of English and Thai. Sometimes, if you don't want other people to listen in, using English is great because it gives you some privacy. I'm also in the Debate Club, so my life seems to be surrounded by English.
DAVID: Some Ielts students plan to do very costly English courses in Australia or Britain. They say they'll be able to use English a lot as they'll be surrounded by it. However, I find it strange they don't try to use all the opportunities they already have here in Thailand. What do you think?
AMP: It's not an excuse that you can't get enough English here in Thailand. If you care enough, you'll find English is surrounding you in Thailand. However, while I was doing English at Hawthorn in Australia, I noticed that many other Thais at the language center still continued using Thai.
I think it depends very much on who you hang out with. If the people around you are comfortable using English, you'll automatically try to speak English. If you still fear speaking in English, you'll want to use Thai since it's easier and more comfortable. However, using only Thai won't let you speak better English.
DAVID: Sure. If you try to use English but can't, that gives you a good reason to learn the vocabulary and grammar.
AMP: It's great if you're motivated to learn English by yourself. However, Thai students are often shy and don't want to be embarrassed. They don't want to be criticized for a bad accent or poor pronunciation. Their fear of criticism actually stops them from using English.
DAVID: Who criticizes them - other Thais?
AMP: Yes. In the beginning, I didn't have strong English like now, and peoples' criticisms stopped me learning English for a while. However, when I was 16, I went to school in Canada and learned that no matter what your accent is, it's fine as long as you can speak English.
English is all about communication. Even if you study your whole life, you might never get a British or Australian accent, so why worry? When I returned to Thailand, I didn't listen to critical comments anymore.
DAVID: Good, so you changed your attitude to criticism. You said there were many Thai students who continued using Thai in Australia?
AMP: Yeah. I saw Thais there speaking Thai all the time, and they weren't trying to improve their English. I thought it was a waste of their time and money being in Australia and not using every opportunity to practice.
DAVID: Why do you think some Thais in Australia or England only mix with other Thais and "speak Thai, eat Thai, think Thai"?
AMP: It's all about comfort and convenience. They want to belong to a group and have friends, but they're also shy and fear criticism. Many only use English if they're alone and are pushed to do something but can't get help in Thai.
DAVID: What's the best way to learn English outside a classroom?
AMP: If you want to learn English well in Thailand, then watch BBC television. If you can watch it as much as possible, you'll bombard yourself with native speakers' accents and their very articulate English. Sure, you can't have a conversation with a TV, but you'll hear correct grammar and how English is supposed to sound. It's the best way to get better at understanding English.
However, there are many other things you can do, too. Some of my friends from the countryside speak perfect English because, every day of their lives, they've read newspapers in English, listened to English music and watched English movies. They didn't even have access to foreigners as much as we do in Bangkok, but they maximized their opportunities. In fact, their English is much better than mine even though I grew up in Bangkok and went abroad a couple of times.
DAVID: What are your top three tips for people who want to learn English for a university course overseas?
AMP: First, read a lot. It's the fundamental way to improve any language. When you read, you may not get it the first time, but keep reading and you'll get more comfortable with it. And while you're reading, you get knowledge - and it's not just English alone.
Second, speak as much as possible. Don't care if people criticize your pronunciation, and don't worry about grammar mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but you only learn when others tell you about them. Don't feel bad about yourself or your mistakes. Instead, take their words as an encouragement to be even better.
Third, be optimistic. Landing in Australia or England doesn't mean you get English immediately. I understood English when I arrived in Canada, but I didn't pick it up as fast as I expected. It was many months before I could write an English essay or speak publicly in English. If you're not optimistic, you'll be discouraged from doing anything. Just be brave and confident.
DAVID: Any final words for Ielts students?
AMP: I want to say, compare the English ability in Thailand to that in Vietnam, Laos or Burma. You'll feel ashamed of how low our standard is. Maybe their infrastructure isn't as good as ours, but they do have the education, and they do try to improve their English.
David Park teaches Ielts courses and is involved with Ielts testing at IDP English Language Center. To ask about Ielts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ielts is owned by Cambridge ESOL, the British Council and IDP: Ielts Australia.
Further tips for the listening test
This is my final article about one of my students, Pom, who was having difficulties with the listening test in Ielts (International English Language Testing System). Pom and I did a practice listening test together, pausing the recording from time to time to talk about her answers and problems. Here are more of her questions and difficulties to help you understand what you need to know for the listening test.
Dates, times and numbers
One question in the practice listening test asked what date a concert was being held. The answer was the fourth of November. I noticed that Pom wrote the date in full in her question booklet. As a result, Pom was no longer concentrating on the speakers while writing. She did not hear the next part of the talk, which had the answer to the following question.
There is no need to write an answer in full in the question booklet. To save valuable time, use a short form. For example, "the fourth of November" could be simply written as "4/11".
You should use the same approach with time and numbers. For instance, write down "3:30" in the question booklet, not longer forms like "three-thirty" or "half past three". Similarly, write "AM" and "PM" instead of "morning" and "afternoon". The best time to write out answers in full (if required) is during the 10 minutes given for transferring answers to the answer sheet after the recording's finished.
Although you may write the full forms of dates, times and numbers, it's not necessary for you to do so. The short forms are accepted.
There are a number of different ways to write dates on your answer sheet. Using the "fourth of November" as an example, any of the ways shown in the box would be acceptable if there's a three-word limit.
4 Nov, 4th Nov,
4 November, four November,
4th November, 4th of November,
fourth November, fourth of November,
Nov 4, Nov 4th,
Nov the 4th, November 4,
November 4th, November four, November fourth,
November the 4th, November the fourth
Be careful how you abbreviate numbers. Writing down "4rd Nov" or "4st Nov", instead of "4th Nov", would be automatically marked incorrect even though the actual date is correct.
At the end of each of the four sections in the listening test, the announcer on the recording says, "That is the end of the section. You will now have half a minute to check your answers." Pom wanted to know exactly what she should do during that half a minute.
Before I tell you what my advice to Pom was, let me remind you that you should write all answers while you hear the recording for each section.
Why? The recording is played only once, and you only have one chance to get the answer. There's no penalty for a wrong answer, so if you're not sure about an answer, at least guess - you may understand more than you realize. To get a high score, you should also never leave any question unanswered.
Returning to Pom's question, you can always use the half-minute to look over your answers to make sure that they're correct. However, the reality is that it's not very likely that you'll remember enough detail from the recording to allow you to change any of your answers. If you didn't already get an answer while listening to the recording, you're not likely to remember the answer during the half-minute checking time.
Instead, use the checking time to start looking through the next set of questions. Underline the key words in the questions that tell you the type of information you'll need to listen for.
At the end of each half-minute checking time, the announcer on the recording asks you to turn to the next section and start reading its questions. Of course, you'll already be doing that. Just keep skimming through the questions in the next part of the question booklet and think about what to listen for.
That way, you'll have some time to understand the questions in the next sections before the recording begins again.
At the end of the test, while you're transferring answers to the answer sheet, carefully check that each answer:
- fits the meaning and grammar of the related question;
- is spelled correctly; and
- is not more than the maximum number of words and numbers specified.
Developing your skills
To get good at listening to a conversation, you may need to practice both in and out of the classroom. You can develop your listening skills in the classroom by listening to, and speaking with, your teacher and other students.
Listening skills will also be developed in class by doing specific listening tasks to recorded materials. These tasks usually involve reading and writing as well as listening, so you'll develop your ability to do all of those activities at the same time.
Outside the classroom, there are many opportunities to listen to different varieties of English. You can listen to English through videos, television, songs, news broadcasts, computer and the Internet.
David Park teaches public and private Ielts courses and is involved with Ielts testing at IDP. To ask about Ielts, write to email@example.com . Ielts is owned by Cambridge Esol, the British Council and IDP: Ielts Australia.
Using semicolons and colons
Tn a recent article, we looked at the importance of punctuation in the International English Language Testing System (Ielts) and the rules for comma usage. Today, we'll look at semicolons ( ; ) and colons ( : ).
English doesn't use semicolons and colons anywhere near as much as commas and full stops. However, if you need a high Band Score for entry to a university, it's important that you get to know these punctuation marks well. For one thing, semicolons and colons are often wrongly used or overused in the writing test. This can make it more difficult to understand the candidate's message, and that may result in a lower Band Score.
Some candidates avoid these two punctuation marks altogether, because they're not sure when and how to use them. Not knowing how semicolons and colons are used in English means a candidate has fewer ways of expressing ideas in the writing test.
In both the first and second task of the writing test, it's important to use a variety of sentence and punctuation types to present ideas, supporting information and examples. Doing this makes your writing more formal, mature and interesting. Furthermore, a good knowledge of English punctuation means that you'll be better equipped to understand the ideas in the reading test passages. You'll therefore be more likely to answer the test questions correctly.
Rules for semicolons
A semicolon ( ; ) is a very strong punctuation mark and is more like a full stop than a comma. Here are some basic rules for semicolon use. Use a semicolon instead of a full stop at the end of one complete sentence when the following complete sentence is closely connected in meaning. Notice that a small letter, not a capital letter, immediately follows the semicolon.
"Computer use in Thailand is increasing; computer crime is, too."
"Some people like to get up early in the morning and get going; others are unable to do anything before nine or 10 o'clock."
While you could use a full stop instead of a semicolon (leaving you with two separate sentences), a semicolon is better if the sentences are connected in meaning, as in the sample sentences.
Semicolons are always used in front of expressions such as "for instance", "however" and "nevertheless" when they join two complete sentences. Notice that the expression starts with a small letter, not a capital letter, and that a comma always follows the expression.
"Driving very fast on expressways is dangerous; nevertheless, hundreds do it every day."
"I have never been to Cambodia; in fact, I have never been anywhere outside Thailand."
Like commas, semicolons are used to separate items in a list if one of the items already contains commas. Notice that a semicolon is used to separate every item in the series, including the last one.
"When listening to a news broadcast, listen for what happened, including where and when it happened; the names of the people involved; and any other significant details."
Rules for colons
Of the many uses of colons ( : ), we will consider the two you are most likely to need for Ielts. Use a colon instead of a full stop at the end of a sentence if the next sentence explains an idea given in the first sentence. Notice that a small letter, not a capital letter, immediately follows the colon.
"We decided not to go on holiday: we had too little money."
"Students need to make a serious decision: are they going to take every opportunity to improve their English, or not?"
Use a colon to introduce a list following an independent clause, or a phrase such as "as follows".
"India has five neighbours: China and Bhutan, which lie to the north-east; Burma and Bangladesh to the east; Pakistan to the west; and Nepal to the north."
"The causes of the US Civil War were as follows: the economic domination of the North, the slavery issue and the issue of states' rights versus federal intervention."
Add commas, semicolons and colons to these sentences. 1. The use of the following punctuation marks often confuses students comma semicolon colon hyphen and dash.
2. The speakers were Dr Janet Smyth Business Studies Dr Garth Mortimer Economics Dr Sam Eastman Commercial Law and Dr Lindsay Thomas Statistics.
3. I have recommended this student because she communicates well with other students faculty and staff completes her assignments ably and on time and demonstrates an ability to organise people materials and time.
Now, add full stops, commas, semicolons and colons plus capital letters to this passage on the effects of technology on modern farms. Hint: you'll need one semicolon, two colons and seven full stops.
Unfortunately technology has brought both beneficial and harmful effects to modern farms to illustrate insecticides chemicals used to kill insects damaging crops can also affect wild birds and animals other chemicals fertilisers are added to the soil for plant food nevertheless they do not improve the quality of the soil they kill the things that produce it steroids are also used to make animals give more meat and less fat however these drugs may affect the humans who eat the meat finally although the use of more machines on farms has led to higher outputs there are now fewer jobs on the land as a result of this mechanisation this presents a number of social problems high unemployment is common in rural areas displaced farm workers have often been forced to move hundreds of kilometres away and there is disruption and distress for all family members
Email me your full answers, and I'll reply with comments and an answer sheet. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I'm also happy to answer any queries you have about Ielts.
David Park designs and teaches Ielts preparation courses for individuals and groups. He also teaches academic, general and business English at IDP. David is also involved with Ielts testing. Ielts is owned by IDP Education Australia, the University of Cambridge and the British Council.
Accent matters in speaking test
Benz, from Bangkok, asked me about the speaking test in Ielts (International English Language Testing System): I read on a website that people doing Ielts shouldn't worry about having an accent as a candidate's accent is not evaluated by examiners. Is that true?
Here's my reply: In the Ielts speaking test, test takers are assessed in four areas: "Fluency and Coherence," "Grammatical Range and Accuracy," "Lexical Resource" (the words and phrases used) and "Pronunciation." An accent can definitely affect a candidate's score for "Pronunciation."
Let's define a couple of terms. "Pronunciation" refers to the way a word or a language is usually spoken, or the manner in which an individual says a word. "Accent" refers to the way in which people pronounce words in a particular area, country or social group. Individuals and groups can speak words in different ways, depending on factors such as:
# The area in which they grew up
# The area in which they now live
# Speech defects
# Ethnic group (e.g., Thai)
# Social class
The Ielts Handbook 2007 (downloadable from the official Ielts website, //www.ielts.org) states that pronunciation "refers to the ability to produce comprehensible speech to fulfill the speaking test requirements. The key indicators will be the amount of strain caused to the listener, the amount of speech which is unintelligible, and noticeable L1 [first language] influence."
To put it simply, examiners assess how easy it is to understand test takers. The easier the examiner can understand the candidates, the higher the score the candidates receive for pronunciation. This is clearly shown in my simplified version of the official scoring scheme for pronunciation:
Band 2: The candidate's speech is often unintelligible. This means that what the test taker says is often impossible to understand because the pronunciation is so poor.
Band 4: The candidate can produce some acceptable features of English pronunciation. However, the test taker's overall control of spoken English is limited, so there could be severe strain for the examiner. In other words, the examiner may sometimes need to make much effort to understand what the candidate is trying to say.
Band 6: The candidate can be understood throughout the test. Nevertheless, words are occasionally pronounced incorrectly, causing brief difficulty for the examiner as he or she tries to understand what word has just been used.
Band 8: The candidate is easy to understand throughout the test (even if there is an accent from his or her first language). The candidate also uses a wide range of features of spoken English (such as the appropriate use of word stress to express different meanings, or the linking of words in a natural way).
Visit tinyurl.com/39m9fn to see the public version of the grading scheme for pronunciation. Always use the official version to estimate your own speaking test score.
Effect of Thai accent
The phrase given in the Ielts Handbook 2007 - "noticeable L1 influence" - refers to how candidates' first language interferes with their ability to speak understandable English. This interference may make it difficult for an examiner to understand what's being said. Here are some of the more common features of a Thai accent that can cause problems for native speakers of English:
# Stress on the final syllable of words. For example, it's common for Thai speakers of English to say com-pu-TER instead of com-PU-ter, and cof-FEE instead of COF-fee.
# Problems in pronouncing certain final consonants and consonant clusters. For example, cen-tral becomes cen-tan, smoke becomes sa-moke, and apple becomes ab-bern.
# A staccato effect. Thais tend to give equal weight and timing to each syllable in the Thai language. However, when transferred to English, this produces a rather unnatural, staccato effect: a series of short, sharp and separate sounds.
You should be able to see how a Thai accent might affect the pronunciation score. For example, a Thai candidate who often mispronounces words, causing difficulty for the examiner, would not receive the highest band score of 8 for pronunciation.
Van Anh, an Ielts teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, asked about re-scoring: A student got 4.0 for speaking even though she'd received 6.0 a few months before. Another student, who I thought would get 7.0 or 8.0 for speaking, only got 6.0. Can tests be rechecked? How complicated is the procedure? I've also heard scores can never be changed. Is that right?
Here's my reply: There is a policy on the re-scoring of tests, and it's outlined in the official Ielts publication Information for Candidates July 2007 (visit //www.ielts.org to download a digital copy). It's clear from the policy that candidates' scores can be changed.
Because Ielts test results are carefully checked before being released, there's very little chance that a scoring mistake is made. There are a number of much more likely reasons why your students' results varied unexpectedly. A high level of anxiety on the day of the test is a common reason.
Nevertheless, if candidates are unhappy with their results, they may apply for a re-mark at the center where they took the test. The application must be made no later than six weeks from the date of the test. The application form, titled Ielts Enquiry on Results, is easy to complete. Candidates can choose to have one or more of the test modules (listening, reading, writing and speaking) re-graded. There's a standard fee for re-scoring, and it's the same whether a full or partial re-score is requested. The fee's paid when the application is made.
Re-scores are processed by the head office of either the British Council in the UK or IDP Ielts Australia, not by the original test center. Senior examiners do the reassessments of writing and speaking tests, while trained clerical markers score listening and reading tests. It takes up to six weeks for re-scorings to be completed, and candidates should make any enquiries regarding the progress of the re-score to the test center. As the original test results are frozen during the period, they can't be used to apply for a university course or sent to an immigration office.
As soon as the re-scoring results are available, the test center sends a letter that informs candidates of the final scores. Should the band score for any module increase, the center refunds the full fee for the re-scoring service and issues a new Test Report Form showing the revised band scores. During the following four weeks, candidates can apply for five copies of the Test Report Form to be sent, free of charge, to any institutions that need the results.
David Park designs & teaches Ielts courses for individuals and groups and is involved with Ielts testing at IDP. Write to email@example.com to ask about Ielts. Ielts is owned by IDP Ielts Australia, the University of Cambridge and the British Council.
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