Monthly Archives: August 2011

Occupational English Test Preparation: Reading Section

The reading section of the OET exam is for some the trickiest part of the whole exam. Part A in particular can be quite intimidating because of its very short time limit. To get through this part, the key strategy is to always be very conscious of time. The very first thing to do is of course to skim through the texts and read the titles in order to get an idea of which text is talking about what. The headlines often contain information on whom/what the text is about, where the information is from and how it might be relevant to the general topic. Also, it is a good way to see what type of information each text might contain. Sometimes, the texts are about a person’s personal experience with a disease or issue. Other times, it could be just a table containing statistics or other types of data. It could also be a health professional’s professional opinion, the description of an illness or disease, or even how to treat or manage a particular condition.


Once you have identified the subject of each text, you are ready to start answering some of the questions. Each time that a blank space comes up in the summary and answer sheet, you already know where the information that you are looking for is most likely going to be. You can then go straight to that text and skim through it quickly to get the information that you are looking for. Be careful when looking at data however! There can be some traps laid out for you. Really pay attention to the way that the questions are worded. “Adult men under 70” might be labelled as “males 18-69” in a text. You must make sure to understand what is being asked of you as well as what the text is actually telling you.


As always, you have been keeping a steady eye on your watch during this whole time. You notice that you have about one minute left and unfortunately, you know that there are still too many blanks on your paper for you to realistically hope to finish everything in time. Do not despair! It is now time to realize that the last points that you are going to scrape up are not going to come from finding the answers directly from the text. Read through the final questions and try to answer them either using your memory of the texts that you have just read or just common knowledge. Sometimes, all that the sentence is missing is just a preposition or an adjective which is an easy way to score an extra point or two. Fill in everything that you can and place your pencil down when they call the time, and be happy that you have accomplished all that you could.

Occupational English Test Preparation: How to Speak Without Getting Stuck

5 minutes may seem like a short time, but if you encounter a topic or situation that is unfamiliar, the 5 minutes can feel like an eternity.
OET speaking session is a dialogue between you (the health professional) and the interviewer (the patient). However, the majority of time is devoted to you to show off your speaking skills. The interviewer will be advised to speak minimally unless prompted by you with questions.

TIP 1

After the interviewer introduces the scenario, ask questions to clarify or establish the situation/concern more fully. e.g. So how long have you had this pain for? What is exactly is it about the drug that you are concerned about?

TIP 2

If you need more time to think about your response but you don’t want a big gap of silence, mirror or reflect the concerns or questions the interviewer raises. This is not only good for you to buy time but also a great way of expressing empathy and demonstrating that you comprehend fully what they are saying. e.g. So from what I can understand Mr/s …., you are worried about your son’s lack of concentration at school. I can see that it must have been so serious that you considered the possibility of an underlying medical complication. I am sure that coming up with a diagnosis would clear a lot of things up for you. 

TIP 3

Don’t ever assume that the patient knows everything about the medical concern that they are coming to you with. That is why they are consulting with you. Describe and define every basic aspect of their health condition. e.g. Hypotension -> define it/ ask the patient if they fully understand what it is. Particularly if they have concerns with compliance, going into a bit more detail scientifically may be more persuasive for the patient.

TIP 4

If you need to explain to the patient about a certain procedure or therapy, ~remember!~ although the interviewer can see you, the examiner can’t as the role-play is voice recorded. Therefore, make a concerted effort to describe every little detail in words, however obvious it may sound. It is not the knowledge that they are grading you on but your speaking fluency. e.g. using a walking frame: be descriptive right down to which hand/foot goes where and when.

TIP 5

If you have no idea about the disease condition/treatment, hypothesise. e.g. That sounds like a respiratory condition which the doctor will be able to clarify to you about. However, from my understanding of respiratory conditions in general, it is important that you are supplied with sufficient oxygen and make sure that your airways are cleared of mucus or any foreign particles etc.

TIP 6

Remember to speak slowly ad clearly. This will not only stretch out the time and minimise the amount of mistakes that you may say but also dilute out any thick accents.

IELTS in a Nutshell – Be Prepared

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the English exam taken by over 1.4 million people around the world each year as a step towards an international career or education.

If you have taken up the challenge, congratulations and good luck. The biggest tip that I could give you would be this – BE PREPARED!

Like any girl I love surprises; a box of chocolates, a bunch of flowers. But when it comes to something as important as a test, I like to know what I am up against and what is expected of me well before I sit my bottom on that chair at crunch time.

If you are taking the IELTS test, make sure you know what is expected of you and set goals to make steps, even if they are small ones, to achieve those goals.

Make sure your goals are reasonable for each category (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and take into consideration that you may be weaker in some areas than others so allocate more time to work on these with your teacher.

Read ever piece of information or tip that you can, and keep an eye on this blog which includes some great advice on improving your skills by our expert tutors.

All About Cantonese

Before writing this blog I didn’t know anything about the Cantonese language so I decided to do some research and I came up with the following:

1.    Cantonese is one of the most widely-spoken languages or dialects in China, is the main language of Hong Kong and is used by Chinese communities around the world.

2.    Although it often plays second fiddle to Mandarin, which is considered the official language of mainland China, is has been around for about 2000 years compared to the 700-800 years of the former.

3.    People who speak Cantonese don’t necessarily understand Mandarin and vice versa. I am sure a common misconception in Australia is that they are both very similar.

4.    Like many Asian languages, Cantonese is tonal and it has at least six to nine tones that you need to master to be understood.

5.    There is a great market out there in the world for this language skill.

Wow, the last point is definitely a reason to study the language if you are looking to stand out against others in your field of expertise. What are you waiting for?

Move out of your comfort zone

When I say move out of your comfort zone, I literally mean move. Get up out of your chair, hop on a bus, hop in your car or put on you walking shoes and just go.

‘Where to?’ you may ask. Where people are speaking the language you are learning, and that doesn’t count your classroom!

Now this may sound strange if the whole reason you are learning a language is to travel to the country of origin.  But have you considered there may be people using that particular language in the town or city where you live?

For example, if you are learning Vietnamese because you plan to travel to Vietnam one day soon, see if you can find a Vietnamese restaurant or supermarket and go there frequently. 

Take what you have learnt in class and try and put it into use by ordering something to eat or even exchanging a simple greeting. It may feel awkward at first but you will be amazed how people will open up and help you when they see you are making an effort to speak their language. You may even find a new friend.

It’s a win-win for everyone!

Learning Language Through Song

I know I am giving away my age here but I’m going to just say it – I grew up to the tunes of Abba.

For those of you who are too young to know…Abba was a pop band from Sweden who sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

They sang in perfect English but when it came to interviews, well, they were less than fluent. Now, I’m not judging them here as my Swedish is non-existent but I remember that at the time it shocked me. How could they sing fluently and speak, well, not so fluently?

This thought came back to me the other day when my daughter sang the traditional Japanese frog song Kaeru No Uta fluently. I would just like to add here that my daughter learnt this song at primary school and knows no other Japanese.

What a wonderful learning tool singing can be!  The only problem with it being your only tool is that I don’t think you could actually sing your whole way around a country or through a job interview. Still, you may be able to impress your friends or serenade your love one!

How to improve your IELTS Writing Skill

Some IELTS students often feel that editing an essay is a waste of time, or sometimes they cannot afford time to do this although they know it is necessary. This is a serious mistake as most writers, however excellent they are, still need to do editing to remove redundant ideas, or some simple mistakes.

The purpose of editing is to make sure your essay is well-structured, logically developed, precise, focused and cohesive.

• You should go through every sentence line by line slowly. Take your time to check every single noun and verb in your essay to make sure they are written with correct grammar.

• Check the structure, the logicality and the flow of your essay. Make sure it has no redundant sentences or repeated ideas.

• Make sure that each topic sentence is followed by adequate explanation and example.

So please never forget spend at least 5-7 minutes at the end of IELTS Writing Test to edit/check your essay.

IELTS: Some hints to improve your reading skill

How to Improve your Reading Skills?This is something which every student strives for but many don’t know how to achieve this.
My task as an Ielts Reading teacher is to instruct and show you how this is done .

There are four (4) main skills that you need in order to do well in the Reading Module.


Firstly one of the main difficulties that students face is not having enough time to complete the test, it is therefore essential to read both efficiently and effectively. Previewing approximately 2 minutes per passage.

Study Key parts of the passage by skimming .Read the first paragraph which often focuses on the main idea.The first sentence of each paragraph usually expresses key points of paragraph known as the topic sentence ,generally the concluding paragraph provides a summary of the passage.

Secondly Interpreting the questions and questions – When you are looking at the questions, you need to recognise – what type of question you need to answer -gap-filling, multiple choice. Whether the questions requires a specific or a general answer. What form should the answer take – a number, date, reason. All this should take approx 2 minutes.

Thirdly, scanning text for specific answers approx a minute per person. Use time wisely. Locate key words, synonyms. The sentences around these words are likely to contain the answers.

Lastly, check your answers approximately 3 minutes. You need to check your answers after you have completed them if you have time return to the questions you have marked because you were unsure and decide which answers the best one .

So all these tips refer to time management how to spend your time wisely.

Some more helpful hints: there may be some words in the passage with which you are unfamiliar, check the context, look for a definition, identify the words place and purpose, look for connective words. Be aware of the use of connective words.

I guess this is for now, each week i’ll give you ways, tips and strategies on how to improve your Reading skills .

Sticky notes for new words?

On a recent visit to my friend’s house I noticed that everywhere I looked she had sticky notes (or Post-It Notes) with large letters and pictures to accompany them.  When I asked why, she explained that her young child was having a few problems remembering some of the new letters she was learning at school. Apparently this method was working a treat.

It took me back 20 years to when I first started to learn Japanese.  I would attend class each week and try hard in between lessons to extend my word list before the next class. It was a struggle.

Why didn’t I think of the sticky notes back then as I am sure they have been around since the late 1960s? I am a visual person and need to write things down for them to sink in. I should have stuck those little guys all over the house so everyday I could improve my vocabulary list. Somehow I don’t think one would have stayed on the cat for too long!

Learning a New Language

There are many reasons why people choose to learn a foreign language: for work, for travel, for study, for fun or for love.  The list is endless.

But what is the best way to learn? Now that depends on you. To find the answer you need to stop and ask yourself a few simple questions like, do I have time to commit to months of study or should I just get a taste of a language in a four-hour workshop on the weekend? Am I comfortable trying to speak a new language in front of a small group of people or am I too shy and would rather study one-on-one with a teacher instead?

We understand that everyone’s needs are different and so too is the amount of time and energy they have to commit to something like learning a new language.  That’s why we have options. Check out our Courses page here http://www.sydneylanguagesolutions.com.au/courses and see if something takes your fancy. And remember what Italian film director Federico Fellini said, “A different language is a different vision of life.”

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