Monthly Archives: July 2013

Overcoming the Fear of OET Reading Passages – Part 2

My previous blog post (Overcoming the Fear of OET Reading Passages – Part 1) outlined some key techniques you can use to tackle Part B of the OET reading component. In this post, I will further discuss techniques about how to approach the comprehension that I hope you will find useful in your preparation.

 

#1 Eliminate answers

It is often very hard to see the answer straightaway as there may be several similar answers. However, to make things easier, you should start by eliminating the options which are blatantly incorrect. This narrows down the amount of options to choose from, giving you a higher chance of choosing the correct option.

 

#2 Familiarise yourself with statistical conversions

If the questions include statistics, you should be very careful in interpreting and matching it to the data presented in the text. They may further trick you by changing the statistics a little – for instance, you should know that “1 in 5” is the same as “20%”. You should also take note that if it says “43 per thousand of the population” this equates to approximately “4 – 5% of the population” (do the maths!).

 

#3 Options that are too ‘certain’ are often incorrect

In medicine, there is a lot of uncertainty and rarely are things absolutely definitive. For this reason, if a multiple choice option uses words such as “strongly associated” or “directly related” or “definitely” or any other ‘definitive’ words … it is usually wrong! It is ONLY correct if the statement is exactly stated in the text.

 

Comprehension can certainly be very difficult but with the right strategy and ongoing practice of some key techniques, OET reading can hopefully seem more like a friend than a foe.

 

All the best!

The Importance of English Pronunciation

Pronunciation is a vital skill because people must understand what you are saying when you talk to them. You may talk to work colleagues, friends, university students, or maybe people you only need to speak to quickly.

You want people to understand what you say. Without an understanding, people will look at you strangely, ask what you meant, and you will have to explain yourself or they may think you mean something else. If you want to say “turn right” but your “R” sounds like an “L”, you’ll say “turn light”. Does that mean turn at the light? Does it mean turn lightly? If you talk about your favourite “hobby” and you say “hubby” instead, people will look at you strangely and you’ll have to explain what you meant. Hubby is slang for husband. If you try to describe something and want to say “very”, that’s no problem. However if your “V” sounds like a “B”, then that is a problem. If you want to talk about the world and your “O” sounds like an “A” then people may think you are talking about a “war.”

Don’t just worry about what people hear. You should also worry about whether people can hear it or not. The “H” in “hour”, as you know is silent. Pronounce it and the word sounds like “Hower”. “What’s a hower?”, people will think. If you pronounce the “T” in “often, you’re making a mistake there.

Why do these things matter? The answers are-

  1. IELTS markers are subjective. If they believe pronunciation is very important, they will take away marks if they think you are mispronouncing words.
  2. Employers may want people who are well spoken. A large number of jobs require interaction; bank tellers, financial advisors, receptionists, assistants, negotiators, mechanics, foremen/forewomen, lawyers. Communication’s important and the job may go to the person who has the knowledge and the speaking skills.
  3. Tutors, lecturers, and fellow university students want to understand you. If you have to give a presentation, people must understand you. Mispronounced words get strange looks, and lower marks. You’ve got the knowledge but you want it to come out the right way. Knowledge must be understood to be appreciated.
  4. Clients and customers need to know what you mean. If you want to win a contract, sell a service, win a tender, convince a customer, or seal and deal, the bargaining process will run much smoother if both sides are coherent.
  5. It will make socialising much more pleasant as well. When you talk to friends or wok mates, you want to laugh, gossip, get your information or opinion across. This will be possible if you don’t have to repeat yourself. You want a conversation to be casual and enjoyable. No stopping or starting.

These are experiences you’re most likely to have in your day to day dealings. You want them to be easy experiences. There shouldn’t be a need for stopping and starting or explaining what you mean with each word. Clear pronunciation will be a big help in these situations.

The Importance of English Grammar

“Grammar; the difference between knowing your s**t and knowing you’re s**t.”

The anonymous quote says it all. Punctuation and the number of letters can make all the difference between what phrases and sentences mean. Are you saying that somebody owns something, or are you saying that someone is something? If you know your grammar, and understand it, it will help people understand what you mean when you write and speak.

  1. Do the subject and verbs agree?- “I like watch movies”, “I drive to Blue Mountains yesterday”, “I come back to my country”, “He cook well”, and “She fixed car tomorrow.” These are mistakes in simple sentences however if they happen in university essays, work reports, appointment records, and IELTS tests you could face low marks, bad performance feedback, and criticism from your boss.
  2. Are you using the singular or plural in the right place?- “I have three daughter”, “Only one cats went there”, “Only one car were there”, “Fifty girls was there”. Mistakes that should, and can be avoided. These are not welcome in any professional environments. “I see some flat-screen TV”, “I see a single employees”. The word “some” before a singular word, implies you are being flippant, casual or dismissive. “I have more DVD”, “She has less pill”, “There is not many water in the pool”, “There are not much coins in the piggy bank.”
  3. Are you using the right article for the word? “I like internet, I like QVB””, “I own car”, “I watch Australian TV show”, “This is capital city of the New South Wales.” People might know what you mean, but when they are paid to penalise you for mistakes they will.
  4. Are you using the right prepositions? “I like to lie in the sand. I like to walk in the beach”, “I like to watch TV on a friends house.” You know what you mean, make sure everybody else does.
  5. How is your sentence structure? “Maybe another station it is”. “People need be cautious.”

These are important things to remember and consider. All the examples listed and cases of incorrect grammar.

Grammar is important in other professions besides the tasks in 1. You may work in health, in industry, in retail, in finance, in childcare or hospitality. People’s health, money, food, comfort, and safety are dependent on you.

Needless to say, grammar is a crucial part of the IELTS test. Not all examiners may think it is important, but others might. You don’t know what an examiner is thinking. The safe thing to do is make sure your grammar is sufficient to help you pass the test and also to do your job.

The Importance of English Conversation

English Conversation is not the same as IELTS, OET, or Business English. It’s casual English you can use with friends, lovers, potential friends/lovers, or work mates when you’re out of the work place. It’s also a good way to get a job as well.

Why learn it?

  1. People will not always speak in formal English. They will have moments when they relax, when they break the “rules” of English, when they “misuse” it, when they have a good time. If you want to communicate with them, you need to know what they’re talking about. If someone says another person is “as rough as rags” it means that person is strong willed, stubborn, uncouth, has a gruff voice, is resilient, and/or hard working. To someone was shot down in flames, does not mean they were in the air force. It means they were defeated in a debate, argument or intention. However the expression “to get on like a house on fire” might sound like a bad thing but it’s actually a good thing. It means to get along really well.
  2. You may want to use these expressions as well. You want to make your feelings known. You may want to be quick and straight to the point. If you want to talk about people who insult you and criticise you, then you could say you “cop flack”, and they “rubbish” you or “burn” you. If you were in trouble but now you aren’t any more, tell people you’re “off the hook.”
  3. Slang language comes in different varieties, it depends on the country and community you are with. “Off the hook” is Australian slang for not being in trouble anymore, while in America in means “excellent, fun.” Even within countries you will find different slang. People who enjoy electronic games will know the word “noob” to mean someone who has played games or a certain game for a short period of time.
  4. Social media is an important part in people’s life. If people want to express your opinions and/or feelings on Facebook or YouTube then they normally use abbreviations such as “fyi”, “omg”, “atm”, and “ftw” etc. Get to know these expressions, understand them, use them, save time, get your point across and don’t feel left out.
  5. There may come times when you want to talk to people about serious or enjoyable moments. These may be problems at work or in relationships, or recounting a holiday. Good conversation skills help get the point across. These are times to let your emotions come out. Formal language may not be ideal in these interactions.
  6. A job interview also requires good conversation skills. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, you want to sound natural. You’re not there to be the interviewers best friend, but you don’t want to sound indifferent. They need to know you care about the job, about the tasks, about the responsibilities, about the customers and other staff. Don’t be a passive observer, but be enthusiastic about the job they’re offering. You don’t need to be excited, just positive and serious.
  7. When you’re negotiating in your job interviews, potential business deals, presentations, reporting your scientific findings, or convincing people they need to take safety seriously, conversation is important. You need to know more than the facts. People already HAVE to hear you. Make them WANT to hear you.

Those are the reasons for the importance of good conversation skills. You need them for getting a job, doing a job, and relaxing outside the job. Different types of conversation are needed for different situations.

The Importance of Business English

Language is a major part of business. If you want to succeed in it, you don’t just need facts, figures, numbers and the ability to type. You need to know how to master the language for several reasons.

  1. You want people to be interested in the things you say. Whether it’s a proposal, a suggestions, an answer, an explanation, a solution, or an offer, people should want to hear it. If they are interested in what you say, you will be able to promote your product or service a lot more efficiently.
  2. Editing is vital. You want to avoid to repetition and overuse of words. Redundant and excessive words make people bored and disinterested. It makes you look uncreative, and readers may miss the special points in your documents.
  3. You want to be able to negotiate in a manner that successfully convinces your client to join. You don’t want to sound rehearsed, that makes you look like you have no idea. You don’t want to be forceful or rude, that deters people and gives you a bad reputation.
  4. You should be able to resolve conflicts. You never know when you will be needed. It’s like being near the emergency exit on a plane. It may not always be needed but there might be a time when it’s necessary. Everyone knows conflict is bad for business.
  5. Adaptation is a useful ability. One size does not fit all. Not all audiences want the same thing in a report or proposal, even it’s about the same product. You may need to tailor your text to the individual needs of the client.
  6. There are many types of business texts; letters, e-mails, faxes and memos. They may be about similar subjects, but they written in different styles. You may have to read them, you may have to type them, you may have to do both. You never know how many you’ll get. It’s good to be prepared.
  7. Reports are always a big part of business. If you continually write good reports, your promotion and par raise chances could go up. This skill can also help you convey information accurately and coherently.
  8. Minutes and briefing notes are another important part of business. You might need to refer to them or compose them at some time. Briefing notes help a meeting run smoothly, minutes may be needed in the future. Whether you have to read them or create them, your ability to compose and decipher them will help you. You may need to refer to them in a legal dispute or a financial disagreement.
  9. E-mail etiquette is another important aspect of business life. You want people to respect you in the things you do. The way you type to people shows whether you value your work and the recipient of the e-mail. You don’t to appear as flippant or overly casual, you want to show you’re serious and creative.
  10. You want to know the kind of people you’re working with. Hopefully, if you know what makes respectful English, you’ll know when it’s not being used. You could find out if people are indifferent about a project, if they treat a report as a social occasion.

Business English is very to help you get ahead, cope and navigate.

What to initially read in reading part A.

For reading part A, because you really don’t have much time to waste in 15 minutes, I would advise you to read only a few select things first before attempting to answer the gap fills.

Firstly, read the text stimulus headings, taking note of the key words and what aspect of the overall topic it is covering. For instance, if the entire topic is on vasectomy, then text A may be on the associated risks of prostate cancer in those who have undergone vasectomy, text B may be on the incidence of vasectomy over age and years, text C on the complications of vasectomy and it’s reversibility, text D on the reversibility of vasectomy. By noting this, when in the question it mentions vasectomy reversal, you can be aware to refer to either text C or D for the answer.

Furthermore, as the question passage is of a reporting form, it will often refer to the sources from which it is drawing information from before going onto speak about its content. Therefore, these will be cues for you to know which text to locate your answer. It is important to take note not only of the headings but also what text type it is. For example, is it a study, a research abstract, a literature review, a case study, a statistic, a newspaper journal, a report, a Q&A patient brochure etc? So in the question sheet it might say “according to a case study performed…” and if you had noted that text B was a case study then you can refer to that text to scan for the answer.

I think you get the idea so I will list the features to look out for before you begin attempting to answer the questions from Part A reading.

  1. Heading: and key words/topics in that heading/subheading (n.b. subheadings can be the questions in a Q&A, the aims of a research abstract)
  2. Text type: study, report, experiment, survey, statistic, case study, literature review
  3. Authors: e.g. Wilson et al.
  4. Year of publication: e.g. the 2008 study.
  5. Place/country/name of publication/study: e.g US study, Canadian report, the Age newspaper.

After having glanced for this information, which should only take you a few seconds, then you go on to attempt the questions.

 

Good luck.

~noun+부터 (bu teo) ~까지 (ggaji)

If you studied the level up to Korean beginners1_ week6, you may practised with your trainer regarding how to say time expressions by using “~부터 ~ 까지”. Actually, this expression is not complicated but very handy which makes your Korean speaking a lot better. Shall we try this further?

Together with time-related words such as hour, date, day, etc… ‘~부터” shows the beginning point of time, “~까지” indicates the ending point. For example, if you want to say “I worked from 9am to 5pm”, you can say that “저는 오전 아홉시부터 오후 다섯시까지 일 했어요 ( jeo neun ojeon ahopsi buteo ohoo daseot si ggaji il haesseoyo).”. In addition, you can use it for taking about days of the week. “저는 월요일부터 금요일까지 한국어를 공부해요 (jeo neun woryoil buteo geumyoil ggaji hangugeo reul gongbu haeyo) : I study Korean from Monday until Friday.”

Another handy way of saying it is when you talk about location or distance. For example, “센트럴에서 집까지 얼마나 걸려요? (central eseo jip ggaji eolmana geollyeoyo? ): How long does it take from Central to your home?”. It is useful when you try to say some time and distance expressions, but wish to limit the context.

~나 보다 ( ~na boda) _ I guess~

Korean culture is “indirect”. That is, we tend to avoid saying ‘I’m sure….’.  Instead, we try to say “I guess / I assume/ I suppose” even it is the obvious context.

Hence we have several expressions regarding “I suppose”. Let’s find out what they are.

Firstly, ~나 보다 (~na boda) is used when you are talking about people other than yourself. For example, ‘I guess you don’t like Shinee : 샤이니를 안 좋아하나 봐요 (Shinee reul an joa hana bwa yo)’ or ‘I assume that you never tried it: 한 번도 안 해봤나 봐요 (han beon do an hae buanna bwa yo).’

Another common expression is  ~것 같다 (~ geot gatta) which is similar to the first one but is stronger than ~ 나 보다 because ~것 같다 is based on the face or evidence. For example, “유리는 저 보다 더 키가 큰 것 같아요.” ,means that “I think Yuri is taller than me.” If you try to say “It’s a sunny day, isn’t it?”, you had better to say “오늘은 날씨가 좋은 것 같아요 (oneureun nalssiga jo eun geot gattayo)” rather than “오늘은 날씨가 좋아요 (oneureun nalssiga joayo).”.

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