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Mar 22 2016

Passing the TOEFL: Independent Speaking Tasks

English Lessons Houston  –  Passing the TOEFL: Independent Speaking Tasks
TEOFL speaking 1

Are you getting ready to take the TOEFL test?  As you know, there are four parts to the TOEFL test and one of those parts is a speaking test.  In this lesson, I will give you some hints to help you do very well on the “Independent Tasks”,  so that your score on this test will improve.

There are six tasks on the TOEFL Speaking test.

There are two independent speaking tasks on the TOEFL test.  For each task, you have 15 seconds to think about your answer and write notes and 45 seconds to speak your answer. The first one is a personal preference task, which means there is a question that allows you to choose from your experience.

Examples:

  • Name a skill you have learned and why it is important to you.
  • Describe a class you have taken and why that class was important for you.
  • Describe a teacher you had and how that teacher influenced you.

The second independent speaking task is a personal choice task, which means you are to choose between two things and talk about one of them.

Examples:

  • Some students like to work on group projects and other students prefer to work alone. Which kinds of projects produce more learning and why?
  • Some people work for a business and some people work in their own business. Which would you prefer to do and why?

If you feel very nervous when you are speaking into the microphone, it is good to follow a pattern that will help you to feel more calm.  Here is the pattern you should follow to give a successful answer.

TOEFL speaking 4
Sample speaking task:  Name a hobby you have and why it is important to you.

1) Give an introductory sentence.

My favorite hobby is cooking for my friends and family.

2)  Give detail #1.

I enjoy cooking because it helps me to learn about other cultures.  Cooking recipes for Indian, Mexican or Chinese food helps me to understand the diets of other people around the world.

3)  Give detail #2.

Also, cooking is a social activity because, when I cook for my friends or my family, we all get together and talk and laugh and enjoy good food.

4)  If you have time, give detail #3.

Furthermore, cooking is a creative process because it gives me a chance to try different techniques, spices and flavors.  I like to try different dishes from all over the world. 

5)  Give a concluding sentence that is similar to your introductory sentence.

For these reasons, cooking is a hobby that I really enjoy.

Okay, let’s put it all together:  TOEFL speaking 2

My favorite hobby is cooking for my friends and family.  I enjoy cooking because it helps me to learn about other cultures.  Cooking recipes for Indian, Mexican or Chinese food helps me to understand the diets of other people around the world.

Also, cooking is a social activity because, when I cook for my friends or my family, we all get together and talk and laugh and enjoy good food.

Furthermore, cooking is a creative process because it gives me a chance to try different techniques, spices and flavors.  Different flavors and spices give different results.

For these reasons, cooking is a hobby that I really enjoy.

Time:  44 seconds

  • It’s important to include an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence. This shows that you are able to organize your thinking.
  • Don’t speak more than two sentences for each detail you give. This is important!  If you say more than two sentences for each detail, you will not have enough time.
  • Keep it simple! Don’t try to say everything.  Just choose the main points.
  • Remember to take a breath when you begin, which will help you to be calm and you can think more clearly.

Let’s look now at the personal choice independent speaking task.

TOEFL speaking 3Sample task:  Some people work for a business and some people work in their own business.  Which would you prefer to do and why?

1) Give an introductory sentence.

I would prefer to work for a business rather than work in my own business. 

(Note:  It’s okay if your introductory sentence follows the same structure as the question.)

 

2)  Give detail #1.

Working for a company provides more security.   I can focus on my work while other employees take care of paying the company bills and marketing. 

3)  Give detail #2.

Also, working for a company can offer many benefits.  Employees receive paid vacations, sick days and health insurance.  These are important for families.

4)  If you have time, give detail #3.

Finally, there is less stress working for a business than working in your own business because a business owner must worry about all areas of the company and the company’s survival. 

5)  Give a concluding sentence that is similar to your introductory sentence.

For these reasons, I prefer working for a company.

Okay, let’s put it all together:sheep with headphones

I would prefer to work for a business rather than work in my own business.  Working for a company provides more security.  I can focus on my work while other employees take care of paying the company bills and marketing.

Also, working for a company can offer many benefits.  Employees receive paid vacations, sick days and health insurance.  These are important for families.

Finally, there is less stress working for a business than working in your own business because a business owner must worry about all areas of the company and the company’s survival.

For these reasons, I prefer working for a company.

Time:  42 seconds

This answer had three details but not too much information about each detail.  So I was able to say everything in 42 seconds.

Other helpful hints:

  • It’s fine to use transition words like first, second, moreover, in conclusion, etc. This shows the person who is listening that you are well-organized, and you will receive a higher score for this.
  • Talk at a steady pace, not too fast. And remember to breathe!  If you talk too fast, the listener may not understand what you are saying and this will hurt your score.  If you slow down, the listener will be more likely to understand what you are saying and you will get a better score.
  • Use words that you are familiar with. Don’t use words that you are not sure about.  Just keep it simple and this will help you to get a higher score.
  • The person who is scoring your test does not care how smart you are, so don’t try to sound like a genius. Organize your thoughts, speak plainly and simply, include an introduction and conclusion and two to three details and your score will be good.
  • Choose some independent speaking tasks from TOEFL books or practice tests. Prepare for 15 seconds and see if you can complete your answer in 45 seconds.  Try to talk for at least 40 seconds. Do this again and again!
  • The more you practice, the more relaxed you will feel when you take the real TOEFL test. Good luck.

Next time, we will look at the integrated speaking tasks of the TOEFL.

Worldwide English teaches private lessons to expats and their spouses in their home or office in the Houston, Texas area.  We can help you to prepare for the IELTS or TOEFL exams.

For more information, visit http://www.englishlessons-houston.com or write to julie@englishlessons-houston.com

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Business English Lessons

Nov 01 2015

Idioms From Colors – English Lessons Houston

English Lessons Houston – Idioms from Colors

 

Hi Students! This is the 2nd lesson on American Idioms. These idioms have “colors”. Try to use as many as you can when you are practicing English.

 

Gray area – When something isn’t clearly right or wrong, no clear rules or guidelines

Example:   We are not sure if we can wear blue jeans to the office on Fridays. There is no rule, so it’s a gray area.

Blue collar– When someone works doing manual labor  Idioms from Colors 5

Example: My uncle is a blue collar worker. He works for a Brown & Root construction company.

 

 

Red flag– A sign that there is a problem

Example – When we didn’t receive our paycheck last week, it was a red flag that the company might be in financial trouble.

  Idioms from Colors 3To feel blue–   To feel sad

Example: I have been away from my family for two weeks working in New Orleans. When I think of them, I feel blue.

The green light – to receive permission to start something

Example: The manager at Odebrecht Houston gave us the green light to start the project.

In black and white – Something that is written and that is clear.

Example: At first I didn’t believe that the store was closing; then I saw it in black and white in a company e-mail to all the employees.

Out of the blue –   Something that happens as a surprise

Example: My manager said that I would be moving to Chicago to work for Conoco Phillips. This news came out of the blue!

A white lie – a small lie that doesn’t harm anyone  Idioms from Colors 2

My secretary asked if I liked her new haircut. I didn’t like it but I told a white lie and said I thought she looked very nice.

 Idioms from Colors 4Red tape– a lot of bureaucratic procedures; many steps to get something done.

Example:  When I went to the Chinese Embassy, we had to go through a lot of red tape to get our visa.

 

That’s our lesson on Idioms from Colors! If you come to Houston, Texas in the USA and you need private English lessons, contact Worldwide English at http://englishlessons-houston.com or call 713-993-6511.

Feb 09 2014

English Lessons Houston, Phrasal Verbs 2 “Turn”

English Lessons Houston, Phrasal Verbs 2 “Turn”

English lessons Houston turn 1Hi Students!  Let’s continue studying English phrasal verbs.  This lesson, we will be studying phrasal verbs that contain the word “turn”.  There are lots of phrases with the word turn and they mean different things.

Let’s get started!

 

 

  1. The word “turn” means to change direction or to go a different way.  Twist, spin, rotate are other words for this meaning of turn. Turn 3
  2. It can also mean to change into something.  To become is another word for this meaning of turn.
  3. It can mean that it’s time for you to do something.  Chance or opportunity are other words for this meaning of turn.

Turn up and turn down:  To make an electrical device go up or down.  Turn up is the opposite of turn down.

  • It’s cold in here!  Please turn up the heat.
  • That music is very loud.  Please turn it down.

Turn in:  When you complete a test, report, or project and you give it to the person who asked for it.

  • Last week, I turned my project in late to my boss.
  • I need to turn in my test by 10:00 a.m. this morning.

Turn 4

Turn in:  When you go to bed.

  • I’m very tired.  I think I’ll turn in now.

Turn into:  When something turns into something else, it becomes that thing.

  • Bruce Wayne turns into Batman when the commissioner needs help.
  • A small tree can turn into a large tree if it gets lots of water and sunshine.

Turn off and turn on: When you stop something or start something that is electrical, you turn it on or off.

  • Please turn off the light.  I’m trying to go to sleep.
  • Turn on the television.  I want to watch the soccer game.

Turn on and turn off:  When there is something or someone that you like or don’t like.

  • I like John, but men who smoke turn me off.
  • Maria is beautiful!  She really turns me on.

Turn 2

Turn out:  A situation or person that changes.

  • Jesus was going to buy a Ferrari, but it turned out to be too expensive.  He’s going to buy a Ford instead.
  • Petra was a little mean to me at first, but she turned out to be a nice girl.

Turn out:  A result or conclusion.

  • How did the pictures of your wedding turn out?
  • I cooked for two hours this afternoon, but the meal didn’t turn out well.  Everything was too dry!

Turn over:  To turn something so that the bottom is now on the top.

  • John turns over a lot when he is sleeping.
  • Turn the hamburgers over so that they can cook on the other side.

Turn over:  Something that changes.

  • There has been a big turnover at our company.  Many employees have left and there are new employees.
  • The factory has a low turnover.  People like to work here so they don’t leave.

 

These are the basic phrasal verbs using the word “turn”.  Practice using the phrasal verbs so they will become part of your English vocabulary!

Worldwide English in Houston, Texas teaches private lessons to expats and their spouses in their home or office.  For more information visit  http://www.englishlessons-houston.com/  or write to julie@englishlessons-houston.com

 

                       

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