Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sports Idioms

 English is an idiomatic language, meaning that the use of idioms in every day conversation are an important part of the way we use language to communicate. However, learners of English and even advanced students often find it challenging understanding the meaning of these words and phrases. There are a huge number of idioms in English and I find a useful way to learn and classify them is to divide them into groups. Today I want to focus on common phrases that uses phrases or words found in popular sports. This is a very common category and it will serve you well to understand some of the more common idioms in this section as they are used quite often in conversational English. This is not an exhaustive list, and I will make further posts as this is quite a long category to cover!

Ballpark figure - I don't need an exact number on your test score, just give me a ballpark figure. (meaning to give an estimate).
Came out of the left field- He came out of left field, I was taken completely by surprise with his actions. ( meaning an unexpected occurrence).
Cover all of one's bases- I think I'll be completely safe with that insurance, it covers all of my bases. ( Meaning to be extremely well prepared and covered).
Drop the ball- You really dropped the ball on fixing the car, everything is broken! (meaning you didn't do it properly, you weren't accountable and didn't do a good job).
Hit a home run- She hit a home run when she got that job. She's so lucky! (To reach or obtain a big goal. In baseball it means the batter hot the ball so far that he could run around all four bases before the fielders were able to throw the ball back).
Home free- Now that we've escaped the cops we're home free! ( Meaning to be out of trouble).
In full swing-The party was in full swing by the time I arrived. ( Meaning the party was at the height of activity).
Off base- You missed the point on my last lecture, I thought your comments were a bit off base. ( Meaning the ideas were not understood properly).
Pitch an idea- She pitched an idea that we all go together instead of taking separate cars. ( Meaning to share an idea with others in order to get their agreement and co-operation).
A curve ball- She threw me a curve ball with that presentation, I definitely didn't see it coming! ( Meaning to be surprised by an action).
Play hardball- Now that the practise round is over, it's time to play hard ball! ( Meaning to play for real, in a determined way).
Right off the bat- Right off the bat he knew what he was doing. ( Meaning immediately)
Step up to the plate- Somebody needs to step up to the plate and do this difficult presentation. ( Meaning to take responsibility on, often of a challenging nature)
Take one's eye off the ball- I took my eyes off the ball for one second and I missed the opportunity.  (Meaning to lose concentration or focus)
Touch base- Let's touch base on Sunday, it's been forever since I've heard anything from you! ( Meaning to connect with someone, to be in contact)
Whole new ball game- It's a whole new ball game now that Sally has taken over, I don't expect anything shall be the same. ( Meaning a new set of ideas or approach- different than before)
Slam dunk- He slam dunked his performance, I've never seen him perform so well. ( Meaning an excellent performance)
Call the shots- Dad's the one who calls the shots when we go on holiday. No one else gets a say. (Meaning the person is in charge. The person who calls the shots has all the decision making power)
Play the game- Just go along with the joke and play the game! ( Meaning to be a part of something.)
Name of the game- Greed is the name of the game in gambling. ( Meaning that this is the definition of something. Abba the famous Swedish pop group had a song called the Name of the Game. Goggle the lyrics!)
Give the game away- She gave the whole game away by telling the mum about the wedding before Sarah. ( Meaning to share a secret or give away inside information.)
Game plan- How are going to approach this new report? What's the game plan? ( Meaning plans and ideas, strategy.)
Team player- I work well together with other people, I'm a real team player! ( Meaning that the person likes to work with other people and will do their part to help the group reach its' goals.)
No sweat- No sweat Jimmy, it wasn't really a big deal anyways. ( Meaning no problem.)
In good shape- We have to get in good shape for the next debate if we want to win. ( Meaning to be well prepared.)

I'll add more idioms to the list soon so check back later!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

IELTS Academic Reading Exam

The reading test for both the academic and general exam is an hour long. There are 40 questions and three reading passages. Most students find that time flies by, so regardless of which test you are taking practice time management. Try not to spend too long on any one question, and definitely attempt a few practice tests before the real event.

A selection of different question types are used including the ability to summarize  information, completing notes and sentences, matching correct headlines to the relevant paragraph, multiple choice, completing diagram labels, completing information in a table or flow chart.

The material used is taken from sources such as books, newspaper and magazine articles as well as other publications. One does not need to be an expert or have prior knowledge of the subject matter as each article is written to be of general interest. If technical or specialist terms are used in the articles then definitions of the vocabulary will be given.

It is important to be aware that texts can include diagrams, graphs or illustrations. A variety of writing styles may be employed. Often times the articles might be written in a narrative manner, argumentative style, be descriptive or presented as a discussion.

Remember that you will need to record your answers onto the answer sheet within the allotted hour. Your handwriting needs to be legible so make sure you have enough time to write clearly. Grammar and spelling are also important. Please click here for more IELTS tips.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

IELTS exam preparation review.

It's that time of year again when students start booking their IELTS exam. Recently we have had a number of people start preparing for their upcoming exam. Some people are in the process of applying to university and need a solid IELTS score in order to be accepted. Others are seeking a good IELTS score for their careers and others are needing top IELTS marks for immigration purposes.

Whatever your reasons are for taking the ILETS exam, remember that adequate exam preparation is key to your success. Ensure you get plenty of practice with essay writing and that you can write a four or five paragraph essay of at least 250 words in under 40 minutes.  Review sentence structure, linking devices and topic sentences. Make sure you offer reasons and examples for your point of view. If possible have a teacher review your essays with you so that they can point out where you can improve. Be aware of spelling problems and keep your handwriting neat and legible. Click here for more IELTS writing tips.

Speak English everyday! Practice as much as possible. It is a good idea to record yourself speaking , especially for part 2 of the spoken exam. Time yourself so that you get a good sense of what one to two minutes of solo speaking feels like. Pay attention to whether you pause a lot. Do you say um a lot? Are there particular sounds that are difficult for you? Does your intonation sound correct? If possible have a native speaker review your recordings so that they can give you some feedback as to the quality of your voice and material. Click here for more IELTS speaking tips.

Read English everyday. You can read a newspaper, magazine, book, scour the Internet for interesting articles. Practice reading quickly. This activity will also have the added advantage of giving you ideas and information that you might be able to use in the writing and speaking sections. Pay attention to the grammar, punctuation and the way in which the writer puts their ideas across. Do you follow the gist of the reading? Can you summarize the main points of the article? These are some of the skills that are tested in the reading section of the IELTS.

Listen to English everyday. You can watch T.V., movies, listen to podcasts, news reports, even songs. Listening to a lot of English will help you with your vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation as well as give you ideas that might come in handy for the writing and spoken sections. The more English you read, listen to, speak and write the more confident you will be when it comes to the exam. Click here for more IELTS listening tips.

Set some time aside every day to review the exam and become familiar with the format. Try not to leave it until the last minute before seeking help, the IELTS exam is not an exam to rush. Give yourself enough time to absorb the learning material and to practice. In the long run this usually proves to be cheaper and is more likely to get you the score you need.

Good luck with your IELTS preparation and do let us know if we can be of help! Click here for contact information.

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