Improve Your English: 7 Easy Steps

Do you think you need to improve your English and you don’t know where to begin? Here are 7 aspects of English that you could improve to speak and write with more confidence.

1. Word Order

English is a language with a strict word order. The basic construction is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Example:

I ride a bicycle

In this example word “I” is the subject, “ride” — the verb and “bicycle” the object. Putting these words in a different order will make the sentence impossible to understand.

As simple and obvious this is, word order mistakes are common among foreign speakers. The reasons for this are many, the main one probably being that their first language has flexible or free word order.

The most common exception to this rule is use of adverbs. Lets put an adverb in the example sentence above:

I ride a bicycle quickly or I quickly ride a bicycle

Both are correct. If you have doubts about word order in a sentence you make — try googling it.

2. Phrasal Verbs

To go out, to look up, to beat down — all of these are phrasal verbs. It is a short and effective way of saying something. A phrasal verbs is a verb plus preposition construction that can have several meanings. Phrasal verbs are usually considered to be rather informal.

For more info on phrasal verbs check out this related article.

3. Prepositions

Getting your prepositions right isn’t as easy as it seems to be. Most foreign learners use their mother tongue to guess the preposition that goes with a certain word. Most of the times it doesn’t work. Check this article to avoid most common preposition mistakes.

4. Collocations

Collocations are acceptable combinations of words in a language. For example “to run a company” is an acceptable collocation meaning “to be in charge of a company”. You can’t say “to drive a company”, even though it would be a direct translation from a different language.

Get to know this list of common collocations to get the idea.

5. Articles

English articles are very important to understand if you want your English to be natural and effortless. A misused article can change the meaning of a phrase dramatically. Similarly, a missed article can confuse your reader or listener.

Find out the basics of English articles to improve your language confidence.

6. Tenses

Now this one isn’t easy at all, but important nonetheless. To have an acceptable skill of English you don’t have to know all twelve of them. But it is important to understand where and when to use Continuous and Perfect tenses as they play a very important role in the language.

Look up the basics of English tenses for a short explanation on most common cases.

7. Vocabulary

Last but most certainly not least comes vocabulary. Enlarging your vocabulary is a lifelong mission each learner embarks on. You should never stop working on your active vocabulary. Remember, ten words learned every day come up to 3560 new words by the end of the year — a figure that is enough to communicate almost any idea.

Check this entry for some tips on how to increase your vocabulary.

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6 Common Writing Mistakes

The Writing aspect of certification exams tends to be the most difficult of the four. Students scores are 10-15% lower than in the other aspects. To avoid making typical writing mistakes you should know the most obvious ones.

Single-paragraph Essay

A text without proper structure is a text that never gets high score. This text has no clear structure and therefore is both hard and unpleasant to read. Remember that your essay should have at least two body paragraphs, introduction and conclusion. See this essay structure page for more tips.

Copying the Task

Using the same exact phrases from the task isn’t welcomed by examiners. The copied text is not going to be counted towards your total of words. This means that if you use the task words and phrases in your introduction then your essay will basically have no introductory paragraph. This is going to look bad then. Just paraphrase the task, it’s easier than you think!

Draft Essay

Most schools emphasise the importance of writing a draft paper before producing the final work and handing it in. Although this makes perfect sense in the usual studying environment, your writing part of IELTS/CAE/TOEFL is a rare exception. You are guaranteed to have no time to copy your draft to the exam form. And whatever you have written on your draft paper is not going to be scored in any way, even though you are asked to hand that in too.

If you are worried about corrections in your exam paper — don’t be. Corrections are not punished at all as long as the corrected phrase is written legibly (i.e. it is easy to understand).

No Planning

This writing mistake is related to the previous one. While making a full draft paper isn’t advised, planning your structure beforehand is still encouraged. Take a few minutes to decide how many paragraphs you will have and what they will be about. Such brief outline will ensure smoother transitions between ideas and overall better cohesion.

Easy Goes First

It is tempting to go for the shorter and easier writing task first (Like Task 1 in IELTS which is 150 words as opposed to 250 word Task 2). This approach is not sound because the bigger and more challenging task brings your more points. If you find yourself running out of time then it is better to have finished your second task.

5 Common Speaking Mistakes

There is nothing easier than going wrong with the Speaking section of your exam. There are many speaking mistakes that are too easy to make. Know these simple pitfalls to avoid them and ensure good score for your IELTS/TOEFL/CAE exam.

Answering the Wrong Question

It may sound silly, but this is a common mistake. Make sure you understand the question. Ask your examiner to repeat it if you are unsure what exactly you are supposed to say. It is not going to affect your score in any way. If you still fail to get the meaning, ask to rephrase. If your answer will have nothing to do with the question then it won’t be scored at all.

Memorising the Answer

OK, this isn’t new, we’ve all done that. This time it isn’t going to work because a memorised answer is easily spotted by a professional examiner. Instead of rote-learning the whole answer try to remember some basic phrases and constructions for each possible topic. An honest answer will be much better than a learned one.

Drinking for Confidence

This isn’t going to work. You will think slower, feel out of place. Not to mention you will smell of alcohol — your examiner won’t be too happy to have you. If you absolutely have to take the pressure off — have some green tea before the exam. Mint works good too. Don’t overdo it — you can get your thinking process slowed down by drinking too much.
Alternatively, try some of these techniques to get your cognitive abilities in shape.

Short Answer

The whole idea of Speaking part of exam is to showcase your language. Some tend to forget this, responding to every other questions with only a couple of words. Remember: your answer has to be detailed. As long as it is relevant to the topic — it’s good. If you start going over the time limit the examiner will let you know. If you are unsure what to say, then make something up. Your words don’t have to be one hundred percent truth.

Spontaneous Answer

Certain tasks give you preparation time (i.e. IELTS Speaking Task 2 — the card question). Some choose to keep all the bullet points of the answer in their head. While this is acceptable, it isn’t the optimal technique. You are much better to write the crucial information down: the beginnings of sentences, some words and phrases that you think you should use and so forth. Don’t be lazy – some writing can make your answer much more structured and cohesive.

IELTS Speaking Example (Band 7)

The best way to learn is to observe others and learn from their experience. Below is a video of a pretty Syrian girl named Sawson doing the IELTS interview.

We will go over her answer to see both strong and weak points based on four assessment criteria: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, pronunciation. For explanation of assessment criteria refer to the IELTS Speaking page.

Fluency and coherence

This is the strongest aspect of this student. She maintains a fast-paces, steady rythm of speech throughout her whole answer. Only rare intermittent pauses happen, however they do not sound out of place. Remember that even the native speakers tend to make pauses to think their sentence through.

The student’s speech is coherent enough — it is easy enough to follow her idea most of the time, she develops her points clearly using a range of cohesive devices. However, at times the student gets lost in hertrain of thought:
[3:15-3:45] lack of proper cohesion
[10:05-10:35] words become more isolated with fewer cohesive devices
[10:50-11:40] almost no cohesion between ideas, she starts repeating the same words and phrases

Do not confuse coherence and cohesion. If you are coherent, then it is easy to understand what you are saying. If your speech is cohesive then you link your ideas well. See the previous link for clarification.

At times the student doesn’t address the quesitons the is asked. Instead she answers a slightly different question, either because of misunderstanding or nervousness: [3:00]

Lexical resource

The speaker has a good range of vocabulary, however she tends to repeat the word “very” — there are many synonyms to this word, yet she never uses them. Knowing alternative intensifiers is a nice way to make your English more varied. Sawson chose not to use them so this must have affected her final score negatively.

Grammatical range and accuracy

Sawson’s English has acceptable level of grammar. There are some points that could be improved:

Prepositions. For a number of times she would use “in” instead of “on”:[5:10] The special gift … it was a necklace in her mother’s day.
[12:00] We are all human beings and we’re living in the same globe.
Other examples: [2:50] I have great taste of music (Correct: I have great taste in music/ great music taste].

At times the student chooses the wrong tense to address a question:
[3:00] The question: Has the kind of music you like changed over the years? The answer: Well yes, yes it changed because …

In this example it would be better to use Present Perfect instead of Past Simple. See this small page on tenses for additional information.

Use of articles. The student isn’t always accurate with her definite article usage. Examples:
[2:53] I like the classical, I like the Arabic music

Some words do not collocate well. Examples:
[7:05] I like to take gifts (Correct: to receive/to get gifts]

Pronunciation

The examinee’s pronunciation is quite good. Only minor irregularities are noticeable, however they do not stand in the way of understanding.

The speaking tends to articulate letter g after n, examples:
[2:48] singer, [5:25] giving, [6:35] wearing.

Conclusion

The speaker demonstrated a solid command of English. She sounds natural, she is fluent as confident. More complex constructions prove to be more difficult. Even though she displayed good knowledge of the language I think that Band 7 is a bit too generous.

Scan and Skim Reading

Skim reading and scan reading are two fundamentally different approaches, both extremely effective. Knowing these two techniques is a valuable asset at your exam and studying in general. Mastering them is a guarantee that your learning process will never be the same.

So what are they exactly? Simply put, skim reading is getting the general idea of a sentence, a paragraph or even a text without reading it thoroughly. Scan reading on the other hand is looking for specific information in the text, again, without spending too much time it. Combined, these two techniques can save you the precious time in the Reading part of your exam. Not to mention that they will become an invaluable tool in anything involving learning something new or searching for information.

Skim Reading

Skim reading, or simply skimming, is going through more information by spending considerably less time on it. The aim of skimming is to get the general idea of the text rather than learning the finer points of it. It is just the right tool for when you are short on time — which is basically any exam or even getting prepared for one (that said, you are welcome to use this technique when cramming).

Skim reading can be done differently. One way to skim read is to quickly read the first sentence of the paragraph. By nature, this sentence has to introduce the topic that is going to be mentioned next. This means that if the sentence doesn’t seem to have any relation to the topic you are looking for then you can save yourself the trouble of reading the remainder of that paragraph. This might sound reckless, but all it takes is experience to develop sound judgement and specific hunch for such things. In other words, the more you practice, the better you get at seeing relevant information in the paragraph judging by its first sentence.

Some writers like to start their paragraphs with a question. In that case, the first sentence might not be helpful. Instead, you would want to look at the last couple of sentences in the same paragraph – they are most likely to have the answer to that question. Using that knowledge you decide whether the paragraph may contain the information you need. Generally speaking, checking last sentences is a good idea even when the beginning of the paragraph gives a clear outline. Naturally, last sentences arrive at some kind of conclusion which can be worth reading even when skimming the text.

When skimming, you might want to quickly look through the whole paragraph for the following:

  • Typographical irregularities – words that are written in bold, italics or are underlined. Such text decorations are used for a reason — the author might have used that to draw your attention to it.
  • Asterisks* and footnotes 1
  • Capitalized words. Naturally they are easy to spot because of upper case first letter. These are usually proper nouns, and thus they cannot be paraphrased, which means they are very helpful when searching for keywords.
  • Numbers (digits) – easy to spot, hard to paraphrase.
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Cohesion in text and speech

Cohesion is the way your text is linked together. Cohesion shouldn’t be confused with coherence. Coherence, simply put, is whether or not your text makes sense. Cohesion is how well parts of your text — words, sentences, paragraphs — fit together.

Types of cohesive devices

  • Pronouns; Reflexive pronouns. A simple cohesive device. Examples: he; she; it; they. Reflexive pronouns refer to a pronoun that was previously mentioned in the text. Example: He introduced himself. Nouns and pronouns must agree in gender, number and person.
  • Conjunctions. The most basic way to connect parts of text together. Examples: and; but; or; yet; so
  • Adverbial conjunctions. These are more complex cohesive devices. Also known as transitional tags, they can be divided into several groups. Examples: even; thus; although; instead and many more

Pronouns

Pronouns are easy to use, just stick to the simple rule – it should be very clear what your pronoun refers to. Avoid using too many pronouns in one sentence — it can easily confuse your reader. If you have to refer to several subject within one sentence, substitute the pronoun for something else.  For example:

Original sentence: She said she doesn’t know him
Corrected sentence: Jane said she doesn’t know him /She denied knowing him. In the second example not only did we use just two pronouns instead of three, we also made the sentence more concise.

Original sentence: They refused to cooperate with him. 
Corrected sentence: The politicians refused to cooperate with him / They refused to cooperate with the President. You can substitute either pronoun to make your sentence more reader-friendly.

Note that pronoun their/them/they can be used with singular when you want to refrain from mentioning the person’s gender.
Example: Please remind your client that they should come on time. (We are talking about one person here).

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are the easiest to use. The only tricky questions is whether you can start a sentence with “and” or “but”. The answer is yes, you can. However, keep in mind that if you put it in the beginning of the sentence it creates a strong connection between this sentence and the previous one. Make sure this is the intended effect. You might also want to try and leave the conjunction out — if the meaning of your sentence doesn’t change, you probably don’t need the conjunction. And even if you choose to use it, don’t do it too often or it’ll lose its magic.

Adverbial Conjunctions

These devices are more complex. Look at the table below

Purpose of conjunctionConjunctions (conjunctions in bracket are optional)
Adding somethingAlso, besides, finally, furthermore, in addition, moreover, still, therewith, too, on top of that
ComparingAlso, as well, alike, similarly
ContrastingAlthough, (and) yet, (and) at the same time, despite that, even though, however, in contrast, instead, inspite of, nevertheless, on the other hand, though
EmphasizingCertainly, definitely, indeed, in fact
Giving exampleFor/as an example, for instance, to illustrate, in other words, it is true that, namely, specifically, case in point
Showing equalityas … as, both … and, either … or, neither … nor,
not only … but also
Summarizing, concludingAs it was/has been said, in conclusion, finally, in short, in other words, to put it simply, on the whole, summarizing
Note: if you are unsure how to use any of this in text – just google it.

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IELTS Writing Task 1 General

In IELTS Writing Task 1 General you have to write an answer to a given situation in a letter. This letter should be at least 150 words long. You have about 20 minutes to do this task.

Task 1, General

There are several types of letters in IELTS Writing Task 1 General  See examples below:

  • Writing to your friend about the trip you had recently
  • Writing to your boss about problems at work
  • Writing to the local newspaper with some suggestion
  • Writing to your landlord to ask to fix something in your apartment
  • Writing a formal complaint to a restaurant manager
  • Writing to your penfriend abroad to ask about their time at college

Depending on the type of letter you will need to use different style of writing. It can be formal, informal or a combination of both. Please note that if you fail to choose the appropriate register your score will be considerably lowered. Check the page about formal and informal expressions to learn more.

Your letter is assessed based on four aspects, each making up to 25% percent of your total score.

1.Task achievement

Your letter should be effective at delivering the message you try to make with it (If the person fully understands what you want from him after reading your letter, then you did well).

2. Coherence and cohesion

Your letter should be clear and logical. You have to use various ways to connect your sentences and paragraphs(you should use linking words and linking verbs, cohesive devices(), pronouns). You have to logically divide your letter into paragraphs.

3. Lexical resource

You should demonstrate that you know many words — and use them appropriately. Try not to repeat the same word if you know a synonym for it. Your spelling should not have mistakes.

4. Grammatical range and accuracy

You should show the knowledge of different grammatical constructions. These constructions should not have any mistakes. (If you are not sure how to use a construction, it is better to use a more simple one that you will not make any mistakes in)

We will now take some example letters from other students provided by ielts.org.

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

You live in a room in college with a roommate. It is very difficult for you to study because your roommate keeps having parties at your place. They also keep borrowing your things without asking for permission.

Write a letter to the Accommodation Officer at the college to request to be moved to a different room starting next term. You would like to have a single room this time. State and explain your reasons for that.

You should write at least 150 words.

You do NOT need to write your own address. Begin your letter as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with my room-mate. As your know we share one room, I can not study in the room at all any more ifI still stay there.

She always has friend visiting and has parties in the room. They make lots of noise and switch on the radio very loudly, for me this environment is very difficult to study and I need a quiet room. Even borrows my things without asking, it is very impolite.

I request you can give me a new room next term because I have been asked her has parties in other place many times they still have parties in the room. I really can not stay in the same room with her.

I would be grateful if you could change me a single room.

(138 words)

This is a Band 5 answer which is considered to be a below average mark. There is a number of typical writing mistakes present in this writing. Let’s now analyze the letter and see how it can be improved to meet the requirements of a Task 1 Band 7 level.

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Essay Writing for IELTS and CAE

Essay writing is by far the most frustrating part for most. It is a serious challenge even for native English speakers. In this article, I will share my view on writing exam essays, what difficulties you are likely to have and how to overcome them. This was made as a stand-alone entry because the essay basics are universal for most exams (or even most writing assignments for that matter).

Difficulties of writing

Writing an essay can be a challenging task both for new and experienced students. There are three main challenges when writing an essay in English.

  • Essay structure
  • Lack of ideas
  • Idea development

Depending on the task you face one of the difficulties may be more difficult to overcome than the others. At times, you are held back by all three of them — such predicament would discourage even the most eager of writers. We will take these problematic aspects one by one.

1. Essay structure

When we talk about text structure in an English exam, we usually mean paragraphing and sentence sequencing. The latter will be covered in idea development chapter; we will concentrate on paragraphs now.

The purpose of having multiple paragraphs in an essay is to make it more clear and informative by grouping relevant information. This means that the sentences belonging to the same paragraph should be about a certain aspect of the main idea the text is dedicated to. This approach allows for smooth transition between several aspects making the text more accessible and pleasant to read.

Let us take an IELTS exam text to illustrate this. You are given a limit of 250 words which affects both the number and volume of paragraphs you can use. An ideal number is usually two or three body paragraphs plus introduction and conclusion. Fewer paragraphs will mean a mostly one-sided narrative concentrating on just one aspect of the text, which is inadvisable. More than three paragraphs will not allow to fully develop your ideas because of the word limit.

It goes without saying that introduction is going to be your first paragraph. Use it to introduce the topic and briefly state your view on it. Don’t go into details, you will do that in the subsequent paragraphs. This paragraph shouldn’t take more than three of four sentences. It is important for introduction to be shorter than the body paragraphs, otherwise the text will look out-of-balance.

Body paragraphs is where you expand on the notion or idea, that you mentioned in paragraph one. Your aim is to develop the points as fully as you can, without being too verbose i.e. not using non-essential words to convey the meaning (see article on concise writing for further reference and examples). To achieve said points development, we will be using multiple paragraphs for different aspects of the discussed issue. For example, if the task is to provide your opinion on welfare system, you can focus on its advantages (paragraph two) and disadvantages (paragraph three). With this type of task, another body paragraph seems redundant – you will have compared both aspects by the end of paragraph three. It is time to wrap it all up.

Some students find the concluding paragraph to be difficult because everything has already been described and summarising seems to them as repeating it all over again. There is nothing wrong with going over the things you have mentioned before when it comes to the concluding paragraph. It is advisable to paraphrase your key points slightly by any means possible – using synonyms, changing active voice to passive, changing sentence structure. Adding a summarising sentence as the last one can be a good way to end your essay i.e. “Having considered both advantages and disadvantages of welfare, I came to believe that it is an integral part of our society as it helps people in need to …”. You get the idea. Just don’t use one single sentence like that to finish your work. You have to substantiate the conclusions with ideas and examples from your essay.

2. Lack of ideas

Getting the essay started can often be the hardest challenge for a new essay writer. This is commonly referred to as “writer’s block” — inability to make that first step.

Nobody likes wrestling with a blank page. One reason for this could be extreme level of self-criticism. Young people feel reluctant to write anything but the best, top-notch material. When you find it difficult to get your writing started, then consider the following — your text will only be read by a handful of examiners. No matter how bad or good it comes out, it will never be seen by people other than the assessment committee. This should take some pressure away as some people tend to be too self-conscious about their work.

Another fact to keep in mind is the quality of your writing. You writing is assessed on four criteria and artistic value isn’t one of them. Don’t be discouraged by lack of insight on the question you should write about — it’s just a base that you use to show your ability to produce a piece of writing. They want to know that you can handle the language well, its words and constructions. That you can structure your text and make its parts stick together.

3. Idea development

The ideas that you are going to write about should be mentioned (or at least hinted at) in your introduction. By doing that you show respect to your reader and make your writing more cohesive. These ideas are normally placed in the last sentence of introductory paragraph:

Juvenile delinquency, or crime among young people, is a serious social issue. Over the past decade the crime rate among teens rose by a staggering 17 %. This phenomenon can be caused by a number of factors, such as peer pressure, insecurity and lack of sound judgement.

Writing about a topic you are recommended to follow a simple rule – go from basics to specifics. This is effectively applied to any body paragraph in your text — and it’s body paragraphs that help you develop your topic.

In your first sentence you present an idea, a statement or anything else that you want to discuss. The following sentences in that paragraph serve to expand on your first statement. That way your reader doesn’t get lost and your ideas are easier to follow:

Peer pressure seems to be the most contributing factor. In an attempt to find acceptance among the people of their own age group, young men and women commit offences, both minor and serious ones. Disregard for societal norms is seen as “cool” by the young and therefore openly defying the law is an easy way to gain respect of one’s peers.

In the paragraph above we slowly develop our ideas. First we explain our understanding of peer pressure and then present reasons for it to be a contributing factor to juvenile delinquency.

Finally, you want to wrap all your ideas up by presenting a conclusive paragraph. As it was mentioned before that if you choose to repeat the ideas do your best to paraphrase them.

English Essay Writing: Extra Tips

  • Practice makes perfect. Use sample essay topics and write mock essays at home — this will do you a world of good
  • Get to like writing. It is a skill that will probably be useful throughout your life. It will improve your literacy, promote imagination, it will look good on your CV. Think above and beyond of your exam
  • Always, ALWAYS proofread your writing. This will eliminate most if not all of your spelling and grammar mistakes you could have made. This skill requires some practice, so writing some essays at home is highly advised
  • Don’t feel bad about making corrections. A correction that is clear and easy to read will not affect your final score negatively
  • Avoid these common mistakes in writing
  • See some user-submitted essay samples here
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Mind flexing — keeping your brain fit

Thinking is a power-hungry process. One-fourth of all calories that you spend daily are used by your brain. And like just about anything in your body, your brain needs warming up to reach its maximum efficiency. This short article will give you a brief list of ways to shake your brain cells to life, gently.

1. Crosswords

Crosswords are believed to be generally beneficial for your brain function. That is true but what they really excel at developing is what they are basically about – finding words. Have you ever noticed yourself being unable to recall “that” word so in the end you had to resort to a more simple, generalized concept? Maybe your whole sentence crumpled because that phrase slipped away from your mind? This happens to everyone, even the native speakers. As the number of words you know goes up it becomes increasingly difficult to have every single one of them at hand right away.

This is when crosswords come to help. Solving a challenging crossword hones your ability to fish out a word or phrase you require. However, it is important for the crossword tasks to be difficult enough to stimulate your thinking process. Easy words won’t do the trick. Finally, the more complicated crossword are good to expand your vocabulary – it’s a proven way to memorize words
Good for: Writing, Speaking

2. Coffee

Coffee is the most popular stimulant on our planet. Some like the smell, others dig its taste. What we are interested is how it can help us think.

In order for the coffee to have positive effect, you have to stick to a certain dose. It largely depends on your tolerance and metabolism rate, but a safe bet is to limit your intake of coffee by 250 mg or less (one small cup). Higher doses will not lead to more noticeable effects. On the contrary, too much coffee can backfire and slow your thinking down.

Coffee kicks in after about 20 minutes with the heightened alertness and accelerated thinking lasting about as long. Use this knowledge to time your cup of coffee, usually before your speaking exam (FCE, CAE and IELTS speaking part of exam takes place at a different time, sometimes on another day). Because of its short-lived effect coffee isn’t very effective for reading, listening or writing.
Good for: Speaking

 

3. Glucose

Glucose is the fuel for your brain, it’s primary source of power. Lack of glucose in your body will impair your thinking ability, you will feel confused and unable to concentrate. Glucose is found in all carbohydrates-rich food – fruit and vegetables, pastry and pasta.
When you think actively (solving exam tasks is a perfect example), your supply of glucose depletes at a faster rate. Ensuring you have enough glucose in your body is crucial to keep your cognitive abilities at their peak.
Good for: Everything

4. Physical exercising

Try jogging, some push-ups, even a fast-paced stroll is fine. Whatever gets your blood circulating is good for your mind. Make this your routine to feel an overall improvement in your quality of life.
Good for: Everything

5. A conversation

Prior to your speaking exam you might want to have a chat with a friend or a colleague – basically anyone who speaks English. It’s good if the person knows the language as good as you do or even better than you. A native speaker is your best bet.

The purpose of this act is to make your mind ready for an english-speaking environment (the speaking exam). Another reason to do this is to boost your confidence and because of this don’t seek for help of a friend whose level of English is much higher than that of your own – you might feel inferior in comparison. This will result in a lack in confidence just before the beginning of your exam – not exactly what you would be willing to achieve.
Good for: Speaking, Writing

Extra tips

Chewing a gum before your speaking exam will flex your jaw muscles which helps with pronunciation. It will also makes your breath fresh – a nice way to make you feel more confident.

The warm-up session are especially important if you are going to your exam early in the morning when you aren’t wide awake.

The bottom line: Your confidence can be just as important as your language expertise. To make you feel better and more self-assured, know this – in extreme situations such as an exam your brain knows that it has to do its best — and this process is out of your control. Stay relaxed but keep focused. You’ll be alright.

Concise writing — short and simple

What is concision? Simply put, it’s saying much by using few words. It is not the ultimate goal when doing your writing part of the exam, however you should consider the following: having mastered this approach you will be able to achieve the exam task more completely, to develop your ideas to their fullest and to make your text more reader-friendly – all within the same word and time limit. Concise writing does it all.

The basic idea behind concise writing is to trim your text down, to strip it of all redundant words, clauses, even sentences. This does not mean resorting to short, lifeless abstracts. The point is to make every word work.

Concise writing tips

Use intensifiers carefully

Everybody likes to make their writing more impressive by adding “very” or any of its synonyms to every single adjective. The common misconception is that this creates an impact on your reader. This is usually wrong — not only does it not add anything new to your text. It also demeans the word “very” because you use it ubiqutously.

Should you refrain from using intensifiers at all? Of course not! But you should be very frugal with them. To understand whether you need an intensifier or not, just try saying the sentence with and without it. If the intensifier contributes little or nothing to the sentence — you don’t need it.

Another way to avoid using intensifiers is to use adjectives and adverbs that already have very strong meaning. Instead of saying very smart you can use brilliant. Very big becomes huge. Very small turns to tiny. Doing that makes your text easier to read and more vocabulary-rich — both will help to get a higher score for your Writing paper.

Lose the useless words

This is a common problem. Students go for a saying that contains more words or clauses. They mistakenly believe that this is how intelligent people speak or write. Most of the times it is not needed, and a shorter sentence does a better job at getting the message across.

Examples:
I met my friend Jack, a good acquaintance of mine, and we went to the pub
The closest cinema was right across the street
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my own eyes
The train was crowded with people at this time of the day
She is the person who works here

It can be very tempting to build your phrase to be more heavy — all to show your command of English. You shouldn’t do that, there are other ways to demonstrate your language abilities.

Extra tips

Don’t use words just for the sake of using them.Your words should have a purpose – to convey meaning, to create an effect, to achieve something.