IELTS Speaking topic - studying 1

IELTS Speaking topic – Studying #1

This is a sample response for IELTS Speaking Part 2 and 3. In addition to the model answer there are highlighted words and phrases. Teal is for vocabulary relating to this topic, yellow is for generally useful words and phrases.

IELTS Speaking Part 2

Describe a difficult test or exam you had to take
You should say:

  • what was it for
  • what was the subject
  • how you did in this test or exam

and explain why you found it difficult

Model answer

About this time last year I was trying to graduate from secondary school. As my plan was to carry on with my education in college I had to take entrance exams. If I did well in these exams I would be eligible for scholarship. Anyway, one of the exams was math. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problems with numeracy! However, more complex and abstract calculations are usually beyond my ability. As they say, some people were not just cut out for such tasks.

When I received the task I felt intimidated, there is no other way to put it. The math problems there were way more challenging than anything I had ever faced before. I even though I would have to resit this exam which meant spending whole summer with a tutor. This wasn’t the greatest of prospects, to say the least.

I ended up passing the exam on the verge of failing it. I couldn’t get scholarship, but at least I entered the college I wanted to. As for the reason why the exam proved to be so hard – I’m just not good at maths!

IELTS Speaking Part 3

Teaching and teachers

How can teaching be made a more prestigious profession?
I can see two possible ways of making that happen. The first approach is a straightforward one – higher salaries. Make teachers the ones who students look up to and want to be like. A snappy-dressed teacher who arrives to school in a new flashy car gives a very clear message – study hard and become smart and successful like I have. Another approach is less direct – make teachers heroes in popular media. Novels and other forms of fiction could help promote the image of modern teacher, movie adaptations could help further the idea. The opportunities are vast.

Has teaching changed over the past decade? If so, how?
I will be mostly talking about my own country as I have little knowledge about situation worldwide. One of the more evident changes is ubiquitous use of technology. We watch and listen more than we ever have. The computers definitely contribute to facilitation of learning. Another noticeable development is that student nowadays have more freedom. The curriculum became modular – in other words we chose what we want to study, it has become less dogmatic and prescriptive. Finally, the teaching staff seems to be getting younger!

What new teaching methods can we expect to see in the future?
I think we might end up with fewer teachers. With the availability of study from home programmes the student-to-teacher ratio has increased dramatically. It showed that such approach can help scale the teacher’s effort almost indefinitely. In all likelihood, there is a possibility of no-teacher programmes, where students will be led by smart AI tutors. This might sound too far-fetched now, but let’s see how it all pans out in ten years’ time!

Studying and tuition fees

Expensive private education increases the gap between the rich and the poor. Do you agree or disagree?
There are two sides to this argument. It is a given that high tuition costs go into ensuring that only the best teachers and professors are employed. However, this will not necessarily foster good studying environment as there will be plenty of students from privileged background. This type will not always have come there to study – on the contrary, they might be after socialising and partying. Therefore, such places can be counterproductive if it is actual education one is after.

Is making higher education free a good or a bad idea? Why?
As we know, there is no such concept as “free” – ultimately, somebody has to pay what someone else gets or perceives as “free”. In this case, the money is most likely to come from taxpayers’ pockets. Therefore, the question is whether you would be willing to pay for a fraction somebody else’s tuition? I believe this system could work on the basis of merit – academically able students could be identified through tests and granted free education. This would ensure that only keen students are admitted, creating a healthy academic environment. In fact, this should be the way it is today, but unfortunately it is not. No matter how smart and zealous you are, it is unlikely that you will have all of your tuition fees paid by a third party.

Do you think that higher education should be made compulsory? Why/Why not?
To be frank, the opposite should be true. Schools and teachers have to be held responsible for promoting awareness about higher education. Today most students associate degree with guaranteed job placement and competitive salary. However, for many the reality is huge student debt and a job that has no connection with their newly-got profession. Learning a trade instead of wasting time and money on a degree should be an encouraged alternative, if not the first option a student should consider.

Studying vocabulary

Take entrance exams – to take the exams needed to enter a college or university. Note the verb ‘take’ used with ‘exam’.
Scholarship (n) – an agreement between the student and the school/college/uni or prospective employer where the latter pays some or all tuition fees (see below)
Numeracy (n) – ability to calculate and handle numbers
Math problems – any math equation
Resit an exam – to take an exam again
Tutor (n) – normally a privately hired and funded teacher who works individually or with a smaller group of students
Curriculum (n) – all the classes and subjects that together create the course of a school/college/uni
Prescriptive (adj) – mandatory, non-negotiable, compulsory
Tuition fees – the amount of money you have to pay for education
Foster (v) – to encourage development of something
Privileged background – coming from a well-off/well-known family, well-connected
Merit (n) – qualities or advantages of something/someone
Keen (adj) – eager, enthusiastic
Zealous (adj) – having strong beliefs in something
Trade (n) – a set of practical skills, i.e. a plumber or an electrician have a trade.

General vocabulary

Carry on – to continue
Eligible for (adj) – to have the right to do, have or get something
Be cut out for – to be made for a particular role or deed
Intimidated (adj) – feeling nervous or scared because of how difficult something is
Prospect (n) – possibility of something happening in the future
On the verge of – about to happen, very close to happening
Message (n) – (here) idea that someone tried to communicate
Fiction (n) – made up, not real, imaginary
Further (v) – to help something develop or progress, to encourage
Vast (adj) – huge in size or quantity
Ubiquitous (adj) – being everywhere
Facilitation (n) – making something easier, promoting something
Scale (n) – size (not literal) of something, e.g. business
In all likelihood – most likely
Far-fetched (adj) – unlikely