Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Letter Writing Tips for IELTS General Test- Writing/ Task 1


In Task 1 of the IELTS General Writing section, you must write a letter about a given situation. This letter will be one of the following types: 

To someone you have not met,
whose name you don't know
Dear Sir / Madam
Yours faithfully
To someone you may or may not have met, whose last name you know & use
Dear Mr Brown,
Dear Ms Stone
Yours sincerely
To someone you know well, whose first
name you know and use
Dear John
Dear Anita
Best regards
Warm wishes
Other Openings
Dear John,
A semi-formal letter will also open with Dear and then be followed by a name, (if you decide that in the situation you would know the name) or by Sir (if it's a man), Madam (if it's a woman) or Sir/Madam if you don't know, eg:
Dear Mr. Phillips, or Dear Mrs. Phillips,
Dear Sir, or Dear Madam,
Dear Sir/Madam,

Though you see 3 types of letters in the chart, your letter writing task will ask you to write either a reasonably informal letter to a friend or a semi-formal letter. Each kind of letter requires a different style of writing, a specific beginning and ending salutation, formal or informal expressions.

formal letter can be identified in several ways:

· the tone, which is formal and business-like and serious
· the use of Dear Sir / Madam
· the absence of contractions
· the use of formal expressions ("Thank you kindly in advance.")
· the closing salutation ( "Yours faithfully", etc.)

The Opening Greeting of the Letter

The opening of your letter should reflect which one you are writing. See the chart above. 
Dear Sir / Madam  

 The Opening Paragraph of the Letter

Semi-Formal -In a semi-formal letter, it is important to state the reason for the letter straight away. This is unlike a letter to a friend where you can be a little chatty right from the beginning, but don't ramble. 

Informal Letter -If the letter is a less formal one to a friend then you should open the letter in a friendlier way. For example:

Hi Rohit! It's been so long since I've heard from you. I hope you are doing well and I hope all you family are doing fine. I'm pretty good in spite of working hard. Anyway, the reason I'm writing is...

The Substance of the Letter

Here are some helpful phrases about language to use in the substance of the letter which will help you to answer the task well. You could use the following phrases to help you for semi-formal letters:

Asking for Help

I am writing to ask/inquire...
I am writing with regard to...
I am writing with reference to...
I am writing in connection with...
I am writing in response to...
In reply to your letter, I am writing to... (if the question indicates that you
have already received  a letter)

 I would be grateful if you could...
I need to ask your advice about...
I'd like to ask for information about...
What I'm looking for is...


I'm very sorry that/about...
Please forgive me for...
I'd like to apologize about...
Please accept my apologies


I'm writing to express my dissatisfaction/annoyance/ about...
I'm writing to express my anger at...
I am not happy about...
... is not what I expected/was expecting.
I want to know what you are going to do about this situation.

Please note-  When complaining, don't get too angry. In a polite semi-formal letter, you should not be insulting and sound too heated and definitely not abusive. Also, do not over-exaggerate. If it's a reasonably small and understandable problem, do say that you're not satisfied but show that you understand and stay calm in your expressions.


I'm very grateful for...
I'd like to thank you very much for...
I very much appreciated...

Ending your Letter

In English, before the sign off we often end letters with certain phrases. These can be included in most letters and will make your letter seem realistic. 

For a formal letter, you could use:

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanking you in advance for your help, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

For a more informal letter you could use:

If you need to know anything else, just get in touch with me as soon as you can. Thanks a lot for your help and I hope to hear from you soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stepping Stone Questions for Motivation

In the Ten Principles that we want to reflect on, and in our lives for a positive outcome, the  tenth principles tells us to seek out those who are similarly motivated. Sometimes its a bit difficult to get motivated, especially if you have been feeling down or back sliding in some way lately. Getting motivated is easy. All you need do is get from Point A , "Why must I take action?" to Point B,  "What action  must I take next?"  You can cross over from Point A by using these nine stepping stones.  Ask yourself nine simple questions.
As you ask, don't try to think up complex answers. Your mind and heart already know what they want; you're just reaching in and drawing from that knowledge.

Here are the questions:

1.       Who do I care about most?
2.      How can I help them be happier?
3.      What are my most powerful goals?
4.      How will I feel when I achieve them?
5.      What makes me truly grateful?
6.      How can I show more appreciation?
7.      What's great about my "right now"?
8.      How could I make it even better?
9.      What's the next step?

If you do this exercise in  a state of childlike innocence and anticipation, without passing judgment  on yourself or others, you will get motivated  probably even before you get to the ninth question.  Just relax, plant your feet firmly one step at a time and allow yourself to feel the emotions that the stepping stone questions generate in you.
Once you’ve done that, you will  take whatever next step is necessary to turn your dreams (and the dreams of those  whom you love)  into realities.  Try to make this technique a habit. Motivational Learn English & IELTS Blog

Reflect On These Ten Principles

Here are 10 principles to put into action right now that can help you with positive emotions, better performance, and all round better results:

1  Always act with a purpose.

2  Take responsibility for your results.

3  Stretch beyond limits any way big or small. Go out of the way to help someone, compliment someone without flattering, take on some extra work, read something, improve yourself.

4  Don't wait for perfection; love yourself, accept yourself the way you are now; act now.

5  Resolve to learn from failures and successes.

6  Take your job seriously, but do not take yourself too seriously.

7  Use rejection to renew your humility -but remain objective.

8  Use both negative and positive feedback to keep on target. 

9  Be careful about what you put into my mind and body.

10  Seek out people who are similarly motivated to improve themselves.

<a href="">WL - WebLinks Directory</a>

Before You Go to a Study Abroad Counselling Service

Basics for Study Abroad

I sometimes do IELTS coaching in my friends’ office (Manoj Patki of Edurussia; his wife Smita is my dear old school pal) for students who are going to Canada, New Zealand etc. Here I have seen are all kinds of people, old and young, who don't have much spare time, with all kinds of queries. Some are very naïve and just put themselves in the counselor’s hands, which is fine if
1) you have someone as experienced as Manoj Patki  looking out for your interests first rather than their own,
2) you have built up trust and
3) know what you want.

Here's a couple of suggestions as you start out on your Study Abroad/Higher Studies search. Please don’t be lazy- no-one else can think for you or choose for you! You definitely need to talk with some reputable study counselors for study abroad, however there are things you can do to prepare yourself which will ensure that your search goes off successfully. 

1) Do some research on the nature of the program you are interested in, and the career options you can go for with that degree. Although you are 2 to 4 years away from the degree, at least you will have some positive pictures of the future in your mind. The more knowledge you have, the more control you can take over your future and destiny. 

2) Before setting out to even visit any study abroad counselor, do some research on your preferred countries and colleges. You cannot just ask which is the best college for Hospitality, or Medicine or Animation or…etc.? What do you mean by “best”? There is "Best" in terms of budget, or course reputation, or college reputation, living facilities, cultural adjustment time,  or language learning time (For example, if you go to Germany or Russia, even if your course is taught in English, it would help you to take some basic course in the local language).

There are many factors that make up “best”. “What is best for me in my given situation, with my needs, and preferences?” is a better way of looking at the overall picture. In broad terms all the countries offer your courses, more or less.
Research the colleges about which you have heard good reports from others but don’t think “OK, I've decided which college, now I’ll go and tell the counselor where I want to go; he will do the needful.” It doesn't work that way.  As my friend Manoj says, "The college has to choose you also". Don’t be too arrogant; yes they welcome you and your tuition fee but you have to offer more than that to the college. You have to demonstrate some ability. 

3) Have some of your papers ready. These things are so obvious that you should not have to waste any time preparing yourself for paperwork at least. Remember the saying, the early bird gets the worm? I'm not talking about eating worms, but going for the goal- be early, be prepared.
I have made a list of some things you should keep ready for application to study aborad so that your application procedure goes smoothly right from the beginning. All the best, and call me if you need IELTS or TOEFL coaching. This is a general list; you will get specific details from the counselor, but these are the essentials needed. 

            Admission To A Post secondary Diploma or Certificate Program
  • · International Application Form (International Application Form) 
  • · Application fee of $75 and up (This is very general- budget for that amount per   application more or less, in US$, CAN$, AUD) 
  • · One of the following certificates with a grade of 55 or above in required program subjects: 
  • · All India Senior School Certificated awarded by CBSE/ Indian School Certificate (awarded by CISCE) 
  • · Year 12 State Board Exams 
  • · English Proficiency requirements are as follows for consideration: 
  • · A 1st division English grade in the 12th standard would be considered for exemption from TOEFL, IELTS or CAEL for most postsecondary programs, OR 
  • · A minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper based) or 213 (computer based) or 80 (internet based) -  OR 
  • · IELTS with an overall minimum score of 6.0 (with no single test score below 5.0), OR 
  • · CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language Assessment) with an overall band score of 60. 

            Admission To A Bachelor’s Degree Program

  • · International Application Form (International Application Form) 
  • · Application fee $75 and up 
  • · One of the following certificates with a grade of 60 or above in required program subjects: 
  • · All India Senior School Certificated awarded by CBSE/ Indian School Certificate (awarded by CISCE) 
  • · Year 12 State Board Exams 
  • · Include transcripts for any post-secondary courses or programs completed 
  • · English Proficiency requirements are as follows for consideration: 
  • · Minimum TOEFL score of 560 (paper based) or 220 (computer based) or 84 (internet based), OR 
  • · IELTS with an overall minimum score of 6.5 (with no single test score below 6.0), OR (Better to aim for 7) 
  • · CAEL with an overall band score of 60 and Writing 60. 
  • · Bachelor of Nursing Degree: a minimum score of TOEFL score of 600 (paper based) or 250 (computer based) with 4.0 on the essay component. 

           Admission To A Graduate Certificate Program

  • · International Application Form (International Application Form) 
  • · Application fee $75 CAD 
  • · University degree and transcripts 
  • · English Proficiency requirements are as follows for consideration: 
  • · Minimum TOEFL score of 580 (paper based) or 237 (computer based) or 88 (internet based), OR 
  • · IELTS with an overall minimum score of 6.5 (no single test score below 6.0), OR 
  • · CAEL with an overall band score of 70.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Plan to Score High on the IELTS

Develop Persistence and Focus to score high on the IELTS

Persistence is not allowing anything to stop you from achieving a goal or pursuing an activity once you start it unless it's something really severe. For that you need to maintain discipline and develop vision. In this post, I give you three tools to develop vision, and focus. Using them you should be able to persist until you reach the desired outcome.

1) Make a checklist of your job hours, (timings), commuting or driving time, gym or dance class and whatever else it is that you do. Post it where you can easily find it, and fit the IELTS practice work into your day, for 45 minutes to an hour at least 5 days a week. You know we all spend our time on activities in one of four ways, by working on:

o urgent and important things

o urgent but not important things

o important but not urgent things

o not important and not urgent things

When something is urgent, you rush to do it. When something is important, you prioritize it. Everyday we are coping to manage urgent and and important tasks simultaneously. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Urgent and important is the NOW stuff! Turn off the gas, stop the baby crying, go to your class so you don’t miss it, go to work on time, go to the doctor if you are coughing badly or some pain is not going away, make the payment for your rent/society dues, electricity, mobile phone if one or more are past due.

Urgent but not important things, means you must not avoid these tasks, such as paying bills (mentioned above), paying income tax, or making your life/car insurance payment, but it can be done later, before the deadline. Important has to do with results: important activities contribute to your mission, values, and high priority goals.

2) Imagine it is two (or more) years from now and we are looking back. We have accomplished many of the things that are important to us. What picture do you see in your mind that represents that accomplishment? If you’re a visual type of person, make a drawing or a poster and look at it. That ‘ll help you keep your vision in mind.

3) Write a Mission/Vision statement for what you see yourself doing two years from now and list the activities and sub-activities

1. What action is to be taken?

2. So what first –second –third-fourth -fifth step actions do you have to take to get to that picture in your Mission statement?

3. Who will be involved?

4. How will they do it?

5. When will the action be taken?

6. Where will the action be taken?

7. What resources will be required?

8. How will the success be measured?

9. What follow-up action will be required?

So from your answers to the Question in No.3, especially Point 2, you can make your list of important tasks. Points 3 to 8 will help you to map out how to accomplish No.2, and for No. 9 you can set your own review date, for every three months from the time you write your Mission statement.

You might have several steps to take for Point No. 2. There might be a diploma course, certification class, IELTS class, applications to make etc. For each major step, do Points3-9 separately then. This might take a little while, but it is better than getting overwhelmed later thinking, “I have to do this and that and this and that and the don’t know where to start and what to do!!!”

Whenever you can, IELTS students, test-takers check out the websites below for listening practice. It will help you a great deal for the entire IELTS test; especially Listening test and the Reading Comprehension section. You’ll be ready. Listening to these new stories is going to be really helpful to build your vocabulary, get used to accents, and for general comprehension. There are audios, videos and written stories- No, it isn’t given in the test format but it is presented in a very simple and attractive way. (In the actual IELTS Listening Test you would have about 30 minutes to listen to 4 sections, and complete 40 questions).
All the best for your English learning plan and IELTS Test!

10 Worst Predictions about Discoveries and Inventions

Nurture your fledglings and watch them flourish

Success Strategies must  include Vision and Focus.

People without vision risk being baffled by the turn of events in their life, in the world. The poorest person in the world is not the one without a cent to his name; it is the one without vision. Have a look at these comments made by some "responsible" people when confronted with new ideas and inventions.

  1. "Computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons." (Popular Mechanics, forecasting advance of science, 1949.)
  2. "I think there's a world market for maybe five computers." (Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.)
  3. "I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." (Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.)
  4. "But what is it good for?" (Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the micro chip, 1968)
  5. "There is no reason why anyone would want to have a computer in their home." (Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.) 
  6. "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." (Western Union memo, 1876.)
  7. "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" (David Sarnoff's associates in response to his seeking investment in the radio in the 1920's.)
  8. "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" (HM Warner, Warner Bros, 1927.)
  9. "Heavier than air flying machines are impossible." (Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.) 
  10. "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." (Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.)

So, never allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the petty discouragements that inevitably come our way. Creative thinkers and achievers have always been criticized. Motivation+ Commitment +Attitude =Success!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Voice Clarity Tips - 1

This post is about Voice clarity.Let's see how we can achieve that in our vocalization, if not in our lives! In any communication, written or oral, your goal is to be understood by your listener, or reader- your audience. Clarity in speech is of two kinds- verbal and vocal. Verbal clarity would mean that your content shows continuity of thought.

Vocal clarity means you do not speak too fast or too slowly. You do not have a heavy accent, you do not slur or mumble your words, and you use standard pronunciation for your word. There is no heavy deviance in basic speech sounds (vowels and consonants). You have some tone changes echoing the meaning of a given thought- for example, sad, powerful, questioning,humorous, wise, authoritative, or agreeable. 

Finally there is some up and down rhythm or intonation giving expressiveness and mood to your voice . Intonation simply means the music of your speech- the music reflects tone changes, just as music is about different notes being sounded on an instrument which gives forth a pleasing tune. 

Neither in speaking nor writing should the composition of your piece display disjointed thoughts. Using the the right choice of words helps you expresses the meaning clearly and expressively thereby convincing the audience. You need to show your ideas visually while speaking so 'show' but do not show off good vocabulary.

And yes you can do this without the help of PPT slides if you look people in the eye, stand confidently, have a good vocabulary, use stories, examples, and connect with people at some gut level. Even with friends, strive to colour your words and get out of the habit of using banal, commonalities where everything is "Nice, amazing, great, good or lousy..".

Lata and Asha
Remember what I said in the beginning about Vocal clarity?  I'd like to cover those points one by one, but I can't do all of them online. I need to hear you and we need to be face-to-face for me to help you with pace and other issues. There are some things, lots of things in fact that you can do if you are working by yourself on voice clarity.  

For Voice Clarity, Lesson 1 let's  get  started on jaw exercises, learning some speech sounds and practicing aloud sentences, daily,  for a week to get that crystal clear sound. Yes, your words should be clear and luminous!

Jaw and Mouth Exercises Warm up 

1) Stretch your lips into a smile, and then do a ‘brushing teeth’ grin. Drop your jaw, then close it. Now do it again, and keep doing it as if rudely chewing gum to annoy your worst teacher, then faster. Do at least 8 times. 

2) Yawn and sigh loudly, stretching your throat muscles as much as possible. Then breathe in deeply through a wide open mouth. As you let the breath out through your mouth, softly say "Ah". (Time yourself and try to achieve a higher number of seconds each time that you breathe out.) 

3) Breathe in through your nose. As you slowly let the breath out, softly say "shhh", drawing out the sound as long as possible. How many seconds were you able to maintain the sound? Next also try this as you draw out "s" like a hissing snake. (You may start out at 10 seconds or less, but try to work up to a higher number of seconds.) 

4) Unclench your teeth - Relax your mouth, neck and as you get ready to speak, a few seconds before, with your mouth still closed, lift the upper jaw from the lower. Then start talking. Most clarity problems will be resolved if you simply unclench your teeth, and open your mouth; then relax, like yourself as a person and realize you are a likeable person who has something worthwhile to contribute. 

Timeless Bollywood Diva Rekha  lent her lovely voice for the hit song ‘Saare niyam tod do’ in Khoobsurat 
Vowel Sounds 

î hit sitting is stick mirror fit passive
ĕ (an eh sound) egg edge can many head met bed ten wealth merry bread friend leopard
ē be even feet seat money see cheap tricky nicely
ī (said like iy or ai) bye sigh die I pie ice aisle height my fly guy bike
ō go open tone owner sew plateau groan soul sig-na-tO-ry
ô (a little ‘aw ‘sound) mauve frog off on all auto daughter awful cough broad
oiy boy choice boil coin noisy poise, Deutsche Bank
u should could look pull
ü do loose flu blue who soup Tuesday juice
ū (said like yü) use few view beauty cute music you tune news new
ŭ up under love done son cousin trouble rough cut other

The vowels given above must be enunciated correctly without any heavy regional accent and with an open mouth for clarity. No mumbling! Even without coaching you must be saying at least one of the words given next to each target sound correctly (?) Have someone listen to you and then practice saying all the words next to that letter in the same way. 

Don’t worry about the symbols for now. These are phonetic symbols representing the sound rather than a letter of the alphabet. In English unlike Hindi and Marathi, the vowels make many different sounds. One says hat, but hate, not but note, cat, cart, father, all, any, late, able...the list goes on! Knowing spelling rules also helps you pronounce words correctly- more about in a later post. 

"Dirty Dozen" Sentences to practice Speech Clarity

1. Why do wily women win wealth and wed well?
2. Republican or democratic, there is often static in demanding practical and tactical actions – not to mention whim-wham distractions and flim-flam transactions.
 3. Auctioneers should talk with wall to wall audibility.
4. Talk without thought is to be deplored, abhorred, ignored; with thought to be lauded, applauded, rewarded.
5. In speaking don’t exaggerate, exasperate, fabricate, or lacerate, but try to captivate, animate, evaluate, substantiate and fascinate.
6. Rise and shine, the climate’s fine, the air like wine, the day divine, and all of it mine.
7. Doubts may crowd around you but never doubt yourself.
8. Annoyance shown in the voice can destroy poise.
9. Costly toys multiply joys, but spoil little boys.
10. Don’t devote days and days, to despair, dawdling and delaying decisions.
11. Be likeable, loveable and livable, or you’re liable to be leavable, left and lonesome.
12. Grow to greatness by grappling with and overcoming your problems, going
through not around them.

Vocal Clarity is pace, pronunciation, and essential speech sounds- the vowels and consonants, Voice modulation is about expressiveness and intonation -there's a lot to be covered. All the best with your personal development speech plan!