Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some English vocabulary and advice for the IELTS

The IELTS is a pedantic test to certify one's English knowledge. It puts stress on formal English rather than everyday's English. They expect you to know and use a kind of formal English that is very rarely used even in the research and academic environment. You can easily see that just by reading any science book. The English they promote sounds quite stilted especially because the English language itself has a very informal character, because of its origins as a primarily spoken rather than written language.

IELTS is a badly done test for other reasons too - e.g. they don't give you enough time on purpose to make you fail, even if your English is good - and the University of Cambridge really makes a bad impression by putting its name on it. The whole system of teaching and promoting English as an international language is rotten. It uses terroristic outdated methods of education that have the effect to make people hate English, which is not a beautiful language per se.

That said, since many people are forced to take the IELTS for immigration or studying purposes, here are some tips that may help you to reach the score you need and then forget about those silly nit-pickers (or better defined fucking bastards) of the university of Cambridge.


When they give you a few seconds to look at the answers before the recording starts, you should not try to guess and assume your answers are correct, because they usually aren't. My advice is not to try to guess words before you listen, because if your guess fits very well but is completely wrong you will make a mistake and lose points. They are bastards and usually rule out common words and expressions that are easy to guess from the questions.

So don't guess, just write aside each question the grammatical category of what you expect in the blank: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, number, date, etc. But remember that it could be a different type, though, e.g. a compound word, a phrasal or reflexive verb, a transitive verb plus an object and so on. Then make every effort to listen for the correct answer. Only if you missed some questions, at the end of the recording, guessing is worthwhile, since there is no penalty for errors, better to have a wrong answer than no answer at all!

Avoid abbreviations

Don't use `don't', or any other shortened negative such as `isn't', `hasn't', `wasn't', etc. Use `does not', `is not', etc. instead. I know everybody uses abbreviations, even in formal language, but that's what they want.

Generally try to avoid `'s'. E.g. Instead of `the wavefront's curvature' use either `the curvature of the wavefront' or `the wavefront curvature'. There are exceptions to this. There are some cases where they are always used such as Laws e.g. `Bedford's Law', or where the alternative seems clumsy e.g. `today's stock market prices' is better than `the stock market prices of today'.

Don't use e.g. or i.e. or etc.

Expressing percentages, fractions and ratios

This information will prove useful to write a boring report based on a static chart as they want you to do.

Expression of quantity:
just over

X in every Y
between X and Y
X per cent (do not write X%, since it counts for two words less)
half of
a third of (approximately a third = 30%)
a quarter of
three-quarters of
X in Y (e.g. "almost 1 in 5" means almost 20 per cent)
a fifth (1/5, 20%)
two-fifths (2/5, 40%)
two-thirds (2/3, ~67%)
the amount of (people, objects, time, money, etc)

The chart illustrates/shows/gives information about/looks at ... in selected/certain ...
The fact that ... raises questions about ... in comparison to ...
The figure for ... is only ...
After that come other ...
A closer examinations of the figures for ... reveals that ...
It is clear from the chart that ...
There is a striking/similar difference between ...
This accounts for only ...
to make up X% of... costituire il X% di
it is a sobering thought... è un pensiero che fa riflettere

Kind of charts:

bar chart
pie chart

Describing numbers going up/down

nouns: rise, increase, growth, drop, decrease
verbs: rise, increase, grow, drop, decrease, decline
adjectives: considerable, rapid, slow, slight, dramatic, sudden, consistent
adverbs: rapidly, slowly, slightly, dramatically, suddenly, consistently, about equally, divergence

Comparing numbers

number1 out of number2

Show cause and effect relationship

X causes/leads to/results in Y
Y is/are caused by X
Y is/are the result/effect/consequence of X
Y is/are due to X

Speculating about the future

adverbs: maybe, possibly, perhaps
modal verbs: may (permission, possibility), could (ability, possibility)

I guess/imagine/suspect

It will perhaps/possibly occur
Perhaps it will occur
it perhaps will occur
it will occur perhaps

Discussing factors

Though ... (anche se ...)

Clearly, ... , while, conversely, ...

In lay terms ... (in parole semplici)

Another factor is ...

Take the case of...
I stands to reason that... (non si può negare che)

As to what... (per quanto riguarda)

In addition/additionally, ... (formal) (in aggiunta, inoltre)
Furthermore/Moreover, ... (formal) (inoltre, per di più)
And ... (informal)

Despite this, ... ciò nonostante, malgrado ciò/questo

However ... (formal) (comunque, tuttavia)
But ... (informal) (ma)

Instead/alternatively ... (invece, piuttosto, in alternativa)

After all ... (dopotutto)

Above all, ... (soprattutto)

Next, ... (informal) (poi)

Lastly/finally, ... (infine, alla fine)

(First and) foremost (innanzitutto, prima di tutto)

Indeed, ... (effettivamente)

(to) argue/claim/maintain that sostenere che

what is more (per di più, come se non bastasse)

To put it in a nutshell, I pen down saying that,
Per dirla con poche parole, per dirla in breve, concludo col dire/dicendo che

according to whether ... or ... a seconda se ... o ...
certain it is that ... è certo che
(to) be bound up with sth essere connesso/legato a qc

Common pattern for giving a definition

1. Name
2. Vert 'to be' (is, are)
3. Class
4. Which, who, where, or that
5. Characteristics (physical description or description of behaviour)

Order the stages of a process

When describing a process, the first sentence, or "topic sentence", should tell us what the main idea of the paragraph is, and what the process is leading to.
Thereafter we can use a range of transition signals to order the stages of the process:

ordinal numbers: they can start the sentence or used as adjectives:
First/Second/Third/Fourth, ...
or used in frases like these:
The first step is...
The second stage begins when...
The third part is...
or as adverbs by adding ly:

time phrases: gradually, slowly, over the years, over a number of years, over many years, at this stage, during this process, after several days, as (sth happens), at the same time, meanwhile, now, eventually, then, lastly, finally, subsequently, later, afterwards

Formal vs informal English

so -> very, extremely
of course -> clearly, evidently
just -> simply, only
kind/sort of -> somewhat
got/have to -> must/need to
used to -> accustomed to
OK -> acceptably, permissible, satisfactory, ... (accettabile, tollerabile, ammissibile, soddisfacente)
got -> obtained
of course -> naturally, obviously

And/Also ... -> In addition ...
Or ... -> Alternatively ...
But/Even so ... -> However/Nevertheless ... (comunque, in ogni caso, tuttavia, però)
So ... -> Hence/Consequently ... (perciò, quindi, di conseguenza)

Drawing conclusions

It is true to say that ...
Much of the evidence suggests that ...
The issue is too complex for definite answers/views
It is my contention that... io sostengo che...


(to) make/take a stab at doing; cimentarsi nel fare, provare a fare
(to) make/take a stab at sth; cimentarsi in qc, provare a fare qc

Academic word list

Group 1 (most frequent)

to analyse /ˈænəlaɪz/ analizzare
to approach /əˈprəʊtʃ/ affrontare; avvicinarsi; abbordare; approcciare
approach approccio; avvicinarsi, approssimarsi
area /ˈeərɪə/ ambito/campo; area; regione; zona
to assess /əˈses/ valutare; stimare
to assume /əˈsjuːm, ae əˈsuːm/ assumere; (pre)supporre, presumere;

I unfortunately don't have time to complete this list. Please refer to here.

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