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DIAGNOSTIC TEST 1: Sentence Stress errors.                           

This is a little test to let you know if you make a lot of sentence stress errors when you speak. The test has many word combinations (usually two words together, many of which are compound words), and you have to choose which of the words should be spoken with more stress than the other word(s).

Sometimes the two words are joined together, as in 'bedroom'; sometimes they are connected with a hyphen (e.g., 'well-dressed'); and sometimes they are two separate words, combined to express a specific idea, such as a 'big dog'.

In the IELTS Speaking Test, examiners do not usually decrease your (pronunciation) score if you make a few of these errors and the examiner still understands you. However, these errors can sometimes make your speech harder to understand for a native English-speaker. And when your speech becomes harder to understand, your score might be decreased. 

There is another reason why this is important. In the IELTS Speaking test, you can only get a 2, 4, 6 or 8 for pronunciation and the majority of candidates in China get a 6, even with a few of the kind of errors that you will see in this test. However, if you would like to get an 8, you would need to make very few of these errors. (Maybe one is allowable.) You should also understand that to get an 8 for pronunciation, several other aspects of your pronunciation have to be very good, not just sentence stress.

This test was made because sentence stress errors involving two-word combinations are the most common kind of sentence stress error, especially for Chinese students.  

INSTRUCTIONS 

  1. You will hear someone pronouncing the word combinations that are listed in the table below, both correctly and incorrectly. The heavy black printing in the table is the word that the speaker stresses. In A, the first word is stressed; in B, the second (and in C, the third). You must choose which is the correct way to say this word combination, A or B (sometimes there is also C.) 
  2. As mentioned above, the heavy black printing represents strong stress. This means that the heavy black printing is pronounced louder (and a little longer) than the other parts of the test item. 
  3. The speaker will say each choice twice.
  4. This test has one hundred test items.
  5. Notice that you will actually be doing a listening test, not a pronunciation test but itís a good idea to try to pronounce the words yourself to help you decide the correct answer. Despite the fact that this is a listening test and not a speaking test, there is a strong relationship between listening and speaking - what you think is the correct choice when you hear the two different pronunciations (the correct one and the incorrect one) is probably similar to the way you would try to pronounce the words.
  6. Write the numbers 1 to 100 on a piece of paper and then write your choice of correct answer next to the corresponding number. (Or you could print out the table shown below and circle which one you think is correct.)
  7. Each test item is shown in an example sentence below the table. The meaning of each test item is the meaning of the item in the example sentence. (This is especially important for the last two items in the test.) These sentences will also help you understand the meaning of the word combination, if it is new to you. 
  8. You should read the whole test and read these examples, aloud, before you do the actual test. As mentioned above, you will probably find that it is easier to decide which word should be stressed when you speak the word combination in the sentence.
  9. Make sure you know how to use the, ĎPauseí button so that you can stop the recording if you need to. This is not a speed test; take your time!
  10. Below the table, you will find a link to the Answers. You should do the complete test before you check the answers. The reason for this is that the aim of the test is not only to see how many test items you get correct but also to find out what particular type you get wrong most of the time. If you check the answers as you do the test, you will start to get an idea of the 'rules' for saying these and that will cause you to get an unclear picture of what mistakes you make now. The answers also include some explanations to help you better understand your mistakes. (If you find the explanations too difficult to understand, just try to remember the 'rules'.)
  11. After you have checked to see whether your answers are correct or not, and after you have read the explanations, it might be a good idea to do the test again, just to see how much you really learned. 
  12. It takes 49 minutes to do the test, (the recording is that long) but it is worthwhile if you can correct some basic misunderstandings that many Chinese people have about this aspect of pronunciation.
  13. Once again: First read aloud the example sentences from below the table. Then return to the table and click "PLAY RECORDING" to listen to the recording and choose which is correct, A, B (or C). After you have finished all 100 of the test items, click "ANSWERS" to check how correct you were. Then read the explanations.

   

PLAY RECORDING

(Right click to download to your computer.)

 

                               A                               B                              C     

1

a blackboard

a blackboard

 

2

a brother-in-law

a brother-in-law

a brother-in-law

3

a build-up

a build-up

 

4

a checkup

a checkup

 

5

a chocolate lover

a chocolate lover

 

6

a civil war

a civil war

 

7

a computer game

a computer game

 

8

Central America

Central America

 

9

a driverís license

a driverís license

 

10

a fishing village

a fishing village

 

11

a foreign tourist

a foreign tourist

 

12

a grandmother

a grandmother

 

13

a greenhouse

a greenhouse

 

14

a haircut

a haircut

 

15

a local official

a local official

 

16

a luxury apartment

a luxury apartment

 

17

a million dollars

a million dollars

 

18

a musical instrument

a musical instrument

 

19

a national park

a national park

 

20

a non-smoking zone

a non-smoking zone

a non-smoking zone

21

a paper towel

a paper towel

 

22

a password

a password

 

23

a printout

a printout

 

24

a scenic spot

a scenic spot

 

25

a school teacher

a school teacher

 

26

a snowman

a snowman

 

27

a speed limit

a speed limit

 

28

a stone lion

a stone lion

 

29

a student dormitory

a student dormitory

 

30

a summer vacation

a summer vacation

 

31

a sunset

a sunset

 

32

a toy rabbit

a toy rabbit

 

33

a traditional story

a traditional story

 

34

a travel agency

a travel agency

 

35

a waterfall

a waterfall

 

36

a watermelon

a watermelon

 

37

a white mouse

a white mouse

 

38

a wooden box

a wooden box

 

39

air pollution

air pollution

 

40

an apartment building

an apartment building

 

41

an income

an income

 

42

an office worker

an office worker

 

43

an output

an output

 

44

an upgrade

an upgrade

 

45

an urgent letter

an urgent letter

 

46

a boyfriend

a boyfriend

 

47

a car park

a car park

 

48

Chinese art

Chinese art

 

49

coal mining

coal mining

 

50

a college student

a college student

 

51

current affairs

current affairs

 

52

decision making

decision making

 

53

drug trafficking

drug trafficking

 

54

an old dog

an old dog

 

55

global warming

global warming

 

56

half a day

half a day

 

57

handwriting

handwriting

 

58

healthcare

healthcare

 

59

a hotspot

a hotspot

 

60

human nature

human nature

 

61

international trade

international trade

 

62

modern art

modern art

 

63

natural gas

natural gas

 

64

a newspaper

a newspaper

 

65

next year

next year

 

66

one point three billion people

one point three billion people

one point three billion people

67

orange juice

orange juice

 

68

outer space

outer space

 

69

a good man

a good man

 

70

overtime

overtime

 

71

Oxford Road

Oxford Road

 

72

Peter Smith

Peter Smith

 

73

a post office

a post office

 

74

public transportation

public transportation

 

75

a shopping center

a shopping center

 

76

South America

South America

 

77

South-East Asia

South-East Asia

South-East Asia

78

a supermarket

a supermarket

 

79

a swimming pool

a swimming pool

 

80

the blue sky

the blue sky

 

81

the brain drain

the brain drain

 

82

the Communist Party

the Communist Party

 

83

the construction industry

the construction industry

 

84

a financial center

a financial center

 

85

the Olympic Games

the Olympic Games

 

86

the SARS crisis

the SARS crisis

 

87

the Security Council

the Security Council

 

88

the Yellow River

the Yellow River

 

89

thirty years old

thirty years old

thirty years old

90

a traffic jam

a traffic jam

 

91

two thousand years

two thousand years

two thousand years

92

Wall Street

Wall Street

 

93

a washing machine

a washing machine

 

94

a health inspector

a health inspector

 

95

well-dressed

well-dressed

 

96

long hair

long hair

 

97

the Health Minister

the Health Minister

 

98

transportation costs

transportation costs

 

99

an English teacher

an English teacher

 

100

an English teacher

an English teacher

 

 

 

ANSWERS

                  

 

     Example Sentences

1.       Every classroom in this school has a blackboard

2.       A brother-in-law is oneís wifeís brother, or oneís sisterís husband.

3.       The buildup to the invasion of Iraq took place over several months.

4.       I went to the doctor for a checkup of my health.

5.       Sheís a real chocolate lover; she eats some almost every day.

6.       There was a civil war in China between the Guomindang and the Communists, which the Communists won in 1949.

7.       A lot of boys like to play computer games at internet bars.

8.       He comes from Panama, a country in Central America.

9.       Before you are allowed to drive a car, you have to first get a driverís license.

10.   He lives in a small fishing village on the coast where almost everyone makes a living from fishing.

11.   A lot of foreign tourists come to China to see the Great Wall and other famous places.

12.   I have two grandmothers, my fatherís mother and my motherís mother.

13.   A greenhouse is a building in which flowers, vegetables or other plants are grown in a special, warm environment.

14.   I need a haircut because my hair is too long and untidy.

15.   A local official is a person who represents the local government.

16.   A luxury apartment is one that is too expensive for average people to buy.

17.   A million dollars is written as, Ď$1,000,000í.

18.   A musical instrument is a thing that is used to produce music, such as a piano, a violin, a guitar and an erhu.

19.   A national park is a natural place that people can visit but where the animals and plants are protected by law. People are not allowed to build homes or other structures in national parks.

20.   This is a non-smoking zone so you canít smoke here.

21.   Some public restrooms (toilets) have paper towels that people can use for drying their hands.

22.   I canít check my email because Iíve forgotten my password.

23.   My printer produces beautiful, color printouts.

24.   I hear that Xiang Shan is a nice scenic spot near Beijing.

25.   A school teacher works in a school, teaching children.

26.   A snowman is a man made out of snow.

27.   The speed limit on that road is 60 kilometers per hour.

28.   Many important buildings in China have stone lions guarding the door.

29.   A student dormitory is a place where students live together with other students.

30.   Students have about two months of summer vacation each year. This gives them a rest from school.

31.   Sunset is the time of the day when the sun goes down and nighttime begins.

32.   Her favorite possession is a little white toy rabbit. She always sleeps with it and she carries it around wherever she goes.

33.   The teacher told the students a traditional story to explain why people traditionally eat Ďzongxií on the festival day.

34.   A travel agency is a business where you can buy plane tickets, book travel tours etc.

35.   I had a refreshing swim in the pool near the waterfall.

36.   Watermelon is a popular fruit in summer.

37.   He bought a white mouse from the pet shop.

38.   I keep my tools in that wooden box.

39.   I couldnít see the hills because the air pollution was so bad.

40.   About a hundred people live in that apartment building.

41.   A lot of people move from the countryside to the city because they believe they can have a higher income in the city. Unfortunately, the cost of living is higher in the city, too.

42.   Sheís a secretary in the city Ė sheís an office worker.

43.   The factory increased its output by 150% after installing new machinery.

44.   My computer is old and slow. I think itís time for an upgrade.

45.   He needed money so he sent an urgent letter to his brother.

46.   She and her boyfriend are going to get married next year.

47.   A car park is a place where many people can leave their cars while they go shopping or go to work.

48.   If you want to see the best Chinese art, visit a good museum or art gallery.

49.   Coal mining is a dangerous industry because many men die each year from mining accidents.

50.   He studies computer science at university; heís a college student.

51.   I read the newspaper every day because Iím very interested in current affairs, especially international news.

52.   To be a good business manager, you need to have good decision-making skills.

53.   Drug trafficking is a serious problem in the border areas between China and the nations to the south.

54.   She has two pets; an old dog and a bird.

55.   The world is gradually becoming warmer because we humans have been adding certain gases such as carbon-dioxide (CO2) to the earthís atmosphere over the past few hundred years. This change to the earthís climate is called Ďglobal warmingí.

56.   Twelve hours is half a day.

57.   I couldnít understand what he wrote because his handwriting was so unclear.

58.   The government spends a lot of money on healthcare for the people.

59.   The Middle East has been a political hotspot for many years.

60.   Itís only human nature to be envious of the success of others.

61.   International trade is an important part of Chinaís economic growth.

62.   Some people think that modern art is not very beautiful or artistic.

63.   Natural gas and oil are often found together.

64.   I try to read the newspaper every day.

65.  I'll graduate next year.

66.   There are about one point three billion people in China.

67.   Orange juice has a lot of vitamin C.

68.   Astronauts travel in outer space.

69.   I trust him because I think heís a good man.

70.   I didnít get home until 11 oíclock last night because I had to work overtime.

71.   He lives on Oxford Road.

72.   His name is Peter Smith.

73.   Iím going to the post office to mail this package to my father.

74.   A big city needs a good public transportation system so that people can get to work.

75.   There are about thirty shops, including a big supermarket, in that shopping center.

76.   Brazil is the biggest country in South America.

77.   Malaysia is a country in South-East Asia.

78.   Itís convenient to shop at a supermarket although sometimes the fruit there is more expensive than in smaller shops.

79.   She swims at the swimming pool every night.

80.   When the air pollution is not so bad, you can see the blue sky.

81.   If a lot of the educated people leave a certain area or a certain country and go to another place, we say that thereís a ďbrain drainĒ from that location.

82.   The Communist Party is the ruling party in China.

83.   The construction industry is making a lot of money in cities such as Beijing because so many new buildings are being built right now.

84.   Shanghai is an important financial center in Asia.

85.   Beijing will host the Olympic Games in 2008.

86.   The SARS crisis was a little scary so I avoided public transportation at that time.

87.   The United Nations Security Council has five permanent members: China, The U.S.A., Russia, France and Britain.

88.   The Yellow River is the most famous river in China.

89.   He says heíll get married when heís thirty years old.

90.   Iím sorry Iím late. There was a terrible traffic jam on the Fourth Ring Road.

91.   This temple has been here for two thousand years.

92.   Wall Street is the famous financial district of New York City.

93.   A washing machine is a machine for washing clothes.

94.   A health inspector is a person, usually a government employee, who inspects places such as restaurants to make sure that they are clean and not a danger to public health.

95.   A well-dressed person is someone who is wearing good quality, clean, stylish and suitable clothes.

96.   Many girls have long hair.

97.   The government official who is the head of the government department called, ĎThe Ministry of Healthí is called, ĎThe Health Ministerí.

98.   Transportation costs often increase whenever the price of oil increases.

99.   Johnís from Canada and he teaches English. Heís been an English teacher ever since he graduated from university.

100.  Sheís a French scientist, the man sitting opposite her is a German engineer, and the man sitting next to him is an English teacher. I know heís a teacher from England but I donít know what subject he teaches. I think he teaches mathematics.

 

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