Return to Jan.-May Part 1 Questions

Notes for Jan - May 2007 Part 1

Topic - Your Studies

Email, January 11

XXXXX wrote:

Dear Chris,

How are you? Thank you for your answer to my question last week. 

I'll have the IELTS test on 13 Jan, and I have a question from a part 1 topic question. I hope you can give me some advice or an example. It is "Can you describe your course", the third question in "your studies" topic. I don't know what the examiner expect me to say about the question. Would he like to hear I describe what my major class like or all kinds of subjects I study in university? By the way, my major is accounting.

Thank you and best wishes,



I'm not sure of the exact words of the question but if it is, "Can you describe your course?" it means describe your major and other aspects of your studies. In other words, summarize your whole studies.

First let's look at the meaning of 'course'. It means a program of studies. You are probably studying (= taking) a few different classes and most of them, if not all of them are connected with accountancy. But maybe you also have an 'elective' class which you chose to study - it could be Psychology or Music or Chinese Literature. Although such a class is not really part of your major, it is part of your course. (I don't know if universities in China have these 'elective' classes - universities overseas do.) 

If the word is 'course' (= a degree program), you could mention something about the structure and time involved in the course such as how long it takes to get the degree (4 years?), whether you have two semesters of study per year or 3 or 4 terms and how many classes you take each semester or term and whether they change after each semester or term or if they only change after a whole year. But the main part of your answer should be the names of some of the classes you take and what's involved with them and perhaps add a personal comment about your favorite class or the easiest or most difficult one.

And you have to try to say all of this in about 25 to 30 seconds!

If the words of the question are closer to "Describe your subject" (your major) then just say a little about accountancy as a profession in general but especially talk about the accountancy classes you are taking. Usually the words are "Describe your subject".  I don't remember, "Describe your course" ever being used before. "Describe your studies" is closer to "Describe your course" in meaning but if those are the words I think you should concentrate on describing your main studies i.e., give an answer that is more suitable for "Describe your subject" because you don't have much time to give your answer.

I'm going to change the wording of that question on my website.

Hope that helps,



l  What part of your work do you like best? 

l         (Similar to above) What's the most interesting part of your job?

Both of these questions should be answered with only one thing, not two or more things that you like or find interesting. Of course, you should include 'Why' in your answer.


l        Do you work more for interest (job satisfaction) or for the money? 

You have to choose which one is the more important; you cannot say "both" as an answer to which is more important. However, if the two factors are equal, you can say something such as, "It's fifty-fifty" or "Both of them are equally important." Say why. 


l        What part of your ______ do you like best?

l        What is the most difficult part of your studies?

Both of these questions ask for one thing. Say why.


l        By studying this, what effect do you think you will be able to have on society? (Not sure which one is accurate. The exact wording of this question is unclear.)]

     I assume that the first guess is the actual question that is used. This question is not asking for your future work plans - it is asking you to say how you think you will be of benefit to society. If you can't think of a good answer, just say something such as, "I think I'll be able to contribute to China's development because China will need _____________ in the future."  In the blank space, substitute your future profession or use a phrase such as "_________ experts" or "________ professionals" or " trained ______". For example, if you are studying accountancy use "accountants" or "accountancy experts" or "accountancy professionals" or "trained accountants". Try to include something about why China will need such experts in the future.


l       What kind of place do you live in C a house, a flat or a dormitory?

   Check your dictionary for the definition of 'house'. A house is a single building. Farmers live in houses and some wealthy people in the cities in China live in houses with a small garden but most people in the cities live in a flat (= an apartment). 


l        Could you describe it (your house/flat/dormitory)?  

       Don't talk about the people you live with - describe the place.

If you live in a dormitory, describe your dorm room but don't forget, the 'dormitory' also includes the whole building or buildings that comprise the 'dormitory'. This could include the telephone in the hallway, the place where you wash your clothes, the toilet, the bathroom (if you have one) and the place where you eat, if it is considered to be part of the dormitory. Say how many floors your dorm building has and what floor you live on.

A typical answer for people who live in a flat is: "It's a two-bedroom flat on the top floor of a five-storey block of flats. It's got a living room and a small kitchen but no dining room and there's an enclosed balcony off the the living room where my mother has some pot-plants. There's a courtyard outside, with three other blocks of flats around it and there's some lawn and a few trees in the courtyard."

Instead of "flat" and "block of flats" you could use the American words, "apartment" and "apartment building".

Some people say something like, "When you first come in the door, my bedroom is on the left and the kitchen is opposite that. Next to the kitchen is my parents' bedroom ..." This kind of answer is not wrong but most people spend too much time when speaking this kind of answer and what they say is still rather simple. The examiner doesn't really want a guided tour of your apartment, just a summary of some basic facts, perhaps with some comments.

Some people, especially in South China, live as one family in a small 2, 3 or 4 storey building in the centre of the city. This building might have a shop or a car garage on the first floor and your family might live in the 2 or 3 floors above that. You can call this a house. 


l        Are you prepared to move?

Most people doing the IELTS test are planning to go overseas so they should say that, yes, they are prepared to move when the time comes to go overseas, but not right now. 

You could also say something such as, "Not really. I'd like to move into my own flat but I can't afford it right now because I'm just a student."


l         Do people in China like growing flowers?

A suitable answer would be, "Yes, many people in China like growing flowers but since most people in the cities live in apartments, the only way to do it is to grow flowers in flower pots on their balconies or in a window box. But because most working people in the cities are pretty busy not many of them do go to the trouble of growing flowers. It's mainly retired people who grow flowers." 


       l       How does the weather affect people (or, you)? 

Some people get depressed on rainy days; most people find rainy days inconvenient because their shoes or clothes get wet; extremely hot weather can make people feel listless (=drained of energy); extremely cold weather can restrict outdoor activities; snow can affect people's ability to drive on the roads; farmers are, of course, heavily dependant on the weather for their livelihood - if there's too much or too little rain, their crops can be ruined or if there's frost, their crops could also be ruined. Beautiful, warm weather can put people in a good mood and encourage them to go outside to sit in the sun, go for a walk or do other outdoor activities. etc etc.


l         Do you prefer to watch films in a cinema or at home? (Why?)

    Advantages of watching films in a cinema:

- There's more 'atmosphere' in a cinema because a large crowd is sharing the same viewing experience, for example, the whole audience might gasp when something unexpected or frightening happens in the film and many people laugh together at funny things. Not only that, the wide screen and superior sound system create a stronger impression on the senses than a smaller TV or computer screen.

- The experience of getting dressed up and going to the cinema with say, your boyfriend or girlfriend gives you the feeling that it is a more special occasion than simply watching a DVD at home with someone. Besides, when you first start going out with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, it's often not appropriate to invite them home to watch a movie. In fact, if you live with your parents, inviting a new friend home to watch a movie is not very romantic.

- Cinemas have newer movies than the ones that are available on DVD.

Advantages of watching a film (DVD or VCD) at home 

- It's cheaper than the cost of a cinema ticket and you don't need to travel to get to the cinema.

- You can control the film at home by pressing the pause button, the replay button or the fast forward button. So, if you need to go to the toilet, make a phone call or go to the kitchen to get some food, you don't need to miss any part of the film.

- Cinemas in China usually don't have an intermission so, if you need to go to the toilet or answer your cellphone, you miss part of the movie.

- You don't need to worry about what you wear when you watch a movie at home.

- You can eat whatever you want while watching a movie at home and you can drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes - things that are not allowed in a movie theater. In fact, many cinemas have a poor choice of snacks but at home you can drink tea or coffee or eat whatever you choose.

- You can watch a film at home at any time you want, even 3 am in the morning if you want.

- There's a much larger choice of DVDs available, compared to the number of films that are currently showing at the cinemas.


It's ok to use the American words 'movie' and 'movie theater' rather than the British 'film' and 'cinema' and you can mix them together, as I have done in the examples above. But you should not call a cinema a 'theater' (theatre) because a 'theater' means a place for live performances such as plays, concerts etc - it should be called a 'movie theater'. However, if you want to say 'movie theater' repetitively is it suitable to shorten it to 'theater' after first saying 'movie theater' once or twice.


    l         What kind of films do you like to watch? (Why?)

Different kids of (genres of) films: comedies; romantic comedies; 'action movies' (= adventure movies); war movies; martial arts movies (e.g. Li Xiao Long = Bruce Lee movies); musicals; teenage movies; animated cartoon movies (usually for kids); science fiction movies; horror movies; westerns (= cowboy movies); dramas (historical dramas; organized crime movies; police dramas; mystery movies; 'human interest' movies, about everyday people and their lives; classical plays in screenplay form)

Actually, many movies are a mixture of these different genres. (Check the dictionary on how to pronounce 'genre', a French word.)


l   Do you think it's important to spend some time outdoors? (Why?/Why not?)

Advantages of spending time outdoors:

- an opportunity to get some exercise, even if it is only going for a walk

- an opportunity to take a break from the usual activities in the classroom, office, factory etc.

- an opportunity to get some peace and quiet (if you go to a suitable place outdoors) 

- an opportunity to be alone and think about things

- everybody needs some sunlight on the skin for good health

- an opportunity to breathe fresh air

- an opportunity to view nature (such as birds, trees, grass, flowers, beautiful natural scenery, the stars and the moon)


l        What kinds/styles of clothes do you like to wear? (Why?)

casual clothes - help you to feel comfortable and allow you to express yourself as a person who is (at times), a casual and easy-going person. It's a refreshing change from everyday work clothes.

formal clothes - impresses people. People think you have a prestigious job, money, and important social engagements to go to. People of the opposite sex think you look most attractive when you are 'dressed up'.

sportswear - expresses your lifestyle as a sports lover and active sportsperson; it's easier to play an impromptu game of basketball or football if you are wearing sportswear a lot of the time

the latest fashions - expresses your interest in fashion and art and the world of pop music; people think you are modern, and 'cool' or 'with it'.

brand-name clothes - expresses your feeling that you want only the best in life and have good taste in everything; impresses people (especially people of the opposite sex) because it looks like you are not poor


l         Do you think you will still be wearing the same kinds of clothes when you are old? (Include what you think you will be or won't be wearing when you are old.)

Except for teenagers and young people who wear clothes that only suit people of their age and that seem to be making a strong statement that says "I am different to my parents!", I think most people's tastes in clothes stay more or less the same all their lives. For example, if you are a young woman who wears the latest fashions that suit young women your age, you will probably still be wearing the latest fashions that suit 50-year-old women when you are 50 and if you are a man who likes to wear sportswear, you'll probably still be wearing sportswear that suits a 60-year-old man when you are 60. Many men are rather sloppy dressers who don't care much about what they wear - they'll probably be the same all their lives.


l         What clothes materials do you like best? (Why?)

cotton - a natural material that 'breathes'

wool - a natural material that 'breathes'

corduroy - (e.g., corduroy pants) - warmer in winter than cotton pants

leather - warm, natural, looks attractive and fashionable, can be worn in light rain

fur - warm in winter and has a feminine, soft look

denim - (the material of jeans) - durable and practical for someone who leads an active life

silk - a natural material that 'breathes'; warm in winter and cool in summer; lightweight and fashionable

velvet - smooth and luxurious-looking


l         How (much) is traditional Chinese culture being affected by foreign clothes styles?

My views (from one who doesn't know much about this topic! I invite feedback on this topic.)

What is 'traditional Chinese clothing'? It seems that, apart from some ethnic minorities in China, traditional Chinese clothing hasn't been worn since the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Not only that, each dynasty seems to have had a somewhat different style of clothing but even these clothes were only worn by the wealthier, ruling classes in China. For example, the Tang Dynasty had long-sleeved gowns for women of the court and in the Qing Dynasty, some men wore gowns rather than pants (Br. = trousers). The qipao was originally a Manzu fashion and was popular with wealthy women even during the early part of the 20th century but it was still only worn on special occasions. For the first 2 or 3 decades after the 'new China' was formed in 1949, men wore the 'Mao suit'. For most of China's history, the average Chinese person was a poor farmer who wore only the most basic and practical of clothes.

Therefore, it seems that traditional Chinese culture, as it applies to clothing, has not been adversely affected by western clothing styles because there has not been a continuous and distinctive traditional style of clothing that is worn by the masses of people. On the other hand, certain aspects of Chinese culture such as silk clothing have not died out because Chinese culture is too strong to be easily affected by foreign things. In fact, China exported the idea of silk clothing to other countries, including the west.

But it is true that young people's fashions are strongly affected by Korean (South Korean) and Japanese fashion trends, via pop musicians and popular TV shows that are shown here in China. This applies not only to clothes but to hairstyles, as well.


l         Are you (would you be) willing to wear a uniform at work?

l        How do you feel about wearing a uniform?

  Advantages of uniforms:

-   They create a sense of unity and equality - In places such as schools, the workplace, or in the military forces a uniform serves to unify everyone as more or less equal members of the group. 

-   They eliminate any sense of 'clothing competition' - It can be a distracting influence for school children, especially teenagers and especially females, if some students can afford to wear better quality clothes than those who come from poor families. The equalization process that results from everybody wearing a uniform allows students to concentrate on their studies. To some extent, it also discourages students from becoming romantically interested in the opposite sex. 

-   In the workplace, uniforms are sometimes supplied to the employees free of cost or at a cheap price.

-   Uniforms for people such as policemen, railway employees, waitresses and shop attendants allow the general public to know the function of these workers. This is important because these workers are basically service workers, working to serve the public.

-   Uniforms for military personnel allow soldiers to know who the enemy is during war and they allow the military personnel to clearly see the rank of others in the army, navy, air force etc.

Disadvantages of Uniforms

-   They stifle people's ability to express their individuality. This can be especially frustrating for young women who are trying to find a husband by showing how attractively they can dress themselves. It can also be frustrating for the more artistic and creative people who, by nature, feel a strong need to express themselves, including expressing themselves by the clothes they wear.

-   To some extent, uniforms create a sense of drabness and monotony in life. The lives that most people lead are drab and monotonous enough - it can lift peoples spirits and is more interesting to see variety among our fellow human beings.

-   For many people, a uniform represents someone who takes orders from someone else. For those who want to be independent, or 'their own boss', a uniform represents not having reached the level of success that they want to have.

-   Some uniforms are ugly or very unfashionable.

In general, a person is willing to wear a uniform at work if he or she thinks the job is worth it - they may have little choice but to accept a uniform if they want the job.