Updated Mar 12, 2012  


Notes about some Part 1 Questions (Page 2)

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"Making friends"


The Pronunciation of the Word, "advertisement"

There are two quite different pronunciations of the word, "advertisement", the American and the British pronunciation. (Actually both pronunciations are used in the U.S. but the 'American' pronunciation is more common.) It seems that most students in China are using the American pronunciation and that's ok for the Speaking test because British and Australian examiners (and others who use British English) will understand you and they will not consider it to be 'wrong'. In fact, some people from these countries use the American pronunciation themselves. Another reason not to worry too much about this is the fact that, for most of you, the American pronunciation seems to be much easier for you to say than the British pronunciation.

So why am I writing this note? The reason is, you need to recognize the British pronunciation when you hear it from an examiner or in the Listening test. Below are the two varieties, British and American.

American:  "advertisement"  Two more recordings are shown on this page.

British:  "advertisement"  (Point your cursor to the pink word to hear it again.)

The verb, to advertise, is the same in both British and American English. The stress is on the first syllable.


The Pronunciation of the Word, "leisure"

Just as with the word "advertisement" (see above), the British and the American pronunciations are quite different. (As with the word, "advertisement", the British pronunciation is also used in the U.S. but the "American pronunciation" is more common.) Most candidates in China use the British pronunciation. Those of you who use the American pronunciation should be careful because a non-North American examiner might not hear you clearly at first if you use the American pronunciation in the Speaking test. 

It is important to recognize the American pronunciation because there are some Americans and Canadians working as IELTS Speaking test examiners. Below are the two pronunciations.

British: "leisure"

American:  "leisure"

If you have trouble saying the word, "leisure", just say, "free-time activities" or "spare time activities". Of the three words, the most strongly stressed word should be, "time".


The differences in meaning between, "a lesson", "a class", "a course" and "a subject".

The use of the words, "class", "course" and "subject" can be confusing because they are often used inter-changeably. One reason for this is that American and British usages are sometimes different, but American usage is becoming more common in Britain and Australia, resulting in mixed usage.


"A lesson" is one period of time that you spend in the classroom (or laboratory), for example, a 40-minute period on Monday morning. Usually, each lesson is focused on one main idea, concept or topic.


The word, "class" can be used with three different meanings (in connection with school or university).

1) "We had an interesting class this morning" = "We had an interesting lesson this morning".

2) The word, "class" can also be used to mean a certain group of students, for example, "I'm in class 5A."

3) And finally, it can be used to mean "subject" or, in the university setting, "unit". For example, "I'm taking six classes this semester: maths, physics, chemistry, history, English and Chinese." =  "I'm taking six subjects this semester: maths, physics, chemistry, history, English and Chinese."


The word, "course" can have two meanings (when talking about school or university).

1) A "course" is similar to "a subject" but the word, "course" is more often used to refer to university studies rather than high school studies, although it is also possible to use it when referring to high school. In high school, we usually say, "I'm taking six subjects (or classes) this semester: maths, physics, chemistry, history, English and Chinese."  In university, we usually use either the word, "course", "class" or "unit" to refer to the different units that you are enrolled in. The word, "subject" is also possible to use when referring to the units you are enrolled in at university but it's not so commonly used in the university situation because university students, especially in their final one or two years of study, usually take several units that are closely connected to one central subject. (See "subject", below.)

2) The word, "course" is also used to mean, "a degree course" as in, "I'm doing a Computer Science course" = "I'm studying for a degree in Computer Science".

Since the word, "course" can be used in two different ways, most universities nowadays use the word, "unit" or some other similar word when referring to the different classes you enroll in each semester.


The word, "subject" has two possible meanings or usages.

1) In (usually) high school, it refers to the different topics, (classes or units) that you are studying such as, "I'm taking six subjects (or classes) this semester: maths, physics, chemistry, history, English and Chinese."

2) The second meaning is more general. It is similar to the word, "topic" as in, "What was the subject of your conversation?" In Part 1, when the examiner asks, "What subject are you studying?" it is referring to what general topic, (or "major" in American English) you are studying at university. Usually, it's suitable just to reply by saying the name of your degree course as in, "My subject is Computer Science."

When the examiner is talking to a high school student or recent high school graduate, he or she asks, "What subjects are you studying?" (or, "What subjects did you study?")

A "subject" is quite distinct or clearly different from another subject (even if different subjects are related or connected to each other). In high school, each "subject" is quite distinct from the others; "maths", "physics", "chemistry" and "history" are quite different. But in the final one or two years of university, students usually take several units that cover different areas or aspects of the same subject, their major. For this reason, the word "subject" is less often used when referring to the different units that students are enrolled in at university.


How do students in your course learn this subject?

The exact words to this question are not clear. Probably the question means: "What teaching methods are used?" Probably the meaning of the question also includes the personal study methods that students use.


How do you think your home could be improved?

Or: Is there anything about your room (or, your home) you would like to improve?

Pay attention to the exact verb form that the examiner uses and answer using the same verb form or using other words that are suitable for that verb form. The language for your answer to the first of these two questions should be similar to the language used for the language function of suggesting. (See Language Functions, Page 2) You could also use the language of suggesting for the second question.

The idea of "improvement" or "improve" is similar to the idea of "change" and your answer can include ideas or suggestions that are hypothetical ( 假设的) or impossible. That is why the verb "could" is used instead of the verb "can". For example, you could answer by saying, "Well, the kitchen could be bigger because, as it is now, it's so small that only one person can comfortably do things there. What I mean is, if there are two people in there, then we get in each other's way. You know, I'd really like to help my mother with the kitchen work such as preparing meals and washing the dishes, but unfortunately, I can't do that in such a small kitchen. So I think a bigger kitchen would be a definite improvement to our house."

Obviously, you can't make the kitchen bigger. The meaning here is that a better, or an improved house for you would have a bigger kitchen.

Another example: "Well, the walls in my room are coloured pink and I don't really like that colour so I think it would be an improvement if they were painted green or blue, which are both colours that I like."


(Possible question) What sorts of things do you most often read?

What you most frequently read and what you like to read are two different questions!

Students obviously read a lot materials related to their studies, such as textbooks. If you are working, you can use words such as "company reports", "trade journals" or "technical journals" etc.

Of course, many people also do a lot of reading on the internet.


What's the most difficult part of your job?

If you get this question, don't say, "The difficult part is ..." You must include the word "most" when you say this. If you say, "The difficult part is ..." you will immediately give the impression to the examiner that you are Band 5.0 (or 5.5 or 4.5), not Band 6.0 or above. Of course, choose only one thing when you say something is the 'most difficult' (or the 'most interesting'), although it's ok to mention that other things are difficult (or interesting), too. And try to communicate why you feel it is the most difficult (or most interesting) as part of your answer. Don't wait for the examiner to ask, "Why do you say that is the most difficult?"

Similar questions in Part 1 are:

What sorts of letters (or emails) do you think are the most difficult to write?

(Possible question for high school students or graduates) What's the most difficult subject that you are studying (or studied)?

(For university students or graduates) What's (or what was) the most difficult part of your course (or, your studies)?

For you, what's the most interesting part (or subject or class) of your course? 

(For high school) What's the most interesting of your subjects at school?

What's the most interesting thing about this place?


Notes on the usage of the word, "internet"

In English we usually put the word "the" before the word, "internet". So, it is incorrect to say, "I think internet is a good thing." That should be, "I think the internet is a good thing."

But when "internet" is used with an adjectival meaning, or in compound nouns, such as "internet usage", "internet sales", or "internet sites" we don't always need to put "the" before it. With this usage of the word, "internet", you only put "the" before "internet" when you are talking about something specific, such as, "the internet site (that) I mentioned before".


Is there anything you don't like about your hometown?

To say "No", the complete sentence is: "No, there's nothing I dislike about my hometown".

A short sentence to begin your answer could be, "No, there isn't" or "No, there's not".

Saying "Not really" would also be suitable as the beginning of your answer for this question.

Of course, all of those examples above are too short for a complete answer, since your average Part 1 answer should be about 20 seconds in length.


"Neighbour" and "Neighbourhood"

Make sure you say the right word.

A "neighbour" is a person, 邻居.

A "neighbourhood" is a place, 邻近地区 ,  邻里.


Does China have schools for learning to drive? *

On January 23, 2010, someone reported they got this question. It is the first time that this question has been reported. This candidate might have misunderstood the question because it seems that the question has usually been, "Do (high) schools in China have driving classes?"

Obviously, the answer to one question is "Yes" and the answer to the other question is "No". Listen carefully to the exact words of the question!



- The word, "studied" (or "study") might be used in the questions or the word, "learned" (or "learn") might be used.

- The difference in meaning between "study a language" and "learn a language" is that when someone "has learned a language", they have more or less learned it fully enough to be able to use it in practical applications (i.e., communication). This is an example of where "learn" is mostly used when talking about skills (i.e., how to do something) but "study" is mostly used when talking about theoretical knowledge. For example, someone who has "studied" English in school for only one year is far from having "learned (how to use) English". This person has only "learned (how to use) some English" but you cannot say he or she has (fully) "learned English".

- To repeat the idea of "learn + skill" and "study + theoretical knowledge": The difference between "learning a language" and "studying a language" is that studying is an academic activity, involving books (and recordings of the language). On the other hand, a person can "learn a language", especially "learn to speak a language", just by chatting with people who speak that language. In other words, someone can "learn a language" without ever opening a book. For this person, it would be unsuitable to say he or she "studied" the language.

- You can say that English is the foreign language you have studied (or learned) but you can also choose another language, such as Spanish. 

- The first question probably has the words, "foreign languages" but it might be, "other languages besides your native language". If this second wording is used, it would be suitable to talk about another language from China, such as Cantonese (粤语).After all, China has 300 languages but these are not "foreign" languages.   

- As well as asking you questions about any foreign language (not just English), it is possible that the examiners are asking some of the questions specifically about English, even when candidates say they have studied another language such as Spanish or French. So, be prepared to answer these questions for the language of English, as well as for any other language you have studied.    


Would you say it's a difficult language to learn?  

Maybe this question is referring to English or maybe it is referring to another language that you said you have learned. This is not clear.


How did you learn English?

It is possible that you will be asked questions about English, especially this question, even if you first said that you have learned another language, such as French or Japanese.


Training at Work

Even though I have many questions listed under the work training sub-topic, I think there are probably just two main questions under this topic. 

(However, it is possible that the sub-topic of “work training” exists in two different sets of Part 1 questions for the topic “Your Work” and, the questions would then be somewhat different in each set.)

 The two main questions are these: 

1.     Asking about past training.

·        Did you have to do any kind of training in order to perform your current work? C

·        (Similar to above) Have you received any training at work? C

·        (Similar to above) What kind of training is necessary for you to do your job? N (See note)


         Asking about habitual or regular training (i.e., using the present tense)    

·        Do you have to do any training for your work?

2.      Asking about Future Training 

·        Would you like to receive more training in the future? (This question is possibly asked if you say "Yes" to the previous question.)

·        Would you like to receive some training (in the future)? (This question is possibly asked if you say "No" to the previous question.)

·        Do you think you will (need to) receive any training in the future? C 

·        What kinds of future training do you think you will need in the future?

In Number 1, I listed two different possibilities – past or present training. Why didn’t I say that I think there are three main questions, past training, present training and future training? The reason is that “work training” is just a sub-topic of the main topic, “Your Work”. The main topic would have only five or six questions in total and it is unlikely that three of these would be about training. But two of them being about training is possible

I suspect that the present tense question does not exist (but I might be wrong). People have reported this as their question but these people possibly don't know the difference between present tense and past tense questions. Alternatively, it is a fact that the translation software I use to translate from Chinese to English is weak at differentiating between the past and the present tense. So, even though I suspect that this question does not exist, I am leaving the present tense question on the website in case it does exist.

What is “training”?

Basically, “training” is learning (or being taught) how to do something. Although you might learn some theory in your training, (in order to help you better understand why you are being trained this way), the main idea of “training” is to learn how to do something practical (in this case, your work). “Training” is not the same as purely academic, theoretical study.

“How to do your job” includes not just specific work skills but also simply the methods of doing something at work, where “methods” do not necessarily involve special skills. For example, different companies and workplaces might have slightly different methods for doing the same thing.

“Training” can also include “how to think” or what attitudes to have. For example, you might work for a company that has a philosophy that, “Our main job is to serve the customer, not just to take the customer’s money”. Your company will then train you to think and act with this attitude. A similar example is training in work safety. This is not training in a work skill but rather, training in how to think and what habits of safety you should adopt.

Let’s look at some examples of training.

Past Training

This question is about when you learned some of the practical skills, work methods or ways of thinking for your present job. It is referring to the time either before you even got your current job job or the first few days at work after you got your job. 

The third question in this group, What kind of training is necessary for you to do your job?, really means, What kind of training is necessary for people before they do the job you are doing?So, although it is not a past tense question, it is referring to two different times, one that comes before another. This is a general question, which should be answered in the present tense. For example, “Before you can do the work of a marketing assistant, you need to know the basics of retailing, as well as the basics of advertising.” Alternatively, you could say it this way, “Before you can do the work of a marketing assistant, you need to have learned the basics of retailing, as well as the basics of advertising.

Examples of training before doing your job:

a)      It is suitable to talk about your university, college (or high school) education but only if you clearly emphasize the practical, work-related skills that you learned.

b)      Some people pay for and attend special training courses that will help them get a particular job.

c)      Some people learn a few practical skills from their parents, in the cases where the parents are doing the same job or have their own company.

d)      Virtually everyone receives some form of training when they first start a job. This might be just 20 minutes of instruction telling you what to do at your desk (i.e., training in the work methods) or it might be a series of classes and meetings that took a whole day or more.

“Present” Training

Questions in the present tense are referring to ongoing training or to regular training sessions that you might receive every few months in order to update your work skills, or to update you on the company’s latest business strategies or work methods. This idea of “updating” is important nowadays because both technology and the economic situation in the world are changing all the time. This is especially true in China.

a)      Many working people have to attend training “workshops” at work every few months in order to be updated on the skills and work methods that were mentioned for “past training”, above.

b)      Some people are sent by their companies to special seminars and conferences where people update their practical, work-related knowledge.

c)      Some people voluntarily attend extra training classes outside work hours in order to become better equipped with work skills.

d)      Most young people who are working in engineering or some other field that is quite complex, such as banking and investment, are learning new, practical things at work all the time. This is “ongoing training”. For example, you might be an assistant engineer on some project. You do the job tasks that you are expected to do but, at the same time, as an assistant engineer to the chief engineer, you are learning new, practical things almost everyday by watching and helping the chief engineer. 

Future Training

This is a continuation of the ideas expressed above. For questions about the future, you should talk personally about how you think your career will change in the future, such as how you expect to be in a position of more responsibility or leadership than you are in now. 

You should also think about the question of changes in technology and socio-economic changes in the future. Almost all work in the future will be affected to some extent by changes in technology but some work, such as Computer Engineering, are in a constant state of change and will continue to be like this in the future. In this kind of work, ongoing training or frequent updating of your practical knowledge is now, and will be in the future, a major part of your work activities.

There is also the question of  having a complete change of career in the future. Hopefully, this will not include you because if you talk about changing your career then that means the work you are doing now is more or less a waste of time. But it is a fact that, along with major changes in technology and with certain socio-economic changes in the future, some types of work will become more or less redundant. In this situation, complete re-training for a new career will be necessary.


The meaning and usage of the word, "noise"

The differences in usage between the words, "noise" and "sound" is a rather complex topic.

The word "noise" basically means the same as the word, "sound", especially when spoken in the plural form, "noises". For example, you can say, "I can hear some noises in the apartment above me." That just means, "I can hear some sounds in the apartment above me." It might be just someone walking or someone cooking dinner. It doesn't mean that you find these sounds to be unpleasant.

However, there are some differences in usage between these two words when the singular forms, "noise" and "sound" are used. The word, "noise", when used in the singular form, is usually referring to an unpleasant sound but the word, "sound", when spoken in the singular is neutral – it can be either pleasant or unpleasant.

For example, when we talk about something pleasant that we can hear, we (usually) say something such as, "a pleasant sound" or "a beautiful sound"  – we don't (usually) say, "a pleasant noise" or "a beautiful noise".

But when we talk about something unpleasant that we can hear, we can use either the word, "noise" or the word, "sound". For example, "That's a horrible sound" = "That's a horrible noise" or, "I don't like that noise" = "I don't like that sound".

Another difference between the two words is that the word "noise" often refers to an unpleasant mixture of different sounds or an unpleasantly loud sound, or both of these together. For example, "the noise of the city traffic", (several different sounds mixed together). In contrast, the word "sound" usually refers to a single sound, such as "the sound of a dog barking", "the sound of children playing happily" or, "I dislike the sound of a man and a woman arguing when they are a couple such as boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife".

The adjective, "noisy" refers to either loud noise or many loud noises mixed together. It most often is used to describe something you don't like but it doesn't always mean something that you dislike, for example: "I like noisy parties where everyone's talking and laughing and there's music playing in the background."

For the question, "Is there any sound you dislike?" (or, "Are there any sounds that you dislike?"), some candidates answer, "I dislike noise". That's not a good answer because it more or less just means, "I dislike any sound that is unpleasant." = "I dislike any sound that I dislike." !! It can even mean,  "I dislike sound." !! The question is asking you for a specific sound that you dislike. For example, "I dislike (hearing) the sound of loud car horns at night-time when people are relaxing or sleeping." Or, "I dislike the scratching sound of chalk on a blackboard." (Everybody's favourite disliked sound.)


Do you collect anything (as a hobby)?

For this question, I have noticed several students in mock tests give an answer such as, "Yes, I used to collect stamps when I was a kid" or, "Yes, I collected stamps when I was a kid." These answers are wrong! The question is a present tense question, which means, "Do you collect anything now?" What these students should have said is, "No, I don't collect anything right now but I used to collect stamps when I was a kid."


What are some examples of things that some people collect (as a hobby)?

Don't begin your answer with the words, "In my opinion, ..." That's an incorrect usage of the word, "opinion". Instead, you could begin with words such as, "As far as I know, ..." or, "As far as I'm aware, ...". Or, "I'm not really sure what people collect but I do know that some people collect .... and ....."


a) If you had a lot of money , what would you like to collect?

b) (Similar to above - probably this is the question being used) If you had a lot of money, what would you collect?  (Don't use, "will".)

If the question you get is b), it is not the best answer to say, "I'd like to collect ___".  What you "would like to collect" and what you "would collect" are not always the same thing. The first, what you "would like to collect", is referring to a desire; the second, what you "would collect" is a hypothetical (假设的) form of "will collect"; it's a hypothetical prediction.

For example, "I'd like to collect vintage cars because I love cars. But in fact I wouldn't do that because I would need to have a big building to house my collection. So, as a second choice, if I had a lot of money, I'd probably collect ancient Chinese art."

If the wording of the question is b), just say what you would do, not what you would like to do.

"Would", for this usage = 假设的 "will". "Will" is only used when talking about the real future.


In your answer to the question, "How do you feel when you are late?", don't use the past tense when you are speaking in general; use the present tense (一般现在时).

The past tense is only used when the listener (or reader) knows what time in the past you are referring to. This time can also be a rather general, not very specific time in the past such as, "Many years ago", "One day" or, "Once".

 Don't say, "When I was late, ....". Instead, say, "When I'm late, ...."


The same is true for these questions:

Do you feel that time moves slowly, or fast?

When do you feel time moves fast?

For example, don't say, "Time seems to move fast when I was preparing for exams or when I was on vacation". That should be: "Time seems to move fast when I'm preparing for exams or when I'm on vacation".

Try to include an explanation why time seems to move fast or slowly.


Do your family support your choice of subject?


What school (or university) do you go to?

The exact wording of this question is not clear but a question with this meaning certainly exists. The wording might be, "What school (or university) do you attend?", "What school (or university) are you attending?", "What school (or university) do you study at?" or, What school (or university) are you studying at?" Notice that either the present tense or the present continuous tense are possible. Whatever verb tense is being used, it is referring to now.

One form of this question that causes errors for some people is this: "What school (or university) are you going to?" This is the same meaning as, "What school (or university) do you go to?" but some people erroneously think it is referring to your future plans. A question that is asking about the future would be: "What school (or university) are you going to go to?" (To repeat, this is not the question in Part 1 at the moment. So, do not talk about your future plans!)

Another reason why some people make a mistake here is that some candidates say "I'm a student" when, in fact, they have already finished high school but have not yet started university studies. So, when the examiner asks, "What school are you going to?" or, "What school do you go to?", the candidate thinks it must be referring to the future.


More Information on the grammatical structure, "going to + verb"

The structure, "going to + verb" is similar to, "planning to + verb" but it is more certain than simply having a plan – it also includes a prediction, with a high degree of certainty, of the future. For example, "I'm going to watch TV tonight". It is suitable to make a prediction with a high degree of certainty about the near future such as tonight or tomorrow. But it is not possible to make a prediction with such certainty about several years in the future. Therefore, to say, "I'm going to get my Bachelor's degree in England" is not a suitable thing to say if you are still in China and simply planning to do this. A more suitable thing to say is, "I'm planning to get my Bachelor's degree in England", "I plan to get my Bachelor's degree in England" or, "I intend to get my Bachelor's degree in England."

When the verb in the structure, "going to + verb" is "go", we don't need to say it. For example: Question: "What are you going to do this afternoon?", Answer: "I'm going to go to the supermarket" = "I'm going to the supermarket".

If the question is, "What university are you going to go to (= are you planning to go to)?" it is much better (= much clearer communication) to include the second "go". For example, a suitable answer would be, "I'm going to go to the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia." The reason why you should include the second "go" is that the answer, "I'm going to the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia." also has the possible meaning of, "I'm already attending the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia at the moment".


Would you say it's a good place to grow up?

(= Would you say it's a good place to grow up in? )

This is not the same question as, "Would you say your hometown is a good place to live?". But, of course, many attributes that make a place good to live in also make a place good to grow up in. For example, a clean environment is good for growing bodies.

This question is similar to a Part 3 question in that it is asking for your evaluation of your hometown as a place to grow up for children and teenagers in general, not you. So don't focus your answer on how good or bad your hometown was for you, although it is possible to use your own experience as an example.

In your answer, you should focus on what makes a place good for children and teenagers (under the age of about 18) to live. Think about what children and teenagers need in order to grow up well and also what children and teenagers want. In addition to the positive things your hometown has for growing children and teenagers, think about the number of things your hometown has that are not good for growing children and teenagers. In other words, you don't have to say an emphatic "yes" or "no" in answer to this question but, instead, you could give an answer that is somewhere in between a "yes" and a "no". However, your answer should be clear on how good or bad (you think) your hometown is as a place to grow up in.

Good universities are a possible item because people's minds are still being developed (= still growing) at university but by the time someone goes to university, they have more or less stopped growing. Work opportunities are not a suitable thing to talk about because people have stopped growing by the time they start work. But good or poor employment opportunities for the parents of children do have an impact on the lives of the children of these parents.

If you talk about a beautiful landscape, an interesting history or a rich cultural environment, focus these points on the benefits for growing children and teenagers.

To just say that the people in your hometown are "kind and friendly" is a rather weak answer that will not impress the examiner very much unless you elaborate on how kindness and friendliness are positive for children and teenagers.


Do you like reading (books)? (Why?/Why not?)

If the question does not include the word, "books" then it is quite possible to say that you don't read many books nowadays but you like to read a lot of articles on the internet. If you say that, try to give extra information about what articles you read on the internet.


Would you say your subject is important (to society/to you)?


Is your job (or, your work) very important (to society/to you)?

It is possible that both of these questions do not include the words, "to society" or "to you".

The question might be like this: "Is that subject/your job important in your country?"

If you say your job or subject is "important", you need to include two extra points: a) important to whom and, b) why it is important. For example, your job might be considered by you and many people to be important to society (such as teaching, working as a doctor, etc.). Or, you can (and probably should) include that it is important to you, even if your subject or job is not generally considered very important to society. An example of that might be studying something that you really enjoy even though society doesn't have a great need for experts in this area, such as studying philosophy, fashion design or musical composition. Finally, you might want to say that your subject is important to your parents but you personally don't feel it's as important as they do. An example of that might be studying management so that you can take over managing your father's company when he retires, although you personally are more interested in art or music. Or computer games. ;)


These three questions, (and several other questions) are 'Yes/No' questions. When someone asks you a 'Yes/No' question, the best way to answer is to first say "Yes", "Yes, it is", "No", "No, I don't", "Not really", "Not at all" etc. and then give extra information. In other words, first answer the 'Yes/No' question directly.

Let's look at an example of a poor answer.

Examiner: Is your hometown famous for anything?

Candidate: It's famous for ...

Here, the candidate is directly answering a different question – "What is your hometown famous for?" But that was not the question that the examiner asked. Of course, if you say, "Yes" then the examiner wants to hear you say what it is famous for, but say that after first directly answering the 'Yes/No' question.

Here's how that question should be answered.

Examiner: Is your hometown famous for anything?

Candidate: Yes, it's famous for ...  Or: Candidate: Yes, it is. It's famous for ...

If you say, "No", the logical thing is to say why not. For example, Not, it's not very famous because it's just a small city.

See here for more information on answering 'Yes/No' questions.


Some people are confused about what "famous" means. It means that many or even most people all over your country (or even in the world) have heard of your hometown and, when they hear the name of that place, it reminds them of something. For example, in China, everybody knows that Xian is famous for its history, especially for being the capital of ancient China in several dynasties. It is possible to say that your hometown in not famous in the whole of China (or whatever country you are from) but it is famous for something in your province.

Some people mistakenly say something like this, (for a hometown that is a small town or a village), "It's famous for its tea". Just because your small town or village specializes in growing tea does not mean that it is "famous" ( = "well known") for that throughout China!


For the history question, even if your hometown was first established only 50 or 60 years ago, it still has a history of 50 or 60 years!


Have you ever been to a live concert?

Go here to listen to the pronunciation and read the meaning of "live concert". It is meaning Number 2, which means you were actually at the concert while it took place. Notice that the pronunciation is similar to "alive", not the verb, "live". [I have changed the "Options" section at the McMillan Dictionary website to give the American pronunciation of "live" (adjective) because the British pronunciation of this is, strangely, not available. It is basically the same pronunciation in both British and American English.]

Almost everyone has been to a live concert at school!

Actually, the wording of that question is a bit stupid because if you go to a concert, it is of course, live. A more accurate version of the question is, "Have you ever listened to a concert, live?" (i.e., not a recorded version of the concert on TV or the internet or on a CD.)

Watching and listening to a band performing live in a pub, coffee shop a similar place is not the same as watching and listening to the same band at a concert. A "concert" usually has a much bigger audience than the audience in a pub or coffee shop and, at a concert, people do nothing else besides sit there quietly, listening. In a pub, coffee shop or some small 'club', people usually drink, eat, dance and even talk as well as listen to the performance.


Do you usually (or, always) wear clothes in your favourite colour?

It is not clear which word is used, 'usually' or 'always'. Make sure you know the difference in meaning between these two words!

"Usually" means, "most of the time" (大部分的时间) (or, about 60% to 90% of the time). 

"Always" means, "every time" (总是, 每一次) (or, about 99% or 100% of the time). When talking about the future, "always" means about the same as "forever" (永远), such as, "I will always love you." = "I will love you forever".


a) Do you think people like doing housework by themselves?

b) Do you think people like doing housework themselves?

(Actually, I don't think either of these questions is really in the test; it was just reported this way by one person.)

These two questions have different meanings.

To do something "by yourself" (Question a) means to do it alone. Maybe some people prefer to do things with others and feel a little lonely or bored when they do things by themselves.

In Question b), to do something "yourself" means you do it, not someone else does it for you. Except for tidying up personal possessions, most people would prefer a maid to do such housework as cleaning the floors and washing clothes, if they could afford a maid. Question b could be reworded as, "Do you think people like doing their own housework?"

If this question really exists in the test, most likely it is version b.


Do you think nowadays boys and girls can play the same sport?

One person has reported this wording. The two key words here are "nowadays" and "can". "Can" means, "it is possible" or, "it is allowed".

If this is the wording of the question (and it is not certain that it is), it is asking you to comment about "gender equality" in sport or, "the breaking down of gender barriers in sport". It is referring to the fact that nowadays, for example, there is organized international women's competition in soccer. This did not exist about 50 years ago. [I think there might be, in some places, even some organized competition in women's rugby, which is a much more aggressive and physical form of football than soccer.] Another example –  a few decades ago there was no female marathon event at the Olympic Games but this event exists now. Basically, it seems that there are almost no barriers nowadays to female sport. I noticed recently on TV that there are female professional boxers in China.

If the question specifically uses the words, "boys and girls" and not, "men and women" then not all of the examples above apply to children. For example, there is no children's marathon competition, anywhere (as far as I know). But I think girls' soccer is quite common now, as is girl's field hockey and basketball. (Don't forget, a "girl" is a female child, under the age of 13. And a "boy" is a male child under the age of 13. But the words "boys" and "girls" are also sometimes loosely used for older boys and girls, up to the age of about 18 or 20. After that age, we refer to them as "men" and "women".)

So yes, males and females can usually play the same sport, but they do not compete against each other and there are no mixed gender sports teams such as soccer teams. But we do have "mixed doubles" tennis, ping pong and badminton competitions in which a man and a woman team up and compete against another man and woman.

If you come from a conservative country, such as most Islamic countries, the sports that girls play might be quite restricted. Just give information to the examiner about the situation in your country, whatever the situation is.


Is there anything about science that you dislike?

This question might be, "Is there anything about studying science that you dislike?"

The possible answers could be quite different, depending on whether the word, "studying" is used or not. For example, you might dislike the fact that science has produced the nuclear bomb, which could wipe out human life on earth. Even if the word "studying" is not used, it is still suitable to reply what you don't like about studying science at school.


Do you like painting? (Why / Why not?)

How about now? Do you still paint pictures?

It's possible that the first question is the past tense question, "Did you ever paint pictures when you were a child", followed by a question asking if the situation is the same now. This might also be true for the Collecting topic, the Films topic and the Books & Reading topic.


In Chinese, it's normal to answer, "都重要" but in English to say, "They're both important" is a poor answer. Everybody knows they're both important but the question is asking, "Which has the greater importance?" If you mean to say that both are equally important (which is what 都重要 implies), then you need to use the word "equally" or some similar words such as "the same amount of importance".

A similar question is this: [ After I ask you these two questions: Do you like to eat noodles? (yes) and do you like to eat rice (yes) ]  .... "Which do you prefer to eat, rice or noodles?" In Chinese, you might say "我都喜欢" which really means "I like them both equally" but if you simply translate "我都喜欢" as, "I like them both" then it is a poor answer because I already know that you like them both! You need to use the word, "equally" if your meaning is that you do not like one more than the other.


What's your favourite public holiday?

A 'public holiday' is a day or more than one day in which most people don't go to work and most school students don't go to school. This holiday is celebrating or commemorating something. We use "celebrate" to refer to happy celebrations but the word, "commemorate" is used for more solemn occasions, such as commemorating the Wenchuan earthquake every year or the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.

In China, many working people have their only "holidays" (vacation from work) during the Spring Festival. In other words, the Spring Festival is both a public holiday and a vacation time. In most Western countries, the same situation exists during the one week Christmas public holiday. But in the West, most working people choose to take their annual vacations (their annual holidays) at another time, when everybody else is working. So, in the West, working people have a break at Christmas and a break during their annual holidays.


Indoors / Outdoors

The words, "indoors" and "outdoors" are places. The letter "s" is at the end of these words, probably because people can use more than one door to enter their home.

But in the expressions, "indoor activities" and "outdoor activities", there is no "s" at the end of the first word. Here, "indoor" and "outdoor" are used as adjectives, following by a noun, which in this case is "activities".


In what ways do animals help agriculture in your country? *


In what ways are animals used in agriculture in your country?

This is an unclear question. Possibly it is referring to work animals.


Do people in your country like to raise animals?

The real words used are more likely to be, "Do people in your country like to keep animals?"

The words "raise animals" or "raise an animal" are not usually used when talking about a single pet at home such as the family pet dog, although it is possible and is not completely 'wrong' to say that. Most English speakers just use words such as, "have a pet", "keep a dog" etc. but some people might say "I'm raising a dog" when the dog is still growing. If the examiner uses "raise" with the word "animal", the emphasis is more on breeding several of these animals, and not as pets. For example, someone could raise (several of) an expensive breed of dog in order to sell them for a profit; or breed (raise) a certain type of bird as a hobby or for sale; or raise chickens in order to have a source of eggs. Of course, some farmers raise cattle or sheep etc. for meat or wool or other products.

When we say, "raise a child", the idea is to bring up that child, to guide the child and take care of him or her during the growing-up years. But when we have a pet dog from the time the dog was a little puppy, we usually keep that dog until it dies. So, we do more than simply "raise" it during its growing years.


What's your favourite wild animal (from your country)?

Some people have reported that the question includes, "in your country" while others just say the question is, "What's your favourite wild animal?" To be safe, I suggest you plan on talking about an animal in your country.


Where do young people in your country meet other people?

If these are the words of the question, then it doesn't necessarily mean the same as, "Where do young people make friends?", although the two often go together. To "meet other people" just means to have some form of interaction with other people. Logically, a person might make friends where they meet people the most but this might not always be true. For example, a cashier in a busy supermarket might meet hundreds of people every day but she might only make friends with the other cashiers at work.

I think the real question is most likely to be, "Where do young people meet the people who become their friends?"


Do you have any plans to travel by air in the future? (If yes: Where will you be going?)

I think this is most likely to be the form of a question about future air travel. If you say yes, include in your answer where you plan to (or, hope to) go?


(Possibly) What kinds of museums are most popular in your country?

If this is one of the questions, pay attention to whether the examiner uses the word, "popular" or the word, "common". These two words do not mean the same thing.

"common" = there are many of them/ there is a lot of it

"popular" = many people like it

In China, (30 years ago), bicycles were both common and popular. However, air pollution is also common but it's not popular.


What do you usually do on weekends?

The same questions might be expressed in any of the following ways:

What do you usually do on the weekend?

What do you usually do at the weekend?

What do you usually do during the weekend?


However, since we usually use a plural noun when we are speaking in general, "on weekends" is the most likely wording.


What are you going to do next weekend?

The words, "going to" means that this question is asking you to give a prediction about what you will be doing next weekend, and this prediction is possible because you have a plan or intention to do something specific. If you have no plans at all for next weekend then it's not suitable to begin by saying, "I'm going to ..." Instead, you should first say that you have no plans yet but, "I might go shopping with my friend", or "I'll possibly/probably go shopping with my friend". Of course, you should include more than one activity because people do more than one thing on weekends. And you could include why you might do those things.

However, it is still possible to use "going to" if you have no plans. That is, it is possible to make a prediction based on what you usually do. In this case, you still should begin by explaining that you have no plans yet, followed by words such as, "I'm probably going to just stay at home and surf the internet and things like that. For example, I might ...". In this case, you should use "probably", not just "going to" without any adverb of probability (which is what "probably" is.)

If you do have a plan, you can use "I'm going to ..." but you can also use, "I plan to ...", "I intend to ...", or "I hope to ..." (in the case where you are not sure you will be able to do it). (Don't say, "I wish to ...".)

The page TALKING_ABOUT_THE_FUTURE.htm explains all this in more detail. That page (those pages) explains the use of "will" in reply to this type of question.


Do you intend to continue this kind of work for the rest of your life?

The question might be, "Do you intend to continue doing this job for the rest of your life?"

"This job" usually means, "this work with the same employer or company". But "this job" also can mean "this task" = "this work". Therefore, it would be possible to say that you do intend to continue doing the same job (the same task/the same work) but with a different employer. That means, changing your job but not changing the work you do, or not changing the kind of work you do. Just try to communicate your meaning clearly by explaining things.


Do you think it's important to study something that you like?

I think the similar question in Part 1 of Jan-Apr, 2011 is, "Do you think it's important to study something that you're interested in?"  The two are slightly different in meaning.


What computer skill(s) would you like to learn?

This question might be: "Is there anything about computers you would you like to learn?" If it is this, it is much broader than asking about skills. You could answer that you would simply like to learn more about how computers work. That is not a skill.

If the question is about skills, of course you should talk about a skill that you have not yet learned! This could include how to use certain software, such as how to use video editing software, or how to use 'Photoshop' etc.


What sort of weather do you like the most?

Words to describe weather are usually adjectives: warm, cool, cold, freezing cold, hot, sunny, cloudy, wet = rainy, snowy, humid, dry, windy, blustery, stormy ...

"Wet" means it rains a lot. "Dry" means it's not very humid.

Quite often two of these adjectives are used together to describe weather, such as "hot and humid", "cold and dry", "cold and wet" ...

"Fine weather" means it's not raining and the sun is shining brightly, although there might be some white (not grey) clouds in the sky. But this could be used to describe a both a cold day or a hot day so it is probably not a good enough description on its own to describe a type of weather – it is usual to include a type of temperature when describing a type of weather. The word, "mild" can be used to describe a temperature that is neither very cold nor very hot.


Example sentences:

"I like warm, sunny weather that's not too humid."

"I like weather that's quite dry, with mild or even cool temperatures and a clear, blue sky."

"I like it when it's quite dry, with mild or even cool temperatures and a clear, blue sky."


See more vocabulary here:


Is it a  good place  to ...?

(Sep.-Dec. 2011, Part 1)

a) Would you say it's a good place to grow up?

b) (Possibly the question above is this) Is it a good place for young people to live?


Do you think it's good to have compulsory swimming lessons for children?

Only one person has reported this question. He or she wrote this: "Do you think it's good to force a child to learn to swim?" The question wording might be, "Do you think it's good to compel a child to learn to swim?"

"Compulsory" and "compel" just mean that there is no choice; it's something you have to do.

But the word "force" is much stronger. When you force someone to do something, you compel them to do it when they strongly don't want to do it and try to avoid doing it, such as when they are saying, "No! No! I don't want to learn to swim!"

I doubt that the word, "force" is used in this question. "Compel" simply means "you have to do it", whether you want to do it or not. Maybe you are happy to do it, maybe you are not too happy about doing it but it's not a strong feeling of unhappiness, or maybe you have no particular feelings about it at all.


What do you think "happiness" means?

What does "happiness" mean to you?

If you get the first of those questions, you should answer in a general way and give some extra information, such as examples. In other words, explain what "happiness" is for people in general.

If you get the second question, the use of "for you" is asking you to describe what specifically brings happiness to you. It's similar to, "What makes you happy?" In this case, you don't really need to define "happiness" as you need to do for the first question. For example (for a married person): "Happiness for me is spending time with my wife and daughter. (+ extra information)"


What do you think are the advantages of home cooking?

One person has reported that he got a question similar to that. Of course, "home cooking" means "cooking your own meals at home". It's still called "home cooking" or a "home-cooked meal" if you eat at your friend's home and he or she cooked the meal there.

 Even if the question asks you to give the advantages, you can still say something about the disadvantages, after you have first said something that directly answers the question (i.e., after you have first said something about the advantages.)

The question might be worded differently, such as, "Do you prefer home-cooked food or the food from (or, in) restaurants?"



        a) walking in everyday life such as walking from the bus-stop to your home, and

        b) walking as an activity that you choose to do for exercise, for pleasure, to get some fresh air, to walk the dog, etc.

        Most questions here seem to allow for either interpretation.

There is also "hiking", which is walking for quite a long distance in a natural environment for an extended time (for example, between one hour and several days).


Why did you choose to study those subjects?

(For high school students)

It is possible the examiner will ask you why you chose to study those subjects. It is also possible that the examiner will choose one of your subjects, such as chemistry, and ask you, "Why did you choose to study chemistry?"

Similarly, for the next question, "What's the most interesting part of your course?", the examiner might change the question for high school students to, "What's the most interesting of your subjects?"


Do you like your school/university?

It is not very suitable to say that you don't like your school very much because you have too many exams or too much homework. This question is asking about your school but you know that all the other high schools in China have similar amounts of homework and exams! (The exception is some of those international schools or private schools that follow a foreign teaching program but they are in the minority.) Try to give an answer about your particular school, not schools in general.

If the question was, "Do you like school?" or, "Do you like being a high school student?", then talking about the number of exams & the amount of homework would be suitable.


a) What are the good points about your job?

b) (Similar to above) What benefits do you get from working (or, from your job)?

Most probably the question is similar in meaning to a). But, if the examiner uses the word, "benefits", there is a broader possible interpretation of this question, an interpretation that still includes the general meaning of a) but also includes a more specific meaning. See here for the usage of the word, "benefits" when talking about a job (with a particular employer).

It's not certain that  the examiners are using the word, "benefits". The person who reported this question simply wrote, "工作带给你什么", meaning "What does work bring (or give) to you?" The examiner might have used the word, "working".

If the question wording is specifically about "your job", meaning your job with the particular employer you work for, then it would be suitable to include the "benefits" such as a free car and free lunches at work, even when the examiner does not use the word, "benefits" in the question. But if the question wording just has the words "your work" or even more generally, "working", then including in your answer the benefits your employer provides is not very suitable.