Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Finding Main Ideas in Paragraphs

You can find the main ideas by looking at the way in which paragraphs are written:

A paragraph is a group of sentences about one main idea. Paragraphs usually have 2 types of sentences:

- a topic sentence, which contains the main idea, and
- one or more detail sentences which support, prove, provide more information, explain, or give examples.

You can only tell if you have a detail or topic sentence by comparing the sentences with each other. The only exception to this is if there is only one sentence in the paragraph. Then the one sentence is the topic sentence.

Look at this example paragraph:

There are many uses for this great product. ---TOPIC SENTENCE
Some mix it with chocolate to make cake icing. --DETAIL SENTENCE
It is the main ingredient in some milkshake mixes. --DETAIL SENTENCE
It will also kill rats in small amounts. --DETAIL SENTENCE

The first sentence introduces the main idea and the other sentences support and give the many uses for the product.

Rules for Finding the Topic Sentence

1. The topic sentence is usually first, but could be in any position in the paragraph.
2. A topic is usually more "general" than the other sentences, that is, it talks about many things and looks at the big picture. Sometimes it refers to more that one thing. Plurals and the words "many", "numerous", or "several" often signal a topic sentence.
3. Detail sentences are usually more "specific" than the topic, that is, they usually talk about one single or small part or side of an idea. Also, the words "for example", "i.e.", "that is", "first", "second", "third", etc., and "finally" often signal a detail.
4. Most of the detail sentences support, give examples, prove, talk about, or point toward the topic in some way.
How can you be sure that you have a topic sentence? Try this trick:
---Switch the sentence around into a question. If the other sentences seem to "answer" the question, then you've got it.

Try to find the topic sentence in the following texts:

There is a lot of work involved in fixing bicycles. First, it is necessary for one to become familiar with the structure and parts of the vehicle. Second, one must have the correct tools to make the necessary repairs. Third, the person making the repairs must prepare him or herself to put a lot of time and effort into the job and only expect minimal results at the end.

For years I have struggled with my writing skills. My inability to master correct grammar as well as my struggle to formulate coherent ideas have made my compositions very dull and ineffective. This year, however, I decided to visit the Writing Center to help improve my skills. I found, to my surprise, that the real key to writing a good paper is to have a passion for the things about which you are writing. When a person becomes interested in his or her subject of composition, he or she will make a better attempt at organizing ideas and giving them a strong coherence.

My grandfather contracted lung cancer a few months ago. The doctors now say that he only has a few weeks to live. My family's situation is not unique. Millions of Americans are going through a similar experience. At least three members of every extended family will contract terminal disease before the age of sixty. At least one out of every three nuclear families will have a member who will die of cancer before the age of fifty. From these statistics and from personal experience it is evident that no one is unaffected by cancer.


Explain the meaning of these nouns that are used as verbs:

1. to buttonhole someone
2. to table an amendment
3. to bed down for the night (colloquial)
4. to axe expenditure
5. to mirror public opinion
6. to mouth one's words
7. to ferret something out
8. to toe the line
9. to skewer a fish
10. to tax someone's patience
11. to pot a plant
12. to elbow one's pay through the crowd
13. to inch one's way along
14. to corner someone
15. to foot the bill
16. It preys on my mind
17. to fork out (colloquial)
18. to line a coat
19. to fox someone (colloquial)
20. to lace one's tea with whiskey
21. to floor someone in an argument (colloquial)
22. to corner the market
23. to thumb a lift (colloquial)
24. to shoulder responsibility
25. to tiptoe in
26. to man a ship
27.. to board up a window
28. to sponge on someone (colloquial)
29. to house the survivors
30. to referee a match
31. to vacuum the carpet
32. to coat something with varnish
33. to ship goods abroad
34. to outline government policy
35. to cotton on (colloquial)
36. to head for somewhere
37. to dwarf something
38. to dog someone's footsteps
39. to peter out
40. to guy something (colloquial)
41. to map out a holiday
42. to egg someone on (colloquial)
43. to leaf about (colloquial)
44. to beard the lion in his den
45. to cash in on something

Find out the meaning of and create sentences of your own with:

1. bits and pieces
2. cut and dried
3. house and home
4. pure and simple
5. wind and weather
6. far and wide
7. dead and buried
8. fat and furious
9. odds and ends
10. out-and-out -
11. rough and ready
12. all and sundry
13. high and dry
14. by and by
15. spick and span
16. hard and fast
17. free and easy
18. flesh and blood
19. few and far between
20. song and dance
21. might and main
22. wear and tear
23. the rank and file
24. meek and mild
25. now and then
26. cock and bull
27. stuff and nonsense
28. heart and soul
29. off and on
30. so-and-so
31. skimp and scrape
32. pros and cons
33. sick and tired of
34. down-and-out
35. give-and-take
36. up and about
37. once and for all
38. up-and-coming
39. over and done with
40. dead and alive
41. high and mighty
42. by and large
43. rack and ruin
44. a free-for-all
45. head over heels
46. there and then
47. life and soul of
48. far and away
49. long and short
50. touch and go
Explain the difference in meaning between:

1. to do time (colloquial)
to make time
to mark time
to beat time
to kill time

2. I gave him an example.
I set him an example.
I held him up as an example.
I made an example of him.
I pointed to him as an example.

3. She swept out the room.
She swept out of the room.

4. He's mad to buy it.
He's mad about buying it.

5. to swear at someone
to swear by someone
to swear someone in

6. It is in the north-west of London.
It is to the north-west of London.

7. matters of moment
matters of the moment

8. to take place
to take one's place

9. to go on a walk
to go for a walk
to take a walk
to go on foot

10. I haven't time to answer questions.
I don't have time to answer questions.

11. It is time to go to bed.
There is time to go to bed.

12. I don't think much of Shakespeare
I don't think much about Shakespeare.

13. out of work
out of order

14. long-sighted

15. There is nothing to do.
There is nothing to be done.

16. to set fire to something
to light a fire
to put on a fire

17. He is good to do that.
He is good at doing that.

18. Only I spoke to his sister.
I only spoke to his sister.
I spoke only to his sister.
I spoke to his only sister.

19. to attend a lecture
to attend to a lecture.

20. He stooped to do it.
He stooped to doing it.
He stopped to do it.
He stopped doing it.

21. to do work
to make work
to make it do
to make it work

22. to overhear a conversation
to eavesdrop on a conversation

23. to do good
to make good
to make good a loss

24. He is sure to pass the examination.
He is sure of passing the examination.

25. He used to teach English.
He is used to teaching English.

26. to make a fuss of
to make a fuss about

27. I am not afraid.
I am afraid not.

28. He dared to ask for a rise.
He dared me to ask for a rise.

29. in short

30. to do someone justice
to administer justice
to do justice to a meal

31. I would have liked to do it.
I would like to have done it.

32. He doesn't care to spend money on it.
He doesn’t care about spending money on it.

33. The Prime Minister you met last Saturday is a fool.
The Prime Minister, whom you met last Saturday, is a fool.

34. to look up at someone
to look up to someone
to look someone up
to look upon someone as . . .

35. He swore to do it.
He swore to doing it.

36. I had no sooner married her than ...
I had sooner not marry her.

37. You are right to think that. .
You are right in thinking that.

38. to do some repairs
to make reparation

39. I haven't had time to do it this morning.
I didn't have time to do it this morning.

40. to give way
to give someone away
to give away someone
to give way to someone

41. They went to see the nurse's home.
They went to see the nurses' home.
They went to see the nurses home.

42. He tried lighting the fire with paraffin.
He tried to light the fire with parafin.

43. My flat has a southern aspect.
My flat has a southern appearance.

44. The people who were in the street were excited.
The people, who were in the street, were excited.

45. I propose to go to the cinema.
I propose going to the cinema.

46. to make the best of something
to make the most of something

47. to believe someone
to believe in someone

48. How clever you are at doing it!
How clever you are to do it!

49. I left them to play cards and went home.
I left them playing cards and went home.

50. to hold a conversation
to make conversation

51. I would not dream of it.
I would not dream about it.

52. to be on the go
to be in the swim
to be on the run
to be in the running

53. to go together
to get on together

54. to care for
to take care of
to look after
to be careful of

55. to beat someone
to beat someone up

56. He likes her more than I.
He likes her more than me.

Explain the difference between:

1. a furniture van
a van of furniture

2. a good business deal
a good deal of business

3. Parliament building
the building of Parliament

4. a horserace
a race-horse

5. shipshape
the shape of a ship

6. a pay-day
a day's pay

7. plate glass
a glass plate

8. a workhouse
house work

9. daytime
a day's time

10. a cargo boat
a boat’s cargo

11. an eye-glass
a glass eye

12. a shipwreck
the wreck of a ship

13. a square foot
a foot square

14. a book-end
the end of the book

15. a paper-weight
the weight of paper

16. a lamp standard
a standard lamp

17. a boat-house
a houseboat

18 the rush-hour
an hour's rush

19. a sports field
field sports

20. a back seat
a seat back

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CAE speaking practice part 2 set 2

This article is authored by Peter Travis and is copyright of Splendid Speaking 2009.
Candidate A:
I'd like you to compare and contrast two or three of these situations, saying what significance the pieces of paper may have, and how the people might be feeling. (1 minute)

Candidate B:
Which pieces of paper do you think look the most important? (20 seconds)

CAE speaking practice part 2 set 1

Candidate A:
I'd like you to compare and contrast two or three of these groups of people, saying what responsibilities the members have as a group, and how they might depend on each other.  (1 minute)

Candidate B:
Which group do you think would be the most interesting to belong to? (20 seconds)

CAE Paper 5 Speaking (from December 2008) overview

• The standard format for the updated CAE is two candidates and two examiners.
One examiner, the interlocutor, interacts with the candidates as well as
assessing the interaction. The other examiner, the main assessor, does not
join in the interaction.
• The Speaking test consists of four parts and lasts 15 minutes for a pair of candidates.
• The test aims to assess the candidates’ ability to produce spoken English in a variety of tasks.


The interlocutor asks each candidate a series of questions by addressing one question to Candidate A, then the same or a different question to Candidate B.
The questions relate to the candidates’ own lives and focus on areas
such as work, leisure time and future plans. The questions are designed
to elicit a range of tenses.
The focus of this part of the test is on general interactional and social language
arising out of the conversation between the interlocutor and each candidate.
This short social exchange is a natural way to begin an interaction, and it gives
candidates time to settle before dealing with the more specific tasks in Parts 2, 3 and 4.

Some typical questions include:

Where are you from?
What do you do here/there?
How long have you been studying English?
What do you enjoy most about learning English?


Do you prefer studying on your own or with other people? (Why?)
How important have teachers been in your life so far?


What is the most memorable place you have ever visited?
Which is the most important room in your house? (Why is that?)

Health and fitness

What do you do to keep fit?
If you had the opportunity to learn a new sport, what would it be? (Why?)

Daily life

How important is the computer in your daily life?
Is it easy for you to find time to relax every day? (Why? / Why not?)


Do you and your friends share the same interests? (Is this a good thing?)
Do you think you will still have the same friends in ten years' time?

The future

What do you think you will be doing in five years' time?
Are you excited or worried about the future? (Why?)


What do you do to relax after a busy day?
How important is music in your life?


Where would you like to go for your next holiday? (Why?)
What do you enjoy most about being on holiday?
What advice would you give to someone coming to visit your country?
Would you consider going on holiday on your own? (Why? / Why not?)


Who has had the greatest influence on your life so far?
How easy is it for you to meet new people?

Personal experience

• In what ways do you hope to use your English in the future?
Looking back on your life, what has been a memorable event for

The media

Do you prefer watching films at home or in the cinema? (Why?)
How important are newspapers for you? (Why do you say that?)


The interlocutor gives each candidate a one-minute speaking task.
In turn, the candidates are asked to compare two pictures from a set
of three in response to a two-pronged task. The candidates are
given both spoken and written prompts alongside the visual stimuli.
The listening candidate is asked to comment briefly (for about 30 seconds)
after their partner’s long turn.
This part tests the candidate’s ability to produce an extended piece of
discourse, which may involvecomparing, describing, expressing opinions
and speculating.

Example Part 2 task:

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I'm going to give each of you three pictures. I'd like you to talk about them on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question briefly about your partner's pictures.
(Candidate A),
it's your turn first. Here are your pictures. They show different situations in which flags are used.

I'd like you to compare two of the pictures, and say why the flags are being used, and what effect they might have on people who see them.

All right?

Candidate A: [1 minute]

Thank you. (Candidate B), in which picture do you think the flags have the greatest significance?

Candidate B: [Approximately 30 seconds]
Interlocutor: Thank you.
Now, (Candidate B), here are your pictures. They show people and different kinds of wheels.

I'd like you to compare two of the pictures, and say what the wheels enable people to do, and how important they might be.
All right?

Candidate B: [1 minute]

Interlocutor: Thank you.
(Candidate A), which wheel do you think would be the most difficult to operate?

Candidate A: [Approximately 30 seconds]

Interlocutor: Thank you.


This part of the test consists of a two-way discussion between the candidate in response to a two-pronged task based on visual and written stimuli, e.g. several photographs, artwork or computer graphics with spoken and written prompts. Candidates engage in a discussion and work towards reaching a negotiated conclusion towards the end of the task.
This part forms the basis for the questions in Part 4 and tests the candidate’s ability to engage in a discussion, exchange ideas, express and justify opinions, agree and/or disagree, make suggestions, speculate, evaluate and work towards a negotiated outcome.

Example Part 3 task:

Interlocutor: Now, I'd like you to talk about something together for about three minutes.

(5 minutes for groups of three)
Here are some pictures showing when some famous events first took place.

Candidates: [3 minutes (5 minutes for groups of three)]

Interlocutor: Thank you.


In this part of the test, the interlocutor directs the interaction by asking candidates questions that widen the scope of the topic or issues in Part 3 and may be more abstract in nature. The interlocutor may specifically invite one of the candidates to respond or ask an open question of the pair. This part tests the candidate’s ability to engage in a more in-depth discussion, exchange
information, express and justify opinions and agree and/or disagree.

Example Part 4 questions:

• Which famous event would you like to have been involved in? (Why?)
• How important is it to enjoy new experiences in life? (Why?)
• Some people say nothing can be achieved without effort. How far do you agree with this?
• What aspects of life today do you think will be remembered in the future?
• How do you think life will change during this century?