IELTS Preparation Series 2, Episode 15: Astronomer
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Hello. I'm Margot Politis. Welcome to Study English IELTS preparation.
Today, we're going to talk about the IELTS speaking and reading tests.
The speaking test includes an interview, where you can be asked to talk about yourself, your
family, your job or maybe your studies.
But you won't have to answer any questions today. Instead, we're going to interview a
man called Perry Vlahos. He's an astronomer. By asking Perry a series of questions, we
can learn a bit more about what makes a good response.
Let's begin by asking Perry a typical part 1 type question.
Perry, can you tell us about yourself?
Well, currently I'm the Vice-President of the Astronomical Society of Victoria. Another
thing I do is the tours at the Melbourne Observatory, where a lot of people come in to get a look
through the telescopes and have been there for a long time - very historical instruments,
in some cases.
Perry answered the question very well. He gave detail in his answer.
He's the Vice-President of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, and he does tours at
the Melbourne Observatory.
Perry ordered points logically and he used linking words like currently, and another
Did you notice that he started his response with the word well?
He did this so he could have some time to think about his answer.
Sometimes people will use fillers like well, um or ah while they are thinking about what
they want to say next.
It's best to minimise fillers. Don't use them too often, because it affects fluency.
Fluency is an important feature of your spoken language that the examiner is listening for.
What question would you ask Perry next?
Perry is an astronomer. We might ask him about his area of study, astronomy.
Perry, could you tell us about astronomy?
Astronomy is very much a cutting edge science. It's the oldest science and it's also the
And then, every time we find out something new and interesting out there, it also tells
us something new and interesting about ourselves and our place in the cosmos.
Perry used words that belong to the field of astronomy.
For example, he talked about cutting edge science and the cosmos.
Perry also used opposites in his description. He described astronomy as being both the oldest
science and the newest science.
Perry didn't just tell us facts about astronomy, he extended the description to tell us his
opinions about the effect that astronomy can have.
He said that: It can tell us something new and interesting about ourselves and our place
in the cosmos.
To enhance his response, Perry could have talked more about the cosmos. That would show
more of his vocabulary range.
So, let's ask Perry:
Why did you choose to study astronomy?
When I was about eleven or twelve and had my first science lesson at high school and
the teacher went up to the board, drew a semi circle, put in various dots, labelled them,
said: "Right. Now copy this down into your books. These are stars, planets and constellations,
go out there and find them tonight and then let me know how you went." It inspired me,
fired my imagination and gave me something to work towards.
Perry answered this question by telling a story. He used narration.
He began the story by telling us when it happened, that is:
when I was eleven or twelve
and he then told us where the story took place, that is:
in my first science lesson at high school.
The narrative follows a sequence of events. Perry used direct speech. He quoted exactly
what the teacher said.
The teacher said: "Right. Now copy this down into your books".
By quoting what the teacher said, his response is more interesting.
By listening to Perry, we can get a few useful tips for the IELTS speaking test.
Perry did a number of things that you should do in your IELTS test, to give the examiner
the best chance to hear you speaking clearly.
It's a good idea to link ideas and language together and give interesting answers.
You should also try to give details and answer questions fully.
Remember how Perry told us that astronomy was both the oldest and also the newest science?
Using these opposites was a good way for him to describe the field. It also allowed him
to show that he was aware of the relationship between these words.
Understanding the relationship between words can help to build your vocabulary. It will
also help you to answer some questions in the IELTS reading test.
Let's have a look at some word relations you should know.
First, synonyms - words that mean the same.
For example, for interesting, we have synonyms such as:
And for the word beautiful, we have:
You should also know about opposites.
high and low
big and small
anxious and calm
cheap and expensive
Another group of related words that can be useful to know is words related by degree.
These are words we can put on a scale.
Hot and cold can also be opposites. So can warm and cool.
Now here's Perry talking about what it's like to look up at the stars with his telescopes.
Listen for adjectives and adverbs as we ask: Perry, do you enjoy your work as an astronomer?
I imagine the closest that I come to a great spiritual experience is when I'm out there
with my telescope, total darkness and the universe above my head, and you feel this
strong connection between all of those elements, and that really fires me, and I'm always looking
for new things to see as well.
Perry uses a range of adjectives such as:
strong connection and
Can you think of any synonyms for these? How about:
firm connection and
What about opposites?
The opposite of strong connection is weak connection.
The opposite of new things is old things.
Perry also uses the adverb always.
The opposite of always is never.
We could also form a scale from always:
Knowing how words relate is useful when answering true, false and not given questions in the
IELTS reading test.
But that's all for today.
Let's review what we've learnt:
First, we saw how Perry answered interview questions. We saw how linking ideas, using
narrative and giving detailed answers can be helpful.
Then, we looked at word relationships. We saw that learning synonyms, opposites and
scales can help build vocabulary and can also help in the IELTS reading test.
Of course, all of these skills take practice.
Make sure you visit the Study English website for more. It's at abcasiapacific.com/studyenglish.