Monthly Archives: June 2011

Topic – society and culture – reading about Spain in English

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the new blog from El País in English, Transiberian.  It’s written by English speaking journalists or commentators living or travelling in Spain.  Content has been fairly eclectic so far and it might be interesting to get an outsiders’ perspective on the topics the writers raise about life in Spain.


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C2.2 – Proficiency exam revision / Use of English Part 3 (6)

What’s the key word missing from these sentences:

Question 1
   Key word




I’ve been hunting

   and low for my glasses but I just can’t find them anywhere.



The company had promised supply the materials next week but we got an email this morning saying there would be a two week delay that leaves us


   and dry.


It’s said that he only got the job because he has friends in


Question 2
   Key word




It looked like we were going to move house in the summer but since the buyer of our house pulled out we are

   to square one.


I thought the two-week holiday had done me the world of good but finding 1,400 unread emails waiting in my inbox brought me right

   down to earth with a bang.


Fed up with the hustle and bustle of city life, they decided to move to the country, become self-sufficient and get

   to nature.
Question 3
   Key word




I think motivation has

   a big part in helping them achieve what they have this year.


The ministers’ speech has been criticised for the way it

   on the public’s prejudices.


Our advertising campaigns in recent years have

   it too safe.  We need something more shocking to grab the public’s attention.
Question 4
   Key word




Banks which take a personal interest in the needs of their customers are

   on the ground these days.


In the last TV debate before the election the Prime Minister made his opponents arguments look paper





 The master of illusion and magic seemingly made the whole building vanish into

Question 5
   Key word




It is thought that a number of personal problems drive him over the

   and led to his bizarre behaviour at the conference.


It is critical that businesses maintain a focus on innovation during times of economic difficulties so that they don’t lose their competitive





Economists fear that this policy might bring the country to the

   of financial meltdown.


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C2.2 – CPE Revision – notes from class 13/6/11

Here are some notes based on 5 words and expressions that cropped up (or came up, or, appeared) in the texts we listened to in class this evening.

1) Crop. We heard this word in the form of a phrasal verb. A speaker was describing how genetic mutations in animal species happen or “crop up” occasionally or “now and then” in nature.

Here is some more info about this word:

Examples of crop up: The problem with the computer first cropped up when we tried to install some new software. / Your name kept cropping up in conversation at the party – the president is very keen to meet you. / The issue is bound to crop up regularly before the election as politicians try to woo undecided voters.
Match the above uses to the definitions: 1) something appears in something you read or hear 2) Something which happens unexpectedly

Use: in a search for crop in the British National Corpus (a database recording language use), 41 out of 50 random results from a possible 1,631 used “crop” in an agricultural context and “crop up” cropped up in 4 of the rest of the results. In these the verb was collocated once with “frequently” (e.g. “examples crop up frequently”) and “bound to” (e.g. the issue is bound to crop up in the meeting) which matches nicely with the example we saw in class today (“now and then”).

2) Up.  In addition to crop up we encountered other phrasal verbs with “up” in the listening texts.  Here are 4 examples:

  • Lots of new gyms are springing up around the country.
  • Lots of people exercise in order to tone up their bodies.
  • Exercising at intervals during the day is a way of breaking up the monotony of the working day.
  • The issue of what content is included in the news comes up a lot when journalists and editors meet daily to discuss where to send film crews to cover stories.
  1. Which examples could be substituted with “crop up”?
  2. Which is specifically linked to the idea of physical shape?
  3. Which one example could be best paraphrased with the word “arise”?
  4. Which one example could be best paraphrased with the word “appear”?
  5. Which phrasal verb communicates the idea of division and can be used as a synonym as “split up” in the context of relationships?

3)  Word formation (Use of English part 2).  We heard one of the speakers criticising modern housing design because the houses tend to have little individual personality.  In her opinion they are too often uniform and mass-produced.  She used the word “faceless” to criticise this style.

(i)  Suffix:  less  – which of the words below do not transform to adjectives with -less as a suffix?  What prefixes are used instead?

  • doubt
  • point
  • logic
  • thought
  • end
  • mature
  • violent
  • fruit
  • fear
  • interest
  • power

Click on here for a nice summary of the suffix -less in comparison with -free

4)  A structure with ‘so.’  We heard a speaker give an example of a genetic mutation in an animal being more successful than they usually are.  She used the phrase:  “…so much so that we are getting more of them not less.”  This is “so much so” as a means of adding emphasis and/or an expression of surprise to a statement.  It works in a similar way to the phrase “to the extent that.” Check out some examples:

  • Over the last century English has become a truly global language, so much so that most communication in English happens between non-native speakers of the language.
  • There is a seemingly endless list of museums to visit in Madrid, so much so that I never found time to visit all of them.
  • “Madrid is green, modern, and committed to protecting the environment.  EU legislation is enthusiastically implemented, and the capital’s residents are keen recyclers, so much so that they happily divide their rubbish up into different categories, making it all the more easy to dispose of and reuse.  (elpaí in English “More and more Madrid building firms recklessly dumping waste” (7/12/2010) (

What an effective little structure for making a statement more emphatic!  So much so that you might want to experiment with it in a Proficiency writing text.  Notice how the “so much so” refers back to a point made previously.

5)  Finally, a little Use of English part 3 practice.   This takes the key word from an expression we heard at the end of the final listening text in class tonight.  What is the same missing word in each of these sentences?

  1. Sadly, many people today are caught in a vicious _________ of gambling and bank loans.  They tend to borrow money to finance more gambling in the hope that they will win big money and solve all their problems.
  2. In her youth she was something of an anarchist but grew steadily more conservative and reactionary as she grew older.  However, in her latest collection of writing she seems to have come full _______ and her ideas are once again much more radical.
  3. It’s a lovely old-fashioned theatre.  We got a good view from the upper ________ but being so high and so far from the stage made it difficult to hear exactly what the actors were saying at certain points during the performance.  

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B2.2 – FCE Writing – last minute revision!

Important tip for FCE Paper 2 – writing (part 1):  For the compulsory question there will be content points that must be included in the letter or email that you write.  How would you cover the content points in the writing question below?  Leave suggestions in the comments box and I’ll feedback later today!

You are planning to go on holiday with an English speaking friend who has sent you an email and an advert  about an outdoor activity centre.  Read the extract from their email and the advert including your friend’s notes.  Then write to the manager of the activity centre asking for the information which your friend has suggested.  You might also want to include some questions of your own.

I reckon this is exactly the kind of place we should go to, don’t you?  Could you write to the activity centre and get some more info?  I’ve made some notes but maybe I’ve missed something important we need to ask about.


Are you looking for a fun way to spend your summer?

Why not join us in the beautiful Welsh countryside at the WILD FUN OUTDOOR ACTIVITY CENTRE.

You can take part in activities like:

  • ·         Rafting[M1]  and canoeing
  • ·         Gorge walking[M2] 
  • ·         Quad biking
  • ·         Hill walking[M3] 
  • ·         Mountain climbing

Come for just a day or stay with us for longer in our purpose built accommodation.[M4] 

Email us for more details at:

 [M1]Never done this – need experience?

 [M2]What exactly is this?  Dangerous?

 [M3]Distance of a typical walk?  All day or time for different activity?

 [M4]What and how much?

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C2.2 Proficiency Exam Revision / Use of English Part 3 (5)

More practice!  What’s the key word missing from the sentences below?

Clue:  the answers are all verbs which are among the most frequently used words in English.  I have chosen mostly idiomatic expressions so these examples aren’t necessarily reflective of the real exam where there will be looser, less fixed collocations among the 3 sentences you will be asked to complete.  You might find only one expression like these in the actual test.  In another break from exam protocol, some of the examples here mix forms (there are a few past and -ing forms here mixed with mostly infinitives).

You can check the idioms you don’t know and can’t work out at or a similarly reputable online dictionary.


  Key word   Revision break!

We’ll have to


cracking if we want to arrive on time!

Is this the greatest song with this key word in the title?



I think she does like you but she’s just playing hard to


… you should ask her out, I’m sure she’ll say yes.

I don’t even want to think about what my boss will say when she finds out how late I am with the deadline – I’m really going to


it in the neck!

It’s probable that the latest government spending cuts will mean that many community arts projects will


the axe.

Look, I know emotions are running high here but can we please not let things


too personal and ensure that we keep things professional in this meeting?

Look!  I’ve told you I’m not going to help you and flattery will


you nowhere!

Really, I thought he was never going to shut up, I couldn’t


a word in edgeways.

No matter how many times I read them I just can’t


my head around these instructions for assembling this wardrobe.

I know it might be difficult in the long run but let’s cross that bridge when we


to it.


  Key word   Revision break!

Everyone makes mistakes, don’t worry about it, just


it down to experience and move on.

Listen to the song.  One of the lyrics is about finding something “I can (key word) my heart and soul into.”  How does this fit into the overall theme and mood of the song?


I had no doubt that he was ready for the first team and his performance proves my point – he didn’t


a foot wrong, did he?

Let me


you in the picture about what’s being going on while you were away on holiday.

I wonder if you could


in a good word for me with your boss – I’m going to try to get a move to your department.

I know you’ve all been waiting for a long time to hear who has won the prize, so I’ll


you all out of your misery…the winner is…

It’s time to


your money where your mouth is – we’ve all talked about going on strike for ages and I’m prepared to make a stand – are you with me?

Perhaps the whole affair was a government cover up – I would


nothing past them – including hiding the truth!

Hemmingway’s descriptions of the wild celebrations during San Fermines


Pamplona firmly on the map and even today they help the city attract thousands of tourists.

Her professionalism and dedication really


other people to shame.


  Key word   Revision break!

It’s no use trying to control things that are out of your hands, just let them


their natural course.

All these examples could come from a (probably very bad) self-help book.  Can you add some more extracts using the following idioms / collocations with the key word?

–          _____ round in circles

–          ______ the risk of doing something

–          Be ______ off your feet

–          Passions ______ high

Try not to imagine the worst, if we let our imaginations


riot, we often end up thinking that things are much worse than they really are.

Make sure you don’t overwork yourself, there’s no point


yourself into the ground and having no energy left.

Don;t be afraid of failure – too many people


a mile every time the thing they really want is just within their grasp.  Grab these opportunities while you can!

Planning is key to success, the better you plan, the more things will


like clockwork.

Remember the tale of the hair and the tortoise…life is a marathon not a sprint.  You may not have achieved everything you want out of life yet, but you’ll get there in the long



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C2.2 – Proficiency exam revision / Use of English Part 3 (4)

What’s the key word missing from all of these sentences?

    Key word  

On hearing the police arrive the robbers took


and escaped in a blue transit van.

She raced down the


of stairs to see what presents were waiting for her under the Christmas tree.

After achieving promotion to the top


the team did well to avoid relegation against teams with much larger transfer budgets.

A few minutes after take off the


crew were already offering drinks and snacks.

His sudden


aroused the suspicions of co-workers and only then was it discovered that he’d been diverting money from the company accounts into his own account.

This album is a return to form for the singer. She really is back in full


here with beautifully arranged songs that compliment her soaring vocals.

Bomb hoax grounds


from Glasgow.

Make a record of any new collocations / expressions that weren’t familiar to you before.

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B2.2 FCE Writing Part 2 – Review

One of the options in Part 2 of Paper 2 (writing) might be to write a review (120-180 words).

The review might be for an English language magazine, newspaper or website or for someone specific e.g. a teacher.  Subjects for the review might be a film, a book, a holiday, a product, a restaurant, a concert etc.)  There are examples in the latest writing homework sheets.

If you choose this option, include description, explanation and evaluation:  why the thing you are reviewing is/was good/bad.  Also, don’t forget to give your personal opinion:  would you recommend the thing you are reviewing?  Why (not)?  Justify the points you make with examples.

Revision tips:  Look in the course book and your notes for sections on describing, explaining, evaluating and giving a personal opinion (e.g.  expressing your interests (unit 2 – gerunds and infinitives), adjectives (unit 4), writing:  reviews (unit 4 – see the answer key for a model answer), language of contrast (unit 7 and the transformations in the review of the unit), using adverbs to express your attitude (unit 10 (writing articles but these adverbs could also be used in reviews).

Language focus:

1)  Reviews often include descriptions, personal opinions and recommendations.  Here are some transformation exercises to jog your memory on some structures / expressions for doing this…

Complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence using the word given.  Do not change the word given.  You must use between 2 and 5 words, including the word given.

(1)  Although the plot did not grab my attention, I must say the cinematography was wonderful.  FOUND

Despite not being too interested in the plot, I ………………………………………. wonderful.

(2)  If you are not into seafood, do not bother coming to this restaurant.  BETTER

The restaurant mostly serves seafood so if you do not like fish, you ……………………………. find an alternative.

(3)  At the beginning it seems like it is going to be a tragedy but as the plot develops there are lots of comic moments.  IF

At the beginning, it seems …………………….. to be a tragedy but as the plot develops there are lots of comic moments. 

(4)  The story is well told but, disappointingly, the overall movie is not as interesting as the director’s earlier work.  WAS

Although the story is well told, overall I …………………………………… the movie because it was less interesting than the director’s earlier work.

(5)  You cannot compare it to anything else in the area, the other places are overpriced whereas the menu here is great value for money.  NO

There is ………………………………… it and anything else in the area.  The menu here is great value for money while everywhere else is overpriced.

(6)  It is surprising to hear a debut album that is so uncommercial.  BY

I was ………………………………. uncommercial this debut album is.

(7)  I was shocked by how violent the film was.  AMOUNT

I was shocked by ……………………………. the film.

(8)  You should not watch this film – it’s terrible!  AVOID

You should ……………………… film – it’s awful!

(9)  The musicians gave fantastic performances but the sound quality was not as good as it could have been.  PUT

The musicians …………………… great show but I was a bit disappointed in the sound quality.

(10)  If you are looking for something with realistic graphics that is always challenging to play, you will not be disappointed by this game.  LET

If you want realistic graphics and something that is always challenging to play, you will not feel ………………………. this game.

2)  Before checking your answers decide: (i) What type of review the sentences above could come from? (e.g. a concert, restaurant etc.)  (ii)  What is the main function of the structures in the sentences?  To give an opinion?  Recommend?  Describe?

3)  Now check your answers below:

  Suggested answer Give an opinion Recommend Describe Review
1 found the cinematography Find something + adjective

 X grabbed my attention

I must say the X was + adjective

2 had better   If you don’t like X, you had better not… / If you like X, you had better…

Don’t bother + verb+ing / don’t bother + with + noun (e.g. don’t bother with this restaurant.

3 as if it is going     It seems / seemed (looks / looked) + as if + it (+ verb phrase e.g. was going to be / was / will / would / is etc.)

It seems / looks + like + it (+ verb phrase)

Novel, film?
4 was disappointed in / by Comparative structure:  (not) as + adj + as…

be disappointed in / by something

Adverb: Disappointingly, + opinion

5 no comparison between     You cannot compare it to…

There is no comparison between X and Y because… 

It is incomparable!

6 surprised by / at how I was surprised by how + adjective

It was surprising how + adj

Surprisingly, X is really + adj

7 the amount of violence in I was shocked by how much / the amount of / the number of / how many etc.     Film
8 avoid watching  this

avoid this

  You should / shouldn’t

Avoid + verb+ing

Avoid + noun

9 put on a     The …… put on a great show / gave a great performance Concert
10 let down by X will not let you down / disappoint you

You won’t feel disappointed / let down by X

    Computer game


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