Category Archives: CAE/FCE

Idioms Explained

Idioms in English can be hard to figure out. Translating them into to your own language is not going to help. But, native speakers throw them into to conversations whenever they feel like it! How can you get your head around them? It’s a tough one we know. Here in our English academies in Madrid we’re always trying to think of ways to help our students remember these useful phrases, be it for exam preparation like Aptis or FCE or just to sound more fluent in everyday conversation.

A good way to learn new idioms is to use images which illustrate their meaning. This post is trying to do just that. We hope it helps!

Back to square one

Having to go back to square one means you have to start whatever process you were doing over again. It’s usually negative since it implies you didn’t make much progress the first time.

The big cheese

Someone who is a big cheese is an important or knowledgeable person in their field. It’s quite an informal expression and means they hold some influence.

A birdseye view

This one is perhaps more literal. It means you have a view of something from a high point…just like a bird would.

To bite your tongue

 

 

To bite your tongue means to keep yourself from critizising or insulting someone even if you want to. Someone says something stupid and instead of highlighting it, you say nothing and maybe even smile at them.

To be on cloud nine

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, if you are on cloud nine, you are really happy about something. We hope you are too having learnt some new English idioms!

 

CAE EXAM – An Brief Overview

Preparing for the Cambridge Exam here in Madrid? This little guide from our teachers will give you a head start to pass with flying colours! It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the exam format as well as the relevant grammar topics as it will help reduce anxiety and nerves on the day. So lets get started and aprender ingles a domicilo! 

Can I take this exam?
If you are using English in a work or study environment with some confidence, it is useful to have this qualification to show your knowledge! More than 60,000 students sit this exam every year all over the world. It is difficult, and is ADVANCED level. If you haven´t yet experienced the format, we strongly recommend doing the FIRST Certificate exam intially. Not only will this build your confidence and knowledge of the exam format, but it is a better guarentee for success as the exams are quite expensive. 

The TEST FORMAT:
You should expect four sections to test your English;

  1. Reading & Use of English – 90 minutes
  2. Writing – 90 minutes over two tasks
  3. Listening – 30 questions divided over 4 parts with 90 minutes in total. This is often the last part of the exam and you may be tired by this point!
  4. Speaking – a 15minute interview divided into four parts, some sections with another student.

Criteria and Marking
A, B, C (pass)
D, E or U (fail)
CAE pass is accepted for entry to some universities.

The Reading and Use of English section counts for 40% of the marks.
The Writing, Listening & Speaking sections each count for 20% of the marks.

You will receive a Statement of Results. If your performance ranges between CEFR Levels B2 and C2, you will also receive a certificate.
Pass Grades:
Grade A (C2), Grade B (C1), Grade C (C1)

If you do not pass, but still do quite well you are issued a B2 certificate.

Paper-based or computer-based exams
You can do the CAE exam on a computer or on paper.

When can I take the test?
We can help you book the test here at our academy in La Elipa or in La Almudena. Simply give us a call or tell the office manager at your convenience and our native teachers would be delighted to discuss the exam with you. It can be taken throughout the year and costs approximately 190-200 euros to sit.

Am I ready to take the test? 

Can you answer these Reading and Use of English questions from examenglish.com with ease? Or do you need to book one of our exam preparation classes to feel more confident? Contact La Elipa or La Almudena on 910 01 42 81 today for advice, information and help para Preparar el examen del Advanced de Cambridge. 

1.   Brian was really interested in North American history in his school days.

interest

Brian   North American history in his school days.

2.   When it comes to population, Beijing’s is much bigger than Auckland’s.

populated

Beijing is   than Auckland.

3.   The manager should think about experience when hiring new staff.

consideration

The manager should   when hiring new staff.

Aptis Exam Explained

 

Here at The Language Corner in La ELipa and García Noblejas we have been getting many requests for information about Aptis, the latest exam by The British Council. In both our English academies we offer preparation classes for both Aptis General and Aptis Advanced. But before you sign up to English classes in our academy, let’s explain exactly what the Aptis entails.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that the entire Aptis exam is done on a computer. It takes a total of 2hours and 32 minutes with all the skills being tested. It’s a scaled exam so there is no pass or fail mark but your results are given as a CEFR level for A0-C for the Aptis General and B1-C2 for the Aptis Advanced.

The Aptis, as well as being a cheaper and quicker alternative to the Cambridge exams such as The First Certificate and Advanced it is also becoming more widely recognised here in Spain. The Aptis General is valid if you are a student and need to demonstrate you have a B1 or B2 level and the Aptis Advanced is accepted by the Comunidad de Madrid as proof of linguistic competence for teachers.

As with most English language exams, Aptis is split into sections covering Reading, Writing, Speaking Listening and Grammar & Vocabulary. Let’s have a look at each section and how to best approach it.

Speaking

Part 1

The first part of the Speaking consists of 3 simple questions which you have 30 seconds to respond to.  They are usually related to your life, your hobbies, family or holidays. Each question will usually require you to use a certain tense so be mindful of that when you are answering.

As the test is done on a computer, a good way to practise this particular part is to record yourself answering some basic questions on your phone while using a timer. This will not only help you with time management but also with your pronunciation and intonation.

Being the first part of the test means the questions are simple but it doesn’t mean your answers have to be. I don’t mean that you should try to over-complicate things but it is a good idea to use these short questions to show off some vocabulary you know related to the topic. An example could be to learn an idiom that describes a person such as “He/she is a blast!” (the person is a lot of fun) This way you can use it to describe a friend, family member or someone you work with.

Here are some typical questions from Aptis:

  1. Please tell me about your family.
  2. Where did you go on your last holiday?
  3. What’s the weather like today?

Each answer should be between 4 and 6 sentences long. Speak clearly and at a pace you’re comfortable with and you should have no problem answering the questions from part 1.

Part 2

In the second part of the Speaking Test, you will be asked to describe a picture and then answer two further questions about it. This time you have 45 seconds to respond.

A typical example of this could be the picture on the left.

  1. Describe the picture.
  2. Do you often have to work in a team in work or university?
  3. Why is teamwork important?

 

 

 

To see example answers to these questions and tips on how to describe pictures, check out our previous entry on Aptis Speaking.

 

Part 3

In this part of the exam, you will be shown two pictures and asked to compare them. This is quite similar to the FCE or CAE and finding examples from those exams will help immensely. Again, there are 3 questions which each have a 45 second limit for answering.

  1. Compare the two pictures.
  2. Why might people choose each type of holiday?
  3. Which of these types of holidays are better for you?

Part 4

The last part of the Speaking test for Aptis, you are once again given a photo with three questions. This time, however, you’ll have one minute to prepare your ideas and two minutes to cover all three questions.

  1. Describe an old person you admire and why.
  2. How do you know them?
  3. What characteristics do they have that you like?

Check out our previous post for ideas and tips on how to answer these parts of the Aptis

Don’t forget you can prepare for the Aptis exam in Madrid in our English academies in Madrid in both La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas. All of our native teachers at our language academies are familiar with not only the Aptis but also all of the Cambridge exams. So if you are looking to prepare for the FCE in Madrid or the CAE in Madrid, make sure you stop by our English academies in Madrid in La Elipa and La Almudena. Looking forward to meeting you!

Aptis Speaking Parts 3 & 4

Today at The language corner we’re going to look at the second part of the Aptis Speaking test, with tips and sample answers to give you an idea of what is needed in this relatively new exam by The British Council.  Of course, here in our English academies, you can prepare for the Aptis as well as The Cambridge exams with our native teachers.

Part 3

In this part of the exam, you will be shown two pictures and asked to compare them. This is quite similar to the FCE or CAE and finding examples from those exams will help immensely. Again, there are 3 questions which each have a 45 second limit for answering.

 

  1. Compare the two pictures. (45sec)
  2. Why might people choose each type of holiday?  (45sec)
  3. Which of these types of holidays are better for you?  (45sec)

As we saw in our previous post when describing photos we usually use modals of deduction to say what we suppose is happening in the pictures. Let’s have a go at answering these ones 🙂

  1. In the first picture on the left, a couple can be seen relaxing in deck chairs at the beach. I imagine they are a couple as they are holding hands and the woman seems to be gazing at her partner. There is a bag hanging off one deckchair and a hat hanging off the other. It looks idyllic if I’m honest.  In the second picture, we can see a group, with backpacks on hiking through the mountains. They appear to be following a trail and are properly prepared for the terrain. It reminds me of going trekking with my friends in the mountains outside my city.
  2. I reckon people choose beach holidays to get away from the hustle bustle of the city and to completely switch off. Not only do they get to relax on what seems like a paradise island but they also don’t have to worry about the stresses of their daily life. On the other hand, this type of trip can seem utterly boring to some people which is why they might prefer to do something more active. They also want to escape the fast-paced way of things in the city by getting fresh air in a pristine landscape but obviously lying on the beach for days would just bore them to tears.
  3. Both types of holiday have their benefits. Relaxing on a beautiful beach for a week might do somebody who has a high-stress job or day to day life the world of good as they can just switch off and forget about everything for the time being. However, the hiking holiday is obviously more active and in that way, it’s physically better for you. I suppose it all depends on whether you want to do something active or would benefit just as much from simply taking a break from your daily routine.

Part 4

The last part of the Speaking test for Aptis, you are once again given a photo with three questions. This time, however, you’ll have one minute to prepare your ideas and two minutes to cover all three questions.

 

  1. Tell me about the first thing you bought online.
  2. How did you feel about the purchasing?
  3. Would you recommend online shopping?

For this question, since you have a minute to prepare it’s a good idea to jot down the points you want to mention without writing full sentences. Be careful not to describe the photo given as this is not the task in this question. The questions are more abstract (e.g a feeling). Make sure you answer all three questions and stay on topic. Doing otherwise will lose you valuable points. You are free to glance at your notes while you speak so it’s really important to practise brainstorming and making the most of this.

Here is an example of how you can brainstorm some ideas in one minute. Notice that as well as answering the questions I’ve also included short structures to include in my answer. This final part of the Aptis speaking exam is aimed at the higher levels so it’s important to incorporate advanced structures into your answer. Think about inversions (not only but also, only if/when), passives, conditionals etc. It’s also good to use any related vocabulary you can think of. Having said that, we also recommend you stick to what you know in the exam. Practise these structures before the exam so you are confident using them. Don’t try to wing it in the exam by throwing in structures you half know and are likely to get wrong. Accuracy is of vital importance in any speaking exam and the Aptis is no different.

Let’s have a go at answering this one:

If I recall correctly, the first thing I bought online was a necklace from eBay. It was being auctioned on the site and I thought it was really beautiful. I remember feeling excited by the bidding process. I would place a bid and wait to see if someone outbid me for the item. In the end, mine was the highest bid and I won the auction. I also remember feeling quite nervous however because of the payment method. Only by giving the website my credit card details could I proceed. I was also worried it wouldn’t arrive even after paying for it. I decided I’d have to take the chance and thankfully my necklace arrived shortly after.

I would definitely recommend shopping online nowadays. There are so many shops and you can buy virtually anything delivered to your doorstep. It’s really handy for people who work a lot or simply don’t enjoy going shopping on the high street, especially around the holidays or sales when bricks and mortar shops are packed. Not only is shopping online faster and more efficient but it’s also cheaper than the high street stores a lot of the time.

As you can see, I used the notes from the spider diagram to shape my answer but also added more information as I thought of it. I hope this helps. Don’t forget you can prepare for the Aptis exam in Madrid in our English academies in Madrid in both La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas. All of our native teachers at our language academies are familiar with not only the Aptis but also all of the Cambridge exams. So if you are looking to prepare for the FCE in Madrid or the CAE in Madrid, make sure you stop by our English academies in Madrid in La Elipa and La Almudena. Looking forward to meeting you!

 

Cambridge Exams

The Cambridge exams like The First Certificate (FCE) and The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) are world renowned and accepted by universities and employers alike. These exams measure your linguistic ability over four exams; Reading and Use of English, in which you are expected to be knowledgeable about varying grammar and lexical structures as well as reading comprehension. Writing, where you have to write two compositions, Listening, a four part testing your ability to pick out relevant information from a variety of conversations and monologues, and Speaking, a fifteen minute exam done with a partner.

Image result for cambridge

At The Language Corner, our experienced native teachers can help you succeed in passing either The First Certificate or The Certificate in Advanced English. With specific classes dedicated to the preparation of The Cambridge Exams, our native teachers will help you improve not only your exam technique, but also your Use of English, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Listening. Using Cambridge certified material and exam style exercises, the Cambridge Exam preparation classes at The Language Corner in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas will assist you in reaching your English language goals be they personal, to improve your job prospects or to further your academic studies.

Whether you need a Cambridge Certificate in English or not, the FCE and CAE preparation classes are ideal for any student wishing to improve all aspects of their English, including the dreaded Writing! So why not come to our English academies located in La Elipa and García Noblejas to try a free class with our native teachers and see how much you enjoy it?

Welcome Back

Summer is sadly over, but with the changing of the seasons (not yet though – phew, it’s hot here in Madrid!), here in our language schools in La Elipa and La Almudena, the new academic year is already getting going. We’ve already nearly finished our first full week of English, French and German classes.

But fear not, there are still slots available for you to take advantage of our team of native teachers, and vastly improve your language skills.

We have classes available for all levels and age groups in our schools in La Elipa (Gerardo Cordón, 51) and La Almudena (Gandhi, 19), from 10 in the morning to 10 at night, Monday to Friday, and on Saturday mornings.

Whether you’re looking for a chance to practise your conversation skills, brush up on your grammar, or prepare for one of those important official exams, such as CAE or First Certificate, we have a native teacher and a class for you!

Please come and see us in La Elipa or Gandhi any time from 4.30 to 9.30 in the evening, and 10.30 to 13.30 on Tuesday and Thursday, and we’ll find your ideal class.

Don’t forget we also have French and German classes available.

LINKING WORDS practice

Today we are looking at different types of conjunctions, or linking words.  We use these words to connect ideas.  Today we will focus on 4 types of connecting words and their functions.

 

Look at these 4 sentences and put them into the correct category:

CONTRAST      REASON AND RESULT     TIME     CONDITION

  1.  I went to the shop,  because I wanted to buy some coffee.
  2.  I won´t speak to him  unless he apologizes first.
  3.  Hilary Clinton won the popular vote, however she lost the election.
  4. While vacationing in Fiji, they adopted a pet iguana!

Image result for connectors english

  1. reason and result
  2. condition
  3. contrast
  4. time

NOW put the following conjunctions into the 4 categories:

however           such…that           while              depite           even though            as long as

           although          until           so…that           unless         so          in case           as

  1. Reason and Result

2. Condition

3. Time

4. Contrast

 

Image result for connectors english

  1. Reason and Result : such…that, so, so…that, as
  2. Condition: as long as, unless, in case
  3. Contrast: however, although , despite, even though
  4. Time: until, while               
  5.  

PRACTICE:

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate conjunction. (more than one answer may be possible!)

  1.  Wear your hat _______  it´s sunny.  (in case/until)
  2. My Spanish has been improving ________ I´ve been studying! (however/ because)
  3. ____________ studying my Spanish, it´s not improving! (Even though/ Despite)
  4. We won´t know anything more  ____ the results are back. (so/until)
  5. I´d love to come to your party, _________ I´ve already made plans. (however, despite)
  6. She´s _____ a nasty person ______ no one likes her.  (so…that/such…that)

Image result for connectors english

  1. in case
  2. because
  3. despite
  4. until
  5. however
  6. such…that

 

EASILY CONFUSED WORDS

              Today we are looking at…

                         CONFUSING WORDS IN ENGLISH     

 SO / SUCH                                 ITS / IT´S                                   FOR / SINCE

 

                                   So and Such…When and how do I use them?

 

We use so to modify adjectives.      so + adjective        Don´t be so foolish!

We use such to modify nouns.         such + noun         Don´t be such a fool!    

                   

 

                                                 Its and It´s…What is the difference?

 

When you see it´s with an apostrophe, it is a contraction.     It´s = it is or it has

When you see its with no apostrophe , it shows possesion.

 

Look at how its and it´s are used:

                                    I´m thinking of an animal.  Its stripes are black and it´s from Africa.  It´s got                                         four legs and its diet is vegetarian.

 

For and since are words used to describe time, but used differently.

We use for when we are talking about a length of time.      for + a period of time

I´ve been living in Madrid for two years.

We use since when we are talking a specific point in time.      since + a point in time

I´ve been living in Madrid since 2015.

Both are most often used with the present perfect.  Here are some commonly used words with for and since:

for: a long time, two weeks, 3 months, years, most of my life, ten minutes, many hours…

since: last Tuesday, I was young, last summer, May 20th, this morning, I last saw you, 8 o´clock…

 

 

 

FCE/CAE ADVANCED LISTENING PRACTICE: ¨A nation without borders is not a nation¨.

Question:  What makes a country?  

Answer:  The people, the food, the customs, the weather, the culture, the history….

Okay….but who said ¨A nation without borders is not a nation¨ ?

Image result for wall

That´s right!  You´ve guessed it…President Trump.  As you may have already heard, President Trump has planned to fulfill his campaign promise, and will be indeed  building that wall.  Hence, I have put together an advanced listening practice about the infamous wall from National Public Radio in the U.S.A. This is a totally authentic news source, and is a great task for advanced students preparing for the FCE and CAE exams. 

LISTENING ADVICE- BEFORE LISTENING

  1. Read the questions first, and look up any words you don´t know OR try to guess the meanings of the words from the context.
  2. From the questions, decide which kinds of words you will be listening for.  Is it a place, a time, a person…?
  3. Make notes as you listen.
  4. Use the first listening to answer the questions, and your second listening to check them.
  5. Never assume!  Make sure there is evidence in the listening to support your answer!

OKAY! Now we are ready to begin!  Read the questions first, then LISTEN!

 

  1. How many new border patrol agents will there be?
  2. Immigration officers?
  3. What program does Trump want to bring back?
  4.  What does this program do?
  5. What funds will be cut off by Trump?
  6. What is the estimate of how much the wall is going to cost?
  7. Who is going to pay for it initially?
  8. When does Trump want the building to start?
  9. Who will ultimately pay for the wall?
  10. When is the Mexican president going to meet with Trump?

 

SEE ANSWERS BELOW

Image result for wall

  1. 5,000
  2. 10,000
  3. Secure Communities
  4. It deputises* local law enforcement to help find immigrants entering the U.S. illegally.
  5. Sanctuary cities that harbour illegal immigrants.
  6. 15 billion dollars
  7.  The U.S. Treasury
  8. Within a few months
  9. Mexico
  10. Next week

*to deputise someone means to appoint them as a substitute for something

e.g. The administration made a formal request to the Attorney General’s Office to deputize an agency lawyer to handle all animal rights cases.