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Revise for IGCSE in ESL exam

General Points Regarding TIME

 The exam lasts for 2 hours (= 120 mins for the extended and 90mins
for the core level) and there are a total of 84 marks for the
extended and 56 for the core level. You should aim to manage your
time as follows:
Extended level
 Ex. 1 and 2 about 20 mins
 Ex. 3 (form-filling) - about 10 mins
 Ex. 4 (note-taking) - about 12 mins
 Ex. 5 (summary) - about 15 mins
 Ex. 6 (informal writing) - about 30 mins
 Ex. 7 (formal writing) - about 30 mins

Core level
 Ex. 1 and 2 about 15 mins
 Ex. 3 (form-filling) - about 10 mins
 Ex. 4 (note-taking) - about 10 mins
 Ex. 5 (summary) - about 5 mins
 Ex. 6 (informal writing) - about 20 mins
 Ex. 7 (formal writing) - about 20 mins

NB: The suggested times for Exercises 5-7 include editing time. Do not write
frantically until the invigilator calls out, “The exam is over. Please stop writing
You must spend a few minutes re-reading your work and making necessary
changes – not just corrections, but possibly also adding improvements such as
transition phrases (“As a result of this”, “On the other hand”, “Finally” etc) or
more expressive vocabulary (e.g. so fun thrilling / exhilarating).

General Points Regarding READING Tasks

 Do not waste time reading the text before you look at the
questions. Do glance through it quickly so you know what type of
text it is (e.g. travel brochure, magazine article) and what the topic
is. Then go straight to the questions and let each question guide
your more detailed reading.

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 You will not lose marks for grammatical, spelling or punctuation
errors (unless, of course, your answer is impossible to understand!).
 For most questions, a short answer is fine. There is no rule that you
should write in full sentences. In fact, you would be wasting valuable
time if you wrote lots of long answers.
 The first 15-20 questions require fast (but accurate!) reading: think
of the 1 mark questions as needing about one minute of reading on
 Practise reading texts in newspapers, magazines or textbooks and
making notes of the main points. This can help you prepare for both
the note-taking and summary writing tasks.

General Points Regarding SUMMARY Tasks

 Read the instructions carefully: what are you being asked to
write about?
 Half the marks are awarded for including relevant points, half
for "quality of language". Underline or box the relevant points
in the original text before you try to write your summary.
 Do not write a long introduction! You might need to write
something like “There are three main advantages of home
schooling. Firstly …” but basically you should go straight to the
point: do only what the instructions ask you to do!
 Organise the points in some way – e.g. chronologically, or
Problem-Solution, or Advantages-Disadvantages. Whatever
seems right for the task!
 Simple connectives such as "Firstly/Secondly/Thirdly" or "In
addition/Also" or "Consequently" can help to make your
summary more coherent.
 Use your own words/phrases where possible. Feel free to
change the order of points if that seems logical.
 Do not write too much: you will not receive any credit for points
made after the word limit. (On the other hand, do not get
stressed about writing a few words too many. You are allowed
to go up to 120 words for the extended level and 70 for the
core level).

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General Points Regarding LISTENING
 If you want to do some Listening practice, remember you have 2
CD-ROMs in your copy of “IGCSE English as a Second
Language” by Peter Lucantoni.
 For most of the questions, all you need is a brief answer (often
just one word).
 Do not just listen for words; listen to the meaning of what is
being said! Try to predict what is coming next.
 Use the pauses for writing: if you write too soon, you may miss
something you should be listening to!
 In the note-taking tasks, think about the type of word that is
required. For example, if a heading says “Purpose”, then it is
likely that you need a list of verbs (e.g. To raise awareness, To
conserve wildlife, To educate schoolchildren). By contrast, if a
sentence says “This boat has attracted more _________ than
any other boat in the race”, then you should expect a noun to
fill the gap – e.g. publicity, funding, attention, visitors, trouble,
 If you write 2 answers and the first one is wrong, no points will
be awarded.
 Spelling usually does not matter. However, if an incorrect
spelling could cause confusion about your meaning, then it will be
marked incorrect. For example, "bored" is good; "bord" is
incorrect but acceptable; but "board" is unacceptable.

General Points Regarding WRITING Tasks

There are some useful things you can do:

 Use a thesaurus ( to build up a variety of

vocabulary – e.g. ways of expressing common concepts:
The trip was good. enjoyable, interesting, educational,
informative, fascinating, eye-
opening, inspirational, life-changing
I felt scared. anxious, apprehensive, nervous,
fearful, terrified
I saw a man running down the street. sprinting, running at full pelt

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I saw a woman stepping off the spotted, noticed, observed
pavement into the road.
The council should make a skate park. construct, create,
Opponents say that foxhunting is an argue, claim, insist, maintain
important part of English culture.
She is a really nice person. warm, generous, considerate,
helpful, easygoing, supportive
 Re-read model essays such as those below and think about how they
are organised.
 Read your notes on various OPINION or "for/against" topics or (see a
couple of examples below); use these to scribble essay plans.
 Re-read good examples of informal/formal letters
 Notice and practise writing common phrases found in formal letters:
 Re-read your notes on how to begin/end informal letters; make notes
for a letter to a friend about a recent experience (e.g. taking part
in a performance, winning a competition, meeting your hero,
meeting an old classmate, visiting a foreign country, learning a new
skill); work out what each paragraph is going to be about; make a
note of likely connectives (the following day, by the end of our
conversation, as a result, because of this, in the end etc.); write the
 Re-read old essays and think about your most common errors
(especially tenses, missing "a"/"the", plural "-s", uncountable nouns,
prepositions of time/place -in Jakarta, in March, at night etc.;
vocabulary – go shopping, to be interested in…, to apply for…);
write new sentences that follow the correct patterns (e.g. My brother
went shopping while my two sisters and I went fishing.)

 Revise lists of connecting words/phrases:

· Firstly, … Secondly, … Thirdly, … Finally …
· For example, … For instance, …
· In addition, … Also, … Furthermore, … What is more,
· As a result, … Because of this, … Consequently, … Therefore, …
· On the one hand, … On the other hand, …
· It is true that … However, …
· …, however, … In contrast, … On the other hand, …
· Similarly, …
· Another argument against _____ is that …
· Another disadvantage of _____ is that …

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Informal Letters
An informal letter should be fairly informal – but don’t overdo it! The
examiner will not be impressed by text messaging shorthand such as "U" for
you. Likewise, avoid excessive use of slang: your objective is to demonstrate
your knowledge of standard English vocabulary and grammar.
The content of informal letters is difficult to predict. However, they often
include an account of recent events. If you have to write a letter like this, then
take care with your verbs! Also, try to use some time phrases (e.g. Shortly
after that, Later, That afternoon, After dinner, …) Try to use a good range of
vocabulary too, avoiding dull words such as "nice", "fun" and "scary".

 It was good to hear from you.
 Sorry for not replying sooner. I have been very busy.
 Sorry for taking so long to reply. I have been revising for my
 Well, that’s all my news for now.
 It’s getting late, so I’d better stop now.
 I’d better stop now. It’s past midnight and I have an exam
 I’d better finish – I’m running out of space.
 I can hardly wait to meet you.
 Please write again soon.
 Please keep in touch.
 Give my regards to …
 Lots of Love
 Regards
 Thinking of you

Useful vocabulary:

Ring me up, pick me up, keep my fingers crossed that…, drop me a line, catch
up on our news, let me know, put pen to paper, put you up,

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Sample informal letter:

You are abroad spending your holidays in a very exciting places you
have always wanted to visit. The people you travel with are really nice so
you enjoy their companionship. Write a letter to your friend describing
what you have been doing so far and what you still plan to do.

Dear Amy,

Thank you a lot for your last letter. It was a nice surprise to hear from you. It's
taken me ages to reply but I had to organise some things concerning my trip.

As you probably remember I've always wanted to visit some unusual places.
And now, at last, off I went! But you'd never guess where I've chosen to spend
my holiday. It's Antarctica! You would never think of it, would you? I'm so
excited about the whole event!

The people I travel with are incredible. It's their fourteenth expedition there.
They know every path in the snow by heart and they are very helpful. They
share their knowledge and experience with me. Would you believe that here
everything is different? You even need to set your tent in a special way. It's
all very challenging. Tomorrow we plan to move further North so I may not be
able to stay in touch for a while.

Anyway, hope you are enjoying your holiday. I hope we will meet soon so
that we can catch up on our news. Drop me a line and let me know when we
can arrange meeting. I can even come and pick you up in my new car! Keep


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Formal Letters
Dear Sir or Madam >>>>> Yours faithfully
Dear Ms Bates >>>>> Yours sincerely
Use a formal tone: this affects your choice of vocabulary and grammar. For
example, the first text below would not be appropriate in a formal letter,
whereas the second would be:

I saw some stuff in your mag about activities for kids and I just
wanna say that the activities in this town suck. I mean what are we
supposed to do in the evenings?
Dear Sir or Madam
With regard to your recent feature on leisure activities for young
people, I would like to make a few suggestions.

NOTE: You should not use short forms (e.g. don’t, won’t, isn’t).


Dear Mrs Talker,
I am writing to inform you that I was very disappointed with my visit to your
restaurant two days ago. I read your advertisement in the newspaper and
decided to spend an evening there with my friend. Unfortunately, I have a
couple of complaints concerning this visit.

According to your advertisement the place is perfect for having private

conversations in relaxing atmosphere. However, it turned out that the music
was so loud that I could hardly concentrate on the chat with my friend. The
waiter asked to turn the music down shrugged his shoulders and said that
other guests liked it that way. Is that what you mean by 'discreet service'?

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To make matters worse, the place was crowded and waiting for an ordered
meal was intolerably long. I must admit that the cuisine was quite good but
the prices were way too high.

I would like you to take my points under consideration and I expect a refund
from your restaurant. I trust you will give this matter immediate attention. I
look forward to receiving a reply from you.

Yours sincerely,
David Beckham.

Structure of an opinion essay (5 paragraphs):

2. One viewpoint and justification and/or example
3. Second viewpoint and justification and/or example
4. Opposing viewpoint which you contradict
5. CONCLUSION (you can also add a possible solution to the
issue being discussed)

1. Argument/Counter-Argument
You have already practised writing an opinion essay following the
"argument/counter-argument" approach. Look also at my model essay
on zoos below. Using this approach, you present each of your
opponents’ arguments in turn and then “counter” it – i.e. demonstrate that
it is false or weak.

Below you can read an example on the topic of zoos. (Phrases have
been highlighted to draw your attention to the way the essay is

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Zoos –should they be abolished?

Zoos have been popular for hundreds of years, introducing a wide variety of
animals to visitors who otherwise would never have seen them. Times change,
however, and we must question whether zoos are still relevant in a world
where we wish to treat animals humanely.

It is often said that zoos are educational. They teach people, especially
children, about animal behaviour and encourage an interest in animal welfare.
This may be partly true, but does a captive animal behave like its counterpart
in the wild? Zoo animals are often confined to a very small area compared
with their vast natural habitat. As a result, many animals develop unnatural
habits such as pacing back and forth or swaying.

Another argument put forward in favour of zoos is that they help to

conserve endangered species through breeding programmes. Thus, for
example, a rare species can be protected and encouraged to reproduce in a
zoo environment. For example, attempts to breed pandas in captivity have
been very costly and unsuccessful. Evidently zoo life does not prepare
animals for the challenges of life in the wild.

Supporters of zoos sometimes claim that the inhabitants are even better off
than their counterparts in the wild. On the contrary, the zoo is an unnatural
environment that exposes animals to numerous dangers. Diseases often
spread between species that would never co-exist naturally. For example, zoo
animals are often exposed to chemicals, solvents and other toxic substances.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for visitors to tease and provoke confined

In summary, therefore, the continued existence of zoos cannot be defended.

They do not educate people; they do not conserve wildlife; and they do not
treat animals humanely. They are cruel prisons and the time has come to
abolish them.

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A different approach to a writing exercise is to look at both sides of the
argument in a more balanced way. In the end, you must indicate your opinion.
The following is an example of how such an essay might be structured:
o Introduction: The issue of handgun ownership
A. Some people believe individuals should not own
B. Others believe ownership is an important personal right
 Disadvantages of handgun ownership
- Adults and children can have accidents
- People can use guns for crimes
 Advantages of handgun ownership
+ People can protect themselves from intruders
+ People can use guns for recreational purposes
 Conclusion - summary & evaluation of arguments presented
o Problems of accidents and crime make gun ownership
difficult to accept
o Gun ownership should not be allowed in the interest of a
better society
 State the problem/topic once again in the beginning of your essay. Just
assume that your reader doesn't know the question. Do not start with: It
is right (what is right?); I agree/do not agree with this statement
(what statement?)
 Separate positive and negative aspects of the problem you discuss.
 Remember that here you take the floor. Your potential opponents do
not have the opportunity to present their ideas. It is your task to present
both yours and theirs and keep proper balance.
 Use linking words. They help to follow your way of reasoning. The most
common linking words are and, or and but. You may want to
interchange these words with their more sophisticated counterparts in
your essay.

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Useful expressions:
Expressing opinions:
 I agree/ disagree with the above statement (that...)
 In my opinion...
 I believe that...
 I am in favour of...
 I am against the idea of...
 It seems to me that...
 I sympathize with...
Presenting and contrasting arguments:
 The main argument in favour/ against is...
 First of all I should like to consider...
 The first thing (I would like to consider) to be considered is...
 Apart from that...
 Despite the fact that .../ In spite of...
 On the other hand...
 What is more...
 What matters most in this case is...
 It is a fact that...
 There is no doubt that...

sth happened  owing to  as a consequence
 because of
 through of
 as a result
 due to  on account of

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 To sum up/ altogether
 On this basis, I can conclude that...
 Given this, it can be concluded that...
 Having proved this, I would like to...
 In conclusion, I would like to stress that...
 All in all, I believe that...

Vocabulary for Argumentative Writing

When we write an argumentative essay, our opinions carry more weight if we
look at both sides of the issue. In other words, we acknowledge our
opponents’ views but try to convince the reader that our own argument is
Our essay would be extremely dull if we used the words "supporters" and
"opponents" all the way through. Similarly, it would be unimpressive if we only
used the verb "say" to refer to people’s opinions. The following tables contain
a list of useful alternatives.

+ -

Supporters Opponents

Proponents Opponents

Those in favour of … Those opposed to …

Defenders of … Critics of …

Advocates of … Objectors

Pro-… (e.g. Pro- Anti-… (e.g. Anti-

abortionists) abortionists)

say that …

argue allege

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Claim insist

maintain contend

assert suggest

contend point out

 During a recent holiday by the sea, you spotted someone in
trouble and helped to rescue him/her. Write a letter to a friend
or relative describing what happened. (About 150-200 words)
 A person you admire a lot (e.g. a sportsperson, musician or
leader) recently visited your town. Write a letter to a friend
describing the visit. Include the following points:
 why you admire the person
 why he/she was visiting
 what happened
 your feelings
(About 150-200 words)
 Recently you witnessed a road accident involving a car, a
motorbike and a pedestrian. Write a report for the police
describing what you saw. Include the following:
 where you were and what you were doing
 a brief description of each vehicle, as well as its approximate
speed, direction etc.
 how the accident happened
 what happened afterwards
(About 150-200 words)


 Some people argue that the Internet is just as harmful as it is
helpful. Write an article for your school magazine giving your
views. You may wish to consider some of the following
“electronic shopping and search engines make life far more
convenient than in the past."

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“Teenagers become addicted, wasting their time playing games
instead of studying or playing sport."
"Frequent Internet users become loners and lose the skills they
need for healthy human relationships."
"Email and ‘Chat rooms’ allow lonely or busy people to develop
friendships with others who have similar interests."
(About 150-200 words)
 Your school newspaper has invited suggestions for making the
school more environmentally friendly. Write a letter with
practical suggestions for creating a "greener" campus. The
slogan "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle" may help you to think of some
ideas. (About 150-200 words)
 "Ban the car!" An environmental organisation has proposed that
cars should be banned since they cause pollution, traffic jams,
road deaths and stress. Write an article for a newspaper giving
your opinion. (About 150-200 words)

 A student magazine is running a "Teacher of the Year"
competition. Students have been invited to write to the magazine
with recommendations. Write a letter nominating one of your
teachers and giving reasons why you think they should receive
the award. (Please do not use a real name!) (About 150-200
 Your principal has asked for ideas about how to improve the
school’s facilities. Write him/her a letter giving your suggestions.
(About 150-200 words)

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