Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2 Proficiency: Use of English Worksheet & Conversation

C2 Proficiency: Exam Technique – Reading Part 7 – Tim's Free English Lesson  Plans

This is a lesson plan for students preparing to take the C2 Proficiency exam. Students look at some typical phrasal verbs, collocations and dependent prepositions that often come up in the exam and put them into practice in conversation. Download the handout, key and accompanying slides below:


First of all students have to choose from two prepositions to complete the phrasal verbs so that it fits the context of the sentence. Then have them match the phrasal verbs to the definitions in the box below. You could then have students test each other, one says a definition, the other has to recall the phrasal verb.

Show students slide 2 of the presentation and instruct them to turn their handouts over and attempt to recall the missing words in the questions from memory. In this exercise they are required to recall the verb, rather than the preposition. Once they have completed the exercise, have them ask and answer the questions in pairs or small groups and then share any funny/interesting discoveries in open class.

Students then repeat the process for the dependent prepositions. However, in this case, rather than matching definitions, they match synonyms of the collocations to transform the sentence. I most cases they are direct synonyms that fit the same grammatical pattern but in a couple of cases they will need to make changes to the sentence, instruct them to check carefully if the synonym fits.

Slide 4-5 have a similar gapped questions task to the first one for students to complete in pairs. The final exercise contains more expressions and phrasal verbs with prepositions. Have students complete the exercise in pairs, then after checking in open class, have students come up with gapped questions for their classmates to complete. Tell them that their questions must be open-ended and designed to spark conversation, for example:

Are there any things that you’ve done so many times that you can now do ….. auto-pilot?

Feel free to post any of your students’ questions in the comments! Let me know how it goes!

Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

C2 Proficiency: Christmas Speaking Practice

Want to do Christmas activities but your students have an exam coming up? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s some Christmassy proficiency speaking part 2 tasks. Students work in pairs on a timed collaborative task. Download the PowerPoint below:

You could also give them this speaking phrase sheet:

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Vocabulary Classes

117 C1 Phrasal Verbs: Study Sheet

This is a self-study resource for C1 students. Full credit to for the list of phrasal verbs:

All I’ve done is put each one in context with a sentence or two, then made a quizlet set with the prepositions removed. Download the handout below:

At the end of the handout I’ve added a QR code to the quizlet set so that students can access it easily.

117 C1 Phrasal Verbs

  1. They’ve made their demands and they’re not going to back down. – stop demanding something
  2. My car always breaks down when I don’t have enough money to get it repaired. – stop working
  3. They broke/split up last year but then they got back together. – to end; to separate (a marriage / a relationship / etc.)
  4. My parents died when I was very young so my grandma brought me up. – raise/educate/care for (a child)
  5. I bumped/ran into an old friend from uni in the street. – to meet someone unexpectedly
  6. The situation calls for  calm negotiations and cool heads from everyone involved. – demand / request
  7. They’ve had to call off  the match due to bad weather. – cancel (an event)
  8. I’m just going to carry on working on my presentation, but let me know if you need anything.  – continue
  9. The new hairstyle has really caught on with teenagers in my town. catch on – to become popular (an idea or a style); 
  10. I kept dropping hints about what I wanted for my birthday but my wife didn’t catch on. – to understand/realise after a long time
  11. I bought him a pint to try to cheer him up – make happier
  12. I came across my old school books while I was clearing out the attic. – find by chance
  13. He came into quite a lot of money when his grandparents passed away. come into (money) – inherit
  14. Come round after school and we’ll work on the science project together. – come to your house
  15. I’ve come up with a great idea for our Halloween costumes. – think of and suggest an idea
  16. The topic of a pay rise came up in my meeting with the boss. – be mentioned, arise or appear (in class / an exam / a meeting)
  17. Don’t be late! Everyone is counting on you. – to rely on
  18. My New Year’s resolution is to cut down on fast food.– reduce the amount you consume
  19. Sorry, the call got cut off when we went through a tunnel. – separate / isolate / interrupt
  20. My doctor has told me I need to cut out all processed meats from my diet. – stop doing / eating something
  21. The child was struggling to do up his shoelaces. We’re doing up our house this summer. – fasten, button up clothes; repair, redecorate or modernize a building or room
  22. We all dressed up as monsters for Halloween.– put on different clothes in order to disguise yourself
  23. My Dad dropped by on his way home to work to say hello. – to visit informally or unexpectedly
  24. He also came to drop off my Christmas presents. The taxi dropped us off outside the airport. – to take something (or someone) to a place and leave it there
  25. He didn’t enjoy the economics degree course and dropped out after 6 months. – stop taking part in (a competition, a university, etc.)
  26. We got lost and ended up in a completely different town. We were supposed to go out clubbing but we ended up staying in. – an end result of something planned or unplanned
  27. She fell for him the moment she met him. – fall in love with
  28. She fell out with her younger sister over who was going to look after grandma at Christmas. – argue and stop being friendly with someone
  29. Yesterday she found out that she passed her law degree. – discover
  30. I wrote them an email to follow up my complaint from the previous day. – find out more about something; take further action
  31. I get along/on really well with all my teachers. – have a good relationship with
  32. We just want to get away for the weekend and have some peace and quiet. – go on a short holiday/break 
  33. He stole €10 from his mum’s purse and got away with it, she blamed his brother. – not be punished for doing something
  34. I don’t earn much but it’s enough to get by. – manage to survive / live
  35. Stop chatting and get on with your work! – start or continue doing something (especially work)
  36. It took him a long time to get over her, I think he still loves her. – recover after the end of a relationship with someone
  37. I’m still getting over a nasty cold but I should be fine in a couple of days. – recover from
  38. I get together with my old uni friends every 6 months or so. – meet (usually for social reasons)
  39. I’m cleaning out my garage this weekend, I’m going to get rid of so much old stuff. – eliminate/discard
  40. He accidently gave away the surprise birthday party to the birthday girl, what an idiot! – reveal
  41. Hey! That’s my bag! Give it back – return
  42. Don’t forget to give/hand in your essays at the end of the class.  – submit (homework, etc.)
  43. The kids wouldn’t stop asking for an ice cream so I finally gave in and let them have one. – agree to something you do not want to
  44. The rotting fruit was giving off a nasty smell. (a smell) – produce and send into the air
  45. The receptionist gave out all the most important information to the guests. – announce or broadcast information
  46. They’re giving/handing out free samples of delicious cheese at the supermarket. – distribute to a group of people
  47. The sudoku puzzle was too difficult so I gave up and read a book instead. – to stop trying to do something (often because it is too difficult)
  48. A: We should decorate the kitchen. B: Yeah, I’d go along with that. – support an idea or agree with someone’s opinion
  49. The milk has gone off, we’ll have to buy some more. A bomb went off outside the airport, luckily nobody was hurt. – explode; become bad (food)
  50. The poker game went on for hours and hours. – to continue
  51. Have you heard? Charlie is going out with Kathy.  – have a romantic relationship with someone
  52. My Dad’s threatening to take away my car keys if I don’t tidy my room but I don’t think he will go through with it. – complete a promise or plan
  53. My best friend from primary school and I grew apart over the years and now we hardly speak. – get distant from someone, like a friend
  54. When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter.  – slowly become an adult
  55. We hung around outside the concert hall for 2 hours after the show trying to get an autograph. – to wait or spend time somewhere, doing nothing
  56. I’m just going to hang out with my friends tonight. – spend time relaxing (informal)
  57. Don’t leave your shirts on the floor, you need to hang them up. She finished the call and then hung up. – to hang clothes or an object on a hook or line; to end a phone call
  58. Go down this street and then head for the big church, your hotel is right next door to it. – go towards
  59. My shyness always holds me back in social situations. – prevent someone from making progress
  60. We need to hurry up! Our train leaves in five minutes.  – do something more quickly
  61. Just keep on walking this way and you’ll get to the station in no time. – to continue
  62. Where were you on Saturday? I really needed your help and you let me down. – disappoint
  63. The police decided to let the kids off with a warning because it was their first offence. – give someone a lighter punishment than they expected (or not punish at all)
  64. I can’t come out, I need to look after my baby brother. – take care of
  65. I hate it when people look down on those who are less fortunate than them. – feel superior to
  66. I’ve been looking for a flat for 2 months but haven’t found one I like yet. – try to find
  67. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. – feel happy about something that is going to happen
  68. The police are looking into the case of the missing dog. – investigate
  69. I had never heard of my Dad’s favorite footballer, I had to look him up on wikipedia.  – find information about (e.g. a word in a dictionary)
  70. I’ve always looked up to my mum, she’s very resilient. – admire and respect
  71. They gave us free tickets to a different show to make up for the cancellation. – compensate for
  72. They fell out over something stupid but now they’ve made up. – become friends again
  73. He’s always making up ridiculous stories and excuses for why he’s late. (something) – invent (stories, excuses)
  74. Ok, thanks for that report Jon, now let’s move on to Sarah’s presentation. – change to a different job, activity or place
  75. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18. – stop living in a house or flat
  76. He was so dehydrated that he passed out and woke up in the back of an ambulance. – lose consciousness
  77. When are you going to pay back the money you owe me? – return money
  78. Don’t worry, my parents are going to pay for dinner. – purchase
  79. They’ve finally managed to pay off the mortgage on the house. She got into Oxford University, all of her hard work has paid off! – finish paying for something; have a positive result from hard work
  80. Mum, it’s raining really hard, can you come and pick me up from the train station? – meet / collect someone (e.g. at the station / from school)
  81. At the end of the presentation our boss pointed out several obvious mistakes we had made. – to draw attention to something or someone
  82. Vicky! Come and put away your toys before you have dinner. – put something back in the correct place
  83. I’m going to the dentist tomorrow, I’ve been putting it off for months. – postpone
  84. They put on a big show to raise money for charity. (an event/a show) – organize an event
  85. Put your coat on, it’s cold outside. (clothes /make up) – place something on your body
  86. I put on quite a lot of weight during lockdown. (weight) – increase (weight)
  87. The firefighters were finally able to put the fire out. – extinguish (e.g. fire)
  88. My uncle can put us up for a couple of nights while we’re in London. (for the night) – accommodate
  89. Put your hand up if you have any questions. (your hand) – lift into the air
  90. I’m not going to put up with anymore lateness from those kids. – tolerate
  91. The car rental company tried to rip us off but I was having none of it. – charge someone too much for something
  92. We ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, it was terrifying. – use up (e.g. money, petrol, time)
  93. We had to set off at 4am, it was horrible. – start a journey
  94. We set up the company in 1995 and it’s still going strong to this day. – establish / start (e.g. a company)
  95. Dan! Stop showing off and pass us the ball, we’re losing 4-0. – try to impress people by telling or showing them what you are capable of
  96. They’ve had to shut down 5 stores in the area because sales have dropped. – to close
  97. We need to sort out accommodation for our trip to Paris. – arrange or order by classes or categories; find a solution
  98. BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation. – to represent
  99. His ginger hair really makes him stand out from the rest of the boys in his class. – be easy to see because of being different
  100. I’d say I take after my Dad in my looks and my Mum in my personality. (someone) – resemble a member of your family in appearance, behaviour or character
  101. Please take your feet off the seat, your shoes are very dirty. – to remove from a surface or your body (clothes)
  102. Our plane takes off at 9pm. – leave the ground (e.g. a plane)
  103. She’s taken on a lot of extra responsibilities in her new job. – attempt something new; employ
  104. A new manager has taken over the department.  – take control of
  105. I took to ice-skating really quickly and now I’ve signed up for weekly classes.– start to like, especially after only a short time
  106. I first took up volleyball when I was in secondary school. – start doing (a hobby)
  107. The teacher told us off for being late. – speak angrily to someone who has done something wrong
  108. I’ve decided to throw away my old sofa, unless you want it. – get rid of something you do not need any more
  109. The weather on the mountain got really bad so we had to turn back. – return towards the place you started from
  110. They’ve turned down our offer for the house, they want more money. – reject or refuse
  111. On a full moon he turns into a werewolf! They’ve turned my favourite restaurant into a Burger King! – to transform
  112. Don’t forget to turn/switch off the lights when you leave. – to disconnect (e.g. a computer)
  113. He switched/turned on the TV and sat down to watch the match. – to connect (e.g. the TV)
  114. Our bus didn’t turn up for 2 hours. – arrive, usually unexpectedly, early or late
  115. He always uses up all the toilet roll and doesn’t replace it. – finish a supply of something
  116. I’ve completely worn out my old football boots, I need to get some new ones. – to use something until it becomes unusable
  117. I work out 3 times a week at the gym. The students struggled to work out the complicated equations. The police couldn’t work out how the burglars got into the house. – think about and find a solution; do exercise

– Quizlet set

Posted in Advanced C1, Conversation Classes, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C1/C2: Animal Idioms

How the Cat Gets Its Stripes: It's Genetics, Not a Folk Tale - The New York  Times

This is a vocabulary and conversation lesson for C1/C2 students. Students look at 18 animal idioms and put them into practice in conversation and an optional writing exercise. Download the handouts below:

Students first recall the names of some animals, then have a chance to share animal idioms they already know.

Then they must use the 16 animals from exercise 1 to complete the different animal expressions.

Keep the conversation questions hidden from students until after they’ve completed the first gap-fill.

Then have them recall the expressions by filling in the gaps in the questions. They can then ask and answer the questions in pairs or small groups.

I designed this task for use with a C2 Proficiency preparation group so I added on a writing task, an article, for them to do as homework.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Vocabulary Classes

C2 Proficiency/CPE: 99 Key Word Transformation Expressions

I found this document with 99 expressions from CPE key word transformations lost in the depths of my onedrive account, I could have sworn I’d already posted it but couldn’t find it anywhere, so here goes. Download it below:

CPE Key Word Transformation Expressions

  1. John needs to step up to the plate and start doing his share of the work.
  2. There’s nothing I’d like more than to spend the rest of the day on the beach.
  3. The kids took absolutely no notice of what the teacher was saying.
  4. Only as a last resort will the company employ inexperienced workers.
  5. When darkness falls the animals come out to hunt.
  6. A great deal of care and effort went into preparing the wedding.
  7. There was a lack of clarity in the teacher’s explanation.
  8. The wind and rain made it difficult to see where we were going.
  9. But for the GPS on my iPhone, we would have got completely lost.
  10. Prompt action in putting out the fire saved hundreds of lives.
  11. There’s every likelihood/chance/possibility that it will rain tomorrow. (it’s likely)
  12. We were left with no choice but to pitch our tent and wait for the storm to pass.
  13. When I lived in England I got into/developed/acquired the habit of drinking tea.
  14. Hundreds of people were taken in by the email scam.
  15. The last thing I want is for her to feel uncomfortable when she comes to visit.
  16. The company has sustained heavy losses this month.
  17. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t invited him.
  18. My friend lives in Australia but we keep in touch/contact via Skype and Whatsapp.
  19. There’s no change to/in his condition so he’ll have to stay in hospital for now.
  20. She’s very reliable; I’ve no reason to suppose that she will let me down.
  21. At no time were there fewer than 3 teachers looking after the children.
  22. On no account are passengers to stand up during take-off.
  23. We were at a loss to understand/know how the burglars got into the house.
  24. She has no intention of giving up her independence.
  25. I will do everything in my power to ensure that everyone is safe and happy.
  26. It’s nothing short of a miracle that nobody was hurt in the bus crash.
  27. I don’t think you were justified in speaking to the boss in that way.
  28. The kids made such a fuss when we told them we couldn’t go to Disneyland.
  29. We have a lot of problems to contend with at the moment.
  30. All of a sudden, a band appeared and started singing happy birthday to me.
  31. Messi was instrumental in Barça winning the match.
  32. As long as we stick to a plan/agreement, everything will work out fine.
  33. Had I known it was going to take this long, I would have gone a different way.
  34. Spare a thought for people who are less fortunate than you.
  35. After trying to open the jar for ages he admitted defeat and asked his Dad for help.
  36. My spirits rose/were lifted when I saw my parents waiting for me at the school gate.
  37. The ship’s crew finally caught sight of land after 10 weeks at sea.
  38. The fans waited outside the concert hoping to catch a glimpse of the band.
  39. A week’s holiday would do wonders for your health.
  40. The project is going really smoothly.
  41. Someone should take a note of everyone’s feedback so the same mistakes are not repeated.
  42. The company was deluged with calls the day after their advert was broadcast.
  43. The way he conducted himself in the meeting was very unprofessional.
  44. Failure to pay on time will result in your booking being cancelled.
  45. You must conform to the standards laid out in the course handbook.
  46. Such was the confusion caused by the accident that no one knew what to do.
  47. Little did he know what lay in store for him just around the corner.
  48. The problem with my girlfriend has been preying on my mind all week.
  49. Michael Jackson rose to fame/stardom in the early 1980s.
  50. The pursuit of profits often comes at the expense of the environment.
  51. Could you do me a favour?
  52. John kept me waiting for over two hours.
  53. I was waiting for the best part of an hour.
  54. She didn’t agree immediately as she wanted to keep her options open.
  55. He’s so indecisive and finds it hard to make his mind up.
  56. What sets our hotel apart are the breath-taking views.
  57. The crisis had serious repercussions for people’s quality of life.
  58. He was determined to succeed and let nothing stand in his way.
  59. The meeting was meant to finish at 15.00 but to all intents and purposes it was over by 14.00.
  60. To my mind the biggest threat to the planet is global warming.
  61. He regretted treating her badly and went to great lengths to make it up to her.
  62. She was on the point of going to bed when the phone rang
  63. His reaction came as no surprise to me
  64. It makes no difference whether we go out to dinner or stay in
  65. His interview was a success and he made an impression on the interviewer.
  66. After thinking about it we came to the conclusion that it was best to cancel the meeting.
  67. He found her impossible to put up with
  68. His son is a source of great pride for him
  69. It took him a long time to come to terms with the reality of his illness
  70. Had it not been for his behaviour, they wouldn’t have been asked to leave.
  71. It was bought to my attention that some of the employees were not happy.
  72. Provided that nobody has any objections, the meeting is postponed until Monday.
  73. There was no reoccurrence of the phenomenon, to everyone’s relief.
  74. How can we account for the drop in sales?
  75. There has been a marked rise in violence since last year.
  76. They decided not to say anything for fear of insulting him.
  77. It was raining so we had no choice but to cancel the picnic.
  78. He didn’t want to but we talked him into coming with us.
  79. It never crossed my mind to ask for help.
  80. He was on the verge of giving up when suddenly help arrived.
  81. It’s up to you to decide what we have for dinner tonight.
  82. The chances of Jane succeeding are slim
  83. The lecturer drew a clear distinction between external and internal motivation.
  84. George wasn’t alone in thinking that her excuse didn’t sound plausible.
  85. It’s high time we went home.
  86. Entrance to the VIP area is restricted to those is possession of a bracelet.
  87. George never tires of hearing the story of how his parents met.
  88. The company is rumoured to be bankrupt.
  89. Sara looked everywhere but the keys were nowhere to be seen
  90. He’s quite tolerant but he draws the line at letting his children go out during the week.
  91. The couple put their success down to hard work
  92. He bought her flowers to make up for forgetting her birthday
  93. Contrary to popular belief pigeons are quite intelligent.
  94. There’s little prospect of Greece recovering from the financial crisis.
  95. The museum is well worth a visit
  96. Customers are under no obligation to make a purchase
  97. It goes without saying that you can stay as long as you want
  98. Complaints are taken seriously at our company.
  99. Entrance is restricted to visitors with special authorisation.
Posted in Advanced C1

C1 Advanced: Key Word Transformation Mega Test

Key word transformations interactive worksheet

This is a loooong worksheet for students preparing to take the C1 Advanced exam, it has 82 key word transformation questions. I’ve basically just taken this great quizlet set and copy pasted it into a Google Doc, but it took a while so hopefully it’ll save you some time. Download the handout and answer key below:

Here are the PDFs:

I have a group who are taking the exam in 3 weeks so they want lots of practice, so I gave them this sheet with 78 expressions on it to study on Monday and told them to study it. Now I’m going to have them do the first 1/3 of the test in class today (Wednesday).

I’ll then send them the quizlet link so they can do spaced repetition at home.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Reviews

Review – IELTS Reading Practice: Academic | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

Knowing how much I love engaging and effective exam preparation materials, Peter Clements kindly asked me to review his latest book, which he co-authored with Paul Murphy, so here goes!


IELTS Reading Practice: Academic, published by Prosperity Education, is aimed at students preparing to take, you guessed it, the IELTS Academic exam. While it specifically focuses on the reading tasks found in the exam, that’s not to say that it scrimps on opportunities for practicing other skills and exam tasks. You can buy the book through the link below and also check out their other exam preparation materials:

Structure & Content

The book is divided into 14 units, each of which examines a specific task type from the exam, ranging from tasks such as matching headings and true, false, not mentioned through to other IELTS staples like the table/flow chart/diagram completion tasks.

Each unit is divided into three two-page sections which follow a logical sequence with appropriate levels of scaffolding:

Think and prepare

The first part aims to activate students knowledge of the topic of the upcoming reading texts and also develop their understanding of some key lexis that will both be required later and also prove useful to students’ general communicative competence.

Here is an example of the “think” section:

You’ll notice that students are also directed to the bank of extra activities at the back of the book, where, in this case, they will find a topic card based on IELTS speaking part 2 covering the same topic as the unit. This is just one example of how the book offers teachers scope for planning varied, engaging, topic-based lessons, something that can be difficult to find in published exam preparation materials.

Students then move onto the “prepare” phase, which comprises short activities focusing on key topical lexis:

Students are led through a definition match activity followed by some controlled practice:

And finally some discussion questions:

While the structure may get repetitive – the same series of activities is repeated in each unit – it’s hard to argue with the logic of the stages and it’s one I use myself all the time so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The lexis chosen is extremely relevant to the topic and pitched at the perfect register. Aside from aiding students’ comprehension of the upcoming texts, they are exactly the kinds of expressions candidates will be expected to produce in the writing and speaking parts of the exam.

There are also extra activities for this section which act as nice learner training exercises to nudge students towards good habits such as effective note-taking:

I was particularly drawn to this example of a graphic organiser. Students are encouraged to make notes on specific lexis and also associate it with an image, something I’ve been experimenting with in my own exam preparation classes.

I feel like activities like this can be extremely valuable for students who haven’t developed good study skills or learning habits; the examples in the book are clear, simple and can be easily replicated.


In the next section of each unit students are presented with a shorter version of the given reading task, along with an action plan and strategies. They are then encouraged to reflect on the efficacy of the plan and their own performance.

Students first do an introductory skimming task, for example:

They are then walked through an action plan for the task stage by stage:

Put it to the test

Finally, students are let loose on a full-length example exam task in order to put their newfound strategies into practice. The book contains 14 full-length texts, one for each task type. However, it doesn’t end there, in the extra activities section you will find one additional task for each of the 14 texts. These extra activities focus on a different task type, so for example, students could work on a true/false/not mentioned task in class and then complete a headings match task based on the same text for homework. In the back of the book there are also additional post-reading vocabulary tasks for each of the full length texts. This means that each of the texts is fully exploited.

Task information & tips

The book also contains a detailed analysis of each of the tasks and specific, detailed tips for approaching each one. I was particularly impressed by the rationales given for each tip:

I particularly liked the example of drawing students’ attention to topic sentences in paragraphs for the heading match task.


As you can probably already tell, I was really impressed by the book for a number of reasons:

Ease of use

Flicking through the pages as a teacher, I can immediately form a lesson plan in my head for a 90 minute class on each unit plus at least one homework task. I know it’s all there and I can pick and choose the order based on my students. I know they’re going to get lots of valuable exam practice and I can spin off into speaking tasks or vocab recall games when their motivation starts to wane towards the end of the class.

Topic-based exam prep

I know I’ve already mentioned it but it bears repeating, in exam prep classes it can be difficult to stick to the themed/topic-based classes we know we should be teaching, especially when there’s a big scary official exam looming. I know that IELTS and the Cambridge main suite exams are different beasts, but in my experience, intensive exam technique-focused prep classes for the Advanced and Proficiency can end up feeling like a poorly assembled patchwork quilt of different themes and topics due to the range of different texts students have to tackle. However, in this book the topics hold equal billing with the task type, which surely helps make for more cohesive classes and also aids students’ assimilation of the lexis.

Fully exploited texts

With the time constraint associated with exam preparation classes, it can sometimes feel overindulgent to linger for too long on a reading text to really drill down into it and exploit it for all its worth. The way this book manages to combine that impulse with further exam practice and vocab activities is really ingenious, hats off!

Clear strategies with clear rationale

It can be difficult to get students to take exam techniques and strategies on board, some can be stuck in their ways or view them as waste of time. The detail and rationale behind each strategy presented here make them easy to follow with plenty of opportunities to put them into practice straightaway.

In short, if you’re teaching IELTS Academic, get yourself a copy! Here are the details:

IELTS Reading Practice: Academic
 | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

ISBN: 978-1-913825-31-7

Publication: October 2021

You can also find it on Amazon, simply search for the title!

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency

C1/C2 Halloween Spooky Word Formation: The Family Legacy

Haunted Mansion Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

This is a lesson plan for C1/C2 students who are preparing for an upcoming exam but still want to celebrate Halloween in some way. Students read a creepy story about an old family home, practice some word formation and then write their own continuation of the story. I wrote the story myself, let me know what you think! Download the handout and teacher’s notes below:


You’re going to read the first part of a horror story called “The Family Legacy”, it involves:

  • A father
  • A son
  • An old house

With your partner, make some predictions about what will happen in the story.


Read the story, ignore the gaps, see if your predictions were correct.

Roger trudged up the drive of the ancient hall, the seat of his family’s power for over two centuries. It stood on the top of the hill looking down over the land around, a 1. ………………(SYMBOL) effigy of the family’s grasp over the local 2. ……………. (POPULATE). Finally it was his, the jewel in the crown of his 3. ……………… (INHERIT) after his father’s passing the previous week. In the end, the death of the formidable patriarch of the family had been far from the 4. ……………… (PAIN) transition we all hope for, screaming night terrors, lashing out 5. ……………… (VIOLENT), catching his 6. ………………(SUSPECT) carers off-guard, until the final descent into silent 7. …………… (MAD) It was something that had befallen the last three generations of men in his family, a thought that he pushed to the back of his mind as a/an 8. ………………. (VOLUNTEER) shudder ran down his spine.

But it was over, and he could now envisage the 9. …………….. (REALISE) of all the 10. ……………… (BOY) hopes and dreams he had had for this 11. ……………….. (CRUMBLE) pile of stone and wood. As he approached the ancient 12. ………………..(WOOD) door, he took the old iron key from his pocket and unlocked it with a 13. ……………….. (SATISFY) thunk. As he stepped across the threshold his 14. ……………….. (FOOT) echoed throughout the house in a/an 15. ……………….. (SETTLE) way. What struck Roger immediately were the reminders of his father’s 16. ……………….. (QUESTION) taste in decorations; floor to ceiling oil paintings of 17. ……………….. (NOTE) ancestors and the heads of various animals mounted on the walls. He relished the thought of finally 18. ……………….. (CLUTTER) the whole place. No sooner had this thought crossed his mind than around the corner came an almost 19. ……………….. (PERCEIVE) breath of air, which flowed through the ground floor, as if the house itself was reacting to a/an 20. ……………….. (INVITATION) guest. The door slammed shut behind Roger, he heard a loud “clang” as the heavy old key hit the stone of the porch outside. Suddenly gripped by panic he grabbed the door handle and pulled with all his 21. ……………….. (STRONG) but to no avail. A sudden sense of 22. ……………….. (CONFINE) enveloped him, but what really set his nerves jangling and a creeping sense of 23. ……………….. (EXIST) dread curling up his back was the voice calling down the stairs from his father’s study….

Word Formation

Now look at the gaps, try to predict what type of word is needed, then attempt to transform the root words to fit the context.

Language Analysis

  1. How does the writer make the story creepy?
  2. Find two examples of onomatopoeia in the text. 
  3. Find and underline the sentence with “around the corner”
    1. What do you notice about the syntax?
  4. Look for impressive collocations with the following words:
Power…………………………………………Grasp…………………………………………Jewel…………………………………………Patriarch…………………………………………Catching…………………………………………Madness…………………………………………Mind…………………………………………Spine…………………………………………Hopes and dreams……………………………Footsteps…………………………………………Taste…………………………………………Relish…………………………………………Guest…………………………………………Door…………………………………………Panic…………………………………………Strength…………………………………………Sense…………………………………………Nerves …………………………………………


Write the next paragraph of the story. Try to use:

  • Inversions: 
    • No sooner…. than….
    • Hardly/Barely/Scarcely….. when
  • An inversion of place:
    • Into the river jumped the boys.
    • At the top of the stairs sat a black cat.
  • Spooky language:
    • A shiver down the spine
    • unsettling/creepy/etc.
Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Reading Classes

C2 Proficiency: Exam Technique – Reading Part 7

C2 Proficiency de Inglés (CPE) del Cambridge: Cómo Aprobarlo | TURBOLANGS

This is a lesson plan for C2 students preparing to take the Cambridge Proficiency exam. Students will learn exam techniques to tackle part 7 of paper 1, the multiple matching exercise. The example task is taken from CUP test book 1. Download the PowerPoint and task below:


Lead students through the steps in the PowerPoint. Students should focus on the list of questions first, underlining key words and trying to paraphrase the questions into simpler language where possible. The PowerPoint contains some examples of paraphrasing. Students should then tackle the reading texts in order while referring back to their notes. Encourage them to underline the parts of the text that they think answer each question.

Students should complete the first paraphrasing exercise in pairs. Then for the reading, they should work individually, set a time limit of 15 minutes for them to complete the exercise. Students should then compare their answers and show their partner the sections of the text that they have underlined for each question.

You will find the answer key and annotated copy of the texts on the final slides of the PowerPoint. You should set students another part 7 for homework so that they can put the technique into practice.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class, Guest Posts, Listening Classes, Reading Classes

C1: Halloween Special – Spoopy Season

This is a guest post by Soleil García Brito just in time for Halloween. This lesson plan is for C1 students. They will discover the spooky origins of the jack-o-lantern and then learn about the new phenomenon of “spoopy” by doing a gapped text reading exercise. Download the handout and teacher’s notes below:

  1. What are the similarities and differences between these two images?
  • Which of these images do you find the spookiest?
  1. Listening (Part 2) VIDEO – The Messed Up Origins™ of Jack-o’-Lanterns

Watch the video (x2) until 5:17 and fill the gaps (1 to 3 words):

  1. Once you think about the name “Jack-o’-lantern”, it becomes evident that this tradition comes from ____________.
  2. Stingy Jack’s personal qualities made the devil ____________.
  3. On his way home Jack saw _______________ on the ground.
  4. The mutilated corpse’s voice was _____________ Satan himself.
  5. The devil was surprised by Jack’s ______________.
  6. Jack prevented the devil from climbing down the tree by surrounding it with ___________.
  7. The devil gave Jack a glowing ember as a _____________.
  8. According to the legend, Jack walks around _____________________ on October 31st.
  • Reading and Use of English (Part 7)

Read the text and choose the correct paragraph from [A]-[G] to fill in the gaps [1]-[6]. There is one extra paragraph, which you do not need to use.

ADAPTED FROM CULTURE DESK – San Francisco Chronicle

What is spoopy? Your guide to the Internet’s favorite Halloween aesthetic

For the past few years, October has not only heralded the return of Halloween and pumpkin spice lattes, it has also marked the dawning of spoopy season. For a small group of people who belong in the center of a Venn diagram of mellowed-out goths and the “extremely online,” the spoopy aesthetic has become a source of joy and comfort in turbulent times.


“Spookiness is campy, but spoopiness is campy in a very specific way,” says John Paul Brammer, a New York City writer and advice columnist whose popular memes about the demonic goat from the movie “The Witch” are more of the former. “Spoopy’s whole thing is that it is not frightening. It’s not threatening, not arcane, but uses the trappings of the threatening and the arcane to make the joke: OoOoOooOo!!! SpoooOOoooOOooky!!”


Its origin is much more straightforward than its meaning. In 2009, the word was spotted on a skeleton-theme sign displayed at a Ross Dress For Less store. Though its ascent took some time, the term gained popularity on niche social media communities like Tumblr until it finally reached escape velocity to spread even further.


Though it might seem random, the delight of this sort of banal creepiness stems from the desire to look an object of fear in the eye — and laugh.


In political discourse, Prevas points to anti-transgender activists using the image of Frankenstein’s monster to demonize transgender people. Historically, monsters have often stood in for types of people who were undesirable: racial minorities, immigrants, queer people, anyone outside the “normal.” “I love the unsettling part of (spoopiness),” Prevas says, “that disconnect between seeing the creatures which we expect to see in a horror scenario in a perfectly quotidian scene.”


I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it resonates so well right now, at a time when marginalized people’s status feels extremely fraught and political rhetoric insists on estranging us from polite society. This aesthetic defies the imperative to be afraid: Instead, we embrace the monsters as part of ourselves, as neighbours. To let the monster out is, in a sense, letting oneself out. 


When we look at the skeleton riding a bike, it almost feels aspirational: This is what life could look like if our cloistered selves were set free. As it turns out, spoopiness might be just what we need right now.

[A] Because I’m a restaurant critic, my gauge of whether or not something has hit the mainstream is “The Great British Bake-Off.” In the 10th season, currently airing on the British Channel 4 and Netflix, Spanish contestant Helena Garcia has emerged as a fan favourite thanks to her memorably macabre but cute creations like a chocolate orange tarantula flanked by macadamia nut spider eggs, eldritch horror pies and bloody green “witch finger” biscuits.

[B] What is “spoopy”? It’s the coupling of wildly absurdist humour with terror — an aesthetic unto itself that, like camp, can be hard to articulate.

[C] Spoopy is a reclamation and reframing of these monsters, a mind-set that boasts, “You say I should be scared of this? Hilarious!”

[D] In fables and literary fiction, monsters are the embodiments of everything that society represses: a “warning system” of sorts, says Christine Prevas, a Columbia University Ph.D. candidate whose research focuses on applying queer theory to contemporary horror. The monster is a taboo made flesh: A prepubescent girl turned foul-mouthed, vomiting demon in “The Exorcist”; a bad sexual encounter run amok in “It Follows.”

[E] When I look at this stuff, it reminds me of how I like to “watch” horror movies by reading their plot summaries on Wikipedia: a digital version of peeking at Medusa’s face by holding up a mirror.

[F] This disruption of the narrative of otherness mirrors the way people actually want to be seen. For instance, queer people can be queer outside of designated contexts like gay bars and the privacy of one’s bedroom, Prevas says. “We’re also queer in the grocery store. We’re also queer on a bicycle.”

[G] Much easier than defining it is sorting through what is and isn’t spoopy. As a start, think of it as friendly and somewhat sarcastic horror: A skeleton isn’t, but a skeleton riding a bike? Definitely spoopy. The Babadook isn’t, but the memes that claim that the monster is a proud gay man? Super spoopy.

  • Language focus (15 min)
  1. Vocabulary

Look at the words in bold in the text and discuss the meaning with a partner:


Next, fill in the gaps with the vocabulary words in the correct form to fit the context:

  • Jack saw a mutilated corpse with a(n) _____________  look on its face.
  • His mood ___________ the gloomy weather on that Halloween night.
  • Between risking being tricked and facing Jack’s grumbling stomach for the rest of the trip, the devil chose the _________.
  • Some consider him the very _____________ of evil.
  • The devil was ____________ confused by Jack’s request to pay the bill at the bar.
  • Jack ___________ a mutilated corpse on the ground on his way home from the bar.
USEFUL CHUNKSUse the trappings of (sth) Stem from Run amok In a sense
  • After Jack __________ the level of danger he was in, he decided to trap the devil by using crosses.