My 2015 in blogging

This is a personalized report detailing how my blog did in 2015 that WordPress sent me! You can check it out if you wish. It can be found here :


Have a great new year full of joy and prosperity!




This is my 3rd post for EdTech Review India. You can find it here :


Apps are useful and practical a lot of times and young people know all about them and use them.

But students are interested mainly in using apps for their own pleasure and entertainment and not so much for educational purposes.  It is not always easy to include them in everyday classroom practice but I think that it is worth the trouble to try to make a few of them part of your College students’ everyday classroom practice.

If the target group is College students, as mentioned above, you need to choose the right apps to introduce them to. They have to be easy to use, practical and exciting. You don’t want to overwhelm them after all! My 3 main choices would be:


This is a very popular communications platform which I was introduced to this year and I have found immensely practical for many reasons. It can be used in various ways, initially to communicate information to your students, e.g. homework tasks, useful links, photos, giving feedback using voice messages. But it can also be used in other ways, such as hosting a chat, which is a great idea since using twitter for a chat is too public and intimidating for a lot of students, but being on a more ‘private’ platform, like Remind, can minimize the feeling of ‘exposure’ that weaker students perhaps feel. It is safe, simple and secure both for educators and students to use.


This is another ‘must’ for encouraging ESL students to share boards where they can post language tips, exam strategies, useful videos they find. Teacher and students can also post text, graphs and even photos and videos related to a specific topic. Another idea is encouraging students to post questions, either as part of an activity or anonymously, post-lesson, which the teacher can then read off and answer them every day.


If Powerpoint is dead, then Prezi is its worthy successor! Prezi is indeed a very exciting tool to create presentations because it allows you to present your work in a non-linear way, creating maps of texts, videos, images, graphics, etc. It is very easy to master and some of its features, like the zoom, can easily make an impression on these young adult students and tempt them to use it in their presentations!

One way or another, these are not new tools (Prezi, for example, was designed in 2009) but it is useful to remind ourselves of a good combination of practical, easy to use digital tools that our ESL students would feel motivated to use on a daily or weekly basis. Good luck everyone

May 2015 Speaking topics (number 3)

New IELTS speaking topics (May, 2015) in Greece, as our student, E.K. , who sat the exam  remembers them :
Speaking test

Part 1
What is your full name?
Where are you from?
Do you watch TV? What kind of shows do you usually watch?
Part 2
Describe an educational series you watched in the past. Please say :
What was is about?
When and where did you watch it?
What did you learn from it?
Why did you like it?
Part 3
Do you prefer to watch national or foreign tv shows?
Do you think that advertisements influence people? What about children?
Do you think that advertisements targeting children should be limited?
Do you prefer to watch the same types of shows as you did in the past?

More May 2015 Speaking topics

New IELTS speaking topics (May, 2015) in Greece, as our student, M.K. , who sat the exam  remembers them :
Speaking test

What is your full name?
Do you work or study?
What do you find more interesting about your studies?
Do you like to eat fruit and vegetable?
Did you like to eat them when you were a child?
Why do you think it is important to eat fruit and vegetables?
Is it easy for people in your area to find fresh fruit and salads?
Do you think it is important to help people? Have you ever helped someone?
Did your parents teach you to help people when you were a child?
Has anyone helped you recently?
Cue card
Describe a person that you believe is well dressed. Please say :
who is this person?
What kind of clothes does he/she wear?
Explain why you think this person is well dressed
Part 3
Should we be well dressed always?
In which ways can we do our shopping?
Some people believe it is not so good to shop online. What is your opinion?
Have you ever bought something online?
What are the main differences between shopping online and shopping in a store?

New May 2015 Speaking topics

New IELTS speaking topics (May, 2015) in Greece, as our student, D.D , who sat the exam  remembers them :
Speaking test

Part 1
Do you live in an appartment or a house?
Do you like it? Why?
Are there any shops nearby?
Do you look at the sky?
Do you prefer the sky in the day or at night?
What do you watch on tv?
Do children watch a lot of tv in Greece?
Part 2
Describe a place you have visited and would like to visit again. Please say :
  • where is it?
  • when did you visit it?
  • why would you visit it again?
Part 3
Can you tell me what the benefits of short or long trips are?
When some people visit the same place for the second time, do they feel disappointed? If so, why?

Reading section: Prioritizing!

Continuing with the ‘Managing you time effectively’ posts, this time I want to address both the time you should allocate for each task as well as the necessity, sometimes, to prioritize the order in which you complete your answers to increase your final score.

For my first example, I am using IELTS Volume 7, test 3, reading 3.images

There are 3 tasks. The first one is a T/F/NG, the second is a matching exercise and the 3rd one is a general one (multiple choice) asking for a possible title for the reading text. What should your strategy be?

  • Prioritize your answers! We know that, generally speaking, the questions follow the ‘flow’ of the text (this is not always true, especially in the more recent texts but it is generally true – I will address this issue on a different post). If you look at this text, you will see that it takes up 2 pages and it is followed by two long tasks and one last task which is a general question. The T/F/NG task probably covers the first page and the second task covers the second page. The T/F/NG task generally requires some more time because you need to find ‘keywords’, scan the text to locate them and then spend a bit more time to compare the statements with what you have found in the text. In this case, if you read through the 2 tasks you can notice that the 2nd one is definitely easier because it asks for 6 ‘resolutions’. If you then look at the 2nd page, you will find that the page begins with a reference to these 6 resolutions. If you start with this task, you are going to have more chances of answering it quite fast because it is easy to locate the information. So, there you go! The next thing to do would be to decide about your time.
  • Strategically allocate your time: If the questions are divided in this way, then it is easy to decide how much to spend on each of them. You have about 20’ for all of them and 2 tasks with an equal number of questions. So, you should spend less than 10’ on the second one since it seems easier and this will give you more time for the first one.

The last one is a question you can answer after you reflect back on the whole text, so it shouldn’t take you more than a minute to do so. Time yourself, especially when you practice at home!!

What happens if it is not that easy though? How can we make decisions about prioritizing the tasks we answer to achieve the best possible score?

If you look, for example, at Reading 2, again in test 3, same volume, you may have to make different choices. What do I mean? Here, you have to deal with the heading section in the beginning, two more tasks with tables and a general question in the end. The Headings Section is generally considered  a difficult one. So, how are you going to prioritize which one to start with and how much time to dedicate to each? My suggestions would be:

  • Decide where you will not spend time: Start with the Headings Sections because it will give you the possibility to read the text anyway. Yet, because this section tends to be more difficult, chances are that, you are going to miss a few headings anyway (unless your knowledge level is high already). In total, there are 6. The rest of the tasks count for 7 more points. Also, the other tasks offer you more possibilities to track down the correct answers easier. Why? Questions 20 and 21 in the table mention numbers, which makes it easier for you to scan the text and find them. Also, questions 22-25 mention native American names (unusual names and therefore they stand out in a text), which again makes your search easier. The last question refers back to the whole text, so, it should not take up a lot of time to answer.
  • Time yourself : So, how much time should you dedicate on each task? If you are aiming at 6-6.5 overall for the whole Reading section, I would advise you not to spend more than 10’ in the Heading Section. Try to find as many headings as possible but my guess is that, aiming for a 6-6.5, would not give you more than 3-4 correct answers. So, after these 10’, you should make sure you are already on the next tasks because these ones can ensure you a better score! So, read the Headings section, try to match the headings, but if it seems too difficult, just move on!

Concluding, if we needed to summarize our steps, we would have to say that, depending on the texts that we have in front of us, we need to:

  1. Have a good look at all the tasks we have to complete,
  2. Decide which ones will bring us a higher score in total (because of their easiness to trace when scanning your text – clear keywords, for example)
  3. Make sure you do not spend more time than you should on a task that looks already difficult. Spend your time wisely!
  4. And, of course, do not forget to combine your search between the tasks, whenever this is possible, of course!

Good luck!!

Book Review : Top IELTS Speaking Tips (Written by Jenny Bedwell and Phil Wade)

This is a new column on this blog : book/e-book reviews. The first one to review is by  Jenny Bedwell and Phil Wade


This e-book contains all the important information an IELTS candidate needs to get acquainted with the speaking section of the exam. It starts with an introduction to its format and continues with a comprehensive section about important tips regarding the 3 sections, the Dos and Don’ts and finally, mistakes that should be avoided.
All in all, this is a very comprehensive e-book and I would highly recommend it as IELTS candidates would definitely profit from it.