Saturday, November 4, 2017

Two Steps to Success

It has finally happened! I was desperate to have one of my women PTE candidates score a 79+. But it always eluded me. 65+ happened but that's about it. And on the other hand my male students were happily scoring 90s. So frustrating! For, how can you be really successful if women candidates do not figure in your success stories? I had heard so much talk about the PTE software not being favourable to ladies. Especially because most of them tend to speak fast and often quite softly. I obviously didn't want to believe all that. But I nearly did! 3 times unsuccessful. And finally...

4th time lucky. She finally did it:

I have to give it to her. She worked so hard for this. She has earned it. Yes, she had the talent but, then, so many others do too. Her case proves me right yet again - talent must go hand in hand with hard work. Only then can you achieve Excellence.

But excellence doesn't come in a day. It is shaped by a ruthless, single-minded adherence to a cause. Excellence, as Aristotle had observed many centuries  ago, is a Habit. Live excellence. And it will be yours. When preparing for exams - domestic or overseas - give your all. The outcome may not be under your control; but how much effort you put in surely is. This effort consists of two elements - HARD WORK & ANALYSIS. Together they make a package that goes by the fancy name of STRATEGY.

There is no substitute for hard work. At least 2 hours daily, over a month or more, depending on the kind of exam you are attempting. SAT, PTE, IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC - for these 1 month is enough. However, for GMAT, GRE or CAT , you will surely need a 4-6-month preparation period.

But  don't just practice endlessly. Analyse your mistakes and learn from them. Also, don't concentrate on individual tests. Try to see your performance by averaging it over at least 10 tests. Your average score paints a truer picture. I encourage my students to do just that. Of course, my students can practice from the mocks and that they must. However, even as they do so every day, they must analyse their performance: what is their success rate? what kind of mistakes are they repeatedly making? Exactly where are they tripping up? It is this kind of analysis that helps you to improve with every test.

Everyone fails. Failure is only the flip side of success. But those who eventually make the cut, actually find out WHY they have erred at certain places. Man has been able to conquer the world because of his sheer intellectual prowess. It is a god-given gift that distinguishes us from the monkey and the ape. Make good use of it.
When hard work and intelligence
work hand in hand,
many things are possible.

                                                                                                                - Dr T. P. Chia

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Elephant in the Room: Speaking in PTE

Speaking in PTE Academic is what Writing is in IELTS - as crucial to success and as difficult to crack. Yet the underlying requirements are quite simple. You need to speak at your normal pace. You need to speak with ease. And you need to be fluent. Pronunciation needs to be good as well. Moreover, there should be sufficient modulation to give force and meaning to your message.

Great! Basically, I need it all then! In that case, let's get a few concepts straight.

What is fluency?
Speech is nothing more than groups of words separated by commas, full stops and other types of punctuation. At every point where there is a punctuation, there needs to be a pause. The ability to read aloud or speak using pauses at the correct place is fluency. It is not the same as clarity though. It is in fact closer to speaking rhythmically, speaking at your normal pace, speaking with the correct modulation, and pausing at the correct places.

And what about Pronunciation?

Only this much needs to be said about it: the pronunciation needs to be correct. It can be American or British but you should try to be consistent. Fake accent is to be avoided. The speaking test tries to find out the extent to which the influence of your mother tongue hampers intelligibility. Thus, if you speak with a very strong accent, you should first try to unlearn that. Pronunciation apps are aplenty in the market. Download one and start practicing pronunciation regularly. You should do this even before you start your core PTE Academic training/preparation in earnest.

The Speaking topics

Read Aloud, Describe Image and Retell Lecture are the most important items in this section. Repeat Sentence and Answer Short Questions can be high scoring. But don't run away from the second and the third item mentioned above. If you crack them, you stand a very good chance of scoring very well in your PTE Speaking module.

A Final word

Excellence is a habit. It is therefore boring, a great deadener. Let your desire for success  overcome boredom. And practice with passion for perfection.

Autograph your work with excellence

- Unknown Source


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How to Crack the PTE Academic exam

How did this post originate?

I was taking my PTE class this morning. Two of my students were practicing Read Aloud. Both had gained a high level of oral fluency through sustained practice over a period of time. However, we had not visited this topic for 5 days as we were more concerned with Describe Image and Retell Lecture. Hence the decision to get back to Read Aloud today. I was suspecting that it won’t go as smoothly as it had earlier. And sure enough, I was proved right. Both stumbled a couple of times and committed a couple of errors, though minor ones.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The incident once again made me realize how important doing it every day is to eventually attain a high score. This is especially true of Speaking. PTE Academic tests you in many ways and is quite straightforward. However, it does require a good amount of – what else? - practice. You can attempt PTE Academic without any outside help or guidance. Cyberspace is full of information and materials. But if you don’t force yourself to spend some time everyday for at least 3 weeks, then you may be found struggling.

Everyday is the operative word here. Excellence is a habit. As Aristotle had said, "We are what we repeatedly do". Excellence does not tolerate irregularity. A gap of 5 days is all that is needed to adversely affect your preparation for the test.

You need a clearly-chalked-out path. And you need to travel down that path no matter what. Prepare a structured schedule, adhere to it at all costs, monitor your daily progress, learn and adjust as you go along. But never forget, it is practice that will make you perfect.

There is no glory in practice,
but without practice,
there is no glory...
                                    - Anonymous

Post credits: Samit Sengupta
Founder, English Academy

Monday, January 9, 2017

Finding Fun While Learning Grammar

A new addition to the menu has been weekend grammar classes for Middle school students (classes 5-8). 1.5 hours per day on both Saturdays as well as Sundays. The class already boasts of a good 8-9 students who - much to our pleasure - are having a whale of a time.

Grammar and fun usually do not go together. But this is exactly what Samit's English Academy wishes and endeavours to achieve: a win-win for both, the young stakeholders as well as their parents.
Each class is usually divided into two broad sections - work and play. Work, the first half, deals with various aspects of grammar - although in an excitingly non-grammar way. Here there is no emphasis on rules but rather on pictures and charts and trees in order to grasp the concepts clearly. This is followed by thorough practice using worksheets of different levels of difficulty. Not to mention Reading aloud in front of the class, Recitation competitions and surprise spelling-and- dictation tests almost every week

The 2nd half of the class is about "play" - very important since all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. We play Crossword games, Scrabble, various oral word games like "Atlas", "Name, Place, Animal, Things", "Spin a Yarn" and many more.

The final aim of the 3-month Grammar workshop is to make the young students more confident with a balanced and well-developed personality.

Post credits: Samit Sengupta
Founder, English Academy

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I keep on hearing this so many times when I talk to candidates aspiring to settle abroad. PTE is supposed to be easier than IELTS or so they have been told. It is easy to get dates. You don't have to book a month in advance as in IELTS. You don't have to go for the Speaking module on a separate day as it happens in IELTS. And to top it all, the PTE results will be available to you within 5 days of taking the test.  

And all those observations are true. There are many conveniences associated with PTE, primarily because it is the latest entrant in English Language Testing unlike IELTS which has been around for a while. 

But, PTE is not like IELTS at all and it tests the candidates in a completely different way. Sure, there are the same 4 modules – Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. However, that’s where the similarities end. And no, it is not easier than IELTS either. It is simply a different kind of test following a different format. And as we know, "different, different hota hai"

IELTS & PTE - in a very real sense - are as "different" from each other as chalk is from cheese. And your choice will be influenced by the answers you get to the following questions:

1.    Are you tech-savvy? Are you comfortable wearing a headset mic and pressing buttons etc?
2.    Do you find it easy to react instantly? To respond at the press of a button or upon hearing a “beep”?
3.    Do you think you have it in you to continue to speak under any circumstances without stopping for more than 3 seconds to gather your thoughts?

If you answer “yes” to the above questions, then don’t wait anymore, plump for PTE. If speaking extempore is not your strong point, then a paper-based test like IELTS may be a better option.

Choose after carefully considering the above questions. And be brutally honest. The sincerity with which you make this self-assessment could indeed be the difference between success and failure in your chosen test.

·         Paper-based
·         Computer-based
·         General Reading paper not so difficult, language & topic-wise
·         The language and the difficulty level of the Reading module is that of IELTS Academic level
·         Reading - No negative marking
·         Reading -  Negative marking in 1 type of question (Multiple choice multiple answers)
·         No partial credits given for partially- correct answers in any module
·         Partial-credits given for some types of questions
·         Time is not such a problem here
·         Time is a big constraint here – it all happens very fast in this test
·         Listening is also comparatively easier
·         Listening has two types of questions which carry negative marking
·         Writing is a lot more difficult – content, structure, vocabulary etc. are marked very strictly
·         Writing is relatively easy – the main issue is that you need to be fast while typing on a desktop keyboard
·         Speaking is easier here by comparison. Human intervention opens doors to influence the assessor with the sheer force of your personality.
·         Speaking is somewhat more difficult. Here a machine evaluates you. You have to think on your feet and make sentences as you go along. Time given to prepare your response is very short indeed

Now sit back, relax and...Happy choosing! 

Post credits: Samit Sengupta
Founder, English Academy

Friday, September 30, 2016

Back to Basics

The exams are over or nearly over. I can hear an audible sigh of relief –“finally!” Some of you have done well, some are not very happy with their performances and a few have made a mess of their papers. That’s fine! It happens with all of us, even with the best of us. Life has a habit of tripping us up at some point, no matter how hard we try to avoid it, irrespective of how careful or cautious we always try to be.

So what do you do now? Here I make a few suggestions. Hope they are of some help to you. For any clarifications, you just need to drop a line. 

1. Your answer sheet is a start
What do you see there? Focus on your mistakes. Take out your question paper if you cannot recall the question and analyze the question and your response. Maybe you haven’t answered to the point; worse, maybe you have read the question wrong. Maybe you have made a lot of grammatical and spelling mistakes. Maybe you ran out of time and couldn’t complete the paper. Whatever, this is must be your first step. This is the most important reason why answer sheets are shown to you. When you get them - if you get them - scrutinize carefully. It is a good practice and you must make full use of it. 

2. What are the lessons learned?
A scrutiny of your response sheet now reveals the chinks in your armour, your vulnerabilities, mistakes that you make repeatedly. These errors have cost you valuable marks. You must eliminate them through renewed efforts and sustained practice.

3. So what do we do now?
a.      Make a list of your mistakes in a book that you always carry with you. As you eliminate each mistake, tick them off in the list. The list will help you to keep your focus as well as ensure that by the time the next exam comes around you will have overcome your weaknesses and be in a far better position.
b.      Simulate the exam environment as much as possible. Time your sample papers. Ask yourself whether you are putting your best foot forward – whether you are starting with the best-prepared section.
c.       Many of you have extra notes and points. They should come towards the end of the answer. The main answer must always refer to the text. Be textual, it is seen as an indication of someone who has read the text well.
d.      Start your preparations early. A little everyday will achieve much more than cramming a lot in a few days just prior to the exam.

Remember, excellence is born out of a desire for perfection. Desire to be perfect. And  you will achieve excellence. It is a long and lonely journey down a path which you have to tread alone for most of the time while the world “seems to be enjoying and having a good time”.  But rest assured that your day too will come. You shall have the last laugh after all!                                   

Post credits: Samit Sengupta
Founder, English Academy

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Choosing the perfect IELTS Trainer

There has been a rush to migrate to foreign shores. This was a trickle a few years before but now it has turned into a veritable flood. And people have many good reasons for seeking the coveted Permanent Residency status, or PR as it is better know.  Then there are the students who wish to travel abroad for higher studies which, they hope, will translate into lucrative and meaningful careers.

Whatever the goal, there is often an IELTS test to be cleared – General or Academic. The exam tests you on 4 fronts – Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. It tests your oral and written proficiency in the use of the English language to qualify for PR in a particular English-speaking foreign nation. Without it you cannot proceed further. It is that simple. 

It is not a very difficult exam. It surely is not in the same league as CAT, GMAT and GRE. But yes, there is a need for methodical and sustained study over a certain period. I have been asked if it is possible to prepare oneself through self-study. My answer has always been the same – absolutely. But – and this is important – do you have time enough...

1. to do all that is required? 
2. Do you have time to collect the necessary material – lots of it - from a number of sources? 
3. Do you have the discipline to prepare a schedule and stick to it for a month at least come what may? 
4. Are you willing to discover the tricks through patient study and analysis? 
5. Or do you want to be told about them at the very beginning of your preparation?

If your answer is a resounding "yes" to most of the above-mentioned questions, then you can surely study on your own and clear the test. 

Your IELTS trainer only guides you. He clears the way as you proceed. He monitors your progress and analyses your performance so that you are able to realize your weaknesses and work on them. He urges you to do your homework and instills in you a sense of discipline during your training period. You follow a particular timeline drawn by him. He maintains your scores over the entire duration of your training and regularly conducts performance audits jointly with you so that you know where you stand and how much farther you have to go to reach your goal. Your IELTS trainer needs to: 

1. Be aware of  the latest trends
2. Know the standard tricks by which you can crack all but the most difficult questions
3. Have a very good grasp over English in every way – grammar, vocabulary, correct usage
4. Be methodical and have a well thought-out training plan
5. Have an analytical mind so that he can dissect your performance and bring out your mistakes

Your IELTS trainer will be your mentor for at least a month. So choose him with care.  
Everyone says that he is the best trainer/mentor/guide available. Go for him who has your interest at heart, not someone who is merely after your money.  Check him out with a demo. If he is really good but comes at a premium, so be it. After all, your future is at stake here. Quality doesn't come cheap. It never has.

So, first find out if you need to take the test in the first place. The second step is to decide if you wish to undergo self-study or a structured coaching. Lastly settle on your IELTS trainer – someone who has your interest at heart. 

All the best!
Post Credits : - Samit Sengupta
  Founder English Academy