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Are you preparing for the Cambridge B2 exam?

It's summer time and that means one thing ... Exams!!!
There are loads of great resources on the internet to help you prepare for the B2 First or First for Schools exam, maybe too many!  Lets look at a few.
FCE Exam tips has lots of handy advice and tips to help you pass the exam.
Flo-Joe and Englishaula are similar and also have some great interactive activities to help you improve your grammar, vocabulary and writing.
At ESL school, there are lots of interactive activities and games to help you improve your vocabulary (check out the wordsearches) and Use of English.
At ESL Lounge, you can do quizzes and exercises specifically aimed at different parts of the exam.
Today School also has exercises specifically aimed at different parts of the exam and has some good writing practice activities.
Try not to get overwhelmed.  Keep practicing and Good luck!  🍀

Cambridge Dictionary

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Improve your pronunciation with one sound

Although there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 44 sounds. Confusing?  Maybe that is why English pronunciation can be a nightmare!  There are many ways to improve your pronunciation but one way is to start with the most common sound in the English language - /ə/ , called schwa (the only sound to have a name).

The schwa sound can replace all the vowel sounds, is always weak and can really help your pronunciation have intonation which is so important in English.  

Schwa is so important that there is a page dedicated to it's basic sound on the BBC and here is a great introduction to schwa also on the BBC. This webpage has a great guide to using and pronouncing schwa - listen and repeat out loud. You may feel a bit silly but it is GREAT practice.

Now you know about schwa, listen for it when you listen to English - you will hear it everywhere and try to use it as much as you can. Your pronunciation really will improve.

Summer plans?

Our summers are usually full of nice things; ice cream, the beach, travelling to other cities or countries and spending time with family and friends. Sadly, this summer things may be a little different. So, what are you going to do to keep yourself busy?

One option may be to continue practicing your English. Doing this at home and by yourself is a great thing to do. But, it can get boring and you may get demotivated.

How about online classes and activities?  At Brunel Centre, there are a range of classes you could do from intensive exam preparation classes if you are thinking of doing an exam (Cambridge exams are starting again) or something more relaxed like film and book discussion. There are even virtual summer classes for children with fun activities to keep them busy and improve their English.                        Maybe see you in a class!

A big idea to practice listening

Only have 10 minutes?  BBC ideas are short, factual videos with topics such as A.I  sustainable thinking, the power of music and universal wonders.  Interesting as well as useful!

What can you do in 10 minutes?

Choose a videoWatch the videoTry to summarize.  What was the video about?  What were the main points?Watch the video again and read the transcript at the same time. Write down 5-10 new words and look them up in the dictionaryEXTRA - write a short summary of the video or write some sentences using the new vocabularyTry to use these new words when you next talk or write in EnglishEXTRA - you could choose one or two sentences and practice repeating them to practice your pronunciation.

Interactive videos for self study

Here is something that I have never seen before, videos that you can watch, read vocabulary definitions and answer questions to check your understanding as you go.  Very futuristic!

The English Channel is a selection of interactive, short videos for intermediate and advanced learners of English.

Although they are great for everyone, they are particularly useful if you are preparing for an exam.

Go on, give it ago.  Who knows what you will learn today!

Why pronunciation matters

Of course pronunciation is important, but is it that important?

In a study, it was found that learners with good pronunciation who
make grammatical mistakes are much more likely to be understood than people who have perfect grammar but bad pronunciation.

And of course, if you are doing an exam, some of your marks will be given for
your pronunciation.

But do you have to speak like a native speaker?  The short answer is no. However, you should be able to make the sounds, people should be able to understand you and as you get a higher level, you should be able to speak more fluently (not hesitating so much) by doing things like connecting your words (connected speech).

Thankfully, there are some great websites that can help you. For basic sounds practice, this BBC website has explanations and quizzes (Good when you are starting or have particular problem areas).  Remember, just listening and repeating is great practice.

Also by the BBC, Tim's Pronunciation Workshop (great for A2+ lev…

The Brunel Centre on Youtube!

Join Therese on the Brunel Centre Youtube channel. To kick off*, she is talking about idioms that we can use to talk about our experiences in quarantine.

Check it out!

To kick off = to start   (the same as in football!)