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Press Review – 202 Useful Exercises

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A review by a Senior IELTS examiner...

202 Useful Exercises for IELTS:  by Garry Adams and Terry Peck. Adams and Austen Press, Sydney 1995

Hot on the heels of their well-received 101 Helpful Hints for IELTS (for a review, see the previous issue of EA Journal), Adams and Peck have co-authored a collection of exercises (yes, exactly 202 of them!) which, so it is claimed in the Preface, 'involve the various skills required to take the IELTS test'.

The main body of the workbook is divided into exercises in five topic areas, 'Communication and the Arts', 'The Environment', 'Technology', 'Politics', and 'Youth and Education'. The exercises are, therefore, anchored in contexts both of topical interest and relevance to the IELTS test. Each section has exercises in listening, reading, writing, spelling, grammar and vocabulary, while two sections also have punctuation exercises. The spelling exercises are specially welcome; spelling is too often a neglected area in the macro-skills based EAP classroom, as many an IELTS examiner will testify.

The final part of the book consists of appendices and an index. 'Appendix 1' has the listening tapescripts for the accompanying cassette, which includes news items, lectures, dictations, as well as other listening exercises. 'Appendix 2' provides answer keys to the exercises, and features ten model answers for the Writing module. (These are not, however; annotated.) A two-page reference section reproduces four tips from 101 Helpful Hints for IELTS. Page 129 contains cross-references with the earlier companion volume, indicating links between exercises and hints, though the authors stress that the books can be used independently. Students are referred to the 'Further Reading List' for help with problem areas which the exercises expose. The book concludes with a detailed index, which teachers and students will find invaluable when seeking exercises covering specific areas.

One of the many strengths of this workbook is the variety in the type of questions asked and tasks set. In an artful fusion of medium and message, a number of the tasks relate to aspects of the IELTS test. Consequently, students gain practice at dealing with IELTS-type tasks, while simultaneously acquiring knowledge about the test. There are even crosswords wordsearches, wordgames and word puzzles. Advice for the day of the test, for example, is craftily packaged in the form of a quiz.

It is hard to find fault with the choice of cleverly devised exercises. However, I would have liked to see more material designed to help students move from non-academic writing to academic writing. While there is some practice in passive construction, more work on nominalisation, of the kind proposed by Cox (1994: 7·3), would assist students with the academic style they need for the Writing module.

What makes Adams and Peck's books different is their focus on providing materials for acquiring the skills needed for success in IELTS. The combination of 'hints' and 'exercises' is a clever formula to help students prepare for the test. Note that exercises for speaking practice are not included, however.

Even more goodies, the authors tell us, are in the pipeline. In their forthcoming video package, entitled Room 303, we are promised 'a complete treatment'. It will have a high standard to live up to.

Reprinted from the EA Journal (Winter 1997 Vol. 15 No. 1.)