Sunday, November 14, 2010

MUET Made Easy - Malaysia Students Blog

MUET Made Easy - Malaysia Students Blog

The writer had portrayed an overall picture of MUET through the experience that she had when she took the MUET papers. She had reminded the candidates to practice and to prepare well beforehand to get the desired results in the MUET examinations.

If your vocabulary is limited, getting a good band, i.e. bands 4-6 is not going to be as easy as it sounds in this article. One of the key factors to do well in MUET is to have a competently sufficient vocabulary! The vocabulary is of preuniversity standard. The standards can be found and discernible in articles that come out in The Star, The New Straits Times and other respectable journals and magazines.  So, your vocabulary should measure up to these standards.  Otherwise you would not be able to understand even  simple instructions in the MUET papers. You may have strong feelings that you understand but actually you have misunderstood. You might be grasping things out of context.

I hope all of you will be doing well in MUET and will be able to be accepted into universities and other institutions of higher learning. All the best to you!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Choice of Topic For Task B: The Group Discussion, in The Speaking Test

The Speaking Test Scenario:

Having finished the individual presentation in Task A you then go to Task B.  After the two minutes preparation you should carry out the group discussion with the other candidates in the Speaking Test.  In the group discussion you have to choose which of the four choices, as that of Candidates' A to  D as the best for you to argue and and make your stand.

When you are doing the group discussion you might be in a difficult situation where you have to choose what topic is the best to support. It is not your obligation to choose which is the best topic for you to talk about.  The examiners do not have a set of topics up their sleeves which you should correctly choose as "the best" topic.  There is no such thing as the best topic which you must get it right, and if you do not get it right then you are penalised.  No such thing!

The next best thing to do is how well prepared are you?  In which choice of candidates' task are you very well prepared?  If you are well prepared for your own task, then go ahead with it, full throttle in the discussion.  If you like a task's subtopic but you are not well prepared for it then do not choose it to make your arguments as that will be sort of suicidal to do it.  Just like venturing into the wilderness.

The best topic for you to choose is determined by you, the MUET Speaking Test 800/2 candidate.  It is up to you entirely and the examiners are there to listen to how well your delivery is done.  They want to listen to how you express yourself, your points, how you argue your points and whether you contribute to the discussion.  They also want to observe your language proficiency, in terms of grammar, your diction and whether you use linkers/discourse markers and other speaking skills that you must have learned over the years you were in school.  It is imperative that you show competence in your arguments and whether you are treating the discussion with a certain degree of acceptable standard of maturity.

One of the requirements in the syllabus is that you "show mature treatment of the topic".  It does not matter which topic that you choose in your discussion as long as you give a sound argument with the appropriate choice of words and grammar proficiency. To put it in a nutshell it is you who determines the best choice of topic, not the examiners.  The examiners are there to listen to you and give marks for your performance for your choice of topic under discussion.

Friday, July 9, 2010

MUET Is About (Language) Skills

According to the MUET Regulations, Test Specifications and Test Format booklet furnished by the MPM (or the Malaysian Examinations Council) the Test aims to measure the English language proficiency of candidates planning to pursue tertiary studies at Malaysian universities.

Grammar per se, it is not taught as a subject matter in MUET. It might be taught sporadically, here and there, where the need arises, as we go along. The English embodied in MUET is an entity raring to go into action. A widely accepted fact is that grammar itself had been, directly or subtly, taught in class for so many years before pre-university (in school, let's say ... eleven years?)

MUET is about skills: listening skills, speaking skills, reading skills and writing skills. Yeah, skills and ... skills and ... skills ...

Grammar is used in the execution of language skills. Wrong grammar, the skills go a-limping, wrong grammar - the skills kaput. Wrong grammar, (heh, heh, heh ...) people will laugh at you!

Examples of Language Skills Imparted in MUET:-

Skills: recalling information; recognising main ideas; distinguishing fact from opinion
"In reality, listening is used far more that any other single language skill in normal life. On average, we can expect to listen twice as much as we speak, four times more than we read and five times more than we write." - Rivers 1981: Weaver 1972

Speaking Skills: using grammatically correct language; using language appropriate for the intended purpose and audience; using varied vocabulary and expressions;
"The secret of successful speakers? Passion and compassion with a purpose." - Lily Walters

Reading Skills: skimming and scanning; understanding linear an non-linear texts; understanding language functions;
point to ponder:
"Being able to read is ... a skill that every learner must develop over time and with great deal of practice." - David E. Eskey.

Writing Skills: using correct grammar; using clear, varied sentences; using appropriate markers and linking devices.
"Writing skills can be developed through practice. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance." - Gloria M Russo

Have you got the skills?

Note: Quotations sourced from Cynthia Richards et. al. 2008

Should you want to know more MUET skills, well ... look at the tabs up there and choose the "syllabus" tab and click.  The syllabus also lists out the skills in MUET. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creativity For Survival

A Speaking Scenario

More often than not, students in my class tend to be cool (or cold?). "Engines" have not been "warmed up" yet. Minds do not seem to be in class, they are "somewhere else".  When it comes to doing a speaking activity, e.g. the situation "What is the most important quality of a good citizen?".

Candidate A's task: He has to say 'patriotic", candidate B should say 'heroic' and so forth ... Oftentimes the students would say, "Sir, ... blur ...." Although the situation and the task items look so simple. These are one-worded tasks, but are still daunting and the students seem to be at lost. "No idea!" is what they will say, "Blur!" ... and so on.  Their minds do not focus on the tasks- maybe we can call that - the early morning "blur" syndrome!

One way, that's it - one way, and not the only way to overcome this "cold engine" problem is: students could play a simple game called "Tangram". In this game the students' creativity is being honed to a higher level as creativity can help to alleviate the "cold engine" syndrome.

Some students may have experienced tangram in certain motivational courses where motivators or 'faci.s' encourage them to play that game as often as possible so that they train their brains and minds to be more creative. With creativity they can 'twist and turn' their way around and about problems and solve them. We can find quite a number of sites in the web that explain tangram, its origins and history, etc.

(example) The game of Tangram: What do they 'see' in a triangle: A nose? A tree? A cone? Roof of a house? A stealth bomber? An arrow tip? As you can see the mind will start to work and wake up from its 'sleep'. Our minds can be trained to look at a problem as something that should be solved, not to be stared at bleakly.

In MUET they should approach their tasks, whether in Speaking or Writing, with a certain degree of maturity inherent in Pre-University students and not with simplistic avoidance.  Do you see what I mean?


Friday, June 18, 2010

Vocabulary In Context - Contextual Clues

Reading is A Skill

Reading is a skill.  So, it is!  Actually there are a number of skills in reading such as

                                                * skimming and scanning
                                                * extracting specific information
                                                * identifying main ideas
                                                * identifying supporting details
                                                ... and
                                                * deriving the meaning of words,
                                                   phrases, sentences, from the

Just to name a few.  There are many more.  Please refer to the syllabus.  Have a look at the row of tabs above and look for the "Syllabus" tab and "click".  It will take you to the Syllabus page and under the Reading syllabus you can find all the skills for reading that will be included in the test of Reading 800/3 Paper.  These skills are essential too for the students as they will be reading and making reference at the library and studying big books (also small books tee, hee, hee ...).

Should we have no reading skills such as making an educated guess for new words that  we do not understand - we shall face a serious problem because we would not understand what we are reading and we might not be able to answer questions.  Furthermore, we may carry out the given instructions wrongly. 

Unfamiliar Words.

To solve the problem of getting the meaning of unfamiliar words as we read articles, exam papers, passages, etc.

There are times when we find words that we do not understand. At the same time we cannot ask anybody for the meaning because we are in the middle of an exam or, there is simply nobody around for us to consult. At the same time no dictionary is available.
So, what do we do?
Use of "Contextual Clues"
There is a strategy that we can carry out that is called vocabulary in context. In this strategy we have to look at the surrounding words, sentence or sentences. These surrounding words, phrases and sentences serve as the backgrounds for the new word. They can give us clues as to the meaning of the new word. These are the contextual clues that can help us arrive at the meaning of the new word.
From time to time postings will be made under this topic as there are a few strategies that can help the students in times of need.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Muet Candidates, Enrich Your Vocabulary!

University Standard of Vocabulary
The MUET candidates-to-be should shore up in their command of English. They need to have a University-going standard of vocabulary, suitable for 'U' undergrads. This is especially true for the Pre-University students. Many of them, in certain areas and localities, are so poor in terms of vocabulary.

There could be candidates who are English teachers but they have to take MUET because they want to do a degree in TESL, then their vocabulary can be considered to be strong or adequate. Candidates may also be made up of working adults, university or college students and ordinary or highly-positioned government servants in Putrajaya.  They need to do the MUET for various different reasons.

Why Should there be "Good Vocabulary"?
Good vocabulary is essential for all the papers in MUET. Be they Listening, Speaking, Reading or Writing. Sometimes the candidates vocabulary is so poor that they cannot understand the MUET questions.  As a result they tend to give to a totally wrong answer or give no answer at all.

There have been cases where students are so lacking in their vocabulary that it is impossible to do some decent work of, i.e. reading, in class. Sometimes, more than forty percent of the words in a single paragraph should get their meanings explained because students do not understand their meanings, at times a higher percentage has to be explained!

To have a decent vocabulary in their arsenal, the students should have been reading English materials such as newspapers, magazines, journals, novels, reports, etc.  The reading habit should have been nurtured years ago, right from the very start of their pre-school education.  Practice in the various aspects of language, i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing should have been the norm.