Usually they ask you to speak for 45 seconds describing something. Then they ask you to speak for 45 seconds explaining why you like one thing over another.
Lately, however, students have been telling me that they now sometimes ask you to write about "advantages and disadvantages" of something.
Yet, I recently met someone who took the test in Manhattan and she told me the first 45 second question was something like: Do you prefer to listen to lectures or do you prefer to self-study? She then said the second was something like: Would it be more difficult to work in a hospital, office or police station? So this was, basically, the traditional "preference" and "description" format.
What's the best format with which to answer these first two types of questions?
Conclusion (beginning with the word 'although')
Question Number 1:
Example: Which do you prefer coffee or tea?
You only have 45 seconds, so come up with brief sentences for each part of the format.
Intro: I always wake up to a good cup of green tea in the morning. I can't live without it. So I'd pick tea for two reasons.
Reason #1: Green tea is good for a person's health.
Example #1: For example, I read in the NY Times that if a person drinks 4 cups of green tea per day, his risk of getting a heart attack will be decreased by 45%.
Reason #2: Second of all, I like the way tea tastes.
Example #2: For instance, coffee has a very strong and bitter taste. If I put a little honey into my green tea, however, it tastes absolutely delicious.
Conclusion (using 'although'): Although most people wake up to coffee because it has a stronger amount of caffeine and can really wake you up fast, I usually get a good night's sleep so I am more concerned about my health and the taste of my morning drink.
Isn't that a good format? Practice the althoughs!!!!!! If you can give your answer a nice tight ending, you'll impress the grader.
But, what if they ask you to describe something? You can use the same format.
Question Number 2:
Example: Describe your favorite building in your hometown.
Intro: I love older, classic architecture, and so Trinity Church on Broadway and Wall Street is my favorite building for two reasons.
Reason #1: First of all, it has an amazing cemetery surrounding it.
Example #1: The cemetery has graves and tombstones going back to the 1600s. The tombstones are actually quite scary, with skulls and cross bones and written warnings about living a good life. The tomb of Alexander Hamilton is also there.
Reason #2: Second of all, the church looks beautiful in contrast to the surrounding buildings.
Example #2: Almost every building surrounding Trinity is an office building or skyscraper and most of these buildings are gray or silver. Trinity is a delicious brown chocolate color and with its neo-Gothic architecture it really stands out!
Conclusion: So although most people think about the Empire State Building or some other tourist attraction when they think of favorite buildings, I like Trinity for its old cemetery and architectural design and color.
Isn't this a great format!!!!!!?