Monthly Archives: November 2014

IHSC collocation challenge 29/11/14: a/an ….. in price(s)

If you want to test your vocabulary and learn more about which words frequently combine with other words, our new series of collocation challenges can help.

Our collocation challenge today focuses on this pattern:

a/an (noun) in + price(s)

In our C1: Advanced class yesterday afternoon we came across the following collocations:

a drop in price(s)

a drop in the price of

a drop in costs

a drop in the cost of

When searching the frequency of the word drop in the pattern a/an + noun + in + price(s), drop was the seventh most frequent noun in that position (equal in frequency to decline and movement).

The challenge we’re setting for you is to come up with one or more of the 6 nouns that were most frequent in the phrase:

a/an __________ in price(s)

If you’ve thought of some nouns that you think might fit, click this link to test your theory and play our Collocation Challenge Family Fortunes game:

Collocation Challenge 29/11/14 – a/an _____ in price(s)

Check back on Monday to find the answers in the comments boxes.

Frequency data comes from StringNet Navigator 3.0



Filed under Collocation Challenge

B2 – Fantasy Interview: James Dashner

If you had the chance to interview anyone, living or dead, real or fictional, famous or unknown, who would you choose?  What would you ask them and why?

This was a question we put to some of our students preparing to do the Cambridge English: First exam in December 2014.  Here is one of the responses we got from a big fan of the author James Dashner.

Dear editor,

I saw the advert in your magazine asking about who it would be my dream to interview and decided to write to you with my choice.

There are tons of people I would love to interview.  Some of them are dead, others are alive, but all of them have been inspirations to me.  However, since I can only pick one, I would have to choose the writer of one of my favourite series of books, The Maze Runner.  The writer’s name is James Dashner and he has an incredible imagination.

The main reason behind me wanting to interview him is that I think he has a way with words that not many have.  In my view this sets him apart from other writers.  If I were given the chance to ask him some questions, the first one would be where James found the inspiration to write such a story as The Maze Runner.  Other things I would like to know are how he came up with the characters, whether they were based on real people or entirely fictional and, if he could only read one book for the rest of his life, what it would be.

Interviewing James Dashner would be a dream come true and I sincerely hope it happens some day.

Yours faithfully,


Want to know more about the subject of this text?  Here are some links that might be of interest:

Leave a comment

Filed under B2 - Cambridge English: First, B2 - Cambridge First Writing, Fantasy interview

C1: Article – A Portuguese Icon: José Rodrigues dos Santos

The second in our series of articles on well-known representatives of Portugal by students in our C1:  Advanced course profiles writer José Rodrigues dos Santos.

Portugal’s Contemporary Literary Giant

Throughout its history Portugal has produced some incredible talents in the field of literature.  Featured among these are Fernando Pessoa, Luis Camões and Eça de Queiros, to name but a few.  In my opinion, the most representative person of Portugal today is José Rodrigues dos Santos, who is a bestselling author known internationally and whose writing has enriched Portuguese literature even further.

José Rodrigues dos Santos was born in Mozambique and studied in The University of Lisbon. In addition to currently presenting the news on television, he also writes acclaimed novels.  He has published a considerable number of books, all of which I highly recommend. His novels have crossed all seas and are being published in about 20 different languages.

For those of you who enjoy reading, José’s novels are brilliant, very well structured and catch the readers’ attention.  I believe that what sets him apart is his commitment and the hard work put in while researching his novels.  Most of his books are fiction but their backgrounds are based on real facts.  I recall one particular book of his that left me rather stunned.  The book is called “The Last Secret” and although I am not very a religious person it showed me how the church misled the public to believe in certain events that did not happen.  With this example I mean to show that the unveiling of the truth is one of the reasons why his books stand out.

As far as I am concerned, José presents a positive image that can encourage young people to read more and appreciate the work of others. I also believe that through his books, Portugal will be recognized even more widely than it already is.  From what I hear on television and in the streets, everyone admires José and thinks he represents our country very well.  All in all, I can think of no one better than Jose – one of my favourite writers and a Portuguese icon. Long may he continue to write!

Further reading


Link to Part 1 in this series, an article about Joana Vasconcellos.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced, Uncategorized

C1: Article – A Portuguese icon: Joana Vasconcelos

Students in our C1:  Advanced course recently wrote articles based on a well known representative of their country.  To kick start our series of articles about Portuguese icons, here’s what one student had to say about the artist Joana Vasconcelos…

Joana Vasconcelos, Portugal’s Rising Artist

Joana Vasconcelos is an acclaimed contemporary artist who has achieved global recognition for her innovative and peculiar work. She was born in Paris, in 1971, where her parents took refuge after coming from Mozambique. After the 25th of April Revolution, they moved to Lisbon, where they started living and working.

Her work is widely known for its eccentricity and unconventionality as she uses ordinary objects from everyone’s daily life and gives them a brand new meaning. Amongst her catalogue of work are remarkable sculptures such as shoe made of pots.  Colour and texture are also paramount in her art.

Her work has been shown in numerous places such as Japan, São Paulo, Moscow and Versailles, where she was the first and youngest female artist to present an exhibition. What is more, her exhibition in Palácio Nacional da Ajuda was also the most ever visited show in her native country.  Recognition of her art has also led to her having been awarded several prizes.

However, Joana Vasconcelos’ work tends to divide opinion because of how singular it is. No more so than in here in Portugal.  Portugal’s preference for what’s traditional and conventional explains why it took some time for Portuguese people to appreciate her work and why she first became famous in other countries.

Something that I admire about Vasconcelos is how she is able to share aspects of Portugal’s traditions with the world, but at the same time depict new elements in our society.  She does this due to the ease with which she is able to mix popular culture with what is, in a way, slightly more erudite. For example, the odd animals she creates out of crochet (the animals being what’s modern and the crochet what’s traditional). Even though it is sometimes hard for me to understand what she is trying to convey with her work I still find myself astonished at her vivid imagination.

Because of this, I believe she is not only one of the most influential artists in Portugal but also one of the most influential people in the country.

Want to know more about Joana Vasconcelos?  Here are a few links to videos that might be of interest.  The first includes an interview with the artist in English.

1 Comment

Filed under Articles, C1 - Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced, C1 - Cambridge English: Advanced

B2: Review – Iron Maiden in Concert

One of the texts that candidates doing the Cambridge English:  First exam may be asked to write in Paper 2, Part 2 is a review.  Review tasks ask you to describe and express an opinion about something you’ve experienced.  You could be asked to review a variety of things such as a book, a film, a website or a product.  Students in our B2:  First classes recently practised writing concert reviews and we thought we’d share one of these with you on our blog…

Iron Maiden rock Portugal

One of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever been to was when Iron Maiden came to Portugal last year.  If you don’t know them, they are a rock/metal band with a career going back over 30 years.  The concert I saw celebrated the band’s past as it was actually a remake of an old tour: The Maiden England Tour of 1982.

One of the first things I noticed was how the concert brought both older fans, some wearing original ’82 T-shirts, together with younger people like me.  This shows that their music and appeal is timeless.

As far as the concert itself goes, it was magnificent.  The sound was completely mind blowing as were the special effects, with lights and fire that really flared up the emotions of members of the audience.  On top of that, an enormous robot appeared on stage and its moves were synchronised with the music.  It was just stunning and it really brought the crowd to life.

To make things even better, the band played all my favourite songs.  I’ve always loved their older songs and they didn’t let me down with their set list.  It was perfect.  There was no particular highlight, I loved it from start to finish.

Overall, I liked pretty much everything.  The fact that the venue was packed, the atmosphere and, of course, the music.  I’d definitely recommend anyone who likes rock/metal music to see one of their concerts.

Leave a comment

Filed under B2 - Cambridge English: First, B2 - Cambridge First Writing, Reviews