The IELTS Exam – Gaining in Popularity

In this globalizing world, foreign language competency is emerging as an essential skill alongside numeracy and literacy in your native language. Currently the language of choice is English, although other languages are likely to become equally important, if not on a global basis – at least on a regional basis. If you are a non-native English speaker you may need to “prove” your level of English competency to get that job you want, gain entry to your university of choice, or to be allowed to immigrate to a new land. So, how should you go about proving your English level? Answer, the IELTS test.

Many methods are being used to establish an individual’s level of English including interviews, written exams, and computer based exams. The TOEFL is probably the most widely known English test and it is available as both a written or computer based test. It is definitely the exam of choice of most North American organizations. The IELTS exam, or International English Testing System, is more popular in Europe and Oceania, with over Over 1.4 million candidates taking the exam every year. The popularity of this exam is now spreading to Canada and the USA, where over 2,000 educational institutions now accept the exam.

But why is the IELTS exam gaining in popularity amongst educational institutions and why it is a good choice for a language learner. Well, the main reason is the focus of the exam – on communication. Whereas exams like the TOEFL have a focus on multi-choice selection of correct grammatical elements or correct choices of vocabulary; the focus on the IELTS is a more natural communicative approach. In the speaking section candidates engage in a 10-14 minute interview with a real live examiner, communication, not just selection of A,B,C, or D! In the General Writing Test, candidates write a letter for a specified communicative purpose – a task that a person is really likely to encounter.

It seems that if the purpose of an English test is to assess a person’s ability to communicate in English, whether it is verbally or in written form, the IELTS test provides a much better reflection of this. If you are an English learner and you are investing your time to learn the language, then surely it makes sense to take an exam that more accurately reflects your level of achievement and also that motivates you to learn the language in a meaningful way that results in communicative ability. Preparing for exams like the TOEFL, motivate you to spend endless hours trying to learn lists of vocabulary and grammatical points, which don’t necessarily lead to significant benefits in being able to hold down a conversation or write a college essay.

The Religion of Science: Fact or Faith

I have attempted to harvest from some of the greatest minds insight into the nature of God, human existence, and our ability to transcend what is commonly referred to as self-preservation – the “most powerful” human instinct. Further, I make the argument that debunks the myth that humans are mortal beings – simply living and ultimately dying.

If things were as simple as traditional biology tells us, then what accounts for a spouse or a parent willing to give his (her) life in exchange for his beloved? Perhaps love and the divine human spirit provide us with the innate spiritual supremacy to rise above our “greatest human instinct,” and propel a person to outrival our “captive,” namely, the primitive drive to survive. It goes without saying, we’re back to where we began. The question that remains to be answered centers on whether human beings are eternal beings?

I did some research with respect to the probability of a person being alive at this very moment – living on the planet we call earth. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

Bear in mind that our universe sprang into existence as “singularity” around 13.7 billion years ago.

Though I have been flirting with the possibility of eternal life (in some shape or form), and, something or Someone who was the grand designer of the cosmos, I haven’t used the word “religion” – correct?

Comparing apples-to-apples, I will use the word “faith” when contrasting faith as a higher power vs. faith in the science underlying the Big Bang Theory.

We know that our universe was born almost 14 billion years ago, however, ask a scientist ‘how the Big Bang occurred.’ You will likely get a response that goes something like this, ’14 billion years ago the universe burst into being from an unknown cosmic trigger.” Hmm – an unknown cosmic trigger… what’s an unknown cosmic trigger? Beats me, but surely it takes some faith to believe in one!

Logic tells me that faith comes in two competing forms, faith in the form of a scientific theory and faith in something or Someone, i.e. higher power. I tend to look for compelling evidence to support a given faith.

The supposition that some unknown cosmic trigger led to me sitting in front of my computer typing would require me to have faith in the existence of a cosmic trigger. So, what’s a reasonable alternative to an unknown cosmic trigger? Probability and statistics, of course! I will illustrate my point without getting too deep into the mathematical discipline.

I noted above that I did some research with respect to the probability of a person being alive today – living on the planet we call earth. First and foremost, no matter what faith you embrace, you are a miracle – at least in the eyes of probability and statistics.

Throughout the violent and turbulent early moments of the Big Bang to the formation of earth 4.5 billion years ago, you “survived” the hundreds of millions of catastrophic events such as the meteor that hit earth killing 80% of all life on earth including the dinosaurs which occurred 66 million years ago.

From the Big Bang through the moment of your conception and birth, you are indeed a miracle given the statistical probability of you being here is somewhere around 1 in 400 trillion. I suggest that it’s more likely for a person to win the lottery thousands of times consecutively than being alive.

Is statistical science fact or faith? Perhaps the probability (1 in 400 trillion) of you being alive, living on earth, is utter nonsense given that statistical analysis can be quite a daunting endeavor when it comes to controlling critical variables while analyzing and normalizing the data.

Frankly, it may be too difficult to arrive at a valid conclusion? I don’t have a good answer, nonetheless, I think it more prudent to hitch a horse to a wagon that missing a wheel, i.e. unknown cosmic trigger.

Einstein went on to hold a deistic concept of God. He stood in awe at the beauty and complexity of the cosmos but could not bring himself to accept the idea of a God who meddles in human history.

Einstein’s concept of beauty is that it resonates with the awe at the beauty and complexity of the cosmos. Certainly, something or Someone must have had a hand in the beautiful design of the cosmos.

Perhaps Einstein saw correctly that the beauty of the universe reflects the beauty of something or Someone beyond the universe. If God had remained silent, we could say no more than Einstein said – that “the vast darkness of the universe presents suggestions of a transcendent beauty.”

Earnest Becker wrote “Man breaks through the bounds of mere cultural heroism; he destroys the character lie that had him perform as a hero in the everyday social scheme of things; and by doing so he opens himself up to infinity, to the possibility of cosmic heroism… He links his secret inner self, his authentic talent, his deepest feelings of uniqueness… to the very ground of creation. Out of the ruins of the broken cultural self there remains the mystery of the private, invisible, inner self which yearned for ultimate significance.

This invisible mystery at the heart of [the] creature now attains cosmic significance by affirming its connection with the invisible mystery at the heart of creation. “This,” he concludes, “is the meaning of faith.”

According to Becker, faith is the belief that despite one’s “insignificance, weakness, death, one’s existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to design by some creative force.

Becker’s ideas about cosmic design and a creative force is not as bold as Einstein’s cosmic perspective that includes a non-traditional God, or “something or Someone” beyond the universe… I interpret this to mean a higher power.

I will end with a quote by Albert Einstein, “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Childhood Obesity Part 1

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in our community some are calling it an epidemic. As the following chart indicates, the prevalence of overweight children and adolescents has increased since 1963. What are the reasons? Who is to blame?

Figure 1. Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents ages 6-19 years

NOTE: Excludes pregnant women starting with 1971-74. Pregnancy status not available for 1963-65 and 1966-70. Data for 1963-65 are for children 6-11 years of age; data for 1966-70 are for adolescents 12-17 years of age, not 12-19 years.


While researching obesity in childhood, I found a lot of stats that gave dollar figures, costs of obesity on our society. The costs are staggering but difficult to understand. I can not wrap my head around billion dollar figures. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates the cost of obesity in children and adults to be $117 billion, $61 billion of that is in direct medical costs.

Much of the blame falls on the parents. The likelihood of a child becoming obese is significantly higher if one or more of his parents are obese. Other factors that lead to children becoming obese include over eating, lack of exercise, over consumption of the wrong types of food such as snack food and processed fast food and metabolism. Another factor to consider is marketing and the influence fast food marketing campaigns have on children.

Serving sizes have grown over the last 20 years. People now, especially kids, are accustomed to large size servings or super size servings. The marketing of soda and fast food makes it hard for us,as adults, to pass up the “deal”. When a medium soda costs 90 cents and the large which is 50% larger than the medium is only 10 cents more, how can you refuse? If it’s hard for adults to pass up the deal how can we expect kids to refrain from having the larger portion. After all, bigger is better! Right? Take this Portion Distortion quiz from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

There are a number of reasons why kids do not exercise as much today as they did years ago. The child’s physical environment may be a contributing factor. Those in urban setting may have no space to play. There may be a lack of open space. There may be crime or traffic that inhibit the child from running around.

The child may live in a suburb. A child in a suburb, as result of urban sprawl, may not be able to walk or ride their bike to school due to distance and lack of bike paths. These children may be left unsupervised after school due to both parents working. These children may be told to stay indoors. These “Latchkey” children play video games and watch television. In the old days these kids may have been allowed to go outside to play because Mom was home, supervising. There just weren’t as many electronics 20 years ago. Video games were not as prevalent. Cable TV and satellite television didn’t televise cartoons 24 hours a day on 10 different channels. The child may not have role models to look up to. The child’s parents may be obese and they don’t model good exercise or healthy living habits.

Kids today have it rough. I know, as adults we tell our kids how tough it was back in the 70’s and 80’s but really, we didn’t have the distractions kids have today. This was part one of a two part blog about childhood obesity. Next week I will discuss the marketing of fast food and snack food and role we play as parents to keep our children healthy and happy.

Format For Writing a Newspaper Article

Writing articles for newspaper is such a rewarding experience as you can share information to thousands of people. If your articles are of high quality, you can potentially make a living by sinking your teeth into this endeavor. Before you can make that happen, you will need to learn how to write newspaper articles using the correct format.

1. Headline. This is the part where you tell your readers what your topic is all about. You can use your headlines to draw more attention by making them punchy and very descriptive. Your target readers must have a solid idea about the gist of your content by just looking at your headlines.

2. Byline. This is the part where you include your name as the author of your article. Just beneath this part, you can indicate the date when the article was published.

3. First paragraph. This is the most important paragraph when writing newspaper articles. Thus, it must be well-written, highly informative, and content-rich. Your readers must find all the important information in this part. You must also be able to answer all the questions that they might have in mind.

4. Succeeding paragraphs. Depending on the data that you have gathered, you can use your succeeding paragraphs to present supporting data and quotes from key people involved in your chosen topics.

5. Additional information. This one is optional. If you are writing an article as a follow up on the news that you have reported in the past, you should give your readers background information. This can help in promoting better understanding.

Source by Sean Mize

How To Look At Adversity

We should look at the difficult situations we face with the mind-set to ask ‘what can I learn from this?’ Our perception determines ultimately what we’ll get out of life. If we truly want to be above situations, on top of things, we need to see them from an optimistic point of view.

Optimism is seeing the ”greatest good,” it comes from the Latin word ‘optimus’, meaning ”the best.” From which we get the word optimum from. Another look at the word optimism can be said to be the word ‘ops’ meaning ”power, resources,” coming from the word ”richest” or meaning ”the most esteemed.” Why is this significant? Because when we’re in an optimistic state, when we have an optimistic approach to life we are in our richest, most resourceful condition.

That means we’re at our best, we’re fully equipped in life, and have all the tools we need internally, mentally to face and overcome every event. We’re also esteemed- meaning at our peak, our highest productive state, we perform better, think better and feel better. Productivity is a mind-set and the definitions that break down what a mind and life of optimism is all about, reinforce that.

To perform at our very best, we must see the very best in all that we encounter or come across in life. To be optimistic is about a mentality that enforces a positive outlook on life, It’s having a mind-set that always looks for the best.

An Optimistic Lifestyle

1. It means always having the empowering interpretation, meaning, lesson, beneficial perspective of every situation.

2. You will carry a philosophy of life that resists being a victim, but rather sees that there’s always a way to see beyond challenging circumstances.

3. It also means no matter what happens, you’ll have a mind-set that is strong enough to support you and reinforce positive beliefs.

4. Furthermore the situations you encounter will not discourage you, but rather fuel and back-up your beliefs.

5. You’ll be stable and not up one day and down the other.

Often times I like to say that I am a ‘practical optimist.’ And to me this means seeing things how they actually are, acknowledging the facts. But then taking those details and always asking myself the questions that will help me overcome the situation.

What questions can we ask to strengthen our mind-sets in any difficult situation?

1. Ask yourself what advantages or benefits can I get from this situation. How can I use it to help me?

2. What can I learn from this situation to prevent it from happening again or limit the possibilities of it repeating?

3. Who else will I be able to benefit with what I learn?

4. Think about how many other ways you can now apply what you’ve learned to the other areas of your life.

You have the choice; Situations can either work for you or against you, depending on your perspective in life.