How to prepare learners for English language exams?

Sooner or later, most of your students will have to take an exam to get a certificate that can prove their level of English. You, as the teacher, should consider planning the process of preparing them for their exams thoroughly.

Many teachers are not aware of the content and skills that are tested at an exam.  Do not give yourself a hard time by neglecting this! You should identify these elements of language first then you can start to prepare your students for the exam on them. Remember: only specific language skills, active vocabulary and grammar structures are tested by language exams. Make sure you study the requirements of each exam in advance!

Your students should be familiar with the structure of the exam, including the number of questions, the nature of each task and the way they are marked. Be prepared to do some past or model exams with the students revealing the relevant information to them.

When your students work on exam tasks, give them an exact time limit. Make them finish each task within the given time limit so that they become used to working under pressure.  You may give them more time to answer questions or exercises early on, but as you get closer to the real exam, set the same time limit as they were in a real exam situation.

Encourage your students to point out the parts of the exam that feel the hardest for them. It’s a useful routine if your students recognize the areas they need to practice. Focus on these weak points and give your students more opportunity for revision and practice.

The instructions of exam tasks often include strange vocabulary that students do not use in everyday English. Never assume that they are familiar with exam terminologies such as gap-filling or word transformation! Pre-teach the words that are repeatedly used in instructions and check if they're understood correctly.

Past exam papers are often made public. Students will benefit from practising live exam situations with them. Let your students take these previous exam papers. You can also look for exam tasks that reflect the format of the exam on English Exam Tasks and give your students a chance to get themselves familiarised with them.

It could be helpful if you could show your students examples of corrected exam papers to make them see how exam papers are marked. It could be a valuable assistance for them to realise what your expectations are.

Many students make mistakes not because they don’t know the answer, but because they don’t know how to solve a task. For example, in a gapped text exercise, students have to fill in blanks. Many students make the mistake of not reading the whole text, and they try to fill in each gap without getting a general understanding of the entire story. You should train your students to read through the script first, and only then start to complete the gaps.

We hope you can benefit from this summary! More updates will be published on this topic in future posts!

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