What should I bring? Is spelling important? How should I prepare? These may be questions you’re familiar with if you help candidates prepare for exams. If you don’t have all the answers, don’t worry, help is at hand. The new Information for Candidates booklets are designed to give your learners all the information they need about their exam, but they are also a valuable teaching resource.
This blog post looks at four questions candidates often ask about their exam, with some helpful teaching ideas taken from these booklets.
What happens on exam day?
Knowing what to expect on exam day helps candidates to prepare and feel confident. Having a clear idea of what to bring and what happens when they step through the door helps candidates to focus on doing their best in their exam. The new Information for Candidates booklets have the answers to these questions.
Tip! In class, discuss exam-day routines. Share some of your own, for example getting lots of rest the night before, eating well, or the music you listen to. Ask learners to exchange ideas about what works for them, and what they expect to happen on the day of the exam. Watch a candidate’s exam-day experience and use the video to clarify anything learners are unsure of.
What’s the exam like and how should I approach it?
Exam knowledge is an important part of any preparation course. It helps candidates manage their time and choose the best ways to approach tasks in each paper.
Make sure you’re familiar with the exam. For example, the number of questions, the amount of time, how marks are awarded, the types of questions, texts, and the number of times each recording is heard. However, try not to give candidates too much information all at once as they might not remember it.
Give learners opportunities to discuss, share, and check what they know and can remember about each paper as they work towards the exam. This helps them feel confident, able to manage their time and concentrate on their answers when they open their paper on exam day.
As well as providing all this exam information, the Information for Candidates booklets have lots of clear, practical tips for each part of the exam. Encourage learners to try these tips, using them regularly during preparation.
Tip! After each practice activity, ask learners to think about what they did, and note:
- things to stop doing
- things to keep doing
- things to start doing.
These can then be organised into personalised ‘traffic light’ checklists. Here’s an example from the B2 First and B2 First for Schools Speaking paper:
|Things to stop doing
||interrupt my speaking partner
|Things to keep doing
ask for the question to be repeated if I don’t understand
|Things to start doing
||show interest in what my partner is saying (eye contact, nodding)
Referring to checklists before practice activities reminds learners what to focus on. It’s motivating to see the ‘keep doing’ category grow when they review their speaking performance. This is a useful individual activity, but why not encourage learners to give each other feedback on their speaking?
Tip! You can help develop learners’ awareness of speaking strategies in the classroom. Firstly, ‘model’ the strategies, then ask learners to watch videos of candidates completing their Speaking exam on the Cambridge English YouTube channel. Ask them to identify examples of candidates using the speaking strategies you discussed in class.
How can I prepare for my exam?
Practice tests are an important part of exam preparation. They help candidates develop familiarity with the exam and give learners a chance to use the exam strategies they have practised in class. Doing practice tests against the clock allows learners to practise their timing so they feel prepared on exam day.
The best preparation is spending time developing their English language knowledge and skills. Language skills improve with practice. Learners need to use English, to speak, write, listen and read as much as possible. Help learners identify useful and enjoyable ways of using English outside the classroom with discussion that explores their interests and the language skills they most need to work on.
Tip! The ‘Study tips’ sections in each of the Information for Candidates booklets offer lots of ideas for developing English skills in the classroom and beyond. Here’s a tip from the section on Reading and Use of English in the B2 First for Schools booklet. You can use it in class by asking your students to think of all the different types of text they read in their own language, discussing what they enjoy reading most. For homework, ask them to find an article, book or blog, for example, in English on a topic they are interested in. Ask them to bring it to the next class, where they can talk about why they chose it and what they learned from it.
What happens next?
After the exam, encourage candidates to celebrate their success. This provides a sense of achievement. It’s helpful for candidates to reflect on how they feel, what they can do now, and what the next step in their English language journey might be. They may be preparing for a higher-level exam, beginning a course of higher education, travelling, studying, working abroad or progressing in their career. The message is to keep learning.
Share the booklets with your learners
The new Information for Candidates booklets are full of tips, suggestions and links to further resources. Please share the booklets with your learners, and why not try some of the above ideas in your lessons?
Or watch our webinar Preparing learners for success in Cambridge English Qualifications: new Information for Candidates, to find out more.