When it comes to learning a language, knowing there’s an exam on the horizon can motivate students to study hard. But with exams currently being cancelled or postponed all over the world, it’s easy to see how learners might feel frustrated – or even lost.
If your students have been working hard in preparation for the PTE General or any other English language exam, they may have suddenly lost their sense of purpose.
So how can you inspire your students to stay motivated, even with no tests on the horizon? Here are some ideas:
1. Set smaller goals and objectives
Tests motivate students because they measure progress and give learners something to work towards. But in absence of exams, it’s important to encourage students to set goals for themselves. And, it’s important these are SMART goals. These are goals or objectives that are:
Let’s say students want to improve their reading skills, for example. To make it a SMART goal, you might encourage them to break down the learning objective like this:
I want to read a whole book in English
This is a specific goal. While the idea of wanting to improve reading skills can be broad and difficult to define, aiming to read a book is concrete and tangible.
I aim to read two chapters in English every week
This is an example of a measurable goal. With it students can clearly measure their progress, which helps to provide them with a sense of accomplishment during their learning journey.
I will begin with a graded reader
If goals aren’t achievable, students may begin to feel discouraged. It’s great for students to take on the challenge of reading an entire book in English, and do so by tackling two chapters a week. But students will struggle if a book is too complex. That’s where graded readers (a short novel with simplified language, graded by language level) can help.
I will read a book by a writer I like
Choosing a book that is relevant to the students’ interests means they are more likely to stick to their goal. Recommend students read books they actually enjoy.
I will finish the book in three months
Setting a timely deadline on the goal is important. If a deadline is too far away, there will be no sense of urgency. But if the timeline is shorter, it will give students more motivation to move forward.
2. Use sample and practice tests
Though many exams have been postponed for the moment, there’s a good chance students will still sit those exams at some point. It can be a good idea to frame this delay as extra time for students to practice – and study like they’ve never studied before!
There are a wide variety of sample and practice tests available online for students who are preparing for PTE General. These samples cover a range of English levels, so teachers have a variety of materials to offer students. Doing more than one practice test, with studying in between, will allow your students – and you – to monitor their progress in a concrete, measurable way.
3. Brush up on some revision strategies
Encourage learners to take responsibility for their own study by looking at some revision strategies. This blogpost has lots of useful ideas when it comes to revising for the PTE General. It covers some very specific tips – such as how to focus on synonyms, paraphrasing and sentence structure. But the article also suggests some more general studying strategies, such as creating an error list on which students write down English mistakes they typically make, so they are more aware of them when speaking or writing.
4. Get online for fresh new activities
Keeping things interesting is important – if your learners are just going over the same old material they’ll start to get bored and frustrated. Playing games online is a good way to practice English for a few moments in their downtime – and there are lots of options available.
Kahoot! is a quiz app with lots of ready-made quizzes, so your students will be able to practice English grammar or expand their vocabulary. If improving listening skills is top of the list, Lyrics Training is an app which uses music to practice listening. You can set different difficulty levels and choose between multiple choice answers or fill-in-the-blanks, so it can be adapted for all levels. Quizlet is another good study tool. Students can create their own sets of flashcards to help them memorize vocabulary – and they can even share their sets with their classmates! For details on these apps and other ideas, check out our post on fun online platforms.
And keep your eye out for a new exam revision app specifically for the PTE General, being released soon. If your students would like to be among the first to try it, they can sign up here.
5. Find a study buddy
Finding someone to study with is a good way for students to hold themselves accountable. You can pair students who have different strengths and weaknesses so that their abilities complement each other. Even if students are studying from home, they can still communicate online, check each other’s work and send each other useful exercises or resources.
There are lots of online resources to promote collaborative work. Students can use video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts to practice their speaking and listening skills together. And for reading and writing, they can share their work in real time using Google Docs and also leave one another comments and suggestions.
6. Make English part of their daily lives
Successful language learners build the language into their daily lives. This is a great practice for your students to establish, and there are lots of opportunities for daily practice even when learning from home. They might want to watch movies and television programs, or do online exercise classes in English. Students can join social network groups for learning English, speak to their friends or classmates online, or even do a language exchange with a native speaker.
For English learners, certificates and qualifications are a way of moving forward. It can be frustrating when everything is on hold. However, keeping your students focused and inspired is possible. Even though tests and exams are canceled for the moment, learning English is all about communication and broadening horizons – two things that are more important than ever for life under lockdown!
Are your learners struggling to stay motivated learning from home? How are you helping to keep them motivated? Share your tips, ideas and advice in the comments!