Six steps to exam success: Understand your exam

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6 steps to exam success balance your teaching

This is the first part of our exam preparation series: 6 steps to exam success. Read more about the upcoming webinars in our post: 6 steps to exam success: a series of webinars to help you prepare your students.

Lindsay will also be speaking at IATEFL 2019 on Wednesday 3rd April from 5:30pm-6:15pm in room 1b.

She’ll be talking about the new Cambridge B1 Preliminary exam and how to help learners recognize success. Her workshop will provide hands-on experience of using learning intentions, models, success criteria and feedback for the revised speaking and writing papers to promote learning. The activities used come from the new Gold B1 Preliminary and Gold Experience B1 course books.

You can download her proposal here.

Understanding your exam

Knowing an exam is important for any teacher who wants to help students develop the skills and strategies they need to pass it successfully. Here, Lindsay Warwick looks at the Cambridge Exams – 2020 A2 Key/Key for Schools, 2020 B1 Preliminary/B1 Preliminary for Schools, B2 First/B2 First for Schools, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency – examining each of the four papers and looking at the skills students need to be successful.

These exams are designed to test a learner’s ability to function in English, in different situations.

At A2 Key and B1 Preliminary, the test focuses on everyday situations. By B2 First the themes start to become more abstract. At C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency, the exams focus on the ability to function in professional and academic contexts.

The A2 Key for Schools, B1 Preliminary for Schools and B2 First for Schools exams also ensure that material is relevant to the age and interests of the test taker and not just their level.

Reading and Use of English paper

Candidates read a range of authentic text types and complete multiple choice, multiple matching and gapped text tasks. They’re tested on the ability to understand the main message, specific information, detailed information and text structure. At B2 and above, they also have to understand opinions, attitude, tone, purpose and implication.

Paper 1 also includes tasks which test candidates’ use of English. Formats include multiple choice cloze, open cloze, keyword transformations, word formation. For these tasks, learners need to understand a range of grammatical structures relevant to the level, as well as collocation and the precise meaning of words at the most basic level, and phrasal verbs, idiomatic language, fixed expressions, affixation at B2 and above.

Listening paper

Candidates listen to conversations and monologues ranging from everyday topics (A2 Key and B1 Preliminary) to more complex, abstract topics (B2 First upwards). Tasks include multiple choice, sentence completion and multiple matching.

At A2 Key and B1 Preliminary levels, learners need to identify key information.

At B2 First upwards, learners also need to understand opinions, feelings and other functions such as suggestion. The information is more abstract and inference may be needed.

Speaking paper

Candidates complete tasks that involve answering questions, speaking at length for a minute and having a discussion with another candidate. At A2 Key and B1 Preliminary levels, the questions are simple in nature, personal and based on learners’ likes, dislikes and simple opinions. At B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency, the concepts become more abstract in nature, requiring learners to express more complex ideas, opinions and to justify them.

Writing tasks

Candidates write a range of text types from a message and story at A2 to an essay and either an email/letter, report, proposal or review at C1 level. This means knowing how to structure different genres of text appropriately, using the appropriate tone.

In my next blog post, I’ll be looking at how we can balance the teaching of skills with exam preparation. This will ensure our students prepare for the real world and not just for the test.

If you enjoyed reading about Cambridge Exams watch the recording of Lindsay’s webinar now.

Cambridge exam preparation materials with students in mind

We offer a range of Cambridge English preparation materials for all ages and levels.  Our exam experts, consultants and teachers support the development of our courses to make sure they meet current exam specifications while offering you engaging classroom activities at the same time.

Gold (New Edition) – 4 levels (B1 – C1)

After speaking to teachers around the world, our best-selling course – Gold – has been revised and updated. Full of stimulating, discussion-rich lessons, this four-level series will give your students the confidence they need to pass the B1 Preliminary, B2 First and C1 Advanced exams.

Download a sample now.

Gold Experience (2nd Edition) – 8 levels (A1 – C1)

Teaching teenagers? Then Gold Experience (2nd Edition) is just what you are looking for. As well as preparing students for Cambridge exams, this engaging course helps students develop a range of 21st-century skills like debating, critical thinking and creativity.

The second edition is now available from levels A1 – C1.

Download a sample now.

Expert – 3 levels (B2-C2)

Our more intensive course, Expert helps support ambitious students as they prepare for their B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency exams.

Revised for the 2015 exam changes, the 3rd Edition develops language awareness and communication skills as well as test-taking skills.

Download a sample now.

Practice Test Plus – 7 levels (Pre-A1 – C1)

We also offer a series of practice test books. Full of example papers and exam tips, these are the ideal resource to accompany your course. Now available: A2 Key for Schools, B1 Preliminary, B2 First, C1 Advanced as well as the Young Learner exams – Starters, Movers and Flyers.

Find out more.

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