Exam preparation guide
How to prepare your students for exams - for teachers; Exam preparation tips - for students; Personal Experience - Svetlana Malinovskaya;
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR STUDENTS FOR EXAMS
People start learning a language with different goals in mind: learn basic survival English, feel more confident when travelling, prepare for a job interview or an international conference. Yet one of the most frequent requests is to prepare for a particular English exam: IELTS, TOEFL, FCE, CAE and so on. We wrote a detailed guide to these exams previously, and now it’s time we discussed what you can do as a teacher to help your students get ready for their exam.
Before you get to the actual work you need to do some research into what you are dealing with. Ask your students some clarifying questions:
Why have they chosen this particular exam?
It may be so, that the student picked the exam at random not really knowing what the certificate will give them. So, it may be necessary to explain where the test results will be accepted, and what benefit it can be to the student. Sometimes, students want to take a test as a form of a tangible goal they can set to stay focused and motivated. In this case, you might help them find a better source for motivation.
What is their starting level?
Doing a placement test is basically an mandatory part of every first lesson with a student. This is not an exception!
How much time do they have?
Knowing that and the student’s level, you will be able to accurately estimate if they will be able to get ready on time. If the deadline is too soon, you may need to discuss some potential alternatives with your student, offer to increase the intensity or amount of lessons and agree on how much they should do on their own between the classes. You must reasonably assess the student’s chances, and warn them if the success is not very likely to avoid them having false expectations.
The test and assessment criteria
Then next stage is to go through the test with your student and study what parts it has, how much time each part takes and what the different tasks they may encounter are. When you have familiarised yourselves with the test, discuss various assessment criteria. When the student knows what exactly the examiners will pay attention to and how they will be assessed, it helps them and you understand what needs to be improved and worked on, it gives them more confidence.
After that you may want to give your student a mock exam - a trial run through all the test parts as it would be in the real exam including timing. It not only introduces the student to the format, but also helps you identify what the student’s strengths and weaknesses are and what you should focus on first and foremost. It is wise to plan such mock exams throughout the curriculum, so that you can keep track of the student’s progress and make sure all skills are developing evenly. Do another final mock exam at the end of your preparation work to help the student get in the right mindset and see how well they have prepared.
Choose the materials
There are a lot of different books for exam preparation, the full list can be found on official websites together with practice tests. The best way to approach it is to select one book for preparation (such as Objective series) and supplement it with various vocabulary and grammar materials. Amazy platform already has a great number of ready made lessons for different exams that you can save to your profile (completely free of charge) and use with your students:
1. Listening Exam Practice - the lesson introduces the structure, trains vocabulary and has a great variety of tasks.
IELTS Listening - another lesson that introduces different types of tasks and helps the students get familiar with the structure. Can be used as homework!
2. IELTS reading - includes different types of reading exercises, tips and techniques
3. IELTS writing academic part 1 and part 2 - includes a lot of vocabulary work, introduces Part 1 of Academic IELTS - describing a graph and also Part 2 - writing an essay.
IELTS writing Part 2 - explains the essay format and helps students write their first essay.
4. IELTS Speaking - a detailed guide to all speaking parts of the exam, including tips and techniques, practise and examples.
5. Only a game: IELTS (B1) - a lesson that includes tasks of the IELTS format (i.e. matching paragraphs and headings), revises perfect tenses and teaches sport vocabulary.
6. Brands: IELTS (B1) - focuses on the marketing vocabulary and helps with IELTS exam preparation - has listening, reading and speaking sections
1. Speaking - all tasks analysis with actual examiner’s scripts and a video of an exam
2. Speaking practice - more practical exercises with timers, tips and useful vocabulary
3. Writing Part 2 - a very thorough and deep analysis and preparation for writing an essay for CPE writing Part 2.
Do you prepare for any international exams? Do you have any tips to share? Please, leave your ideas in the comments!
10 Quick Tips for Successful Exam Preparation
There are always various activities that can be done separately or combined in enhancing one’s experience. Herewith, there are few guidelines respectively outlined to serve as a practical reference.
Give yourself enough time to study
Make a study schedule that fits your way of studying and do not leave anything for the last minute. While some students do seem to thrive on last-minute studying, often this way of partial studying is not the best approach for exam preparation. Write down how many exams you have, how many pages you have to learn, and the days you have left. Afterwards, organize your study habits accordingly.
Make sure your study space is organized
Make sure you have enough space on your desk to spread your textbooks and notes. Ensuring that the room is sufficiently bright and your chair restful enough are also points to consider. Pay attention to details that can distract you and remove them from your study space. Make sure that you feel comfortable in your study space and that you are able to focus. For some individuals, this may mean complete silence, while for others listening to music helps. Some of us need complete order to focus, while others like to study in a more cluttered environment. Make sure your study space is friendly and
pleasant so that you can fully concentrate.
Use flow charts and diagrams
Visual aids can be especially helpful when revising study material. At the start of a topic, write down everything you already know about the subject. Closer to the exam, transform your revision notes in a diagram. In that manner the visual remembrance can aid to your readiness considerably when taking the exam.
Practice on old exams
One of the most effective ways to prepare for exams is to practice with an old version of previous exams. Also, an old test will help you see the format and formulation of the questions and it will be good for you to know what to expect but also as a worthy practice for measuring the time you need for the actual test.
Explain your answers to others
With the help of your family and friends, you could excel on your exam. Explain them your reasoning for why you have answered a certain question in a certain way.
Organize study groups with friends
Study groups can help you get the answers you need and finish tasks faster. Just make sure the group is focused on the subject and they are not easily distracted.
Take regular breaks
Regular breaks are needed for the brain to regain its focus. It is not the best tactic to study long hours because long-term retention of knowledge is almost impossible. The most important part of studying is to develop a routine that fits your study style.
Snacking on healthy food is good for the brain
You should not eat unhealthy food while you are studying. Keep your body and brain fit by choosing natural, fresh and vitamins rich food that is good for you and would improve your concentration and memory.
Plan the day of your exams
Check all the rules and requirements for the exam. Plan your route and the time it may take you to reach your destination – then add on some extra time. You do not want to arrive late and deal with even more anxiety.
Drink plenty of water
While studying for exams and even during an exam, it is advisable to drink water. Remaining hydrated is vital and adds to your overall positive mood.
Have you taken any international exams? How did you prepare for them - yourself or with a teacher? What can you advise someone who is planning to take an English exam?
Hi! My name is Svetlana Malinovskaya. I am an experienced English teacher and coach. I provide English lessons for adults and also hold mentoring sessions for teachers.
What kind of exams do you prepare your students for? What do you find to be the hardest thing about such preparation? What do you like about it? What can you recommend other teachers?
I prepare for IELTS, ЕГЭ, TOEFL, business benchmark and I also help with TKT preparation for teachers. The students who come to me with exam preparation request are usually planning to move for work or study abroad. One more reason is to get a promotion at work.
The hardest thing for me about this is that people can lose their motivation sometimes. What I like is that taking the exam is about helping people change their lives completely after passing, so a teacher feels related and proud.
I would like to share my experience in exam preparation. The tips below can help you when teaching IELTS. There is a vk group of mine as well, where I have collected plenty of materials, links and ideas for creative lessons.
Tip 1: Level-up mistakes correction
If a student’s goal is to improve writing, then you can try this tip. There are certain stages to this type of lesson, but note that a student must already know the assessment criteria.
Find or write a model answer. For example, IELTS writing task 2. The main idea is that the answer must not be meeting the criteria.
For example, there can be mistakes in grammar, organisation or any others. Better if they repeat
Give some time to let the student read the model answer.
Show the band score of the essay.
Ask the student why the band is like that. Discuss and write down the comments.
Give your student some time to rewrite the essay using the notes.
Brilliant! Now your student is unlikely to repeat the mistakes they have come across in the model answer.
Tip 2: Speaking strategies to get a higher score
Here is a lesson plan for preparing your students for IELTS Speaking part 2:
Give a background story: What happened before?
Give opinions (yours and others): What’s your attitude and what about others?
Use ‘which, when, that’ words: This can help if there is nothing else to say but the time is left.
Compare things: You can send different expressions of comparison to your students as a checklist and ask them to use it every time they are training for speaking part 2.
Tip 3: practice tests
The mock exams are mandatory at the beginning and the end of the course to know the progress, but I recommend sending and passing the demos as often as possible. I send online IELTS tests as homework - sometimes one of 4 parts, and rarely the whole test to take.
Would you like to become a contributor and be featured in our newsletter? Let us know!
That’s all for now!