EFL Exams and Resources: How do I test my students?
Diary submitted by Robyn T.
According to the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) the highest band/ expert user should have fully operational command of the language: to be appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding. When helping students to pass their English exams whether they are Trinity, IELTs or Cambridge I think the main thing should be the accuracy and fluency and understanding of the language.
When I was learning French and German at school I used to write a few paragraphs in the relevant language and memorise it word for word to recite in my oral test. This is not the correct way of learning and passing an exam in a foreign language and I think therefore the main aim of helping students pass their exams is to get them to a level of awareness and fluency to answer all questions in a way that suits them.
So far I have taught lessons to help students with FCE, IELTS, CAE, TOEFL and TRINITY, they are all different in minor ways, focusing on different topics or uses of language but overall they are looking for the same criteria. At the start of the lesson I will determine how nervous and prepared the student is by asking them a few questions. I will then ask if they would like to discuss possible answers and views on the test questions or if they would like a mock test. If their confidence is high and their English seems comprehensible, I will add in a few exercises of my own to help them improve their improvisational skills when speaking English.
For example I have been teaching a student preparing for a level C1 FCE exam, and after 3-4 sessions with him I had realised his use of english and grammatical understanding was very high. His concern for the actual exam was the immediacy and pressure of answering in the moment. To tackle this I thought it best we record his timed answers so he could really get a sense and feel for how the exam would be. When listening back he could identify his own mistakes and didn’t tend to make those again in the session. In some cases I think it is more helpful to identify and listen to our own mistakes and not repeat them again.
Albert Einstein famously said:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
To improve the student’s ability to think and use his English skills on the spot I would often play an English talking radio station called London’s Biggest Conversation, I would ask him to listen for 2-3 minutes and then I would ask him to summarise what he had heard afterwards. I also asked the student to write down any new vocabulary he had heard and we would discuss at the end. This was a great way to challenge his knowledge in a more dynamic way and also give him the confidence needed to show his ability and knowledge of English when being tested.