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Teaching to the test


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A presentation by George Vassilakis, Director of Language Certification at PeopleCert, on preparing learners for English language examinations: do's and don'ts, techniques and methods to use in exam …

A presentation by George Vassilakis, Director of Language Certification at PeopleCert, on preparing learners for English language examinations: do's and don'ts, techniques and methods to use in exam preparation classes

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  • 1. Teaching to the Test
    George Vassilakis
    Teacher trainer, Author, Examiner Trainer
    Director Language Certification
    Peoplecert Group, Athens
  • 2. Students’ Needs
    Language Knowledge
    Language Skills
  • 11. Misconceptions: teachers
    Students need to “do” dozens of practice tests
    Exam preparation is about doing practice tests
    Memorisation of model texts for writing can enhance students’ performance in exams
    Memorisation of question-answer sequences can help students succeed in oral exams
    Memorisation of long vocabulary lists can help students pass certain parts of the exam
  • 12. Misconceptions: students
    Exam questions are recycled.
    The more past papers I do, the more likely I am to pass the exam.
    If only I knew the questions I will be asked in the oral exam I could prepare the answers and pass with flying colours.
    There are items which appear in every exam, every exam period.
    Now that I have passed level X, I can try level X+1 in a few months: I know the technique!
  • 13. Syllabus Considerations
    No matter how familiar the students are with an exam, they are unlikely to pass if they are not at the right level.
    Learners need to develop appropriate language skills before they start developing exam skills pertinent to a specific exam.
    Students should not be robbed of their chances to develop the necessary language skills and acquire the necessary language knowledge by concentrating on exam skills from the very start of their course.
  • 14. Language Knowledge
    Revision, consolidation and use of grammar in speaking and writing activities.
    Extension and “specialisation” of vocabulary knowledge.
    Use of vocabulary in speaking and writing activities.
    Diagnosis of pronunciation problems and remedial work based on students’ individual problems
  • 15. Skills Development: Reading
    Understanding reading purpose/task
    Adopting different reading strategies depending on the purpose/task set
    Reading between the lines
    Understanding relationships between parts of the text and how these are signalled using cohesive devices
    Predicting and anticipating
  • 16. Skills Development: Listening
    Understanding listening purpose/task
    Adopting different listening strategies depending on the purpose/task set
    Developing familiarity with different accents
    Understanding connected speech phenomena
    Predicting and anticipating
  • 17. Skills Development: Speaking
    Listening to your interlocutor
    Interpreting tasks
    Using appropriate functional language
    Avoiding, compensating, appealing for help
    Negotiating meaning
  • 18. Skills Development: Writing
    Developing familiarity with different genres (layout, register, purpose, organisation)
    Understanding tasks and input information
    Understanding purpose and audience
    Editing and proofreading
  • 19. Exam Knowledge
    Assessment criteria
    Answer sheet
  • 20. Exam taking skills: time management
    Avoiding wasting time
    Deciding how much time to spend on each component/part
    Watching the time
    Rough notes
    Making the most of “waiting” time
  • 21. Exam taking skills:receptive skills
    Using the questions to determine:
    Context and purpose of text
    Approach to the text
    Using the dictionary (if allowed)
    Distinguishing between what the text says and what we know about the topic
    Not worrying about language production
  • 22. Exam taking skills:multiple choice questions
    Avoiding word spotting
    Looking for synonyms/alternative ways of expressing meaning
    Matching the stem with the options
    Spotting subtle differences
  • 23. Exam taking skills:multiple matching questions
    Considering text organisation
    Identifying the function of cohesive devices
    Considering the co-text
    Avoiding word spotting
    Willingness to change your mind
  • 24. Exam taking skills:open ended questions
    Understanding exactly what the question is asking
    Focusing on content, not form
    Extracting specific information
  • 25. Exam taking skills: writing
    Answering all of the question
    Including all relevant information
    Using the right register
    Using the appropriate generic conventions
    Sticking to the word limit
    Fighting obsession with “clean” copy
    Watching the time
  • 26. Exam taking skills: speaking
    Avoiding prepared answers
    Developing the interaction
    Listening to the examiner/interlocutor
    Checking understanding of the task
    Keeping going!
  • 27. Exam taking skills:practice tests
    Practice tests are there so that you can practise the test: they do not teach the language, nor do they develop skills, they only test them.
    Students need to see practice tests and understand the format, layout and requirements of the exam.
    Practice tests cannot replace teaching.
  • 28. Exam taking skills:mock exams
    Mock exams are used a short time before the exam so that:
    the students form a clear idea of what exam conditions to expect
    the students level in relation to the exam is diagnosed
    remedial help and/or feedback can be offered
  • 29. Exam taking skills:feedback on practice / mock tests
    Feedback should focus on both exam-specific skills and language knowledge/skills
    The students should be given an accurate idea of their level in relation to the exam
    The students should be given specific advice/tips on how to overcome their weaknesses in terms of exam technique
    If possible/appropriate, the students should be given remedial instruction and/or guidance
  • 30. Good Luck!
    Thank you!