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 preparation classes

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Teaching to the test

  1. 1. Teaching to the Test<br />George Vassilakis<br />Teacher trainer, Author, Examiner Trainer<br />Director Language Certification<br />Peoplecert Group, Athens<br />
  2. 2. Students’ Needs <br /><ul><li>Exam Knowledge
  3. 3. Scope
  4. 4. Level
  5. 5. Structure & Format
  6. 6. Administration
  7. 7. Assessment
  8. 8. Exam Taking Skills
  9. 9. Time management
  10. 10. Test item management</li></ul>Language Knowledge<br />Grammar<br />Vocabulary<br />Pronunciation<br />Language Skills<br />Listening<br />Speaking<br />Reading<br />Writing<br />
  11. 11. Misconceptions: teachers<br />Students need to “do” dozens of practice tests<br />Exam preparation is about doing practice tests<br />Memorisation of model texts for writing can enhance students’ performance in exams<br />Memorisation of question-answer sequences can help students succeed in oral exams<br />Memorisation of long vocabulary lists can help students pass certain parts of the exam<br />
  12. 12. Misconceptions: students <br />Exam questions are recycled.<br />The more past papers I do, the more likely I am to pass the exam.<br />If only I knew the questions I will be asked in the oral exam I could prepare the answers and pass with flying colours.<br />There are items which appear in every exam, every exam period.<br />Now that I have passed level X, I can try level X+1 in a few months: I know the technique!<br />
  13. 13. Syllabus Considerations<br />No matter how familiar the students are with an exam, they are unlikely to pass if they are not at the right level.<br />Learners need to develop appropriate language skills before they start developing exam skills pertinent to a specific exam.<br />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. <br />
  14. 14. Language Knowledge<br />Revision, consolidation and use of grammar in speaking and writing activities.<br />Extension and “specialisation” of vocabulary knowledge.<br />Use of vocabulary in speaking and writing activities.<br />Diagnosis of pronunciation problems and remedial work based on students’ individual problems<br />
  15. 15. Skills Development: Reading<br />Ignoring <br />Understanding reading purpose/task<br />Adopting different reading strategies depending on the purpose/task set<br />Reading between the lines<br />Understanding relationships between parts of the text and how these are signalled using cohesive devices<br />Predicting and anticipating<br />
  16. 16. Skills Development: Listening<br />Ignoring <br />Understanding listening purpose/task<br />Adopting different listening strategies depending on the purpose/task set<br />Developing familiarity with different accents<br />Understanding connected speech phenomena<br />Predicting and anticipating<br />
  17. 17. Skills Development: Speaking<br />Listening to your interlocutor<br />Interpreting tasks<br />Initiating<br />Responding<br />Developing<br />Using appropriate functional language<br />Avoiding, compensating, appealing for help<br />Negotiating meaning<br />
  18. 18. Skills Development: Writing<br />Developing familiarity with different genres (layout, register, purpose, organisation)<br />Understanding tasks and input information<br />Understanding purpose and audience<br />Editing and proofreading<br />
  19. 19. Exam Knowledge<br />Components<br />Timing<br />Variations<br />Assessment criteria<br />Regulations<br />Form<br />Answer sheet<br />Practicalities<br />
  20. 20. Exam taking skills: time management<br />Avoiding wasting time <br />Deciding how much time to spend on each component/part<br />Watching the time<br />Rough notes <br />Making the most of “waiting” time<br />
  21. 21. Exam taking skills:receptive skills<br />Using the questions to determine:<br />Context and purpose of text<br />Approach to the text<br />Using the dictionary (if allowed)<br />Distinguishing between what the text says and what we know about the topic<br />Not worrying about language production<br />
  22. 22. Exam taking skills:multiple choice questions<br />Avoiding word spotting<br />Looking for synonyms/alternative ways of expressing meaning<br />Matching the stem with the options<br />Spotting subtle differences<br />
  23. 23. Exam taking skills:multiple matching questions<br />Considering text organisation<br />Identifying the function of cohesive devices<br />Considering the co-text<br />Avoiding word spotting<br />Willingness to change your mind<br />
  24. 24. Exam taking skills:open ended questions<br />Understanding exactly what the question is asking<br />Focusing on content, not form<br />Extracting specific information<br />
  25. 25. Exam taking skills: writing<br />Answering all of the question<br />Including all relevant information<br />Using the right register<br />Using the appropriate generic conventions<br />Sticking to the word limit<br />Proofreading<br />Fighting obsession with “clean” copy<br />Watching the time<br />
  26. 26. Exam taking skills: speaking<br />Avoiding prepared answers<br />Developing the interaction<br />Listening to the examiner/interlocutor<br />Checking understanding of the task<br />Keeping going!<br />
  27. 27. Exam taking skills:practice tests<br />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.<br />Students need to see practice tests and understand the format, layout and requirements of the exam.<br />Practice tests cannot replace teaching.<br />
  28. 28. Exam taking skills:mock exams<br />Mock exams are used a short time before the exam so that:<br />the students form a clear idea of what exam conditions to expect<br />the students level in relation to the exam is diagnosed<br />remedial help and/or feedback can be offered<br />
  29. 29. Exam taking skills:feedback on practice / mock tests<br />Feedback should focus on both exam-specific skills and language knowledge/skills<br />The students should be given an accurate idea of their level in relation to the exam<br />The students should be given specific advice/tips on how to overcome their weaknesses in terms of exam technique<br />If possible/appropriate, the students should be given remedial instruction and/or guidance<br />
  30. 30. Good Luck!<br />Thank you!<br />giorgos.vassilakis@peoplecert.org<br />

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