Exam preparation courses are demanding and can quickly become very stressful. Focused and well prepared students will have a better chance of making the most of their experience.
Language qualifications are a proof of a student’s language skills. They are usually a requirement for university entry or jobs. But exams also serve another purpose: “they are motivating and they give students a goal” (Bianca Obermaier, Good Hope Studies). Students are much more likely to be successful if they are focused and know what they want to get out of the course.
Here are a few useful tips for students before enrolling on a language exam preparation course.
When you enrol in an exam preparation course, make sure that the qualifications you will obtain are recognised by your future university or employer. For some languages, there are only a few options available.
When preparing for exams, a lot of work has to be done outside of class hours. Make sure you are in the right environment, whether you are staying with a host family, a residence or a hotel. Heidi Rizzo (ESE Malta) recommends that you find “a place were you can find peace and quiet and good communication facilities, but most importantly you need a space which you can call your own and where you can study comfortably”.
You may also choose a place where you can watch TV, write emails, read books or practice with native speakers, and were you can actually “take responsibility for your own learning”, as recommended by Laura Dwyer-Canton (ACET).
Enrolling in an exam preparation course may help you make huge progress, but it is crucial that you have the right level of language in the first place. Your level should correspond to the score you’re hoping to achieve on the exam, according to Laura Mould (Excel English). For instance, it takes on average 12 weeks of full-time study to improve by half an IELTS band, and often more if you are from a country that uses a different alphabet (Vicki Craig-Ariyo, Glasgow School of English). So make a realistic assessment of your skills: grammar, reading, listening and speaking.
Of course you will be reviewing grammar concepts during the course, but the exam preparation should mainly focus on “getting to know the exam environment” (Tamara Swift, Global Village Hawaii).
Save money, make sure you pass the exam the first time, says Muriel Farin (College International de Cannes). So don’t hesitate to ask the teachers to help you with methods and learning tips. Elizabeth Lucht (ELC Santa Barbara) reminds students that “teachers who teach exam preparation courses understand the demands of the course and will provide necessary support”. So make sure you take advantage of the resources that are offered by the teacher or institution.
There are many exam preparation tips for students: read, practice, eat well, learn different ways of expressing the same thing, get some rest, reduce stress, etc…
“When taking an exam course, students should understand that the workload is more intense than general courses”, says Elizabeth Lucht. So keep your ultimate goal in mind–whether you want to pass the exam for personal gratification, pass in order to get into a university, or pass in order to obtain a better career. This will help you remember why working hard and investing the time into studying is important.
Article written by International Association of Language Centres (IALC).
Contributors from IALC-accredited language schools:
– Vicki Craig-Ariyo from Glasgow School of English | school profile | website and Rosemary Rowley from Global School of English-Edinburgh | school profile | website
– Marion Feuchtenberger, Director, GLS German Language School Berlin | school profile | website
– Akiko Okamoto Ferris, Marketing Manager with The London School of English | school profiles: Canterbury & London | website
– Walter Denz, owner and co-founder of Russian language school Liden & Denz | school profiles: St Petersburg & Moscow | website
– Lee Shutler, Director of Studies with Hilderstone College | school profile | website
– Rachel Kuang, School Manager with Mandarin House | school profiles: Beijing & Shanghai| website
– Laura Mould, Sales Executive, Excel English | school profile | website
– Elizabeth Lucht, Director of Courses , Director of Marketing with ELC Santa Barbara | school profiles: Boston, Los Angeles & Santa Barbara | website
– Muriel Farin, Responsable pédagogique, College International de Cannes | school profiles | website
– Heidi Rizzo, Exam Coordinator, ESE, Malta |school profile | website
– Bianca Obermaier is Marketing Manager with Good Hope Studies | school profile | website
– Andreas Carrión, Marketing Department, Escuela de Idiomas Nerja | school profile | website
– Tamara Swift, Director of Studies, Global Village Hawaii | school profile | website
– Jay Dea, Director of Studies, Byron Bay English Language School | school profile | website
– Laura Dwyer-Canton, Academic Manager, ACET | school profile | website
Read more on Language examinations and exam preparation courses.
Information on the IALC accreditation and full list of IALC schools.