Preparing for an exam, whether it’s to help you get into a university, qualify for a job, or as a personal challenge you’ve set for yourself, can seem like a daunting task. In our many years of experience of preparing students for various exams, there are a few tips that will help make the process easier and slightly less stressful!
Before you even start preparing for an exam, any kind of exam, you should really make sure that your level of General English corresponds to the score you’re hoping to achieve on the exam. If you want to pass the Cambridge FCE exam with an A grade, for example, you’ll have to be quite a strong B2 to do so. Once you’ve got your level of English up and you’re comfortable using the grammar and vocabulary that is expected of that level, the actual preparation for the exam isn’t as difficult as you may think.
One key strategy we’ve come across in our years of teaching is knowing how to say the same thing in different ways. The wording of questions will almost never be the same as what comes up in the answers – whether it’s Listening, Reading, or Use of English. Remember this when doing the exam – look for synonyms, phrases with similar meanings, collocations, and of course everyone’s favourite: phrasal verbs!
Read broadsheet newspapers, magazines, books; anything aside from your textbook. Familiarizing yourself with language beyond what you’re exposed to in your textbooks will definitely be an advantage and help you along in your exam preparation: you’ll read faster, understand more, expand your vocabulary, and feel more comfortable when faced with words you haven’t come across before.
The more familiar you are with the exam and know the ins and outs of each section, the more likely you are to feel relaxed on the exam day, and know how to manage your time while writing. Time yourself at home. Practice the speaking tasks with a friend. Write as much and in as many different styles as you can.
Most importantly, remember this age-old bit of advice: get a good nights’ sleep the night before and eat a healthy breakfast on the day of the exam!
Laura Mould is Sales Executive with Excel English. This London based school offers Cambridge (FCE & CAE) and IELTS exam preparation (www.excelenglish.co.uk).
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