Bianca Obermaier, Marketing Manager, Good Hope Studies
Exam preparation courses are motivating: they give students a goal
Exam preparation courses can be a good choice, even for students who do not specifically need the certificate. It is both a motivating and a useful way to learn a language, as students get a certificate to prove their level of proficiency at the end of the course.
However, students are far more likely to be successful in an exam if they have a clear idea of what they’re getting into. I asked three of our experienced exam preparation teachers, Sharon McCall, Jerome Murray and Kate Morgan, What key advice would you give to students taking an exam course?. These are their ideas:
Why take an exam preparation course?
For a student who wants to achieve a lot in a short time, it can be extremely motivating to be in a class where everyone is focused on a very clear goal. IELTS, TOEFL and the main Cambridge English suite of exams all focus on a range of language skills, and so while preparing for the exam the students will improve their overall ability to communicate in English.
For students who plan to study for many months, particularly if they are already at a high level when they start their course, it can be beneficial to change pace and focus by moving from a general English class to an exam preparation class.
Of course, many students choose an exam preparation course because they plan to study at an English speaking university, or because they want to be able to prove their language proficiency to potential employers.
What will you learn?
You’ll learn about the exam. When you know what to expect, you’ll feel more confident.
You’ll also learn English for life.
Tips for success
- Record collocations, idiomatic language and lexical chunks – not just words. And write something to help you remember the new lexis. In the speaking and writing exams you’ll be need to show that you know a range of grammar and vocab, including idiomatic language (such as phrasal verbs).
- Gather vocabulary into topic categories (dcielts.com has useful lists and exercises). If this is done systematically from the beginning of the course, it makes last minute revision more manageable.
- Use flashcards to help you remember new vocabulary.
- Use what you are learning. Keep a writing diary or notebook and write in it often. Make a concerted effort to use new vocab every time you have a discussion with someone. The more you use it, the more you will remember.
- When you read, pick out vocabulary (words and phrases) that you think might be useful for you. Then write or talk about what you’ve read to help you remember. Share it with your classmates, and with your teacher, who will highlight useful grammar. There, you’ve created a lesson just for you!
- Have a good filing system, or otherwise you will drown in papers.
- Review your writing after your teacher gives you feedback. Make a note of corrections and avoid making the same mistakes in future writing.
- Know what the requirements for each exam are, are practice doing each part within the time limit.
- Be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be, which you help you achieve your goals.
Immerse yourself in the language
- Read widely for pleasure. Students who read make themost progress.
- Listen to Ted talks, where you’ll find topics that are common in the exams. tedxesl.com has more accurate transcripts than the general site, so you’ll be able to practice listening and reading. www.bbc.com has news podcasts with transcripts. Find other podcasts you’re interested in.
- Your motivation will fluctuate, but keep the two goals in mind. Why do you want to pass the exam? Why do you want to be more proficient in English?
- Build a relationship early on with your classmates. You’ll need to support one another throughout the course. Together you can make this an unforgettable experience.
- It may help to close your eyes and visualise your future self communicating really well in English. Sports people use visualisation to keep them focused, and many language learners have found it useful too
- Take care of your health. Get some exercise and get enough sleep.
- There will be a lot of work, which cannot all be covered in class, so be prepared to do some work outside course hours.
- Remember, the course WILL end – it’s a tiny part of the rest of your life. Therefore, be prepared and willing to make SOME sacrifices (social life, at times) while on it.
- Set short-term goals for yourself. Be sure they are realistic and achievable.
- It can’t ALL be fun and games. Accept that there’ll be ‘boring’ moments. Find the fun in learning something new.
- Talk to your teacher if you have any concerns. Teachers are human and might not always know that something is bothering you.
- Be honest with yourself: are you really doing everything you can in order to progress?
And, lastly, particularly if you’ve travelled far from home to do the course, don’t forget to find the time to have some fun…
Bianca Obermaier is Marketing Manager with Good Hope Studies(www.ghs.co.za). This English language school operates from two different locations in Cape Town, South Africa. One school is located in the upmarket residential area of Newlands while the other school is situated in the vibrant City Centre of Cape Town.
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