Cu ocazia webinarului gratuit organizat in data de 29 aprilie 2023, am stat de vorba cu Vaughan Elliott, autorul cartilor de teste pentru examenele A2 Key for schools si B1 Preliminary for schools aparute la editura Regency Books din Marea Britanie, care a avut amabilitatea de a ne raspunde la cateva intrebari despre experienta personala dar si despre aspecte diverse privind pregatirea pentru aceste doua examene.
Could you tell us a little about your background and your experience in the field of English as a second language?
I have been involved in English examinations for 25 years mainly in central Europe, both as an examiner and examiner trainer. However, my day job is teaching, and over the years I must have prepared over a thousand students for Cambridge exams. I have also consulted on multiple CEFR implementation projects in different educational settings around the world as well as presented at many conferences.
You are well-versed in all aspects of A2 Key/ B1 Preliminary exams. Which is the part of the test that you feel is the most challenging for candidates? Any top tips?
The top tip with exams is always the same – learn to do the exam. Exams are like anything – you have to learn to do them, so exam skills are key – learn the format of the exam so you know exactly what is coming. That said, it’s easier to improve the speaking and the writing parts the most quickly. The receptive skills are trickier so you need to start practising these as early as you can. Students think the reading is easy, but they often get caught out.
Your books include full tasks for the speaking tests. How important is it for students to prepare thoroughly for this task and do they get better marks in the exam if they are familiar with the format of the speaking test?
It’s the one part of the test students worry about the most. However, looking at statements of results, it’s often the part they do best in, so relaxing is important. Thorough preparation involves being able to do, for example, the minute about the picture automatically, so it needs to be practised a hundred times with the same structure.
At B1 Preliminary level, many students get lower marks in writing tests. Why do you think this happens and what can teachers do to help the candidates get better results?
This is true. Teachers often give the writing for homework and kids don’t do it, or if they do, it’s done too quickly. Don’t be afraid to do ‘writing’ in class. Again, structure is key – plan. If you give a question, give out rough paper for planning, but don’t give the answer sheet till 5 minutes in – then the kids have to read the questions and plan. Sticking to the word limit is key. If they write too much, they are probably going off topic!
In your opinion, can proofreading skills be improved in students as young as 12 does attention to detail come with age and experience?
Knowing what to look for is important. In my part of the world we don’t have an article system in L1 (native language) so you can guarantee students will make three or four mistakes every time. Raising awareness of these issues, and learning to proof with them in mind, is a good skill to practise.
Speaking of age, many students in Romania start learning English very early, and are exposed to English daily. Many ambitious parents and educators feel that they are ready to sit English tests quite early. Are students ever considered too young to take lower main suit exams like A2 Key and B1 Preliminary?
There is no lower limit on age but taking the exams depends on the individual, it’s not a race. There’s no point pushing kids into exams too soon. I think the upwards certification has helped here – the fact that if you do really well on B1 Preliminary, your certificate will say B2, so people tend to wait.
Are there any other types of issues with exam preparation that you have encountered more often? What can teachers do to help candidates with these issues?
We all know exams are stressful and that stress is an important factor that stops kids performing well. What can we do about this? I get the students who I know will be nervous, to practise deep breaths before they do a speaking test.
How are the test books that you have written different from other test books on the market? Why should future candidates choose them?
A2 Key for Schools and B1 Preliminary for Schools by Regency Books each contain 6 full practice tests. Most test books contain fewer than 6 full tests. A few other advantages which will help candidates prepare for success and manage costs are: (1) the variety of voices in the listening, (2) B1 Preliminary includes full colour pictures for the speaking component (Part 2) just like in the test, and (3) through Regency Books’ partner in Romania (Asociata InstruIT), audio is included with your materials without having to additionally purchase CDs or MP3 files.
Are you planning to write test books for other Cambridge exams as well? When can we expect them?
I am currently preparing a B2 First practice test book. This will be published later this year (2023). The publisher, Regency Books, will also be releasing a B2 Grammar book to accompany this practice test book.