You or your group may be working towards a recognised language qualification
the Qualification Map ).
All qualifications involve some kind of examination or assessment.
Sometimes this is continual assessment - either based in a college
or workplace - and sometimes a more formal series of examinations
or tests, often divided into the 4 skills of listening, speaking,
reading and writing.
Alternatively, your college may have developed their own assessment
tasks and tests to monitor progress.
Try not to think of an assessment or examination as something you
need to, or are able to, cram for. Language skills are built up
gradually through exposure and practice and any test or examination
should be a natural part of this. A language examination is not
like a geometry test - you can't leave the revision until two days
before and then mug up on all the formulae. However, there are some
things you can do to prepare both mentally and physically for an
examination or important assessment.
Most of the general advice for examinations is common sense and
designed to help eliminate unnecessary stress:
- Plan to start revising early - 5/6 weeks before the exam.
- Plan your revision timetable in short but frequent slots (i.e.
20 minutes once a day rather than 3 hours once a week).
- Familiarise yourself with the exam or assessment structure.
Most qualification boards
will make past papers available for you to practice (see Language
Organisations: Exam boards ).
- If possible, plan to do at least some of your revision with
a friend or colleague.
On the day:
- Get plenty of rest the night before.
- Check you have all the correct equipment (dictionary, pens,
- Make sure you know exactly where you're going.
- Turn up early.
- Go to the toilet before the exam.
- Read the exam paper carefully and plan your time.
- Allow time to check your answers - don't leave a question blank.
The two main areas where you can most usefully revise for a language
examination are vocabulary and basic grammar rules. You can also
do things to improve your confidence in listening and speaking.
Vocabulary is a key pillar of language learning. It's not much help
knowing all the different types of verb ending if you can't remember
the word for "college" or "learn". The range
and scope of
vocabulary required for any particular qualification will vary but
try to ensure you have instant recall of the key words and phrases
and can spell them accurately. Some ways of revising vocabulary
- Look at the glossaries at the end of the Access units. Cover
the English and try to remember the words and phrases. Then reverse
the process, this time saying and spelling out the vocabulary.
Work your way down the list and also up to vary the order.
- Write out vocabulary on small cards (up to 20 at a time), with
the English on the other side. Shuffle the cards and try to recall
the vocabulary. Keeping shuffling and checking until you can remember
them all both ways around.
- Write out the first and last letters of words, leaving blanks
for the letters in the middle. Then try to fill in the blanks
without referring to the original list.
- Try to make sentences containing the word or phrase. This will
help you to remember them.
- Make up some games you can play by yourself or with a friend.
For example, you could play the memory game: put 10-15 objects
or word cards on a tray and look at for 30 seconds. Then cover
and write those you can remember.
It's useful to look back at the main grammatical points before an
examination or assessment, especially if you know you often make
mistakes in particular structures. Concentrate on the irregularities
and exceptions as these are harder to retain.
- Look at the Structure summary at the end of the Access
book. Write out your own summary notes. This will help you to
remember the rules and you can also refer to the notes later.
- Apply the rules - make up sentences or dialogues using the
structure or go back to the relevant activities in the Access
book and website.
- Invest in a supplementary grammar reference and/or workbook,
but make sure it's aimed at the right level.
Listening and speaking
Most language qualifications include a listening and speaking assessment.
These can be intimidating, particularly the oral exam when it is
common to complain that your mind goes "blank". Improve
your confidence by trying some of these strategies:
- Immerse yourself as much as possible in the language. Listen
to radio and TV broadcasts; play the Access
recordings and other language audio material; seek out native
speakers and insist on practising on them.
- Try to predict the topics that will come up. Prepare set phrases
and conversation fillers to match the topics.
- Set yourself oral tasks (such as talking about your family)
and record yourself, or perform in front of a mirror. Recording
is the most beneficial as it enables you to review and assess
your fluency and accent.
- Remember that saying something inaccurate is better than saying
nothing at all.