We were fortunate enough to meet Stephen Taylor, consultant of Cambridge ESOL Greece, a few weeks ago. During the discussion we had with him, he shared useful exam tips that can help students of various levels enhance their performance in the decisive time of the official examination. This is some of Stephen's advice I would like to share with you, in turn:
1) Word Groups
Brainstorm titles for word categories that are commonly tested (e.g. technology) and write ten related words or phrases underneath (access to the Internet and mobile devices could belong to the example group mentined above). Tell students to choose the five ones that seem easier to learn, circle them and subsequently use them in their written or oral responses, which would immediately convince an examiner to award extra marks. It goes without saying that students themselves can compile vocabulary and then exchange ideas in class about what words to add to or remove from each category and how to use them in an actual sentence. This is one of the functions of our students' so-called phrasebooks.
2) Key Words
Alert students to detect key words in the speaking (or writing) question and use related vocabulary to that specific word group. They should also remember to answer the exact question and not questions stemming from the original one. For instance, if the examiner directly asks 'How do you use technology every day?', the key words certainly are 'technology' and 'every day', but also 'you'. Therefore, the question actually targets at getting candidates to talk about the ways THEY DAILY use TECHNOLOGY, not about the general significance of the latter for our life. As stated in tip number one, words that fall into the 'technology' category should manifest themselves in the examinee's answer.
In the reading section, the correct answer to most of the questions usually constitutes an elaborate paraphrase of a sentence in the text. Once students are able to spot phrases in the answers that are synonymous to phrases in the text, then, most of the times, they will make the right choice. This method, however, is to be dealt with caution, since a baffling exam 'trap' would involve a paraphrased expression in one of the choices which may give true information based on the text, without containing the answer to the specific question. Future candidates can test their reading skills as well as put some of the above theory into practice here: www.usingenglish.com/comprehension