Prepared for Exams or Prepared for Life?

Key slides from my talks in Poland 13-17 April 2015

Aims of exams:
Recognition that younger learners need motivation
Challenge and direction for learning
Clear signs of progress
Memorable language learning
Real language skills

Everyone can experience feelings of resolve and a commitment to think more and to dare more … and of being poised to learn and ready to take the next step.
Martin V. Covington, The Will to Learn, Cambridge University Press
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of the desire to go on learning..    
John Dewey, 1938
(1859 – 1952,  American philosopher and educational reformer)

Backwash effect is …the extent to which a test influences teachers and learners to do things they would not otherwise necessarily do

Dangers of exam-driven teaching
Practice tests ad nauseum
Lots of individually done exercises
No learning taking place
Rote learning
Sense of failure
Idea of ‘finishing English’

What do learners need to know to do well in English language tests?
Communicative value of language
Vocabulary / Grammar
Understand written and spoken English
Respond naturally in conversation

Which functions?
explain, describe, tell, ask, invite, offer
deny, suggest, promise, warn, compare, persuade
Approve, boast, confess, emphasise, justify, object, prove, reject

What’s the best way to prepare for speaking tests?
English-rich environment
Speaking integrated with other skills
Speaking planned in the lesson
Regular varied speaking tasks
Lots of opportunities to speak together
Pair and group work
Focus on fluency not just accuracy
Focus on phonology

Exam skills
Understand rubric
Know what is required to do well
Ability to study on their own
Make an ‘educated guess’
Be confident and prepared!

Whatever we do in the classroom, we must remember to:
Continue to develop skills and language as well as examination techniques
Challenge and engage students
Keep students motivated – in the short and long-term
Ensure students see connections between class work and exams
Plan exam preparation lessons accordingly


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