Wednesday, 26 October 2016

10 Facts Everyone Should Know About How To Prepare For An English Exam

10 Facts everyone should know about how to prepare for an English language exam

Language exams can be very difficult and stressful but unfortunately, for many students learning English, they are unavoidable. So you need to try to stay positive and do the best you can. So here are 10 tips for how to prepare for an English exam.

1. Find out how the examiners will mark your work and what you will get points for. Do you need to use a variety of different grammar structures and tenses? Do you need good spelling? Do you need to be creative? Check what is important and do it! In most cases, the examiners need to see what you can do with the language – this often means it may be better to invent experiences and answers so that you can answer the question well. For example, if you’ve never had a pet but you are asked to talk about one – make it up!

2. Check the rules for the exam carefully. Make sure you know how long you have for each section, how many times you will hear the listening, where you need to write your answers, what the word limits are for the writing, whether it’s better to guess answers (if you don’t lose marks for incorrect answers) or leave blanks (if you lose marks for incorrect answers). Make sure you don’t lose marks unnecessarily.

3. Find old copies of the exam and take practice tests. Make sure you are familiar with the layout of the paper and the timing for each section.

4. Try to attend an exam preparation course to learn specific exam techniques and get feedback from a teacher and learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to improve. Many English courses in England are designed specifically to help students to prepare for exams such as IELTS, FCE and CAE and can really help you to increase your chances of success. If you learn English in the UK, you should also find that your general fluency and confidence in the language also increases as you will be surrounded by the language all the time.

5. When practicing timing, remember to leave a little bit of time at the end of paper to check your work – to check your spelling, make sure you have answered every question, to make sure your writing makes sense and reads well and to make any last-minute corrections.

6. When you are preparing for the exam, set yourself little targets to try and achieve each day or each week – for example you might want to learn the spelling for 10 new words or you might want to take a listening practice test. Keep your targets realistic and celebrate your success when you achieve your targets. This will help you to stay motivated.

7. If you have to write a certain number of words for a writing exam, check how many words per line you write on average so that you can count lines instead of words in the exam. This will make counting your words much quicker.

8. If you need to remember a lot for your exam, experiment with different memorisation techniques. For example, if you want to remember vocabulary, try categorising the words into groups according to topic (e.g. travel / transports / work) or grammar (e.g. verbs + in or verbs + that + clause). If an individual word is really important for you, think about lots of different aspects of the word and draw a ‘spidergram’ to represent it. For example, you could write the definition, the pronunciation, a translation, related words in the same word family, collocations and an example sentence. When writing an example sentence you can also try to write a sentence that is personal and meaningful for you. This should help you to remember the word more effectively. Also try to think about how you learn best: do you remember things if you look at them? If you hear them? If you write them down? Use this to your advantage to help you learn. For example, if you learn by looking at diagrams and drawings, try using highlighters, ‘mindmaps’ and colour-coding to help you remember essay plans or key phrases.

9. On the evening before the exam, try to rest. Don’t do any more preparation but try to relax or do some exercise and go to bed early so your mind is fresh the next day.

10. On the day of the exam, arrive early so that you are not stressed and anxious before the exam starts. Try to stay calm and positive. Imagine yourself passing and doing well.

Put all of these tips into practice and you can't go wron

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Practice Tests For The Certificate Of Advanced English

Practice Test: Certificate of Advanced English

Getting the CAE is a big step on the road to success for many people, whether it is for a job, for study, or just for a sense of personal achievement.  Most people see the Certificate of Advanced English as the gold standard of English – in other words, if you’ve passed the Certificate of Advanced English it is a clear sign that your English is really good.  Some people go on to take the CPE as well, but for many people CAE is the point at which they have proved their English to be of a high standard.

So, how can you make sure that you pass the Certificate of Advanced English?  Well, one way of course is to do practice tests.  To see what you need to do, an obvious thing is to look through past papers, and see what kinds of questions come up again and again.  The best place to start is the Cambridge Practice Test books – if you look at these, you can see authentic past papers from previous exams, which therefore show you exactly what previous candidates had to do.  Try a practice test of reading and Use of English from a practice test book from Cambridge, and you’ll be able to see exactly what collocations, fixed phrases, grammar structures and patterns, and phrasal verbs are in the Use of English, and what types of reading question you have to answer in the reading section. 

One tip with practice tests for the Certificate of Advanced English is that when you have finished a test, and you’ve seen your score, you can then go through the practice test in detail, and make a note of all the phrases and grammar you’ve missed.  Take Use of English part one of CAE, for example.  You can look through your answers, and where you’ve made a mistake, you can note down the correct collocation or phrase.  But also, with CAE, it’s a good idea to look at the other possible answers in the multiple-choice and see why they were not the correct answer, and what is the difference between the four options.  These slight differences of meanings are worth recording, and later on, you will come across some of them in parts of the exam.  That way, you really get value from a CAE practice test, and you get to learn more English as well as being tested.

Of course, you can also do an English course in the UK, where you can learn English in England, and prepare for CAE at the same time as using your language in a real setting.  A lot of the material tested in the Certificate of Advanced English is based on real, spoken English, and so you will get to hear, and use, the language you study in your CAE lessons outside of the class.  Pick a school which has CAE specialist teachers, and you’ll find that your chance of passing is much much higher.  Your range of language will increase, as will your ability to use language confidently and accurately.

So, use CAE Practice Tests well, to get the most out of them, and learn from them, along with some lessons from an experience professional, if you have the chance, in order to give you the best chance of success in passing the Certificate of Advanced English.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Thursday, 6 October 2016

8 Tips which will help you improve your English Grammar

 How to Learn English Grammar

Many nationalities who come to learn English in the South of England are very worried about their grammar, yet their spoken fluency and accuracy is actually very impressive. They are getting the grammar correct, but just don’t know it. Others come to learn English in the South of England with plenty of vocabulary and confidence to speak, but have little in the way of grammatical structure and could definitely do with some help with some grammar basics. English schools get all types of learners and at LSI we like to think we can accommodate all of them.

A lot of the advice below on how to learn English grammar is what is done in class here at LSI and should benefit both the groups described above.
  1. Firstly, when practicing English, try to work out and write down what particular grammar areas you think you are unsure of. Remember that without someone correcting you, you won’t know how accurately you are speaking; you only know you have a problem if they don’t understand you. When this happens, make a note of what you were trying to say. When at LSI, we can direct you to practice activities and explanations from the course books that you get when you arrive here. 
  2. When you read a text, look for and highlight all the examples of the bit of grammar you are looking for. If it is a tense (e.g. present perfect simple), see if you can see any patterns regarding the contexts of when it is used. If it is a conditional sentence, what tenses are used and in what contexts?
  3. Seeing the grammar is one thing, but you need to be able to use it. Try to imagine the kind of conversations you need to have in order to see if your new grammar item seems to work. You then need to practice these conversations as often as possible. We’ll do that in class here but you should also try to do this on LSI Portsmouth’s social activities and conversation clubs and wherever you may travel in our local area – beautiful Hampshire.
  4. If you are particularly worried about a grammar point, don’t be afraid to simply Google it, (e.g., “When do I use the past perfect continuous?). Before you can ask a question like that you might first need to ask Google: “What are the names of the tenses in English?” You may need to translate what you are looking for first but you can get there in the end. The internet is an amazing resource and if all the texts you find say more or less the same thing, they are probably correct.
  5. All the English language course books that you get given when you arrive at LSI have a very clear and simple grammar explanation section. Use them; it is possible to teach yourself.
  6. This may sound mad, but try having a conversation in English in your head, with yourself. When you get stuck, make a note of the problem. Then try to describe to your teacher what you were trying to say.
  7. Try learning the grammar by function. In other words, think: “I need all the grammar and typical vocabulary to complain / praise / persuade / negotiate / reminisce…whatever the function might be. You will find that we tend to use a set number of phrases to carry out that function. This leads to number 8.
  8. Be aware that many English sentences are made up of groups of words that frequently go together. The more English you are exposed to, the more you realise that what you think of as “grammar,” is not so important!
So if you really want to learn English, and you want to improve your English grammar, try putting these tips into practice.