Cambridge PET – informative brochures

If you are like me and you primarily prepare your students to take Cambridge exams, then you always find yourself going in circles and explaining different parts of the examination. It isn’t rocket science but obviously, some parts are more complicated than others. The handbook provided by Cambridge official helps a lot but I often need to explain the same things and answer the same questions over and over again! This is why I came up with a set of easily digested brochures that are handy and answer all the questions for you.

Preparing for the Cambridge exams isn’t a piece of cake. In order to pass, you have to make sure that your students are familiar with each part of it. At the end of the day, it’s an exam and apart from your students’ knowledge, it also tests their ability to quickly and accurately eliminate the incorrect answers and choose the ones that make the most sense.

The Cambridge exam handbook for teachers provides a good explanation of what to do and what our students are expected to know during the exam. In my opinion, these handbooks are a bit too long and require you, a teacher, to explain everything in detail. If you have ever been in the same room with teenagers, then you know that there are moments that information goes in one ear and out the other. That’s why I felt inspired when I saw a bunch of brochures prepared by Write on with Miss G. She’s prepared them to motivate her students to read different book genres. I love the idea of having brochures as you can easily display them in your classroom, or give them to your students to keep nearby if in doubt.

I’ve made four Cambridge PET brochures, each focusing on a different part of the exam: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Let me show you an example brochure to explain what they are about.

Above you can see the “outside” part of the brochure. On the first part of the trifold, you can see the title, picture and just a general explanation of this part. It also tells you how long this part takes in total and how your students should distribute their writing time.

This page also deals with the most common question of How to improve your writing skills. I came up with a few ways in which your students can practise writing on their own and what parts they need to pay attention to at the exam. My favourite way of improving is paying attention to your errors – something that I should be doing more often myself! After you are done writing, read your answer again just to see if it still makes sense and also pay attention to your most common errors. So simple, yet so effective!

At the back, the students can find the scoring system divided into four parts: content, communicative achievement, organisation and language. To score high, your students need to be aware of what the examiner actually wants, so by explaining each part I believe that learners find it much less intimidating and much more doable.

And of course – the resources. Coming to the classes isn’t enough and learners are often expected to put some effort at home. It isn’t ideal but by telling them that the more effort they put in now, the sooner they can move to another level. I included some of the websites that can be used to find extra tasks to do at home. I especially love Write and Improve an official Cambridge website. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a life-changer! Unfortunately, it doesn’t give any specific tasks for B1 level students, but there are so many other exercises that can help with language development.

This is the inside of the brochure. It is divided into three parts: an email, an article and a story. Each part deals with the objectives of this task and what the candidates are assessed on. Each part helps them understand how many words they are expected to write and shows an example picture of the task. All the tasks were taken from the B1 Preliminary for Schools Handbook. Additionally, each part describes different ways in which your students can approach this task and be successful.

As you can see, all the information is condensed to only one page, which means that it’s easily digestible and also can be stored in students’ files and kept nearby at all times. Moreover, you can always keep them out in the open so they can be accessed at all times and they make for a nice classroom display!

If you like what you see feel free to download Everything you need to know about…Cambridge PET writing for free!

The set of brochures contains four PDFs that you can download from my Teachers pay Teachers store. Below you can see a little teaser of what they look like.

I really enjoyed making these brochures and I hope you liked them too! If you find my content helpful, I would appreciate your support.

Cambridge PET – Speaking Part 1

The beginning of a speaking exam can be a nerve-racking experience. Speaking part 1 is designed to break the ice and get to know the candidates.

If you have been following me for some time then you know that I do a series on PET Cambridge exam preparation. Check out my previous lesson plans on Writing Part 1 and Reading Part 1. You can find all the files needed to complete this lesson at the end of the blog post, available to download for free!

Speaking Part 1 is a short warm up before the real deal. The candidates take turns interacting with the interlocutor. The answers should be brief but not too brief.

Phase 1

Start the class by giving a set of questions to one of your students to interview you. Students listen to your one-word answers and write them down. Ask them if they think these answers were good. Obviously, they weren’t good at all! This is a good chance to explain the first point – always use full sentences to answer phase 1 questions. This gives them an opportunity to show their understanding and knowledge of word order and grammar.

As you already gave some time to think about the answers, ask students to work in pairs and practise fluency. One student acts as an interlocutor and the other as a candidate. Afterwards they change the roles. You don’t want your students to memorise the answers but it’s a good idea to have something up their sleeves when they enter the exam hall.

Phase 2

The second phase of the exam consists of personal questions. Candidates may be asked about their daily routine, their past activities, their future plans, any personal details…Normally the questions are quite simple and easy to predict. Even though it seems quite easy, it can be a little bit deceiving as candidates need to show a wide knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and at the same time be able to justify their answers.

Using questions from a B1 Preliminary for Schools Sample Papers you can ask students to elaborate on basic one-clause answers, making them into two-clause sentences! To help them understand the task, for the first two examples provide the first clause. For example, a question How do you get to school every day? can be answered in so many different ways:

  1. I walk to school __________. (example answer: because I live nearby.)
  2. I go by car __________. (example answer: because my dad drops my off on his way to work.)
  3. I go by bike __________. (example answer: because I live nearby and I care about the environment.)

Of course, these are only my suggestions and your students can be as creative as they please – just make sure that the answers make sense and are grammatically correct.

The last two questions are fully blank and students need to think of three different ways in which they can be answered. Since all the answers were provided by students, there is no need to be redundant and ask them the same questions again. Instead you can finish with a group discussion. I have prepared a worksheet with the most commonly asked phase 2 questions that your students can practise by answering them on the spot!

Throughout the lesson you can write the most common mistakes and address them at the end during cold correction session. In this way you avoid interrupting your students and focus on fluency.

Hope you enjoy my PET Cambridge exam preparation series! Stay on the lookout for more lesson plans coming your way! If you are interested, feel free to download the lesson plans and all the worksheets below.

Cambridge PET – Reading Part 1

There is a big difference between reading and understanding the text. In PET reading part 1 students are asked to decipher the meaning of five short texts found in everyday situations.

This is my second post focusing on PET exam preparation. Click the link to check out the first part about teaching PET writing part 1.

In PET reading revised exam for 2020 students are asked to complete six parts. Reading part 1 is relatively easy to look at and quick to complete. Candidates look at five short texts such as an e-mail, a notification, a label, a warning sign, etc. and need to choose a paraphrased sentence that is true to the text. This part is so short and seems so simple that many students may not think too much about it. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving and if we don’t prepare our students to check their answers they may lose some points that can be essential to get a pass.

Just like before using B1 Preliminary Handbook and Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary that can be found by clicking the links or downloaded directly from the Cambridge Assessment English website. I highly recommend checking this website as it is filled with official resources. All the pages needed for this lesson are specified in the lesson plan.

It is a relatively short lesson plan that concentrates on explaining reading part 1 and drills four steps that students should follow in order to ace it. A lesson plan and a four steps worksheet can be downloaded for free at the end of the post.

If your students want to score high in reading part 1, get them used to these four steps!

Step 1 – understand the context

It doesn’t seem like a big deal and students normally can understand the context without any issues, but it is a crucial part. It is essential to understand if a given text is for example a suggestion or an obligation. Let’s imagine a sign at a local food court – “Please be considerate! Make sure your table is clean before leaving”. Is it an obligation or a request? It is a friendly reminder or a suggestion but by no means the clients are obligated to clean the tables. Therefore, once it is clear we know what modal verbs to look for!

Step 2 – underline the keywords

I can’t tell you how many eye-rolls I get when I ask for the keywords! It seems like a very basic step that is constantly omitted and even in case of a short text it really helps and narrows the focus to only a few words. It also leads to the next step…

Step 3 – think of synonyms (and paraphrase it!)

Yes, I am aware that there isn’t enough time to think about every single synonym, but there is no harm in jogging your students’ memory and trying to remember some of the words you taught them in class. I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to know many synonyms for each key word. However, it is a good practice to allow your students to think on their own and predict the words that can be seen in the multiple-choice answers. You can also ask them to paraphrase the text and see if it corresponds with the options given in the exam.

Step 4 – choose your answer and justify it

Well done, you’ve chosen your answers! It is a good habit to go back to the answers and think about why the chosen option is correct and why the other two aren’t. It will make candidates aware of certain grammar and vocabulary that otherwise could be missed. It is also a good practice to finish the task with a group discussion so all your students understand and learn from their mistakes.

I suggest using PET – reading part 1 worksheet only initially. You want to develop a certain routine and make sure that students follow the steps needed to complete the task successfully. Once you see that your students do well in this part, your job is completed. Let them do the tasks as they would in the exam.

Feel free to download the lesson plan and the worksheet (with the answers!) below! Make sure to follow my blog for more PET exam preparation!

Cambridge PET – Writing Part 1

Teaching writing can be quite hard – especially teaching writing for exam preparation.

Like every teacher I have my most and least favourite things to teach. It is quite easy to focus on the parts that we really enjoy and neglect the parts that we don’t fully understand or we just don’t have that much fun with. I’ve got some groups that I can play around with, we can watch some videos, listen to music… There are also some groups that are strictly preparing for Cambridge exams.

While preparing for Cambridge exams I always try to make sure that my students understand each part of it, but most importantly, they know how to produce answers. As in every exam there is a certain key that learners need to follow and if they know how to achieve that, they can score really high!

There are so many resources distributed by Cambridge Assessment English. As I am not reinventing the wheel, I decided to use one of their materials and adapt them to my class. In order to follow my lesson plan it is necessary to download B1 Preliminary Handbook and Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary. You can download them by clicking the links or by going to the official website. All the pages used in this class are specified in the lesson plan.

This lesson consists of two files, a lesson plan and a worksheet that is designed to help learners understand how to approach writing part 1 exam task and how to answer it by following the Cambridge writing assessment scale. There is an additional worksheet with suggested answers to make sure that learners understand each step of the exam task. You can download all three files by clicking the links at the end of the post.

In order to score high, it is important to get your learners used to following the steps of the exam task analysis and planning before writing.

Step 1 – text type

As a group look at the exam task and identify the type of text. This part of the exam is mandatory and students are always asked to write an e-mail. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but I can’t remember the number of times that my students forgot over and over again what they were expected to write.

Step 2 – recipient

One part of the assessment is correctly identifying and approaching the target reader. In this part students should be aware that most likely they will have to write an e-mail to a friend or a teacher, which obviously will affect their vocabulary.

Step 3 – register

Once learners name the recipient, they should be able to identify the register of their response. In case of writing to a friend they can use contractions and less formal language. If the message is intended for a teacher, they should change register appropriately.

Step 4 – content points

Allow your students to read the message again and identify four main content points. Once students know what they need to address, they should be able to respond correctly, for example if the message tells them to suggest an activity, learners should use appropriate language and vocabulary relevant to the task. Emphasise that the answers shouldn’t be longer than 100 words, therefore they need to focus on answering the content points without getting too distracted.

Step 5 – plan

Based on the content points learners should be able to plan their answers. If you do it for the first time ever, you can do it as a group to show that students should only write basic ideas and some useful vocabulary. It is quite difficult to convince learners to plan their answers, but remind them that according to the writing assessment scale, they can score up to 5 points for well-organised, linked and coherent answer. Remember that the planning stage shouldn’t be longer than 5 minutes.

Step 6 – write your answer

Now following the plan, students should write their answers in about 10 minutes. It is good to get your learners work under time limit to avoid any bad surprises in the exam.

Step 7 – check your answer

Yes, you made it! The answers are written and the exam is about to end. However, tell your learners that if they find themselves with some spare time on their hands, they should read their answers AGAIN and see if they still make sense. It is also a good idea to drill some most common errors, so your pupils know exactly what they are looking for. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

In order for your learners to really know what they need to do, it is good to spend some time on explaining the writing assessment scale. Go through each of the points and back them up with some examples for better comprehension and give everyone a copy of the scale. To make it even more effective try following each writing with peer assessment because there is no better way to learn than from each other!

Hope you enjoy this lesson plan! You can download lesson plan, writing worksheet and suggested answers below! Be on the lookout as there is more exam content to come.