School gardens competition – A2 Reading Part 2

Spring is my favourite season, and it’s finally here! As I was thinking about a perfect lesson plan for this moment, I went through exam papers and found a reading task on school gardens competitions. I thought that this topic was ideal for this moment. It can be used to refresh garden, fruit and vegetable vocabulary, while simultaneously teaching KEY for Schools candidates how to successfully answer Reading Part 2.

I realised that I’ve been too focused on my B1 PET students and postponed all the activities for other levels, especially A2 KEY. I always enjoy going through free and readily available activities and using them in my lessons as a part of official Cambridge exam preparation. It shows that the sky is the limit, and you don’t need to pay a lot to prepare engaging and high-quality lessons.

This class focuses on understanding the Reading Part 2 exam task and using existing knowledge of vocabulary to correctly match the answers. It is a very similar task to the ones that you can find on any other higher-level Cambridge exams. You can download this task (and many others) by clicking the link Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools. You can find this lesson plan and any additional worksheets at the end of the post.

This lesson plan can be a follow-up after a garden and vegetable vocabulary lesson or as a vocabulary reinforcement.

Start the class with a quick vocabulary revision and/or introduction that will be needed to know to complete the exam task. Divide the students into groups and play Taboo with the words vegetable, flower, insect, butterfly, carrot, potatoes, wall and to grow. You can also use more garden-related words if you have time. Once students guess all the words, put the Taboo cards on the board and ask what they all have in common. For example, Where can you find them? Where can you do these activities? The answer is, of course, a garden.

Show three pictures of gardens and ask students to describe what they can see. Ask students which of these three gardens is the best and explain why. Vote on the best garden. Proceed by handing out Reading Part 2 texts School gardens competition. You can find them by downloading Sample Papers for A2 Key for Schools, pages 4 and 5. Students read the three descriptions and match them to the pictures. Since you have already started this class by going over vocabulary, the texts shouldn’t cause too many problems.

Now that your students are already familiar with the texts, explain the rules of the exam task. Students read seven questions, followed by three texts. They need to match the questions with the text that best answers each one. If it’s the first time doing this type of activity, go over each question and underline any key information. Students work individually and look for the answers to the questions in the text. Before checking the answers, you can put students into pairs to compare the answers. Discuss the answers as a group, and make sure to find justification for each in the text.

It’s time for your students to enter their school gardens into a competition. Give each student some time to draw and write a paragraph about their gardens. Finish the class by presenting their projects and voting (anonymously?) on the best school garden. Make sure to display those gardens on your classroom wall for everyone to see!

Click below to download the lesson plan, pictures of gardens and the garden taboo.

How long does one minute feel like? – B1 Speaking Part 2

Funny thing how we perceive time. When we have fun, one minute disappears in a blink of an eye. In a stressful situation, say a speaking exam, one minute seems to last forever. That’s how our students feel when they enter the exam hall and speak on their own. It’s good to practise speaking for one minute and get to experience what one minute feels like. It’s also good to know how to fill this one minute, so it ends sooner than we expected.

In my teaching career, I have had the opportunity to meet two types of students – those who love and those who hate speaking activities. Regardless of their stand on this matter, it’s important to teach students how to speak naturally in the most unnatural situation – the speaking exam.

In B1 speaking part 2, students speak alone for about one minute about a picture. Inform them that if they finish before their time is up, they will have to endure awkward silence until the end of the time. Therefore, they need to think of something to say about the stock pictures.

Before you even start teaching speaking exam strategies, you should always try to help students understand what they are being assessed on. Inform them that speaking assessment is divided into four parts grammar and vocabulary, discourse management, pronunciation and interactive communication. Speaking Part 2 is an individual task, so students are marked on everything except for interactive communication.

I always told my B1 students that if they don’t know what to talk about and they still have some time left, they should speculate about what they think is happening and give reasons for it. For example, if you see a group of people, elicit and explain their emotions. If the picture was taken outdoors, describe the weather and the season. If it’s a group of tourists, guess the country! However, I was never quite sure how to help them remember all those things. A week ago, I attended a webinar Top tips for exam success and beyond: Ask us anything about A2 Key and B1 Preliminary, and one part, in particular, grabbed my attention.

The speaking circle, as seen above, gives students ideas of what they could talk about during the speaking assessment. It’s divided into eight sections, people, words, feelings, actions, sounds, numbers, sight and nature. Give students an example picture that they would typically be asked to describe in the exam. I chose a picture from B1 Preliminary for Schools – Handbook for teachers for exams from 2020, which is available to download for free from the Cambridge Official website. Ask students to look at the picture and think of three possible questions that would fall under each category. You can find my example below.

People: Who are they making a cake for? What is their relationship? Whose birthday is it?

Actions: What are they doing? How do you make a cake? What do they need to do after they finish baking?

Feelings: Why are the girls smiling? Are they enjoying making a cake? What the person who the cake is for is going to feel like?

Numbers: How many people are there? How long does it take to make a cake? How many ingredients do they need?

Sounds: What sounds can you hear at home? What sounds can you hear in the kitchen? Is it loud or quiet?

Words: What are they reading? What is the name of this cake? What other files are there on the tablet?

Sight: What can you see in the background? How could you describe the kitchen? What can you see on the tablet?

Nature: What is the weather like? What time of the day is it? Is it hot or cold?

As I was completing this task, I realised that some of the answers came to me more easily than others. It’d probably change depending on the picture and where its location. However, these eight categories would definitely help me prepare my answer and speak for one full minute.

I think the best way to score high in this part is to combine the answers to these questions and talk about them in a logical order. For me the most effective way of describing pictures is as follows:

  • General description:  In one/two sentences say what and who you can see and what they are doing in your opinion. Mention where the people are.

In the picture, I can see two girls making a cake in the kitchen. They look alike, so they are probably sisters.

  • People: Talk about their actions and possible reasoning behind it. Speculate about their relationship and feelings. Briefly describe their physical appearance and clothes.

The girl with longer hair, who is wearing a patterned dress, is cracking some eggs and adding them to flour. The other girl, who has got shorter and curly hair and is wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, is helping her by reading the recipe from the tablet. They seem to be having a lot of fun doing this activity together because they are smiling. I think that they may be preparing a birthday cake for someone in their family. They seem to be recreating the recipe they are following. I think that the cake must be quite easy to make, as they don’t have that many ingredients on the table. Except for flour and a few eggs, they also have a jar of sugar on the table.

  • Background: In case there is some time left, focus on the background. If possible, talk about the weather and seasons. Just because it is a picture, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get into speaking about sounds that they may be experiencing.

As I mentioned before, they are in the kitchen. The kitchen is quite big and light. I can see some cupboards, a cooker, and of course an oven behind them. Everything seems to be very well organised, so they will probably have to clean the kitchen well once they finish. The place appears to be very calm, so I don’t think that it is very noisy. Maybe they are listening to some music while making the cake.

I think that following the topics in the circle is beneficial for students as it helps them structure their answers and concentrate on the grammar and vocabulary part of the assessment. It also helps with understanding that they can talk about anything that they can see in the picture while giving possible reasons for each answer. My biggest issue is with getting the feeling of one minute. This can be achieved through regular training exercises, but remind them that as long as they talk until being stopped by the interlocutor, they should be fine.

I like to supplement any speaking activities by showing the actual speaking exam. I chose this picture, as it is being described in a video recorded at an actual B1 Preliminary for Schools Speaking Test. You may want to show this video before to further understand each part of the speaking exam and get students used to the exam setting. You can also ask them to watch the video and write down any mistakes they heard. During feedback, you can elicit different ways of improving these answers.

I’m glad that I attended the webinar on Top Tips for the Cambridge Exam as it really ensured me that I understand the speaking assessment and also gave me plenty of ideas of how to improve my classes by introducing new and effective activities. Click the link to check the whole webinar for yourself. Hopefully, you will find something inspiring there!

Incredible vegetables – B2 – Use of English Part 3

I guess spring is in the air, and it makes me more inclined towards healthy food and keeping fit topics. This time we’ll look into different vegetables and their health benefits. This will lead towards the lesson focus and the nemesis of Cambridge exam candidates – Use of English and word formation.

This post and lesson plan is inspired by Stephanie Valerio and her blog post titled B2 Word Formation Sudoku. When I saw it, I knew that I have to find a way to incorporate this incredible idea and spread this game all around. So thank you, Stephanie! I hope that this lesson plan will do your activity some justice.

This lesson is prepared for online/hybrid classes. It contains a lesson plan (with all the answers) and a presentation. Click the files at the end of the post to get your free copies.

Once again, I was going through free Cambridge Sample papers and found a Use of English Part 3 task titled An Incredible Vegetable. You can get your copy of this task with all the answers included from Sample Paper 1 for B2 First.

The first part of the lesson is based on a short YouTube video on the health benefits of certain vegetables titled Foods That Look Like Body Parts Give Clues To Their Health Benefits by ELLICSR Kitchen.

Start the class by showing pictures of foods from the video: walnut, carrot, tomato, olives and Brazilian nut. Students name the vegetables and nuts and match them with body parts that they resemble. Watch the video and check the answers. Discuss if students knew about the health benefits of these foods and if they have tried them before. Check if students remember what they have just watched and ask to write the health benefits of each. Watch again to see the answers and complete the list of health benefits.

Introduce the Reading and Use of English Part 3 by showing a picture of garlic and naming it. Ask if students enjoy it and what are its possible health benefits. Show an official exam task titled An Incredible Vegetable and read it for gist. Elicit some benefits mentioned in the text, e.g. infection resistance, killing bacteria and viruses, useful for coughs and cold, etc.

If it’s the first time that your students do this type of task, you may want to explain the rules and approach to be successful. Mention that one of the strategies is looking at the gaps and thinking about the type of missing words, e.g. noun (plural/singular?), verb, adjective, adverb, etc. Go over each gap and think of the types of missing words. If you have a strong group, you may want to encourage them to predict the missing words at this stage.

Show the base words in alphabetical order and give students some time to think about their different forms. Once everyone has completed the table to the best of their abilities, go over and write the answers. Make sure to include the words that will be used in the exam task later on! Once everyone has their cheatsheets ready, reveal the base words corresponding to each gap. Give students a maximum of five minutes to complete the task by changing the words to fit the gaps. Check and discuss the answers. This class shouldn’t cause too many problems to your students, as you have done the majority of it together.

Finish the class with a fun word-formation sudoku game created by Stephanie! Divide students into pairs and ask them to complete the sudoku – the first group to solve it correctly wins.

The use of English is a pain, and it’s so hard to turn it into a fun class, but I hope that you enjoyed my idea and will adapt it to your lesson! And what about Stephanie’s sudoku? That brain teaser will help many students memorise the new words and their spelling.

Click the links below to download the files for free.

Valentine’s Day-themed C1 speaking

There are only a few days left until Valentine’s Day. Why not take a breather from exam preparation, and talk about something that all teens and young adults love – love. If you want to talk about romance and everything related, have a look at this no preparation Cambridge C1 exam speaking practice.

One of my favourite things to do is themed speaking exams. In my continuously growing series, you can find Halloween – B2 and Christmas – B1Finally, the time has come to give some fun to advanced students.

Just like any other Cambridge speaking exam, the one for CAE students is made of four parts – talking about personal details, picture comparison, discussion on a random topic and opinion-based questions. This lesson consists of the examiner’s speaking guide (I followed the steps given in the C1 Sample Papers 1) and a presentation that can be used in online and hybrid lessons.

I like to follow the steps of the speaking exam, but at the same time, keep it quite relaxed. If you want to keep it more formal, you can start this exam by asking students about their names and where they live. Even though in the actual exam students don’t need to spell anything, I normally start this task by giving them eight new advanced words. It’s a good way to introduce topic related words while refreshing the alphabet. The new words are: betrothed, courtship, devotion, embrace, heartthrob, smitten, yearning and woo. Students should be familiar with some of them. Finish this part by asking about Valentine’s Day experience and how people normally celebrate this day in their countries.

In part 2, candidates need to compare two out of three pictures and answer two questions in one minute. Of course, since it’s a special day, you may want to allow them to practise their fluency and natural speaking, instead of focusing on the time limit. The first set of pictures shows people celebrating Valentine’s Day in three different ways, having a romantic dinner, going hiking and going to a couple’s massage (a SPA day). Candidate A discusses why the people might be celebrating Valentine’s Day in these ways and how they might be feeling. The second set of pictures shows people receiving Valentine’s Day gifts, an engagement ring, flowers and chocolates, and breakfast in bed. Candidate B talks about why the people might choose to give such presents and how they may bring happiness to the gift receivers.

Now it’s time for students to talk to each other. Ask a question why do people may choose to decide not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, surrounded by five prompt answers: public display of affection (PDA), celebrating love every day, religion, consumerism, too expensive. Give two minutes to discuss the option and then ask students to decide which of these reasons is the most significant to them.

Finish speaking exam with opinion-based questions on Valentine’s Day. I tried to keep the questions as light-hearted as possible. After all, you want to have fun and not stress your students or create any conflict!

Since the topic of love and relationships can be quite controversial and intrusive, I think that choosing to do this class will depend on the country and its culture. I teach in Spain where discussing relationships isn’t problematic. Another thing is to keep it age-appropriate. I would suggest this lesson for teenagers and young adults – minimum 15 years old. Younger students may find it annoying, not relevant and intrusive. Remember that the main objective of this class is for students to have a day off, so if they choose not to answer a question (especially from Part 1), should be understood.

Click below to download the examiner’s notes and the C1 speaking presentation.

Cambridge CAE – Writing Part 2 (review)

Do you know of anyone who has changed the world for the better? Someone who has positively impacted society? Using a free CAE writing exam, we will discuss the topic and teach advanced students how to write a successful review. All while following the writing assessment criteria.

The other day, I was preparing an advanced lesson plan for one of my General English students. I usually look for inspiration all around and often go to my all-time favourite coursebook – English File C1.1 by Oxford Publishing. One of the units deals with book and film reviews and gives a wide range of vocabulary that can be used to describe them. That’s when I felt inspired to use this class and adapt it to my CAE student – a passionate acting student, interested in art, literature and films.

I want her to be engaged in the topic and at the same time, I want her to learn how to answer each part of the Cambridge exam successfully. That’s why I headed to the Cambridge English website and downloaded their free C1 Advanced Handbook for Teachers, which offers free exams and explanations for successful writing exams. I’m always up for using free official resources and adapting them to my class. I feel like this is the most insightful and reliable source you can find.

The lesson plan and the presentation with all the links needed to complete the class are available to download for free at the end of the post!

The lesson starts by showing posters of six impactful films and asking students about the people shown in the pictures and what they may have in common. I tried to include some classics (Schindler’s List), some oldies (Gorillas in the Mist) and some new films (Hidden Figures). All of them are quite well-known, and your students should have seen at least a few of them. The common factor is that they tell stories of people who had a positive impact on society. If your students watched some of those films, you can elicit examples of the ways in which they impacted society. Ask if they know of anyone else, famous or not, who also made/is making a difference in the world.

Show a picture of Audrey Hepburn and ask if anyone knows who she is. As the picture from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most iconic in the world, your students should be familiar, at least with her image. Say that you’re going to watch a short video on Audrey Hepburn. Ask to predict who she was: Audrey Hepburn – an international m__________ s__________, f__________ i__________ and h___________. Watch the first 20 seconds of the video, Audrey Hepburn – International Superstar, Fashion Icon, & Humanitarian by Biography, and elicit the answers (movie star, fashion icon and humanitarian).

Read eight questions about Audrey Hepburn and watch the whole video (you can turn on the subtitles if necessary). Students answer the questions with short answers. Did they know about the humanitarian side of Audrey Hepburn? Were they surprised? Ask if the video convinced them to read a biography about Audrey Hepburn’s life.

Read a book review (you can find it in the C1 Advanced Handbook for Teachers, page 45). Ask if this review convinced them to read the book. Do they think that it’s a good review? What would they change about it? The most common answer will be the lack of paragraphs and many spelling errors. Students divide it into four paragraphs (introduction, point 1, point 2, recommendation) and correct any errors they can find.

After reading the review, say that this is a piece of writing based on a real Cambridge exam task. Ask to predict two main points of the exam task. Show the exam task and see how close they were to the real answer.

Present the writing assessment scale and explain how it works. The maximum number of points students may get in each part is 20 points – 5 points for content, 5 points for communicative achievement, 5 points for organisation and 5 points for language. Students read the answer one more time and score it out of 20. Check and discuss their answers. Compare their scores to the one given by the Cambridge examiner. Are they surprised by any of the comments? Not only does this task explain any doubts about the scoring system, but it also shows how strict or lenient the examiners are. Remind them about the importance of having clear answers, as examiners read tens of identical pieces of writing, and clear organisation will be reflected in their final score.

Set the homework task. Students think about the film or book that focused on a person who made an important contribution to society. Brainstorm some ideas and if you have enough time, students may plan their answers and present them to you and the rest of the class.

Click below to download the lesson plan and the presentation.

Cambridge Exam Score Templates

Who said that the ESL teachers don’t need to know math? We do math more than we would like to admit. All Cambridge exam preparation teachers, I’ve got something just for you!

As a teacher in Spain, you do quite a lot of things. You get to teach all the ages and levels, and probably one of the most common things – you prepare for the Cambridge exams. If you’ve never prepared for the Cambridge exams, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources on the internet that can help you understand what you should do and what the exams are like.

What I found the most challenging was correcting the exams and explaining the scores to students. After three years of preparing for the Cambridge exams (this includes the intensive summer courses), I think I finally understand what’s going on there. Let me show you my system, how I present the grades to my future candidates and how I keep myself organised, which is especially important before the exams when all you do is give the exams left and right.

I’ve prepared a set of Excel sheets that you can use to stay organised and to help your students see their continuous progress. The first sheet is a detailed breakdown of all the components, scores, percentages and an overall score that can be shared with students and parents.

The worksheets are designed to help your students see each part separately and monitor their continuous progress. The idea is to give this sheet to your students after they complete each mock exam. In the case of teenagers, you may also want to share this file with their parents. The file is fully editable, so you can put the date, the name of your student and the name of the test.

Each part is divided into subsections that give a better overview of the exam and will help you pinpoint the problem areas so you can work on them in the future. It also includes the minimum points needed to “pass” each part to keep your students motivated. All the minimum scores and results breakdown were taken from the KSE Academy.

The most important part is the final percentage score. It’s done by summing all the % scores per section and dividing them by the number of parts (in the case of B1, it is divided by 4 – reading, listening, writing and speaking). As you can see in the example above, I included a percentage indicator. This is not fully accurate, but I think it can give you a good overview of your students’ progress. Unfortunately, we can’t know the exact Cambridge score as it varies from one exam to another. Therefore, if your students find one exam much easier than others, this means that other Cambridge candidates probably think the same, so the score would be calculated differently on the Cambridge calculator. If you want to understand a bit more about the Cambridge English scale, go and watch a webinar on that topic.

However, I feel that it’s a safe bet when your students score more than 70% on all the exams. This means that they’re ready to take and “pass” the official exams. I intentionally put “pass” in the quotation marks because if students fail their level exam, they should be rewarded with a lower-level certificate. For example, if your B1 student scores less than 140 on the Cambridge English scale, they will be given an official title for the A2 level. Not what they wanted, but better than nothing.

This is the second part of the Excel sheet. It is designed to help you stay organised. I always find it challenging to keep a list of tests that my students have already completed. You can put the name of your student, the date of the exam, the test number (was it their first, second, third, etc.) and the test name. You can include the book title or the source of the exam, as well – trust me on that one.

The rest is the same breakdown as before, so you can see the progress of your students and identify the most confusing areas. In the end, you have a total score, so you can see if your students are ready to take the exam or if they need a bit more practice. Below you can download the Cambridge scores breakdown for students and the scores organiser for the B1 level. To get the full set of sheets for all the levels go to my TpT store – Cambridge scores breakdown – students and Cambridge scores breakdown – teachers. You can also get your copies by clicking the one-time payment button.

How do you stay organised? I need all the tips possible!

Click below to get the full versions of the Cambridge scores breakdown Excel sheets.

First lesson for B2 Cambridge exam preparation

I was always looking for the perfect first class for exam preparation. Right after I finished CELTA, I had the pleasure of teaching B1 and B2 Cambridge intensive summer courses. As I was still on the high from passing CELTA, I analysed and prepared two full Compact books, including language analysis, possible problems (and solutions) and CCQs!

However, the part that I’m most proud of must be the lesson plan for the very first class. If you’ve ever taught an intensive course, you know that you don’t have that much time to waste and you need to move quite fast. That’s why I decided to combine an introduction class, mock speaking exam and language level assessment all in one 60 minute class. I couldn’t be happier that Joanna post-CELTA was so organised, as she really saved me some time. Especially now, when I have three B2 exam candidates who will all follow those plans, of course within a reason.

This lesson consists of a lesson plan and it closely follows the speaking part of the Cambridge Sample Paper 1 for B2 First. Download the sample paper to see the speaking guide, pictures needed for Part 2 and prompts needed for Part 3! All the other files you can download for free at the end of the post.

As this is an example of the very first lesson, I start it with a short introduction of myself. I like to describe who I am, what I do, my likes and dislikes, and where and who I live with. I try to keep it personal, as I want my students to feel free to talk about their preferences and lives without the feeling of being judged. If I work with groups, I would give them two minutes to think of 3 extra questions for me. These can be about anything that they want to know!

The next step is for my students to say some basic information about themselves. I do it in this way because I want them to mimic my introduction. Even though your students introduce themselves quite often, there is always this moment when their minds go blank, so in this way, they already had some ideas of what they can say.

Once you finish this part, give each student one or two questions from the downloadable file B2 – Speaking Part 1 and Part 4. Students choose the questions at random without seeing them and write two sentence answers. They read their answers and the rest of the group guesses their questions. Once everyone is done, you can ask them if they found this task difficult. Hopefully, they will say ‘no’ and that’s when you can reveal that they’ve just completed Speaking Part 1. Trust me that once they realize that this was an actual exam task, it’ll make them feel so much better!

Then move on to Part 2. Students already know that you are following the exam paper, so you don’t need to keep it a secret! Start by showing two pictures that you can find in the sample paper. Divide students into two groups. Each group thinks of as many words that they can use to describe the pictures. Share the vocabulary and then you can either discuss it as a group or mix students in pairs (picture 1 and picture 2 student) so they can find similarities and differences. Once this task is completed, go to the second set of pictures that show gardens. You can ask students to work in pairs and compare them for 1′.

Part 3 starts by talking about the town you are in. You can ask students a general question What attracts tourists to your town. Students can work in groups and think about different activities and places, or you can do it as a group and present the answers in the form of a mind map. Then show the actual Part 3 task with five prompts around. Check if any of the answers are similar to their ideas. Choose one of the prompts (I normally choose the one about a nightclub) and yet again divide students into two groups – one group discusses the advantages and the other disadvantages of a nightclub on tourism. Then mix one student from the advantages group with one from the disadvantages group so they can present their ideas to each other. And just like that, students should already have an idea about this part of the exam. If you want, you can choose one of the stronger students to present this part with you, or if you have a strong group, you can already ask them to do the task on their own.

Before you realize, you are about to finish the class! Finish with a general discussion about opinions aka Part 4. Explain that the theme of Part 4 is always related to Part 3, so during the exam, your students can already start predicting the type of questions that they may be asked! You can either give one question at random or do it as a group discussion.

Remember to always take notes on all the positive things you heard during this class and all the things that need to be improved. I would finish this class with some good old error corrections. You can write the mistakes on the board and give your students a chance to correct themselves. You can also ask them to identify the type of error (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, etc.). In this way, you also introduce them to different areas of speaking assessment criteria!

And just like that! The class is over! If your classes are a bit longer, or you had some really quick speakers, you can end this class by showing the video of the actual Cambridge speaking exam that uses the exact same paper you just did in this class! If not, you can ask your future exam candidates to watch it as homework.

As I said before, this is my go-to class for all my exam preparation classes and intensive courses, where the time is so precious that I need my students to get into the exam mindset ASAP. You can download the lesson plan and the speaking prompts below!

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.