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!

Linking words of purpose, result and reason – B1 Speaking Part 3

Linking words are one of the main causes of headaches for English language learners. Students often feel unsure of their meanings and their use in sentences. That’s why when one of my newest students asked me to have a class on connectors, I took on this challenge. I divided linking words into several groups: reason, result, purpose, contrast and addition. Today I would like to focus on linkers of reason, result and purpose and their use in Speaking Part 3.

In my opinion, students often struggle with linking words for one main reason – they change their meanings depending on the context. Therefore, it’s quite hard to get the feeling of what they are. That’s why I decided not to rush it and show a variety of example sentences that use those structures. At the same time, I wanted to show that linking words are frequently used in the Cambridge exam, not only in writing but also in speaking. After all, in Speaking Part 3, students need to go over a set of options and provide a reason and hypothetical result for each one. So having a wide range of linking words can work in their favour.

You can download the lesson plan and the worksheet for free at the end of the post.

The class starts by writing a sentence with three possible endings (as seen below). Students name functions of each sentence, reason, result or purpose and justify their choices. They should be already familiar with the definitions of each function but may get a bit confused by them – especially with reason and purpose since they often tend to overlap. If you want to make this difference quite clear, you can elicit that purpose often answers the question of why. To further clarify the meaning of these functions, students match them with their definitions.

In order to prove to your students that they already have this knowledge, ask them to combine the sentences using linking words. You can also use this part of the class as a test to see how much help you need to offer and how much teaching you need to do!

I focused on eight different linking words of reason (because, as, since, because of + noun), purpose (in order to / to + infinitive) and result (so, therefore). Show your students the beginning of sentences and ask to match them with appropriate endings. Elicit the function of each sentence and divide the words in bold into correct categories. Finish this part by analysing the use of these linking words. It’s a good habit to start eliciting the structure that follows each word and explaining their usual position in the sentence. If necessary, translate these words to students’ L1. I normally stay away from using L1 in class, but I find it particularly beneficial when it comes to linkers.

Practise using these eight linkers by filling the gaps with one of them. Make sure that students know that more than one answer is correct, as some of these words mean the same in this context. I also added a freer activity, in which students finish the beginning of sentences with appropriate endings (a clause, a noun or an infinitive).

Since I wanted to ensure that students understand the importance and practicality of linking words and phrases, I combined them with speaking part 3, which can be downloaded for free from Sample Papers for B1 Preliminary. You can adapt this activity to any speaking part 3 exam task – including the ones you paid for!

Present your students with a typical speaking part 3 exam task (as seen below) and ask about the purpose of the man wanting to find a new free time activity (He needs a new activity in order to relax.) Since we already know the purpose of each activity, students work in pairs and think of possible reasons for doing them and their hypothetical results. I included one example to further explain this point. At the end of the task, collect students’ ideas and write them on the board. You can also encourage them to think of reasons why some of these free-time activities are bad for this young man!

Finish the class by completing the speaking part 3 exam task in pairs. Provide feedback to every student. As students have already thought of many different reasons and possible results of each action, this activity should be a piece of cake!

B1 – Pronunciation maze – /d/ and /t/

On Thursday, 24th February 2022, I attended a Cambridge webinar for teachers on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools with a focus on pronunciation. In this one hour session, the trainers showed many pronunciation exercises that may help our students in the speaking part of the exam. This webinar coincided with one of my 1:1 B1 Preliminary classes on Past Simple regular verbs, which motivated me to create this lesson plan.

Whenever I teach Past Simple and regular verbs, I always spend a good chunk of class ensuring that my students pronounce -ed verbs confidently. The pronunciation of /ɪd/ doesn’t usually cause many problems, as it is quite easy to remember the rule and hear the difference. The confusion appears when differentiating between /t/ and /d/. The difference is minimal and usually doesn’t impede the understanding. However, one of the activities shown during the webinar, called the pronunciation maze, can be used to practise pronunciation and help students with the identification of verbs ending with /d/ and /t/ sounds.

The class can be a part of grammar explanation or can be a stand-alone lesson. In my opinion, it would be best to use it as a separate class. In this way, it serves as a revision of regular tenses in Past Simple. You can download the lesson plan, the worksheet, the list of celebrities and the maze game for free at the end of the post.

Start the class by playing the celebrity weekend. Say that you are someone famous and students need to guess who by asking questions in the Past Simple. Answer by talking about your weekend as this celebrity. You can make this into a game and allow students to work in groups. Make sure that students use correct question word order. You may want to write down some of them on the board. The first group to guess the person wins! I learnt about this activity a while back, but recently got reminded of it again when watching Charlie’s lessons video – Speaking Activities Volume 3.

Now it’s your students’ turn! Each student gets a different famous person (or thinks of one on their own!) and answers questions which you can find on the Worksheet – Celebrity weekend. Monitor the activity and correct any mistakes. Make sure that students use the correct forms of regular and irregular verbs in the Past Simple. Once everyone finishes, students read the answers and the others must guess who the famous people are.

Ask students to go over the questions and their answers and ask them to underline all the regular past verbs. Write them down on the board and make sure that you have a wide range that covers all pronunciations of -ed – /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/. Once you have them all written down, model and drill the pronunciation. Elicit that -ed can be pronounced in three ways. Draw a table on the board with three columns, each designated for one way of pronouncing. Students work in pairs and divide the verbs into three columns.

Check the answers and explain the rules behind -ed pronunciation. The pronunciation /ɪd/ of -ed is easy to understand and hear. Say that all regular verbs ending with the t or d sound in their infinitive forms are pronounced as /ɪd/ in the Past Simple.

The problems begin when explaining the difference between /t/ and /d/. Say that /t/ sound is reserved for verbs ending in unvoiced sound. In the webinar, it was explained that we can visualise it by placing a piece of paper in front of our mouths and saying a word ending in an unvoiced sound, for example, stop, look, wash, kiss. The paper moves as the air come out of our mouth when saying these words. When saying the words ending in voiced sounds, the air does not come out in the same way. Instead, you can tell your students to place two fingers on their throats and feel the vibrations that occur when saying these sounds, for example, cleaned, damaged, loved, offered.

Now that students understand the rules, ask them to pronounce the words written in the table, making sure that they pay attention to the correct pronunciation, especially of /d/ and /t/. To reinforce the pronunciation, you can play a game shown to us during the webinar. Present students with a maze made of words in their regular past forms. Students need to leave the maze by following the /t/ or /d/ sounds. You can download both at the end of the post!

The webinar on Developing Speaking Skills for B1 Preliminary and B2 First for Schools was great and I’m very happy that I attended it. I can’t wait for more webinars and would advise being on the lookout for them, as they can help or at least refresh your memory and remind you of some activities that otherwise you might have forgotten about.

Click the links below to download all the files needed to complete this lesson plan!

Cambridge PET – Speaking Part 3

In the PET speaking exam, the students aren’t alone – they go in with another candidate (and sometimes even two!) For the most part, they don’t need to communicate with each other. However, in Speaking Part 3 they need to exchange their ideas and opinions for two minutes. And yes, they’re being scored on the way they communicate with each other.

I’ve got a series of short lesson plans on Cambridge PET exams, explaining each part and giving tips on getting a high score. Click below for all the other plans that I’ve done so far:

This class consists of the lesson plan and the speaking part 3 worksheet (with answers!). All are available to download at the end of the post.

In Speaking Part 3, students listen to a short imaginary scenario and look at a few options that they need to discuss for two minutes. All the options are shown in a form of pictures, therefore students are required to have a wide range of vocabulary that would help them talk about the prompts. They also need a language that would help them with their discussion, e.g. expressing and asking for opinions, making suggestions, agreeing and disagreeing with their partner, etc. Additionally, they’re expected to have a natural conversation that forces them to think about their answers and listen to the other candidate at the same time.

Start the class by talking about going on a school/work trip. What is the best/worst trip they’ve ever been on? What did they do? Then hand out the worksheet and look at the task adapted from B1 Preliminary for Schools Sample Paper (available to download from the official Cambridge website).

Some students from a small village school are going on a trip to their capital city. Talk together about the different activities they could do in their capital city, and say which would be most interesting.

Students work in pairs and think of six possible activities that they could do on a school trip to the capital. Share the ideas with everyone else. If you want to unify the activity, you may want to choose the best answers from each group and write them down on the board. Then ask the students to think of the advantages and disadvantages of each activity. In the case of big groups, give each group different activity and ask them to discuss only one prompt each. With smaller groups, you can ask them to think about the pros and cons of all of the activities. Share the answers and write them down on the board.

Explain the premise of speaking part 3 – students talk to another candidate and discuss the activities shown in the picture. This task tests the ability to share ideas, ask and give opinions, make suggestions, agree and disagree with the partner. Introduce the most useful vocabulary. Students work on their own and put the phrases in the corresponding categories.

Divide students into pairs. Using the exam task, the prompt answers and the useful vocabulary, ask students to discuss the task and choose the best activity. At this point allow students to talk freely without being timed. Collect the ideas and ask for the reasons why they think that it is the best activity to do in the capital city.

It’s time to reverse this exercise. Now present students with seven prompts, taken from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper. All of them are connected by the exam task. Ask students to work together and write an exam task that could be used to talk about the prompts. Use the example task from exercise 1 to write their tasks. Students share their ideas with the rest of the class. From this point on, you can go in two different directions:

  • Students exchange their exam tasks and each group discusses their personalized task.
  • Share the real exam task and see how close the predictions were. All groups discuss the same exam task.

Whichever you decide on, monitor the activity and provide feedback.

This is the way I would normally approach Speaking Part 3. It covers the main parts of the exam, teaches useful vocabulary and most importantly, gets students used to this type of task! Click below to download all the files!

Christmas themed B1 speaking

The stress of the exam preparation doesn’t take any days off. That’s why when you want to take a breather and spend some fun and quality time with your B1 students, you may want to kill two birds with one stone. Have a chat about Christmas time, while practising all parts of the PET speaking exam.

Following one of my most popular posts on exam preparation, Halloween themed B2 speaking, I decided to go with the flow and prepare something quite similar – this time focusing on future PET candidates. This class will hopefully reduce the stress of the exam preparation and at the same time, will help your students get into the Christmas mood! However, keep in mind that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so if you teach in an international environment with many mixed religions, maybe it’s best to skip this one for the sake of the students who can’t relate to this holiday.

This class is made of two files: the examiner’s guide notes with the examiner’s speaking script, four Christmassy pictures for speaking part 2 and two scenarios for the discussion in part 3. You can also get all the prompts for speaking part 2 and part 3 as a PDF presentation for those of you who teach online or want to save some paper! All the files are available to download for free at the end of the post!

Just like in the previous festive speaking activity, this class requires no preparation time. All you need to do is download and/or print the files! That easy. I would still encourage you to keep this class under a little bit less strict exam conditions, just because it’s Christmas. You want to make this class educational while keeping it light and fun!

B1 students often struggle with basic spelling. That’s why in speaking part 1, students are asked to spell out some of the trickier Christmas related words, such as a wreath, myrrh or a bauble. The purpose of this part is not only to practise spelling, as some of the words may be new and useful in the following speaking parts. All the pictures supporting vocabulary are included in the PDF presentation. This part is followed by a set of personal questions about Christmas. The questions were inspired by an authentic speaking script and range from asking about family celebrations and traditions to talking about the best Christmas presents.

In speaking part 2, each student is asked to describe a photograph for about a minute. Under normal circumstances, there are two pictures included in this part. I put four different photographs to keep this part more engaging and versatile. All you need to do is read the script, show the pictures and time your students. The photos show a family eating Christmas dinner, a family dressing the Christmas tree, a family exchanging gifts and people walking around the Christmas market. It will ensure that you get to cover a whole range of festive vocabulary!

Speaking part 3 consists of two tasks, so the students will get a chance to listen to two completely different discussions. The first one asks students to think about the most nutritious snack for Santa Claus. The second task asks students to discuss the best Christmas present for Santa Claus. Both are light-hearted and will surely spark some interesting and creative discussions. So read out the script, put two minutes on the clock and enjoy the creativity.

In the last part of speaking, students are asked to discuss their opinions regarding Christmas time. I tried making them interesting and thought-provoking. Students need to express their opinions on topics such as Is it important for children to believe in Santa Claus? Is Christmas too commercialised? or What is your opinion of changing Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays? Even though some of the questions may seem to be quite invasive and controversial, try to keep them easy and light. Christmas is the time of uniting, not dividing!

If you haven’t thought of a good lesson for your future PET candidates, feel free to download all the files below! Merry Christmas!

Cambridge PET – Listening Part 1

Listening is one of the two receptive skills, which is quite polarising. Your students will either love it or hate it! I enjoy Listening Part 1 as it’s entertaining and possibly the easiest of them all. On the flip side, it requires a wide range of vocabulary to choose the correct answers.

I’ve already done short exam preparation lesson plans on Speaking Part 1, Reading Part 1 and Writing Part 1. Let’s move on to Listening Part 1. A lesson showing four easy steps to understand and pass this part of the exam.

This short lesson plan follows the listening that you can download from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper. I supplemented it with a worksheet that follows an approach to get the most out of this part.

Before we begin with the explanation, let’s look at the optional lead-in. Since the class focuses on listening, it’s good to give your students some extra speaking and teamwork time.

The class starts by showing pictures of everyday objects. Your students see and maybe even use them daily, but will have no idea what they’re called in English. Purposely, I chose a screwdriver, a rake and a thimble. You can put your students in pairs or small groups and ask them to name the objects. Tell them that you don’t accept ‘nothing’ or ‘I don’t know‘ as answers! Once you’ve got some (hopefully) funny words, ask what these objects have in common. No hints! Remember that for What they’ve got in common part there are no wrong answers.

Move on to the Listening Part 1 worksheet. The pictures are taken directly from the B1 Preliminary Sample Paper 1. Students need to write words associated with the pictures and, of course, name the objects (a bookshelf, a desk lamp and a cushion). Don’t give them the answers just yet, as they should get used to predicting the words that may appear in the exam. Form pairs or small groups one more time and ask them to predict the question that may be asked. As it is a class focused on listening, this will give them some time to practise speaking.

Listen to the recording and pause after extract 1. Make sure to listen to it twice. During the listening, students should choose the correct answer and justify why the other two are incorrect. This will make them pay attention to the whole recording while helping them understand that all three things are always mentioned.

Once you finish this part, you can explain this listening part and follow the four easy steps to get a high score!

Step 1 – Underline the keywords

The first step is to underline the keywords in the question. Your students should only concentrate on a few words. That will help them narrow down their focus during listening.

Step 2 – Identify and predict vocabulary

Your students should get into the habit of predicting the words that may appear in the listening. It also helps if they can identify the objects in the pictures! It’s okay if they don’t, as they can easily use the process of elimination to get the answer. While doing that, they can predict the answers, but tell them that the Cambridge listenings are tricky on purpose, so they should expect the unexpected…

Step 3 – Listen and choose the answer

Remind everyone that they will listen to the recording twice. Even if they don’t catch the answer on the first try, they shouldn’t stress. In the case of not hearing the answer on the second try, tell them that at this point they should choose any answer! They may be right, and this one point can help them pass the exam!

Step 4 – Justify the answers

Students should always try and justify their answers. Yes, even the incorrect ones! In this way, even if they are unsure, they may be able to get it right by the process of elimination.

You can pass the exam in only four steps – it’s not a lot! As always, try using the worksheets only at the beginning of the year, just to get your students used to underlining the keywords, identifying the vocabulary and justifying the answers. This part is quite simple, and I’m sure that your students will find it quite fun to do.

Click the links below to download all the files!

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.

Introduce your classmate

First day of school is just around the corner! The very first class is always a challenge for me. I am on a never-ending quest to find the perfect introduction lesson activity. Since introducing ourselves can be a bit awkward, why doesn’t someone else do it for us?

I am yet to prepare a standard introductory class that is memorable, fun and not awkward. I have made a lesson plan for adult A2-B1 level students in which for a change your students have to introduce others to the rest of the group.

The class is sweet, simple and short, and it allows you to assess students’ speaking, writing and listening skills. It is made of only two files: a lesson plan and a worksheet that you can download for free at the end of the blog post!

The class starts in a completely different manner. It’s not your students’ first rodeo and they expect to say something about themselves. However, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done that before, it’s always stressful and at times they may feel as if they have nothing to say, or there’s nothing interesting enough about them that they can share with the rest of the group. That’s why give everyone an Introduce yourself worksheet. Students are asked questions ranging from personal to discussion provoking ones. Oops! You haven’t introduced yourself neither so feel free to join the task.

Once everyone has completed the task, collect the worksheets and write the answers on the board. Make sure to mix the worksheets and write the answers in a random order. Okay, so you’ve got all the answers, it’s time to do the writing task. I would say that it is optional and you can jump in directly into speaking, but let’s keep the stress level at its lowest. Ask your students to write a short introduction of the person to their left – including you! Once everyone is done preparing their answers (based on complete assumptions), you can start by reading your example. This should make everyone feel a bit more confident about their answers.

When you finish reading your assumptions the person that was being described has to now confirm how many pieces of information you got right. Then they correct you by actually introducing themselves (this time no writing, only speaking). If you want to make this activity even more challenging ask students to report on their classmates just to see if they were paying attention. As some of the questions are a bit more ‘philosophical’ you may want to ask your students to elaborate on them.

I’ve got still one more month until I go back to classroom and I will definitely use this plan to test it out and see how it goes!

What introductory activities do you normally use in the class?

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!