As the school year begins and we have students entering exams classes, we have to make certain decisions so as to make the school year a successful one for both us and our students. The first such decision that needs to be made is which exam we should prepare our students for. Quite often that decision is made for us because the students themselves or their parents have made up their minds which one they want. Sometimes this decision is a wise one since obtaining the certificate they desire fulfills their wishes concerning what having this certificate entitles them to do but quite often their decision is a faulty one due to ignorance of what the certificate actually empowers its holder to do. As their teacher, it is expected of you to know about such matters so do your research independently and get your information right and not rely solely on others. Will the desired certificate allow them to work in a given country abroad? Will it allow them to study abroad? Is it accepted by the Greek government as regards working in the public sector? Will a private multinational company accept this certificate as proof of having reached a certain level of proficiency in the language? How long is this certificate valid for? All these questions need to be answered accurately before making a decision about which certificate to prepare for.
By Steve Vassilakopoulos
Sometimes the decision and reasons for preparing for a given certificate are quite definite however, oft times the reasoning behind this decision is rather nebulous. This is especially true for school age students who wish to “finish with English” before they start preparing for university entrance exams in either their second or third year of lyceum. At this age decisions about what they will study and ultimately do as adults are far from clear so the certificate they decide on may not fulfill the requirements needed later on. Given this, I believe it is in the student’s best interests to prepare for an exam that will require them raise their level of English to highest level possible so as to prepare them for the use of English in the real world. Choosing easier options may not ultimately bring the desired results.
Once the decision is made about which exam to prepare, then you must determine the best target date to actually sit the exam. The earliest feasible date to successfully pass the exam is best determined by the student writing a mock test under test conditions to show their ‘state of health’. Based on the results of this test (I personally prefer authentic past papers) you the teacher can determine when it would be best to do the exam but also what the student’s strengths and weaknesses are. When the weaknesses are found, then you need to see which specific skills and subskills need to be improved so as for their performance to be raised. For example, a student may do badly in reading comprehension and you find the reason behind this is that they lack an ability to recognize discourse patterns and thus not understand the writer’s train of thought and ultimately what point she or he is trying to make. Therefore, you could prepare a lesson or two on recognizing discourse markers.
As we all know, successful exam results are vital to our careers as teachers but also important is the usefulness of the services we offer to our students. What we have done to improve the lives of our students at the end of the day is what really counts. So, before embarking on your EFL exam journey, take the above points into consideration.