Category Archives: Exams

A Wiki for IELTS Exam-Takers

At the conference yesterday I was presenting the wiki that I have been running for a long time for my IELTS students. Apart from the wiki itself I also presented a few tools that I incorporated into the wiki and suggested some other alternatives to the tools that I use to my audience.

The wiki my students have is a closed one so that my learners don’t feel uncomfortable doing their writing assignments. It is linked to a talkgroup on Voxopop where they record their speaking tasks. Introduction to IELTS speaking section is an embedded Prezi presentation; the explanation of how to record on Voxopop is a screencast done with Screenr, the videos that I would like my students to watch and the tutorials about how to do the writing tasks are in a MentorMob playlist also embedded into the wiki. There are also some screenshots done with ScreenHunter to explain what the buttons on MentorMob are.

 When it comes to choosing which tool to use, I suppose, each one of us chooses the one that is more convenient for them. For example, I always use pbworks if I have to set up a wiki. I am not really sure why I prefer this site, because others do more or less the same. It may be a question of habit-formation or preference. The same is true for screencast tools: I always go with Screenr, but I know that other tools are just as good. This is the presentation of the tools and the wiki I gave yesterday. However, I would like to ask a question: Do you always use the same tools? Why/Why not?

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MentorMob for Exam-takers

In my previous posts I have talked about MentorMob. I also embedded two playlists which were to show how useful it may be to have tutorials in one place.

This time I would like to talk about my idea of using this tool for students who are preparing for exams. Most of the students I have are preparing for the IELTS exam and I usually send them links to various articles and videos not only to develop their reading and listening skills but also to help them learn about IELTS common topics such as Technology, Environment, Medicine, Business, etc. This helps them to develop topic vocabulary for writing and speaking. The only problem with sending links is that when new students join the class, I start sending the same links to them as well as new ones. This takes a lot of time and sometimes becomes confusing because I may forget who has read or has not read an article and send it again or not send it at all.

When I discovered MentorMob, I realized that this tool could solve this problem. Moreover, it could help me test my students’ comprehension of what they have read and heard. My idea is to create topic-based playlists, which I can always update, and add quizzes after each video or article to check understanding. Then the playlist can either be embedded into the wiki that my IELTS students have or just one link can be sent to them, which will save my time but at the same time will be very useful for them. The same links can be sent to students preparing for FCE or CAE as the topics are more or less the same for these exams.

This is the first playlist I created and shared with my students and they have already started watching the videos and doing the quizzes.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

KET/PET/FCE – Marking the Papers

When I first started teaching FCE, it was quite complicated for me to understand how to score the mock exam papers that my students completed once a week.

Having attended a few Cambridge webinars related to these exams and having had a look at a few websites, I began to understand what the scores are and how they are calculated.

As a result I managed to put this Prezi together to help teachers understand the scoring of KET/PET/FCE for Schools.

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I hope the Prezi helps you too!

FCE – Paper 3 – Use of English

I thought of creating an introductory Prezi on Use of English part of FCE exam after a colleague of mine, Ana Rivas, asked me whether I had any material for it or not.

I think that this presentation can be used to introduce a group of students to this part of exam and let them practise a little.
The teacher will surely be explaining the skills required for this part and students can write down some tips. Alternatively, the Prezi can shared online if the learners have an online group page.
Anyway, this is what I’ve got and you are welcome to share it with your learners.
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First for Schools

The webinar conducted by Cambridge ESOL Examinations was very informative. The aim of the webinar was to give an overview of the format of Cambridge English: First for Schools exam and to share some classroom ideas for preparing students for the examination.

First of all, it is important to know that FCE Certificates do not expire, they are for life. However, some universities will only accept the certificate only if it is no more than two years old. This certificate is also accepted by the UK Border Agency for Tier 1, 2 and 4 visas covering studying and working in the UK.

Reading Paper of the exam takes 1 hour and has three texts. Exam takers should transfer their answer to the answer sheet while reading as they do not get extra time for this after 1 hour is over. It was interesting to find out that Multiple Choice and Gapped Text type of questions receive two marks for each correct answer, whereas Multiple Matching questions receive only one. The answers must be written in pencil. In order to take the exam successfully our learners need to be able to trace an argument in a text, to move quickly through the text, decode references, find information quickly, infer meaning and check/revise decisions.

Paper 2 is Writing and it has two tasks and takes 1 hour 20 minutes. The first task is compulsory and is to write either an email or a letter. The second one offers a choice of 4 tasks. The last option is to write on a set text, but we were advised to tell our learners not to attempt the last task if they have not read the set text. One of the participants said that this part MUST be written in pen. Exam takers are advised against writing too long or too short because in the first case there might be repetition (even extra 20 words are considered unnecessary) and in the second case it is likely that they will not cover all the points.

Next paper is Use of English and lasts for 45 minutes, after which Listening part starts. We should make sure that our students know that they are going to hear each section twice so if they have not heard an answer the first time, they should not worry. This paper takes about 40 minutes, and exam takers get some time to transfer their answers onto the answer sheet. The answers for Papers 3 and 4 should be written in pencil.

Finally Paper 5 – Speaking. Exam takers take this section in pairs and this part lasts 14 minutes. There are two examiners but one does not take part in the conversation, s/he only makes notes to discuss the marks with the other one afterwards. Here our learners should know that they should not interrupt their peer while it is his/her long-turn; after one candidate has finished, the second one has up to 20 seconds to express their opinion.

To develop our learners reading skills we were advised to find interviews with their favourite stars on the Internet (if very difficult – adapt them), read and discuss them with our learners. Jigsaw reading will also help them with Gapped Text part. It is also useful to find various adverts/reviews of our learners’ favourite products and ask them to compare the reviews and find similarities and/or differences. It also helps to read Graded Readers and discuss the text with our learners. Teachers are also advised to find materials related to the topics studied in the classroom to expand on the subject-related vocabulary. To find out what words our learners are expected to know at B2 level, we were advised to check the words studied on English Profile Website.

For the writing paper we were advised to train our learners to complete each writing task within 40 minutes. Our learners need to get into habit of doing this and they should not have problems with the timing on the exam day. It is also a good idea for them to underline all the important points in the task before planning the answer. Students should learn to write legibly.

For the Use of English section, students should be encouraged to learn groups of words with the same root to make it easier to remember. For example, to impress, impressive, impressed, unimpressive, impression, etc. Dictionaries are a great help here.

Students can be encouraged to find and share various podcasts or programs on the Internet that are related to the subject studied in each unit int he classroom. We an either set up a group page on Facebook for them or create a blog where then can post their findings and discuss them in writing which will also improve their writing skills.

To improve speaking skills (Part 2 – long turn), the advise was the following:

  • practise the language of comparison about topics or interests chosen by students
  • break the task down into 3 sections: 1. describe first picture, 2. describe second picture, 3. answer the question (Important to time each part!)
  • ask students to bring pictures of their own choice, then they in groups choose some pictures and write questions to ask other group members.

Sites we were advised to use:


For future webinars check out the Webinars page of Cambridge ESOL.

You can also join the Webinar Forum to discuss any problems that you face while preparing your learners for this examination.

Good luck!

IELTS in Virtual Reality

This talk was given by Iffaf Khan who designs and teaches IELTS courses online. As an IELTS teacher I was very interested in this talk as I cannot imagine how effective an online IELTS course would be. 
Iffaf’s centre use Second Life as their VLE and she says that they have many students who study the course with them and then take the exam successfully. She said that students can choose which and whose sessions to attend throughout the course and when I asked which teacher gives them feedback on their writing, she said that whichever teacher delivered the preparation for that section. That would increase the workload of that particular teacher, I thought, but Iffaf said that their teachers are all very enthusiastic about what they do and that’s not a problem for them.
To be honest, at first I thought that students will not consider the use of avatars to be very serious but Iffaf assured me that students don’t have any problems with that because they know what Second Life is exactly and thye enjoy it.
I wonder if this would work in my teaching context.