Tests or exams are designed to test your level of English, but they don’t really do this accurately. For my students it has always been most productive to divide English up into two separate skills – English for life, and English for tests and exams.
If you’re studying to take your A1 Cambridge or any other exam, there is an optimal way to prepare and get maximum marks. But it is not the same as all the other strategies in this book.
There is one similarity. Like we’ve talked about before, don’t waste time with things you are not likely to use. If you are preparing for an exam, focus on creating that exact situation as quickly as possible. Always think Pareto Efficiency, what’s the 20% I should be focusing on to give me 80% of the results I desire?
All exam preparation, from the very first day, should be taking mock exams. Get your English teacher or conversation partner to give you 2 or 3 mock exams – exactly the ones that you will be taking – every week. Set a timer when you do them. Have them ask you the questions in exactly the same way you will be asked in the real thing.
Record your answers, or ask your conversation partner to write down notes. After you have been through it, look at the expressions you used to answer the questions. Look at what you included, and what you missed out. Think, how can I improve that? Learn the right expressions for starting an answer. Learn the perfect reply, and see what you missed out. Look at where you wasted time and where you should have spent more time.
Then, do the same exam again. Record it or have them take notes. Afterwards look at what you said. What you missed out. What you could have improve upon. Go away and practice by yourself.
Then, guess what, do the exam again. Every time set the timer so you have exactly the same amount of time you will have during the exam. Keep on doing this process, again and again and again.
This way, when it comes to the real thing, you will sit down and feel comfortable, like you have done it a dozen times before. Because you already have!
This is how you prepare for tests and exams in English. Get straight to the point. Buy all the preparation guides and booklets and mock exams that are out there. And always practice like it’s the real thing. There’s no point preparing any other way.
This includes creating the same feeling of pressure that you get in a real exam. If you are unprepared for the nerves in an exam, they can take you by surprise. So when you practice with your mock exams, do them in a high-pressured way. So that when you enter the real exam you are mentally ready in every way.
If you’re going to follow a course, make sure it’s one that is designed to reach your goals very quickly – whether it’s passing an IELTS test or making fast progress in conversational skill. The next chapter will briefly talk about the only type of English course that matters.