Gabriele Hille-Coates from Göttingen has been preparing candidates for the Cambridge English: Advanced at a German state school for many years and would like to share the following ten tips with you for your students:
  • Make your students devise exam questions for one another. This is not only psychologically good for them, but they will also get a better understanding of the deeper structures of the tasks given to them in the exam. This applies to the tasks of all five Papers.

  • For Reading, you should encourage your students particularly to set Part 3 tasks for one another. Point out to them that they need to excise portions of the text that give the examinee clues through cohesive devices such as pronouns, adverbs, or back references by means of synonyms, etc. Tell them to devise a clever distractor by inserting a false track, e.g. by encouraging the examinee to do keyword spotting.

  • For Writing, you should make your students keep an error file throughout the whole of your preparation course. They need to document their mistakes in sections (spelling, tense, adverbs, etc.) and work with them regularly (at least 20 minutes per week).

  • It has proved a great help to collect the mistakes and errors your students make in their written texts and to draw up a “Mistake Spotting” sheet every couple of sessions. Students very much enjoy correcting one another’s mistakes and it’s an effective way of getting rid of common mistakes.

  • In order to improve your students’ command of words, have game of “Outburst” at the beginning or end of each session. For this, you divide the group into halves and give group 1 a general keyword, such as “team sports”, “mammals”, “parts of the body”, “illnesses”, “environmental conservation” etc. The group then has 90 seconds to produce as many words to do with this keyword as possible. You as the teacher count their words by means of strokes on your whiteboard. Then the second group has a go. The group that produces most words, wins.

  • In order to broaden your students’ creative use of words they already know, give them “Full House” exercises as homework as often as possible. For this, you hand out a table with slots like “noun: person, noun: thing, verb, adjective, adverb, opposite” etc. You then give them one word such as “produce”, “manageable” or “comparison” and they fill in the other word types that go with the stem word. This is also a great preparation for Use of English, Part 3.

  • For Listening, work your students through the “TeQUiLaR” method to raise their concentration, i.e. make them aware that any natural listening process consists of 4 steps: first you “Tune in” – you try to set up a context of what you can hear by identifying the speaker and his country of origin as well as the atmosphere of the speech act – , then you “Question” – you ask yourself what the speaker wants to tell you or his conversation partner – , then you simply “Listen” and try to understand the contents of the words and finally you “Review” what you’ve heard – has the speaker answered the questions you posed to him in step 2?

  • For Speaking, your students should draw up mind maps with lots of alternatives for each function such as “agreeing and disagreeing”, “making suggestions”, “adding a new point”, “paraphrasing missing words”. For the exam, they should learn at least three different alternatives for each function.

  • Help your students with a sheet of sentences in case they find a question too hard to answer. This will relax them and support them in producing good sentences even if they cannot think of a comprehensive answer.

  • Help your students with a sheet of lots of different suggestions for turn-taking. Often students get stuck with “And what do you think?”, so again, they should learn at least 3-4 alternatives by heart –and use them!
Good luck to your students!