THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cambridge English First - Oral Exam Part 2

This is not the first time I have written about the oral exam. A quick Google search today has pointed at a lot of teachers writing about the FCE, so it is time to link to them and the great job they are doing to help their students learn.

Understanding English shares a couple of videos on  the oral exam. By the way, thank you Gordon for your kind words about this blog and for introducing Simon and Marcela. We have been exploring their blogs with my students.

Let's take a closer look at part 2. This is the part where you are supposed to compare two pictures and answer a question about them in one minute. Then, your partner will be asked a short question about your picture (30 seconds) before his turn.

I asked my students today what they find challenging about this part. Let me share their answers:

-The pictures are not that inspiring. At times, it is hard to improvise ideas about them.
-As you speak, you become more aware of the language you are using. You keep monitoring yourself and that is kind of "tense".
-Sometimes, you find you need the "right" word or expression and you cannot find it so...ahem, you need to say something else!

Fair enough. I'd say, try to think about this test as a game with rules that we can play clumsily at first and get better with  practice. Check out this previous post for ideas on how to practice on your own.

Practice and tips, of course.

This is a page for teachers, but you will find there a list of 38 useful phrases to use in part 2. There is a full description of the format of this part as well as detailed advice on the language you may be expected to use.

If the previous page has too much detail for you, I'd recommend a visit to FCE Pass. Find a brief collection of phrases arranged by function: description, comparison, expressing differences and answering the question. There are photos for practice, too.

This pdf document highlights useful phrases for asking for clarification, correcting yourself and the language of speculation, which is very important in this part.

Lastly, I'd like to recommend this video of part 2 with advice from a teacher to their students as they perform for part 2. This is not an example from Cambridge, it is useful practice, though.



More? Okay.

Related post
See this previous post for a description of the language needed for the complete oral test.









Thursday, March 31, 2016

A new class and a blog anniversary

Dear Students,

Every school year is a new beginning. New faces. I am trying to remember all of your names. A lot of ideas I would like to share with you. Precisely sharing is what this blog is all about.

We have known each other for a month now and I must say I am inspired by your presence. I really enjoy your willingness to participate, your curiosity and positive attitude. Be sure us teachers need that kind of inspiration like food. It keeps us going.

I am also pleasantly surprised to find a lot of you are interested in art. Some of you also speak Italian, which I am struggling to learn. One of you mentioned enjoying art museums. There are music lovers who also play music. This is just a start. We will certainly discover more amazing things as we get along.

Standardised exams do not sound like a lot of fun. I know. The interesting thing is that to certify your knowledge is outside your school or job requirements and everyone is learning here in my class out of their own will. I believe that as a group we can balance learning certain rules of speaking and writing in a foreign language without forgetting that rules can and should be broken at times. You can remind me of these last words before the test ;-)

I mentioned the idea of blogging some of our class discussions instead of relying only on the classic speaking mode. Some of you liked the idea but needed help to choose a blogging engine. Let me tell you something: stick to those ideas that can be shared. Stick to your writing style even if it does not exactly fit the exam format. That can be learnt later. Blogging tools? We will find a tool. That is the easy part. By the way, pens and papers are among my favourite technology.

I like blogging. This FCE blog has turned 10 years old last week! There have been times when I blogged very frequently and times when I went silent for months. Maybe not totally silent because there is Twitter or commenting at other blogs... You see, the Internet is a very interesting place.

This blog home is still open. It is not homework. It is up to you.

Look forward to seeing you next class.

All best,

Claudia

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Set Text for Cambridge English First: Edgar Allan Poe

I love Edgar Allan Poe. As a teenager, I remember reading and enjoying the tales intensely. Those were days when I only read in Spanish, but Poe can survive a translation. However, I am afraid I cannot say the thrill of reading poe can survive an abridged version. That is what is recommended by the exam centre lately, abridged editions. In my opinion, most of my students at FCE level can read the original version and get a real taste of what Poe is about.

The tales have been a continuous inspiration for writers, TV and cinema. Last January 19th, marking Poe's birthday, OpenCulture.com published a post including three animations of the story The Tell-Tale Heart. Check them out and do make sure you explore the links at the end of that post where you can find Poe's books and audio books. A treasure on the Internet sea.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cambridge First- Statement of Results

Here is a question I often get from my students:

Do you ever get to see the test and your mistakes?

My answer in plain English:

No.

You have to bear in mind that you are sitting for a test at the end of a school course. Although you may be doing a specific course or studying at your school to sit for First for Schools, this is a certification process. You have chosen a university to confirm you possess some knowledge of the language. The tests belong to the assessment body now. They will most probably be used for research purposes.

So, what do you get as a feedback?
Every student sitting for the test is issued with a Statement of Results, which looks like this:


Source

Whether you pass or not, you will access this statement of results online. If you pass, you will receive a paper certificate at you examining centre. That certificate is valid for life. Do remember to go and pick it up. It is issued only once. If you lose it, I guess you will need to sit for the test again!

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Cambridge First-The Speaking Test Updated for 2015


The Cambridge English TV Channel in YouTube keeps updating samples of FCE Speaking tests. As you know, the oral test will undergo a few changes. Pay attention to Part 3 of the test where the examiner asks the candidates to do something together. So far, that part has been of 3 minutes with visual prompts. As from 2015, it will take 2 minutes of discussion of written prompts and then the interlocutor will ask you to evaluate the options together for another minute.

In my opinion, this is much clearer for students, since time goes by faster or much slower when you are under the stress of a test and some students tend to hurry to conclusions way before the three minutes have expired.

So here it is. These are Florine and María





You can also read a pdf document that Cambridge issues to explain the candidates' performance part by part.

So, are you ready to sit for it?


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