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.
Do you ever get to see the test and your mistakes?
My answer in plain English:
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:
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!
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.
I got a letter from Simon, a reader of this blog, who says:
" My biggest problem is my small vocabulary. [...] Do you have any tips for me to improve my English faster?"
So I thought it was about time we revisited the topic of vocabulary learning.
Before I give you a list of recipes, please remember that whichever techniques you choose, it's important that you keep at them. Vocabulary learning -just as most of language learning- is like gym. Think training. Think how you'd prepare yourself if your objective was to grow muscles or be physically fit and you'll be on the right track. So, no magic or quick fixes here.
There is, above all, a memoristic aspect to vocabulary learning. That's the glue that makes you retrive the word if you mean to add it to the words you normally use. So, if you choose some of the memory training techniques below, try to make a list of words which are highly frequent in your everyday English. Why? Because you'll be likely to need the word when you speak, therefore, you'll go beyond the memoristic game to real learning in a meaningful context.
Synonyms are a great way to learn words. You never know which one sticks to your mind first, but, at least, by giving your brain choices you create other association possibilities that may spell success.
However, this is a word of warning, our brains are not that prepared to learn antonyms when both words in the pair are new to you. Trying to learn "tall/short" at the same time is not a good idea. Try it with a list yourself. You'll probably doubt which is which for a long time. Many students confuse words like "before&after" even in advanced levels.
Next, you may try to group words linked to a topic context:
Brainstorming a topic. Which words come to your mind when you think "fashion"?
I find all of these useful when the starting point is words in my mother tongue and then look for the foreign equivalents. Then, you may systematize all that in word maps. The kind of maps you find in Lexipedia, for example. This is particularly useful for the Use of English Paper.Check out these flashcards.
Onother helpful hint to learn words is to vary the senses you use to learn them.
From any text you read online, you may create a word cloud to help you retell it by using the image only. You may just drop words and use them as a story prompt, if you feel more creative. What story would you make with these?
One last word, you'll find sharing and teaching the words a powerful source of learning. So go ahead and teach someone what you now know. Remember the muscle training principle applies to words: use them or lose them!
In our previous post on Speaking Paper Part 2, we discussed the content of this part of this exam:
-what kind of information to give
-what you are expected to do with it
Now I'd like to focus on a strictly linguistic aspect: the form. How to say it. What words and phrases can you use to link what you say? The ideas of this post apply to all parts of the oral interview.
'How you say it', as opposed to how many structures and how much vocabulary you use, is technically called Discourse Management: to what extent can you give logical, well presented ideas.
Remember: no one is counting how many mistakes you've made to give you a pass or a fail. You will be awarded marks for everything you succeed in doing in terms of communication.
Ascención Villalba has shared this presentation which outlines and highlights the language you can use in FCE Speaking. I think it is quite complete and worth studying in detail:
What's the goal? To approximate to using the language in that presentation. Beware of memorizing or forcing the expressions in your speech. It's unnatural and not a mark of learning. Try these phrases on as it they were new clothes. Select what fits best; make sure you have enough to change for the sake of variety.
The blog where it was originally published has some posts with tips and links . Take a look at the links on the sidebar of Skills for FCE.
On a final note, I just want to say that I love bringing other teacher's goodness to my own students in my class.
Claudia Ceraso is a graduate teacher of English from IES Lenguas Vivas 'Juan Ramón Fernández'. She is currently studying Literary and Scientific Translation at IES Lenguas Vivas and a postgraduate course Licenciatura en Enseñanza de Idioma Inglés at CAECE University. She has been teaching FCE courses at AACI -Asociación Argentina de Cultura Inglesa- since 2002.
Twitter @fceblogLinkedIn Mail: fceblog (at) gmail (dot) com
My blogging projects are strictly personal and need not reflect the views of my employers.