Needless to say, we all want to obtain an A in the FCE exam. (If you have any doubts about it, this is definitely not your blog. You may stop reading now).
A sound knowledge of syntax will be a key to help you shape a proper sentence –be it written or oral. However, FCE level requires that you go beyond the sentence level, that is to say, that you can also master a certain degree of usage and register choices. So your target knowledge base is a two sided coin: ‘How to say it' and 'When to say it’. Correct form in the appropriate context.
So let’s begin at the beginning. In this posting we will focus on the question of form and how to go about studying it when teachers are not around to help.
Best case scenario: you have a grammar book in your hands. If you are lucky, it will have clear explanations for your FCE level and a collection of exercises with answers. In general, those books cover grammar points not only for FCE but for CAE and CPE too. When information seems to be too much and you get the feeling that you will never be prepared enough to sit for the test, you can go to the grammar summary of your FCE course book to have a clear idea of how much you are expected to know at this point. Focus on that, always.
So with a clear purpose in mind, you can plunge into a grammar book or website and not get lost. The following is a possible learning path:
- Identify your needs: What exactly you need to learn; not just what you feel you need. Are you sure you are aware of your grammar gaps? Perhaps you need to review structures from previous stages of your learning. Perhaps you are ready to go ahead. Here is a site to do different grammar quizzes on practically every grammar aspect you need: http://www.roadtogrammar.com/. The site will only spot your correct and incorrect answers. If you get them wrong, it will not tell you which is correct. It will do for a diagnosis, though. For explanations, we need another site.
- Learning the grammar: There are, perhaps, (too) many sites about this on the web. I’ll recommend just one. This link will take you to the index page of the Guide to Grammar and Writing: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index2.htm. The editor, Charles Darling PhD, is a writing and literature teacher. So you can expect to find clear explanations as well as a focus on improving your written style. At the end of each chapter there is a quiz to help you test your knowledge. This time with answers. For the complete collection of quizzes in the site, go straight to: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/quiz_list.htm
Note: When dealing with grammar books, specific terminology can be a stumbling block: What’s a clause? What are intransitive verbs? Well, it is time to ask the experts, I mean Oxford. Clicking on Jargon Buster you will land on the grammar glossary.
Explanations are brief and they include examples. Reliable and fast.
So this is a suggestion of how to spot and deal with your grammar doubts. Remember this is just the ‘How to say it’. We’ll talk about usage on a future posting.
Common Errors and Confusing Words