THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

DOs and DON'Ts

Useful Study Tips

Studying is so personal. Perhaps we all study in different ways. Even when we study in groups our minds need to find a way to link the new bits to previous concepts. No two minds share exactly the same information saved in their virtual disks. Mmm all this sounds rather techie, as if our brains functioned like a computer! But learning has a lot of similarities with computers and the Internet. Just think: When we study, we slowly classify information in folders or tag it with a good label. That helps you retrieve it –remember it easily. Not too different from the way search engines work!

Learning goes beyond the tagging and storing metaphor. We need to know what to do in totally new situations. Applied knowledge is about transferring, adapting, and sometimes creating anew! An exam requires these skills. A good exam will not ask you if you just remember something, it will push you a little bit further to know if you can solve the unexpected with some success. No matter how many past papers you’ve done, the next one will be new. An exam is a new problem that will require knowledge and strategy to solve it. The idea is that with what you know you can deal with it.

I imagine what you may be thinking at this point: Easier said than done! I grant you that. Exams are perfect for triggering off anxiety and some nervousness. Don’t ask me why, but I have always felt a bit tense before and after an exam –never during the exam. I probably feel more in control while writing or speaking than waiting for the mark! The thing is you choose to sit for an exam. You try to do your best and then you will enjoy a sense of achievement.

By the time you put yourself to the test, techniques should have been internalised already. I have received some emails asking for help with dos and don’ts. Actually this FCE blog is mainly about useful learning and study tips. As most of my posts deal with specific techniques for each part of the exam, I thought it would be a good idea to have a general picture. So here it goes. Let’s see what other teachers have prepared to help you.

Dos and Don’ts
The Cambridge Teacher’s Resource site offers detailed techniques for every part of the FCE test. A must read I would say...

Use of English

Longman outlines different techniques when studying for all parts of the exam. These are more general than the ones in the Cambridge site.

OneStopEnglish features tips for Speaking and Use of English. Written for teachers, these tips are very detailed with activities and lesson plans.

Teacher Dude is a native teacher of English living in Greece and an active reader of this blog . Find his advice for the FCE oral interview here. The tips are grouped under the different sections of the oral interview and they are a very good summary of what us teachers always correct in our students mock oral interviews.

As I said before, this is the general picture: The complete dos and don’ts grouped together in one post for your convenience. Remember to practise them separately –slowly linking to previous knowledge in your brain CPUs! Start by learning the tips of the parts you find most difficult at first, but it will prove a good exercise to reflect on all of them. They are not capricious; they state abilities that all of us as native speakers of our language naturally possess. It’s just that when we learn a foreign language all those skills demand a little more effort to learn.

To sum up, you should keep a balance with your study priorities and allow time to learn all of these throughout your exam preparation:

  • Solid knowledge of the Language
  • Techniques to transfer that knowledge
  • Exam Timing procedures to ensure success

Hey Everybody!
To all of you struggling towards the exam...Do you have any comments or questions on these techniques? How about those who have already passed the exam... Do you have any advice of your own to share?

Hope to hear from you! Don’t forget to mention your country of origin, there are so many fcebloggers out there...

Photo by Reinhardt Hoft

Related Posts:
Past Papers
Time yourself!


  • Very useful post.

    I have just created a new esl superblog where your blog has been included for its quality and pedagogical interest.
    (I hope you don't mind. If you do, please tell me)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9:15 pm  

  • Thank you José Luis. I see your link list includes some of my favourite edubloggers.

    Actually I've been on Suprglu for a while because Blogger is sometimes difficult to access for a teacher friend in China. FCE BLOG and ELT Notes

    Stay in touch!

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 9:52 pm  

  • I have already done the FCE exam and what I recomend is: read, specially for those who have problems with grammar, like I. Use of English: do as many papers as you can and check the structures in which you have mistakes.
    For me, the worst was that the Use of English paper, the most dificult for me, was the last one. By then, my brain was already burnt!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 3:42 pm  

  • Believe Gilda practises as she preaches.

    I am happy to hear how you design your own learning paths. Proud to be your teacher.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 8:13 pm  

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