A successful first chapter in most cases will be followed by a sequel but what is most expected is the third part to complete the trilogy.
However, what should be avoided is repeating yourself without betraying those believing in your sayings.
To do so, no matter how disturbing you may be for some people, the truth, although bitter, it must be said at all costs even if you have to go against all odds, as long as you have a clear conscience.
So, since we have so far observed the arena from the ring seats, it is about time we entered the battlefield and once entering the arena there is no going back, that is why we should be best prepared for the ‘traps’ and the fine details that make the difference between victory and failure.
That is why you should be very careful over the ‘battle’ you pick!
The last few years all the more students and parents ask for exams wholly based on multiple choice questions, turning their backs on those which require from candidates to put their knowledge into practice in writing.
For sure these exams apart from being more accessible and popular they are also reliably testing all four skills but what you should bear in mind is that just knowledge is not enough as they are based on psychometrics, where limited time in combination with tricky vocabulary or grammar items come to be confusing and rather difficult, while just choosing at random will, in most cases, be unsuccessful, so you’d better not under evaluate them in respect of difficulty.
In addition, producing an essay under limited time entails a lot of practice, while listening requires concentration; there is no turning back.
Finally, the fact that a candidate may fail a part and, consequently fail the whole exam, should be your prior concern since some of your students may be, by nature, weaker in one skill or they might just be in a bad frame of mind on the day of the exam and thus perform poorly in one part.
Once you choose exams testing all four skills, bear in mind that they are much more demanding in respect of knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, phrasal verbs and idioms.
However they allow more time. Listening is heard twice and above all students get an overall score, which means that failing a part does not mean failing the whole exam.
However, hard preparation and practice is needed and examinees should be self confident and very familiar with the content and format of these exams. Hopefully, past papers are there to help you test candidates’ abilities much better from an early stage.
In case you choose exams which do not directly test use of English or vocabulary but still assess all four skills, testing rules are hopefully the same but some may require passing all skills separately, while others may be based on a scenario approach; there again some students may feel less confident regarding vocabulary.
As for those requiring ‘mediation’ in the oral part, remember that this kind of oral testing may not be as easy as you may think.
In case you choose an exam in the form of a placement test, bear in mind that the material tested is highly demanding in respect of vocabulary. Audio scripts are heard once and time is extremely limited.
Finally, there are ‘exams’ where material is tested in most part through projects. Candidates prepare them in advance and then present them to examiners through speaking and writing while listening and reading are never directly tested.
In my opinion they do not test students’ competence in all skills, under real exam norms as is the case with the majority of the English exams.
Taking everything into account instead of just picking a ‘battle’ when entering the arena, you’d better consider all the aforementioned in order to make the best choice for your students.
Present them with a variety of exam formats in order to see which suits them best and which helps them really demonstrate in the best way what they know. Using past papers as your guideline should be among your priorities.
Do not choose exams which ‘promise’ an easy pass but those which test candidates’ real knowledge, are student friendly and all four skills are tested.
The students you are now coaching will probably find themselves practicing their English in non native societies, working or studying abroad. Just presenting a language certificate that has no real value, will be frustrating for them, once they realize that they are unable to use the language.
In the meantime we can still be crossing our fingers for quality and equality in English testing in Greece, when holding an English certificate will guarantee real fluency in all aspects.
A battlefield may be a hard place to be, but great warriors have nothing to fear as long as the rules are fair. The arena is there -just make sure you enter with confidence! ‘
English teacher, consultant, and author