The TEFL Life: A TEFL blog

a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures

top tips for surviving exam classes

Exam classes can be intimidating but they can actually be a lot more enjoyable than general classes. Why? Because the students are generally more motivated and dedicated and they have a specific goal in mind. Not only that but the class is working towards the same goal and it has an end date, which is priceless in terms of motivation and pressure. At the same time, though, this can make the teacher a bit nervous. Exam classes need to be a lot more structured and focussed than other classes, and exam teachers should be very well prepared in order to cover as much as possible before the exam date, without foregoing quality over quantity, of course.

So here are 5 top tips for surviving exam classes:

* Plan the whole course beforehand.

This does not mean you need to have step-by-step directions for each class, but plan your general scheme of work. Looking beyond the first week will help you to make sure you have time to do everything you want to do.

* Be strict with your students.

Now is not the time to be nice and let your students get away with silly mistakes or not doing their homework. The examiners will not be lenient and the exams are not forgiving, so this is the time your students need to learn where their weaknesses lie and what to focus on. Being too generous will lull the students into a false sense of security and they may go into the exam overconfident and expecting to get a better score than they will get. They will thank you after the exams, when they get the result they want or at least the result they expect.

* Don’t listen to your students; they don’t know what’s best.

This needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Obviously they do know what’s best for themselves in terms of learning, but not necessarily when it comes to the exam. Many times students will beg not to do a certain skill because they believe they are good enough at it. This may be true but they may still be unfamiliar with the exam format and manner of assessment. The different parts will still need to be practiced to ensure the students are fully prepared for the exam, in order to perform to the best of their ability.

* Don’t forget context.

It is easy to focus solely on exam skills and techniques, while forgetting about putting the language in context. The four skills depend on context anyway, so when doing a lesson on skimming and scanning, take some time to discuss the topic of the reading. This is also a chance to look at grammar and vocabulary related to the context, which can easily be ignored in favour of skills, even though looking at vocabulary and grammar is equally important.

* Have fun.

Doing exam skills can be dry and boring. Exams require a lot of dedication, motivation and focus, which can be difficult to maintain over long, intense lessons. Don’t forget the foundations of EFL and try to make your activities more enjoyable, by maintaining the communicative approach and adding in more relaxed activities. Even injecting a sense of competition into exam task will make the activity seem more enjoyable.

Still to come: activities for exam classes. Stay tuned 🙂


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This entry was posted on July 13, 2015 by in General TEFL and tagged , , , , .
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