Michael and Sarah are two students who have been going to the same English academy for 7 months. They have sadly just failed their first attempt at the FCE exam. They have been invited to come back to the academy, where their teacher Stuart will give them a lecture on the ins and outs of the reading and listening and talk more with them about what could have gone wrong.
STUART: Hey guys, I’m really sorry that you both didn’t pass the exam. Were the listening and reading sections particularly difficult for you?
SARAH: The reading wasn’t too bad but the listening was a nightmare.
MICHAEL: I was going to say the same thing. I didn’t have too much difficulty with the reading and we have just been saying that the advice we were given about scanning and skimming really benefited us in the exam. But the listening was horrible.
STUART: Were there any particular aspects that you didn’t like about the listening?
SARAH: For me, some of the accents were really difficult to understand, I was concentrating so much on just trying to understand them that I got completely lost and didn’t pick up any of the information that I needed to answer correctly
Michael: The accents threw me a little too. One was extremely different to any that I was used to and I ended up really confused and frustrated.
STUART: Right guys, well there is always next time. Today, I’m going to talk you through the difficulties of the reading and listening sections so just sit back and feel free to interrupt me with questions. So, as you’ve already brought up, accents can be a tricky factor. Here at the academy, we have actually taken this into consideration and have hired six new teachers who are from different parts of the United Kingdom. It goes without saying that it is essential for students to familiarise themselves with various accents, so when it comes to the exam and they hear a difficult one, perhaps they hear a closed accent, they won’t be completely stuck like you guys were. We also have the problem of style of delivery. I had a student last year who failed the exam and explained to me that one of the texts he had listened to was a persuasive text, so the speaker was extremely enthusiastic and loud and over the top, but then it switched to a completely different tone in the next text, with the speaker talking in a very monotonous and calm voice. The stark contrast between the two didn’t do him any favours. He never knew what to expect which made him anxious and he ended up failing the exam. So when it comes to difficulties people have with the speaker, I can just advise you to be completely prepared for every possible situation, listen to as many different types of text as you can. Let’s move on to the actual content of the speaking exam. What scares a lot of people is the fact that so many random topics can arise as the subject matter for both the listening and the reading sections. Did you two face this issue?
MICHAEL: Yes, I did. The thing is, we need to understand the meaning in context, the questions aren’t knowledge-based. You need to seek the correct information within the text.
STUART: Absolutely. So you need to get to grips with the content, if it is a very strange topic, there are bound to be words that you don’t recognise. Don’t get stressed about it, try to keep up with the rest of the text and extract the general meaning. One of the most important things to focus on is time management. With the listening, you are given a certain amount of time to complete the questions so it’s not under your control but for the reading, you need to assign allotted time to each question. I suggest splitting the time equally between the three parts, but if you are stuck on any of the sections, make sure to move on to the others and then you can go back to anything you have left out. This way, you won’t be wasting precious time. Ok guys, so any questions? Do you feel a bit more reassured now?
MICHAEL: I do feel a lot better, yes. I will be sure to take your advice about time management on board.
SARAH: I will too, thanks for your help.
SYNONYM or DEFINITION
an act of trying to achieve something
an educational speech
the ins and outs of
all the details of something
a frightening or unpleasant dream
to concentrate on
to focus one’s attention or mental effort on a particular object or activity
to pick up
to choose from a number of alternatives
to end up
there is always next time
there is a second chance
talk someone through something
to go through something thoroughly
to sit back
to bring something up
difficult, delicate, complicated
It goes without saying that
there is no point stating the obvious, it is obvious
a closed accent
a strong accent
to be stuck on something
to be unable to figure something out
a talker, a person who speaks (in a text)
to be over the top
to switch to
to change, to shift
Let’s move on to…
to intimidate, to make afraid
unsystematic, arbitrary, unplanned
to get/come to grips with
to begin to deal with or understand
to select, to excerpt
to split between
to divide, to apportion
to leave something out
to waste precious time
to fail to make full or good use of
to take someone’s advice on board
to be receptive to someone’s advice
Grammar refers to 2 main elements: morphology (study of word forms) and syntax (study of sentence structure). So far you have been encouraged to study the 2 main divisions of morphology which are word formation (including compounds and phrasal verbs) and grammar (including conjugation and declination/inflexions/endings of words, and affixes = prefixes and suffixes).
Now let’s focus on syntax. Once you have learned more vocabulary and have reviewed all your grammar, putting this knowledge into coherent and complex sentences needs to become your priority. This will not only help you with your writing and speaking skills, but also your analytical skills for the reading and listening exam parts as understanding internal structure will:
So what can you review to improve your syntax?