The next three posts are based on a talk I saw last weekend at FECEI. Cathy Myers is an oral examiner for Cambridge and gave a talk on some typical errors which students make.
This first post is about the first part of the exam (surprisingly!). One of Cathy’s main points here was that this is the student’s opportunity to make a good first impression and as all candidates are asked the same two questions, you can easily prepare your students.
Where are you from? What do you like about living there?
Remember here that examiners aren’t interested in hearing a memorised spiel on the elevation and population of your town or city. However, it’s possible that they are examining fifty other students from the same place that day and so don’t want to hear the same information repeated over and over again. Get students to think about why THEY like the town – some may like the beach because they go there everyday in summer; others may like the shopping centre because it’s a great place to hang out with friends on Saturdays; another may like the fact that it’s a quiet town and that there aren’t many tourists.
Finally for this question, Cathy mentioned that students often reply by saying “I like that (my town is near the beach)”, which sounds very unnatural.
To be honest, the rest of Part One of the exam we practise with our students every lesson – asking them about their hobbies, what they did at the weekend, their family, etc. But (and this is one thing which annoys me about the FCE exam), remember the questions can jump randomly from one topic to the next and whilst this is a completely unnatural way of holding a conversation, it’s something we should prepare our students for. So ask them one question, then something else completely unrelated – keep them on their toes!
And, remind your students that they should show what they know, not who they are and it’s OK to lie! If they are asked what they did at the weekend, it’s much better to say, “I went shopping with my friends to buy a new T-shirt” than to sit there, racking their brains, trying to remember what they did.