Среда 16 января 2013

Опубликовано в печатной версии журнала. Вып. № 6.

Some thoughts and advice for teachers and students who are undertaking UK International English Examinations ESOL & SESOL

настроение: thoughtful

ключевые слова: exams, four criteria, writing, speaking, listening, levels, advice

город: City & Guilds Representative in Russia

The following commentary is written from my experience of conducting official English language exams in Russia over 20 years. It follows that my expertise is founded mainly on one examination board City & Guilds, however as all UK government approved UK and EU English exams have to conform to the six European levels of language skills, the insights I can offer you should hold good for all.

First you may ask why choose one approved exam board over another, well you may also ask why choose a BMW over a Mercedes or vice versa. Both are equally good, they cost much the same and have a similar range/level of cars. However they do feel a little different in their driving experience even though, at the end of the day, they deliver the same result.

City and Guilds International spoken and written examinations are designed in line with the European Common Framework for Reference. This means that the four criteria of Accuracy, Fluency, Pronunciation and Range all have equal value, and equal importance. If I were to characterise the City & Guilds examinations, as compared with another well-known UK exam board, I would say that City & Guilds place their emphasis on everyday language and communication, while another board may have a greater emphasis on traditional or grammatical elements. While some teachers may feel more at ease with grammar as it is often their expertise, real, practical and communication skills are actually what students (and employers) want most.

It is usual now that even the “written exam” includes a significant part which is prerecorded i.e. “listening” to conversations from which answers have to be chosen. This clearly indicates the way English language should be taught, i.e. that there should be a very large emphasis on the spoken language, and, by implication, current everyday language.

The higher levels of the exams also demand a concomitant level of accuracy and range of language. Candidates should be wary when they get to level 4 upwards that they must not only understand the question, but be able to utilise an increasingly mature analysis matched by an appropriate level of language. For the highest levels teachers and students should practise discussion of current topics, from ideas, politics, economics — even philosophy.

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