Friday, 9 October 2009

The Top Ten Test Mistakes!

Students tend to make the same mistakes year in, year out. They are silly, but easily done. Here's a list of my top ten so you know what to NOT do when you're in the Cambridge exam.

1. Leaving an answer blank.

There is nothing wrong with skipping over a tough question to give yourself think about it as long as you remember to go back to it later. The danger with this is forgetting to go back to every question you’ve skipped. A blank answer is always a wrong answer!

Solution: Each time you skip a question, put a tick beside it.

2. Answering a question twice.

You’d be surprised how many times students choose two answers in multiple choice. This makes both answers wrong!
Solution: Review your work and make sure each true/false and multiple choice question only has one answer circled!

3. Transferring answers incorrectly from work paper to answer sheet.

The most frustrating mistake for math students is having an answer correct on the scratch paper, but transferring it wrong to the test!

Solution: Double check any work you transfer from a work sheet.

4. Circling the wrong multiple choice answer.

This is a costly mistake, but one that is very easy to make. You look over all the multiple choice answers and pick the one that is correct, but you circle the letter next to the correct answer—the one that doesn’t match your answer!

Solution: Make sure the letter/answer you indicate is the one you really mean to select.

5. Studying the wrong thing.

Whenever you have a test coming up, make sure that you understand which areas the test will cover. There are times when a teacher will test you on a specific chapter that is never discussed in class. On the other hand, the teacher’s lectures may cover three chapters, and the test may cover only one of those chapters. When that happens, you can end up studying material that won’t appear on your exam.

Solution: Always ask the teacher what chapters and lectures will be covered on a test.

6. Ignoring the clock.

One of the most common errors students commit when taking an essay test is failing to manage time. This is how you end up in a panic with 5 minutes to go and 5 unanswered questions staring back at you.

Solution: Always take the first few moments of an exam to assess the situation when it comes to essay questions and answers. Give yourself a time schedule and stick to it. Give yourself a set amount of time to outline and answer each essay question and stick to your plan!

7. Not following directions (or perhaps better put as NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION!)

If the teacher says “compare” and you “define,” you are going to lose points on your answer. There are certain directional words that you should understand and follow when you take a test.

Solution: Know the following directional words:

* Define: Provide a definition.
* Explain: Provide an answer that gives a complete overview or clear description of the problem and solution for a particular question.
* Analyze: Take apart a concept or a process, and explain it step by step.
* Contrast: Show differences.
* Compare: Show likenesses and differences.
* Diagram: Explain and draw a chart or other visual to illustrate your points.
* Outline: Provide an explanation with headings and subheadings.

8. Thinking too much.

It’s easy to over-think a question and begin to doubt yourself. If you tend to second-guess yourself, you will inevitably change a right answer to a wrong answer.

Solution: If you are a thinker who tends to over-think, and you get a strong hunch when you first read an answer, go with it. Limit your thinking time if you know you tend to doubt your first instincts.

9. Technological breakdown.

If your pen runs out of ink and you can’t complete an exam, your blank answers are just as wrong as they would have been for any other reason. Running out of ink or breaking your pencil lead halfway through a test sometimes means leaving half your exam blank. And that leads to an F.

Solution: Always bring extra supplies to an exam.

10. Not putting name on test. This sounds stupid BUT IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR!

There are times when failing to put your name on a test will result in a failing grade. This can happen when the test administrator doesn’t know the students, or when the teacher/administrator won’t see students again after the test is over (like at the end of a school year). In these special situations (or even if you have a very stern teacher) a test that doesn’t have a name attached to it will be tossed out.

Solution: Always write your name on a test before you get started!

Good luck in those exams guys!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Answers to Omar Bongo Crossword

I promised my Wednesday students that I would post the answers to the Omar Bongo Crossword so here they are. I do hope that you had a go at it. It was quite tricky.

1. RIGHTHANDMAN—(5,4,3) Second in Command?
5. BACKBREAKING—(4,8) Very difficult, Hard work
9. NANNY—A minder for the baby
10. RESERVES—The amount of oil held in potentia by a company or country in the ground
11. NIFTY—practical, fast or handy
15. BRASH—Adj - loud, audacious, uncivilised?
17. GRASP—Verb - understand or grab?
18. CUTTING—adjective - terse and satorial. Sarcastic?
19. SWAN—Verb- to move around in an untroubled air like royalty


2. HOBNOB—Verb - to meet and associate with rich and powerful people
3. INDIGNANT—Adj - Annoyed and surprised by an accusation
4. FIDDLE—Verb in the infinitive - to corrupt, cheat or steal
6. CASSAVA—An African cereal crop
7. FIRSTDIBS—A two word phrase (5,4) that means priority
8. FRANCOPHILE—A lover of France
12. FLUMMOX—to confuse and baffle
13. CLADDING—Surface paneling, often made of stone
14. OZIGO—An African hardwood
16. NEPOTISM—Overly favouring one's family, usually by giving jobs to them
18. COT—A Baby's bed

How did you do?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Nicer Links for Lazy Students

Knowing how lazy I can be with looking through links I have decided to spoonfeed you dear readers. I'll give you here the direct links to the teachers handbooks of the three exams that this blog is concerned about.

'Why would I, a student, want the teacher's handbooks?' I hear you ask.
Well, it's simple. They explain the marking and assessment criteria and have good example answers and sample papers with answers so that you may print out an exam, do it, mark it and know your approximate mark. Remember, 60 percent - 75 percent a C, 75 to 80 a B and 80 plus we are in A territory.
These exams are not that hard... just do it.

Phrasal Verbs and Fiestas

A quiet Monday here in Coimbra today. The summer has definitely finished and the winds and rains are here. I can hear them howling around outside as I type. But we did have a work free day, and that is to the good. Why is it that no matter how much you love your job, your vocation, the way you have chosen to spend your life, that it is better to sit on your bum doing nothing very much at all being lazy? Or is it just me?
I don't know why we had a holiday here in Portugal today (and in Spain too I hear so I'm guessing it's some kind of Catholic thing) but having looked at the timetable for the year last week I do have some bad news for my students... we lose fewer days this year to these holidays throughout the teaching year than last. All the holidays seem to fall on the weekend. Disaster!
I have been working though, preparing a lesson I'll be using tomorrow and actually looking at the language closely of the article I am going to use as the basis of my lesson I am struck by how many idiomatic phrases and phrasal verbs that lie within. It's a toughie all right, which is ironic really because I chose the article in particular so that it would be a nice easy into to the year for my students. But they are getting it anyway as I have already prepared it and it'll be good for them, if slightly less relaxing that I had anticipated.
Which brings me to phrasal verbs. Students shouldn't try and learn too many - and by learn I mean parrot fashion, by rote as many students I have known over the years have tried to do (Asian students in particular were guilty of this). Of course learn the most frequently used. A good list of these can be found in the back of the FCE Gold text book with their regular synonyms, all more normal verbs. Instead students should try and be able to fathom out, figure out and organically try and elicit the meanings from context. After all, this is how you learnt your L1, how I learnt mine. It's one of the reasons I use a lot of authentic materials in my classes (another is that I am getting slightly bored with a lot of the text books. You students think it is dull, but I have to read them to two or three classes a year for five or six years in a row; they are however a necessary evil).
'And what is the best way to organically absorb all this language Dave?' I hear you cry. (At least in my mind I hear you cry it).
READING. Read anything you can get your hands on. Read for fun. Read the English on the back of cereal packets and sauce bottles. Put your subtitles up on movies to read those ( Read online, perhaps the news (see my links down and to the right).
Just keep reading. Read for fun, what you enjoy. The rest will follow.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sample Papers, Answer Sheets and more

I can't stress enough how important it is to look at past/sample papers of the exam you are going to take. I have mentioned before elsewhere on this blog that I have the links below to help but it doesn't hurt to remind readers. Of particular use is the Cambridge handbooks for teachers, as this includes sample answers and sample answer sheets.
Here's the link - and the papers themselves are from page 10 (of 96) inwards. This is for the CAE, the Advanced paper, but the others are very similar and you can navigate round and hardly need telling how.
Pay particular attention to the answer sheets. There are samples of these given too. Cambridge veterans will know that they should fill in the spaces for multiple choice in PENCIL so that they are able to correct them. It's worth printing them out and practicing on them. It WILL take you some time to transfer your answers over to them, which of course you must do accurately. I had a student fail many years ago because he can't have done this (we guessed, though couldn't know for sure, that he had staggered his answers so that they were all off by one, so that the answer for q. 10 was 11's answer etc etc). He was gutted when he failed, as I reckoned he should have easily got a 'B' grade, and maybe an 'A'.
Timing is also vital: when you do the sample papers leave yourself a little extra time for this, but not too much, you want to have ehad enough time to answer the questions properly.
While you're on the site look at the sample answers for the writing too. Look at the notes as to why particular students got a particular mark. Don't look only at the best marks but at the weaker answers too. Why did they get a 'c' or a 'd' (they will talk in terms of band 3 or 4 but you get the idea)? Ask yourself, do you make the same silly, avoidable mistakes as well?
And one more thing... I've said it before and I will say it again... be LEGIBLE!