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Teaching exam classes: Tip #1

TEACHING-EXAM-CLASSESTIP-#1What are some of the things you should know if you are thinking of teaching English exam classes? Here is my first tip: Know your exam inside out. Keep reading to find out why I think it makes a lot of sense to take the exam yourself.

Given you are about to teach a very specific course, you are most likely going to work with a coursebook that gives the overview of the exam, includes some practical exam advice, and provides all the necessary exam type exercises. While it is there to guide you and to ensure students work on appropriate language areas, don’t expect that following the pages and checking the answers will do the trick.

During my many exam preparation courses, I have found it crucial  to actually get to know the exam inside out. I don’t think it’s enough to read about the structure, tasks, duration and marking. It is extremely useful to get the first-hand experience of actually sitting the exam (albeit in your living room while preparing the course).

Go through several different exam papers, see what the students are going up against, put yourself in their position, and look at the exam through the eyes of your learner. It will help you understand the exam better, anticipate problems, and start figuring out solutions ahead of time. While taking the exam yourself, you are likely to get some insight the coursebook might not offer, give your students practical advice they won’t have the chance to obtain elsewhere, and demonstrate some useful strategies first-hand.

A student of mine once asked me, quite incredulously, whether I was really going through all the exam papers myself before each class. He was shocked when I confirmed. Once the course was over, he told me that knowing I had a lot of experience not only teaching but also taking exams made him trust me more as a tutor. 

That’s why I say: don’t willingly reduce your role to an “answer key reader” or a “writing checker”. Students have chosen the course and not opted for self-study precisely because they are counting on their tutor’s sound advice and expertise. Show them you’re the right person for the job and let them have absolute confidence in you as the exam expert who is going to guide them through the course and help them get the best possible result.

What does knowing the exam inside out mean to you?

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