Some students say you don’t need to prepare for the English/Dhivehi exams. Probably because there’s nothing to by heart in it. But it is an exam. So just like any other exam, you need to be ready for it. And language is not something you can get good at overnight. So you need to practice it a lot.
Here are some things I did to prepare for the CAE exam. Hope it helps 🙂
When we were in grade 10, MU sir told us to make a vocabulary book. A separate book just to note down all the new words we learn. He told us that around the beginning of the year but I kept procrastinating and got round to do that months later. So I began to note down the new words I learn in that book. It will be very easy for you if you categorize it. I note down synonyms from time to time, so that when the time comes to write a letter or an article, I can look into it and prevent myself from using the same word over and over again. You know, for example, the word interesting, you can replace it with absorbing, arresting, consuming etc. But you have to fit it into context. Moreover, keep in mind to identify formal and informal words.
Make it a habit to read the dictionary.
I couldn’t skim through it every day due to the limited time, but if you can spare at least 10 minutes every day to go through the dictionary its very good. If you are searching for a particular word from a manual dictionary, you will find more words along the way than you sought out in the first place. That’s the advantage of a paper dictionary compared to an app in your phone. But I have to admit, there are pretty cool apps now, like Dictionary.com where you will get a new word everyday. Install it!
Read sample writings
Have you seen Gustavo Albarraci’s blog? He uploads CAE and CPE sample writings on his blog! How wonderful. Sadly I came across the site in late November. But in those few days before the exam, I tried to read as much as I could. It was really helpful because the site consisted of posts explaining how to write proposals, reports, reviews and all other exam tasks. You can even write a sample and send it to him for correction, and he will post it if you don’t mind!
Do Past papers
At first, Part 2 of Paper 3 was very difficult for me as you have to fill the blanks with random prepositions and very gramma-ish words. But as I did more questions, I realized it’s mostly the same words used in each paper. You just have think carefully which type of words would best fit. For example, when the sentence is about making a comparison, there comes the words like, “but, however”.
And remember to time you. In paper 1 you get 1hr 15 minutes. Distribute the exercise in a way that you will get at least 5 minutes to check. Or spend 10 minutes on each of the 3 extracts, and spend 15 minutes each on the next three exercises.
Listening can also be improved with practice. Listen to English audios and get familiar with various types of accents. Watch movies without subtitles if it helps. Tell your teacher to conduct listening exercises or you can search for audios via internet and practice on your own. The last exercise is a bit difficult sometimes. The most important thing to do in the listening exam is to read and get familiar with all the questions before the audio starts and to anticipate the conversation that is about to come. In the listening exam it’s quite common to let your mind wander off into somewhere so stay focused. Stop day dreaming!
Practice Speaking with your pair
Speaking Exam could be scary since its all new and you haven’t done it in O level but don’t worry, it will get easier with practice. In my first Term speaking test, I didn’t do as good as I thought I could. You know, it was an Expectation VS reality moment. You think you are going to speak like a pro, but you end up stammering. But it could happen in the first trial.
Before the real CAE exam we got together with our friends and conducted a very serious speaking session. :3 For Part 1, you can think of the questions they might ask. It’s mostly repeated questions like “how long have you been studying English, what is your hobby or what was your childhood like” For personal questions like that you can invent such questions and try to answer them. Keep a default answer in your mind. Its ok to lie in the exam. For example, If they ask you what your hobby is invent an interesting answer. Suppose you don’t like reading, you could still say stuff like ” I love reading in my free time, it just help me to escape from the real world and enjoy a whole new life for a moment. ”
For the 2nd and 3rd part, go through the phrases like, “I don’t agree with you on that, but” or “ I believe this picture is more….” Speak with your pair until it sounds natural. Furthermore, construct complex questions that are asked in Part 4. Get some background information about topics like, “conserving environment, Youth and society, and business”.
And don’t stay frozen for too long. Stall them by saying things like “well….I think….” Use those 5 seconds to dig up your brain for something clever to say.
Moreover listen carefully and don’t start day dreaming there too! Or you will have to ask to repeat the question which will cost you marks. But if you gotta ask, don’t hesitate. You don’t want to end up giving an answer which doesn’t even match the question.
In English writings, I found out that if you lose the touch it’s very difficult to get back in the game. So keep writing from time to time. I understand, how tedious it must be sometimes but you gotta resist that boredom. Before sitting for the writing paper, go through all types of samples, practice each type to write and you will be ready to go.
I thank each and every one who gave me tips and who helped me in getting prepared for CAE. Teachers and friends included. Thank you.