What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam
What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam

What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam

The beginning of spring gives people motivation for new achievements. It also includes the desire to supplement the work or study portfolio with a certificate of successful passing the international exam. It is for you, as well as for those who are waiting for the mandatory Russian state exam this year, we will briefly interrupt our series of posts on a “smart” approach to languages. We have prepared some tips that will help you effectively plan your preparation for the international exam and not lose the most important thing in the process - motivation.

So, you have decided, or have recommended, or even forced, to decorate the wall with a treasured piece of paper in a frame. Further actions seem understandable: to find an experienced teacher or a good study guide and follow all his recommendations. However, there are things that you are quite capable of doing on your own. They will help the specialist in working with you and will become a solid foundation for motivation to achieve a result. In other words, before you start preparing ...


1. Determine the purpose

"I want the highest score!" - Needless to say, it sounds ambitious. To build on such an emotional impulse a long-term motivation to study is unlikely to succeed. Carefully study the requirements of organizations to which you will probably be able to provide your certificates. The vast majority of educational institutions or workers' companies clearly indicate the requirements for points. Be careful: many organizations require a certain number of points not only for the exam as a whole, but also for each section of the exam. By standard, it is reading, listening, speaking and writing.

2. Find out your current level of knowledge of the language

"Can I?" - a question that torments everyone in the first stages of preparation. Sometimes the question causes such a strong panic that some prefer to give up immediately. To dispel doubts, it is enough to know your current level of knowledge of the language. Figures are the best remedy for unreasonable experiences. Placement Tests, which are available online, as well as the help of an experienced teacher, will help you with this. It will help evaluate your speaking and writing skills, and you will receive the most objective assessment of your knowledge. You will be able to assess your position on the CEFR scale (Pan-European scale of language competencies), and find out on the official website of the exam:
a) the minimum required language level for passing the exam on the CEFR scale;
b) what is the approximate score with the current level of knowledge of the language you can get.

3. Determine the timing

At the previous stage, it will be quite clear how much time you need to get the desired result. However, you should talk about the main situations on which the duration of the preparation for the exam will depend. So, there may be several situations:

  • First: the current level is not enough to pass the exam. In this case, it is better to postpone testing until it meets at least the minimum requirements. Usually, to reach the next level on the CEFR scale, it takes from 8 to 12 months of training 2-3 times a week. So the deadlines for the exam will have to be postponed for about a year.
  • Situation two: the current level of knowledge of the language for the exam is enough, but to get the desired number of points is still not easy. Your task is to find a teacher. He maintains a curriculum in such a way that you simultaneously strengthen your general English skills and at the same time get acquainted with the strategy for exam assignments. An important role is played by teaching aids. For example, a series of textbooks Complete and Objective for the Cambridge exams. Such training lasts from 4 to 8 months, subject to active work at least 2 times a week.
  • Finally, the third, most positive situation: the current level is enough to get the desired score, and you successfully solve the test versions of the exam. But remember that the success of the test depends not only on knowledge of the language itself, but also on the possession of strategies for completing tasks. If you know how to correctly carry out tasks of various types, you save time and feel confident in your actions. Allocate from two or more months to bring the application of all strategies to automatism.

4. Familiarize yourself with the exam format

Many do it at the very beginning - download an approximate version of the test from the Internet and solve it in order to determine their initial level. And it seems quite logical, but ... It is too likely that even a confident student will get a low score. He will be so disappointed with the assessment that he will completely refuse to participate in the exam, although in fact the chances were good. In fact, the reason for the failure was the ignorance of the strategies that we mentioned above. If you do not know how to most effectively focus on different stages of listening, how to approach reading different types of text, you will make mistakes and spend more time on tasks. Solving trial versions of the test at an early stage only makes sense if the teacher has already explained to you how to work with the tasks. This will be another of the points of diagnosis of your level of training.


1. Trust advertising

International exams are a whole business. Hundreds of courses and thousands of study guides promise to prepare for delivery in the best way, but not all of them are honest with potential students. How to avoid cheating? There is no universal recipe, but there is one indicator that will tell you not the most conscientious people. This promise is to discover "secrets" and teach "life hacks" that are "inaccessible to mere mortals."

Firstly, the main task of the international exam is to provide advanced opportunities to students who already have sufficient knowledge. The selection of the “chosen ones”, who are fortunate enough to learn a certain “secret”, is unlikely to be beneficial.

Secondly, the set of exam strategies for most exams is exactly the same. The difference is only in the number and total complexity of tasks. Here they are:

  • The ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of the main idea;
  • The ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of the individual details;
  • Ability to see the logic of the construction of the text and monologic utterances;
  • The ability to build a logically coherent text and monologue;
  • The ability to understand and apply paraphrasing in written and spoken language;
  • Knowledge and application of vocabulary and grammatical constructions of a certain level of complexity.

And nothing more. Types of tasks are known to any competent teacher - the only difference is HOW he will teach you strategies.

2. Waste time on thoughtless cramming

"1000 words necessary for passing ...", "All grammar for ..." - such headings we see on the covers of manuals. It is these books that we set aside. Why?

Let's open the assessment criteria for the oral and written parts used by experts IELTS, TOEFL и Cambridge exams. They are available on official sites and it will be necessary to get acquainted with them in the preparation process. What do we see there? The criterion "Use a certain word and grammar" does not exist. However, there is such a basis for evaluation as “Uses words and grammar according to the task”, i.e. topic and situation. Therefore, mechanical memorization will not give you an understanding of when and in which combination it is worth using a certain word, phrase, or construction. You will only lose points if you use something out of place. An excellent solution to this issue will be Mental mapsthat we talked about in one of our past articles.

An exception to the rule is the Key Vocabulary List booklets (not for all levels) for Cambridge exams, which are available for download at the official website. Remember that they should not be treated as textbooks. Examine the list of words presented and check yourself: how many words you already know, and how many are still a problem. It will also be a good way to self-test.

We hope that with this article we at least dispel your doubts and add certainty to your plans. Good luck


Anna Menshikova
Global English Ambassador

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