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Using Technology to Help Students Pass

Submitted by Jose Lema, Quito, Ecuador

Using technology to help our students pass their standardized exams.

There is a growing trend in using different technological gadgets to support our traditional teaching practice. Here some tips on how to do it.

Firstly, find out the testing skill or a specific part of the exam you think your students need extra practice. Vocabulary items for productive and receptive skills are usually a great way to start.

For example to practice vocabulary for a specific exam:

  1. Go to https://quizlet.com/ or  https://cerego.com/browse
  2. Both websites offer searching tabs. You just type vocabulary plus the exam name.
  3. Familiarize yourself on how to practice and using the page.
  4. Once you know how to do it, you can either choose one already created vocabulary set or create one yourself.
  5. Practice along with your students first in class using a projector so that everyone knows how to do it.
  6. Tell your students that they may also practice using their cellphones or tabs.
  7. After you and your students are familiar with these software encourage them to create their own vocabulary sets aimed for the exam they are interested in and share them with the rest of the class.

Secondly, listening can also be a very challenging skill to master for exam purposes. We teachers tend to recommend listening different types of texts so our students get familiar with different English language varieties. In fact, many of our students listen to music in English. They also use the Internet to be informed, entertained or communicate with others in English. An excellent tip to help them with listening practice and checking comprehension is the website http://www.esl-lab.com/ that includes a collection of audio/video lectures for all levels of listening comprehension together with self-testing and answer options.

The following is a tip on how to use it for an easy level listening class:

  1. Go to http://www.esl-lab.com/elem/elemrd1.htm
  2. The activity includes pre, while and post listening activities.
  3. For the pre-listening stage you can ask your students to think about the topic of the lesson and carry out a brief discussion on the topic.
  4. For the while-listening stage use a projector and speakers so that your students can see you using and practicing with this website.
  5. Play the recording. They can use paper to write their answers down.
  6. When they are done ask them to exchange their papers.
  7. Then you click on the different options and click on the final score button so that everybody can see the answers.
  8. *Optional* The activity also includes an extra grammar explanation with slides and audio. Play the explanation and ask your students to take notes.
  9. On the post-listening stage ask your students to answer the questions mentioned on the web-page
  10. Tell them to share their answers in pairs.
  11. Finally you can ask them to investigate more on the topic and share their results for the next class or record their voices and their findings using the following website http://www.englishvoices.org/

Thirdly, reading for exams hinges on your knowledge of vocabulary; reading strategies such as skimming, scanning and reading for details; and your ability to understand what you read in a limited amount of time. Technology can help our students to cope with different reading test types and questions. The following may be a standard procedure to determine the level of reading comprehension and how to develop reading testing strategies.

  1. Use a projector to show the students how to do it.
  2. To test your reading level visit the following https://www.englishclub.com/reading/test.htm or http://cdextras.cambridge.org/Readers/RPT_last.swf
  3. After you verify your reading level you can start selecting appropriate materials aligned with your reading ability along with texts and different question types that challenge your reading comprehension.
  4. Visit http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/studyzone/ and select your language level.
  5. Click the following example for intermediate level reading http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/studyzone/410/reading/
  6. Ask your students to read the text and choose the correct answers taking into account the time limit.
  7. Tell them to write down their answers 8.When they finish ask them to compare their answers.
  8. Finally show the correct answers explaining your own strategies.

Fourthly, one tip for writing in exam preparation is to ascertain the specific text types for the required exam. There are some websites that include example questions, models, and activities for you to get acquainted and improve your writing testing skills.

The following websites can be helpful to practice not only writing but also other skills:

If you are not sure what exam to take, you can test your English here: http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/test-your-english/

  1. Once you have figured it out what writing text types the exam requires go to https://sat.ilexir.co.uk/ to practice and receive feedback.
  2. You and your students can register using a personal email account.
  3. Choose any of the writing tasks to procedure.
  4. After you have sent your writings, you will receive a score depending on your writing performance.

Fifthly, many different speaking and testing examples can be found on the Web and mainly in YouTube. In addition, software programs such as http://www.skype.com/ ; https://www.teamviewer.com ; https://hangouts.google.com/ and the video chat http://www.oovoo.com/ this type of software allows students and teachers to practice for the test, provide instant feedback and reflect on their speaking ability. A tip on how to prepare your students for the KET speaking exam is shown below

Before the video chat:

  • In class you practice the speaking KET parts 1 and 2 in pairs or groups.
  • Ask your students to download the video chat http://www.oovoo.com/ to their computers.
  • Plan a meeting timetable so that you and your students can participate during the video chats after class.
  • Since the video chat software allows to record the conversations tell the students they will be recorded for further feedback and analysis.

During the video chat:

  • It is advisable to work in pairs and the teacher as an interlocutor.
  • Greet them and create a friendly environment.
  • Start asking questions for the KET speaking part 1 and 2 to each student.
  • Model some of the questions and answers if students find them difficult.
  • In the speaking part 2 students work together to complete the task. The first student asking the questions and the other one answering them conversely.
  • When they finish you can point out some problems you found in their performance.

After the video:

  • Select good recorded speaking examples.
  • Show them to the whole class.
  • You can repeat the same procedure until all the students become familiar with the speaking procedures for the KET exam speaking parts 1 and 2.