How to...Teach for Exams

Title: How to...Teach for Exams
Author: Sally Burgess, Katie Head
Publisher: Longman (How to... series)
Reviewed by: Kaithe Greene
Review date: March 2006
Summary Another useful and readable addition to Longman’s How to… series

This book has been written for any and all teachers faced with preparing students for exams, from newly qualified to experienced teachers, and for all those facing the contradiction between teaching for understanding and communication and getting students through exams. As a How to… book it works. It’s easy to dip into at whatever point you need to. It’s also a good read, front to back.

It’s true that most, if not all, exam course books include sections of exam details, advice and technique- and the teacher’s book should provide the teacher with what they need to know. Somehow, it was never like that for me. I would have loved a copy of this book as a new teacher, ten years ago, when I was first asked to teach an exam course. I reckon my students would have loved me to have had a copy too!

It kicks off with a discussion about how to be a successful exam teacher, including such soul searching issues as “What qualities make a successful exam teacher?” and “Coping with the build up of pressure”. We are led through such thorny issues as course planning and material selection, developing good study habits and teaching and testing in exam classes. Equally welcome are the ten golden rules for written exams, and ten golden rules for speaking exams – bite-sized chunks of guidance for students.

This is followed by chapters dealing with teaching each of the four skills in some depth: reading, writing, listening and speaking, and a chapter about grammar and vocabulary. Whilst tailored to teaching exam courses, these chapters contain a lot that is equally applicable to other types of courses.

The final chapter is about low level exams, how they differ from higher level exams and how best to approach them for both teachers and students.

This is followed by a very interesting and useable “Task File” containing photocopiable training tasks – extremely useful for either self study or in service training. The appendix includes an overview of exams with brief details and a list of relevant websites. Inside the back cover there is a table of the level etc. of current exams in relation to the Common European Framework and ALTE.

What I really liked about this book is that it’s really easy to use. If you have doubts about how to prepare students for listening tasks just look in the index at the back of the book where you will find a number of entries dealing specifically with various aspects of listening tasks – take your pick. If your students have a problem with stress management, look it up in the index- there is advice on deep breathing, relaxation and how to support your students.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this book to anyone preparing students for exams, particularly inexperienced teachers. This is a book that should be available in every teachers’ room in every school.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & ArticlesKaithe Greene, MA in Education & Applied Linguistics and grandmother – teaching EFL with IH Torres Vedras most of the time and doting in Hounslow, UK at every possible opportunity.