Ready for PET
The Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) was first introduced in the late 1970s, and then revised and updated in March 2004. The first edition of Ready for PET came out in 2001, before the test revisions, which is perhaps one of the reasons Macmillan has brought out this new edition in 2007. Better late than never.
The PET is no dusty academic exercise in pencil chewing, but is closely aligned to real life English and has a very active and communicative bent. In keeping with this approach, Ready for PET presents a well integrated ommunicative course in all four skill areas, tied together into 10 units and 20 topical lessons.
The publisher claims that this book will prepare students for the PET in three important ways: giving students lots of practice exercises, giving advice on how to answer questions, and comprehensive vocabulary building.
Concerning practice exercises, there is certainly enough here to keep everyone happy. Each unit has reading, writing, listening and speaking exercises, presented in much the same format as students encounter them on the test. There are also two practice tests at the back of the book, as well as a CD-ROM with 6 practice tests to help students prepare for the computer based PET. Arguably, the best way to prepare for any test is to do repeated practice exercises. This is well catered for.
When it comes to advice on answering questions, scattered throughout the coursebook are little boxes that give tips on how best to tackle various parts of the test. Some of this advice is quite helpful, especially when one considers that poor test taking technique can sometimes sabotage an otherwise very capable student's score. A lot of the advice, however, is pretty redundant. It is not actually advice, but rather a regurgitation of the test requirements.
The vocabulary sections do indeed present a wide range of words that students may need to complete the writing and speaking exercises fluently. Some of this vocabulary is recycled in a small four-page grammar and vocabulary practice at the end of the book. However, this may not be enough. In order to make the most of these vocabulary sections, the teacher would need to create some supplementary quizzes or review activities.
This coursebook is designed particularly well, with clear and engaging text and images (much better than the very tired offering from Black Cat publishers, Pass PET). Although the exercises and activities don't flow together as seamlessly as one would like, the authors have managed to avoid being too self-conscious about jumping between various test-taking skills. All these skills are practiced intermittently throughout the book, making a better integrated offering than CUP's Insight into PETh.
The book is not overly Anglophile, although many of the reading and listening activities do revolve around London and England themes. Some other PET coursebooks are very Eurocentric, which is hard to teach in an Asian context. Students often don't have the cultural knowledge necessary to complete the tasks. In this respect, Ready for PET is a little more global in outlook and so is more accessible to an Asian classroom than some other PET preparation books.
All things considered, there are not many drawbacks but a great deal to recommend in this coursebook, with its main strength lying in the breadth of practice it provides the student. It is well worth considering for anyone embarking on a PET preparation course.