Review ~ The TKT Course: KAL ModuleA thorough and manageable guide to lexis, phonology, grammar and discourse that is useful even for teachers and trainee teachers who are not planning to take the TKT KAL test.
The TKT Course: KAL Module from Cambridge is a book containing official preparation material for the Knowledge About Language test, written by an actual test item writer.
Although not as well known as the CELTA or some other four week TEFL courses (including by myself when I received this book), Cambridge’s range of TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) exams are becoming increasingly popular as preparation for longer and higher level courses, as an alternative to or qualification to take out of online courses, or a (more or less) internationally-recognized qualification for those who do not have the time or language level to get a CELTA or equivalent. The format and related jargon is a bit confusing because TKT KAL is not part of the basic TKT test but instead one of the Specialist Modules, which despite being called Modules are basically stand-alone test. The available TKT specialized tests are called TKT: KAL (Knowledge about Language), TKT: CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) and TKT: Young Learners, all of which can be taken with or without a preparation course before the test. This book is to prepare students for the KAL test, which consists of three modules with each module consisting of 80 questions in 80 minutes on topics such as grammar and discourse.
As the KAL test is closely related to grammar I was a little apprehensive about having to plough through this book, as grammar is not, for me, the most exciting area of teaching or studying. I must say I was pleasantly surprised as although it does contain a lot of grammar, the author has covered it in a truly easy-to-understand way. It is also easy to jump around the book and look at specific language aspects you need or are interested in.
The book is divided into four parts – Lexis, Phonology, Grammar and Discourse – which are the four components of the KAL test. I highly recommend reading the Introduction first as it explains what the TKT is, who it is aimed at, its format, and its objectives. It also explains how the text’s units are divided into sections, each section’s purposes, and suggestions on how to use them. Each part is broken down into units which include a learning outcome, input section, written exercises, follow up activities, discovery activities and finally a TKT: KAL practice task. At the end of the book there is a practice test with an answer key and also some quite useful test tips. There is also an answer key for all activities and in addition there is an alphabetical glossary of terms used in the book, followed by a unit-by-unit glossary of the same terms. This makes it easier to navigate around the book.
Part 1 looks at Lexis (basically meaning vocabulary) and is broken down into five units which cover meaning, sense relations, word formation, lexical units and lexico-grammatical features. Unit 1 focuses on different types of meaning such as denotation/connotation, figurative meaning, and register. Unit 2 looks at different sense relations, so if you need to know the difference between hyponyms, homonyms, homophones and homographs then this is the section you should read. Unit 3 is especially useful for anyone studying applied linguistics as it looks at word formation, including morphemes and affixation. It also covers word families and spelling rules. Unit 4 discusses lexical units such as idioms, collocations and formulaic phrases. Unit 5 investigates lexico-grammatical features, meaning the grammatical features of lexis (parts of speech, suffixes, grammar patterns and lexis). Part 1 is actually quite painless considering the topics covered. I also like how all units finish with follow-up activities, discovery activities and finally a test-related activity.
Part 2 looks at Phonology and is divided into four units. Unit 6 looks at phonemes and manner of articulation, including vowels, diphthongs and consonants. There are easy explanations and diagrams and a number of activities to complete for reinforcement. Unit 7 covers stress patterns, including many explanations. This is often difficult for teachers to explain, so this unit is very useful. Unit 8 looks at the similarly difficult and important topic of intonation, but is actually rather short. Unit 9 looks at connected speech, including contractions, linking, intrusion, assimilation and elision.
Part 3 covers grammar and is, not unexpectedly, the longest section. It is divided into five units which cover topics such as syntax and morphology, noun phrases, adjectives, verb phrases, adverbs, and the contrast between form and meaning. There are a lot of concepts and terminology but it is all relevant for teachers, trainee teachers and linguists. It is very text heavy in this section, but it is easy to find the topic you are looking for. The problem in this section is that there are only minimal exercises for practice and reinforcement. There certainly could have been more of these as grammar is such an important and at times difficult part of teaching.
Finally, Part 4 looks at discourse and contains four units. Unit 15 looks at the features of written and spoken discourse with examples and a number of activities. Unit 16 looks at coherence and cohesion and contains good information about different aspects of writing such as phrases, grammatical and lexical cohesion, substitution, and ellipsis. Unit 17 looks at spoken discourse and its features, while Unit 18 finishes with information about semantic and pragmatic meanings. Both Unit 17 and Unit 18 are actually quite short with only a few exercises in each one. However, the best thing about Part 4 is that it combines information from Parts of 1, 2 and 3 and therefore is a good way to review the topics that have already been covered.
I am not taking the TKT: KAL test but I must admit this book has actually been useful in the language classes I teach at university as I can easily look at examples and explanations in the book to make it easier for my students to understand the language I am presenting. Even if you are not interested in taking the test, I think this book is a great reference book. If you are taking the test then this book would be a great way to start preparing, although you may need to use extra materials to supplement this book as there are only limited exercises to do.