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When you are preparing your students for exams, you often find that teaching the language points and skills is only one aspect of preparation. Students also need to get used to the task types that are common features of language tests. When students become familiar with the format of these tasks and know how to approach them, it will be easier for them to focus on the particular language the tasks aim to test.

Here are some ideas for activities to familiarise your students with some of the most common exam task types. They are easy to adapt for any level and any teaching situation.

COMMON TASK TYPES

MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS

What are multiple choice questions?

These are questions for which there are three or four suggested answers. You are usually instructed to choose one option which is the correct answer to a question or which contains the word or phrase that best completes a sentence or text. The correct option is called the key, and the incorrect options are called distractors.

ADDING A DISTRACTOR

Aim of the activity

To show students how distractors in multiple choice questions work, to show why they are incorrect. To encourage students to focus on the logic behind the task rather than solving the task by guessing.

Procedure

GAP-FILLING

What is gap-filling?

You are given a text with some words missing. You have to complete the text by inserting the appropriate words. You may be given a list of the possible answers (banked gap-filling) or you may have to come up with your own answers (open cloze). The task is to work out the answers from the context.

Invisible story

Aim of the activity

To raise students' awareness about the redundancy of texts and the role of context.

Procedure

Skimming text with gaps

Aim of activity

To help students to focus on context.

Procedure

MULTIPLE MATCHING

What is multiple matching?

You are given a text and a number of headings which summarise the gist of each paragraph. You have to match each heading with the relevant paragraph. There is usually one more heading than you need. Alternatively, you may be asked to match pictures to each paragraph, where the pictures illustrate the main points in the text.

Choosing titles

Aim of the activity

To encourage students to read a text for gist and to summarise the key points of a paragraph.

Procedure

SEQUENCING PAPAGRAPHS

What is sequencing paragraphs?

You have a number of jumbled up paragraphs that make up a coherent longer text. You have to put the paragraphs in the correct order to restore coherence. Sometimes you are also given a paragraph that you don't need to use.

Putting it back together

Aim of the activity

To teach students to summarise the gist of a paragraph. To show students how to use summaries to help reconstructing a text.

Procedure

ERROR CORRECTION

What is error correction?

There is a text which contains mistakes, the type of which depends on the language points the task focuses on, e.g. spelling, grammar or vocabulary. You have to identify and correct the mistakes.

What's wrong

Aim of the activity

To focus students' attention on the reasons for mistakes. To encourage students to analyse errors.

Procedure

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