Preparing for an exam can be nerve wrecking business. Especially, if you are dealing with a test in a foreign language. The best way to limit stress during preparation is to take the right approach to getting ready. Sure – language exams come in many shapes and forms. They use different grading scales and might focus on different aspects but there are definitely tricks that can help you no matter which exam you are taking.
So today, we are focussing on which tips can help you succeed in every language exam. Of course, much of how you choose to prepare is dependent on yourself – how you like to learn and how many hours you want to spend on preparation. But these tips will be a good starting point for anyone getting ready to take a language proficiency test. If you are especially worried about the oral section, check out part two of this post which deals exclusively on how to best prepare for an oral exam.
Check the Test’s Official Site
Most of the biggest language exams have their own websites which are maintained by the organisation which is responsible for developing and administering the test. From those sites, it is often easiest to book your exam date in an official testing centre near you.
Additionally, the sites usually provide great preparation materials and tips. The greatest asset you can get from those sites are copies of the old language exams – often with the audio and oral exercises included. Which takes us to the next tip-
Start Preparation with a Practice Exam
You are obviously free to start preparing for your language exam however you want. But taking a practice exam of the exact level you are going to pursue is a great way for you to find out your strengths and weaknesses. As we mentioned, it’s usually very easy to find complete sample exams on the internet, so really starting off your preparation with one would help you understand what you need to focus on more during your subsequent efforts.
Try to sit the practice exam with as close to real-life conditions as possible – limit the time you have on each section and get a professional teacher to grade it for you. Not only will this help you focus on your shortcomings later but you will also get the feel for the real test. It’s a great way to limit the stress of sitting your exam because you’ll have fewer surprises.
Immerse Yourself in the Language
Naturally, there are several ways of preparing for your language test but there are few as effective as total immersion in the language. For a few days before you are set to sit your exam, surround yourself with your target language in as many aspects as possible. Listen to radio programmes (there are several available online), read newspapers or blogs in your target language, and find a native speaker language exchange buddy who can help you practice speaking and writing.
This approach has helped people become fluent in their target language in a matter of weeks, so it will definitely help you nail your proficiency exam. Just make sure that the materials you are using reflect the level of exam you want to take. Don’t read children’s stories if you want to pass a C1 exam, or focus on business language if that’s not the emphasis of the test. The practice test you did before should give you a pretty good idea on what to focus on.
Conclusion – Using Official Materials and Total Immersion Help Improve Quickly
Although language exams differ in the nuts and bolts, they are all designed to test your abilities in the target language. Most of the biggest language exams have official websites that offer free good quality materials and sample tests that can be immensely useful when preping for your exam.
Since often the scariest part of language exams is the speaking part, we’ve dedicated the second part of this post to getting ready for the oral exam.