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Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English

 

Paper 3: Use of English

 

This web page is undergoing fundamental revision.  The page that was here before unfortunately became out of date after the revision of the Proficiency examination by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages, part of the Cambridge University Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES)). The new form of the exam was administered for the first time in December 2002.

The editor will provide more complete advice on the new format at a later date.

 

However, much of the advice offered on this page remains valid.

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

Part 1

 

Example

How to answer

Model answers

 

Parts 2 & 3

 

Part 4

 

Example of old question 2

Example of old question 3

Example of old question 4

How to answer (old questions 2,3&4)

Model answers to old questions 2,3&4

question 2//3//4

 

Part 5

 

How to read

Words to use

Context!

Be systematic

Important suggestions for both teachers and students

 

Examination technique for the Use of English paper as a whole

 

Timing

Checking

 

 

Much of this page consists of edited extracts from How to Succeed in Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English, by Amorey Gethin, originally published by Basil Blackwell, and The Art and Science of Learning Languages, by Amorey Gethin and Erik V. Gunnemark, published by Intellect in 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

 

Part 1 will be of the same type as the old Section A, Question 1. This is what the examiners call a cloze text. The only difference will be that in the new test there will be only 15 blanks to be filled instead of 20. An example of the old type (i.e. with 20 blanks) is given below. The technique needed to do this part of the paper will remain exactly the same in the new form of the examination.

 

Example (Part 1)

 

For questions 1-20, read the text below and think of the word which best fits each space. Use only one word in each space.

 

Modern Medicine

Until quite recently almost everybody in the Western world (1).......... uncritical faith in the power of medical science. The sulpha drugs introduced in the thirties, drugs (2).......... as penicillin, and vaccines like (3).......... developed against polio, as well as sensational advances in surgical techniques, were regarded (4).......... demonstrations of the triumph of modern medicine.

Now an ever (5).......... number of people are not so sure.

It has become apparent that (6).......... was in fact cleaner water and better diet and hygiene that won the battle against the fearful epidemics of earlier times. The "wonder" drugs only arrived on the scene (7).......... the job (8).......... largely been done. It (9).......... been asserted that (10).......... having more doctors, more and better equipped hospitals, and more food (11).......... any other nation, the U.S.A. is the unhealthiest country in the world. Perhaps an (12).......... more serious charge is that much modern medical treatment, in (13).......... the administering of drugs on a vast scale, (14).......... from helping patients, actually makes people ill.

More and more people are turning to "alternative" medicine, such as nature cure, acupuncture, or homeopathy. Alternative medicine differs widely from orthodox medicine (15).......... that it is far less costly, is in practically every (16).......... harmless, and treats whole individuals (17).......... than separate, depersonalised symptoms. A further consideration is (18).......... that possibly attracts people to it as much as (19)..........: it does not subject patients to the painful and frightening ordeals that most modern hospitals so often (20)......... .

 

How to answer (Part 1)

 

Many students think these passages with blanks are very difficult. They are much easier if you do them the right way.

 

Read the passage through quickly. Don't stop and worry about the blanks until you have finished. Context is as important here as it is with practically all language. You must keep the meaning in mind the whole time, both the meaning of the whole passage and of each sentence. If you forget the meaning you will find either that you fill in almost no blanks, or that you write nonsense. Worry about the story or the argument, not about the English Imagine, if you like, that it is a letter from a friend who has very bad handwriting and that the blanks are words you cannot read, so you have to guess. If you think about it like this, I think you will find most of it is quite easy.

 

Above all, you must never allow your mind to become like a robot (in this or any other question). Using a language properly, whether it is your own or a foreign one, is a thinking action, so never allow your mind to become like a computer where someone presses a key and out comes an automatic response. Language does not work like that. Here are two examples.

 

You might be asked to fill in the blank in the sentence:

Lift the receiver, and listen..........the dialling tone before dialling the number.

 

Many students of English react with a mechanical listen TO and they write "lift the receiver, and listen to the dialling tone...'. Listening to the dialling tone would be a very strange thing to do - unless you are a telephone engineer or regard telephone dialling tones as beautiful music. Here it must be:

Lift the receiver, and listen FOR [as in 'wait for'] the dialling tone...

 

Or you might get a passage with the sentences

Cosmetics manufacturers are one of the most important groups that maintain such tests are necessary. Farmers are interested (1)..........a rather different way (2)..........these large scale and apparently scientifically productive experiments on animals.

where the correct word has to be put in at (1) and (2). Most students, I'm afraid, write in at (1) and all sorts of different prepositions - sometimes not even prepositions - at (2). This is because they respond, robot-like, with an automatic, unthinking in after interested. They don't think about the meaning and so they don't see that the in at (1), although quite correct, has nothing to do with interested, but belongs to way! We haven't had the in of interested yet! That comes at (2). So both (1) and (2) must be in.

 

These are two very obvious examples. But they show both how to think and how not to think when you are dealing with these passages with blanks, and with many other types of question too. It has taken me a bit of time to explain these examples, but it all goes very quickly in practice if you yourself think clearly about the meaning all the time.

 

With the meaning always in mind, you will soon discover two practical pieces of technique. One is that the key to the answer to many blanks is in another sentence, sometimes before, sometimes after the sentence you are dealing with. The other point is that often, when you find a particular blank difficult, it is better to go on and do a later blank first. Then, when you go back to the earlier blank, you find it is quite easy.

 

Never stare blindly at the blank and the one word before it or after it Always look at the whole idea.

 

In the same way, when you have filled in the blanks, you should read the whole of each sentence to yourself to see if it makes sense, and finally read the whole passage to yourself.

 

Make sure you fill in every blank. You will lose as many marks for putting nothing as you will for the wrong answer.

 

In a University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate's handbook on the Certificate of Proficiency in English they suggest that "This type of exercise should not be over-practised in class as it is unlikely to raise learners' language awareness." I think they are wrong here. They go on to say: "Learning words and expressions in context, especially grammatical patterns and collocations, will help candidates in this part of the paper." It is precisely by practising this type of test that students can become more aware of the importance of thinking in context. It will very much "raise learners' language awareness." Moreover, because candidates tend to find Question 1 difficult, it is essential they should become thoroughly familiar with it.

 

Model answers (Part 1)

 

First read the whole passage quickly. Don't stop and worry about the blanks until you have finished.

 

(1) had. When you have decided on your answer you should read the whole sentence to yourself, with your answer (or answers) and make sure it all makes sense.

 

(2) The key word here is "as", so the answer must be: such.

 

(3) Here we already have an example of how essential it is to think of whole meanings. What is it that was developed against polio? The answer is: vaccine. So what that phrase means is "...and vaccines like the vaccine (or vaccines) developed against polio". But "the vaccines" is two words, which we are not allowed to use. So we need one word to replace a noun, and that is: that or those.

 

(4) as. Now read the sentence to yourself, and do the same with all the others as you complete each one.

 

(5) If you have any difficulty with this one, remind yourself of what it says at the beginning of the passage: "almost everybody...had uncritical faith...". Then read further, and you will come to "More and more people are turning to 'alternative' medicine". So it is clear what sort of number of people are now not so sure about the triumph of modern medicine. It must be an ever increasing one, or growing.

 

(6) You will have no difficulty in seeing that it is the answer here if you have got into the habit of looking at the sentence as a whole.

 

(7) and (8) should be done together. They are a particularly good example of how the key to the problem is quite simply always keeping the broad context, the real life situation, in mind. What is "the job"? It is winning the battle against the epidemics. Was this done before, after, or at the same time as the arrival of the "wonder" drugs? Obviously, through cleaner water and better diet and hygiene, before the drugs, which "only arrived on the scene (7) after the job..." and this job of winning the battle was before the drugs arrived, so the answer to (8) cannot be "has", but must be had. (So long as we get (8) right the answer to (7) can also be when.)

 

(9) But don't fall into the trap of thinking that this is "had" too. If you only look as far as "asserted" you might reasonably feel it is a perfectly good answer; we are still talking about the history of medicine. But if you continue to the end of the sentence you find "the U.S.A. is . . .". So it must be: has.

 

(10)The meaning the writer is conveying in this whole sentence - and we have to read right to the end to find the meaning - is a contrast, something we would not expect. So (10) is an "although" idea. However, we can't use "although" in front of "having". But we can use: despite.

 

(11) is quite straightforward. "...more...more...better...more..." must here sooner or later lead to only one word: than.

 

(12) This is that very English word; even. (It cannot be "much" here, because of "an".)

 

(13) particular.

 

(14) Does modern medical treatment help patients? According to the writer, certainly not. So the answer is: far.

 

(15) This may be more difficult. But if we look at the whole sentence we can see that the second part of the sentence says in what way alternative medicine differs from orthodox medicine. So the answer is: in.

 

(16) Here we need another way of saying "always", and that is "in every" case. ("way" may seem tempting, but is really illogical, as alternative medicine that was harmful in even just one way would be undesirable.)

 

(17) is another contrast idea, and "than" leaves us with only one possibility: rather.

 

(18) has the same meaning as we had with (3); we can call it a pronoun to replace, or repeat, "consideration". The only difference is that in (3) it was a definite pronoun, while here it is indefinite, "a...consideration", one of several. So we get: one. (something is perhaps possible, but not, I feel, really logical: it suggests that "consideration" is a "thing", which it is not - it is a "thought" that it.. .)

 

(19) You may find this very difficult if you do not think of the real life idea the writer is expressing. If you do, you will see that we could continue the sentence a bit like this: "...as much as...other consideration". I think it then becomes clear that the missing word is: any. (Perhaps anything if you had something for (18).)

 

(20) This word must replace, or repeat, the idea of "subject patients to...", and so, because of the opinion expressed right through the whole passage, there can be no doubt that the writer means: do.

Now read through the whole passage, with your answers, and check that the whole thing makes sense.

 

It is worth studying the answers to this question very carefully. Many of them are what we might call 'replacement' words which you will find very useful in your own compositions, and which will come up again and again in tests like this: that/those; one; any; do. Other words are ones that are often 'linked' to other words: such as; more...than; far from; in that; in every case; rather than. Look out for both types of words as you practise other 'cloze' tests like this.

 

Parts 2 and 3

 

These parts are of a new kind, and I shall not discuss them here, except to say that they emphasize (1) the ability to convert one form of a word into another form (e.g. change repeat into repetition) and (2) the need to know what words go together with other words, what in linguists' jargon are called collocations (e.g. make a suggestion, a drop IN temperature).

 

 

Part 4

 

Part 4 seems to be a mixture of the old Questions 2, 3, and 4, so I have kept examples and a discussion of these below.

 

However, Part 4 appears to be most similar to the old question 4. Both the old and the new forms of the question put the emphasis on a knowledge of idiomatic usage, and collocations (what words go with other words). Tests on idioms and collocations are probably the most difficult aspects of a foreign language to prepare for systematically. It means that candidates will probably have to do even more observant reading and listening than before. Some candidates who are used to the old form of the exam may find this more difficult. But in the long run this is almost certainly a good thing. Reading and listening are the foundation of successful foreign-language learning.

Even in the new Part 4, though, if the sample paper is anything to go by, the examiners' old favourite gets a lot of attention - four out of the eight questions involve, or could involve, the use of the – ing form. (See English Usage and Grammar: Selected points . These are points that were previously listed on this page.)

 

Example of old question 2

2 Finish each of the following sentences in such a way that it is as similar as possible in meaning to the sentence printed before it.

EXAMPLE: I haven't seen her for three months.

ANSWER: I last saw her three months ago.

 

(a) Without paying a large tip you won't get in.

Provided................................................................................................

(b) It is pointless to argue about the decision.

It is not................................................................................................

(c) "You only think of yourself," she told him.

She accused .........................................................................................

(d) The adder is the only poisonous snake in Britain.

Apart.....................................................................................................

(e) He played beautifully, but never achieved great public success as a pianist.

Beautiful...................................................................................................

(f) I think it's better to play oneself than just watch others play.

I prefer.....................................................................................................

 (g) They will not accept one for training unless one has previous experience.

Only if .......................................................................................................

 (h) A skier starts every five minutes.

The skiers start at ....................................................................................

 

Example of old question 3

3 Fill each of the blanks with a suitable word or phrase.

EXAMPLE: Calm down! It's no....use losing.........your temper.

 

(a) They say that by the autumn the unemployment figures ........................ again.

(b) Scarcely..............................bath, when the telephone began to ring.

(c) The government was believed..............................the journalist murdered.

(d) If only you..............................treating me like an ignorant child!

(e) I'm not surprised. I suspected ..............................something nasty going on.

(f) I've made some sandwiches for you, in case..............................hungry on the way.

 

 

Example of old question 4

4 For each of the sentences below, write a new sentence as similar as possible in meaning to the original sentence, but using the word given. This word must not be altered in any way.

 

(a) We are determined to get something done about traffic congestion. intent

....................................................................................................................................

(b) He can put people at their ease very well. good

....................................................................................................................................

(c) He does not have enough experience as a driver for this competition. experienced

....................................................................................................................................

(d) It's silly to water the plants now. point

....................................................................................................................................

(e) Her accent shows she's not from around here. tell

....................................................................................................................................

(f) There are several reasons why he can't sing the part: to begin with it doesn't suit his voice; furthermore, he's too fat. thing

....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

(g) He's being forced to work on Sunday by way of compensation for the hours he's been off this week. make

.................................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................

(h)We sent flowers to show our respect. token

....................................................................................................................................

 

How to answer (old questions 2, 3 & 4)

 

Some of the advice below is not as relevant to the new Part 4 as it was to the old questions 2,3,and 4. Nevertheless, it contains good principles that are worth remembering whenever you are faced with tests on language.

 

At every question in turn the first thing to do is ask yourself "Why have the examiners asked this particular question? What's the problem they're testing?" You may not be able to give an answer every time, but usually you will if you have prepared properly. We are back to the basic principle: remind yourself what the problem is! This is the key to success.

 

When it comes to actually doing the questions, the first and most important thing is to concentrate on the meaning in the sentences.

 

Do not play mechanical games with them. Do not say to yourself "We must replace this word in this sentence with that one in that sentence, and this word moves to here, and rule such and such says we must do so and so."

 

Instead, live the situation expressed by the sentence, see it happening in your mind's eye, just as you would in your own language. Some simple examples will show what I mean. Take the sentence

She learned to swim when she was three.

and imagine you have to begin "She has..."

If you approach this in a mechanical way you will very likely produce a sentence such as

She has not learned to swim since she was three.

But what does that mean? Certainly not the same as the original sentence. It is only by imagining the reality that we can see that learn disappears and we need a quite different verb:

She has been able to swim since she was three.

Or suppose you have to turn the sentence

I had never been so excited before.

into a sentence that begins "I was more excited..."

Any abstract or mechanical exchanging of verbs will be disastrous. You may produce something like

I was more excited than before.

(which does not mean the same at all) because your method has prevented you seeing that we need two verbs:

I was more excited than I had ever been before.

Or you might have to turn the sentence

"Don't forget to turn the gas off," my sister said.

into one beginning "My sister reminded..."

A lot of students, working like robots, immediately think of remind OF and write

My sister reminded me of turning the gas off.

which is nonsense. It should be:

My sister reminded me TO TURN the gas off.

 

Do not work it out, do not calculate it. Just think of the real meaning - of both the original sentence and of the sentence you suggest yourself. Bring the sentence to life, dramatise it, and you will find you immediately understand what is wanted.

 

You will often have to change words or expressions. That is often one of the main purposes of this type of test. But never change anything unless it is necessary. If you do you may, at best, get confused, and at worst, change the meaning so much that the examiner cannot give you any marks at all.

 

Finally, make a last careful check of all your answers against your list of 'favourite mistakes' to make sure you have not fallen into any of your old traps.

 

Model answers to old questions 2, 3 and 4

 

QUESTION 2

Ask yourself what each question is designed to test.

 

(a) Provided is a "conditional", so this is a tense problem. At the same time, if you don't think what the sentence means in real life you will get in a muddle and produce a very confused sentence instead of the right one, which is:

Provided...you pay a large tip   you'll/you will   get in.

(b) Here the examiner is testing knowledge of worth - followed by a noun, in this case -ing:

It is not...worth arguing about the decision.

(A possible sentence is "It is not a decision worth arguing about", but this strictly speaking is not right, because it means something quite different, i.e. the decision is so unimportant that it is silly to argue about it. However, you might well get the full marks in a real examination, as you would have got the worth usage right, which is the main point of the question.)

(c) This obviously tests knowledge of accuse, which takes of, which means we need the noun-verb -ing again:

She accused...him of only thinking of himself.

(d) The problem is slightly hidden here, but once more, if you think of the real life meaning of the original sentence you will have no trouble seeing that the answer must be:

Apart...from the adder there are no poisonous snakes in Britain.

(The main point is of course there, but the use of no is an important point too.)

(e) An although type expression. But there are other points to watch for. "beautifully" has become "beautiful", so we have got to change an action (played beautifully) into a thing (beautiful playing), and as we clearly can't say "He beautiful playing" we have to turn it into "his playing". So we get:

Beautiful...   as/though   his playing was, he never achieved great public success as a pianist.

(f) A prefer test:

I prefer...to play myself rather than just watch others play. or I prefer...playing myself to watching others play.

(-ing's again! One as the object of "prefer" and the other governed by the preposition "to".)

(g) Inversion! So:

Only if...one has previous experience will they accept one for training.

(h) You have to know the use of intervals here, but remember, too, the problem of nouns as adjectives – no plural:

The skiers start at…five-minute intervals.

 

 

QUESTION 3

Again ask yourself why the examiners have asked each particular question.

 

(a) This is a very good example of how important meaning is. The problem is mainly a tense one. But do we use up (or down) or rise (or fall)? Either is possible:

...will be   up/down   or   ...will have   risen/ fallen...

("...will have been up" or "...will rise" would both be nonsense.)

(b) Inversion again! Don't be surprised even if you get the same problem in two successive numbers of the same question. This has happened in some examinations:

...had   I/he/she   got into/out of   the... or other variations,

but they must all begin with had.

(c) murdered at the end shows this is a have + past participle test. But it also tests the passive "was believed" usage:

...to have had...

(d) This tests wish sentences , as if only works in the same way as "wish". It also tests stop:

would stop...or could stop...

(e) A there test:

...there was...

(f) This is an in case and tense problem. "in case" is of course Conditional:

...you   get/become/are...

 

 

QUESTION 4

Even in this test, although it is more concerned with vocabulary, you should look for classic grammatical points that may be involved.

 

(a) This involves the principle of the noun -ing form after a preposition, as well as knowledge of the usage with intent:

We are intent on getting something done about traffic congestion.

(b) Again the -ing with preposition principle, but also a test of good:

He is very good at putting people at their ease.

(c) This tests use of enough. There are three possible ways you can use it:

He is not experienced enough as a driver for this competition. or He is not an experienced enough driver for...or

He is not experienced enough a driver for...

(d) A point in doing test:

There is no point in watering the plants now.

(e)

One/You   can tell   from/by   her accent that she's not from around here.

(f)

There are several reasons why he can't sing the part; for one thing it doesn't suit his voice, and for another, he's too fat.

(g)

He's being forced to work on Saturday to make up for the hours he's been off this week.

(h)

We sent flowers as a token of our respect.

 

NOTE that in this type of test you must always use the word in capitals in exactly the form that is given - you must not change infinitives into past participles etc.

 

 

Part 5

 

Although the tasks set for the new Part 5 are more or less the same as those set for the old Section B of the Use of English paper, there are far fewer questions. Where there were 15 or more Section B questions (including the summary question) in the old form of the exam, there are now apparently only going to be 5 in the new Part 5 (including the summary question). For this reason I am not including an example of Part 5 until we have seen what the actual papers in December 2002 and June 2003 are like. But even at this stage it may be useful to offer some general advice on answering the questions.

 

How to read

Start by reading through the whole passage (or passages) quickly. When you come to words and expressions you do not know, do not stop and start worrying about them. In most cases we discover (or ought to discover) the meaning of a word from the meaning of the whole sentence, of the paragraph, or even of the whole piece; do not make the mistake of thinking you must understand every word in the sentence before you can understand the sentence. It works the other way round - as it usually did when you were reading books in your own language when you were a child. The sentence and the situation usually tell us what a new word means.

 

The first stage is to concentrate on the general meaning, the broad context of the passage. A rather good test to find out if you are thinking in the right way is to try, after you have read the passage, to make up a long title for it - perhaps about one line long. If you can't, you probably ought to read the whole passage again! And if you constantly remind yourself of this title it will often guide you in the right direction as you answer the questions or write your summary.

 

An important basic principle is always to think of the passage as connected parts. Don't think of the questions as artificial exercises (even if they are!); try to interest yourself instead in the writer's ideas, argument or information. Imagine that it is important to you that you understand exactly what the writer is saying, because you want to argue about the ideas, or because the writer provides some interesting facts that you want to remember and perhaps tell other people about.

 

 

Words to use

In the summary question you will be asked to "summarise in your own words as far as possible".  But unless you find you can express a particular meaning very easily and quickly in your own words, I strongly advise you to use the words of the passage. It is true that you will lose marks if you always use the words of the original language, or simply 'lift' sentences from the original English of the text. But what often happens when people try to use their own words is that they end up writing confused and confusing sentences. I have seen many hundreds of students get almost no marks at all on such questions because they have tried to do what they are not capable of doing.

 

You risk three things if you try to use your own words. First, you will almost certainly make some language mistakes. It is much more difficult not to make mistakes when the examiner, not you, is dictating what you have to say. It is a strange but sad fact that most students' grammar collapses under this strain.

 

A second and even worse danger is that by trying to use your own words you may distort your sentences so much that the examiner does not understand what you are trying to say, and therefore gives you no marks at a1l, since you seem not to have understood the point.

 

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, trying to think of how you are going to say something in your own words takes up a lot of extra time, and time is probably just what you cannot afford. The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate emphasize in connection with their sample Paper 3 that their marking scheme is a draft only. But if they keep to the scheme they have 0published, the maximum marks they will give for Paper 3 is 75. Of these they have allotted 14 marks to question 44, the summary question, the last question of the paper, and 10 of those 14 are for what they call summary skills. This of course seems a lot for one question. But if you find writing summaries difficult and time-consuming, I think you have to ask yourself how much time it is worth giving to question 44. (This leads on to the basic importance of  timing and checking, which I discuss below.)

 

So here is a part of the examination where it is best for most people not to try to achieve a perfect model. What you must always do, however, is make sure you quote the piece of text that fits the question. And if you do feel you must completely obey the instruction to use your own words, use the simplest words and grammar possible

 

Context!

When you are asked to explain what some expression means, don't try to be a dictionary and give some abstract general definition. In the first place, this is often very difficult even for a native speaker, and in any case is not at all what is wanted. What the examiners want to know is whether you understand what you've read, and if you can show, clearly, that you do, you will get the marks. So it is the meaning of the expression in a particular context that matters, and the best method is usually not to define the word itself but to explain what is actually happening in that context. If you explain the reality described by the writer you will automatically show you understand the expression. Once again: use the simplest English you can. That will be easiest and safest for you, and clearest for the examiner.

 

I remember a passage that was set for a test of this type many years ago. It was about making a tunnel through the Alps. Candidates were asked to explain what "make progress" meant - in the context of the passage. There was no doubt about what the best answer was: "dig/tunnel further". Yet I do not think you will find any dictionary in the world that will tell you that progress has anything to do with digging or tunneling.

 

Be systematic

When you answer the summary question, be systematic. Number the points you think you should include down the margin opposite the parts of the text where you find them. As I suggested above, it is then probably best to choose sentences or parts of sentences from the original English as far as possible, but remember that you must keep within a limited number of words. If you try to write a completely fresh summary of your own you will almost certainly find that it takes far longer, that you tend to get confused, that you make language mistakes, and that you write more than the number of words allowed.

 

Some people find it best to do the summary question first, precisely because in that way they have to start by getting an overall picture of the passage. They can then use this to guide them efficiently and quickly in answering the earlier short questions. Others, however, prefer to use the detailed questions to build up to the summary. I prefer the first method, which I think is more rational, but you must experiment and find out which suits the way your own mind works.

 

Important suggestions for both teachers and students

Many candidates will find Part 5 of the Use of English paper one of the most difficult parts of the exam. Most will probably need help in learning how to deal with it. The problem is that it is not always easy to find teachers who give effective help.

 

What students need is a method that will work every time for everybody. Yet I fear there are many conscientious teachers who burn the midnight oil producing splendid answers to present to their appreciative students the next day. The effect on most of those students will in fact be to depress them greatly, because they know or suspect they can never do it themselves. It will probably completely destroy the morale of any student who has great difficulty with this type of test.

 

Teachers who go about it in this way are well-meaning, but totally misguided. If candidates are expected to produce adequate answers (in a foreign language, moreover) in whatever time is allotted, and without any preparation, the least teachers can do is do the same. If they can't, something is very wrong. I suggest teachers should not even look at a practice paper until their students do; they should only give themselves the same amount of time for thinking about the questions and the answers to them as the students are going to get in the exam.

 

If they do this, teachers won't always produce solutions that satisfy their linguistic or literary self-respect. Producing even only near-perfect answers is difficult and time-consuming even for native speakers, particularly if it is to be done in their own words. What teachers should remember is that such fine answers do not serve their students in any way.

 

If they put themselves in the position of their students as I have suggested, I think they will very soon develop a technique that is as practical and quick as it needs to be. A proper conscientiousness will lead teachers to show their students a method they can actually use.

 

And if you are a student with a teacher you should insist that you be shown such a useful method. Ask your teacher if she or he has prepared their answers to the test you are discussing beforehand. If they say they have, ask them how they expect you to produce what they say are the right answers in the time you will have in the real exam. They must show you how.

 

 

 

Examination technique for the Use of English paper (Paper 3) as a whole

 

Timing and Checking

There are two general aspects of technique that you should practise in your preparation for Paper 3. They are timing and checking.

 

Timing

You need to time yourself very strictly in all three of the written papers of the Certificate of Proficiency exam. Many people find the time they are given much too short. I think they are right about this, but I am afraid this shortage of time is characteristic of examinations in England. The only thing to do is to plan the time you are going to spend on each question and then keep to this plan exactly.

 

The first rule to remember is that you must try to finish the paper. You cannot get marks for parts that you do not do. If, for example, you miss the last 25% of a paper, you cannot get more than 75% even if you get full marks, the maximum, for everything you have written. It is like starting a race with only one leg. You have lost marks even before the examiner begins to look at your paper.

 

You will find it much easier to finish if you follow a timetable. Some people say that it isn't practical to keep looking at their watches, or that it makes them nervous. But it is much better to have a lot of little panics, when you can still do something about the situation, than to have one very big panic when it is too late to do anything at all about it!

 

If you have a problem with time, but just go on writing without looking at the clock, you will get further and further behind, and possibly end up managing to do only half the paper, or even less. Instead, you must have strength of mind, and stop immediately you get to the end of the time you have decided on for each question. You must stop however far you have got, whether you have finished or not. It is useless having a timetable unless you keep to it. Once you start falling behind you will probably never catch up again.

 

This method has two advantages. First, you will make sure that you do at least part of every question in the paper. And second, if you are behind, you will realize this at a very early stage, and realize that you will have to go faster.

 

But your timetable should provide for an extra period at the end. This time should first be used to finish the paper, if you haven't already. Keeping to a strict timetable acts as a kind of safety net. As we saw above, it will make sure you keep up a good speed. And then at the end you have that extra time which you can use to prevent any catastrophes.

 

However, if you have to use that end period for finishing, you should finish as quickly as possible, because there is something else important you must do - checking. You must give yourself time to make sure you have not made any of those 'silly' mistakes which probably as much as anything else cause the failure of those who could pass.

We can summarise the purposes of a strict timetable as follows. It gives you:

1 time to finish

2 time to check

3 confidence

The last point, confidence, is as important as anything else. If you keep to a timetable, you will know that you are being efficient, that you are going to finish, that you are going to check; in other words, that you are in control of the situation. As a result your work will probably be much better, because you will not be nervous - or at least you will be far less nervous - and you will not be in a panicky rush. And apart from the practical results, that is a much nicer feeling to have!

 

I suggest a timetable for Paper 3 below, but it is essential that you experiment yourself and find out what suits you personally. So it is obviously important to get as much opportunity as possible to practise with questions that imitate the new form of the exam. In this way you can make sure your timetable is about right, and train yourself to keep to it exactly. You can probably find books already published that contain such questions, but we shall have to wait a little to find out whether the questions actually set are really the same as in the samples provided by the Syndicate.

Suggested timetable

Part 1                    20 minutes        (because many people find this type of question difficult and
                                                     time-consuming)

Part 2                    10 minutes

Part 3                    15 minutes

Part 4                    15 minutes

Part 5                    20 minutes        (I have not suggested more than 20 minutes, because if you find
                                                     you are not good at summaries, it is foolish to spend a lot of time
                                                     on the summary if it is anyway not going to give you many marks)
Finishing and
     Checking          10 minutes

                             90 minutes

 

 

Checking

Checking is one of the things that can make the difference between a person passing or failing, although it will not be as important in the new form of the Use of English paper as it was in the old..

 

There are many language students who complain that checking never does any good, that they never see any of their mistakes; and there are even many people who say that if they read through their work afterwards, they start changing things that were right in the first place into things that are wrong. It is true that both these things happen; but it is because candidates check in the wrong way.

 

It is useless to read through your work (probably only once) in a general way, looking vaguely for any mistakes that may be there. If you are looking for everything at the same time, you will probably either (if you are one type of person) see nothing at all; or (if you are another type) lose confidence in yourself and start thinking that half of what you have written is wrong.

 

You must know exactly what you are looking for. This will make you efficient; and, in turn, because you know you are being efficient, it will give you confidence and you will not start changing things that are perfectly correct. This is where your own personal list of the mistakes you often make, your 'favourite' mistakes, comes in. During the months leading up to the exam you should organize such a list and learn it by heart. (You can find detailed advice on how to do this in The Art and Science of Learning Languages on pages 197-99 and 219-22.) Probably the most important part of the list for the new Use of English paper is the list of words you often spell wrong, since all the answers to questions 1-39 must be spelled correctly to get the marks. If the list is not too long, the first thing to do when you get into the examination room is to write it down, and keep it in front of you as you do the exam.

 

Then your final stage in this paper (Use of English) as well as in the Composition paper should be to check against the list. You should take the points in your list one at a time and read through your work looking for mistakes connected with that one point only. Do not think about anything except that one problem. You are then certain to see if you have made that particular sort of mistake. You then take the next point on your list and do the same with that - read right through and look only for that one sort of mistake. This means that if you have got seven points on your list, you must read through your work seven times; if you have twelve points, you must read it twelve times, and so on.

 

 

 

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