Encourage students to keep a vocabulary notebook organised by topic. Emphasise the importance of learning phrases and collocations, as well as individual words.
Have students practise reading texts quickly all the way through for gist before worrying about specific words, details or gaps. Encourage students to focus on the meaning, ideas or opinions expressed in a text, not just the words used.
In class, ask students to say which parts of a text or recording led them to choose their answers. Sometimes students are distracted when words or phrases in a text appear in one of the incorrect options – they need to think carefully about their choices and learn to understand why such answers are wrong.
Show students how synonyms and paraphrasing are used in exam questions, which often say the same thing as the text or recording but in different words. Get them to use the technique for themselves in speaking exercises, when they don’t know or can’t remember a word.
Allow students to experiment with new vocabulary and language structures in class. Remind them that the exam requires them to use a range of language, particularly in the writing paper – accuracy is always important but answers that use only basic, familiar language will not stand out.
Give students plenty of opportunity to discuss ideas and issues in pairs and in groups: they need to learn the importance of interaction and turn-taking when speaking.
Try asking students to write their own questions for different parts of the exam. They will have to think about how the individual tasks are structured as well as which skills are being tested in each one.
Be sure to give students plenty of realistic exam practice. This will help them understand what is expected of them in the exam, such as how long they need to speak for in the speaking test or how much they must write for each writing task.
Reduce student’s stress about the exam by giving them as much information about it as you can: