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How to Teach for Exams

Sally Burgess and Katie Head
Pearson Longman, 2005, 156 pages
ISBN: 0-582-42967-6

Another in the established ‘How to’ series, this book is a systematic guide for all teachers involved in preparing students for any of the major international English language examinations.

The book is divided into eight clear sections, the five main sections dealing with how to teach reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary, listening and speaking for examination purposes, each section including a consideration of different types of test, how the skill is measured, how to prepare students for the test, and strategies and procedures for the students. The section on writing, often student’s weakest link, is perhaps the most comprehensive, with very useful advice on assessing written work and giving feedback, and on familiarising students with different genre types.

The section on speaking tests is also valuable to teachers involved in testing large numbers of students and who might be unfamiliar with the interactive pair-testing procedures common to the Cambridge suite of examinations.

Other sections of note include that dealing with planning and delivering examination courses, covering problematic issues such as balancing teaching and testing, and an excellent section dealing with low-level examinations, an often overlooked area involving very different techniques, task types and materials.

An outstanding feature is the ‘Task File’, containing photocopiable tasks for teachers, each section of the book. The tasks have potential as the basis for a short training course, or may be used in conjunction with the main text for self-study purposes.

The book is up to date in that it relates the major examinations to the Common European Framework and ALTE levels and provides a useful overview of current British and American examination boards and their tests.

Designed primarily for teachers involved in preparing students for international examinations, ‘How to teach for Exams’ also has considerable utility for teachers involved in developing internal exam-orientated courses and materials. A welcome addition to the ‘How to’ series and highly recommended for any resource collection.

190 May/June 2006