Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Reading Classes

Proficiency Reading Part 6: Gapped Text Training

This is a training lesson plan to help students preparing for the C2 Cambridge Proficiency exam tackle part 6 of the reading and use of English paper. Students tend to struggle with this part of the exam and need a lot of guidance.

I’ve based this lesson plan around an example task from the CUP Proficiency Testbook 1 on the topic of expedition rafting. Download the PowerPoint, student handout and a scanned annotated copy of the text below:


First have students activate their schemata on the topic of rafting with the 3 conversation questions in the first slide.

In slide 3 students will look for the ways in which paragraph B fits into the first gap. By giving them the answer to the first gap, we can provide them with an opportunity to analyse the text and find the vocabulary, grammar and story connections that link the paragraph to text on either side. Reveal the answers on slide 4.

Go through the exam strategy on slide 5, then have students complete the clue hunt on slide 6. Reveal the answers to them and remind them to bear the clues in mind while they complete the task.

Negotiate a time limit for the students to complete the rest of the task individually. In the official exam they should dedicate 20 minutes to this part of the exam, however, as you’ve already done some prep work on this text, negotiate a time between 10 and 15 minutes.

Once they’ve completed the task, have them compare their answers in pairs. Make sure they refer back to the clue hunt and explain how each of the clues connect the paragraphs to the text.

Use the final few slides to reveal the answers and annotations.

Set them another part 6 task for homework and share the PowerPoint with them to refer to at home.

Posted in Advanced C1, Exam Preparation Class

Key Word Transformations: Exam Technique

This is a lesson plan to help students tackle part 4 of the use of English in the main suit Cambridge exams, the key word transformations. I use this PowerPoint in conjunction with the C1 Advanced Key Word Transformation Mega Test handout but it can also be adapted for B2 First and C2 Proficiency students. Download the PowerPoint below:

Lead students through the techniques outlined in the PowerPoint then have them do page 1 of the mega test individually as practice. Then have students compare their answers before correcting in open class. You can then work through the rest of the mega test over the next few classes and for homework. You can also share the original quizlet set with them for self-study.

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Reviews

Review – IELTS Reading Practice: Academic | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

Knowing how much I love engaging and effective exam preparation materials, Peter Clements kindly asked me to review his latest book, which he co-authored with Paul Murphy, so here goes!


IELTS Reading Practice: Academic, published by Prosperity Education, is aimed at students preparing to take, you guessed it, the IELTS Academic exam. While it specifically focuses on the reading tasks found in the exam, that’s not to say that it scrimps on opportunities for practicing other skills and exam tasks. You can buy the book through the link below and also check out their other exam preparation materials:

Structure & Content

The book is divided into 14 units, each of which examines a specific task type from the exam, ranging from tasks such as matching headings and true, false, not mentioned through to other IELTS staples like the table/flow chart/diagram completion tasks.

Each unit is divided into three two-page sections which follow a logical sequence with appropriate levels of scaffolding:

Think and prepare

The first part aims to activate students knowledge of the topic of the upcoming reading texts and also develop their understanding of some key lexis that will both be required later and also prove useful to students’ general communicative competence.

Here is an example of the “think” section:

You’ll notice that students are also directed to the bank of extra activities at the back of the book, where, in this case, they will find a topic card based on IELTS speaking part 2 covering the same topic as the unit. This is just one example of how the book offers teachers scope for planning varied, engaging, topic-based lessons, something that can be difficult to find in published exam preparation materials.

Students then move onto the “prepare” phase, which comprises short activities focusing on key topical lexis:

Students are led through a definition match activity followed by some controlled practice:

And finally some discussion questions:

While the structure may get repetitive – the same series of activities is repeated in each unit – it’s hard to argue with the logic of the stages and it’s one I use myself all the time so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The lexis chosen is extremely relevant to the topic and pitched at the perfect register. Aside from aiding students’ comprehension of the upcoming texts, they are exactly the kinds of expressions candidates will be expected to produce in the writing and speaking parts of the exam.

There are also extra activities for this section which act as nice learner training exercises to nudge students towards good habits such as effective note-taking:

I was particularly drawn to this example of a graphic organiser. Students are encouraged to make notes on specific lexis and also associate it with an image, something I’ve been experimenting with in my own exam preparation classes.

I feel like activities like this can be extremely valuable for students who haven’t developed good study skills or learning habits; the examples in the book are clear, simple and can be easily replicated.


In the next section of each unit students are presented with a shorter version of the given reading task, along with an action plan and strategies. They are then encouraged to reflect on the efficacy of the plan and their own performance.

Students first do an introductory skimming task, for example:

They are then walked through an action plan for the task stage by stage:

Put it to the test

Finally, students are let loose on a full-length example exam task in order to put their newfound strategies into practice. The book contains 14 full-length texts, one for each task type. However, it doesn’t end there, in the extra activities section you will find one additional task for each of the 14 texts. These extra activities focus on a different task type, so for example, students could work on a true/false/not mentioned task in class and then complete a headings match task based on the same text for homework. In the back of the book there are also additional post-reading vocabulary tasks for each of the full length texts. This means that each of the texts is fully exploited.

Task information & tips

The book also contains a detailed analysis of each of the tasks and specific, detailed tips for approaching each one. I was particularly impressed by the rationales given for each tip:

I particularly liked the example of drawing students’ attention to topic sentences in paragraphs for the heading match task.


As you can probably already tell, I was really impressed by the book for a number of reasons:

Ease of use

Flicking through the pages as a teacher, I can immediately form a lesson plan in my head for a 90 minute class on each unit plus at least one homework task. I know it’s all there and I can pick and choose the order based on my students. I know they’re going to get lots of valuable exam practice and I can spin off into speaking tasks or vocab recall games when their motivation starts to wane towards the end of the class.

Topic-based exam prep

I know I’ve already mentioned it but it bears repeating, in exam prep classes it can be difficult to stick to the themed/topic-based classes we know we should be teaching, especially when there’s a big scary official exam looming. I know that IELTS and the Cambridge main suite exams are different beasts, but in my experience, intensive exam technique-focused prep classes for the Advanced and Proficiency can end up feeling like a poorly assembled patchwork quilt of different themes and topics due to the range of different texts students have to tackle. However, in this book the topics hold equal billing with the task type, which surely helps make for more cohesive classes and also aids students’ assimilation of the lexis.

Fully exploited texts

With the time constraint associated with exam preparation classes, it can sometimes feel overindulgent to linger for too long on a reading text to really drill down into it and exploit it for all its worth. The way this book manages to combine that impulse with further exam practice and vocab activities is really ingenious, hats off!

Clear strategies with clear rationale

It can be difficult to get students to take exam techniques and strategies on board, some can be stuck in their ways or view them as waste of time. The detail and rationale behind each strategy presented here make them easy to follow with plenty of opportunities to put them into practice straightaway.

In short, if you’re teaching IELTS Academic, get yourself a copy! Here are the details:

IELTS Reading Practice: Academic
 | Student Book, by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

ISBN: 978-1-913825-31-7

Publication: October 2021

You can also find it on Amazon, simply search for the title!

Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Proficiency, Reading Classes

C2 Proficiency: Exam Technique – Reading Part 7

C2 Proficiency de Inglés (CPE) del Cambridge: Cómo Aprobarlo | TURBOLANGS

This is a lesson plan for C2 students preparing to take the Cambridge Proficiency exam. Students will learn exam techniques to tackle part 7 of paper 1, the multiple matching exercise. The example task is taken from CUP test book 1. Download the PowerPoint and task below:


Lead students through the steps in the PowerPoint. Students should focus on the list of questions first, underlining key words and trying to paraphrase the questions into simpler language where possible. The PowerPoint contains some examples of paraphrasing. Students should then tackle the reading texts in order while referring back to their notes. Encourage them to underline the parts of the text that they think answer each question.

Students should complete the first paraphrasing exercise in pairs. Then for the reading, they should work individually, set a time limit of 15 minutes for them to complete the exercise. Students should then compare their answers and show their partner the sections of the text that they have underlined for each question.

You will find the answer key and annotated copy of the texts on the final slides of the PowerPoint. You should set students another part 7 for homework so that they can put the technique into practice.

Posted in Listening Classes

CAE Listening Exam Technique

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is a handout to help students tackle the four parts of the CAE listening paper. You can download it below. Do you have any other tips?

CAE Listening Technique

Part 1 – Short conversations – Multiple Choice

  • 3 short extracts. Short conversations between two people.
  • 2 questions per extract. 6 marks in total
  • Time in between extracts to read next two questions.
  • Read questions 1+2 – underline key words
  • Listen to extract 1 twice
  • Move onto questions 3+4 etc.

Part 2 – Sentence Completion

  • Sentence completion – complete sentence with word or short phrase
  • 8 questions, 8 marks
  • 45 seconds to read task – underline key words and make predictions about type of word (adjective, noun, verb) and possibilities (number? animal? place?)
  • Listen for first time – be careful for distractors:

Identify the distractors in this question:

Sentence: The subject Steven was teaching when he first read about the bath toys was ____________________.

Listening text: “So how did I get involved? I’m a college lecturer but not teaching anything like economics or even geography; media studies is my field.”

  • Confirm answer on second listening.
  • Numbers can be like this: 36 or like this: thirty-six
  • Check that word or phrase makes sense in the context of the sentence, Should it be plural? Does it need an article? (a/an/the)

Part 3 – Long Interview – Multiple Choice

  • 6 questions multiple choice
  • 6 marks in total
  • 70 seconds to read the task – 10 seconds per question, underline key words in questions and options, focus on phrases like “biggest benefit” or “most important.”
  • First listen try to answer each question or at least cross out any that aren’t possible
  • Confirm on second listen.

Part 4 – Two Task Matching

  • 5 extracts about same topic – short monologues.
  • Two tasks at same time – 10 marks in total.
  • 45 seconds to read task – first thing: underline the information for each task: reason why they did the course, consequences/benefits of doing the course.
  • Read options and attempt to memorise
  • Try to complete both tasks at the same time.