Fun exam prep ideas

You are teaching a test preparation course next semester. Students obviously need to take lots of practice tests in order to be successful. There’s no way around it. Practice makes perfect. But would you take a different approach in your teaching practice? How are these classes different from your regular classes? And how’s the atmosphere in the class? Do your students feel anxious about the exam?

Give your courses a spark by (re)using some fun activities that work in both exam preparation courses as well as in regular classes. I strongly believe that your students will really appreciate it.

“Exam classes: success and fun it can be done”, as my colleague Michael Brand would say (see this week’s talks in Lisbon and Porto).

Let me describe a few examples of activities that are 1) fun, 2) effective and 3) are linked to some sections of high stakes exams. Enjoy!


–         Scripts: Post – listening. In groups, students will have to retell the story (in their own words – students should work with the language prior to the activity, looking for synonyms, rephrasing, etc.). The twist here is that they need to add something which was not in the script so that other groups guess what that extra piece of information was. Strategies / exam-type task: rephrasing, intensive listening, listening for detail.


–         Discussion cards. In class, students come up with a list of phrases to be used for argumentative discourse: giving opinions, agreeing, disagreeing. After that, in groups of three, they put all those phrases on cards. Pick a topic for them to discuss (inspiration for questions here). In pairs, students start discussing the topic and try to use as many phrases from the cards as they can, while at the same time grabbing the card with the phrase they use. Student C will be the referee, who will make sure their classmates are using the phrases correctly. The winner is the student who has used the most phrases / grabbed the most cards. Strategies / exam-type task: conversational phrases, discussion.

Use of English

–         Word classes. After studying a few words and their derivatives (eg honour-honourable, occur-occurence, simple-simplify), put some of those words in a Word Cloud and divide the class into two teams. Choose a word and describe it. Students will first have to guess the word. Then, give them 3 min to work in pairs, using as many derivatives as they can remember in different sentences. Then, as a team, they will have to add up the number of sentences they came up with. The winning team will be the one with the most sentences and derivatives. Strategies / exam type task: word formation, cloze test.


–         Series trailer. Post-reading. In groups, students come up with an alternative title for the reading you did in class and adapt the content to create a new TV series trailer coming out next month. What’s the title of the new series? What information needs to be included in the trailer to get the viewers’ attention? How are the students going to present it? Let your students be creative and record their trailer! (You can use a screencasting tool). Strategies / exam type-task: reading for gist, matching.


–         Story building. In groups (8-10 people), one student starts a 6-word story regarding their last holidays, for instance: “In France, no money lost luggage” and puts it on a padlet. On that same padlet, the next student will add more words and make it a longer sentence (eg “I went to France last summer and I lost my luggage with all my money in it”). The next person will add even more words, until they come up with a coherent story, trying to figure out what happened to student 1. After all the students have completed their part, student 1 will read the resulting story and compare it to the original story. Always limit the number of words per student. Finally, students can write a travel blog (set it up before that session) with some of the ideas from the padlet. Strategies / exam type-task : brainstorming, writing a review.

What other fun ideas do you have for your exam preparation courses?

You might also be interested in:

Top tips for the First (FCE) writing exam

10 best practices for tackling English language exams

7 tips for English exams to help you prepare

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