Introducing the Pearson English International Certificate (formerly the PTE General)

The internationally recognised Pearson English International Certificate has rapidly gained in popularity since its inception in 1985. Therefore, it’s worth taking a look at what the buzz is all about and whether it is the right exam to take for yourself or your students.

Why take an official exam?

There are a variety of reasons why people decide to take an official English exam with a brand they trust. It ranges from personal pride and satisfaction in being able to officially prove that you have reached a certain level of proficiency in a language, to needing to demonstrate your capabilities in order to join an institution, such as a university or to join the workforce. The Pearson English International Certificate is recognised by more than 50 countries as a reliable indicator of an English level, which means that a whole host of universities and international organisations will value its worth.
Check out the list of institutions here.

Why take the Pearson exam specifically?

The main benefit of taking an exam that is officially recognised means that one exam and certificate is enough and you don’t need to go through the stress of repeating English exams for different countries! There are many exams that students can opt to choose from, such as with Oxford or Cambridge, but the Pearson English International Certificate is unique because it is accredited by Ofqual, the United Kingdom’s national regulator of official qualifications, and 100% of the exams are marked in the United Kingdom. It’s also evaluates everyday English, with familiar activities, in a way that students will actually use in real life.

How can I take the exam?

You can take the test in a traditional way at a test centre with a paper format. The marking is done very quickly and you will not have to wait very long for your results. The computer-based version is coming in 2023 which will give you and your students even more choice and flexibility.

Which students does it evaluate?

Every student who is learning English can take the test and have a reliable indicator of their current English level. There are six different levels which correspond to the Common European Framework for languages, from A1 to C2 levels. In that way, it is easier for employers and universities to know what level of English you have.

What does the test consist of?

There are four sections to each exam – speaking, listening, reading and writing. There is no separate grammar test. Session 1 is the Speaking Exam. The speaking part of the exam is in an interview format with an interlocutor and reflects the skills people will use at university or the workplace. Session Two are the three other sections – listening, reading and writing.

How can I prepare my students to take the test?

There’s a really great app called Warm Up which is free to download and has loads of practice materials for students. Furthermore, there are Practice Tests Plus course books which focus on exam training, skills building and practice. Finally, when students feel they are ready to take the exam of their choice, they can go online and take the Readiness Test to see if they are ready.

Is there a test for Young Learners?

Yes, there is. It is called Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners which helps students to progress in their English and strive towards learning more English.

The Pearson English International Certificate is a very comprehensive test that students will find useful and valuable. There’s a wealth of materials to use to help your students to prepare and it is internationally recognised. To find out more information, please click HERE.


Assessing when to give assessment!

Judging the quality of a student’s level of English can be a daunting task for teachers and strike fear into the hearts of students, who, like most sensible people. hate to be judged, especially on their mistakes. For teachers, we are always asking ourselves when should we carry our assessment, how should we do it, and what exactly are we looking for in order to give a kind of score or opinion. Let’s break those three important questions down.

When should we carry out assessment?

There are two main schools of thought regarding assessment: Summative assessment and formative assessment. 

Summative assessment is usually carried out towards the end of the course. It is designed to produce a ‘summary’ of what the student has successfully learned during their time with you. An example of this is an end of course test. Summative assessments can be very valuable, as tests are usually comprised of the material a student is expected to have seen before and are therefore connected to the learning aims you have set during each class. Another good point is that they are usually very comprehensive, with sections on listening, reading, writing, speaking and grammar and vocabulary.

Formative assessment is carried out throughout the length of the course. The idea is that you are ‘forming’ an assessment week by week or month by month and gathering evidence until you have the completed assessment of the student. An example of this could be assessing regular presentations students make in class and sharing your feedback with your students so that they improve every time. This is the main reason why formative assessments are considered very valuable, as the student plays a more participative role in their assessment – they know the assessment criteria and they receive feedback in order to improve.

In your classes you are probably doing a little bit of both – giving short quizzes, setting writing assignments with feedback and end of unit tests (all formative assessments) and then in the middle and end of the course you are giving a much larger test to assess how much a student has learned (summative assessment). All of these are extremely important in order to help your students recognise strengths and needs and to motivate them to achieve their goals.

A final benefit teachers, students and parents can select is official exams, such as the Pearson English International Certificate. This method provides a full picture of a student’s ability when compared to other English speakers worldwide. It’s extremely useful for universities and employers, and the Pearson English International Certificate not only provides students with a certificate, but also includes a deep dive into the results so students can continue to assess themselves and learn from their mistakes. Finally, this exam also offers student’s the option to take the test in the comfort of their own homes, which fits perfectly with a busy and demanding world and can compliment the English classes they are in.

How should we be integrating assessment into our teaching schedule?

It does depend on the length and purpose of your course, and mathematically thinking about time and material can help us make an informed decision. You have to calculate the time you have in order to teach the materials and then see what time you have left to give assessment and feedback. From there, you can look at your course book and identify tasks where formative assessment would be valuable and when to implement summative assessments.

Depending on the method of grading work and giving feedback for formative assessments, we can spend more time or less. For example, if you are a lover of technology you can audio record feedback for students to listen to on your class portal, rather than write it out every time. You can use writing corrections codes in order to avoid complex written feedback in writing assignments, for example:

Students can be given the answers to an end of unit test and grade themselves or their partner’s work. If you have a digital course book, very often the software allows you to set tests and assess students’ progress. For example, the new Pearson English Connect has the ability for teachers to see continuous progress of their students as they work through the course book, work book and extra activities. This is valuable data to collect and know where your students’ strengths and needs lie.

What exactly are we assessing?

Before giving any task to students, we should be clear about what we are assessing, and the criteria for success. It vastly helps students to complete a task well if they are also told what you will be assessing them on. For a grammar and vocabulary end of unit test, it’s simple enough to tell students you are assessing them on knowing the correct answer and how to spell it. For a skills based activity, for example a speaking activity, it’s a good idea to tell students your criteria, otherwise students do not know what they need to work on, and criticism can seem personal. Imagine the speaking task is to tell an anecdote to your partner. Our criteria can be (but not limited to) the successful use of linking phrases to tell a story, good body language with their partner and the correct use of past tenses. Putting this criteria on the board before students start the task helps them to visualise success, and also encourages our students to self-assess. As the teacher, you also have the opportunity to focus on just one or two criteria or add more. Finally, do explain your scoring system to the students if you are going to implement one, and be sensitive to cultural differences regarding grades and what they mean in the main school – for example, an 7 out of 10 may seem like a great score to you, but culturally it may seem like a ‘fail’.

The Importance of student self assessment

The world in general is moving towards the idea of students being able to critically and fairly self-assess themselves as a future life skill. The ability to recognise strengths and weaknesses and further improve on them rationally will help students to obtain the life goals they are striving towards. They learn to listen to and trust their own voice rather than relying on outside voices. Therefore, teaching students how to self-assess is as important as ever. This does not happen automatically, and teachers need to guide students in learning how to self-assess. It is definitely not a time-saving exercise for the teacher, initially. You have to show plenty of examples and ways to self-assess in order for students to find the process useful. An example of the stages of implementing self assessment is taken from James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn’s article:

The most effective form of student assessment is not to for teachers to create a checklist in advance and then students apply the criteria to themselves, rather student’s opinions on what they think is fair to assess should be included. It’s a two-way negotiation. Whichever method you choose, it needs to be fully implemented across all levels and classes within an academic institution, not just within your own class.

Some problems we face when students self-assess are the fact that lower performing and less experienced students tend to overestimate their achievements. Students may also resist self-assessment, being too shy or perceiving assessment and grading to be the teacher’s job. Finally, issues can arise if students’ self-assessments are not consistent with peer or staff assessments. However, the more you implement self-assessment, they more natural it becomes for the students.

Assessment is a wonderful tool for teachers and students so do take the time to implement it regularly in your lesson plans and help your students to successfully self-assess. If you’re looking for a tool that gives teachers and students evidence and follow-up on how students are really progressing in their English skills and proficiency, Pearson’s Benchmark Test could be useful for you. On the other hand, if you’re interested in knowing more about a complete assessment journey, you can see what else Pearson proposes here.

If you would like to read more about assessment you can read Michael Brand’s blog post on digital assessment here.

LOMLOE: Creating Learning Experiences in the Primary Classroom

The new LOMLOE Education Law in Spain encourages our primary students to work towards participating in ‘situaciones de aprendizaje‘ or ‘learning situations‘ as projects at the end of course book chapters or curriculum sections in their language learning. But what are they and how can teachers set them up and use them in class? This blog post will take you through the essential elements to consider when implementing them.

First of all, let’s look at the wording of the law when it comes to creating ‘learning situations’. It asks our students to:

1. Take what they have learned in class with you and use it in a complex task to achieve an objective.

2. Use their comprehension, production, interaction and mediation skills.

3. Respond to a 21st century task that’s relevant to their interests or concerns.

4. Participate in a real or potential task.

5. Work with texts (oral, written and multimodal).

6. Do the task in order to progress with language and learn more about culture.

7. Reflect on the experience.

Let’s take a look at each point and break it down a little further.

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Ensuring gender equality in school: LOMLOE


The new education law

Spain’s new education law, the LOMLOE, brings the country in line with global views and goals regarding education and sustainability. The second focus of the law is:

Ensuring gender equality, preventing gender violence, respecting diversity and ensuring an inclusive and non-sexist education. 

This is directly linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, of which Spain is a proud member. Sustainable goals number 4 and 5 outline inclusive, quality education and gender equality. These are important goals for all nations of the world, and the best place to start these initiatives is in school. In this blog post, we’ll look at what we can do as teachers.

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Helping our students recognise the author’s opinion

Being able to understand and give an opinion is crucial in communication. It makes our connections with each other stronger and our dialogue richer. This important skill is also tested a lot in reading and listening exam tasks, so it’s important that we pay attention to the variety of ways in which a writer or speaker can do this, and help our students to recognise and use it themselves.

As we can see from these GSE descriptors, this skill starts to be developed and is expected at an A2 level:

and continues well into C1:

It’s a skill we can help our students with in general, and also for exam preparation. This blog post is going to take a typical listening text you find in a course book and provide ideas on how to teach it, and then provide further activities for you to use in class to help your students to recognise and use the language used to express opinions.

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Simple ideas for getting the most out of your course book

Teachers always put their heart and soul into their classes – not only during the lesson but also the planning stages. At certain points of the year, we can sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed with the amount of work we have to do. This article will introduce some ideas that you can use time and time again, with minimal preparation, so that you can extend activities in the course book to consolidate learning, or to help push your students into achieving more.

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Helping your older primaries to write

It’s 3pm on a hot afternoon. You have just asked your primary students to write a story in English. All your students can see is a big, blank page that needs to be filled in with words and phrases they are not too sure how to use or know what it means in their language yet. It’s a daunting task, and students start to sigh, complain and procrastinate. They positively beg you to play a game instead, or anything except writing. If this scenario sounds at all familiar, then read on to find out many more ideas to avoid this situation and to help students to really enjoy writing in class. Continue reading

Speaking and collaboration activities in a socially distanced primary classroom

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema 

The year 2020 has brought with it new challenges in our primary classrooms regarding communicating well with masks on and working with partners while maintaining social distances. This blog will give you some ideas for how to overcome these challenges with your students and to keep on enjoying learning English together.

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How to bring reading to life in class and beyond

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Wise words from Mr Mark Twain, American writer, who neatly summed up the pleasure, knowledge and power one gets when reading. In this day and age where social media and video platforms are often the preferred go-to choice for people of all ages to have fun,  it’s now more important than ever for us to be introducing literature into our classrooms, not only to bridge the gap between hearing dialogue from videos and reading the words from books, but also to help our students learn a second language faster and more successfully.

Yet, among the millions and millions of books out there, how do we know which ones are the right choice and level for our students? A bit like the story of Goldilocks, they should neither be too hard nor too easy, but just right. Plus, how can we make the experience lots of fun, and add communicative and collaborative elements to help our students use the language they will pick up from reading? Below, I will explain some ideas for how to select the book, help get your students interested in it, and activities to do during and after reading that can be applied to every story – whether you´re teaching primary, secondary or adult students.

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