Published 21st October 2015
During your TEFL career you are sure to teach in a variety of different situations. You may find yourself teaching kindergarten, high school, university students or professionals. On top of that, you may teach General English, English for Academic Purposes, English for Specific Purposes (Aviation, Medicine) or Business English. Or even Conversation classes, Grammar classes, Writing classes or Functional English classes. All of these variables will play a part in determining what you will plan for your lessons.
Exam classes are another example of a type of class you may find yourself teaching and, again, this will affect the content and the delivery of your lessons. There are a number of different exams an EFL student may need to prepare for – FCE, IELTS, TOEFL, to name a few – and while they are all different in format, there are a few aspects of teaching an exam class which will remain the same no matter the exam.
Firstly, your students are generally more motivated. The fact that they are working towards an exam and usually have a fixed date means that they have something concrete to work towards. This is a bonus in that you won’t need to worry about any complaints about hard work, but you also won’t be able to be as relaxed as you are with other classes. Exam students usually expect hard work and want extra homework, so they won’t appreciate as many games. At the same time, though, you need to make sure they are still enjoying the classes and that they don’t burn out. It’s vital to find that perfect balance between hard work and enjoyment.
Then, the activities that you do in class are often quite different from those of general classes. You will need to spend more time on the nitty gritty, like word formation, paraphrasing and idiomatic language. Of course these should all naturally be covered in any English lesson but you’ll find that it’s often overlooked in most General English classes and it’s very important for Exam classes. What this means is that each lesson should incorporate a focus on these in addition to whatever is being discussed or taught.
Finally, as a teacher of an exam class you will need to act as a cheerleader and motivator for your students. These exams can be hard and if you spend some time doing practice exams, it can be easy for students to become demotivated or freak out if they don’t do as well as they thought they would. In a sense, it can be a good idea to be extra hard on your students in the safety of the classroom so when they do the exam it will actually be easier than they expected. However, motivation is key so make sure that your students don’t lose confidence in themselves while at the same time being aware of the work they need to do.
Ultimately, exam classes are more focussed and motivated than other classes. You will undoubtedly put more into an exam class but you will definitely get more out.