Changes to KEY and Preliminary (A2 and B1) Cambridge English exams

A fresh start to the academic year has brought with it a big announcement from Cambridge Assessment English: the KEY (A2) and Preliminary (B1) exams are changing as of January 2020. Here, I’ve created an overview of the changes, where teachers can find resources, and your options if you’re a student who is currently studying towards the Cambridge KEY or Preliminary exams.

Personally, I welcome these changes, especially at the KEY level, as they make the whole exams system much more coherent and learners will be building on skills that they have previously learnt, rather than having to learn something totally new.

An overview of the changes

Here’s a brief rundown of the changes to the Preliminary (B1) Cambridge English exams:

There are now 4 exams. The Reading and Writing paper has been separated into 2 separate exams. You will have 45 minutes to do the Reading paper and another 45 minutes to do the Writing paper.

Reading: The old part 3 (true or false statements) has been removed and there are 2 new tasks. In the new part 4 you will have to choose the correct sentence to fit in the gaps. In the new part 6 you will have to decide which word needs to go in the gap (open gap fill).

Writing: The Writing paper now has only 2 parts. In the first part you must write an email in approximately 100 words and in the second part you can choose to write an article or a story (again, 100 words).

Listening: The old part 4 (deciding if statements were true or false) has been removed and there is a new task where you will have to listen to 6 short texts for opinions.

Speaking: The only major change here is that the discussion topic in part 4 will be linked to the topic of the collaborative task (previously it was linked to the individual long turn).

And for KEY (A1), here are the elements that are going to change:

Reading and writing: The new part 1 includes short texts that students need to understand. In part 2 you will have to read three short texts and pick answers from multiple choice options. There is now no word limit on the short message writing (“25 words or more”) and there is an extra writing task where you have to write a story based on three photos (“35 words or more”).

Listening: In the new part 4, you have to listen to 5 short texts to get the main idea.

Speaking: In the new part 2, you have to talk together with your partner based on pictures about a topic given to you by the examiner. The examiner will then prompt further discussion.


If you’re looking for tonnes of resources, the dedicated Cambridge website (accessible here) is perfect, promising us lots of resources in the future in addition to new handbooks.

Students: Are you currently studying A2 or B1? What should you do?

This is the most frequent question I’m getting from my students at the moment. The way I see it, you’ve got two options: a) Use the changes as motivation to get your B1 before January 2020 or b) Start studying the new B1 format and take the exam from January 2020.

If you’re working hard and want to get your B1 before January 2020 and are looking for some help, send me an email for information about my online writing and speaking courses.

If you’re looking to get your B1 after January 2020, sign up to email updates from this blog to keep up to date with changes and study resources.

Most Useful TEFL Resources

This last academic year has been quite a rollercoaster and just like any other teacher, I’ve done my fair share of hunting down ideas on the internet to make my classes more entertaining, enjoyable and above all, truer to real life.

So, I thought I’d put together a list of the TEFL resources I’ve found the most useful this year.

  1. Earth Cam (free app) – this displays live feed videos from webcams in locations around the world. There are videos of Times Square, Niagara Falls and many other places. Personally, I really enjoyed this app (which I put on my iPad) and used it to switch things up a bit from the photographs provided in course books. It was especially useful to get students practising describing and comparing/contrasting images and videos. I also used it in weather vocabulary lessons.
  2. Lesson Plans Digger (website) – Gosia’s website is full of fantastic ideas for B2 and C1 activities to make learning advanced techniques a little bit more interesting. I’ve spoken in a previous post about how well her word formation games worked for my B2 classes.
  3. Film English (website) – Though I don’t often have time during most classes to use one of Kieran’s fantastic videos and lesson plans, when I have the chance, the kids really enjoy it. With interesting and relevant topics, the videos give way to great discussions at all levels.
  4. Cambridge graded readers (books) – having started B1 and C1 book clubs this year, these graded readers provided thought-provoking content and simple storylines to follow, which was essential, especially at B1 level.
  5. Padlet (platform) – though I’m still getting to grips with using this in the classroom, during this last academic year, Padlet has allowed me to provide extra practice in a non-intrusive way. I post extra practice on the wall of our class and those who want to, do it, either electronically or on paper. It’s been a great way to give more to those who are really motivated. An added bonus is that they can’t lose the assignment, unlike a piece of paper!


But this is just my humble opinion. What about you? What resources do you love? Feel free to comment and share your ideas.

From theory to classroom practice #researchbites

About a month ago, and as I’ve written about here, I got the chance to go to the Innovate ELT conference in Barcelona. There’s one phrase that’s stuck with me for the last month: the graveyard of great conference ideas.

This concept that we all generate tonnes of fantastic ideas through connecting with our peers and listening and participating in great sessions but that once we get back to real life, it’s as if it had never happened. Those fab ideas that could help our learners so much, go to a place in our minds where we remember them only occasionally and think: oh yeah, I really should do something about that. Only to be left there, in our minds, for weeks, months (even years?) to come.

And that’s when I stumbled across an article by Iclal Sahin and Ali Yildirim discussing exactly how EFL teachers take what they learn at training events and courses and implement it in the classroom.

Their study looked at 10 English teachers in Turkey from varying schools and who had varying levels of experience. Using an INSET day as the training base, they conducted interviews and observations with the teachers just after the training day and then after observing them in the classroom.

They found out that:

  • Teachers initially adopted the training content quite quickly
  • Where student motivation was high and the resulting English grades were strong, the training content continued to be used in class
  • However, where student motivation was low and resulting English grades were weak, teachers went back to their old methods.

It’s quite interesting to note how quickly the teachers implemented the course training. I’d be interested to know whether this was due to the fact that they knew they were going to be observed and interviewed on it, as with all the pressures and things on our to-do list anyway, incorporating new ways of working and methodologies can sometimes end up at the bottom of the list, regardless of our good intentions.

So how can this help us in our classrooms? Well, the main conclusion was that self-reflection and teacher motivation are key but that also this relationship may not be as straightforward as we once thought as some teachers returned to traditional methods after having tried the new ones for a while. The authors put this down to a lack of self-confidence on the part of the teachers and to lower class performances after trying to implement the new strategies.

Three takeaways for our classrooms:

  • Teacher self-reflection
  • Teacher self-confidence
  • Knowing your students (and their limits)

Let’s take a look at each one in depth:

Teacher self-reflection

Self-reflection is hugely important in all areas of our lives. I believe most teachers reflect on each day or each week of what was achieved (or not achieved) in their classes and personally, at the end of the academic year, I always try and look back on the year as a whole. Some of the key questions I ask myself are: What went well? Where can I improve? What have I learnt during the academic year which I haven’t been able to implement yet? How can I serve my students better next year?

Teacher self-confidence

Don’t you always find it’s the groups or classes where you feel like you’re being most yourself where the kids interact and engage more? I had two very stark differences highlighted to me this year. Both classes were at the same academic level, both the same ages (teenagers) and both had the same amount of class hours and yet in one of the classes, I was able to connect with them well and do things which we all enjoyed (adapting the text book), in the other class, no matter how I tried to switch things up, gamify or approach teaching from different angles, I was still unable to connect with them. No guesses as to which ones have just aced their exams and which ones haven’t, which makes me terribly sad. I’m still trying to work out what I could have done better (self-reflection).

Or maybe, for you, it’s nothing to do with being yourself and more confidence in your use of English. I remember in my first year of teaching I was highly aware that when using my normal day-to-day speech mode, not everything I said was grammatically correct nor pronounced exactly right (debateable: me and my Yorkshire accent). I don’t let it stop me. You’re human, kids and adults will have no problem if you make mistakes. So chill! And also, importantly, no one accent (native or non-native) is more important than another. The students, in my opinion, need to be exposed to a wide variety of accents. (On a side note, it’s good for them to see you make mistakes every so often as it can enhance their confidence in not being worried about having to say absolutely everything correctly. Fear of failure and all that.)

Or there might be something else: the centre, personal feelings and so on. Whatever it is, this study makes it clear that our own confidence affects our students and their willingness to engage in L2.

Know your students

Nothing new here. Know your students and you can teach them better. Know your students and you can adapt texts to their interests. Know your students and you can just be there for them when they need it.

I always try on the first day of the academic year to do ice breakers and get to know you activities so that they mingle and I can understand their likes and dislikes, too. I finally completed a fantastic activity this week. On the first day of the academic year, I got each student to write a letter to themselves to be dated 1st June 2017 and then I put the letters away (I told them I would not read them, which I did not) and forgot about them. This week I took them out and distributed them around the classes. The kids’ faces (even the older ones) lit up when they remembered what we had done, they were even more thrilled when some of their predictions came true (Real Madrid winning The Champions League, for example) and even happier to realise how much progress they had made in writing this year. And I felt the trust between us improved as they hadn’t expected me to fulfil the promise to not read their letters.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small summary and comment on ‘Transforming professional learning into practice’. If you’d like to read the full article, take a look at the link in the reference section. And let’s all make a commitment to not make the graveyard of great conference ideas any bigger.


Sahin, I & Yildirim, A, Transforming professional learning into practice, ELT Journal (2016) 70 (3): 241-252, Oxford University Press. (Link: )

What I learnt at iELT17

Two days of learner-focused, teacher-led talks in sunny Barcelona with craft beer and tapas, not to mention lots and lots of learning!

Innovate ELT 2017 has sadly been and gone. It was a fantastic experience where I got to meet fantastic teachers, editors and trainers from around the world and I learnt so much. So, I thought I’d better organise my takeaways into a blog post to share with you all and also to hold myself accountable for the actions I said I’d do.

The speakers were wide and varied, from learner to teacher to trainer to publishers but I’m going to try and pick out the key themes from the talks I visited.

Student Feedback

Why aren’t we getting more feedback from our students? Are we scared we’ll find out we’re no more than tennis coaches without the suntan? (fantastic line from Duncan Foord) These were key questions at this iELT and let’s be honest, how often do you ask your students for feedback? For me, I know it’s not hardly as much as I should.

It was great to hear feedback from learners’ perspectives in the plenaries, noting that each student needs a different kind of teacher and that it’s the ones who inspire and really help and, above all, observe who really make lasting impressions on their students. The stories of their wonderful and not-so-wonderful teachers were inspiring. So let’s not be afraid of what students will say, and ask them for feedback on what we’ve done during the year.


A big part of the conference was explaining the concept of mentoring applied to English language learning. Talks by the inspiring polyglot Lydia Machová and the equally inspiring Claire Venables were truly inspiring and led to me deeply questioning how I could teach my students better and show them how to learn a language through massive input and enjoyable activities, not only teach them what they need to know about grammar and vocabulary and exam tips.

Seeing case studies of students who had stepped up, brought together a group of like-minded individuals to keep them on track and accountable in their language learning was a thought-provoking experience. We all know peer learning is helpful to students but this was at another level and achieving results in faster time frames.

Whiteboards (not smartboards)

Non-digital whiteboards feature heavily in my current classroom environment and as such I jumped at the chance to catch Amy Blanchard’s talk on how to better utilise them. I put the vocabulary column into action straight away in my classes and not only do the kids find it useful but also I’ve found it gives us an extra round-up/cooler activity to do at the end of class by reviewing what’s come up during the lesson. Many other ideas like lesson menus and different coloured whiteboard pens to highlight word stress and divisible phrasal verbs will be put into action at the start of the next academic year.

Another big takeaway from this session was the #ELTwhiteboard for Twitter. If you have Twitter, and even if you don’t, go to the site and search for the hashtag #ELTwhiteboard. You get to see loads of ELT whiteboards from around the world  which is highly inspiring. Just the other day, I used an idea I’d seen to present “I wish/If only” to my B2 students which the kids loved!


There was a fab session by Elena Peresada on gamification and its use within the classroom to generate intrinsic motivation and learning. I’m a strong believer in mixing up standard lesson features with games and I’ve seen the benefit myself in my first year B2 class (going from 1-2/8 to 6-7/8 in their word formation scores). Elena’s talk was fascinating, showing me new ways to up my game (pardon the pun) in my classes on a daily basis.

Digital tools for Cambridge exams

There were several sessions on digital tools for Cambridge exams (with a rather large focus on Write & Improve) but the session I attend, run by Kat Robb, was highly informative even though I have a non-digital classroom. Finding out about apps my students could use in their free time to play their way to better English was fab as hopefully it will make studying more appealing to them. I especially loved the sound of Quiz Your English and Cambridge English F.C. and I’m going to check them out before the next academic year starts so that I can let my students know about the best way to use them.

And last but by no means least: reading!

I’m a huge advocate of reading and I’ve seen the transformative effects for myself from starting and running the book club at my current workplace, so Ben Nazer‘s reading session was a must-see for me. And I was not let down. The chance to observe a reading lesson from a pro was a fantastic opportunity to improve my own techniques.

Seeing the students have a range of choice and reading material while still staying on-topic was amazing. Ben gave students a choice of 2 or 3 pre-reading activities and 2 or 3 post-reading activities, a selection of reading pieces (all on the topic of UN Days) and let them get on with it, shaping their own learning, choosing what they felt most comfortable with, in small groups. The students enjoyed it, were engaged the whole time and most of all, Ben spoke very little. I reckon my biggest lesson from there was that I need to shut up more.

Learning, networking, a fantastic location and inspiring chats, I’ll be heading to next year’s Innovate ELT conference – will I see you there?

Don’t want to miss out on next year’s conference? Favourite or sign up to their email list to not miss out – believe me, you really don’t want to.

Note: I had the opportunity to attend this conference thanks to a scholarship from Cambridge English.

B1 Book Club

Updated on 20th July 2017 to include A Fruitcake Special.

Today’s post is all about ideas for book clubs at B1 level. I’m a huge fan of reading, so the idea of getting my English students involved in a book club really excites me. I’ve been running these book clubs for 7 months now so I thought I’d share some of the books and questions I’ve been using so you can set up your own book club.

The benefits of a book club and get your students involved in reading are numerous and I’ve talked about them more here. Needless to say, over the past 7 months, I’ve seen huge improvements in test scores in the majority of the book club members who attend.

The book club which I run is divided into levels. I think this is a great way for each student to work at or just above the level that they’re at, meaning they don’t end up feeling like it’s all too much.

In the B1 book club, the first book we read was A Puzzle For Logan by Richard MacAndrew, which is a level 3 Cambridge English reader. We read it over the course of 3 months so that everyone would have time to read it and think about the questions. Each book club session was 1 hour long, allowing everyone time to speak.

Here are the questions I came up with for each month:

Month 1 (having read chapters 1 to 3)

  1. . In chapter 1, why did the police tell the newspapers and radio about the crime?
  2. What is the link between Ronnie and Morag?
  3. Chapter 2 talks about Ronnie and Craig’s past. Why did they become criminals?
  4. Why is it difficult to be a police woman?
  5. What does Jimmy Brown mean when he says “it’s the pigs”? Who is he talking about?
  6. What does “main man” mean
  7. How did Jimmy get the evening newspaper?

Month 2 (having read chapters 4 to 7)

  1. . Did Jean have the correct attitude with her brother?
  2. What do you think is the relationship between Bags Baxter and Craig?
  3. How important are scientists in criminal investigations?
  4. What’s your impression of Robert Baxter?
  5. The title of Chapter 7 is ‘A Good Reason To Kill’. Do you think there is ever a good reason to kill someone?
  6. Do you believe Ronnie? Is he innocent?

Month 3 (having read from chapter 8 to the end)

  1. In chapter 8, why does Jimmy feel the police will treat him badly?
  2. In chapter 8, who was in the car with Morag?
  3. Why can’t Logan use what Angus said?
  4. Who was the killer?
  5. What did you like and dislike about the book?

It was a really great book to start with as it had a bit of everything, meaning no one was bored or turned off by the book itself. You could, of course, read the book in one sitting and do all the questions together in 1 month, but as it was my first attempt at this book club, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on anyone.

From Month 4 to Month 7 we read another Cambridge graded reader A Fruitcake Special & Other Short Stories (Level 4). The students actually found this book much more engaging as they were able to read an entire story for a book club meeting rather than just part of it. I think this really helped to keep the students engaged and coming back.

So, if you’re thinking about using this book in your book club, here are the questions I posed to students:

Month 4:

Story: A Fruit Cake Special

  1. What does the title ‘A Fruitcake Special’ refer to?
  2. What were the consequences of the fruitcake special?
  3. What is the relationship like between Anna and Aunt Mimi?
  4. What do you think of Mr Amos’ girlfriend?
  5. Is it a good thing that Anna could not buy any more cake?
  6. What do you think of the ending?

Month 5:

Story: The Real Aunt Molly

  1. What does the title ‘The Real Aunt Molly’ refer to?
  2. Why couldn’t Aunt Molly go to school when she was a child?
  3. What do you think about Maxwell Marvel?
  4. Would you allow another person to make decisions for you?
  5. What are the consequences of Aunty Molly being hypnotised?
  6. What would you do?

Month 6:

Story: Brains

  1. Who is Max? Why is he used in the experiment?
  2. What’s your impression of Mr Dimitri?
  3. Why must Gina stop her work, according to Mr Dimitri?
  4. What do you think of Mr Dimitri’s offer?
  5. Why does Mr Dimitri think Gina’s idea is dangerous? Do you agree?

Month 7:

2 Stories: The Book of Thoughts & Finders Keepers

Questions for The Book of Thoughts:

  1. What’s your impression of Chester?
  2. Why do Chester’s colleagues feel jealous of him?
  3. Why was Chester excited about substituting his manager in a meeting?
  4. What are the consequences of Chester having the book?
  5. Would you like to have this kind of book?
  6. Do you think Chester asked Dorothy to go out with him?

Questions for Finder’s Keepers:

  1. What does the title refer to?
  2. Why does Harry feel he can steal things?
  3. What are the consequences of the whistle?
  4. Why was the old priest afraid of Lou Foo?

Side note: Though some of the questions seem quite superficial, many opened up much wider debates around gender, professional behaviour, scientific advances and so on.


As Month 7 coincided with the end of the school year and the end of the first year of this initiative, I asked the students for feedback on the book club meetings. From their point of view, the second book (of short stories) was much better than the first one and they loved being able to both read outside of the language school and get lots of speaking practice in the sessions. Regarding negative points, they made it clear they’d much prefer to read short stories rather than longer ones split up over a couple of months. Their only other criticism was that once a month was not often enough (much to my surprise) and that come the next academic year, they want to have at least 2 sessions per month.


Overall, from a teaching perspective, the difference in reading skills when these students came to do their exams was noticeably different to their peers who had not done any extra reading outside of class. Also, their debating and turn-taking skills increased gradually over the year due to having to listening and respond to other people’s opinions within the sessions. And on a book-lover note, I really enjoyed hosting these sessions and getting my students excited about books.

Los Errores Gramaticales Más Frecuentes a nivel C1 en inglés

El otro día descubrí un artículo maravilloso escrito por Penny MacDonald en la Complutense Journal of English Studies titulado ‘”We all make mistakes!”. Analysing an Error-coded Corpus of Spanish University Students’ Written English’.

Como profesores, y desde luego como profesores de exámenes de Cambridge, siempre buscamos una manera de ayudar a nuestros alumnos a superar las dificultades que se les presenta su idioma materno. MacDonald examinó redacciones en inglés hechas por alumnos españoles a nivel universitario, entre los niveles CEFR A2 a C2, y encontró que al nivel de C1 el error gramatical más frecuente fue el mal uso de preposiciones y de artículos.

Por supuesto, en este artículo solo examinó redacciones, sin embargo también creo que sería lo mismo para la parte oral.

Por lo menos en lo que se refiere a los libros de texto, las preposiciones, en particular, parece ser un tema que se trata muy poco a este nivel, ya que se supone que los alumnos tienen ya una idea clara de éstas. Es evidente, según el artículo, que esto no es así y que hay que practicar más tanto las preposiciones como los artículos. Pero con el muy poco tiempo que tenemos en clase, ¿cómo podemos ayudar a nuestros alumnos a mejorar en estas áreas?

Estudiar por si mismos, por supuesto! Creo firmemente en no solo enseñar al alumnado de forma tradicional sino también hacer que piensen para si mismos y que se den cuenta de que después del nivel B1, tienen que ser disciplinados y participar en estudiar por si mismos, porque si no, el curso se les hará muy pesado.

Voy a probar algunas actividades en mis clases durante las siguientes semanas para tratar estas debilidades gramaticales con mis alumnos de C1 y os diré cómo va la cosa. Echad un vistazo al artículo de Penny MacDonald para descubrir más errores gramaticales a todos los niveles CEFR.

Biggest Grammar Mistakes in native Spanish C1 learners

The other day I came across a wonderful article written by Penny MacDonald in the Complutense Journal of English Studies entitled ‘”We all make mistakes!”. Analysing an Error-coded Corpus of Spanish University Students’ Written English’.

As teachers, and especially as Cambridge exam preparation teachers, we’re always looking for ways to help our students overcome the difficulties presented to them by their L1 language. MacDonald examined Spanish students’ writing pieces at the university level, at CEFR levels A2 to C2, and found that particularly at C1 level the most common grammar error was misuse of prepositions and overuse of articles.

Obviously, this article only looked at writing pieces, however I believe the same would probably hold true for spoken assessment, too.

At least in the case of course books, prepositions, in particular, seem to be somewhat looked over and rushed through as it’s presumed that students have a firm grasp on them by that point. In contrast, this article clearly affirms the idea that this area must be practised more. As should articles. But with time being a scarce resource, how can we help students practice these areas?

Self-study, of course! I’m a big believer in not only teaching kids in the traditional sense but also getting them to think for themselves and realise that after B1 level, they must be disciplined and participate in self-study, otherwise the course is going to be particularly hard for them.

I’ll be trying out a few activities in my classes over the next few weeks to reinforce these grammar points with my C1 students and I’ll report back on how we got on! Don’t forget to check out Penny MacDonald’s article to find out what other grammar mistakes are most commonly made at each CEFR level.

Cambios en los exámenes de Young Learners de Cambridge English

Si eres profesor de los exámenes Cambridge, seguramente sabes que los exámenes de Young Learner (Starters, Movers and Flyers) van a cambiar a partir de enero de 2018. Para obtener más información, asistí a un seminario online organizado por Cambridge Language Assessment y Cambridge University Press.

Fue muy informativo y pensé que para algunos de vosotros un resumen sería útil.

¿Por qué van a cambiar?

Cambridge Language Assessment quiere actualizar los exámenes para que sigan siendo relevantes (la última revisión fue en 2007), incorporar nuevas estrategias de aprendizaje y hacer que los exámenes de  Young Learners tengan más similitudes con los demás exámenes Cambridge.

¿Cuáles serán los cambios?

En general:

  • Examen de speaking – El rango de nota ahora será de 0 a 5, en vez del actual 0 a 3, para poder dar información más detallada sobre el nivel real del alumno.


  • Examen de listening – Habrá una nueva parte 1 que será muy parecida a las partes 1 de Movers y Flyers donde el alumno tiene que identificar una persona en una imagen.
  • Examen de reading & writing –  La parte 1 ahora incluirá los sustantivos plurales además de singulares y la parte 4 será un texto parcialmente basado en hechos reales.
  • Examen de speaking – Se les preguntará a los alumnos su nombre. La parte 1 ahora será una mezcla de las antiguos partes 1 y 2. Además, habrá una nueva pregunta “Tell me about this box”. Cambridge ha dicho que se espera y se acepta respuestas de una sola palabra y que si los alumnos tienen dificultades, el examinador les hará más preguntas para ayudarles.


  • Examen de listening – No habrá el elemento de dibujar en la parte 5 y la parte 3 será más parecida a la parte 3 del examen de Flyers.
  • Examen de reading & writing – Habrá menos preguntas en total. La parte 2 actual ya no estará. Se cambia también el orden de los ejercicios para que vayan del más fácil al más difícil. Habrá una nueva parte 6 donde el alumno tendrá que hacer y responder preguntas además de escribir frases.


  • Examen de reading & writing – Habrá un nuevo ejercicio de writing al final del examen donde el alumno tendrá que escribir una postal o un correo electrónico corto.

¿Qué recursos hay?

Pronto tendremos nuevos exámenes de muestra (sample tests) además de las listas de vocabulario. Nos darán carteles para el aula y nuevas actividades a partir de abril, seguidos por nuevos vídeos de speaking en agosto.

También habrá más seminarios online y presenciales para los profesores desde febrero de 2017 hasta mayo de 2017. Si eres profesor de exámenes Cambridge en España, puedes encontrar una lista de seminarios aquí.

Cambridge Webinar: Changes to Young Learner Exams

If you’re a Cambridge Exam teacher, you probably know that the Young Learner (Starters, Movers and Flyers) exams are changing as of January 2018. To find out more, last Thursday I attended an online webinar run by Cambridge Language Assessment and Cambridge University Press.

It was very informative and I thought some of you may find a summary helpful of what the changes will be.

Why are things changing?

Cambridge Language Assessment want to update the exams in order to keep the relevant (they were last reviewed in 2007), to incorporate new learning approaches and to better align the Young Learner exams with the other suite of Cambridge exams.

What changes will there be?

In general:

  • Speaking exam grade bands will now be from 0 to 5, instead of the current 0 to 3, in order to provide more detailed feedback to students and teachers.


  • Listening exam – There will be a new part 1 which closely replicates listening part 1 in the Movers and Flyers exams, where the child will have to identify a person in an image.
  • Reading & Writing exam –  Part 1 will now include plural nouns as well as singular ones and part 4 will be a semi-factual text rather than a riddle
  • Speaking exam – Students will now be asked their name. Also, part 1 is going to be an amalgamation of parts 1 and 2. There will also be a new question “Tell me about this box”. Though they have stated that one word answers are expected and acceptable and that should a student struggle, additional questions will be asked by the examiner to help them.


  • Listening exam – In part 5 there will be no drawing element anymore and part 3 will be a reflection of part 3 in Flyer’s exams
  • Reading & Writing exam – There will be fewer questions. The present part 2 will no longer be included. The task order has changed so that they will now run from the easiest to the hardest. There is a new part 6 writing task where the student will be asked to ask and answer questions as well as write sentences.


  • Reading & Writing exam – There will be a new writing element at the end of the exam where students will be expected to write a short postcard or email in order to give them ample practice before moving onto the KEY level.

What resources are available to me?

There are new sample tests coming soon in addition to word lists picture books. Classroom posters and activities will be available as of April, with new speaking videos to follow come August.

There will also be more webinars and seminars for teachers running from February 2017 to May 2017. If you’re a Cambridge teacher in Spain, you can find a list of seminars here.

Calling all FCE and CAE teachers – new resource!

I’ve had a problem for the past couple of weeks. One of my FCE classes has been impossible to motivate. They’ve been tired and fed up and totally unable to concentrate. Not only were they not interested in what they had to learn in the course book but also the class felt like it lasted all day instead of it’s hour and a half slot.

After searching and searching and trying new and different tactics to shake them up a bit and get them involved, I finally found a fantastic resource which has helped create some good atmosphere in this class while at the same continuously practicing for the FCE exam.

I stumbled across Gosia’s Lesson Plans Digger blog a few weeks ago and have been implementing her gamified Word Formation exercises with these kids and it is slowly but surely getting them more engaged with the tasks at hand and making them more confident especially in this area.

We’ve especially enjoyed the word formation card game where all you need is some pieces of paper and a couple of die. As a teacher, I can’t tell you how great it was to see them leaving with a smile and actually laughing in class again. I think we’ve got our rhythm back!

Gosia’s blog is really fantastic and she has lots of great ideas for CAE as well as FCE and I can’t wait to try them out in class.

English Book Club – improve your reading skills and so much more

Not to state the obvious, but if you’re going to reach a high level in any language, you have to read. But reading not only helps you for the reading parts of an exam, but it can also help in many other areas such as:

  • Grammar retention
  • Vocabulary retention
  • Fluidity (if you read outloud)
  • Pronunciation

Personally, I’m a huge advocate of reading. I love reading and try to do so as much as possible. Hence why I set up the English Book Club in my current school. I’ve found it’s a great to boost student’s confidence in reading, of course, and also in speaking and listening. As the students have to read the passage before the group meeting and then comment on it during the one-hour session, they lose that fear of speaking and they improve their listening skills by actively taking part in a debate. It’s fantastic to see everyone improving week on week.

If you want to improve your reading skills but there’s no book club near you, try picking up a book. But how do you choose? Well, there are 2 main elements to bear in mind when choosing a book in a foreign language. Firstly, it should be suitable to your level. Cambridge have created a fantastic series of graded books so you can choose exactly the right level for you. And secondly, it should be a story that interests you, otherwise you’re not going to enjoy the book very much.

Moreover, once you have the book, make sure you read little and often. It’s much better to continuously improve your skills than to try and cram it all into one day. Another tip, which helps a lot of my students, is to read outloud. Yes, it will take you longer to read, but through reading the words and saying them outloud, you can increase your fluidity, improve your pronunciation and practice grammar patterns you may not otherwise use.

I hope those tips are helpful! Happy reading!