In praise of the Cambridge Assessment English “Handbooks for Teachers”

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If you are preparing students for the Cambridge exams one of the best resources available is the series of Handbooks for Teachers published by Cambridge.  Far from being simply a description of the contents of each exam, the Handbooks are very teacher friendly and contain a wealth of information and teaching tips which can help you as you prepare your students to take the exams.   These are some of the features of the Handbooks:

  • A one-page overview of each component

This is great when you need to answer all those tricky questions from students about the different parts of each component; the timings; number of questions; and marks awarded.  It also has information about the focus and format of each question.

  • General and specific tips for preparation

You’ll find lots of ideas here for classroom activities as well as homework tasks.  There are also helpful tips about exam technique.  After a section of general advice, each part of the component is considered in detail.  Did you know, for example, that correct spelling is essential in Parts 2, 3 and 4 of the B2 First Reading and Use of English?

  • 2 Sample papers

When the exam is getting closer you’ll want to do some practice exams with your students so that they get a feel for working under exam conditions.  Each Handbook contains two Sample Papers with an answer key, listening transcripts and links to the audio files which can be downloaded from the Cambridge webpage.

  • Sample answer sheets

It’s essential that you give your students some practice at filling in their answers on the answer sheet.  Remember, there is no extra time given for this in the official exam!

  • Assessment Scales for Speaking and Writing

When it comes to evaluating your students’ written and oral work it is vital that you know the criteria by which they will be marked.  For both writing and speaking, Cambridge provide assessment scales which are closely adhered to by examiners.   In the Handbooks you will find explanations and examples of these assessment scales.  It will be a great help to your students if you can use the scales yourselves when marking their written work and assessing their speaking.

  • Sample Writing answers with examiner comments and marks

Teachers often want reassurance (naturally!) that they are marking their students’ written compositions correctly for the level and giving appropriate feedback.  In the Handbooks you will find samples of candidate responses along with the comments and marks of examiners.  This gives you a real insight into how each assessment criterion is evaluated.  You can mark the sample compositions yourself and compare the marks you award with those given by the Cambridge examiners and in this way, you can ascertain if you are marking too high or too low.

  • A glossary of exam related words and expressions

Lots of different terminology is used in the Handbooks to talk about the exams, and at the back of each Handbook is a very useful glossary of these terms.

  • Information about marks and results

The Handbooks explain how your students’ marks will be represented on the Cambridge English Scale and how this relates to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

So, as you can see, there is a lot to praise in the Cambridge Handbooks!  You can download PDF copies free of charge from the Exams Catalunya webpage.  Wishing you all the best in your preparations for exam season!

Quinta Conferencia Anual Exams Catalunya 2017
Cuarta Conferencia Anual Exams Catalunya 2016
Tercera Conferencia Anual Exams Catalunya 2015
Platinum Centre of the Year Awards 2015
Segunda Conferencia Anual Exams Catalunya 2014

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