THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What is B2 Level?

Students often ask how to describe their level of English language in a CV. To say words like "advanced" "near native" are not only high sounding, but also purely subjective and generally inaccurate.
The EU has solved the issue of subjective qualifications by providing a descriptor of levels.

Take a look at this video introducing you to the Commom European Framework of reference. 

Now the new Cambridge scales are far more specific as of 2015. We have discussed the statement of results before. Now watch this video to understand what you can expect from your statement of results, mind you, not the Certificate.

Now, back to the title question, what is B2 level?
B2, as explained by the British Council , describes an independant, fluent user of the language in familiar and unfamiliar situations. Read the full description in that link. You can also explore how your level compares to others and how you score in an IELTs exam.

Related post

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

This blog has been hibernating for quite a while. I still bring up old (yet not dated) posts in my FCE course. They know the rules: this is not homework.

The  FCE course this year was such a good time. I remember the first class in March. Nobody knew, but it was my first day of work after a long leave of absence due to family health. Being back at the chalk-face (excuse the archaism) felt like my model class back in my pre-graduation days. 

Everyone in my class had the self-demanding, voracious learning vein already inbuilt. I did not have to foster it, rather the opposite: I had to make them see their results for what they are worth. Not sure I persuaded them. They will probably be convinced when they see their exam results in January.

My students made my job easy, fun. Martina, one of the students, gave me a warm hug the last day. Before saying goodbye she told me "I had fun and I learnt a lot this year".  Felt like success to me. It was also a bit of a relief, because I remember her glued to her phone screen most of the time. I feared she was a bit bored.

I learnt a lot too. Particularly from the freshness of the responses from teens. A reminder of how much I still enjoy this FCE class, which I started teaching when my current 2017 students were being born. 

(Wait a minute. I am re-reading that last sentence again).

Now as this year -as well as this post -is coming to an end, I am reminded of how much I enjoy blogging. With a twist this time. I am writing this on my mobile (wink for Martina) while I am on my fixed bike. That's some innovation for me.

Look forward to my students' messages next month. For those coming to this blog for tips,  I will be back to you soon.

Happy 2018 everyone! Long live the blog!

X0X0

Claudia



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cambridge English First - Oral Exam Part 2

This is not the first time I have written about the oral exam. A quick Google search today has pointed at a lot of teachers writing about the FCE, so it is time to link to them and the great job they are doing to help their students learn.

Understanding English shares a couple of videos on  the oral exam. By the way, thank you Gordon for your kind words about this blog and for introducing Simon and Marcela. We have been exploring their blogs with my students.

Let's take a closer look at part 2. This is the part where you are supposed to compare two pictures and answer a question about them in one minute. Then, your partner will be asked a short question about your picture (30 seconds) before his turn.

I asked my students today what they find challenging about this part. Let me share their answers:

-The pictures are not that inspiring. At times, it is hard to improvise ideas about them.
-As you speak, you become more aware of the language you are using. You keep monitoring yourself and that is kind of "tense".
-Sometimes, you find you need the "right" word or expression and you cannot find it so...ahem, you need to say something else!

Fair enough. I'd say, try to think about this test as a game with rules that we can play clumsily at first and get better with  practice. Check out this previous post for ideas on how to practice on your own.

Practice and tips, of course.

This is a page for teachers, but you will find there a list of 38 useful phrases to use in part 2. There is a full description of the format of this part as well as detailed advice on the language you may be expected to use.

If the previous page has too much detail for you, I'd recommend a visit to FCE Pass. Find a brief collection of phrases arranged by function: description, comparison, expressing differences and answering the question. There are photos for practice, too.

This pdf document highlights useful phrases for asking for clarification, correcting yourself and the language of speculation, which is very important in this part.

Lastly, I'd like to recommend this video of part 2 with advice from a teacher to their students as they perform for part 2. This is not an example from Cambridge, it is useful practice, though.



More? Okay.

Related post
See this previous post for a description of the language needed for the complete oral test.









Thursday, March 31, 2016

A new class and a blog anniversary

Dear Students,

Every school year is a new beginning. New faces. I am trying to remember all of your names. A lot of ideas I would like to share with you. Precisely sharing is what this blog is all about.

We have known each other for a month now and I must say I am inspired by your presence. I really enjoy your willingness to participate, your curiosity and positive attitude. Be sure us teachers need that kind of inspiration like food. It keeps us going.

I am also pleasantly surprised to find a lot of you are interested in art. Some of you also speak Italian, which I am struggling to learn. One of you mentioned enjoying art museums. There are music lovers who also play music. This is just a start. We will certainly discover more amazing things as we get along.

Standardised exams do not sound like a lot of fun. I know. The interesting thing is that to certify your knowledge is outside your school or job requirements and everyone is learning here in my class out of their own will. I believe that as a group we can balance learning certain rules of speaking and writing in a foreign language without forgetting that rules can and should be broken at times. You can remind me of these last words before the test ;-)

I mentioned the idea of blogging some of our class discussions instead of relying only on the classic speaking mode. Some of you liked the idea but needed help to choose a blogging engine. Let me tell you something: stick to those ideas that can be shared. Stick to your writing style even if it does not exactly fit the exam format. That can be learnt later. Blogging tools? We will find a tool. That is the easy part. By the way, pens and papers are among my favourite technology.

I like blogging. This FCE blog has turned 10 years old last week! There have been times when I blogged very frequently and times when I went silent for months. Maybe not totally silent because there is Twitter or commenting at other blogs... You see, the Internet is a very interesting place.

This blog home is still open. It is not homework. It is up to you.

Look forward to seeing you next class.

All best,

Claudia