How Cambridge Advanced and First exams have changed (or not!) by Shawn Severson

If you’re an IH Porto teacher you might be wondering, why does Shawn always change names of classes on Moodle and other materials? It’s a simple explanation, stemming from a series of changes at Cambridge English—not only have they changed the format of the exams, but they have also changed their
marketing strategy. Notice the name: Cambridge English. Firstly, the name has less to do with the university and with acronyms like ESOL. The same goes for the exams. FCE, what could that mean to someone who is not into language training? Thus, the names to be used are the key words which are more indicative of the level: Key, Preliminary, First, Advanced and Proficiency.

In the First and Advanced, some structural changes have occurred. The Reading & Use of English papers have been merged to shorten the exam. On one hand, this makes for a shorter exam day. On the other hand, it means that students have to be more efficient with their timing and balance their attention to grammar and reading. Also, the number of questions in some sections have been reduced, however the task may be quite similar.

In writing, some types have been removed, whereas there now is a guaranteed set task, which is the essay. It would seem this could guarantee greater consistency in marks, and the task is a useful one, given that an essay hinges on being able to explain a topic thoroughly. One drawback is that students will not be rewarded in that section for using formulaic language. Thus, added emphasis on discourse markers will be extremely relevant.

Another area which is becoming clearer and clearer relates to us directly as a school: the question is what is the “JUMP” between First (for Schools) and Advanced? The answer is that it is a big one. Thus, fast-tracking students through First to do the for Schools version, when they have an intention of doing Advanced needs to be analyzed with caution. Edite will be monitoring progression very carefully to avoid having candidates spend years in between exams, minimizing false hopes of super fast advancement, as some skills and the intellectual knowledge needed are not so fast to be acquired.

The last points refer to the new scales of certification provided by Cambridge, namely being conferred a higher or lower level than the test taken. Don’t forget all the new Cambridge Handbooks are in the Cambridge Exams folder of the IH Porto Handbook.


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