How to Help ESL Students Prepare for Exams
ESL students often have to sit for a wide variety of exams. Considering that they have a language barrier to overcome, such testing practices can be rather overwhelming for these students. Thus, it is up to you as their teacher to help them during this period.
Fortunately for you, there are many tactics that you can try. As long as you follow the right structure, you should be able to help your students prepare without too much difficulty. So, without further ado, here is what you will need to do:
Work on Information Retention
It should come as no surprise to learn that your first role as a teacher is to ensure that your students are actually remembering what they learn. This, of course, will make it a lot easier to answer questions that require rather pointed solutions. Thus, you need to start teaching in a manner that helps your students retain their lessons.
To start with, including both audio and visual elements in your lessons. Doing so will activate a greater number of parts of your students’ brains. This, in turn, will lead to more engagement and greater retention. You can also make sure that they physically take notes so that even more sections of their brain are stimulated.
It is also important to go over the same material every so often. This way, you will be reinforcing existing memories in your students’ minds. So, even if the initial lesson was weeks away, they will still be able to recall a majority of the information.
Create Objectives for Each Section
One of the reasons that students can be so resistant to learning certain information is because they don’t understand why they need to learn it. You may know why a certain section is relevant to the subject. However, your students don’t.
Therefore, one of the first things that you will need to do is to set learning goals for each section. First, of course, outline why it is significant for your students to understand this information. Hopefully, this should prime them for retention.
Then, focus on what precisely it is that you want your students to learn about this topic. Create as many goals as you need to help breakdown the information into more understandable chunks. By doing this, you will also create a measuring tool to determine just how many details the students were able to retain.
Test Their Capabilities at Intervals
As you can imagine, there is little use in moving onto the next topic or chapter if your students haven’t really grasped the concepts in the current one. This is why you need to get into the habit of setting up small quizzes at the end of every section.
This will highlight which portions have been understood and which ones are confusing the students. These quizzes can also help the students individually as well. They will show them just which areas they need to need to improve on, personally.
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Teach Students about Testing Criteria
Teaching your students the relevant information is only half the battle. If you want them to be able to apply what they have learned, then you need to show them how to transfer this information. After all, each question is structured in a different way.
For example, some questions simply require the student to pick one right answer from several options. Others require short answers and then there are those that must be written in essay format. Each question carries a different mark with it as well.
Therefore, you need to explain to your students what is required of them with every question type. For instance, explain to them that one sentence is often enough for a 1-mark question. On the other hand, an essay must be structured with an introduction, three paragraphs containing three main arguments, and a conclusion.
By showing them how to answer questions appropriately, you are preparing them to answer these questions in a more intuitive manner. This will help them to write more concise answers and gain higher points.
Go Through Samples
Of course, there is no substitute for actually completing the practice tests. Actually going through each question and learning the outline of the papers can be incredibly helpful, particularly to ESL students. It can also stave off anxiety in your more fearful test-takers as well.
Fortunately for modern teachers, most past exam papers are readily available online. Even if you can’t find past papers, there should be sample ones as well. Try to find as many as you can and have your students go through them prior to their real exam. They will then be well-primed for their true test.
Once your students have figured out how the test works, consider doing these practice exams under real-world testing conditions. This could mean that they need to complete the examination within a certain period of time. Or, perhaps they may not be able to use dictionaries or other guides to help them. These tactics should help them to prepare even further.
Readdress Weak Points
As with smaller quizzes, these practice tests will also reveal your students’ weak points. Sometimes there will be common ground. Other times, you will find that independent students are struggling with specific topics.
If your students are failing to grasp a particular concept, then you need to approach it from a different angle. Or, consider breaking it down into more digestible parts. Either way, you need to make sure that you are trying something different this time around.
In case the problem is more individual, have the students solve questions that are related to their weak points. Not only will this result in them studying up on these elements again, but they will also become more comfortable with the questions as well.
These are some of the main ways that you can help your students prepare for virtually any exam that they have to sit for. It may take some time but eventually, your hard work will pay off for you as well as your students. On this note, you should make every effort to incorporate these tactics in your own classroom.
Leslie Sherman has been a teacher for over twenty years. During this time, she has honed her teaching techniques so that she can help a wider variety of students. Every day that she teaches, she learns a little bit more about how to be a better educator.