A note to the teacher:  Taking an English proficiency exam can be a daunting task for any student. However, your job as the teacher is to coach the and provide them with realistic goals, timelines, and necessary practice in order to do their very best. It is important to emphasize that to be successful on a proficiency test, a student should have a solid B1 level if not higher. The real difficulty of test-taking lies in the format of the test themselves and the specific strategies and skills required to take a test. In other words, it isn’t just about knowing the parts of speech and how to hold a conversation. Help your student prepare with the tips & practice ideas below. They are written for and directed to your students.

Part 1: General Test Tips

Part 2: Speaking Section

Part 3: Writing Section

Part 4: Reading Section

Part 5: Listening Section

PART 1: General Test Tips

Preparing for the test

1. Determine which test best suits you here.

2. Determine what score is needed, and understand the rubrics for each section.

3. Become familiar with the format of the test you choose.

4. Become familiar with the instructions of the test you choose.

5. Understand & practice all question types that the test includes.

6. Determine strengths and weaknesses in 4 skills (Speaking-Writing-Reading-Listening)

7. Focus on productive skills (speaking and writing) during class time and receptive skills (reading and listening) as homework.

8. Practice test strategies, individual tasks, and full-length exams.

9. Use a variety of outside materials (videos, news articles, textbooks, etc.) to prepare as well.

10. Take care of yourself! Wear comfortable clothes to the test, and eat and sleep well in the days before the test.

During the Test

1. Work quickly and carefully.

2. Pace yourself--do not spend too much time on any one question.

3. Mark only one answer for each question. If you mark more than one answer, that question will be counted wrong — even if one of the answers you marked is correct.

4. Your score will be based on the number of questions you answer correctly. There is no penalty for guessing.

5.Try to answer every question to the best of your ability.  

6. Pay attention to the specific instructions.

7. Utilize scheduled breaks. Although you may leave the test room briefly to use the bathroom, you cannot make up any lost time.

8.  Paper-based tests: Mark your answers on your answer sheet and not in the test book. You will receive credit only for answers marked in the circles on the answer sheet. You will not receive credit for answers entered in the test book.

9. Remember to use skills like skimming and scanning to work efficiently.

10. Remember to breathe and be confident! You are prepared for this.

PART 2: Speaking Section

Like any Dynamic class, speaking will still be a main focus in a test prep course. Each test has its own rubric. Despite different names for the criteria, all of the tests generally have the same requirements. These are summarized in the table below.

**Keep in mind that depending on which test you choose,

the speaking test will be in-person or computer-based**


General Tips:

  • Better to make minor errors than hesitate often and/or use only simple vocabulary/grammar

  • Interact naturally: respond to questions, eye contact, act interested, disagree/agree, show understanding, give/request further information

  • B1-B2 Level questions: can’t ask examiner to rephrase

  • Self-correction: Use sparingly because it will affect discourse & interactive communication marks

  • Practice different registers (formal vs informal)

  • Speaking Prep time: Write down a few key words and ideas and plan how you will organize your response. Don’t attempt to write down exactly what you’re going to say. It’s a waste of your time, and raters will be able to detect responses that are read and will give them a lower rating.

Find ideas for speaking practice here!

PART 3: Writing Section

Writing will also be a focus of a Dynamic class. However, time spent actually writing in class should be limited. Instead, the writing should be assigned as homework and then analyzed in class together using the rubric. Each test has its own rubric. Despite different names for the criteria, all of the tests generally have the same requirements. These are summarized in the table that follow. In general, the following aspects should be considered in completing a writing task:  function/purpose, reader/audience, register (formal, semi-formal, informal), and structure.

**Keep in mind that depending on which test you choose, the writing test will be paper-based or computer-based**

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There are two main methods to approach teaching writing. One is a bottom-up method, and teaches the process step by step. The second approach is top-down method; it shows an example and involves creating a product based on an exemplary model. The two methods are laid out in more detail below.

Method 1: Process Method (Step-by-step)

1. Prepare to write:  Recognize type of question asked, think about content, take a few notes. Organize ideas to make structure easier (headings)

2. Write the first paragraph (introduction): Introduce topic. Show reader how it will develop. Restate question in own words. DON’T COPY VERBATIM

3. Write the middle paragraph(s) (main body): Expand points so answer as full as possible. State main idea & follow with 1+ supporting points. Link ideas, avoid repetition (pronouns, synonyms), subordinate clauses (additional information)

4. Write the final paragraph (conclusion): Short & completes essay. Make sure reader clearly understands main points.

Method 2 - Product Method:

1. Show learners good example of a finished writing task.

2. Analyze together using score descriptors from rubric.

3. Students write their own response to the task.

4. Score using rubric.

5. Compare good example with student’s response.


The exact requirements of writing tasks may vary from test to test, but there are 3 main types of writing that are seen across the board. Each of these types can be succinctly answered following a set structure. These structures are listed below.

Both sides of argument

  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. Advantages/Disadvantages

  • 3. Conclusion: summary both sides of argument & Statement of Opinion

Opinion & Justify It

  • 1. Introduction & statement of opinion

  • 2. Justification for opinion

  • 3. Conclusion: restate opinion & brief summary of reasons

Solution for a problem

  • 1. Introduction & description of problem

  • 2. Possible solutions

  • 3. Conclusion: summarize

You can find practice writing activities here!

PART 4: Reading Section

The reading section varies based on the type of test you take (academic vs general English). However, there 4 main purposes for reading within testing. Each of these requires essential skills in order to be successful on a test. These skills are described below.

Essential Skills

1.Pre-reading: Preview a text & Predict content/structure

2.Reading for Basic Comprehension:

-Skimming for main ideas

-Guessing words from Context


3. Reading to find information: scanning for key facts/information

4. Reading to learn:

-recognize organization & purpose

-understand relationships between ideas

-organizing information into a category chart/summary

You can find reading practice ideas here!

PART 5: Listening Section

Similarly to the reading section, the listening section can best be approached by practicing essential skills. These skills are described in detail below.

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Other Listening Practice:

  • Dictation practice: letters (spelling of names) & numbers (dates), difficult sounds (i vs e, 14 vs 40, etc.) = Bingo

  • Mortar (function) words: articles, prepositions, and auxiliares

  • Brick (content) words: nouns, verbs, carry message/meaning

  • Function phrases: common phrases for offering, suggesting, expressing a preference, giving reasons, making, introducing paraphrasing, indicating time  

  • Identify Text Type: Which task does the situation belong to? Ex. panel discussion/lectures, interviews with celebrities

  • Accents: British, American, Australian, North American, etc.  

  • Vocabulary: context clues for unknown vocabulary  

  • Take notes: identify speakers, main points, details (answer questions after listening, only hear once)

For more ideas to practice listening, click here!

For more specific information about format or unique aspects of a test, check out the powerpoints below!

IELTS Powerpoint

FCE Powerpoint

TOEFL Powerpoint

TOEIC Powerpoint