How To Prepare Successfully For Language Exams


How To Prepare Successfully For Language Exams

Thu, 26 Nov 2020 14:19:42 +0000Géralde Vincent-BancroftSome of us study languages as a hobby, just for the thrill and satisfaction of being able to express ourselves in a foreign tongue. But most will have to sit a language exam. – maybe because it is the school requirements, or to document your proficiency in the foreign language if you’re applying…

Some of us study languages as a hobby, just for the thrill and satisfaction of being able to express ourselves in a foreign tongue. But most will have to sit a language exam. – maybe because it is the school requirements, or to document your proficiency in the foreign language if you’re applying for a job, a course at university or a permit to stay in the country were the language is spoken. No matter the reason, you must get prepared for the dreaded exam.

Here are a few tips that you can follow to make the exam preparation less stressful.


First, know exactly what the exam entails, what the exact requirements are. Buy the exam preparation guide and it will provide you with most of the information you need, as well as giving you tips and mistakes you should avoid. They also come with mock paper practice- usually past exams – with the correct answers to the questions asked.

Some even provide an extensive vocabulary list that you are expected to know.

This can help lift some of the stress that the prospect of an examination can bring, because the more you get familiar with the type of test that you will have to take, the better as it will eradicate the surprise element of the whole process.


If you want to succeed you need to create a study schedule that allocates time for learning the different skills that you will be tried on. Usually the exam will be on these four practical skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

You should spend equal time to reading and comprehension practice, writing and translation practice, listening and speaking practice.

You should allow study time and practice for each of them as well as programming down time and social activities.

Create an immersion environment

Watch movies and TV programs, listen to the radio in your target language. This will help you to get used to conversational materials which will be helpful during your listening and speaking exam.

Also, find someone to practice the language with. it might be another fellow student. This will be advantageous because you will be both motivated and willing to keep on track. Agree on a writing task, for example, and once finished swap them over and let your friend highlight your mistakes and vice versa. This will help you both as it will allow you to exert a critical mind when making the corrections to each other’s work as well as being aware of your own errors.

If you are studying on your own, a language exchange site might play the same role. It is easy to find there an accountability partner to help you practice your listening and speaking skills.

Revise vocabulary and grammar

Sometimes exam boards are explicit about what vocabulary you should know, if this is your case, try to get hold of the list. Anyway, it is important to have an extensive vocabulary knowledge.

It is also important to have a grasp on the gender and spelling of words. These are the ‘tiny’ details that might cause you to lose important scoring points in your exam.

The use of flashcards or flashcard Apps can help you succeed. You can also use sticky notes and place them in relevant places around the house- for example- allowing you to remember the name of different items in your target language.

The use of Spaced-repetition Apps is also very useful as it will permit to revise periodically the new words, especially the ones you’ll find difficult to memorise.

Read, read, read

Read everything you can get hold on in your target language: books, magazines, newspapers, online articles. They are a great way to be exposed to new and everyday vocabulary as well as keeping you aware of current issues in your target country. This will also help you work on the grammar when noting the forms used in the texts you’re reading.

Take notes when you encounter grammar forms that you are struggling with and in other occasion learn more about these topics, do some similar exercises using the same grammar patterns.

Use a notebook

When reading or practicing a listening exercise have a notebook at hand to write down all the new words you encounter. Go back to these later and find out the meaning of these words preferably in a monolingual dictionary. Thus, you will learn the connotation of the word in context. Also write one or two sample sentences for each new word. Upload them as well in your spaced-repetition App or make some flashcards so that you can go back to them regularly.

Practice mock exams

Mimicking exam conditions is key. This will prepare you psychologically for the day. Hence the importance of getting hold on past papers and time your practice. You will learn to allocate the right time to the different sections of the paper as well as boosting your confidence.

General advice

✨Plan your study and revision with plenty of time in advance.

✨The day before the exam take it off. Do anything you want but revision.

✨Have a good night sleep.

✨On the day have breakfast and keep hydrated.

✨If you’re too stressed, practice breathing exercises.

Remember success is in the planning.

Do you have any other exam tip? Share in the comments below.

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