There is no standard preparation package for the ITACE for CLIL teachers. However, a useful starting point may be the sample questions offered on the ITACE website. Although these are not intended as a representative practice test, they do offer some insight into how the test is designed and which question types to expect. This could help you determine which aspects you need to pay specific attention to. We also advise you to increase your exposure to English in the days before the test and to try to start thinking in the target language.
Below are more specific tips for each component of the test, including a selection of websites for further practice. Many more interesting resources can be found through Google (e.g. search for “academic English word list”, “exercises English C1 reading”, “conditionals”). You can also consult websites that prepare for other English-language tests (such as TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge).
Reading & listening
- First read the questions and possible answers to know what to focus on when reading or listening to a fragment.
- There is no correction for guessing, so it is advisable to always select an answer even if you are not sure.
- Do not be discouraged by potentially difficult vocabulary. Try to derive the meaning of these words from the context, so you understand the main ideas. Pay specific attention to structural markers in the fragment (e.g. ‘however’, ‘as a result’) to understand how the ideas are related.
- The best way to improve your reading skills is to read English articles on a daily basis. The same holds true for listening skills.
- For general news articles:
- Flanders News (www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/)
- BBC news (www.bbc.co.uk/news)
- The New York Times (www.nytimes.com/)
- The Guardian (www.theguardian.com/international)
- To practise reading academic texts, these websites could provide a useful starting point:
- Science Daily (www.sciencedaily.com/)
- National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com/)
- Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com/)
- For extra listening practice, you can listen to any English media outlet that broadcasts documentaries or podcasts of your interest. These websites can help you get started.
- National Public Radio (org)
- CNN (http://edition.cnn.com/)
- For listening extracts by experts in various domains, pay a visit to these websites.
- Science podcasts (www.sciencemag.org/podcasts)
- TED: Ideas worth spreading (www.ted.com/)
- A popular show about science (www.pbs.org/show/its-okay-be-smart)
- Short and popular videos about scientific subjects (www.scishow.com/channels)
- For exercises on listening skills, you can consult the following websites.
- Learn new words and phrases based on BBC news reports (www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/lingohack and www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/news-report)
- 6-minute English (www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/6-minute-english)
- Try to expand your range of vocabulary. This can be done by doing vocabulary exercises (focusing on formal vocabulary). You can also learn new words and phrases by paying special attention to word choice when reading articles in your field.
- When learning new vocabulary, pay attention to collocations (word pairs), i.e. words that occur together (e.g. conduct an experiment, confirm a hypothesis). By using a collocations dictionary, you can find useful combinations with any new words you encounter and want to study.
- Many of the test questions are gap fill exercises which require you to write the word yourself, so make sure your spelling is correct. (Both British and American spelling are accepted). This website introduces a few frequently made spelling errors.
- BBC skillswise (www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/topic-group/spelling)
Have a look at the sample oral task on the ITACE website. This can help you feel more prepared for the specific tasks you will be expected to complete.
- Introduction – body – conclusion
Start your presentation by giving some background information (based on the input provided) and end with a brief conclusion in which you sum up your main points.
Use specific phrases (e.g. There are two main issues to consider…, Let’s start by taking a look at …) and linking words (e.g. On the other hand, In conclusion) to improve the coherence of your response.
- Topic-specific vocabulary
If you are not familiar with specific vocabulary to be used in your argumentation task, identifying useful phrases in the input provided can be a good starting point.
- To check how to pronounce certain words, you can use Howjsay (www.howjsay.com/)
- To work on specific pronunciation difficulties, check the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/features/pronunciation)
A sample writing task is available on the ITACE website. The writing tasks always include an email and a formal text about easily accessible topics relevant in an educational setting.
COHERENCE AND FLOW
- Divide your text into logically organised paragraphs.
- Use linking words (e.g. however, although) and reference words (e.g. thisproblem, such concerns) to clarify the structure of your text and to show how different ideas relate.
Exams are organised in February and June. Some courses are evaluated throughout the year. (disconnected sentences)
Improved version: Exams are organised in February and June. However, some courses are evaluated throughout the year. (clearly indicated contrast)
Note that there are different types of linking words, which follow different grammatical rules:
It is possible to start a PhD at different points throughout the year, although most students start in the autumn. (although = conjunction > one longer sentence)
It is possible to start a PhD at different points throughout the year. However, most students start in the autumn. (however = adverb > two separate sentences)
STYLE AND REGISTER
- Identify the appropriate register (formal versus informal) and be consistent.
formal style: an email to a professor / the student office/ the supervisor of your bachelor paper (someone you do not know personally)
informal style: an email to a friend or fellow student (someone you know very well)
For the email task, the register depends on the specific assignment.
For the formal writing task, you are specifically expected to adopt a formal style.
- Be aware of the differences between spoken and written language.
If students were asked to be more involved in the lessons, then these would probably be more interesting, but this also means we should come to class prepared, so we really have something useful to say. (spoken language)
Increased student involvement could result in more interesting lectures. However, this requires students to attend classes well-prepared in order to contribute to the discussion. (written language)
- Be aware of certain conventions in email writing (e.g. salutation, closing formula).
- Try to use a range of different words and phrases.
- Pay attention to the use of collocations (word pairs), i.e. words that often occur together in a specific language.
*Both existing and new technologies are being adapted to answer to these specific requirements.
Both existing and new technologies are being adapted to meet these specific requirements.
Pay attention to the following frequent errors:
- Subject-verb agreement
e.g. *The assignments and the coursework throughout the year is very challenging.
The assignments and the coursework throughout the year are very challenging.
- Tense use
e.g. Last year I completed my bachelor’s degree in History.
The past few weeks I have mainly worked on my dissertation.
- Adjective versus adverb
e.g. These key concepts are explained very clearly in the course book.
The course book offers a clear explanation of a number of key concepts.
- Word order, e.g. adverb position
e.g. *I think also the course would be interesting as a preparation for my Master’s thesis.
I also think the course would be interesting as a preparation for my Master’s thesis.
If necessary, consult a grammar book to revise these issues.
Especially in a formal text, try to avoid using too many short, simple sentences. Instead try to show that you’re able to use more complex grammatical structures (e.g. relative clauses, participle clauses, etc.)
SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION
- Pay attention to the correct use of commas, e.g. with linking words, in relative clauses.
- Keep in mind that MS Word spell check does not detect all errors, e.g. your / you’re.