There is no standard preparation package for the ITACE for Students. However, a useful starting point may be the sample questions offered on the ITACE website (www.itace.be). Although these are not intended as a representative practice test, they do offer insight into how the test is designed and the different question types you can expect. This could help you determine which aspects you need to pay specific attention to. Moreover, we advise you to increase your exposure to English n the days before the test and to try to start thinking in the target language.
As the ITACE for Students focuses on English in an academic context, it might also be useful to review general academic vocabulary (e.g. reject a hypothesis, inconclusive findings) and key grammar rules. For the writing and speaking component, you could focus on strategies to improve coherence, including typical structuring phrases (e.g. ‘however’, ‘as a result’).
More specific tips for each component of the test are listed below, as well as a selection of websites you could use to practice. Many more interesting websites can be found using Google (e.g. search for “academic English word list”, “exercises English B2 reading”, “conditionals”). When preparing for the ITACE test, you might also find websites that prepare for other English-language tests (such as TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge) useful.
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’s always better to select an answer even if you’re not sure.
- Do not only focus on potentially difficult vocabulary, but try to derive the meaning from the context to help you understand the main ideas. Pay specific attention to the structural markers in the text or listening fragment.
- 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:
- To practise reading academic texts, these websites could provide a useful starting point:
- On the following website, you can find information on academic reading skills (e.g. skimming and scanning) and some useful exercises.
- Using English for Academic purposes (uefap.com/reading/readfram.htm)
- 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 (npr.org)
- CNN (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 bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/news-report)
- 6-minute English (www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/6-minute-english)
- Using English for Academic purposes (www.uefap.com/listen/listfram.htm)
- Try to expand your range of academic 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 academic articles. Note that the test does not focus on field-specific terminology, but on general academic vocabulary.
- 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.
- The Academic Word List (AWL) can help you to expand your word range in a formal, academic setting. It contains 570 word families and is divided into 6 sublists. It was primarily developed for students who want to learn the words most needed to study in higher education in English. By googling “academic word list”, you can find the lists and many exercises to practise the words.
- 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.
- It’s important to use the correct grammatical form of any word you fill in. Consult a grammar book and revise usage rules concerning the use of articles, subject-verb agreement, conditionals, adjective versus adverb, and other typical issues. It may also be useful to do some exercises to check whether you can apply these rules correctly.
- Below are examples of websites you could use to practise, but you can find many more interesting websites using Google (search for the issue you are struggling with).
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.
- Graph description
The presentation task always includes a set of graphs. It might be helpful to look up some specific terminology to discuss graphs and trends. Many websites are available to teach you how to describe a graph in English. This is just one example:
- BBC graphs and charts (www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/topic/graphs-and-charts)
- 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’re 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 (howjsay.com)
- To work on specific pronunciation difficulties, check the BBC website (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 academic setting.
COHERENCE AND FLOW
- Divide your text into logically organised paragraphs.
- Use linking words (e.g. however, although) and reference words (e.g. this problem, such concerns) to clarify the structure of your text and to show how different ideas relate.
e.g. 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:
e.g. 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. For the email task, the register depends on the specific assignment. For the formal writing task, you are specifically expected to use a formal style.
- Be aware of the differences between spoken and written language. E.g.
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).
- The writing assignments can be applied to any specific field or academic context. Use this opportunity to show that you know vocabulary relevant in your field or the academic world in general. Try to use a range of different phrases.
- Pay attention to the use of collocations (word pairs), i.e. words that often occur together in a specific language.
e.g. *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 in students’ writing tasks:
- Subject-verb agreement
e.g. *The assignments and the coursework throughout the year is very challenging.
e.g. 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.