Why is this test only 90 minutes long?
What time division would you suggest between Sections A and B?
Are some questions easier than others?
What is the candidate required to do in the Image question?
Why are the photographs often so dull?
In Section B, what does extended mean?
Is Question 5 always a report?
A. Basically this test is about the skill of managing information against the pressure of time. The examiner wants to see how well the candidate can select points relevantly and quickly. Reading skills and study skills are really one and the same.
A. 50/50 is the sensible approach. If a candidate spends too long on the comprehension questions, they will not do themselves justice on the extended writing task.
A. - Question 1 has traditionally been “easier” in that it usually asks the candidate to select information, without any need for analysis or evaluation. That does not mean the marks are automatic and candidates can fail to select the proper points through rushed reading or through “over-writing”. Four or five lines are usually sufficient here.
A. That depends on the type of image used. The interpretation of graphs is
different from the interpretation of photographs or cartoons or charts. Candidates need practice in a range of images. It is not sufficient at this level to describe the image in a straightforward fashion. The examiner will want to see if the candidate can relate the image to the text from which it comes.
A. - This is done quite deliberately by those who set the questions. An emotive photograph would colour the response and rob the candidate of the chance to analyse the image themselves. Too often though, the candidate fails to respond to the image and gives a circular answer, which says “This is a very good image and fits in well with Document 2”.
A. As a rule of thumb, two pages would be an adequate response. A shorter answer does not give the examiner sufficient material to assess the candidate’s writing skills or their range of vocabulary. SPG is heavily penalised in this test. It is a skill that needs to be addressed.
A. A look through the past papers, which are available on this website, will show a range of writing tasks and candidates need to know the format expected in a formal report, a letter, an article or even in a talk. Not uncommonly, perhaps due to the pressure of time, candidates will write two pages without paragraphs, headings or sub-headings. That suggests an unplanned piece of writing, which is not what the examiner wants. The question nearly always contains a set of bullet-points which tell the candidate what is required. The oldest advice is still the best, “Read the question”.