Tag Archives: exam

Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.

In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom

Here’s my latest contribution to the British Council magazine Voices: “Activities for correcting writing in the language classroom. The article encourages students to correct their own writing and it contains  6 error-correction activities which are a lot of fun.Who said learning English was boring?

You might also be interested in reading  Nine ways to revise English vocabulary using slips of paper” published in December where I suggest  nine activities for revising English vocabulary using simple slips of paper.

Thanks for reading!

The Spelling Challenge: are you up to it?

Is it definetely or definitely? Which is correct, possession or possesion?

Most students struggle with English spelling and no wonder, English spelling is difficult. Plain and simple. The best advice I can probably give you to improve your spelling is to read a lot and then if you keep misspelling a word, you might want to write it down  several times ( I’m sorry! I know it sounds like a very traditional thing to do, but it works and this is what is really important, isn’t it?). Doing spelling quizzes can also help, and it’s certainly more fun than writing the tricky word several times.

So, are you up to a little challenge? Then, try these three quizzes based on students’ common spelling mistakes found in Intermediate, Advanced and Proficiency exams. I have created them with the aim of helping my students get rid of these common spelling mistakes and I hope they are helpful to anybody visiting the blog!


This is how I suggest you work with the quizzes:

  • Start with the intermediate quiz even though you are an advanced or proficiency student. Life is full of surprises and it doesn’t hurt to double-check tricky words.
  • Once you have finished the quiz, try to remember which words were tested and write them down on a piece of paper. You don’t only need to be able to recognize them but to remember its correct spelling.
  • Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.

Good luck!

Easy? Good! Let’s take a more difficult quiz now!

Piece of cake? Well done! Let’s try now the most difficult one!

I’d like to finish this post with an excellent piece of advice from Thomas Jefferson.

“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.”

(Thomas Jefferson, American president  1800-1809, in a letter to his daughter Martha)

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Some Priceless Topic-Based Videos to Help Students Prepare for the Speaking Test

Hi, hey! How are things?
Have you read my last post?? It’s all about first-day activities to get to know my new students. Are you going to be one of them? I hope so!
Lessons start on  5 October  and I am totally in teaching mode. In September ,some  of my students will need to take the oral exam again and I thought it might be a good idea to share with you some priceless videos that I found on youtube  this summer.  I wish I had shared them with you before exams in June, but I didn’t know about them just then. Anyway, I hope you can still make good use of them.
What I am going to show you in this post is the website of an English teacher, Marek Connell ,and his awesome videos on how to answer the questions in the Escuela Oficial de idiomas Intermediate (B1) and Advanced (B2)speaking exams. I have to say here that in my region (Asturias) EOI exams  don’t  follow exactly the same procedure Marek explains in his videos, ie, students cannot take notes and they do not have 10 minutes to organise their speech, but what I like about his videos is that he shows how a fluent speaker would answer the questions related to a given topic.

For each topic I will show you:
From my own website: some questions you could be asked
From Marek Connell ‘s website, his own videos showing how  a native speaker (himself) would answer  some of these questions. Click to visit Marek’s website

So, pen and paper at the ready? Here we go.


Questions about Friendship,

Questions about your dream partner


Vocabulary and Questions


Questions about the weather

Questions about the environment


♥Vocabulary and Questions about Education


Questions about Fashion and Trends

Questions about Going Shopping

♥Questions about Money 1

Questions about Money 2


♥ Questions about Pets


Questions about Sports

Questions about Violent Sports


Lesson Plan about National  Stereotypes with Vocabulary and Questions

9. CRIME  


You’ll find more  topic -based questions  on my website Blog de Cristina. Click here,please 

Hints on Blank Filling Listening Comprehensions+ 2 Listening Activities

In this kind of listenings  you don’t need to write  a full sentence to give the correct answer.
Normally there is a maximum of three  words to complete notes, statements or questions.

In these exercises it is very helpful to:

And don’t forget to read the completed sentences to make sure the words fit grammatically  🙂



Source: Cambridge FC Practice Tests
Source: Cambridge Complete First Certificate

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Picture Description: Speculating

Picture Description is an important part of the Oral Exam and it needs to be practised. Two weeks ago, I published a post containing Some Useful Guidelines and Techniques for Picture Description that you might want to read.

One of the things that you need to take into account when describing a picture is that you cannot be 100% sure what is happening in the picture. Therefore, you need to use appropriate language to show you  are guessing. You have to speculate about the pictures For example: He is likely to / she’ll probably find it quite tough… etc

Some structures you can use:

  • Look as if + sentence/ Seem as if + sentence : he looks as if / seems as if he is looking for something
  • Seem + to infinitive: he seems to be tired/ he seems to be having a great time
  • Look/ Seem + adjective: They look/ seem quite tired
  • Appear + to infinitive : She doesn’t  appear to be concentrated on what she’s doing

Some modal verbs  you can use.

  • Must : for positive deduction. He must be happy because he’s smiling. The photo must have been taken in summer.
  • Can’t : for negative deduction. He can’t be going to school because he is not carrying books.
  • May/ Might/Could : for posibility. He could be telling her something she doesn’t like. The photo might have been taken in winter as they are wearing winter clothes.

Words like : perhaps, maybe…

Let’s listen to an example now.

You’ll hear a girl called Magda practising this part of the Speaking test


Source: Complete First Certificate  by Cambridge

Picture Description: Homes 2

In this post you’ll find some  material to practise describing two pictures about Houses/Rooms in a House. There is some useful vocabulary  and expressions as well as  two different sets of pictures  with some questions that might give you some ideas of what you need to talk about in this part of the exam. Remember that you’ll  need to practise describing , comparing and giving opinion . Download the pdf here

To see an example of two students doing this exercise, go to Pictures Description Homes : Part 1

For further practice, visit the Picture Description Section in this blog.

Step1. Study this vocabulary and expressions before you start describing.   Useful Expressions:

  • It is too expensive for me to rent/buy a house
  • decorate in my own taste
  • a place of my own
  • live on my own
  • can’t afford to rent
  •  crowded with furniture
  • the room is airy and light

Special Attention to Prepositions:

  • live in a city/the country
  • live on the outskirts of a city
  • live on the north coast
  • live on the second floor

Types of Houses

  • a detached house
  • a semidetached house
  • terraced houses
  • cottage
  • bungalo
  • block of flats
  • a motor house
  • skyscraper
  • a mansion
  • a house boat

Step 2. Practice 1: Describe, compare and give opinion Some ideas to help you:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a house or a flat?
  • How many different homes have you lived in? Which did you prefer?
  • What do you think about people keeping big dogs in flats?
  • What is your relationship with your neighbours?
  • What is your general feeling about the architecture in your local area?

  Step 2. Practice 2: Describe, compare and give opinion   Some ideas to help you:

  • Do you have a lot of decorations in your home or is it bare?
  • What would you say the decoration style of your home is?
  • What would your ideal house or apartment look like?
  • Is your home clean? Are you a very organized person?


Picture Description: Homes 1

Resting on your laurels? No way!  Finals are fast approaching!! Time to give your English a final push!

Here you have another example of picture description. This time the theme is Houses.

Remember that in the  Oral Exam you’ll be shown two ( sometimes three) theme-related photographs ( eg types of houses). You’ll be asked to describe and compare them and to talk about them in relation to yourself for a short time (approx 3 min.)

More examples and practise here



Source: Premium B2





Fixed+Movable Page: Challenging Students to Speak Better

Yes, it’s this time of the year. My students’ second term has already finished. Time to start a new one. The last one. It’s when every single year, I have serious doubts about whether I should be doing something else to help them improve. It’s like the yin and yang. The selfish side of my brain tells me I am giving them my best, staying up late preparing  classes, creating new material students seem to swallow in 5 minutes …etc-  and here 🙂  I cannot but remember my grandmother when she complained about how quickly we ate everything it took her all morning to cook- ; while the other side of me keeps reminding me of all the times I had to rush through a specific point or how on a particular day we didn’t have time enough to discuss a given issue in detail…etc.
But the truth is that although I should say that I honestly think I am doing my part, sadly the truth is that some students, unfortunately more than I wish, don’t seem to be able to understand that

                                                       Studying+Practising= Improving

The main difficulty my students need to overcome is their insecurities. They feel safe using a limited number of structures and they are afraid to use the new ones. New structures, new vocabulary is like a challenge to them and it is my intention to help them rise to this challenge; so this is what I’ll be trying next time we focus on Speaking.

I am going to ask my students to write at the back of their notebooks some structures we have learnt this year; structures they instinctively know would show they have acquired the necessary level, like for example:

• It is not worth+gerund
• Get/be used to +gerund
• There is no point ….
• Want/ would like someone to do something
• It’s easy/difficult /nice + to infinitive

Students should be aware that this is their own personal list, to which they will be adding new structures or expressions they want to use as we move on towards the end of the course.


Most of the activities we do in class are topic centred, so we talk food, health or technology. Lessons in textbooks are also normally topic – based, and they provide students with the necessary vocabulary, phrasal verbs, readings …etc.

Before we start speaking about a given topic I am going to ask them to write on separate piece of paper all the vocabulary, expressions, idioms they can remember related to the topic. This should take like about two minutes and will give them an idea of how much they already know and how much they still need to study and then I am going to ask them to compare it with their partners to give them the opportunity to add any new ones they might have forgotten.

FIXED +MOVABLE PAGES. Once the speaking task is set, students will need to try to use as much vocabulary written on their movable page and as many expressions as they have at the back of their books. My experience is that most students tend to rush and just speak without caring about the structures or vocabulary they use, so I’m pretty sure that if I want this experiment to be successful I’ll need to use lot of persuasion and monitoring, but I think it’s worth a try. What do you think?