Practice Makes Perfect
It’s exam season. Yippee. Being a language student, revision for exams can always arouse a little confusion. It isn’t like there are answers which you can memorise or concrete mark schemes with which you can judge your progress so a lot of the time you do feel left in the dark somewhat. That said, in my experience I have found a few methods which seem to serve me quite well (I feel a list coming on) so without further ado, allow me to outline a few ways in which I revise for language exams:
– Vocab tests – I’m sure you were hoping that this wouldn’t come up. It’s no lie that vocabulary tests are the bane of most language students’ lives but there is a reason why they’re so widely used. If done properly, they really do work. There is nothing quite like that sad little rush you get when an essay question sets you up nicely to flaunt some stylish vocabulary which you meticulously scrawled out 20 times the weekend before. They may be dull, but they give results!
– Foreign news. I like to make it a habit during exam season to listen to or read a segment of foreign correspondence at least once daily in order to keep my understanding at a consistent level. Naturally, when switching between languages it can be difficult to keep them all at a similar level but this method, I find, helps to balance them well. Plus, it can never hurt to know what’s going on in the world.
– Vocabulary post-its. An old fan-favourite. I regularly anger my family or flatmates by littering my home with post-it notes on the inside of various cupboards, on the backs of doors or on the ceiling. The notes have written on them various pieces of vocab which I might need during exams and they offer a slightly more novel way of learning what I need to know.
– Act like a lunatic. At first glance, not a great piece of advice but allow me to explain: getting speaking practice in a foreign language in England isn’t easy given the depressingly small number of polyglots existent in the UK. Therefore, in order to practice speaking you very often have to come across a little crazy i.e. Talk to yourself. In doing this you can regularly work on fluency, accuracy and confidence. The methods that I have developed to do this include narrating whatever I’m doing (e.g. Cooking dinner or walking to the bus etc.), translating songs which I’m listening to or even just pretending to be on the phone. It sounds sad, I know but if it’s crazy and it works, it’s not crazy!
These four methods normally serve me well when dispersed between bouts of the classic past paper rehearsals which are undertaken every year. They might seem a little tedious, perhaps a little long-winded and definitely a little crazy but at least we language students can take solace in the fact that, despite all of its peculiarities, at least language revision is a little novel and detracts from the boredom and insanity-conjuring routine of classic revision methods!