Number one for English language teachers

Assessment matters: Exams extra (upper-intermediate to proficiency)

Level: Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Article, Reference material

There is a lot of material on onestopenglish for teaching exams, particularly IELTS and the Cambridge ESOL exams such as FCE. Of course, most of this is easy to find as it is in one section that is clearly labelled ‘Exams’. However, teachers of exam classes shouldn't limit themselves to the material in that section as there is plenty of other material on the site which is suitable for using in their classes. In this article, Adrian Tennant takes a look at some of the materials available and suggests how they could be used, and integrated, into your teaching.

For higher level exam students there is a lot of material on onestopenglish. Students studying for exams need a lot of general reading, writing, listening, speaking and vocabulary work as well as specific exam-oriented materials. Of course, the first place to look is in the dedicated exam section, but there is much more suitable material on the site. 

The article looks at materials from the following areas: Reading Listening Writing Lesson Share Teaching tips


Reading is a really important skill when preparing students for exams. Not only do many exams contain a reading paper, but reading is also a great way of extending vocabulary as well as seeing grammar used in context.

One place to look is the News Lessons section, where you will find up-to-date and topical lessons –  your students might even be talking about the same issues becasue they've read about them in newspapers or have seen them discussed on TV. The lessons are already levelled so you can simply select those at either intermediate or advanced level to find something suitable for your students.

The news lessons are available on onestopenglish for a year as new lessons are published every week so there will be plenty of new lessons that are useful and relevant in exam classes.

In the Reading skills section you can find other useful lessons which are topically based, covering a really wide range of topics such as tattoos, waste, coffee, bamboo and cheating. In this section you'll find reading lessons at upper-intermediate level that are on the kinds of topics that often come up in exam texts. I’ve used this lesson on tourism and its effects as it also includes a nice follow-up writing activity that is very similar to the type of writing students have to do in many higher-level exams. There is also a lesson on bridges which I found very useful for students preparing for the IELTS exam.


Authentic language, a variety of listening extracts with complimentary exercises and interesting topics – the Live from … series has it all! Check it out in the Listening skills section to find a suitable lesson for your students. It’s definitely good preparation for any exam that contains listening.

It’s also worth having a look at some of the other lessons plans in this section. Each lesson is clearly marked in terms of level, language focus and vocabulary and there is also a guide containing other useful information such as which accents are used, speaking speed and activity type. I recommend you try these lessons on talking about films and food around the world.


In my experience the skill that students struggle with the most in any exam is writing. So, any materials that give them extra practice are always welcome. In the Skills section there’s a whole area devoted to writing. It includes lessons that focus on typical exam-type writing tasks such as cause and effect essays, statistical reports and writing a letter of complaint.

There is also material on writing skills that many students need to develop. For example, a lesson looking at the differences between formal and informal writing. You could also check out writing matters, a series of articles, for more ideas of how to help your students improve their writing.

Lesson Share

The Lesson Share section is another area packed with goodies for any teacher with exam classes. Of course, the first place to look is the Exams section, where you’ll find an array of useful lesson ideas. Two of my favourites from this section are a lesson that teaches students to write a summary and stick to the word limit and one that looks at word formation using the really interesting topic of spam!

What else to look at? Well, there’s just so much to choose from, but a couple I’ve used in the past are a grammar lesson that looks at reporting verbs, a speaking lesson where students learn to interrupt and disagree politely and a writing lesson focusing on writing articles.

Teaching tips

In the Support section there’s a whole area devoted to Teacher’s Tips written by Jim Scrivener. One of the articles here is about assessing speaking skills – always an area that teachers want to know more about. This article links nicely back to the Assessment matters series in the Exams section and also to an article on speaking in the Speaking skills section.

Ask the experts is another area where you can find great articles designed to help teachers solve a range of problems. For example, there's one about how to make FCE classes just that bit more fun. This article is a response to a question a teacher has sent into onestopenglish, just like all the other articles in this section are experts’ solutions to real-life problems. So, if you have a question about teaching exam classes, why not send it in?


So, once you start exploring onestopenglish, you’ll find a wealth of material that will help you teach your exam classes. Of course, just sticking to the section that is labelled 'Exams' is fine, but why not take advantage of all the extra resources available on onestopenglish? And remember to keep an eye out for all the new resources that are constantly being added to every section.

Adrian Tennant

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