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Watching Students Find Success With The Oxford Test Of English

Oxford Test of English: Dr Ahmad Khalil Abdelqadar Awad“When I hand my students a certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford, it really is something amazing.”

Dr Ahmad Khalil Abdelqader Awad, an English Language Instructor and 2020 Headway Scholar from Saudi Arabia, has seen firsthand how taking the Oxford Test of English has impacted his students.

“It gives some students the confidence to pursue studies in English-speaking countries; others use their results to prove their English proficiency when they move into their chosen career. Our university requires students to have a good level of English to register, so taking the Oxford Test of English means they don’t have to take other English courses, and they can focus on their specialism.”

And it’s not just his students who have benefitted from taking the test –

“We also welcome people in the wider community who want to take the test, to help them get a promotion at work.”

An affordable, personalized test

With so many other English language proficiency tests on the market, what makes this one so special?

“We were impressed by how easy it was to use, how it adapts to students’ personal abilities, and how relaxed students were when they took it. I’ve seen students get very anxious about taking other English exams, but they actually enjoy the Oxford Test of English. They say it runs very smoothly, too.”

Dr Ahmad’s institution also made history – becoming the first Approved Test Centre for the Oxford Test of English in the Middle East.

The number one selling point for his students, however, was the price.

“What I hear most is how happy students are about the cost of the test. Having an affordable English test means a lot to them because many don’t work. For our students, the cost of the Oxford Test of English is what makes it number one.”

How is it changing students’ lives?

Not only is it inexpensive, but it’s also a worthwhile investment! Each student’s certificate will stay with them for the rest of their lives. And they don’t just receive any old certificate – they are awarded the only English language proficiency certificate in the world issued by Oxford University.

Everyone knows the University of Oxford. So when I hand my students a certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford, it really is something amazing.”

 

Like this? Find out more about how the Oxford Test of English is changing students’ lives here! 

You can read more success stories and learn how the Oxford Test of English could benefit your students on our website.

 

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.

 


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The Power Of Proficiency: How English Changed My Life

Valeria: "It has given me confidence."

Valeria, a 22-year-old computer engineer and programmer, first started learning English from her father at home in Costa Rica.

“He spent time in Canada and the States. But I think I’m better at English than him now – don’t tell him, though!”

English proficiency for a brighter future

Her father saw the opportunities that can come from learning English during his travels overseas, and now Valeria has seen them firsthand too. “I have better job opportunities, and I get paid more because I can prove I have a great level of English.”

This became clearer when she landed her dream job — working for a company whose headquarters are based in Atlanta, making English language skills a must for any member of staff. “Most of our clients and vendors are in Atlanta, so we have to use English every day.” Luckily, she was able to get her B2 certificate while at university. Knowing she could prove that she had a good level of English gave Valeria the confidence to apply for the role in the first place.

It was all made possible when her professor arranged for her class to sit the Oxford Test of English at the end of their course. She found the experience of taking the online test quite relaxing and was able to complete all the modules in two hours. And, unlike other English proficiency tests, the students didn’t have to learn a particular way to answer the questions, which Valeria appreciated.

“I could focus on my English instead of learning how to take a test.”

It also didn’t hurt when she learnt that her Oxford Test of English certificate is valid for life.

“Whenever I need evidence of my English proficiency, I can show my Oxford Test of English certificate. You can use it for business or travelling – the possibilities are endless. It’s amazing for anyone who needs to prove they have a good level of English.”

Like Francisco, for example – a Mechanical Engineering Student & Basketball Coach from Spain.

Proving English proficiency to study abroad

Francisco: "It takes just two hours."Francisco needed to prove he had a B2 level of English when he was applying to spend a year studying abroad in Finland, as all his classes there were in English.

Once he arrived, he found his English also came in handy when he was socialising too, as not that many of the locals or other foreign students spoke Spanish.

 

“I realized that if you can speak English, you can communicate nearly everywhere you go.”

Just like Valeria, Francisco certified his English level with the Oxford Test of English, and also enjoyed the fact that it was online and adaptive.

“The structure of the test is great; it adapts to your ability, getting harder or easier depending on your answers. It’s nice because you’re being tested during the whole exam.”

So would he recommend it?

“Yes, absolutely! The test takes just two hours, and then the certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford stays with you and remains useful for your whole life. It’s ideal for people who need to prove to a company they can operate in English, and it looks great on a CV.”

Not to mention, it helped open the doors to a once in a lifetime experience of studying in Finland –

“I think it was probably the best period of my life. It was just four months, but they were so special. I travelled around the Nordic countries and Russia and met people I’d never meet in any other situation. I’m so glad I was there – and all because of the Oxford Test of English!”

 

You can read other students’ success stories and find out more about the Oxford Test of English on our website.

Find out more

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.


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What’s Your OALD Story?

Animation of a crowd of people in the shape of a question markThe Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD) was first published in 1948. Since then, over 100 million English language learners have used OALD to develop their English skills for work and study, and that’s why it’s the world’s bestselling advanced-level dictionary for learners of English.

THE OALD COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED.

You can still tell us your OALD story using the comments box below, find others stories about the dictionary here, and use our teaching resources below to build your students’ vocabulary.

Competition Terms and Conditions.


Teaching resources

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the complete guide to learning English vocabulary with definitions that learners can understand, example sentences showing language in use, and the Oxford 3000™ and Oxford 5000™ word lists providing core vocabulary that every student needs to learn.

Word lists

Do you need to build your students’ vocabulary?  We’ve pulled together some of our top word list resources:

Try these vocabulary activities with your students:

Go to word lists

Improve your learners’ vocabulary-learning skills with these activities from Oxford Word Skills Second Edition, based on the Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000:

Elementary / A1-A2

Intermediate / B1

Upper-Intermediate to Advanced / B2-C1

Find out more about Oxford Word Skills Second Edition

Lesson plans

Are you looking for ways to improve your students’ dictionary skills, or to help them with their vocabulary, writing and speaking?

Find these OALD lesson plans and more in the Oxford Teacher’s Club and try them with your class:

Log in with your Oxford Teachers’ Club details to download the lesson plans. Not an OTC member? Join now to access free teaching resources, articles, blogs, videos, webinars and more…

Get more ready-to-use teaching resources with OALD premium online. Download lesson plans, video walkthroughs, and classroom and self-study activities.

Read our digital brochure to find out more about the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary including premium online and the OALD app.


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Tips and Free Lesson Plans For Using Photographs In Class

photography day link imageIn a world where images are present all around us all the time, teachers can easily use photographs to motivate students and make the classroom experience so much more rewarding. We know that students learn more when new language is accompanied by memorable and engaging photographs.

To help you make better use of photos in class we’ve enlisted the help of 2019 Wide Angle Photography Competition winner Mehtap Özer Isović to build a series of easy-to-use lesson plans. They’re all segment-based, click the buttons below to access the lesson plans!

Young learner button

Teenage learner button

Adult learner button


Found these useful? We’d love to know how you got on with these resources, please do leave a comment!

Also, feel free to share these with a colleague. Just send them this link, and it’ll direct them here -> https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2020/08/17/using-photographs-elt


Five Tips for using Photography in your Classes.

OUP Publisher Marc Goozée has put together a really helpful list of photography lesson ideas, applicable for any classroom.

1) Take advantage of students’ own photographs and experiences

photographs: of a young girl making a pose and looking at her shadow on the wall

Now that every smartphone has a camera we can take photos easily. Ask students to bring their own photographs into the class and tell it’s ‘story’ using the prompts below. Alternatively, this can be an instant activity for pairs of students who show images from their smartphones to each other.

  • What was the photographer thinking as they took the photograph?
  • Who or what is the subject?
  • What was happening during the shot or before?

Good photos to use could be of something your students have done over the holiday, a recent celebration they attended, or a new place they have discovered. You can use this photograph from the Wide Angle Photography Contest 2019, to model the activity for your students.

2) Run a photography competition

Following on from the activity in tip one, you can prepare a slide show of photos from a recent competition (you can download the photos and stories from the Wide Angle Photography Contest here) and ask students to be the competition judges. If you choose a different competition, try and find the judging criteria to give students a framework for justifying their decisions. You may want to simplify the criteria if they are complicated.

As an alternative, choose a theme and organise a photography competition in which students submit their own photographs anonymously to be judged by a panel of teachers or students from another class.

3) Film stills from popular releases

Talk with students about their favourite films and then bring a selection of film stills, using your phone or computer to take screen-grabs. Ask students in pairs to answer such questions as:

  • What is the name of this film?
  • What is it about?
  • What are the characters talking about in the scene?
  • What sort of relationship do the characters have?
  • What happened before this scene/what happens next?
  • Talk about other films have the actors been in.
  • Tell us about them?
  • Talk about other films the director has made.

This could also be set as homework. Students source photos from their favourite film/a series they are currently watching and as a paired starter activity they can share and discuss them as above. To make it more challenging, get students to start with the image half-covered if it is easy to guess what film it is from!

4) Use photographs of famous personalities

From students’ own culture, find a selection of photographs of pop stars, politicians, actors, presenters, sports’ personalities, etc. Use the internet to find images or cut them out from magazines or newspapers. Bring them into the classroom and lay them out on the table/stick them on the wall and ask students in pairs or groups to choose two or three and then share their opinions about them.

5) Be creative with grammar

photographs: cat avoiding the feet of pedestrians, black and white

Either with students’ own photos or ones you can find on the internet, choose an area of language you want to practise and approach it in a creative, imaginative way. In this example, using one of the Wide Angle runner-up photographs, students imagine themselves as the cat and complete thought bubbles coming from the cat’s head. They can complete these sentence stems to practise using ‘wish’ and ‘wonder’.

  • I wish I could………
  • I wish I was …..
  • I wonder ……..

References: Images by Jamie Keddie


Marc Goozee taught English in Spain, the UK, and Japan. Since the 1990s as editor and publisher, he has enjoyed producing materials for secondary and adult students from a variety of regions including the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Europe.

Mehtap Özer Isović is an English teacher with an MA degree in English Language and Literature. She grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. She has been teaching English for twelve years in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the International University of Sarajevo. Since 2015, she has also been teaching very young learners in several kindergartens.

 


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Collaborative Learning Online And In The Socially Distanced Classroom

Cut-out paper-chain of children holding handsWhat is collaborative language learning?

One of the most satisfying experiences that I have as an instructor is when I have my class make pairs or groups and then, after a few moments, I hear lively chatter. Moving around the classroom, I hear students using the vocabulary and structures that we studied in class. Yet they are doing more than just reciting what they learned in this lesson; they are combining the learning goals of the lesson with the language that they already know in a personalized and creative manner. A casual observer might think that this was break-time or an opportunity for the class to relax. But while I hope they are having fun, I know that they are actually hard at work. This is the culminating activity that we have worked towards together as a class. It is collaborative learning in action.

The key principles of collaborative learning

Having students work in pairs and groups of three or four are key strategies in the collaborative learning approach. Together, they practice the target language and to establish meaning, in a carefully sequenced set of achievable, unintimidating, activities. From our own experience, we know the value of learning by doing. This is even more critical in language learning, where the production of new sounds, new words and new structures is so vital. To be a successful language user, it is not enough to know; students have to adapt their knowledge to create meaning and communicate with someone else. Increasing our students’ opportunities to do something meaningful in class is one of the main aims of collaborative learning.

So, what is the role of the teacher in all of this?

At the start of a sequence of activities, for example, when presenting the target language of the lesson, the method of instruction can look quite traditional; often the teacher speaks and the students listen. After the presentation phase, however, the class transitions in a way that makes the learners, and not the teacher, the focus of the class. The first step often focuses on accuracy. In pairs or groups, the students manipulate the language mechanically. They learn from each other. Crucially, the teacher moves from group to group, evaluating the progress, and correcting the learners as necessary. The subsequent activities in the sequence encourage the learners step-by-step to use the target language in more creative and open-ended ways, with activities that encourage students to combine what they have just learned with the language that they already know.

The collaborative approach is highly motivating because it allows students to communicate about things that matter to them, to be more active, and indeed, more successful learners.

Collaborative learning in the COVID-19 era

Only a few short months ago, the notion that teleconferencing technology would become an essential tool in our professional lives would have been unimaginable. Along with my colleagues, I have struggled to adjust to this new reality. What, now, are the most effective classroom management techniques? Does the collaborative language learning approach even make any sense?

When we went into lockdown in New York City, where I teach, my classroom practice probably resembled a traditional, lecture approach. Eventually, however, I was able to adapt what I typically did in a physical classroom to the virtual classroom.

4 key ways to conduct collaborative language learning in cyberspace:

  1. At the start of the lesson, I present the goals of the class and the target language. I could share my screen, where I could have a PowerPoint presentation, but instead I send my presentation materials to the students earlier. Since unconscious lip reading is such an important part of listening comprehension, I want my students to be able to see my face full size. Instead of sending a file of slides, I use the screen capture feature of QuickTime to record my computer screen and voice at the same time. (I am a low-tech person, but I have found it easy to use). Students, therefore, get a video of my presentation, which they can watch before or after class, multiple times.
  2. Most teleconferencing tools allow the host to make breakout groups. I set these up before class. It is a simple thing to conduct pair work and group work using this feature, and as in a physical classroom, I can monitor them as they work. One added advantage is that my students can video their work, (using any screen capture tool) which we can use later for student self-analysis or peer-reviewing.
  3. Many of the activities that my students do in the physical classroom involve completing charts, matching, and checking items, together. Now, I have students take a photo of their work using their smartphone, and then share it with me and their classmates using email, social media, or our school Learning Management System (LMS). We do collaborative writing activities in a similar way.
  4. In a physical classroom, I can’t imagine teaching in a room without a whiteboard. Almost all teleconferencing tools have a whiteboard feature. I find this feature cumbersome. It takes me a lot of time to write and then erase the digital whiteboard. When teaching online, I find it much more effective to use the chat function when I want my students to see something in writing. For more extended notes or hand-drawn charts, I much prefer to use a small, handheld physical whiteboard, which I hold up to my laptop screen. Some students take photos of this with their smartphone, just like they do in my regular classroom, while others take screenshots.

The Hybrid Classroom

What will happen when we move to a hybrid classroom model, where we combine socially distanced in-class learning and distance learning? Can we have collaborative learning when students must be apart from each other?

Before the pandemic, I frequently had students take photos of their work with their phones, which they posted on a social media platform, and I then projected to the class. Now, I will have them share with each other, in socially distanced pairs and groups.

What activities to do online or in the socially distanced classroom will be an important decision. Right now, I am planning to present new language (vocabulary and grammar) online, in the manner that I described earlier. Writing activities, including collaborative ones, can be successfully conducted online, as can listening activities – my students can access the content on their mobile devices. But since speaking is by its very nature performative, I will prioritize the physical class time for open-ended pair work, group discussions, and role-playing. But at a distance.

 

For more practical tips, and two free activities for running pair work and group work with adult learners, visit our collaborative learning page!

Get Expert Advice On Collaborative Learning


Thomas Healy is one of the authors of Smart Choice as well as an Assistant Professor in the Intensive English Program at the Pratt Institute, New York City. He has given several webinars for Oxford University Press on how to use smart devices and social media to encourage collaborative learning including The potential of smart devices, How to use mobile technology in class and How learners can use mobile technology outside of classFind these recordings in our webinar library.


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