How can I start preparing learners for a Cambridge English Qualification?

Two female teachers working together smiling

How can I start preparing learners for a Cambridge English Qualification?

Are you thinking of preparing learners for a Cambridge English Qualification for the first time?

Our qualifications help students improve their English language skills step-by-step and keep them motivated throughout their learning journey.

This guide will show you how to assess your students’ level, provide some tips for teaching mixed ability classes, and share some extra resources to help you get started with exam preparation.

What are Cambridge English Qualifications?

Cambridge English Qualifications help millions of people learn English and prove their skills to the world.

Each exam focuses on a level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This helps identify your learners’ abilities on a six-point scale, so they can improve their speaking, writing, listening and reading skills step-by-step.

As your students develop these skills, they’ll build confidence, and learn to communicate in a variety of real-life situations.

Which is the right level for my students?

If you’ve never used Cambridge English Qualifications before, you might not be sure which is the right level for your learners. Follow these three simple steps to help guide you:

Step 1:

Look at the coursebooks you’re using in class. Are they aligned to the CEFR? If they are, this will give you a good indication of the appropriate level.

Otherwise, take a look at the way your learners have been grouped together. Do you know if they are beginners (CEFR levels Pre A1 or A1), elementary (A2), lower intermediate (B1), upper intermediate (B2), advanced (C1) or proficient (C2)?

Step 2:

Check out one of our sample tests at each level – which one closest reflects the ability of your learners? Why not try a full test with your students? Alternatively, take a few sections from the exam and try them out in class.

Step 3:

Use our practice test score converter (for A2 Key/Key for Schools and above) to see how well your learners might do in the exam.

Don’t forget that they probably won’t reach the target level at the start of the course. However, there is plenty of time for them to develop their English skills.

How can I prepare my students for a Cambridge English Qualification?

Once you’ve chosen the best Cambridge English Qualification for your students, the next step is to make sure they are fully prepared.

Do I need to change how I teach?

There is no need to completely change your teaching plan for the academic year. Instead, you can supplement your teaching with test material and free resources we provide to help prepare for the exams. Use exam-style questions, monitor progress with practice tests, and make your learners aware of exam timing.

Do I have to change my coursebook to prepare learners for the exam?

You don’t need to change your coursebook, or the way you teach. However, it is a good idea to look at the teaching handbook for your chosen exam.

These include the language specifications for the exam, and information on what is tested for each of the four skills.

Nevertheless, if you do decide to change your coursebook, we offer a wide range of official preparation materials.

What other exam preparation materials are available?

There are lots of fantastic resources on our website to help fill in any gaps in your teaching materials. These include:

  • wordlists (for levels A1–B1) for any topics that aren’t covered in your coursebook
  • free learning activities for the perfect start or end to your class
  • Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers wordlist picture books
  • lesson plans for your chosen exam.

How can I help my learners with the Speaking and Writing papers?

We have a series of writing guides for: A2 Key for Schools, B1 Preliminary for Schools, B2 First for Schools, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency. These include sample answers, examiner marks and practical ideas for developing writing skills in class.

For speaking – give your students a taster of what to expect on test day with our Speaking test videos. They come with examiner comments to give you a better idea of how the Speaking tests are assessed.

What if my learners are of mixed ability?

Mixed ability classes can feel overwhelming – but they don’t need to. Our guide has lots of ideas for giving support to weaker learners. We also include some activities for fast finishers too.

Direct your learners to some of our free resources for extra practice, such as the Exam Lift app (for A2 Key for Schools, B1 Preliminary for Schools and B2 First for Schools) or our self-access plans (for levels A2–C1).

Cambridge English Qualifications are designed to be accessible to all learners and we have guidance for supporting students with dyslexia in both primary and secondary.

Where can I find more support?

You can find lots of free resources on our teacher resource finder. Why not join some of our regular webinars for more practical teaching ideas, or watch recordings of some of our past webinars?

With Cambridge English resources, you can be confident that your students are fully prepared and on track to getting the scores they deserve.

How do I become a Cambridge English preparation centre?

When preparing and entering your learners for a Cambridge English Qualification, your school will automatically become a Cambridge English preparation centre.

If you’re not already working with us, it’s easy to start – simply contact your nearest authorised exam centre.

They’ll provide you with more information and you’ll gain access to many benefits, including marketing materials, exam preparation resources and teacher training.