How to set up an authentic test experience at home

oxford test of englishWe all know that studying grammar and expanding your vocabulary is an essential part of preparing for English language exams like the Oxford Test of English. However, they are not the only things you need to practise: your exam technique is just as important.

Becoming familiar with the Oxford Test of English – or any test you are planning to take – will help you feel ready and more confident on exam day.

Let’s take a look at how studying under authentic test conditions at home will help you feel better prepared for the test.

What do you need to know to set up an authentic practice test?

Firstly, you should get to know the test. In the Oxford Test of English, there are four sections to complete:

  1. The Speaking module includes answering questions and leaving a voicemail. It will take around 15 minutes to finish.
  2. Next is the Listening module. This has four parts and is about 30 minutes long.
  3. The Reading module also has four sections and task types include multiple-choice questions, matching exercises, and fill in the gaps. This takes about 35 minutes.
  4. Finally, for the first Writing module task, you’ll have to write a response to an email. For the second task, you get to choose between writing an essay or a review. All in all, this takes about 45 minutes.

A great way to become familiar with these question types and learn to manage your time is by taking the Oxford Test of English demo.

Getting familiar with the test format will help you manage your time effectively and plan how to get the maximum number of marks when it comes to test day.

So why should you try the demo?

You can take the Oxford Test of English demo at the very beginning of your exam preparation journey. One of the benefits of trying out the demo is that it is designed by Oxford University Press, just like the real test. That means you can be sure it gives an accurate idea of how it feels to sit the test. Getting an idea of the format of the test will also help you to understand how everything you’re studying relates to the exam.

In the demo, you can also access each module (Speaking, Writing, Reading, and Listening) separately. This means that you don’t have to complete it all at once. For example, if you only have 20 minutes to spare, you can tackle the Speaking section and come back to the others. If you were to do them all, the practice test would take the same length of time as the real thing – about two hours.

You can use it to guide your studies

Knowing what kind of questions to expect will help you choose what kind of vocabulary and grammar to focus on.

For instance, in the Writing section you will be asked to reply to an email. With this in mind, you can make sure to review structures and expressions that are commonly used when writing emails. This will give you more direction and help you prioritize the language and grammar points that are most likely to come up in the test.

You can learn to manage your time

There is a big difference between being able to answer a question, and being able to answer a question under timed conditions. One of the most common problems experienced by test takers is running out of time.

35 minutes may seem like a reasonable length of time to complete all four sections of the Reading module, but it always helps to get an idea of how you well you respond to each task in the amount of time given.

So, if you find that you’re struggling to complete the tasks, you’ll have enough time before the real test to start using some techniques and strategies to speed up.

Being confident with timings can also help you feel more relaxed when it comes to the real test. If you’ve done it before, you can do it again.

How to create test conditions at home

The Oxford Test of English is delivered online, under strict test conditions, in an Oxford Test of English Approved Test Centre. To get an idea of how it will feel on the day, here are some ways to set up a more realistic test environment at home:

  1. While your space doesn’t need to be completely silent, try to avoid sounds that may distract you and affect your ability to concentrate. Keep any street-facing windows shut if possible and consider using a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Also, let friends or family know you are busy and should not be distracted unless it’s an emergency.
  2. To further reduce distractions, switch your phone off. Alternatively, use a programme like Cold Turkey to temporarily disable apps or websites on your phone or computer.
  3. Set up your computer on a desk with a good chair. If you choose to do the whole Oxford Test of English demo during this time, it will take about two hours. Make sure that you’ll be comfortable for the whole duration.
  4. Even though you’re at home, try to minimize stopping and starting. This can affect your performance. Have a glass of water ready on your table and go to the bathroom before you begin.
  5. Be honest with yourself and put away your English language material. It is better to reflect on your experience after taking the demo and identify your areas for improvement and further study.

Features of the demo

There are some differences between the demo and the real Oxford Test of English:

  • The Oxford Test of English is an adaptive test, which means that the questions you are presented with will be based on your performance in the previous question. So, the test could become easier or harder depending on your level. However, the demo isn’t adaptive – all the questions are at a B1 level.
  • The demo also allows you to move to a new section of a module before completing the previous one – something which you can’t do in the real test. This means that you can be specific about which section you want to practise.
  • The demo will not provide you with a result. However, it will replicate the format of the test so you’ll know what to expect. It’s a good idea to note down any questions or topics you found challenging. You can review your notes after taking the demo, and perhaps even discuss them with your teacher, so you continue to improve.

So, what are you waiting for? Try the Oxford Test of English demo now!

When you’re ready, visit our website to find your nearest Oxford Test of English Approved Test Centres and book your test. You can also get FREE study tips by signing up for our Learning English with Oxford newsletter.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

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