Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

Tips and FAQs for the Cambridge English: Key for Schools exam

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Here are some tips and answers to questions we often receive on the Cambridge English: Key for Schools exam.

Reading and Writing paper:

  • Read the instructions and study the example carefully.
  • Do exactly what the instructions say, for example, only put ONE word in the gaps in Part 7.
  • Answer all the questions, even if you are not sure.
  • Check your answers and make sure you have put the right letter on the answer sheet.
  • Write your answers on the answer sheet for Parts 6, 7, 8 and 9.
  • Take your time and don’t hurry. There is plenty of time to answer all the questions.
  • Don’t worry if there are words you don’t understand. Try to guess them.
  • Don’t make a spelling mistake when you are copying the words in Part 8.
  • Don’t write fewer than 25 words in Part 9.
  • Don’t use a pen on the answer sheet. Use a pencil.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do I have to pass each paper in order to pass the whole examination?
No. Your grades are based on your overall score in all the papers.

If I make a mistake filling in my answer sheets, is this picked up by the computer?
If you leave out an answer, the computer accepts the answer sheet. If you fill in more than one box, the computer rejects it.

What is the recommended timing for each part?
There is no recommended timing as some tasks will take longer than others depending on how you approach them. Candidates have different strengths and weaknesses and this will affect how long they need to spend on each part. Overall, 1 hour and 10 minutes allows you plenty of time to complete all the tasks.

Listening paper:

  • Practise listening to English as much as possible.
  • Revise the letters of the alphabet and numbers.
  • Revise vocabulary in topics, for example jobs, sports, colours.
  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Work through some past papers for practice.
  • Make sure you understand how to complete the answer sheet.
  • Check your answers at the second listening.
  • Don’t get nervous in the exam. Just relax and do your best!
  • Don’t leave any answers blank (make a guess if necessary).
  • Don’t worry if you don’t know how to spell a word – this may not be a problem.
  • Don’t forget to transfer your answers to the answer sheet correctly.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many times will I hear the recording for each part?
Each part is heard twice, so you can check your answers or fill in any gaps at the second listening.

Are different accents used in Cambridge English: Key for Schools recordings?
Yes, there are some regional British accents and occasionally Irish, American or Australian speakers.

How fast are the recordings?
All Cambridge English: Key for Schools recordings are delivered clearly at slightly slower than natural speed.

How long do I have to transfer my answers?
A total of 8 minutes is allowed for this and you are warned after 7 minutes that you only have 1 minute left.

What do candidates find most challenging on the paper?
Parts 4 and 5, which involve listening and writing words or numbers, are often found to be challenging. Part 3, the multiple-choice task, is also quite challenging.

Which part of the paper do candidates find the easiest?
The short dialogues in Part 1 are an easy introduction to the paper. Part 2, the matching task, is also usually problem-free for candidates.

Speaking paper:

  • Make sure you know what you have to do in both parts of the test.
  • Practise speaking English as much as possible, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Listen carefully to the examiner’s instructions and questions during the test.
  • Speak clearly, so that both examiners can hear you.
  • Talk to the examiner in Part 1.
  • Talk to your partner in Part 2.
  • Ask the examiner to repeat the instructions or a question if you’re not sure.
  • Listen to your partner’s questions and answers in Part 2 and try to make it a natural conversation.
  • Remember that the examiners want you to do your best.
  • Try and relax and enjoy the test.
  • Always try to answer the questions, even if you are worried about making mistakes. The examiners can’t mark you if you don’t say anything.
  • Practise speaking English in many different situations so that you can speak clearly even if you are nervous.
  • Don’t worry too much about making grammar mistakes.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t understand. Just ask the examiner to repeat or explain the question.
  • Don’t prepare long answers in advance.
  • Don’t worry if you think your partner is not as good, or much better at speaking English than you. The examiners mark you one by one.
  • Don’t be so nervous that you don’t speak.
  • Don’t worry if the examiner stops you. It is important that the tests are not too long.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many marks is the Speaking test worth?
It is worth 25% of the total score for the Cambridge English: Key for Schoolsexam.

Will I do the Speaking test together with someone from the same school?
This depends on the centre. In some centres, candidates from the same school are paired together. In others, where candidates from a number of different schools do the test at the same time, you may do the test with a student from another school. Check with your centre to find out more.

Do I need to speak to the other candidate as well as to the examiner?
Yes. In Part 1, you need to speak to the examiner but in Part 2, you must interact with the other candidate. Do not speak to the examiner in Part 2, unless you need to ask them a question.

Do both examiners speak throughout the test?
No, only one examiner speaks (the interlocutor). The assessor remains silent except for greeting and saying goodbye to the candidates.

Does knowing your partner make it easier to do well?
There is no evidence that knowing their partner helps candidates to perform better, or worse, in the Speaking test. Some people feel more relaxed and confident when they are paired with someone they know, while others may feel inhibited or that the situation is unnatural. In both cases, the examiners are trained to provide equal opportunities for all candidates to perform to the best of their ability.

What happens if candidates are ‘mismatched’, for example by putting a shy person with an outgoing one?
Examiners know how to deal with this situation, and give both of the candidates an opportunity to speak. It is important both to talk and to give the other candidate the chance to talk. You need to make the best use of the time to show off your language skills without dominating your partner.

What happens if there are an uneven number of candidates?
The last test will have a group of three candidates. In this case the test will last 13–15 minutes.

Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

April 21, 2013 at 10:00 am

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