x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Top marks for new exam practice book

Thousands of Emirati school students have been given a book designed to free up their teachers from the rigours of exam preparation.

Abu Dhabi // Thousands of Emirati school students have been given a book designed to free up their teachers from the rigours of exam preparation. The exam practice book has been produced by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for students likely to take a university entrance test in English.

Officials hope that the book will allow students to prepare for the exam outside of lessons, allowing teachers to spend more time developing their pupils' broader language skills rather than cramming for exams. A total 19,000 copies of the book have been distributed this year to Emirati students at government and private schools. Titled Cepa Challenge: The official Cepa English test preparation book, the publication is named after the Common Educational Proficiency Assessment for which it prepares students.

A second edition of the book has just been distributed after the first one, released early last year, proved popular with students. "It's not a teaching book, it's a test preparation book so students can practise at home rather than in the classroom," said Dr Annie Brown, head of Cepa and a co-author of the book. "In the classroom, we want them to learn English, not just to prepare for the exam. We were very concerned teachers were writing multiple choice items and getting students to do test practice in class, rather than really teaching.

"A little bit of exam preparation [in class is fine] so students are comfortable in the test, but they don't need to be doing lesson after lesson of test practice." The book includes multiple choice grammar questions where the student has to choose from a choice of four the word that fits in a sentence. There are also reading comprehension tests, vocabulary sections and crosswords to help maintain students' interest. Students are encouraged to attempt practice Cepa tests online.

Dr Brown said high demand for the Cepa test this year indicated students were motivated and would spend their own time using the book. "If they have good activities that are fun to do, they're more likely to spend time on them," she said. "We have tried to make it relevant to them and to give them a plan to work through the book at a reasonable pace." The Cepa examinations in English and mathematics help determine which students gain admission to one of the federal universities, which are Zayed University, UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology.

dbardsley@thenational.ae