#1 Exam Certificate ≠ English
People who are good at taking tests are good at taking tests.
Sometimes they can also have a conversation.
But not always.
Quick story: I used to have a student who was quite fluent. He wasn’t perfect, but whatever he wanted to do or say in English, he could do it or say it.
And then one day I convinced him to study for the FCE. After several months and several chapters into an FCE text book, he took the exam.
And passed it.
And during those months…his English hadn’t improved!
I’ve also known students who had many certificates, but they…still…talk…like…dis.
So if you want practical skills – speaking, understanding, writing – then watch TV, read books, talk to strangers… and stop practicing test taking!
#2 HR Doesn’t Care
I asked two former students and three friends who work in HR and recruiting about having an exam certificate.
I asked them “How important is it to have FCE or CAE on your CV?”
One said that sometimes corporations ask for it. The others said it doesn’t matter. If the job requires English, they will speak to you in English during the interview.
#3 Tests Teach You Bad Habits
A mental habit is called a mindset.
And one of the worst mindsets that we learned from school and from years of taking tests is this: mistakes are bad.
And why is that a bad mindset?
Let me explain….
English is a skill.
It’s something you do.
I like to compare it to playing a sport.
Because what would happen if you were afraid of making a mistake while playing tennis?
- You would play worse.
- You might miss the ball. 3. And you might feel so discouraged that you’d go home and never play again.
So how about this for a new English mindset: Have fun!
#4 Your Memory Hates Boredom
Your brain is like the mafia: it has enemies.
Not including falling pianos and airplane glue, its biggest enemies are stress and boredom.
Simply, your memory doesn’t work when it’s bored.
And exam text books are…..zzzzz
So would you rather read an articles about Natalie the au pair or take a sleeping pill and dream about English? I think the results will be the same.
#5 It’s A Terrible, Dull, Uninspiring Goal
No one talks about motivation.
But that’s where it all starts.
Your teacher… your method… your materials… none of it matters if you don’t have motivation.
So first, you need a reason. WHY do you want to spend your valuable free time with English?
I’ve heard that emotion is 80% of success. (I don’t know how they measured this, but it sounds nice.)
And when my students talk about getting an FCE certificate, it’s like they’re talking about picking up some bread at the store. Who cares?
But when they talk about travelling to San Diego… visiting relatives in Toronto… working for an international company… expanding their business into Western Europe… that’s when they sit up straight, and their voices become louder, and their eyes get a little bigger…
So what’s your real reason for becoming fluent?