CAE Gold PlusComponents reviewed: Student’s Book, Exam Maximiser with answers and audio CD, Audio CD, iTestsAuthors: Nick Kenny, Jacky Newbrook, Richard Acklam and Elaine Boyd Publisher: Pearson Longman Summary: Many new elements make this pack attractive for both teachers and learners. Do not miss the computer- and web-based practice. Review: The Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) […]
Components reviewed: Student’s Book, Exam Maximiser with answers and audio CD, Audio CD, iTestsAuthors: Nick Kenny, Jacky Newbrook, Richard Acklam and Elaine Boyd
Publisher: Pearson Longman
Summary: Many new elements make this pack attractive for both teachers and learners. Do not miss the computer- and web-based practice.
The Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) examination has had a few changes since December 2008. This new edition of the CAE Gold is Longman´s response to those changes. According to Cambridge ESOL (http://www.cambridgeesol.org/assets/pdf/fcecae_review5.pdf), the changes are:
• The overall length of the exams has been reduced by approximately one hour
• The test focuses on a wider range of skills and functions
• Some components include new/and or improved task types
• Some elements are more standardized in content, making them user-friendly for students
• The progression from FCE to CPE will be more straightforward, thus encouraging candidates to progress from one level to the next
Like the FCE, these changes do not change the test validity and the test still measures very much what it used to. However, the test is perhaps a response to a world in which language knowledge is no longer as important as it used to be but what seems to be more relevant today is fluent communication.
Since I had no opportunity to see the Teacher’s Book, it was difficult to analyze the teaching theory that underlies the book. However, it is evident that this excellent book follows the same patterns as FCE Gold Plus. The book begins with an informative section on the specifications of the test, in which the authors make clear the different parts and exam task types in each of the five sections: Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening, and Speaking. The Student’s book also includes two progress tests (after units 5 and 10). At the end of each chapter, there is a “unit review” that proposes some revision exercises with typical CAE-like tasks. This book also includes different sections called “Exam Focus” which include descriptions of the test as well as test strategies and some valuable tips.
In relation to the units that make up the majority of the book, they may be rather attractive for the students due to the topics covered. For instance, Unit 1 deals with music, Unit 2 with consumerism, and so. Unit 14, however, is somehow rather different from the rest. Extremely connected to the test, it is a must for those teachers who feel short of time, because although it doe not have some of the features that characterize the rest of the chapters (like the revision, or the units 11-14 progress test) it is a definitive revision of what the students are going to see in the test. In this chapter the tasks have been wisely contextualized and shaped to give the candidate some final tips and advice on the test. For instance, the topic of the grammar task is “mistakes to avoid” (p. 173), and the topic of the writing section is “Paper two overview”.
The Student’s book also has some appendices for paper 5 (speaking tasks), a bank of “Communication activities and writing”, a grammar reference, and a “Writing reference” for paper two. The Student’s book is also complemented by the www.itests.com website and, more importantly, a CD ROM which includes exercises about word formation, grammar choice, dialogue choice, a crossword and a language quiz. I have to say that I really loved this CD ROM. However, among the major problems I found in the exercises is that the CD ROM does not accept American spelling (for instance in the spelling exercise of unit 14). It seems odd that a course that is preparation for a test that claims to be communicative insists on these little tricks which, in the end, do not certainly lead to better communication. It is strange that if “The Pelican Brief” is one of set texts for the test, students in a communicative situation are to make distinctions between American forms (more generalized) and the British ones.
Another element in the test set is the Exam Maximiser, with a CD ROM for the listening activities. The Exam Maximiser is a workbook accompanying the Student’s book but is very well designed to use the same format that candidates are likely to find in the exam. The units in the Maximiser, unsurprisingly, have the same topics as the Student’s book. Each unit includes tasks of the same kind as those found in the test. Each unit also includes tasks that correspond to the five papers included in CAE. The Maximiser also includes a few activities for the students’ entertainment, such as games or crosswords.
Overall, I found this book more test oriented than the First Certificate Gold Plus Pack but also very attractive to both students and teachers alike. I believe that the CD ROM is a valuable asset that makes the whole pack even more attractive. One last word about the iTests. The iTests website has been designed as a companion to the book. However, the free contents are rather limited and not all the sections have been implemented yet. For instance, the website claims that users can submit writing compositions for automatic rating but this part is not operative yet.
In conclusion, the book is exam candidate-friendly, and teachers and students will certainly find working with it useful and worthwhile.
March 2009 | Filed under Exam Materials
Dr Jesús García Laborda teaches in the Masters of EFL teaching and the Faculty of Business at Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid, Spain). His main research interests are testing and CALL.
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