The Oxford TEFL Blog

Interview with Teaching Cambridge Exams graduate: Suzanne Xirau-Riggs

Suzanne Xirau-Riggs is from Milton Keynes, England and she completed our CELTA course in Barcelona in September 2019 and our Teaching Cambridge Exams course in July 2020. After a variety of jobs, from a factory worker to Cardiology Auxiliary nurse, she now works the Institute de Salvador Dali, in El Prat de Llobregat, Spain within a project called Interseccions. In this blog post, she explains more about the teaching Cambridge Exams Classes course and how this has helped her meet the needs of her students.

Why did you decide to take a Teaching Cambridge Exams course?

I currently work in a 4 year project called IntersECCions run by the Ajuntament de El Prat de Llobregat, in collaboration with the public schools of El Prat de Llobregat and a Language school called Escola Innova.  The project was created to specifically encourage all younger learners to speak more English within the school curriculum and also to encourage El Prat community to attend institutions that run recreational/professional course to assist them in learning the English Language, for example, Extracurricular workshops after school of Robots, chess, and social media workshop (that I teach), other workshops like art, sports, music, yoga, English conversation classes in the civic centre, library as well as the official language school where the community can further their English by taking the Cambridge English level exams.  Next year, I could be working in the Official language school taking the Cambridge Exam classes for anyone that wants to study towards their Cambridge First Certificate, Advanced or Proficiency in English.  I have some experience in teaching exam preparation classes one to one and a small amount of  private school class experience, but wanted to have solid knowledge of exam preparation and felt I needed to take a development course in this specific area to help with my job.

What was the course format like? 

The course format and content was very logically set out and easy to understand with links within the text for extra reading.  The course was spread across 3 modules which were 1) Understanding Assessment & Training, covering key terms, ideas and history of the exam, 2) Testing Language and Skills, covering three main areas: testing language, testing productive skills and testing receptive skills;  and 3) Helping learners to take exams, covering issues and strategies beyond the nuts and bolts of the exam.

What was your tutor like?

My tutor was Charlotte, who was very friendly, extremely knowledgeable, professional and very supportive. 

How were you assessed?

The course assessed the learner by writing assignments.  I had to choose one question from  3 or 4 questions in each module. My tutor then gave me written feedback via email and oral feedback during the online tutorial.

What have been your three main ‘take-aways’ from the course?

My first main ´take-aways´ from the course was the history of exams.  It was amazing to learn of the diversity and difficulties of taking exams back in the 18th century and seeing the ongoing development/improvements of assessment and how it has taken shape up to this present day. Secondly, the useful exercises in Productive skills of speaking and writing and in Receptive skills of listening and reading to show students how to develop key skills towards each part of the exam. Third was learning about motivation, especially with younger learners/teenagers as I felt this will help me tremendously as I work in a public secondary school in El Prat de Llobregat.

How are you planning to use your new skills?

I hope to be teaching examination preparation classes in October of this year, where I use the exercises learnt from the course.  One of my assignments was a first introductory class lesson plan for inexperienced teachers and therefore I could use some aspects of this with my students however not all of my assignment as it was focused for teachers and not English exam students. I think it would be interesting to show students pictures of how people used to take exams in the 18th century, just to introduce and use it as a ‘break the ice’ topic to compare exams in the 18th century to now.  It would certainly be an eye opener for many students. Also I plan to make sure each stage of the class is relevant and flows when changing activity to ensure motivation and attention is kept at a high level.

Who would you recommend this course to?

I think teachers with at least a minimum of two or three years teaching experience would benefit from completing this course, especially if they are interested in future job roles of teaching Cambridge exam classes or wanting to be an examiner within a Cambridge Examination Centre, like myself.  Teachers of exams need to be well organised, empathic, approachable and able to keep enthusiastic when it comes to teaching young learners.

Would you like to develop your skills, become well-prepared for your classes and impress employers? You could consider one of our teacher development courses. Find out more here or apply for your course here.

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