This is where you can post general questions about the exam and where I'll add notes based on the questions you answer in class

Q: Are there references to verb tenses in the exam? For example, will I be asked to write something in, say, the Present Perfect?
A: No, the exam tests your knowledge and use of English, not your knowledge of terminology

Q: I've registered for the exam - what now?
A: In May (probably) you will be given your Statement of registration.
This includes:
  • your personal details
  • your candidate number
  • the date, times and location of your written exam
  • the date, times and location of your speaking exam which is on a different day
  • instructions on how you can access your results

Q: How long is the exam? Will there be breaks between papers?
A: The written exam is 5h 40 minutes long and there should be breaks between each paper including a break for lunch. You need to allow for a whole day off work (9-5ish). Make sure to get there half an hour before to allow for checking in your bag/coat and for administration like checking your ID.

Q: Can I take a sandwich or water with me?
A: It's a good idea to do so as it may be hard to get food near by. You could also opt for taking some cereal/energy bars with you to keep you going. You will probably be asked to leave your bag and mobile phone in a cloakroom and the instructions on the statement of registration says that you are only allowed to enter the actual examination room with your ID, the statement of registration, a blue or black pen, a pencil and a rubber.

Q: How can I combat fatigue?
A: In the breaks between papers, try to 'oxigenate'. Walk around, do some shoulder rolls, breathing exercises and even some stretching if you find it useful. Avoid standing up or doing anything too vigorous during each paper though!

Q: Will they give us instructions about procedures etc?
A: Yes. Normally at the beginning of each paper they will tell you what you are supposed to do. It will feel like they are stating the obvious, but bear in mind they have to do this in order to avoid complaints and to ensure those candidates who have registered for the exam without knowing much about it know what to do.

Q: I'm not sure how to manage my time during each paper. Do they let you know when time is almost over?
A: Yes they will let you know when there are 5-10 minutes left and there is some time at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. As for organising your time between tasks, take a minute or so to look up, breathe deeply, clear your mind in preparation for the next one. In the UoE paper, roughly calculate 15min for parts 1 to 4 and give yourself a comfortable 25-30 min for the texts and summary task (part 5).

Q: Will I be able to hold onto my papers till the end of the day so that I can go back and change or check?
A: No. All question and answer booklets are collected at the end of each paper for security reasons.

Q: What kind of pencil should I take?
A: The best ones are HB or B. This is because you will have to shade in lozenges which are read by a machine. Hard pencil is more difficult to rub off and may leave a mark which may be incorrectly read by the machine. You may use a mechanical pencil, but make sure it's soft enough.

Q: Do I have to write in pencil in every paper?
A: No. Pencil is required for all papers but the Writing for which you should use a blue or black pen.

Q: My handwriting isn't very good. Does this matter?
A: Handwriting that makes it hard for the examiner to understand what you have written is penalised, so it's a good idea to practice writing by hand during the course especially in this day and age when we're so used to typing.

Q: I often write in capital letters. Can I do so in the exam?
A: Apart from the tasks where you are asked to write in capital letters, you have to use regular script especially when you have to give longer responses (e.g. for the writing, summary etc)

Q: How much time should I allow for the Speaking paper?
A: You will be given an appointment for an hour-long block of time and you need to get to the venue 15min before. The actual exam is 19min long but there may be some waiting as you will be part of a bigger group of candidates who will need to be tested by a finite number of examiners.

And some final advice from you:
  • Have a good night's sleep before the exam
  • Keep to your normal routine. Don't skip breakfast
  • Don't get obsessed about the previous section/paper where you feel you didn't do that well. Concentrate on what you're doing at the moment.
  • Remember, it's only English!