I received “How To Write Exam Preparation Materials” (written by Roy Norris) from ELT Teacher 2 Writer and in this post/video, I share my thoughts about the book.

Introduction & Key Aims Of The Book

As with the other books, you are first introduced to the Author (Roy Norris) – his background to English language teaching and experience of materials writing, specifically for exams. Followed by the author introduction, you are then provided with the aims of the book. Aims are broken down into five key points:

  • To provide an overview of the similarities and differences between writing exam materials and general materials
  • To provide an insight into how exam tasks are constructed for testing students’ knowledge and abilities in the four main skill areas as well as vocabulary and grammar
  • To give advice on how to write exam preparation and practice materials, for your class, school or for publication
  • To offer practical time-saving tips for helping you make the whole writing process a little smoother and easier for you
  • To encourage you to think critically about exam materials

Once reading the book, I felt that this certainly achieved the aims and I found the time-saving tips invaluable for budding material writers.

1. Writing Exam Materials vs General Materials: Similarities And Differences

This is a great introductory chapter for readers as it guides you through the key differences between authoring general materials and exam materials. The next section provides the reader of possible similarities (subject matter, style and register, planning, etc.).

As with previous books by ELT Teacher 2 Writer, there are footnotes included at the bottom of each page and these correspond to the glossary where all terms are explained – it would be great if there was a reference in the glossary to the page where the footnote was included.

Towards the end of the chapter, the reader is offered some key tips for the promotion of the book with ideas which range from supplementary material or a unique point for the book which will help agents sell and promote the possible material.

2. Vocabulary And Grammar

This next chapter introduces the reader on how to author exam preparation material in relation to vocabulary and grammar. These are obviously incredibly important aspects of any examination, and developing student knowledge with vocabulary and grammar is key for any preparation materials.

This chapter includes a range of test tasks (multiple-choice cloze tests, open cloze tests, etc.) which can be incorporated into any materials which are being developed for use in class or with possible publications. There are some tips for saving time when producing exam material to assess vocabulary and grammar.

3. Listening

The third chapter obviously focuses on listening as developing materials for exam preparation purposes. As with the previous chapter, the author provides some examples of potential tasks included for listening tests and towards the end of the chapter, there are some time-saving tips and further considerations.

4. Reading

Chapter four looks at exam preparation materials in the context of reading. The author includes some thoughts on the inclusion of authentic materials. This moves on naturally to potential exam tasks for reading. It is a relatively short chapter as I am sure there is only so much you can do with a reading during an examination. However, the author has included some time-saving tips, much like the previous chapter, and provides the reader some additional tasks to complete.

5. Writing

The fifth chapter looks at the expected area of writing with exam preparation materials. It is one of the largest chapters in the book with a lot of suggested tasks that could be incorporated in creating a written exam. Much thought has gone into this chapter with the reader being offered suggestions on creating models for writing, the use of cohesive devices or register. As you will expect, there are some time-saving tips at the end of this chapter.

6. Speaking

Speaking is the final chapter with the reader being offered suggestions on sourcing potential copyright free images to prompt speaking for exam purposes. It is a brief chapter with the reader being introduced to either a discussion task or picture-based task. There are some time-saving tips for the reader which provides the budding author to consider.

Commentaries On Tasks & Glossary

Throughout the book, there are a variety of tasks (as introduced within the previous reviews) and the reader is offered a commentary on each individual task for the reader to complete. Having said that, the first task that is suggested is more specialist and the answer will depend on the reader, so no two answers will be the same. Naturally, a suggested commentary is not included for the first task. The commentaries on the tasks 2-11 are included in this section of the book. This will allow the reader to compare their answers to suggested answers.

As mentioned previously, there are a range of specialist words and phrases used throughout the book. These words and phrases include a footnote with some explanation provided. In the Glossary, all these words and phrases are compiled and their corresponding explanations are provided.

Overall, this book is suited for potential material writers who wish to specialise within exam preparation materials. There are a variety of tips which is incorporated throughout depending on the skill which makes this book invaluable for authoring exam materials for either the classroom, a book or even with an examining body. One request for future editions could include the Chapter Headings at the top of the page and for the Glossary to have their corresponding page numbers included so the reader can refer to the chapter which can help remind them in the future.

A wonderful book which really belongs on the bookshelf for all those that wish to get into materials writing whether for examinations or not.