Friday, 3 June 2016

Cambridge Speaking Examiner Training - Upper Main Suite (FCE, CAE & CPE)

With 3 years of teaching experience under my belt, I like to think I'm starting to get the hang of this whole teaching malarkey, although still far from being the finished article. There's always room for improvement, and I'm keen to extend my skill sets in my work environment. Fortunately for me, I had the privilege of being invited down to Tokyo to do some speaking examiner training for the Cambridge English exams, with none other than Jim George at the helm. If you aren't aware, he knows a thing or two about these exams, to put it mildly. Plus he's my employer. No pressure then!

It began with an on-line induction, a brief introduction to Cambridge English Language Assessment and getting to grips with new terms, acronyms and examiner roles. A gentle nudge into the realm of speaking examiners. The real deal started on Sunday morning, with a few of us hopefuls milling around outside, waiting to get in as we'd arrived early. Not the promising start I was hoping for.

There was a big emphasis on collaboration throughout the day, especially when it came to assessment. There are always going to be disagreements but the idea was to overcome them to work towards a unified decision. More importantly however, was that our conclusion had to be in right ball park as the final grades awarded by Cambridge. Otherwise we were going home empty handed.

Having worked at a Cambridge Examining Centre for some time, I was already familiar with some aspects of the Cambridge English exams, and a vague idea of the roles of the interlocutor and assessor. With the aid of my peers, I was able to try my hand at being an interlocutor; between juggling sticking to the script, settling candidate nerves, keeping an eye on the time and assessing the candidate simultaneously,  amongst others, no easy feat. We were able to pick up on each other's weaknesses, point each other in the right direction and provide reassurance if something did go wrong.

Arguably the more challenging position however, is the role of the assessor. The main focus of the Cambridge Exams is to see what the candidates CAN do, with a strict assessment criteria to adhere to. It was daunting to begin with, and honestly the first set of results I was a fair way off. Being able to discuss and share thoughts with my peers got me on the right track, and each round of assessment added to my experience.

As the day progressed, I became more familiar with the materials and my confidence grew. Interacting with the other potential examiners did wonders for my own development, putting our decisions under the microscope and getting into the nitty-gritty of the responsibilities of a speaking examiner.

Now that I've got a taste for examiner training, I'm itching to get involved with future sessions for the YLE exams and completing the set with the lower main suite (KET & PET), and becoming a fully certified Cambridge Speaking Examiner.

A full on day, exhausting in fact, yet a truly rewarding experience. Plenty of things to take away, mull over and go over with a fine-tooth comb. Thanks to all those who participated, and Shinohara-san for organizing, and made it such a memorable occasion. Let's hope that our paths cross in the not so distant future.

Examining soon at a Centre near you?!