Preparing for BEC
The main general advice is to listen to the English language audio material as much as possible, for at least 30 min. a day.
Of course, you’ll need special resources for BEC preparation, which you can buy in shops (for inst., “Lingvist” in Kiev or "Eurokniga" in Odessa) or via the Internet. In order to get acquainted with what to buy you can look through online catalogues of Cambridge, Macmillan and Oxford publishers or drop into Englishtips (http://englishtips.org/exam_materials/bec/). As for me, the more resources you cover, the better.
Moreover, it’s vital to spend some time listening the real audio tests from previous exams in order to comprehend the test complexity as well as your strength, weaknesses and progress (8 full tests will be enough). You’ll familiarise yourself with the content and format of the examination that it will make it easier to pass the test. The past examination papers are published by the Cambridge in the “BEC Higher Student's Book” series.
Furthermore, there’re a lot of free or partly free audio business English resources in the Internet that you may use (educational one, for instance, http://www.businessenglishpod.com/ or usual English business programmes, for example http://audiovideo.economist.com/).
While the main audio theme should be business, it could be quite helpful to use not only special business resources, but also different ones such as news http://www.surfmusic.de/country/uk.html, literature http://librivox.org/ or even orthodox sermons http://www.stgeorgeportland.org/sermons.html, if you’re interested in them. Abstracting from vocabulary variety (which is also essential), the thing is that if you’re engaged with the subject, you want to understand and analyze what you’ve heard. And so the final effect of your preparation will be greater than just listening to some boring staff. Besides, it’s hard to be tuned into a “business wave” without any distractions, and changing the topic could be an excusable and relaxing deviation:).
As about the structure of the test, it’s necessary to make several remarks.
While you’re listening for the first time it’s crucial to understand the whole meaning of the speech. Don’t try to catch the exact phrases that your text has.
The first part of the test requires the correct spelling and the words won’t be necessary the business ones.
The most difficult is the second part which is quite tricky as its speech flow doesn’t always correspond to the order of questions in the paper. So, the only way to deal with it is to catch the whole meaning of the speech (see above).
The third part may look more predictable than the others, but also has its own traps. The task here is to get the exact meaning of the spoken phrases and to compare it to what you have in your answer variants, which sometimes look quite similar, remaining different all the same.
It was the poorest part of the test in the terms of my results (almost borderline one). So giving any advices here could look pretty indiscreetly. Nevertheless, it’s better to learn on my mistakes, than on your own.
So, what is vital to remember?
- Your examiners are very polite and friendly people. They will be amiable persons nodding their approval even when you’re talking the total rubbish. So, don’t be caught in this trap.
- You should be prepared to speak alone. Your vis-à-vis might be too taciturn and you’re to be able to speak as long as your examiner would like to.
- Try to use wide vocabulary, synonyms, difficult words and phrases and also don’t forget about the grammar and other aspects of the “noblest speech”.
- Be consistent with your ideas.
- The one-minute presentation is very time-bound (as it can be inferred from its name). This means that you should speak at a fast pace to be able to conform to the requirements.
Concerning the exam preparation:
- Learn as much useful phrases (such as “I want to illustrate this by…”, “I'd like to expand on…”, “Let’s recap the main points, which are…”) as possible. It could be helpful to use online resources for preparation (for ex., http://www.splendid-speaking.com/index.html).
- If you have nobody to speak English to, just learn cues and texts by heart and say it aloud alone.
- While you’re speaking, do not endeavour to translate your thoughts word by word and do not think over your words too much. It will neglect all the efforts you apply to pretend being a fluent speaker. How to do this? Try to generate your thoughts by occipital, not temporal part of your brain. I don’t know how to explain it exactly), you should just feel it – don’t let your temples to be strained. The process of thinking should be just a back decoration for your mind, not a main act of it.
- Listen to English audio a lot. The key for speaking is listening. The process is the same as with children – the more they listen to your speech, the faster they begin to speak themselves.
- Be assertive. If you feel uncomfortable, even your native tongue speech would seem obscure, not to speak of English one.