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English Language Learning

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that time again when we all start jotting down our New Year’s resolutions. You know the drill – getting fit, eating more healthily, saving more money, and catching up more often and staying more connected with family. But here’s one more to add to your list, and one that resonates with many: the desire to keep your English skills sharp and dedicate a bit of time each day to English practice.

So, for all of you out there thinking, “I really don’t want my English to get rusty this year,” this blog post is for you. I’ve decided to put together some great online resources that can help keep your English in tip-top shape. These websites are all hand-picked and worth your attention, sites that I’ve found super useful, and I think you will too, regardless of what specific English goals you’ve set for yourself. Whether it’s improving your grammar, building up your vocabulary, taking an official examination, or just getting more comfortable with the language, there’s something here for everyone. Let’s see which my top picks are and make sure that by the end of this year, our English is better than ever!

Websites for improving English fluency

Are you looking to brush up on your English fluency? Do you want to speak better and understand your international colleagues more effectively?

Improving your English fluency doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can be quite fun and engaging with the right resources. Here, I’ve picked out some websites that are fantastic for those looking to boost their everyday English skills.

This is a great place to start. FluentU uses real-world videos like music videos, film trailers, news, and inspiring talks, and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. It’s perfect for getting a feel of how English is used in real situations.

Offering a range of materials from news articles to interactive lessons, BBC Learning English is ideal for those who want to work on their listening, speaking, and comprehension skills in a more structured format.

The BBC Learning English podcasts are an excellent way to improve your listening skills. They cover a range of topics in an engaging and accessible format, making it easy to practise English on the go.

If you’re looking for a fun, game-like experience, Duolingo is the way to go. It’s great for daily practice and helps you build your skills progressively.

This site is a comprehensive resource offering grammar lessons, vocabulary training, and pronunciation guides. It’s ideal for learners at all levels and even provides special sections for kids and teens.

TED Talks are not only inspiring, but also a fantastic way to improve your listening and comprehension skills. With a vast array of topics, you can listen to real-world English as spoken by experts from around the globe.

And for the avid readers out there, never underestimate the power of reading in language learning. Reading not only improves your vocabulary but also gives you a deep dive into the cultural aspects of the language. To fuel your reading journey, check out this article from BBC Culture, “12 of the Best Books of the Year So Far – 2023”. This list features a collection of fantastic books that can enrich your English learning experience and provide an enjoyable way to improve your general English skills.

Remember, whether it’s through websites, podcasts, or books, every bit of practice contributes significantly to your English fluency. Choose the resources that best fit your style and needs, and let’s make this year a milestone in your language learning journey!

Websites for preparing for an official English examination

Are you at a point where you need to officially certify your English proficiency? Perhaps it’s a prerequisite for your work, or maybe you’re planning to study in an environment where English is the primary language of communication. If this sounds like you, then preparing for an official English exam should definitely be on your radar.

Two of the most widely recognized certifications are the Cambridge English Qualifications and the IELTS:

  1. Cambridge English Qualifications These qualifications are globally acknowledged and respected. They offer a range of exams suited to different levels and purposes – from preliminary tests for beginners to advanced certificates for proficient speakers. What makes these qualifications stand out is their focus on real-life English skills that you’ll need for academic and professional success.
  2. IELTS  The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is another top choice for many learners. Accepted by thousands of institutions worldwide, it assesses your English skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Whether you’re aiming for higher education, global migration, or professional registration, IELTS is a key that opens many doors.

Preparing for these exams requires a focused approach, as they assess a wide range of language skills. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the exam formats, practise with sample papers, and perhaps even start a preparatory course. Both the Cambridge and IELTS official websites offer extensive resources, including practice tests and preparation tips, to help you get ready.

First steps in preparing for your English examination

Embarking on the journey to achieve an English qualification can be both exciting and challenging. To start off on the right foot, there are two crucial steps you need to take:

  1. Determine the specific requirements: The very first thing you need to do is to clarify what level of English proficiency you need to demonstrate. Different institutions or employers might require different Cambridge qualifications or specific IELTS bands. So, your initial step should be to find out exactly what is expected for your particular situation, whether it’s for university admission, professional recruitment, or immigration purposes.
  2. Assess your current level of English: Knowing your current level of English is vital before you dive into preparation. If it’s been a while since you last took an official exam, or if you’re unsure of your level, it’s time for an assessment. You have a few options here:
  • Online tests: Websites like Cambridge English and Exam English offer free online tests. Exam English even provides two types of tests – one for grammar/vocabulary and another for listening (Listening Level Test).
  • Language Schools: Alternatively, you can visit a language school in your area. Many offer level assessments with no obligation to enrol. This can give you a more personalized understanding of your strengths and areas for improvement.
    Taking these initial steps will not only give you a clearer idea of what to aim for, but also help you tailor your study plan more effectively. I followed this path myself when preparing for the C2 Proficiency exam. If you’re curious about how I approached my study journey and what worked for me, feel free to read more about it here: My Preparation for Cambridge C2 Proficiency Exam.

Remember, a well-defined starting point is key to a successful preparation journey. By understanding the requirements and your current level, you can create a focused and effective study plan that will guide you to achieving your English certification goals.

Useful online tools for Cambridge exam candidates

Preparing for a Cambridge exam can be greatly enhanced with the right tools. Here are some online resources and apps that I’ve found particularly helpful:

Directly from the source, Cambridge English offers a range of free resources to help with their exams. Their site includes practice papers, sample questions, and even games to make learning enjoyable.

This app is a gem for anyone preparing for a Cambridge English Qualification. It offers a variety of interactive activities and practice exercises designed to boost your English skills in a fun, engaging way. After having tested it out, I wrote a detailed review, which you can read here: Can Learning English Be Fun? One App Not to Be Missed.

Test&Train is like a treasure chest filled with exams and tips. For a fee, you get access to a vast array of practice tests and valuable tips for a period of 18 months. It’s a substantial investment for anyone serious about their exam preparation.

This tool is excellent for honing your writing skills. It provides instant feedback on your writing, helping you understand your mistakes and improve. Whether you’re practising for an exam or just want to polish your writing, this is a must-try.

What is language learning without a good dictionary? My personal favourite dictionary. Not only does it provide definitions, but it also includes examples, pronunciations, and even synonyms. It’s a comprehensive tool that is incredibly useful for expanding your vocabulary and understanding the nuances of English words.

Each of these tools offers something unique to aid your exam preparation. Whether it’s through interactive exercises, practice tests, writing feedback, or comprehensive word definitions, they provide invaluable support on your journey to achieving Cambridge English Qualification success.

In addition to the online tools and apps mentioned, I have compiled comprehensive guides specifically for those preparing for the B2 First and C1 Advanced exams. These articles are packed with insights, tips, and strategies to help you navigate through your preparation journey:

1. Preparing for the C1 Advanced Exam:

If you’re targeting the C1 Advanced exam, this article is tailor-made for you: How to Prepare for the C1 Exam. It walks you through the key areas of focus, offers practical study tips, and suggests resources that can be instrumental in your preparation.

2. Preparing for the B2 First Exam:

For those aiming at the B2 First exam, this guide will be your roadmap: How to Prepare for the B2 Exam. It provides a detailed outline of what to expect in the exam, effective study techniques, and a selection of resources that can enhance your readiness for the test.

Both of these articles are based on my personal experiences and insights gained from helping others prepare for these exams. They are designed to give you a clear understanding of what each exam entails and how best to approach your study sessions. Whether you are just starting out or looking to fine-tune your preparation strategy, these guides can be an invaluable part of your study routine.

If you’re gearing up for the IELTS exam, this website is tailored to help you prepare effectively:

  • IELTS Liz: Liz is an IELTS expert, and her site offers free tips, practice lessons, and strategies specifically for IELTS preparation. It’s a goldmine for anyone looking to ace this test.

Securing a good score in the official English exams can be a game-changer for your academic and professional life. So, if you’re planning to take the plunge, start your preparation early, stay consistent, and use the resources available to you.

"Ready for B2" online course – your gateway to the B2 First exam

Are you currently at a B1 level in English and looking to advance to B2? Do you have your sights set on acing the B2 First official exam? If so, we have some exciting news for you!

Our upcoming online course, “Ready for B2,” is tailored specifically for learners like you. This course is designed to help you prepare thoroughly for the B2 First certification, allowing you to study at your own pace and according to your personal schedule. This course is a complete preparation course for those learners who are serious about taking the B2 First with flying colours. Over 400 activities, over 30 hours of video classes, 12 tests, downloadable material, all this has been designed to help you be well-prepared for the Cambridge B2 qualification. 

Special Launch Offer:

As we gear up for the launch of “Ready for B2,” we are thrilled to offer a unique opportunity for B2 English learners. You can start your preparation journey right now, absolutely free, with our first unit of the course. This is a fantastic way to get a feel for the course content and our teaching approach.

But that’s not all – by sharing your feedback on your learning experience after completing the unit test, you will be eligible for an exclusive 50% discount on the full course!

This is a wonderful chance not only to begin your B2 First exam preparation, but also to contribute your insights and experiences, helping us to tailor the course even more closely to your needs.

For more details about the course and how to access the first unit for free, please visit: Ready for B2 Course – Unit 1 Free.

“Ready for B2” is more than just a course; it’s a comprehensive learning experience designed to boost your confidence and skills in English, setting you firmly on the path to B2 First exam success.

By categorizing these resources, websites for improving English fluency and those for preparing for an official English examination, I hope to make it easier for you to find exactly what you need, whether you’re looking to become more fluent in English or preparing for an exam. Remember, the key to success in language learning is consistency and practice. So, pick the websites that resonate most with you and start exploring them. Here’s to a year of impressive progress in your English language journey!

As you embark on this exciting path towards improving your English skills and acing your official exam, it’s important to keep a few vital things in mind:

Know the skills you need to improve: Every learner has unique strengths and areas for improvement. Identify the skills you need to work on most – be it speaking, listening, reading, or writing. This self-awareness will guide your study plan and help you focus on what matters most.

Understand the exam requirements: Be clear about the specific official examination you’re preparing for, whether it’s the B2 First, C1 Advanced, or any other. Knowing the format, the types of questions, and the grading criteria will help you tailor your preparation effectively.

Create a learning routine: Consistency is key in language learning. Establish a routine that fits into your daily life. Remember, even short, regular study sessions can be more effective than occasional long ones.

Stay consistent: The journey to language proficiency is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay committed to your routine, and don’t get discouraged by setbacks. Regular practice is the cornerstone of success.

Enjoy the learning process: Last, but certainly not least, find joy in your learning journey. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and remember that every step forward brings you closer to your goal.

With these principles in mind, you’re well on your way to not just preparing for an English exam, but truly enhancing your language skills. Remember, every bit of effort counts, and the journey itself is as rewarding as the destination. Keep consistent, stay motivated, and most importantly, enjoy every moment of your English learning adventure!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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