So you have Matura soon and you want to be prepared well for the English part? Here are some tips how to do it. In fact, these hints are useful not only for Matura, as the mechanism of action is the same for any kind of language improving. For now, let's stick to Matura.
What you need to do first is to download a placement test. Any will do, but personally, I recommend to use Straightforward Quick Placement Test. You can also use Upstream Placement, however, Straightforward has one advantage: it indicates levels for each question on the right margin. You can download this one from Macmillan’s site:
Upstream Test is available on ET. Just make a search. Remember, don’t cheat! Only this will give you good results! Even if you „almost ticked a correct answer" - better lose this point now than on Matura.
Done? Great! Now look at your score and compare it to the table of results. Now, you know your level. To pass basic English on Matura, you need to be Intermediate B1 level. Would be perfect if you were Upper Intermediate of course but it is not always possible to do it. It depends on your level when you start preparing to the exam.
OK. You know your level, what's next? Knowing your level is only a beginning. Look carefully at your answer sheet again. Analyse it. What did you fail? Try to recognize grammar patterns in those questions. Is it Present Simple? Present Perfect? In case of any doubts, ask your teacher or someone on ET. They will be able to help you in identifying the patterns.
These problems will be your starting point. Now you will need a good grammar coursebook. There are many available, I would choose Round Up. This series has seven parts. Depends on your score, you might want to start with more or less basic parts. But remember: even if your overall score was not so bad, you need to practise the parts you have problems with. Therefore, it is wise to start with beginner's materials and step by step going for higher levels.
For instance, if your score sheet indicates that you have problems with Present Perfect, go for Round Up 3, do all the exercises there, then go to Round Up 4, do the exercises for Present Perfect there, then repeat it with part 5 and 6. It wouldn't make sense to go directly for the 6th part, because your Present Perfect is not that great, right?
Ufff, we know what to do with existing grammar problems. But this is not all. Working with those things will help you only to get rid of some „present” problems but you would like probably to boost your general level as well. So, here is what we should do in this case:
get a good coursebook. I advise Upstream, because this one is a bit more difficult than other books. However, it is fully up to you. It is you who will be passing your Matura :)
If you decide to use Upstream, go for a level lower than your score or do another test - Upstream Placement Test (unless you've already done that). Remember, you need to go as far as you can with your level - and at least up to level B1 (Upstream’s Intermediate B1+). Your initial level will show you how much work you still have.
Study your new coursebooks carefully. Your teacher will be ready to help you with your problems and questions! Teachers love when their students are active. Pity, the students are usually too shy to ask.
Get a good dictionary. Polish speaking people might use PWN dictionary on CD-ROM. It’s really good.
You’ll have a lot to do, I assure. Learn all the vocabulary you can. Always make sure you know in what context it was used. Learn new grammar structures. You might want to go with them like with those problematical that you had on your test results. Remember, there's never enough of grammar exercises in the coursebooks, so you will need another one just to make sure you really can use it.
And if you still have time, there’s one general and very important rule: use the language you learn. Try meeting with your friends who also have Matura and talk to them. Talk to your parents, if they know the language. Talk even to yourself if you don't have anyone to talk to. You might also find someone on the net and talk to him/her on Skype.
Read as much as you can and listen as much as you can. Watch movies in English with subtitles (also in English). Try to read the subtitles only when you can't get words. This way you'll get used to accent and pronunciation.
There’re also very useful BBC podcasts to listen to. Download ZenCast software and this podcast list: http://englishtips.org/forum/index.php?topic=6387.0 (just import it to your ZenCast). Don’t worry, you won’t understand much at first J
Don’t forget about writing activities. You can post them in our forum later or ask your teacher to proofread them for you!
Huh, and what about the exam tasks?! - You might ask. The question is simple: you don't need them right now. You need to learn ENGLISH. Practising the examination tests is important but you won't succeed without knowing the language, even if you do millions of tests. Start practising the tests only short before the exam. I would say two months is more than enough.
One general conclusion is that the sooner you start, the better results you get. Don’t forget nobody works the whole year. There’re many holidays, weekends, parties and other things around. And you also need your two months preparation (if you achieve your goal sooner, you can of course start preparing to the given tasks sooner).
That’s all, Folks! ;)