Jan Bell and Amanda Thomas
Pearson Education 2014
As the Cambridge English: First exam is changing from January 2015, this review is one of a series of coursebooks designed to prepare learners for the exam.
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The book I looked at was the version containing the 2015 exam specifications.
Aimed at B2 level students, the book looks as though it would be best suited to teenage / young adult classes. Depending on how you teach the book, there’s probably five or six lessons per unit, or about 70 lessons in the book, so somewhere between 80 -100 hours of material. Not including the progress tests and review sections. It is a graded book, starting off a bit easier and building up in difficulty as the book goes on.
I only had access to the coursebook and the exam maximiser, which is precisely what you would expect – lots of practice activities. Though the blurb promises there is interactive whiteboard software and online material for the teacher, as well as the standard teacher’s book. Plus additional online resources for the student.
One of the things I like about the book is the way in which all the skills work seems to be based on the principle of development, rather than simply practice. The focus is on training for the exam rather than just exam skills. While I completely agree with the ethos behind this choice, I also feel that Gold First lacks the bite that it needs for learners to be aware of the reality of the exam.
Lexis is mostly dealt with in chunks, collocations and phrasal verbs, though with some topic based match and gap sections as well. Structures are pulled out of key texts and analysed – a sort of GDPP (guided discovery, practice and production) – and I like that there are productive activities linked to the language input
It seems very approachable, not at all daunting or scary. There’s enough space around the text and exercises to give learners space to jot down notes and answers. The images are all very standard – soft focus, bright and colourful – but there aren’t many on the page, so they don’t distract. The topics are all the usual suspects – no doubt chosen according to some exam past paper meta-analysis.
7/10. I think the course has enough to work with for an extensive year round course and I think it is appropriate for my local context, where most of the students are in their mid-teens. I am wary about two things though: the graded nature of the book and the lack of explicit modelling of exam tasks and strategies.
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