July 17

why do you bother with exams?

Another fairly common question is why I bother taking exams. Isn’t it enough knowing that I speak language, do I really need a piece of paper to prove it? The answer is yes and no.

No, I don’t really need the proof. But as is the case so often in our world today, a piece of paper with a qualification can go a long way and often times further than years of experience. As it is the case with the CPE exam that I will be taking later this year, I do need proof of my language abilities. However the DELE Spanish exam that I took a couple of months ago, was just for myself and I don’t need it for anything. Yet. ‘Yet’ being the operative word, you just never know what the future holds and when something like that comes in handy.

More importantly though, taking an exam is a good way to get you to focus and study. Knowing you have an exam coming up, will make you sit down and study, no matter whether you need it for your career tomorrow or not. And even more so, preparing for an exam that tests all four key skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) will help you identify your weaknesses and you can focus on those.
I generally work with a tutor so that I don’t waste any time on a problem of a classmate. This is not callous, rather it’s using my time efficiently. In fact that is why studying a language at home or over Skype is much faster than years of classes. You don’t have any classmates to bail you out if you don’t know an answer, it’s all on you and it ensures that you have understood completely. A good tutor can identify your weaknesses and you can take the time where you need it and skip stuff you already know.

I’m lucky that I don’t really have exam anxiety, but the nerves always play a role. Though I believe being able to perform when it counts is another skill that is very important in life and a little bit of practice never hurts, especially when you don’t have the pressure of needing to pass.

And at the end of the day, looking at a certificate does make you feel good about yourself and what you have achieved whether it advances your career or not. And there is nothing wrong with that either.