GEPT: Ideas and Tips for the Teacher


The General English Proficiency Test, or GEPT, is a test that is used in Taiwan to test students' English abilities. The test includes four sections: Reading, Speaking, Writing, and Listening. On this page you'll find ideas and tips for the writing and speaking portions of the test.


If you would like complete sample tests, I recommend going to your nearest bookstore (assuming you are in Taiwan); there are hundreds, probably thousands of books and cram schools that cater to this enormous market.

 

The Speaking Test

 


This is one of the most challenging parts of the test for many students, because they are not as skilled at opening their mouths and producing fluent, improvised sentences. The speaking section consists of three parts:

 

1. One or two short reading passages - The student has one minute to review the passages and make short notes or underlines to help prepare (all marks must be erased, however). Then, the student has two minutes to read the passages.

Tip: Use the minute of preparation to scan quickly and look for words that you may not be familiar with. Underline the words (lightly) and look at each syllable to try to figure out how to pronounce it. Also, pay attention to numbers and practice the correct pronunciations. (Bus 243, for example, is pronounced "Bus two forty-three; The year 1982 is pronounced "nineteen eighty two.)


Ideas for the Teacher: In all my classes, I often do a "Read for Speed" activity, where I give the students a certain passage (from their reading book or textbook) and give them a limited amount of time to read the whole thing. The time limit should be challenging (you might want to set different time limits for students of different levels) and anyone who is able to read within the allotted time gets a prize, which can be candy, or a star, or simply pride.

2. Describe a picture - In this section, the student looks at a simple picture, and then uses 90 seconds to describe the picture in as much detail as possible. The picture is usually something like people waiting outside a movie theater, or people eating together at a restaurant, or a family on vacation. The student is given four questions that they need to answer in their description - questions such as "Where are these people?" "What are they doing?" or "Have you ever had a similar experience?"

Tip: It can be difficult to speak for the full 90 seconds, so it's a good idea to have a standard set of aspects that you can talk about. For example, consider the weather ("They are wearing coats, so it must be cold. Maybe it's the fall or the winter, or maybe it's winter vacation, etc."), the setting ("It looks like they are in a big/small city, because there are many buildings nearby," or "It looks like they are in the country/mountains/vacation resort, etc."), or the mood of the people (they seem to be happy/nervous/bored/stressed out because they are on vacation/studying for a test, etc.)


Ideas for the Teacher: I consistently had students who were unable to speak for the full 90 seconds, or even 60 seconds, for that matter. So I stopped the class, put a chair on the table, told a student to watch the clock and say "Go," at which time I talked about the chair for a full 90 seconds. I just talked and talked and talked and said anything related to the chair or chair-ness. Make the students do this (even if they can only talk for 30 or 60 seconds). Instead of a chair, you can use a pencil, or a hand, or a car, or a window, or anything that is simple. The kids enjoyed listening to me drone on about a chair for a minute and a half, and it showed them how easy it really can be to talk about a picture with a setting and multiple people.

 

3. Question and Answer - In this section, the student listens to ten questions and must speak and answer the questions. The questions are all repeated twice. For the first five questions, the student has 15 seconds to answer. For the last five questions, the student has 30 seconds to answer.

 

Tip: This is one of those rare occasions when you can teach the students that it's okay to lie. Instead of beginning every answer with 10 seconds of "uh...uh...", tell the students to just start talking and make something up if they need to. You can even have them practice lying, and tell them all to answer the questions by saying something that isn't true. You can use the questions in one of the many GEPT test-prep books at your nearest Taiwanese bookstore, or you can make these up. (Any question will do: Why is it important to study English? How did you get to class today? What did you eat for breakfast today? What is your favorite season?)

 

Ideas for the Teacher: I've turned this into a game in many of my classes. I wrote several questions on pieces of paper and put the questions in a small box. That is now the "question box." I use them every class, pulling out random questions and explaining the words in the question if they are difficult to understand. Then the students can answer one-at-a-time, or you can get creative and play games with them.

 

The Writing Test


Probably the single biggest headache for students taking the GEPT is the writing test. Many a student have passed Speaking, Reading, and Listening with flying colors, only to have their hopes dashed by a poor writing score.

Here are a couple ideas that should help students conquer that formidable writing beast.

 

Check out our Writing Page for several printable writing worksheets, including sentence patterns, punctuation lessons, error correction worksheets, and essay topics! Click here!



1. Practice, Practice, Practice - Did I mention: Practice? Have students write on a topic, and talk to each student afterwards about his/her grammar and phrasing mistakes. Then have them rewrite their paragraph.

 

Here are some sample topics that they can write about:
 

Pollution is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in every country. What is the pollution like where you live, and what can you do to reduce pollution?

Students who play a musical instrument often get better grades and are more successful than students who don't play a musical instrument. Why do you think this happens?

In some parts of the world, students get part-time jobs so they can have extra spending money. Do you think it is good for students to have part-time jobs? Why or why not?

What are some of the causes of nearsightedness, and how can nearsightedness be prevented?

What natural disasters do you often have where you live? What is the worst natural disaster that you have ever experienced?

If you could go on vacation to any place in the world, where would you go, and why?

Write a letter to the president of your country, and tell him what you would like to change about your country.

2. Translation - This part of the writing test is uniquely challenging, because many students will inevitably translate "directly" from Chinese to English, with the resulting sentences sounding very . . . strange and unnatural. It is important to teach students that they don't need to translate the exact words; it is sufficient to translate the meaning of the sentences, regardless of the particular words used.


3. Sentence Patterns - When teaching the writing part of the GEPT, it is essential to constantly give the students new patterns that they can use in their tests.


Here are some useful sentence patterns that students should learn, practice, and memorize:

Check out our Writing Page for several worksheets that introduce the sentence patterns below and get students to practice writing sentences with them! Click here!


Although [sentence], [sentence]. (Remind students NOT to use the word "but" in the same sentence as "although"!!

Although [we missed the beginning of the movie], [we still enjoyed it a lot].

Even though [sentence], [sentence].

Even though [John is blind], [he is very independent].

 

Despite [noun/phrase], [sentence].

Despite [the rain], [I walked to school.]

In spite of [noun/phrase], [sentence].

In spite of [the rain], [I rode my bike to work.]


Because of [noun/phrase], [sentence].

Because of [the rain], I didn't go outside.

Due to [noun/phrase], [sentence].

Due to [the storm], [school was cancelled].

Owing to [noun/phrase], sentence].

Owing to [her bad grades], [Jane didn't get into a good school].


[sentence]. Therefore, [sentence].

[My phone was dead.] Therefore, [I couldn't call you.]

[sentence]. Consequently, [sentence].

[I lost my phone.] Consequently, [I couldn't call you.]

[sentence]. As a result, [sentence].

[I got a perfect score on my English test]. As a result, [my mother gave me a new cell phone.]


Regardless of [noun/phrase], [sentence].

Regardless of [the weather], [I will ride my bicycle this afternoon.]

Regardless of [what/who/when/where/why/how], [sentence].

Regardless of [why you failed the test], [you are in trouble].

Regardless of [when the movie ends], [I want to go out to eat afterwards].

Regardless of [who my teacher is], [I'm sure it will be a good class].

Regardless of [where you live], [it's important to exercise].

Regardless of [what happens], [I will always love you].

No matter [what/who/when/where/why/how], [sentence].

No matter [why everyone hates Jon], [I still feel sorry for him].

No matter [when the movie ends], [I want to go out to eat afterwards].

No matter [who my teacher is], [I'm sure it will be a good class].

No matter [where you go], [you will be able to speak English].

No matter [what happens], [I will always love you].

No matter [how you get to school], [you'd better hurry].



 

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