Ok, so I must tell you this: following the instruction in the STANAG exam may be crucial for one’s success or failure. I mean, if you fallow it closely, you can be sure that you have two important elements of assessment covered, namely, task achievement and the so called reception.

Task achievement seems pretty straightforward – you need to write or speak about all things mentioned in the task instruction. As for the reception, this part of assessment refers to how your text reads and whether your speaking is easy to follow, understand and interact with. It includes logical development of arguments, connection between ideas, organisation of your paragraphs.

Also, the instruction gives you useful information about what is being checked and required of you.

Why should you follow the exam instructions closely?

Firstly, the instruction can tell you what language functions, vocabulary or grammar are required of you and being checked. 

Secondly, if you follow your instruction closely, you make sure you get the highest possible number of points in terms of task achievement.

Finally, when you follow the instruction, step-by-step and point by point, it will help you organise your speaking or writing.

  • It will determine the structure of your speaking or writing.
  • It will make it easier not to forget any points from the instruction.
  • It will help you to stick to the topic.

 Let’s look at some examples.

Speaking level 3 briefing (Poland)

You are responsible for the transportation of heavy equipment for the purposes of an international exercise taking place in your country. You have been tasked with delivering a briefing on two possible means of transport, describing their advantages and disadvantages. Recommend one of them and justify your choice.

– by land  –by air –other

From the instruction you learn that:

  • your task is to give a speech/presentation in the form of a briefing (introduction)
  • your role is a presenter of the problem and possible solution (introduction)
  • the context of your presentation is transportation for the purposes of an exercise (introduction)
  • you need to describe two possible ways of transport (body)
  • you need to describe pluses and minuses of both solutions (body)
  • you need to sum up by recommending one of the solutions and justifying your choice

What skills and abilities do you need to demonstrate?

  • to give speeches/presentations
  • to organise your presentation into parts (introduction. body and conclusion)
  • to describe pluses and minuses
  • to recommend 
  • to justify 

Writing level 3 report (Poland)

The Military Agency has tasked you with writing a report on the support for veterans of military missions abroad. Include the points below: 1) describe problems experienced by veterans, 2) assess their possible consequences, 3) recommend possible ways of addressing these problems.

 From the instruction you learn that:

  • your task is to write a report
  • the aim is to present veterans’ problems
  • the context is information gathering by a military agency
  • you need to describe three aspects of the issue
  • you need to be able to describe problems experienced by veterans (you may assume that they were and are experienced so you can use Present Perfect to stress the fact that they still require attention)
  • you need to assess/evaluate the consequences of these problems (you can take different perspectives as it’s not specified, e.g. consequences for veterans and/or for the armed forces, for the society)
  • you need to recommend ways of solving the problems which will also be your summary 

We can also assume additional things from the fact that your task is to write a report:

  • reports have a certain structure and layout which you need to follow
  • they should be divided into paragraphs which you need to know how to structure
  • they need to be written in a formal style whose characteristics you need to know
  • they should be correct and accurate
  • they need to be logically developed, to the point and they should constitute a whole

If we compare the information taken from the instructions against the assessment criteria used during the exam, we can see the following thin1. Correctness and accuracy that are assessed result form the fact that such a type of writing needs to be understandable and precise. Using correct and accurate grammar and vocabulary allows to be precise, to the point and to avoid misunderstandings. Language resources needed to write such quite a complicated piece should also be at a certain level to be informative.

2. Reception of the text by the reader assessed refers to whether the text is easy to follow and understand by the reader, which can be achieved by a correct paragraph structure, proper/expected structure and layout, logical connections between ideas and paragraphs as well as the adequate style.

3. Task achievement allows to evaluate if the text is to the point, covers all the required points and register/style elements.

Being aware of these requirements and expectations may become a real game changer in your exam preparation.

If you need to work on your texts and/or speaking in more detail, you may find my workshops interesting. In the workshop you will learn in practice what it means to structure your paragraphs well or how to connect your ideas in a logical way.