HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THE STANAG 6001 LEVEL 3 EXAM?
This is one of the questions I often receive, so I decided to put all the most important pieces of advice in one place to make it easier for all candidates who are wondering how they can work on their own to prepare for the exam. I believe that teachers asked for help in this matter who are not themselves familiar with the exam might find it useful as well. I mean it to be my subjective guide to the exam preparation, based on my experience as a teacher and author of the BOOK for the STANAG 6001 LEVEL 3. The article outlines the most important things you need to be aware of. Here we go.
IS YOUR LEVEL OF PROFICIENCY HIGH ENOUGH?
First of all, you need to be aware that the level 3 exam is comparable to the B2 level in accordance with the Common European Framework, or the so called upper-intermediate level of language competence. From my experience, it is even higher. I would call it a B2+. So, firstly, you need to make sure that your language competence is high enough. You can check it, by doing an online test which will check your proficiency. For example, you can use the test from this website. It is a Cambridge Assessment test which tells you which Cambridge exam you are ready to start preparing for. If your result says you are ready to prepare for FCE (B2), you will still need some extra preparation in general English, as the STANAG 6001 level 3 is at the B2+ level. There are many traditional options to do it: language schools, self-study, etc. MAKE SURE YOUR LEVEL OF LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY IS CLOSE TO B2 when you start your preparation for the exam.
If your level of proficiency is close to B2, First Certificate (or FCE), then you still need to gain some extra experience with real English as the exam involves a lot of authentic texts and recordings from the press, radio, TV and Internet. You will need to get acquainted with the social and political topics, as well as some military related topics (nothing specialised, rather general military topics that you can encounter in the media). For this purpose, it will be necessary to read and listen to authentic materials in English regarding such professional and general areas as politics, economics, science, technology, culture; informative and opinion-giving texts from the press and the Internet, such as articles, press releases, letters to editors, fragments of scientific and factual literature, reviews, advertisements; as well as recordings of news items, interviews, reports, dialogues, military briefings.
DEVELOP YOUR VOCABULARY IN CONTEXT
It is best to develop your vocabulary in context. Hence, you can do it while working on your reading, both using authentic texts and exam texts (past papers). There are different methods of working with texts for vocabulary development. I described some useful ideas in the article HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR READING.
It is also useful to record the new vocabulary in a way that is convenient for you. I would not recommend making lists of words with translations as they are usually groups of random vocabulary with no significant context. Such lists are not very helpful in learning vocabulary to be used actively and correctly. To make your vocabulary active, you will need to place it in context. It might be a good idea to make your own flashcards with new vocabulary, mind maps combing words from one category or group, visual presentation of new vocabulary.
If you feel you need some extra work, there are a lot of vocabulary practice books, often intended for candidates preparing for different exams. Chose the ones that are at least at the B2 level and cover the areas related to the exam, such as: tourism, entertainment, media/social media, crime, sport, security, money, animals, technology, work, food and health, politics, security, economy, science or culture.
HOW TO USE AND LEARN GRAMMAR EFFECTIVELY?
“I need to revise some grammar! This is the most frequent statement I hear when people ask me for advice in preparing for STANAG exams.
And when I ask what they are going to revise, they usually say: tenses!
And what they usually mean by revising grammar is doing grammar exercises from a grammar book.
And this is when I suggest that it might not be as successful as they think.”
“I believe that the best method is to learn grammar in meaningful contexts. What I mean is that whenever you learn a new grammatical form, you should find real life contexts in which you could use it. In my opinion, unless you are learning the form of the grammatical structure (e.g. I have, she has) and not the usage, there is no point doing hundreds of exercises without paying attention and analysing the context.
The aim of grammar exercises should be to analyse the context which a grammatical form creates or is used in.
Let’s relate this to the exam.
If you know that your letters should be formal, you may use PASSIVE VOICE to achieve this effect.
If you are asked to give advice, you can use the SECOND CONDITIONAL.
If you are supposed to ask for information, try INDIRECT QUESTIONS to sound more polite and official.
If you generalise, remember about PRESENT SIMPLE or a ZERO CONDITIONAL.
If you want to guess and infer, MODALS OF DEDUCTION can be useful.”
I wrote some more about grammar for the STANAG level 3 some time ago. If you want to learn more about what we need grammar for, what the most frequent and most penalised grammar mistakes are, and what grammar contexts you can expect during a STANAG 6001 exam, you may want to refer to my older posts: WHAT ABOUT GRAMMAR? and GRAMMAR FOR STANAG EXAMS from which the above quotations come from.
KNOW THE EXAM
It is also necessary to become familiar with the form, administration and marking criteria of the exam.
You can do it by checking out posts on this blog or by going to the website of the Central Examination Board in Poland at http://www.wsnjo.wp.mil.pl. It is essential to read through the model exam and its detailed description posted on the mentioned website. The website also features a selection of past papers which are worth attention, and are a great opportunity to become familiar with the exam in practice. It might seem a gruesome task to read these documents, but is a very thorough source of both practical tasks as well as theoretical information. You will not regret the time spent to do it.
WHAT ABOUT SPEAKING?
If you are preparing on your own, the most challenging part of the exam might seem speaking. In this case, it is again necessary to become very closely familiar with the exam requirements, because its unusual form and strict marking criteria make it hard to pass if you are not prepared for what is coming. Hence, make sure you know how it is administered, what tasks there are, and how they are graded. To do so, you may go to the above mentioned website of the Examination Board and consult the model exam and past papers posted there. You may also want to review the posts on this blog. If you want more examples of tasks and topics, you may wish to become familiar with my book Speaking and Writing Expert. How to pass STANAG 6001 English Exam. Level 3. Practising speaking on your own is tricky but not impossible. The solution I want to offer is recording yourself with the use of a smartphone, dictaphone or a computer, or any recording device. It is obviously not enough to just record yourself, and the procedure will be different depending on the task you are preparing for. You can read about the details related to the STANAG 6001 level 3 speaking in my blog post entitled HOW TO PRACTISE SPEAKING ON YOUR OWN.
HOW TO PRACTISE LISTENING ON YOUR OWN
What seems to be the most challenging in practising listening is finding appropriate materials, which are neither too easy nor too difficult. Also in this case it is crucial to make oneself familiar with the STANAG 6001 exam in listening, just as in the case of speaking (see above). Apart from familiarising yourself with the exam requirements and doing tasks from past papers, it is important to become used to listening to authentic language, with its various accents, speed, vocabulary, background noises. That is why, I recommend listening to real English every day. You can start by listening to recordings related to topics of your interest. Later, it will need to be necessary to regularly listen to the news, scientific reports, interviews regarding politics, military, global world, technology, culture, economics. I write more about useful sources in the post about HOW TO PRACTISE LISTENING .
EDIT YOUR OWN WRITING
Is it possible to teach oneself how to write properly? Not to mention editing one’s own work? It won’t be easy. First of all, there are checklists that you can use and rules you will need to apply, but most certainly you will also need to change your thinking about writing. Most people think you need to write what comes to your mind, and possibly organise it into some required paragraphs. This will probably lead you nowhere near the happy ending. The key to writing well is logic, organisation and planning. There are some expressions you will be able to use more or less universally, and some patterns of layout building, but what I recommend most is following the instructions, good planning, logical building of argumentation, paragraphs and the whole text, as well as combing ideas throughout the whole text. Planning will be essential for the logical organisation of your text. The same applies to editing your writing. Please follow the detailed lists and recommendations I write about in the articles WHY AND HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING and HOW TO EDIT YOUR OWN WRITING.
HOW MUCH TIME DO I NEED?
This is a tricky question. The long-term courses at the military institutions take around 600 teaching hours, which is a lot in comparison, for example, with a typical university language course taking up to 120 teaching hours during an academic year. But still the result of this teaching doesn’t have to be always a passed exam, as it depends, among other things, on the entry level of proficiency in general English of a given candidate, the stock of vocabulary, and the ability to use grammar actively. That is why it is so important to assess your level of language proficiency before you start your preparation. The higher your level of proficiency, the better.
I am sure you will find at least some of this advice useful. It is a result of my experience as a STANAG 6001 courses teacher, hundreds of writings checked and lots of feedback given regarding speaking tasks, both live and from recordings. Use the above advice to your benefit, but find your own way to organise your learning process, which will be adapted to your particular level of proficiency, previous experience and needs. Good luck!
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