A day in the life of a Cambridge ESOL Speaking Examiner
Read more about a day in the life of a Cambridge ESOL Speaking Examiner. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us and thanks for your great support, Davine Sutherland!
“The alarm rings – it’s 6.30am, WAY before my usual waking time (I’m a night owl), but duty calls! As one of the few Cologne examiners who has a car – I live on the outskirts, not the centre, where a car is a handicap – I always get the distant venues, and have to arrange to pick up my fellow-examiner en route. Our centre is involved in the NRW Cambridge Schulprojekt, so many of our exam venues are schools dotted all over the area.
This morning Anne and I are heading for one of our favourite venues, the Realschule Grünstrasse in Hattingen, to do a large batch of Young Learners English Tests Flyers – Grünstrasse was the first Realschule in NRW to do these tests 10 years ago or more, and the children are always delightful and beautifully prepared. We invigilate the written papers with Flyers as well as doing the speaking tests. It’s a summer morning, so getting up isn’t quite so hard, and it’s a lovely country drive once we get off the dreaded Autobahn 1. We know that Frau Müller and Frau Lemke will have everything well organised and that there will be coffee waiting, so our spirits rise as we see the famous crooked spire of Hattingen on the horizon. It’s still always a bit nerve-wracking on the autobahn, though – you always have your fingers crossed that there will be no serious delays and emergency phone-calls and rearrangements necessary. This does happen, unfortunately, and you have to just try to be as level-headed, pragmatic and professional as possible if it does. Our nerves are even more under strain in the winter, as we battle with snow and ice on country roads.
But today luck is on our side and we arrive in good time for the coffee and the sight of all these eager young faces, complete with the right coloured pencils for the Listening test – not something we can take for granted! The written tests go without a hitch, we get tasty take-aways from a local restaurant for lunch and a chance to chat to the teachers, who’re old friends by now, and then we start the speaking tests.
It’s extremely rewarding being a Speaking Examiner – you have the responsibility to run them as perfectly as possible, so that the candidates do their absolute best , but also the satisfaction of seeing shy or nervous candidates begin to blossom as the excellent materials do their job, engaging their interest and triggering all the language and strategies they’ve been learning. We all take this responsibility very seriously and also do our own ‘homework’, preparing the handling and script in advance when we get the materials, and also going to the secure examiners’ website to practise our assessment. We also have regular regional ‘coordination meetings’ covering assessment and exam-format at the different levels, and engaging in professional development activities. This ensures quality control and standardisation, so we can feel confident our candidates are getting a fair deal.
But today all these preparation activities are far behind us, and we can enjoy doing what we’ve been trained for – interacting with the candidates and enabling them to do their best on the day. We leave after a tiring but enjoyable day, sharing the children’s sense of success, and their relieved and excited faces stay with us when we once again tackle the Autobahn 1 – this time with a much lighter heart.”