Interview with Michael Terry

Quan portem anys estudiant anglès ens agrada fer un pas endavant i presentar-nos a un examen oficial per poder demostrar el nostre domini de l’idioma i en NOVACADÈMIA et facilitem l’accès a les esmentades proves amb un dels centres especialitzats més prestigiosos a nivell internacional.

Ens hem traslladat a Barcelona, on hem entrevistat al director general d’  EXAMS CATALUNYA ( Únic centre examinador oficial de Cambridge English amb tres anys havent obtingut el reconeixement “Platinum” ) Michael Terry, qui ens ha donat els millors consells per superar amb èxit les proves oficials.

A continuació us deixem la entrevista, esperem que us agradi.


Today we’ve got the pleasure of having an interview with the manager of our examination centre for the Cambridge English tests, Exams Catalunya.

Our Manager, Natàlia Balaguer is conducting this interview with Michael Terry, Exams Catalunya’s Manager since 2015.

NATÀLIA: Hi Michael, how are you?

MICHAEL:  Good morning Natalia.  I’m very well thanks and thanks for inviting me to speak with you.

NATÀLIA: It’s a pleasure to be here today and to do it because of a reason different from supporting our students in a very important day in their lives, the examination day. How do you live that day from your position?

MICHAEL:  It’s an important day for us as well as we want to make sure that the candidates have a positive exam day experience which allows them to perform to the best of their abilities.  There are a lot of ways we can do this, from providing good venues where candidates will be comfortable, to training our staff to be able to deal with any issues that arise. Our staff are on hand not only to make sure that the exam regulations are adhered to, but also to assist candidates with any questions or concerns they may have.

NATÀLIA: Michael, let’s talk about Exams Catalunya. Your centre is the only one worldwide, and there are more than 3.000 examinations centres in the world, that has got the Platinum Certification three times, in years 2013, 2014 and 2015. What does this certification recognize?

MICHAEL:  Yes, we are one of around 70 Platinum Centres in the world and this status is grated to centres that not only handle large numbers of candidates each year, but also offer extremely high standards of customer service.  Platinum Centres must offer a wide range of exam dates and locations and provide candidates with efficient registration processes, up-to-date information and a high level of follow up service. We are very proud of our Platinum status and the awards we have won and work hard to maintain our levels of customer service.

NATÀLIA: So, we could say that our students are in the best hands when taking the exam. What do you provide them with?

MICHAEL: One of the things that is very important for candidates taking the Cambridge Assessment English exams is that they have accurate information, not only about the content of the exams, but also about what they should expect on the exam day.  It’s important that they feel confident on the day of the exam and being well informed can help a lot in this regard. Our webpage offers candidates in-depth information on all of the Cambridge Assessment English exams as well as tips and advice on how to prepare.

Once the exam is over, candidates can also consult our webpage to find out when their results will be released and when they can expect their certificates to arrive.  All candidates who do their exams with Exams Catalunya receive their certificate in an attractive folder – it’s an important and irreplaceable document so we think it’s important to keep it in good condition!

NATÀLIA: Is there any strategy that could help candidates in the examination day?

MICHAEL: First of all, candidates should make sure they know exactly where they have to go and how they are going to get there so that they can arrive in plenty of time.  I’d recommend having a good breakfast as well!

Once they are in the exam, they should be sure to listen carefully to all of the instructions given by the invigilator and to read the instructions in their question booklets carefully before answering the questions.  It’s really vital that they manage their time well, so they should keep an eye on the clock and make sure they have time to attempt all of the questions.

For all of the Cambridge Assessment English exams, candidates have to write their answers on a separate answer sheet.  They can also write on their question paper but all answers must be transferred to the answer sheet before the end of the exam.  There is no extra time given for this and they shouldn’t leave it until the last minute. The answer sheet is the only paper sent to Cambridge for correction.  

NATÀLIA: Could you explain the pros and cons of taking the test in a computer based or paper based options?

MICHAEL:  Nowadays many candidates are opting for the Computer-Based exams and Exams Catalunya offers many dates and locations for candidates to do the Computer-Based versions of the exams.  Many candidates prefer the CB exams because they like to write using a keyboard and also because they can use headphones for the listening component. Another advantage of the CB exams is that the results are released more quickly after the exam.  On the other hand, there are candidates who still feel more comfortable with the Paper-Based exams as it feels more like the type of practice they have been doing in class and they are more used to using pencil and paper. It’s nice that candidates have the choice I think.  If candidates want to find out more about the CB exams, they will find tutorials and practice exams on our webpage, so they can try the format and decide if they like it.

NATÀLIA: What are the trends in terms of which exams are more requested nowadays?

MICHAEL: The Cambridge Assessment English qualifications are extremely well recognised around the world – over 20.000 companies, organisations and academic institutions accept Cambridge certificates.  For this reason, there continues to be a great deal of demand for the well-known exams like B2 First and C1 Advanced. We are also seeing an increase in interest in lesser-known exams like the Occupational English Test (OET).  This is an exam specifically for people working in the health sector – doctors, nurses, dentists and so on. It is now increasingly recognised by medial councils around the world. The Young Learner exams continue to be popular as well as people see them as a great way to motivate young learners and to prepare them for the challenges ahead.  Last year Cambridge English launched a new type of exam – Linguaskill. This is a multi-level adaptive test that is done on a computer and can give students a ‘snapshot’ of their level very quickly. It’s useful for candidates who need a quick indication of their level for university graduation or placements or for work purposes, for example.

NATÀLIA: As a preparation centre we have realised that kids start learning academic English more and more and families give a big importance to the fact that their investment reverts in official certifications in a mid-term future. So learning English for pleasure is turning into learning English officially and show it to the world. Can I have your opinion about that?

MICHAEL:  Well, I think that you are quite right in your analysis of the situation.  As globalisation has seen more and more people working and living in different countries, or having more contact with other cultures, it is increasingly important that people can demonstrate their skills and have them certified by reliable institutions like the University of Cambridge. This is very much reflected in the mission statement of Cambridge Assessment English: ‘We help people learn English and prove their skills to the world.’

NATÀLIA: Many students worry about the caducity of the Cambridge English certificates. What’s true about it?

MICHAEL: The truth is that Cambridge certificates do not have a time limit attached to them.  They do indicate when the exam was taken though, so if they’re going to be used long after that date, students would probably need to show that they have been using the language in practical ways to maintain their level.

NATÀLIA: On the other hand, the examination centres play an important role in teachers training. We use to attend much of the seminars you offer exclusively designed for teachers to learn what’s new in the exams, which ways we can better help our students to pass them as well as getting new tools and ideas to make classes more efficient. How do you think that having a better skilled teachers’ team can improve the quality of the students’ learning? 

MICHAEL: At Exams Catalunya we really enjoy being able to contribute to the professional development of teachers working in our Preparation Centres.  We do this via our Teacher Support Seminar series each year and also our annual ELT Conference. Teachers play a hugely important role in preparing students for official exams and it’s vital that they keep themselves motivated by exchanging ideas with other professionals, learning new techniques and keeping up to date with the latest developments in the profession.  

NATÀLIA: What part of the tests is in your opinion the tougher one for candidates and why?

MICHAEL:  Each candidate will have parts of the exam that they find easier and parts that they find harder.  In my experience a lot of candidates find time management tricky in the Reading and Use of English paper, as there is a lot to get through in a short space of time.  Candidates get very nervous about the Listening as well, which is understandable. Quite often though, although they may feel it hasn’t gone as well as they hoped, they are pleasantly surprised by the results!

NATÀLIA: After so many years and thousands of candidates, which are the best advices for candidates?

MICHAEL: I would say that preparation is the key factor.  It’s important to recognise your strengths and weaknesses and plan your preparation accordingly.  Try to focus on making your study and preparation enjoyable too – if you’re going to do some extra reading practice, choose topics that interest you as this will be more motivating.

NATÀLIA: Michael, thank you so much for this opportunity that allows our candidates to know more about your task and about the exams themselves. I hope to meet you again in the near future.

MICHAEL: It’s been a pleasure Natalia – thanks for the opportunity!

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