A lovely review

It's always heartening to get a good review on Google Play, but this one really made our days:

I’ve passed the CAE and I’m here to thank you for this marvelous app!! Some weeks before the exam I would practise your exercises as much as I could. It was REALLY HELPFUL!!

How great is that!

If you'd like us to help us pass your CAE, you can try our app for free at Google Play or iTunes.

Coming soon ... B2 First Use of English practice tests: teacher's edition

Hot on the heels of our latest mobile app, FCE Academy Listening, we are pleased to announce the imminent publication of our first book, a printable teacher's resource containing loads of Cambridge B2 First Use of English practice tests. 

Written by the Academy author, Michael Macdonald, the resource features ten complete exams (360 assessments) covering Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Cambridge B2 First (FCE) exam. 

The tests closely match the Cambridge exam, both in presentation and the quality of the assessment content, and are accompanied by answer keys and mark schemes.   

Here's a spread from the latest page proofs.

More information to follow ... 

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FCE Academy Listening – available now!

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The new Cambridge English B2 First (FCE) Listening app from Prosperity Education, purveyors of world-class English Language revision apps, available now on Google Play and the AppStore.

Download the FREE Lite version and give it a try! 

  • Listening Parts 1–4
  • 200 B2 First assessments
  • 10 bespoke practice tests
  • Repetitive self-assessment
  • Expert-written content 
  • Tested by FCE teachers
  • No internet access required 
  • Clean visual interface
  • No ads!

Get the full Android version direct from this website at a 10% discount ...

Get your advance Android copy of FCE Academy Listening

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Ahead of official publication of FCE Academy Listening, we are pleased to invite Android users to download the new app directly from our website, availing of a 10% discount in the process. To do this, visit our Shop page

The free Lite version of the app will be available to download from Google Play and the Appstore soon, and we will of course keep you informed...

To infinity and beyond!

 

 

 

 

The new names for the Cambridge English Qualifications

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The team over at Cambridge Assessment English has unveiled the new titles for their range of exams. As you can see from the list below, the main difference is that they have added the CEFR level.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a way of describing language ability in six steps, from A1 for complete beginners to C2, which describes someone who has mastered the language.

Cambridge English Qualifications Schools

New style name

Pre A1 Starters
A1 Movers
A2 Flyers
A2 Key for Schools
B1 Preliminary for Schools
B2 First for Schools
C1 Advanced
C2 Proficiency

Old style name

Starters (YLE Starters) 
Movers (YLE Movers) 
Flyers (YLE Flyers) 
Key for Schools
Preliminary for Schools
First for Schools
Advanced (CAE) 
Proficiency (CPE) 

Cambridge English Qualifications General and higher education

New style name

A2 Key
B1 Preliminary
B2 First
C1 Advanced
C2 Proficiency

Old style name

Key (KET) 
Preliminary (PET) 
First (FCE) 
Advanced (CAE) 
Proficiency (CPE) 

So what does this mean for our apps FCE Academy and CAE Academy? Do we rebrand straight away, or do we keep the old name for the time being because this is what people will be searching for?

The jury is still out...

First look at FCE Academy Listening

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Two weeks ago we wrote about getting our new app, FCE Academy Listening, into development.

Well, the team have been working hard and we're now ready to share the (almost) final screens of our Android app. The app for iOS comes next.

We hope you like them!

As soon as we launch, we'll be giving out free codes in order to get as many reviews as we can. Why not sign up now?

Yes, I'd love to get 10 complete FCE-style audio tests for free.

Update on FCE Listening

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Just a quick update on our new FCE Listening app. It's been all systems go for the past few weeks as we have:

  • Written and edited dozens of texts
  • Written all of the accompanying questions
  • Recorded dozens of audio files
  • Created a design
  • Written a software specification
  • Commissioned our trusty developer Pavel
  • Recruited lots of testers
  • Taken delivery of our alpha release for iOS and Android

Plenty to do! Every time we work on an app, we get surprised all over again at how much time it all takes.

If all goes to plan, the app should be ready in May. Wish us luck...

Listen in...

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We may have been a bit quiet on the blog front of late, but fear not: the lights are still on at Prosperity Education.

After launching FCE for Schools late last year, we decided our new challenge would be to publish an app to support FCE listening. And as of yesterday, it's all systems go! We have an audio producer lined up, a specification written for our trusty software engineer Pavel, and now our author Mike Macdonald is writing our scripts.

If you'd like to be amongst the first people to try the app - for free - just sign up here...

We look forward to you tuning in!

 

FCE Academy for schools - "FINALLY articles about interesting themes!"

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With FCE Academy for schools almost ready to publish on Google Play and iTunes, we thought we'd share what one of our reviewers told us. Chloe, an FCE teacher in Madrid, gave us the following feedback:

Congratulations on a really nice, clear and user friendly app! Great to have such short activities for metro journeys etc and FINALLY articles about interesting themes
— Chloe, Madrid

So what are the themes in FCE Academy for schools? They're listed below. In parts 1 to 3, your students can find out why the British drive on the left, how to buy headphones, when (and when not) to revise, who uses virtual reality in their day job, and when to watch whales.

We've presented a broad range of topics in a number of different genres and writing styles, to ensure your students are exposed to as much English as possible.

We hope they enjoy the experience.


The Rio Festival

Elephants

The oldest restaurant

Plastic waste

Rebel Without a Cause

The oldest lighthouse

The story of market research

A complete solar eclipse

The World Wide Web

A whale of a time

Chess

Exam pressure

Conspiracy?

School uniform

The Pyramid of Khufu

Glastonbury

Busking

Cludeo

Cyberbullying

The Great Wall of China

Cheerleaders

Driving on the left

The Eiffel Tower

Working in a call-centre

The Madrid Metro

Sports Day

Disney World: the numbers

Monopoly

Caravans

A necessary evil

Fast food vs school food

Virtual reality in the real world

A short life in fashion

Choosing headphones

Born to rock

The second oldest university

FCE Academy for schools

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Following the huge success of the FCE and CAE Academy apps (30,000 installations and counting..!), we are delighted to announce the next app in the Academy series: 

FCE Academy for schools

Publishing in early November 2017, this app is for candidates of the Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools exam, which is set to the same level (B2) as the FCE but with texts that are appropriate for a school-age audience.

As with the other Academy apps, there will be a massive amount of expert-produced, exam-styled practice content (1,000+ individual assessments) covering Parts 1-4 of the Use of English section of the exam.

FCE Academy for schools will be available as a Lite version for free download from 1st November 2017.

 

 

Interview with the Academy author

Michael Macdonald qualified as a teacher in Cambridge and currently lives in Madrid, where he is Director of Studies for Prosperity English, an English language-teaching academy focused on preparing candidates for Cambridge examinations. He is the head of content at Prosperity Education and lead author of the Academy suite of apps. 

How long have you been an English language teacher and why did you become one?

I would consider myself to have a vocation for teaching. Originally, I trained in Cambridge as a Music teacher, working in the classroom at secondary level and also as a peripatetic. Moving to Spain and teaching English seemed like a great adventure and when I started learning more about English language teaching and realised how transferable my formal training could be, I knew it was for me. I gained as much experience as possible working for schools and academies in Madrid and soon found my teaching skills and method in demand. I set up my own academy, Prosperity English, teaching corporate English in companies and also teaching other language teachers how to improve both their English language and teaching skills.

 

How did you become involved with the Prosperity Education apps?

I approached Tom O´Reilly, an educational publisher based in Cambridge, with the idea of putting the Use of English section of the Cambridge ESOL exams into a simple app format. I wanted to create an intuitive teaching tool that users could learn from as they practised. Tom had the experience and technical knowhow to bring this to market in a mobile app format. In less than three months we had our first release, FCE Academy for Android.  

 

Why Cambridge exams?

There is just not enough good quality material out there, and the material that is available is very costly. But you need lots of practice material to really get to grips with the exam format and language contained in the Cambridge exams. One Cambridge book of past papers costs anywhere from €25–€60. Given how many exam texts are contained in these apps, we have managed to create something that, in content terms, would cost around €500 to buy!

 

Is there a part of the Cambridge exam that students find particularly difficult?

The Use of English part is always considered the most difficult, but that´s because students can´t find enough practice material! Of the four parts covered in the apps, Part 4, ‘Key word transformation’, is probably the hardest for candidates. Repetitive practice is the key to mastering this section of the exam, and for this students need lots of exam-quality tests.

 

Can you describe the FCE and CAE Academy writing process?

From the outset, we decided that the quality of the apps would have to be very high, both in the design and the content. We agreed that the user experience should be as close to the Cambridge exam as possible, both in the format of the assessment and the quality of the texts themselves. FCE Academy and CAE Academy feature 108 and 112 exam texts respectively, which means more than 1,000 individual assessments in total per app. This was the golden number we agreed on. We decided to triplicate the texts so that the user will see the same texts in parts 1–3 but with different items assessed in each. The pedagogical model is based on users’ ability to recognise lexico-grammatical elements of the text because, as they work through the app, they are actually becoming familiar with them, and therefore they actively and passively learn structure and grammar, collocation and general vocabulary. Working through so many texts you realise that many of the patterns in such tests repeat and this is the key to answering Use of English questions well in these exams.

Once we had decided upon our approach to teaching in this simplistic, yet effective way, writing the draft texts was a straightforward, albeit lengthy, process. I wrote short, interesting articles and then analysed them to ensure I was including appropriate language points for each assessment level. This was where the hard work came in. Many books and databases had to be cross-referenced to ensure we were including elements that the user would encounter in the exam, and then the draft articles had to be revised to accommodate this. The next stage was to have the texts reviewed independently by Cambridge writers and examiners and to implement their feedback. We then tested the texts using real-life classes in which we knew there were students of certain levels who had either already passed a Cambridge exam or who were just about to sit one. We looked at how they performed while using the new material and took on board their feedback to fine-tune each text. At this point we finalised the list of texts we’d include in the final app before starting the development stage. A final review of the texts was made during development by a selection of teacher and student testers working with beta versions of the apps. Again, feedback was taken in and some minor revisions made to the content prior to publication.  

 

What have been the biggest difficulties of the writing process?

Without a doubt, this would be ensuring the question content was appropriate for the Cambridge exam as the content required at each exam level is very specific. Thankfully, I had lots of help with this, through the independent, student and peer reviews, as well as excellent editorial support from the publisher.

One thing that I hadn´t really thought much about before writing the texts was the need for cultural sensitivity. Because Cambridge ESOL is worldwide we need to be careful not to include polemic subjects, or items that might offend a particular faith. For example, historical pieces, conspiracy theories or even articles that reference alcohol could cause offence and so cannot feature in the exam.

 

What advice would you give to someone about to sit the FCE or CAE?

Buy the app! Complete it all and try to get in the head of the people writing the exam questions. You should start to see patterns and this will really help you when it comes to your own exam.

 

Are you writing anything else at the moment?

We have just finished the CAE Academy app, which has been pretty intense. The plan is to produce Academy apps for other Cambridge exams, for example, Proficiency (PET), and also a version of FCE for schools. Longer term, we will publish for other English exams, such as IELTS.

I am always working on new courses for Prosperity English, my language academy in Madrid. We do specialist-training courses for businesses and for teacher training classroom assistant training. I will be preparing over the summer for the next round of those classes starting in September 2017.

 

What advice would you give to an English Language teacher who has an idea for a learning resource?

Teachers always spend a lot of energy on resources and many of these are shared in our community as a matter of course. However, if you really think you have a great idea, write it down, think it through, and refine and improve it. Speak to like-minded people and get an objective feel for its worth. My best advice would be to go for it, which is so easily said, I know. But if you think you have something that fits and fills a need, then do it. Be aware of how much work is involved, though, and realise that, if you really want to get a Class A product, you will come in for some stiff criticism along the way.