CBSE Exam Preparation

For Class X Communicative English

In the months of January and February, students in India in schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) get busy, preparing for their Board Exams.

A Time of Stress

These months are for them (and their parents) a time of great stress. Being tense in exam preparation serves no purpose. A more positive approach is to prepare smartly in the time left.

It is true, that there is not much time left for the exam. However, I think, an honest student who recognizes that his preparation has not been sufficient and sincerely wants to remedy the situation, can still hope to be very successful in his Class X CBSE Exam, even if he or she has only a month to prepare.

The Toughest Part

The toughest part of the CBSE Communicative English Course (Class X) for students is the Writing Section, which tests students' writing skills and currently carries 20 marks.

Students worry not only about HOW to write, but also WHAT to write. They often become aware of this second part only when they actually begin to write.

What Students Usually Do?

The 'CODER Principle' is a good guide, but students usually neglect four of those five steps.

They omit...

  • C (Collecting /Generating / Brainstorming of Ideas)
  • O (Organizing the ideas into an Outline)
  • E (Editing) and
  • R (Reviewing)
...and they do only the D (the first Draft).

Students should be motivated to travel through all the five steps of the C-O-D-E-R process.

CBSE's Communicative English Course

The Communicative English syllabus is an excellent piece of work launched in 1993 (for Class IX) and the following year (for Class X). This was after some years of preparation (beginning from 1988-89 according to my recollection) by a team of selected teachers from CBSE schools under the guidance of experts in England.

The Aim of the Course

The aim of the syllabus is to help students use English in real life situations and learn to monitor their own study of the language. A teacher's role is to facilitate the learning process.

It's sensible, I think, for the teacher and student to proceed with the aim of the course in mind!

The Text Books and the Teacher's Manual

The text books are well written and are revised from time to time. Careful reading of the Teacher's Manual, can initiate a teacher to fulfil the facilitator's role in the classroom well and help the students to fulfill the aims of the course.

It is not at all a good idea to use the Teacher's Manual only for looking up the correct answers of the exercises. It should be used more for learning about the aims and methods of the Communicative English Course.

One would think that looking up the correct answers should be the least of the purposes of the manual, since a competent teacher would be sure of most of the answers (except perhaps where multiple answers are possible).

Ignorance of what is contained in the Manual leads to deviation in the spirit, aims, and practices involved in the Communicative English course.

Don't Ignore the Main Course Book

Sometimes the Main Couse Book is ignored. The argument is that nothing from it comes in the examination. Is this true? No.

Wouldn't it be strange if the Main Course Book of a course is not a part of the Course!

True, the content of the Main Course Book, does not fully figure in the examination (except in an 8-mark question in the writing section), but the skills taught through that content do. This is true of all language study.

In language study, a passage or a lesson is given in order to study the language points contained in it, such as comprehension, vocabulary, word formation, sentence structure, style, etc and not for its content. This is basic knowledge for any true language teacher.

The Reading and Writing Skills for which students can now get a maximum of 40 marks in their CBSE Exam are in the MCB.

Teaching the MCB...

  • teaches students the required reading and writing skills, and so they learn HOW to write

  • gives them some familiarity and understanding of current issues of the world, and therefore, they learn WHAT to write.

Sometimes the Workbook is Ignored

The Workbook (WB) contains grammar lessons (usually using an inductive method) and exercises.

It is not a good idea to make students complete all the exercises by themselves at home (even the whole WB at the end of the year!) and to tell them to ask any doubts they have.

There are very few students who would be motivated to complete the exercises and ask doubts in such a situation.

For completing the exercises, some students take the help of the Workbooks they had the "foresight" to inherit from their seniors in the beginning of the year; others may altogether "forget" to do the exercises for they rightly guess that they will not be called upon to turn in their work.

It's Not a Good Idea
to Begin with the Literature Reader

I think, the reason for doing this is that teaching from the Literature Reader (LR) is more like traditional English teaching and hence the teacher can avoid getting too much out of his or her comfort zone, for the demands of teaching a communicative course are many in terms time and class management.

In a communicative course, the appreciation of literature is not the primary aim. The primary aim is the use of language in real-life situations. Teaching literature first is born from a distorted perception of the communicative course. Such a perception is inadvertantly passed on to the students.

One learns first to use a language, and is only then ripe for appreciation of the literature of that language. This is the correct perception.

Under a situation of distortion of the purposes of the prescribed course, a student's problems are inevitable. To this, if you also add a student's lack of motivation, then the problems increase two-fold.

What Should a Student Do in Such Situations?

He or she should...

  1. Quickly make a checklist of all the issues dealt with in an area (unit) of the Main Course Book. (e.g. area: health; issue: obesity, or fast food)

  2. Make a checklist of all the writing skills dealt with in the MCB: formal letter writing; informal letter writing; any type of trans-coding (e.g. from information in a graph to an article); completing a summary; etc.

  3. Try to perceive exercises not as "error" or "omission" exercises, but as exercises on grammatical points that figure in these errors and omissions, such as: subject-verb concord, verb forms, non-finites, modals, prepositions, etc.

    Make a checklist of these grammatical points, if possible, with the help of your English teacher.

  4. Of course, do not ignore literature; you can get almost full marks in it. For this you follow what is taught in class. In teaching, this is not usually a neglected area.

Begin time-bound preparation of these topics FIRST. These are the most important things to learn. After this go into the other material.

If You Need Help...

If you live in Kannur, you may want to attend my Writing and Grammar Classes for CBSE students (IX to XII). You can contact me here for this.

For Further Reading and Study...