Your printed dictionary - another tool for exam success
By now, it's common practice: Euroexam candidates are allowed to use any printed dictionaries during every test of the exam. Even bilingual dictionaries, business dictionaries, and thesauruses. So, don't forget to bring your favourite dictionaries to the exam to use all or any of them. But check out this warning from an ex-candidate of ours:
"It is worth saving the small “teleprompter” as a last resort, it really does not work in an exam situation to look up every second word in the dictionary."
Taking Csilla’s point on board, we must admit that though the dictionary is an enormous help, you have to use it wisely. Don’t forget how time-consuming it may be, and how easy it is to run out of time if you do not use it economically. Furthermore, your final overall result will not really depend on your knowledge of a certain word. Well, here are our general tips first, then the specific ones for each exam test:
So how can I benefit from this?
Imagine sitting for an exam where:
- you can use the dictionary to look for more appropriate and varied vocabulary, e.g. to find the words you want to use in your presentation
- you can check words in the instructions to make sure you fully understand what you have to do
- you can check the correct use of linking words in the Writing test (e.g. 'although' is used in complex sentences)
- you can proofread your own piece of writing to smooth out some of the errors (e.g. checking prepositions, irregular past tenses, infinitive or gerund etc.)
- you can check the keywords of the instructions and questions (e.g. in the paragraph headings, descriptions, statements, comprehension questions) of any reading or listening tasks, the words you really need to understand in order to be able to complete the task
- you can use a dictionary during the preparation time before the speaking exam to extend the range of words and phrases you express yourself with.
What kind of dictionary can I use?
Any kind of dictionary, monolingual or bilingual, is welcome as long as there are no handwritten notes in it. We suggest that you bring a reasonable number of dictionaries (one-volume dictionaries are easier), ones you know well and can use easily and fast.
- monolingual (English-English)
- bilingual (e.g. English-Hungarian, Hungarian-English)
- thesaurus, dictionary of synonyms, idioms, phrasal verbs etc.
- printed (no electronic or online dictionaries can be used)
- without any handwritten notes
Tips on dictionary use in each section of the exam
- You can use a dictionary throughout the whole test. Most candidates will use bilingual dictionaries, even at B2 level, which is fine. However, at C1 level, you should aim to be using a monolingual one.
- Suggestion: Use your dictionary to look up words in the questions, instructions if you are unsure of them. In the reading texts, only look up words which you think are important for completing the task successfully (you will find them in the sections of the text where the answer to a question is “hidden”). Before deciding to use a dictionary for a word or phrase in the texts, try to guess its meaning by using the context around it. This technique is faster than looking up words.
- Remember, you have only limited time in the Reading test, so choose carefully the words or phrases which you really do need to look up.
- You can use a dictionary throughout the whole test.
- Suggestion: Use the dictionary only if the task or situation itself is not clear enough. When writing the text, try not to look up too many words, since you need the time to work out how to express yourself. But when you have finished writing, you could check certain words, phrases quickly with a dictionary.
- While the recording is being played, you mustn’t use your dictionary. You can use the dictionary after the recording, during the extra 5 minutes when you are transferring your answers to the Answer Sheet.
- Suggestion: Use the dictionary to look up words in the instructions and questions to see if you have understood the task(s) correctly.
- Don’t try to write down unfamiliar words from the listening texts, and then try to look these up in the dictionary in the last 5 minutes. Use the dictionary instead, to check what you think you know, but you are not quite sure about.
- You can use a dictionary during the ten-minute preparation period you have for one Task 2 (B1 & B2: Picture Story; C1: Presentation) at all levels of the Euroexam.
- Suggestion: Think about the task (e.g. the story) and note down key words (e.g. verbs, nouns, most important adjectives, linking words) you will need to tell the story. If you think you can deliver the task without looking up any words or phrases, do not feel that you have to use the dictionary. Only use it if you need a word which is essential to complete a task successfully.
- Don’t look up and use new and difficult words and expressions that you don't know how to use.