A. Listen to Mark, Sophie, Diane, and Paul talking about their experiences with exams or tests. Who…?

1   mentions an exam or test that they failed

2   used to find exams stressful

B. Listen again. Choose a, b, or c.

1   Mark had problems with his history O level because…

      a   he didn’t have time to finish the questions.

      b   he hadn’t prepared the right questions.

      c   he had drunk too much coffee the night before.

2   Sophie failed her driving test the first time because…

      a   she didn’t follow the examiner’s instructions.

      b   she didn’t realize that what the examiner asked her to do was a trick.

      c   she stopped somewhere where it wasn’t safe.

3   Diane ‘froze’ in her French oral exam because she…

      a   couldn’t remember the right words.

      b   had told the examiner a lie.

      c   couldn’t understand the examiner’s questions.

4   Paul did badly in his GCSE chemistry…

      a   because he’d done very little work for it.

      b   because his memory failed.

      c   although he thought he’d done well.



Speakers 1 (Mark), 2 (Sophie), and 4 (Paul) failed an exam or test.

Speaker 2 (Sophie) used to find exams stressful.


1 b   2 a   3 b   4 c


I = interviewer, M = Mark, S = Sophie, D = Diane, P = Paul

1   Mark

I   What’s the hardest exam or test you’ve ever taken?

M   My A level physics exam – I didn’t understand at least half the questions.

I   Have you ever done an exam where everything went wrong?

M   I’m afraid so. For a history O level, there were five questions – all short essays. I’d prepared five questions from previous exam papers, but nothing else. So I was gambling that at least three of the questions would come up. But none of them did, so obviously I failed it.

I   How did you usually prepare for a big exam?

M   I remember it generally involved a lot of coffee and late nights!

I   Did you find exams stressful?

M   No, I never got that stressed about exams, but that may have had a negative effect on the results, come to think of it. I was never the world’s best at exams. I usually passed, but the results were never brilliant.

2   Sophie

 What’s the hardest exam or test you’ve ever taken?

S   I think the hardest was probably my driving test – the practical part. I got so nervous each time I just couldn’t drive. In fact, I failed three times before I finally passed.

 Have you ever done an exam where everything went wrong?

S   Yes, in the beginning of my first driving test, I refused to stop where the examiner asked me to stop. I just didn’t think it looked safe and I thought it was a trick – I mean, I thought that he was asking me to do something dangerous, to test me. Anyway, it wasn’t a trick and he wasn’t happy at all.

 How did you usually prepare for a big exam?

S   I used to spend a lot of time writing notes; I probably spent more time making them look nice, using different coloured pens and so on, than I did actually learning the information. But I found it really helpful to stick the notes up on posters all over the house so that I could see them every day.

I   Did exams use to stress you out?

 Yes. I hated exams and used to get very nervous and stressed beforehand. But once the exam had started, I usually relaxed.

3   Diane

 What’s the hardest exam or test you’ve ever taken?

D   I think it has to be the eleven plus because that was the first time I had ever felt any pressure to succeed.

 How did you do?

D   I passed it.

I   Have you ever done an exam where everything went wrong?

D   Yes, my A level French oral exam went horribly wrong. Some friends had said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t say that you’ve been to France, otherwise they’ll expect your French to be quite good’. And so what happened was I got in there and the examiner said, ‘Have you ever been to France?’ in French, and I said ‘Non’, and then I started talking about driving to Gibraltar with my parents. And then the examiner said, ‘Well, how did you manage to drive from the UK to Gibraltar without driving through France?’, at which point I just completely froze and couldn’t say anything else at all! But I guess I’d spoken enough previously, so I passed.

I   How did you usually prepare for a big exam?

D   Well, for literature exams, I used to memorize loads and loads of famous passages from the books we were studying, so I could put them in my answers, and that seemed to work because I passed.

I   How did you usually feel about doing exams?

D   Not great, but I was usually reasonably confident, I’d say.

4   Paul

 What’s the hardest exam or test you’ve ever taken?

P   Probably the exam at the end of the first year of my geography course at university. Not because the questions were very difficult, but because I’d done so little work for it.

 Have you ever done an exam where everything went wrong?

P   Oh yes. I thought I’d done quite well in my GCSE chemistry exam, but I failed it. So something must have gone very wrong.

 How did you usually prepare for a big exam?

P   I used to read notes over and over again, right up till the last possible minute. Yeah, I relied heavily on short-term memory, I think.

 Did exams use to stress you out?

P   Not really, though they probably would now. When I was at school and university, it was just part of life – so not particularly stressful.

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