How to pass English for the ESOL SELT B1 certificate for a Skilled Worker visa

A familiar IT specialist was going to apply for a British visa. Among other documents, for applying for a Skilled Worker visa, he needed a B1 certificate, which he did not have and he had to urgently prepare for the exam. So he turned to me as an English teacher. I share the collected data, my recommendations if you are going to take SELT B1, and the personal experience of my friend. Attached screenshots are taken from LanguageCert’s Listening/Reading/Writing/Speaking walkthrough videos that are available here and here. Mock exam materials, including audio materials and answers, can be downloaded from link.

Enrollment, exam structure and timing

You can register at any of the centers here. The exam consists of two blocks (reading / listening / writing and oral part) and in Armenia takes place at the American University of Armenia. You must select a date separately for both parts. A friend signed up for the exam a month before the exam. He chose the time slots to complete all parts in one day and paid $235 with an online card.

The exam tests 4 language skills, of which two are passive: reading, listening and two active: writing and speaking. All skills must be developed in a balanced way: if one of the skills does not get enough points, the exam will not be counted.

Both blocks are held online on a computer with headphones in the language laboratory: open-space with separate tables and computers for each student. The oral part is an interview with a certified instructor. Topics are based on daily situations and practical experience of an adult.

General advice: When preparing, download the mock exam materials, take a timer and go through all parts of the first block, respecting the time allotted for each part. It is better to analyze your level of English proficiency in advance and work hard on the skill that is “lame”.

First block:
Listening – 30 minutes, Reading and Writing – 2 hours 10 minutes (without a break).

Second block: Oral part (Speaking) – 12 minutes.

listening

Consists of four parts and includes 26 questions. Each part is given to listen twice.

Tip: While the electronic voice is talking about general information, skim through the questions and tune in to the topic that the situations will be about. This will help you better focus on possible answers. If you didn’t hear something, trust your intuition, rely on the general logic and those words that you understood.

An example of one task from the first part. You will hear a suggestion and choose the most appropriate option from the options below:

a) I’ll be right there. b) Yes, it’s been fun. c) It isn’t this evening.

Second part example. You will hear the conversation and answer the question according to its content:

Why does the man want to help with his ticket?
a) He wants to change it. b) He has paid too much. c) There are no seats.

Third part example. You will hear information and you will need to enter the correct details in the appropriate fields. Attention: the number of words is from one to three and no more. For example, in this case, information about the organization is given and it is required to write the time of its opening. You write: at 11.

Fourth part example. Another conversation and answer to the question:

Which subject is Katya most concerned about?
a) history. b) Science. c) Geography.

Reading

It also consists of four parts and includes 26 questions. Below are examples of all parts.

Example of the first task from the first part
Example of the first task from the first part
Second part example

Second part example

Third part example
Third part example
The beginning of the text to the fourth part
The beginning of the text to the fourth part

Tip: try to read the whole text first to understand the general meaning. Try to find keywords that give the correct answer. Please note that in the fourth part, you can only write three words as an answer.

Letter

The exam involves writing two letters: personal and official. Remember that letters are written in a different style, and this is taken into account when evaluating. In both letters, it is desirable to follow the principle of “5 paragraphs”. For each question or proposed topic, write 2-3 sentences. Avoid repeating words, use synonyms. This is valid for the oral part as well. One word can be used by you a maximum of 2-3 times.

The task for each letter indicates the minimum and maximum number of words. If you write less, the score will be lowered. The exam is taken on a computer and you will have a word counter in front of you: you don’t have to count yourself.

In a personal letter Better to use phrasal verbs. You must demonstrate that your pen friend is perceived by you as a real person with whom you have lived a lot of time and have something to remember. For example, write something like: “Remember how we fought shoulder to shoulder in Diablo?”. Answer Sample #1 and answer number 2.

An example of a personal letter task: Write a letter to a friend about your favorite day in the year and suggest what you could do together on this day. Write between 100 – 120 words.

In an official letter we use the official style, at the end we write “Best regards, yourName”. If you don’t have enough strength to prepare, just rewrite the examples of letters (preferably two or three times): at least something will remain in your head and will definitely pop up during the exam. Sample official letter.

Formal writing task
Formal writing task

Oral part (speaking)

It also consists of four parts: personal information, situational role-play, exchange of information and opinions, and reflection on a topic chosen by the instructor.

The first part is the presentation. Your interlocutor will say: “Hello. My name’s … Can you spell your family name for me, please?” and ask: “Where are you from?” And also offer to talk on some topic, for example, about films:

  • What was the last film you watched?

  • Do you have a favorite film actor or director? (Who?)

  • What types of films do you like best?

  • Are there any kinds of film you don’t enjoy watching? (Why?)

The second part is role-playing situations, for example, the instructor will offer to present the following: “You’re behind me in a queue at a shop. You have one thing in your basket, and you’re in a hurry. you start”. The main thing is to feel comfortable and willingly join the game. Sometimes it can be surprisingly enjoyable, depending on the topic and the instructor. A nice instructor named Sophia suggested to my friend that they act out the situation of going to the cinema.

The third part is a discussion on a specific topic, for example, in the case of the screenshot, this is the creation of a school magazine. Here it is important to be able to show that you know how to ask the interlocutor questions, involve him in a conversation and analyze his answers. On one topic, several possible situations will be proposed, and it is advisable to have time to speak at least four of them, without focusing on the first one. Imagine that you are a participant in a brainstorm, and the instructor is your colleague with whom you are discussing options for solving a problem.

In the fourth part, you alone speak on a certain topic for a minute and a half, for example: “Your favorite holiday place”. You will have 30 seconds to jot down key ideas or words to help you orient yourself with a marker before the instructor asks you to start speaking.

Tip: the pace of speech should be balanced – it is better to avoid speaking hastily at the beginning, and then shut up. The pause cannot last more than 5 seconds. Use simple phrases and supplement them with memorized introductory constructions and words (linking words). When preparing for an exam, be sure to talk, take the example of the exam, and discuss with someone, even with a pet. If your speech rate is not fast enough and you often get lost, then practice: as soon as you stop talking, start bending the fingers of one hand. Gathering your fingers into a fist, say at least something from the list of prepared phrases (you can write in advance on a piece of paper and read from it), for example: “What would (or could) I say?”, “That’s an interesting question. Let me think”. If you feel lost, say: “Let me put in another way” and start expressing your thoughts in a different way.

Experience of passing at the American University of Armenia

When you pass in Yerevan, you drive up to the Institute at 40 Baghramyan Avenue half an hour before the exam. You can get to the final station of the Druzhba metro station, either by buses 8, 35, 74 from the center, or walk from the Cascade in about 15 minutes. At the reception, they will check your passport and tell you the number of the office where you can go for delivery. In the office there is a “dressing room” with a turnkey storage room where you can leave your things. You will be checked with a metal detector and asked to show your pockets. You can also leave a bottle of water here.

An assistant will guide you to your desk and help you set up the equipment. There are noise-canceling headphones, small boards and markers are given to them for handwritten notes. The exam takes place on a computer, where you check the checkboxes with your choice. If you wish, you can return to previous answers and change the checkbox. During the written block of the exam, you can raise your hand and ask the assistant for permission to leave.

Exam results will be available in a month. My friend got the following marks: 50/50 Speaking, 41/50 Listening, 45/50 Reading, 34/50 Writing. These numbers indicate a successful delivery. Good luck to you in getting your certificate in English!

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