6 ways to adapt grammar and vocabulary exam tasks – Part 2

This post is a follow-up to my previous post on 6 ways to adapt grammar and vocabulary exam tasks. I was kindly asked to provide some examples of how I’ve used the games and activities suggested in that post, so I’m sharing a few examples of ways I’ve used the activities I wrote about. I have included examples of 5 of the activities I suggested as I’m planning to write a separate post with examples of different ways in which my learners have adapted exam tasks at a later point. As you will also see, I’ve adapted sample exam tasks for some of the activities, please note however that the following tasks can be adapted and used for different exams as well as for general language practice, review or consolidation purposes.

Groups of Four: As I mentioned in my previous post , I often adapt multiple-choice cloze exam tasks into a Groups of Four game inspired by the traditional Connect Four board game. In its simplest form, the game is a 4×4 table similar to the one below which I complete with either four of the sets of the answer options for the task’s gaps or a combination of two/three of the answer options for a gap and one/two words of my choice. There are two main reasons why I love using this activity. The first one is because it increases my learners’ context awareness, especially in those cases where they realize that words might be synonymous in meaning, but are not necessarily used interchangeably in practice. The second is that it can be easily adapted or extended to practise or review topic vocabulary, collocations, as well as phrasal verbs or idioms.The example task below is a review task I’ve designed for my C1+ learners on words that are nearly synonymous or easily confused and which might appear in exam tasks of this level.


Riddles for open cloze tasks: I have been using riddles for open cloze tasks for two main reasons. First of all, riddles are engaging and invite learners to use their creative and critical thinking skills while they also become more aware of the word/structure types (e.g. auxiliaries, prepositions, incomplete verb tenses etc.) the task asks for. Secondly, complex riddles help learners notice the broader role a lexical item might serve as part of a phrase or idiomatic expression and draws their attention to the words following or preceding a gap as clues to a text’s coherence and cohesion. For this task, I’ve used four of the examples taken from Part 2 of the Use of English paper C2 sample test available on the Cambridge English website and have designed the three word game tasks I suggested in my previous post which range from simpler to more challenging word puzzle riddles. The first task is a word order game in which learners are given the answers, but in mixed letter order whereas in the second task learners are given riddles the answers to which are the words to be used in the selected task gaps. There are several websites where you can find riddles (such as Riddles and Braingle) or create your own riddles using or adapting the prompts of an AI tool such as ChatGPT. As the words to be used form part of expressions or idioms, I’ve also created a Rebus puzzle using my favourite online Rebus creator tool including the words appearing before and after each gap. Since there might be additional phrases or idiomatic expressions in the text, you can extend the last task into an additional Rebus puzzle task. For example, the task I used for this activity contained the idiom “kill time”, so I created a follow-up Rebus puzzle task on five more time-related idioms (the idioms are: behind the times, a race against time, in the nick of time, in the long run, around the clock).

Find the extra word and Scavenger Hunt examples: These are two of the many activities I use for key word transformation or sentence reformulation tasks. For the example tasks below I’ve used a selection of the Task 4 examples featured in the sample Use of English paper in the B2 First for Schools Handbook. For the first task, learners are given the original and rewritten sentence and are asked to identify the extra word in each answer. The extra word is often a grammatical or lexical item that might cause confusion to learners and it usually represents an area of common mistakes we have worked on before through class and individual feedback (as is for example the extra “had” in the first example which most of my learners added when formulating modal perfect forms). Once learners find the extra word, you can ask them to work in pairs and find two more ways to express the original sentence’s meaning in other words. This very simple addition to the activity helps learners practise their paraphrasing skills which is the focus of the task itself. Scavenger Hunts are usually more time-consuming, they are a great way however of introducing learners to the task in a fun, more creative way and also practising their critical and problem solving skills. If you’re planning to create a Scavenger hunt, you can either include clues to the task’s key words for each gap or give learners clues to classroom objects around the class. If you decide to go for the second option, you can either include additional riddles for the key words of the task as you can see in the examples below or riddles for part of the missing sentence.


Spot the liar: This variation of the “2 Truths and 1 Lie” game can be used with learners of all ages and levels and as I mentioned in the post I feel it is a great way to extend grammar and vocabulary tasks or review previously presented grammar and vocabulary. Before the game, I prepare a set of paper or digital word cards (you can see some of these cards below) and a set of “Use it correctly” / “Use it incorrectly” game cards. I do not unfortunately have photos of the game in action, but it is important to create 2 or three copies of the same word card depending on how many learners will play in each round as all players play with the same word/structure. I always provide the definition/use of the word/structure to relieve some of the anxiety learners might be feeling before they play as well as to help them remember how the word/structure is used before they create their own sentences. We usually play the game by having two teams of learners and asking 2 or 3 learners of the first team to decide on which card they’d like to play with. I make sure cards are numbered so that I give the extra copy of the same card to the other players too. Once the cards have been given, I hand out one of the “Use it correctly”/”Use it incorrectly” game cards. Depending on which game card learners have been given, one or two of the learners have to use or define the word/structure correctly while the other learner has to use or define the word/structure incorrectly. For example, if learners have the word “competitive”, one/two of them have to create a sentence that represents the meaning of the word correctly while the other learner needs to make a sentence where competitive is not used correctly. The goal of each team’s members is to “spot the liar” and say which one of their classmates is using the word/structure incorrectly and share why they think so.

Last but not least…

Option cards: As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m planning on creating another post with ways that the same exam task has been adapted using my 4 option cards below. I’ve been using the cards both in their paper as well as in a digital format with all my learners for years now and they can be adapted to any coursebook or class task you want to regardless of whether it’s exam focused or not.


References: Cambridge University Press and Assessment, 2023. B2 First for schools Handbook for teachers for exams. [pdf] Available at: <https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/167792-b2-first-for-schools-handbook.pdf>, p.20.

Cambridge English C2 Proficiency Preparation, 2022. C2 Proficiency Sample Paper 1- Reading and Use of English v2. Available at:  < https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/proficiency/preparation/>, p.4.

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