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A2 Exam Help

Cheating in an exam

Cheating in an exam isn’t something I’d ever encourage, but if you’re going to cheat, you need at least to be sure that the person whose answers you’re copying knows more than you. So we can only envy any would-be cheater who was lucky enough to be sat next to Liz Sharma in the A2 exam and managed to peep over her shoulder when she wasn’t looking. Liz is the host of Talk The Streets, the popular YouTube series and she recently took the exam as part of a citizenship application and vlogged about it. Anyway, I know one of the most frequent questions I get is about where to find exam resources so I am officially designating this video as pretty flipping useful. A lot of what she says backs up what I said in my previous posts about the form of the exams but she’s obviously much more advanced than I am now, let alone how I was when I did my first exam. That means she’s got a bit more detachment from the stress-factor, which allows her to be cool and calm about the advice she gives, whereas I think my blog posts probably read like someone who has just escaped from being held hostage!

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I Hold In My Hand A Piece Of Paper

I was asked if I have a copy of past exam papers. Sadly, no I don’t because I scribbled answers on them all during revision and then recycled them when I finished the exam. There are a few scattered around the web but it’s not always easy to find them because they could be on pages of any language, not just english or portuguese. Here are the ones I know about:

Firstly, straight from a boca do cavalo, there are samples of the three sections of the paper, including an audio file of the compreensão oral test on the University of Lisboa’s site (click on the name of the exam you want to take and scroll down to the “Exemplo do exame”) . The audio part is essential. As I’ve said in my descriptions of the tests in other blog posts, you definitely need to do some practice with this and figure out your strategy for reading the questions and answering them while listening in the very short time available. They play each one to you twice, but the amount of time for each one is pretty small, so it’s not the sort of thing you can just wing it through.

This site, Ensino Basico, has some dummy exam papers for levels A1, A2 and B1. They don’t look like official documents but they seem pretty realistic and they have sound files too, which is great.

This site has some different specimens of three of the four sections. The page is in italian but the papers themselves are in portuguese of course so it doesn’t matter. If you scroll down, there are three links in red. You can use ctrl+F to search for “interazione” if you want to go straight to it. No audio files, sadly.

Google also turns up a few if you are prepared to sift through the various results a bit.

This one from TELC is a pretty professional looking B1 test template. It’s not quite in the same format as the official exam but it has a similar level and some of the same exercises, at least. It feels a bit wrong that I can see it. I think these exam templates are supposed to be for sale, and I’m not sure if they even realise that this one is searchable via Google, but it is so take full advantage, I say.

This one purports to be a B1 test. It’s definitely not in the format used for the official CAPLE/DEPLE exams but it might be something extra if you need more practice.

If you want to take this to the next level, I’d advise getting one of the books of exam papers. Here’s the one that covers A2, B1 and B2, for example

You can get it online from Bertrand and download the audio files here by entering the ISBN number (9789897524622) and publisher (Lidel). Bertrand also sell a book of B2 test papers with an accompanying CD from the same company called Exames de Portugues B2, Preparacao e Modelos which might be useful if you are looking at intermediate level, but bear in mind that it covers several different flavours of B2 level test including DIPLE Escolar, which is the test given to school-age children, Celpe-Bras, the brazilian equivalent of DIPLE and half a dozen others I don’t even recognise. It’s not specific to the standard CAPLE test framework, in other words, so although it is quite chunky, it may not be as useful as it seems.

The hardest thing to simulate is the fourth part of the test, “produção e interação orais”. You should probably work with a portuguese language teacher if you’re not already, or at the very least ask a portuguese friend to grill you to develop your conversation skills. Think about how to talk about yourself, practice talking about your favourite aspect of portuguese culture – food, music, books, and practice just looking at photographs and thinking about how you would describe them if you had to. It isn’t as long or as scary as you think it’ll be but it’s definitely worth getting used to that environment.

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I Passed (Just…)


If you have been following my witterings for a while now (unlikely, I know, but possible) you might remember that I took the pre-intermediate Portuguese exam (“DEPLE”) in May and passed it pretty well, and then in November tried the Intermediate (“DIPLE”) exam but wasn’t too confident of passing because I got tongue-tied during the produção oral. Well, much to my surprise, I managed to pass it anyway, albeit with a not-so-great mark (just “suficiente” instead of the “bom” I got for the earlier one)

Viva! Não chumbei!

OK, well, not great but better than I had feared, so now I just need to knuckle down and work toward the first of the two advanced exams in late 2017, assuming the world hasn’t been destroyed in the flames of a war provoked by Donald Trump’s coked-up 3AM tweets. I will need a full year to prepare, I think, because I have some catching up to do on the intermediate material.

The next exam apparently includes things like appreciation of poetry, and the produção oral is longer and recorded on *gulp* video instead of audio.

Posted in Portuguese

O Consulado. 

Fui ao consulado ontem para levantar o meu certificado DEPLE. Os empregados falaram inglês comigo. Senti que devi responder em português mas estava preocupado. Se desse um erro, talvez não mo dariam. Afinal, quando já estava seguramente na minha mão suada, gritei “obrigado” e “até Novembro” e “adeus” e fui-me embora*

*= or “bazei” is a calão equivalent. 

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Os Resultados

Well, they said I wouldn’t get the resultados until Setembro, but it’s only July and the angels have wafted the good news to me on their wings – I have passed the DEPLE exam! There’s a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge. I worked harder for this than I did for any of my University modules, or for anything, really, since my “A” Levels in 1852, and I couldn’t be more proud!

Update: Apparently the classificação: bom means I got between 70 and 84%. That’ll do me. 

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Lying to Examiners for Fun and Profit

Reflecting on my exam experience, I had another idea that might be of use to potential CAPLE candidates: Lie.

Lie through your teeth!

Lie like a lying liar who lies!

Embrace your inner Jeffrey Archer!

What do I mean by this? Well, sometimes questions come up about issues in life that are tricky to explain. Sometimes it’s better to not explain those things and instead just simplify the whole answer. For example, I had already decided that if they asked me “Tem animais de estimação?” I was going to say no. OK, I can talk about the guinea pigs (“A minha família e eu tínhamos alguns porquinhos da Índia. Eram muito fofinhos, mas só viveram até aos cinco anos.” etc) but there was no way I was going to tell them that hoje em dia we have stick insects. Every time I’ve mentioned stick insects in Portuguese it has resulted in bafflement and me needing send pictures and explain that, no, I’m not talking about termites or locusts or anything else. It’s a guaranteed recipe for confusion and it’s just not worth the hassle.

During the exam today, I mentioned that I was born in Edimburgo. The invigilator asked did I ever go back there to visit. Now, as it happens, we are planning to go back quite soon. Why? Well, the truth is that A Minha Esposa had intended to do the Edinburgh Marathon but she had a cold during peak training times and then some other things came up and all in all, she wasn’t fully prepared, so she dropped out, but we’d already booked accommodation at mate’s rates  so we decided to…

Now, do I want to start explaining this, off the cuff in an exam? If it were a lesson, I might have a go. I could probably pull it off but it’s a complicated sentence with far too much potential for getting snookered by grammar, so I just lied and said she was going to do the Marathon. That’s a much easier sentence. I can do that, easily. Go!

As I was leaving, she offered these words of encouragement

Verificaremos que a sua esposa terminou a maratona. Se não, o Senhor Colin está desclassificado.

I’m not sure what it means, but I think she was wishing us a happy holiday.


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Este é o Verdadeiro Teste

I’m writing this on the way home from the DEPLE (Portuguese B1) exam at the embassy in Knightsbridge, feeling slightly frazzled. I thought I’d jot down what I can remember while I can still remember it because – let’s face it – knowing what I’m like, that won’t be long. Maybe it will be helpful to future students. There isn’t much material out there telling you what it’s like to take the test, after all.


The embassy is an impressive building, as you would expect, with grandfather clocks and all kinds of fancy stuff in the hall and big stacks of Super Bock tucked away in side rooms. The staff are all Portuguese of course, but speak very good English to guests. I had been prepared to speak to the receptionist in Portuguese but he detected my Anglo Saxon demeanour and went straight into English mode.

I wasn’t expecting there to be many fellow students, but I was a bit startled to find I was the only one! I sat in a room, opposite a very friendly and helpful embassy official who handed me the papers and occasional glasses of water. There were textbooks and teaching materials all over the place. I believe they do lessons for expat children, so I guess that’s what those were for.

All the usual exam rules apply: read the question carefully before you start and try not to spill a glass of water on the answer sheet. I stuck to these rules… Mostly.

The first part of the exam was as expected: a series of multiple choice questions based on written texts. Easy enough. I didn’t make great use of my time, unfortunately, and had to rush a bit at the end, but that’s OK. This is by far my best subject.

Next up is a written exercise: write an email and a note based on a scenario they give you. The best technique here is to reuse as much of the question text as possible, just changing the verb endings. They’ve already constructed the sentences for you so why would you want to rewrite it from scratch. Thanks Mr Bennett, secondary school French teacher, for that advice; it got me about 20% of the word limit and then I had to start thinking, and it went reasonably well, I think. One thing to remember is that you don’t really have enough space for the 120-140 words they ask for, so keep your writing small and neat or you’ll end up like me, having to cram the last ten words into a centimetre of remaining space. I’m exaggerating… Actually, no, I’m not. There’s plenty of time though, so don’t forget to use it to go back and check your concordância.

On to part 3. This was the biggest shock for me. Up to now, I had done pretty well in all the “modelos” by allowing myself time to read the questions. Now, in the exam, the first three recordings each allowed one minute for the student to read the questions, but that’s not really enough, and the remaining 5 recordings didn’t allow any time at all. I was trying to read and listen at the same time, got hopelessly muddled and the result was a bit of a mess, I think. If you’re about to take the test, you should consider doing some speed tests, trying to cope with information rushing at you in a flood and strategies for coping with lack of time. Another tip I can give you is to do with the sound quality. The office isn’t noisy but it’s an old building and the acoustics aren’t great. Add to that the traffic noise the general quality of the recordings themselves, and a couple of people wandering in and out and you’ve got a recipe for distraction. When I do the next one, I’m going to ask if I can use headphones to shut out external sounds and see if that helps. I would suggest you consider doing the same if you are planning to take the exam. As for me, in the interval between the third and fourth sections, I went to the casa de banho and cursed the fact that embassies have bars on all the windows so I wasn’t able to escape. When I got back to the room my hands were shaking.

The final section is a ten minute conversation with the examiners. The modelos I’ve done have all had three components to the “expressão oral” but, to my intense relief, in the real thing, they had dispensed with the other two! Yippee!

I had spent the last couple of weeks working on conversation generally, and the last two days cramming intensely for the 1:1 questions, and it paid off in bucket loads. I’m sure I made mistakes but I flew through it, spoke fairly fluently, managed a couple of jokelets and a couple of expressões idiomáticas (examiners bloody love those, whatever the language might be). Best of all, I resisted my natural inclination to improvise and get myself into convoluted subclauses with no way out. I stuck to the sentences I had practised, kept it simple and it went very well indeed.

I must say, the invigilator was really helpful in the conversation. Obviously she didn’t actually help, but she made me feel very at ease and gave lots of positive feedback to let me know that, yes, I was still making sense and not burbling. That sort of thing makes a big difference, because if you lose confidence in that situation it’s quite difficult to get back on track.

All in all, I think I did pretty well,in spite of the setbacks in the third section. I don’t know how picky they are, or what the marking criteria are but I have a good feeling about it. Unfortunately, I won’t find out for sure until September.



When it was all over, I thanked the invigilator and went to a fancy-schmancy café for a fancy-schmancy sandwich and some well-earned beer*.




*=Peroni, not Super Bock. Yes, I was tempted but their security was too tight.

Posted in English

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

I’m counting down the hours now. My exam is tomorrow morning. I’m wondering what I can do to plug the biggest, most obvious holes in my language skills in the gaps between bouts of doing my day job. Aside from an hour talking to a friend via Skype, I’m thinking I should run through irregular verbs for half an hour or so, rehearse the answers to some of the key questions from the oral expression part of the exam and do some rounds of Memrise.

More importantly, tomorrow, I need to be up early and warm my brain up. I have noticed that if I speak Portuguese for a while it churns up the mud and sludge at the bottom of my brain and allows the words to float to the surface. The exam is at 10AM so I will need to try and cram in an hour of doing something difficult like writing a short essay or saying answers to questions out loud – actually producing language – or I’ll be stuffed when I get into the exam room.

The Portuguese embassy is only about 7 or 8 miles away so I could ride my bike there in the sunshine, but I think I’m going to go by train so I can rehearse my answers to the questions on there. So if you’re on the District Line tomorrow and there’s some bloke telling everyone, in a loud, clear voice that “Tenho dois irmãos. Sou o mais velho. O meu irmão do meio vai casar este verão…” that’ll be me.

Posted in Portuguese

Vêm Os Brasileiros

2a696675cb838a66889464a5cdef3e36[Warning – Uncorrected Text = Likely to be a total disaster]

Na semana passada, faço um exame modelo de Português Nível B1. Havia um exercício de gramática e… que horror!  Tive quinze por cento! Pedi a minha professora ajudá-me compreender as regras. Ela explicou que este modelo era um “CELPE-Bras” (Português de Brasil) e por isso muitas regras não aplicavam a Português de Portugal. Depois de fazer correcções, a minha nota nova foi… sessenta e cinco por cento! Isto não é tanto mal!

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Um… The… Um… Exam…

Just eight days now. It’s scary! I’ve been having extra lessons to raise my spoken language game from “horrifying” to merely “awful”. One of the things I’ve found helpful is Amolto Call Recorder for Skype. I’ve been using it to record my calls so I can listen to them later and get a second shot at my teacher’s wisdom (with her permission of course!)

Unfortunately, the results have been a little demoralising. I can’t believe how much time I spend just saying “Ummmm”.

So… there’s a long way to go.