Each day our trainee diligently practices; he only does 20 or 30 minutes at a time and gets easily distracted by the myriad of noise surrounding him. People come and go; they want to buy rice or sugar or oil. Children arrive clutching a 100 kyat note; asking for an exchange of cigarettes or betel nut for their parents. Older people come in with their pipe in situ puffing like a dragon and start bellowing about the intricacies of the latest feud in the village. It’s all very distracting even for me despite the fact that I am not required or able to help sell stuff or engage in conversation.
The first thing to note is that the concentration period was dramatically increased when it was received in one whole block. Instead of having to stop the timer to fetch water or wash dishes or chop the next day’s betel nut for market, every ounce of will power and concentration could be fed directly into the task at hand. We managed a 2.5-hour slot of IELTS which we had not previously achieved. It is important in the preparation for any standardised test to replicate exam conditions faithfully which includes sitting the test in the same way and for the same timings. If you are used to having a break or your brain is programmed to need to walk to the lake between the listening and reading sections of the test, you will struggle on exam day when faced with a long block of tasks.
For me, this dichotomy is positive. We learnt that in exam conditions, this is a candidate who will probably do significantly better due to the favourable silence. That is not to say I I like the constant interruptions of the situation. However, this is reality for this candidate and we can’t do much to increase the similarities to the real exam conditions.
NEH Director of Studies and Teacher Trainer