Everyday English and CELPIP: 5 Key Facts
CELPIP is a test of everyday English. Test takers will benefit greatly from practice, guidance, and assessment rooted in solid understanding of what this means—and doesn’t mean. This post discusses key features of everyday English and suggests ways to incorporate them into your class.
- Everyday English is used in family, community, and workplace contexts.
CELPIP tasks and content replicate interactions and situations that are commonly encountered in daily life. Learners will therefore benefit from exposure to the broadest possible variety of these. Being familiar with the test tasks yourself will allow you to choose applicable materials and activities.
Importantly, some Writing and Speaking tasks require role play, such as explaining a policy to a customer at a clothing store, or emailing the seller of a used car to ask for more details. Test takers often worry about addressing daily life situations they haven’t personally encountered. By including plenty of brainstorming practice and strategies in your course, you will help them recognize that they can always use their experience, knowledge, and imagination to come up with ideas and vocabulary. For example, they may never have worked at a clothing store, but they have certainly experienced shopping for clothes and participating in retail interactions, and they’ve probably seen all kinds of customer service scenes in TV shows and movies. They may not own a car, but they can still imagine what features might be attractive to them in a car of their own and what questions they would ask before buying one. Test takers do have the information they need—they just don’t always realize it!
- Everyday English does not include specialized academic or business content.
Although some CELPIP tasks relate to workplace contexts, completing them effectively never requires business world experience or expertise. CELPIP doesn’t include such tasks as interpreting financial data, reading highly technical material, or listening to meetings on specialized topics. Likewise, CELPIP is not a test of academic English. Reading and Listening tasks never take the form of academic text or lectures, Speaking tasks are not subject-based presentations to an audience, and neither Writing task is an essay question.
Your class will echo the “everydayness” of CELPIP if you choose audio and texts created for the general public and productive skills tasks accessible to people from all backgrounds. With this said, CELPIP test takers should know that they are welcome to use any relevant ideas and tone-appropriate vocabulary they wish in their Speaking and Writing responses. While academic or business experience is unnecessary, there is no need to forbid or discourage using it to complete tasks.
- Everyday English involves a range of levels of formality.
Test takers sometimes believe that since CELPIP is a test of everyday English, it won’t include any formal content. This is untrue. Formal communication is part of everyday life, and part of CELPIP as well. Listening and Reading passages range from casual chats and emails to news reports and opinion pieces. Writing and Speaking tasks take place within a variety of contexts, and test takers should be guided to read the instructions for each one carefully and adjust their register to suit the context and their relationship with the addressee(s). One minimal-prep activity on this subject is to have learners practice coming up with synonyms and paraphrases of familiar audio or text. If the original is more formal, have them think of more casual ways to express a selection of its key words, phrases, and sentences, and vice versa for more casual source content.
- Everyday English is most effective when it is coherent, clear, and precise.
From time to time, we’re all vague, repetitive, or sloppy in our writing or speaking—especially in casual and familiar contexts. However, as these are not features of effective communication, they are also not qualities of high-scoring CELPIP Writing and Speaking responses. All test takers, regardless of their language level, should strive to demonstrate the full range of their strengths while keeping weaknesses to a minimum. This means producing organized responses that express clear main ideas supported with relevant specific details. It also means avoiding excessive repetition of ideas, words, and grammatical structures. Introducing the Speaking and Writing performance standards and using them for peer and instructor assessment will familiarize your class with all of the factors that contribute to each test taker’s productive skill scores.
- “Everyday English” doesn’t mean “easy English.”
Full participation in everyday life in any language means understanding and using complex grammar, vocabulary, and concepts in that language. Accordingly, CELPIP includes some challenging Listening and Reading content; likewise, high-scoring Writing and Speaking responses include complex grammar, precise and accurate word choice, and meaningful, well-developed ideas. In addition to working with a range of sources in your prep course, you can encourage test takers to work through the two free practice tests to get a sense of the test content, or even incorporate practice test completion into your lessons. Analysis of sample responses is a useful way to familiarize test takers with the typical degree of fluency, accuracy, and complexity demonstrated at various levels. Two sample Speaking and Writing responses at every CELPIP level can be found in the Score Comparison Chart here.