September 1, 2021

The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 6 – Time Management

In today’s episode, we talk about time management and preparing for the CELPIP Test with Brandi and Meaghan, our resident CELPIP Experts.

Show Notes


CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the official CELPIP podcast, where we help test takers get the best possible score they can and support newcomers building a life in Canada. My name is CJ and along with my co-host Chris, we talk to a variety of guests from test-takers, language teachers, and test raters to employment counselors and immigration consultants, just to name a few. We also bring in-house staff on the show to get their perspective. And they’re the people in the company that work behind the scenes to make this self-help test available to you. Hey, Chris, here we are, Episode six. I can’t believe how quickly the weeks have just flown by since we started the podcast. I mean, we’ve been planning to do this for, what, a year? And now suddenly we’re six episodes in.

Chris [00:00:47] Yeah, the time leading up to us getting started felt like forever. But now that we’re doing it, time’s flying by, which is kind of what happens when you prepare for a test.

CJ [00:00:59] Exactly. Excellent Segway to today’s topic. Chris, you’re such a natural.

Chris [00:01:05] Thank you. So you spent all that time getting ready, all those long hours studying and then doing the test itself that just flies by. It can take a lot of discipline to stay in control of the time, both when preparing and when completing a test back when you are a student, how are your time management skills when it came to studying for tests?

CJ [00:01:27] I mean, I guess I was pretty organized, but not right away. Um, you know, there were times where I’d leave everything until the night before it was famous for it and staying up all night studying. But I learned quickly that that wasn’t really the best approach to getting the grades I needed. And I certainly never retained anything that way. Like so not only did I not get the grades I wanted when I did that, but I also didn’t learn anything.

Chris [00:01:54] Oh, yeah, that sounds familiar. I always wish that they taught Time Management School to help us figure out how to schedule our time. And what about when you’re actually writing the tests?

CJ [00:02:05] Uh, what do you mean?

Chris [00:02:07] Well, I don’t know what it was like for you, but back when I was in school, I’d have a two or three hour exam, just like a big booklet of paper with different parts. And there’d be a clock on the wall and somehow you’d have to get through all those pages in the schedule time. It was easy to sometimes spend too much time on one section and not have enough time to finish.

CJ [00:02:29] Oh yeah, that was pretty much the same thing for me. I mean, sometimes the teacher would announce half the halfway point or just shout at us that there’s 20 minutes left or sometimes they just write how much time we had left on the whiteboard.

Chris [00:02:42] Still, the expectations seem to be that the test taker would be able to manage their own time for much of the test. One of the advantages of an online test like felted, is that you always know exactly how much time you have left for each section of the test. There are timers on each screen to help you pace yourself.

CJ [00:03:02] Yeah, that’s true. The timers are super helpful, but it’s also good to have a sense of what to expect in each part of the test.

Chris [00:03:08] Yes, and certainly that’s one of the benefits of doing practice tests. But you know what else is helpful? But having a couple of CELPIP experts giving some tips about how to manage your time on the subject test, which is what we’ve got for our listeners today. We’re going back into the Sopot live archives and revisiting another very popular episode on the topic of time management. It’s hosted by our social media specialist Aswathi and features a conversation with Brandi and Meaghan, our resident CELPIP experts, who listeners probably will know if they have attended some of our webinars.

CJ [00:03:47] Oo experts! That sounds great. So let’s dive in and hear what they’ve got to say.

Aswathi [00:03:57] So why don’t I start with a general one? Since we’re talking about time management, what can you tell us about preparation before the test? How many days to prepare for? And then how many hours do you give us? As much information as you can about preparing for the test.

Brandi [00:04:16] So before we start talking about a specific part of the test, it’s really important for all of us to realistically sit down, see how much time we have to prepare before your scheduled test. So if you’ve got several months, that’s going to affect the way that you plan your study schedule. It also depends on how much you have to study for. So if you are a first language learner and you don’t need to practice your grammar and your sentence structure as much because you have a foundation in that you want to spend more of your time really looking at the structure of the test and how it’s put together if you continue to practice your skills, I would recommend that our test takers set aside the same time every day. Does it mean you have to study every day of the week? I think that would be a bit much because we all need time to relax and absorb our information anyway, but I would recommend possibly three days each week, maybe every other day, set aside an hour or two hours at a time to really go over your content and then the specific English skills that you’re working on. So you might be really targeting rating at first. When you are comfortable with that, you might move on to your speaking and so on. I would recommend maybe focusing on one particular skill at a time and really build that up. That’s just my own study style. You might have different ways. We’re looking at spending at least a couple of months to prepare adequately and possibly more. It really depends on what your current level of English is and what your goals are too.

Aswathi [00:05:47] Great. OK, thank you. That was really good information. I’m not sure if you wanted to add   something to that or just out of turn, but thank you for that. I will go ahead and ask the next question again, so we’re doing general, general time management questions before we get into reading, writing, speaking and listening. I know when you do questions specifically to the section, so please hold on and you will get there as soon as we can. So the second question that I have for you both is about the length. So will there be time or do we have is there the same length of time to complete each part of the test?

Meaghan [00:06:30] No, they are each section has its own links. You’re going to start with listening and then reading and then writing and then speaking, speaking comes last, but it’s actually the shortest part of the test. That’s around 20 minutes. And the other sections are all quite a bit longer. But each one has its own length of time. And also every section of each part of the tests has a preset length of time as well. So as far as time management goes, it’s really important to learn the structure and learn the format of the test. And you can go in already knowing how much time you’re going to have for every single question. So that’s good information to have and bring into the test with you, because it will always build your confidence if you know how much time you have going in and you’ve prepared for that in advance.

Aswathi [00:07:21] Awesome. Thank you for continuing the same point. Do we need to complete the questions in order, or is there a chance for us to make something black and then come back later?

Brandi [00:07:33] That is a good question, and it’s a common one as well. So when you sit down to do this test, you’re always going to have sections in exactly the same order. So as Meaghan just said, you’re speaking would come last year starting off with your listening and so on within each part. So let’s just talk about the listening. For example, there are six different parts or tasks we call them within the listening part of the test. You do have to do each of those tasks in order. So we have to do Listening part one first. We can’t just leave it and skip ahead to part five because we like it best and then go back. So the way the CELPIP test is structured is that you have to complete each of the sections in order. Once the time runs out, the computer will advance automatically to the next screen. Once you’ve gone on to the next screen and the next question or the next part of the test, you can never, ever go back to complete anything you’ve missed or even to change any answers. So within the timeframe within that section. So we’ll take on average your listening sections. You’ll have anywhere from five to eight minutes to answer each, each of those six parts. So if you’re working on listening part one, you’ve got eight minutes to answer approximately eight questions. You do have to do those questions in the order they’re presented. Again, you can never go back and change anything. So just keep an eye on the time within the screen that you’re working on. And once that gets to zero, you have to go on. You don’t have the choice. So I really don’t recommend that our test takers leave anything blank. Sometimes we forget to go back to it within the same screen or sometimes we just run out of time. So although it might be an effective strategy on this test, we really do need to complete the questions in the order that they’re presented to make sure that we get all of our answers in before we move on.

Aswathi [00:09:23] OK, great, that’s good to know. And I hope that that helps a lot of people and then continuing on that, since we’re talking about structure and of the test and the format, when should we use the next button?

Meaghan [00:09:39] Now, I’ll talk about that, so there’s always a next button available, it’ll be in the top right corner of your screen and that is optional. It is always optional to use the next button. And I would say probably most test takers don’t use it at all or don’t use it very often because the test when you run out of time for any part of the test is going to automatically move forward to the next screen. So you never have to move forward in the test before your time is up. If you click next, what’s going to happen is that it will immediately move you to the next screen. You will not bring any extra time with you. So if you finish the question and you had a couple of minutes left, for example, if you finish the first writing task and it was a couple minutes before the time ran out, you would not be bringing those two minutes onto the next writing test. So you’re not bringing extra time into other parts of the test by clicking next. The only thing that you’re doing is making that part of the test a little bit quicker for yourself. I think probably most people don’t use it at all. There’s certainly things you can do with your time, especially when it comes to some of the listening and reading sections where you get all of the questions for a particular section at once and then you can use all of that time to go back and check your answers and just make sure they’re OK with writing. You probably want to spend some time checking your work and making sure that it’s as good as you can get with speaking. Everybody wants all of their prep time, so I don’t think anyone’s clicking next immediately when they get to a speaking screen. I think possibly for listening. Some people might like to use it in the first three parts of listening. You’re going to get the questions one at a time after you’re finished listening to the audio. And I think some people, if they’re very sure about an answer, they might not need that whole 30 seconds. And so they might want to click next to go to the next question more quickly while the audio is still more fresh in their head. So you never have to use it. And it’s absolutely fine if you don’t. But it is there if for any reason you would like to speed onto the next part of the test.

Aswathi [00:11:59] Thank you for that. So not to address the general question on time management. We’re going to go into the reading section now. So, again, if you have questions specific to the reading section please, ask them in the chat below. And if it hasn’t been already addressed, I will make sure that it is. So to start off in the reading part of the test, we don’t have time to read the entire article carefully and then answer all the questions. So is there a way to read quickly?

Meaghan [00:12:31] Yes, so on the reading section of the test, note that there are four different tasks to complete and you have anywhere from about 9 to 13 minutes to complete those tasks. So within that length of time, you will need to skim through the text or the article presented rather quickly, and then you’ll be answering a series of multiple choice type questions. You’ll have on average, about 8 to 11 questions as well. To answer the best piece of advice regarding time management. I can give anyone on any part of the test, not just reading is to have a quick look at the timer at the top of each screen as you’re beginning the part of the test. So you’ll notice exactly how many minutes for that particular section you have. And you’ll also notice right away how many questions you have to answer. You will not have time, as Aswathi mentioned in our question, to read the entire article and slowly and easily and still answer those questions. So in order to complete all the reading questions on the test, you’ll really need to work on your skills of skimming and scanning. So it’s a good recommendation. As you look at your time. Start by skimming through the article very quickly. I would read the first sentence and the last sentence of each paragraph on the screen. And I don’t mean read every single word. I mean skim it by letting your eyes sort of gloss over those sentences and you’ll start to pull out the important words in the sentence. So these are usually your nouns or your things and your verbs as well. So by doing that, you could preview that entire text or skim it through within 30 to even forty five seconds at the most. So that’s going to save you close to ten minutes and to really get into your questions. So when you move over to the questions, I would read the question fairly carefully. You can again skim through the four answer choices for multiple choice and start pulling out your keywords from those answers selections. So then you go back to the text and you start to try to scan through. Now you’re now looking through that text for particular words that mean the same as the words you see in the answers. So once you started to match up those words, you’ll be able to identify the correct answer for each question. Right. So, again, it’s this is not a math test by any stretch. But you know that if you’ve got about ten minutes on the clock and you have 11 questions to answer for multiple choice, you know that you want to make sure you’re answering each question in at least forty five seconds or so. It’s helpful if you can save a minute or so of time or even 30 seconds at the end of each part, just to double-check that you have indeed answered all of your questions. If there was one that you’re not sure about, you might want to go back and reread it and just double-check that your answer is correct. So, again, I myself would not recommend you ever hit the next button on the test. I would save any possible seconds or minutes remaining to double-check. So again, to summarize, skim through your article, identify keywords in your questions and scan the text of the article to find those keywords. That’s the only way to complete all the questions in the text because you will not have time to read every single word on the page as well. You’ll get there with the more you practice, of course, the faster you get and the more efficient you get at the skill.

Aswathi [00:15:53] Great, thank you. And then now that we’re talking about keywords and having to check for them while we’re reading the passage, sometimes like really words that are on higher vocabulary are like people may not understand. It might take them time to get their meaning and that might cause them to worry about running out of time. So is there any way to spend time in this case?

Meaghan [00:16:20] I think with, with higher level words are probably in the reading test, you’re likely to see those kinds of words, especially in the last part of the reading test. And the questions and the tests do get more difficult as you progress through the tests. And so that reading is really it is more difficult than the others. And so if. If you’re struggling with it, it’s that’s why if you’re if you’re not an extremely high level reader, then you’re likely to find that difficult. I think something you can do with words is to teach yourself about prefixes and suffixes. That’s something that can really help you to understand part of the meaning of a word. And also what it’s doing in the sentence, whether it’s a verb or an adjective or not, can really help you to know what purpose it’s serving. And the sentence and the text will often give you clues about the connotation of a word, whether it’s a positive thing or a negative thing. So that’s another clue to watch for something good or bad. But I would say in general, you don’t want to sort of lose your focus on the entire text and all the questions. You don’t want to spend a lot of time getting anxious about one particular word. It’s just not really the best strategy, because that word is unlikely to have an impact on more than one question. So if you’re struggling with something, I would say do your best to either eliminate some responses that you know are incorrect and then make your best guess. You can move on and then come back to that question. If you still have time at the end of that reading sections, leave yourself some time. And maybe if you become more familiar with the rest of the passage, that will give you more help in figuring out that word. But, yeah, there there are going to be difficult words in that section of the test, and that is something to be prepared for. So try not to let it steal your confidence or make you so anxious that you can’t focus on the other questions. Just try to do your best and and keep moving forward.

CJ [00:18:45] OK, well, that was a lot of useful information. What’s to know for you in that episode, Chris?

Chris [00:18:51] I think Brandi gave some great advice about making a really clear study plan. What you dedicate one or two hours a day, three times a week. It takes time for the brain to absorb things, especially anything related to language. Getting ready for a language test isn’t something you want to leave the last minute.

CJ [00:19:11] Right, of course. And what about the duration? Brandi mentioned that for many test takers, it will take at least a couple of months.

Chris [00:19:18] Yes. And she also said that it really very depending on what the test takers English level is when they start preparing. I would say that we find that most test takers seem to need somewhere between one and three months. Taking one of our free practice tests can give test takers some idea of where they are, at least in terms of seeing the listening and reading scores.

CJ [00:19:40] OK, great. And what about managing the time on the actual test?

Chris [00:19:46] Well, I found this episode a great reminder that that’s one of the biggest challenges for test takers of all levels. Sometimes test takers say I could have got a better score if only I had more time. That’s true. If we were given unlimited time to complete tests, we’d all be getting high scores. The fact is that being able to perform within a limited time period is a key aspect of assessing performance. One of the big things that can help is simply knowing how much time you have for each part of the test and where the challenges are going to be for you.

CJ [00:20:20] Right. And that’s where the practice test come in again.

Chris [00:20:24] That’s right. We’ve got two full length free practice tests on our website. They’re also available via CELPIP account. That’s what everybody’s preparation journey should begin. They’ll not only get a sense of the general style and format of the tests, but also the specific amount of time they have for each part.

CJ [00:20:44] Great. And what else do you think our listeners will find useful about Meaghan and Brandy’s advice?

Chris [00:20:49] Oh, lots. Meaghan mentions the next button and that you probably shouldn’t use it, especially since you don’t gain any time in other parts of the test by using it. You need to take your time with each section all the time that you can get. If you do have some extra time after you’ve answered a question, then it’s best to use the time to check your answers. This applies to all sections, but it’s especially important in the writing part. And actually the problem there isn’t that people are using the next button, it’s that they sometimes keep writing until they run out of time and don’t give themselves a few minutes to check their work. It’s normal to make a few mistakes when writing that could be easily corrected if you take the time to look at what you have just written anyway, if you want to hear more about the writing section, check out the rest of this episode. Meaghan has some really important insights into making the best use of your time for  task one and task two writing,

CJ [00:21:48] Yeah, it really was a great episode and as always will include the link to this episode we’re talking about in the show, notes for listeners who would like to hear more about time management tips on all parts of the CELPIP test. Well, that was great. So what have we got planned for next week, Chris?

Chris [00:22:04] Well, next week will be a chance for listeners to build their vocabulary as well as their knowledge of Canadian culture. We’re going to dig into some Canadian expressions.

CJ [00:22:17] Oo, interesting. Well, until then, we wish everyone all the best as they prepare for their test.

Chris [00:22:23] Bye for now!

CJ [00:22:24] Bye, everyone!

I had taken other English language proficiency before, and CELPIP was more relatable to me. All of the questions were situations I was familiar with from daily life, and were like conversations I had experienced personally.
- Chrisna D., CELPIP Test Taker
When I took CELPIP, I found it was like speaking English in real life. You speak every day with your boss and with your friends, and the CELPIP Test represents those every-day, real-life language situations.
- Rafaela B., CELPIP Test Taker