One member of the BEBC Review Panel reviews the New Advanced Expert Student’s Book


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This title is specifically for the 2015 Cambridge Advanced exam.

Title:  Advanced Expert Third Edition Student’s Book  

Authors: Jan Bell and Roger Gower

Publisher:  Pearson

Reviewed by: Jon Clayden, Academic Director, Eurocentres London    

 © Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement

Criterion Grade: 5/4/3/2/1 Comments (5 being the highest grade and 1 the lowest)
Originality         3 This new edition of what was previously called Advanced Expert CAE has been released in time for the new 2015 exam specifications. The changes to the exam include the Reading and Use of English papers being combined and as a consequence it will be 45 minutes shorter (good for bottoms but perhaps not for stress levels). In addition a few new tasks have been added in different parts of the exam. However, the changes are not at all radical and the exam material will be very familiar to teachers who have experience of the CAE (now renamed Advanced).

Advanced Expert claims to have been ‘designed in a modular way’ (TB p4) so that it is ‘flexible’. Teachers can potentially pick units relevant to their classes or cherry-pick lessons to suit student’s needs rather than plod through units 1 to 10 in sequence (some students may be uncomfortable with the non-linear approach though – particularly certain nationalities).

The coursebook is most suitable for use with a teacher in class but learners could potentially use it for self-study too – the audio CDs are included but the Teacher’s book is needed for the answers.

Practicality         5 There are 10 quite lengthy units each with a good balance of material focussing on different papers and language input. Throughout the book there are boxes labelled ‘Expert Strategy’ giving sensible exam tips and advice such as this from page 69:

Make sure that every key point is backed up and possibly exemplified and that you avoid irrelevance, repetition and deviation

(…not as easy as it sounds – as perhaps this review demonstrates)

Some of the advice in the ‘Expert Strategy’ boxes can feel a bit like nagging at times and is occasionally stating the obvious, for example: “Be aware of errors that you make regularly and try to avoid them” (p142)

I’m not sure if I agree with the following tip concerning part 1 of the speaking paper (p33):

Invent opinions if necessary, but react naturally. Show enthusiasm and keep talking…

How easy is it for students taking the exam to fake enthusiasm for invented opinions? Would it not be better for students to try to express what they really think? I’m not sure.

There is an excellent writing section at the back of the coursebook. This includes model answers for each type of writing task that has good examples of what to include flagged up. There is also a useful ‘writing checklist’ to remind learners of what they need to consider when writing and helpful sections on features such as linking devices, punctuation, and spelling.

Presentation         4 Although the focus in Advanced Expert is very much on exam preparation the coursebook always attempts to engage students with interesting topics and texts and tries to get learners thinking and talking. The ‘Lead in’ section of each unit has been thoughtfully written and has a variety of stimulating tasks. On page 23, for example, students are initially prompted to speak with photos, they are then asked to contextualize certain expressions, and next consider ‘sayings’ and finally answer personal questions such as “Are you the kind of person who gets excited or frightened by change?” (I would imagine at least one of these would intrigue a student/class and kick-start the topic of the unit.)

Vocabulary lessons are well structured, containing a substantial amount of challenging lexis which is then (often) practised with discussion questions and followed by a relevant Use of English lesson. Reading skills lessons are also suitably balanced with a good mix of engaging discussion and response to the text along with a focus on exam strategies, skills development and vocabulary analysis.

The Teacher’s Resource Book includes (the now required) photocopiable activities to supplement mostly vocabulary and grammar lessons in the coursebook. These are the usual mix of crossword, domino, matching, betting and card game activities to help liven up lessons and give learners additional practice.

Overall rating             4

What outstanding strengths/ weaknesses do you feel this title possesses?

Strengths

Easy-to-follow and well balanced with topics and issues that should appeal to a large number of learners from different cultures. Full of useful exam tips and an emphasis on developing students’ awareness of what candidates are assessed on in the exam and improving exam technique. Excellent writing paper reference section.

Weaknesses

Full practice tests, answer key and audio scripts not included in the student’s book.

On which courses do you envisage being able to use this material?

Most suitable for Cambridge Advanced preparation courses or as supplementary material on C1 general English courses.

Other comments

There are online resources available for teachers (unfortunately not released in time for this review) that include editable test material so teachers can adapt tests to their learners.

Interactive whiteboard software will also come out in the near future so that the coursebook pages can be projected. It also includes MP3 audio so that CDs are not required for listening tasks.

© Copyright BEBC REVIEW PANEL 2014 – this review may be reproduced but only with this acknowledgement

This title was reviewed by Jon Clayden, the Academic Director from Eurocentres, London

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