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Using Comic Strips for EIKEN Pre-1 Interview Practice

EIKEN is a standardized English test Japanese people (both students and adults) can take to see where their level of English may be. More and more Institutions in Japan are using EIKEN as a prerequisite or some form of entrance requirement. This means more students are probably thinking of taking EIKEN, or aiming for higher levels of EIKEN to set themselves apart.

EIKEN tests all 4 skills - reading, listening, writing and speaking. Reading, listening and writing are all done in one sitting, via a written test. Once students pass this, they can advance to the speaking interview test.

Most ALTs will only deal with students taking level 3, pre-2 and level 2 speaking interview. These are usually the most common at a standard, average level Japanese school. This blog has a very good guide on the flow of the interview test for L3 and Pre2 (thought L2 basically has a similar flow, with more difficult questions and a different picture describing activity).

However, you may get a student who may want to do Pre-1 EIKEN every once in a blue moon. Practicing for Pre-1 is quite different than the previous levels of EIKEN, as the difficult increases significantly.

Assuming you are an ALT with some familiarity with EIKEN L2, I will say that the format of Pre-1 is quite similar with L2. Besides the initial reading aloud section scrapped, students will have to attempt hard-mode for the storytelling and hard-mode critical thinking type questions.

My suggestion for this blog only refers to the storytelling portion.

Unlike L2, where the story narration was more about making sentences based on what you see in the pictures, Pre-1 requires examinee to identify some conflict in the story and clearly describe what the solution is to said conflict.

I usually have a few students who struggle to find the words to describe the conflict and resolution, but most students simply just get stumped on telling a story without simply just describing what they see.

Here's an example of what Pre-1 looks like:

A lot of students look at these pictures and automatically form "There are (two kids playing video games)" type sentences describing what they see instead of narrating about how the electricity bill is too high.

This is why I started pulling comic strips like Garfield, Peanuts and other more simple comics for students to practice actually telling a story, not describing pictures. They are also free and readily available on the internet, so if you run out of Pre-1 practice books to practice with, I think this is a good alternative.

I enjoy using Garfield as most panels are quite minimal, but some can still have quite a bit of action that needs to be narrated. Like this one, for example:

You may need to take some time to explain some of sound effects and what they mean, but usually students catch on quite quickly.

Encouraging students to narrate the story and connect what they see in panel 1 to panel 2 with enough information is really the key here, so just make sure your students are saying enough and not leaving too much to the imagination.

I also enjoy using Peanuts as most Japanese students already know of Snoopy and some of the characters. Some of the strips also have a bit more of a "story" and they're usually pretty easy to understand for young readers.

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