Target First - Author Interview

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Interview with Bess Bradfield, author of the Student's Book

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Bess Bradfield

Bess Bradfield is one of the key authors of Target Cambridge English: First. She has worked on a wide range of ELT materials, including international courses, schoolbooks, exams, websites, games and stories. She has taught English overseas as well as working as an editor and lexicographer. Read this interview to learn more about Target Cambridge English: First and Bess.

Tell us about the course:

Why have you written Target Cambridge English: First (a new edition of Target FCE)?

Cambridge English Language Assessment review and update all their exams regularly. Their revision of FCE is now complete and the updated exam (known as Cambridge English: First or FCE) will be introduced in January 2015. We have reviewed, revised and refreshed our popular exam preparation course, Target FCE, to meet the new exam requirements.

The new edition is called Target Cambridge English: First and it prepares students fully for the new exam. Exam information and training in every part of the course has been thoroughly checked and updated by specialist exam experts from Language Testing 123. We’ve also made a few additional changes to some texts and exercises to respond to suggestions from teachers, whose insights and expertise have been invaluable in this project. If that includes you - thank you very much again!

How does the new edition prepare students for the exam?

With lots and lots of practice, including guided tasks, tips and strategy work - oh yes, and more practice! The new exam is divided into four papers: Reading and Use of English; Writing; Listening; and Speaking. Each unit of the new edition of the Student’s Book includes work on all of these, to maximise students’ potential for exam success. Exam tips boost ability and confidence in every part of the exam, and proficiency is developed progressively throughout the course with a carefully sequenced language and skills syllabus.

In order to prepare students as completely as possible, there are also many more exam practice tasks in the end-of-unit reviews, Workbook and Teacher’s Book. The Richmond Learning Platform supports the course fully with a range of online material, including extra practice activities, unit tests and other online resources. There are also two online practice tests. These can be done either as straightforward tests under timed conditions, or with a range of additional help and advice. All this material has been revised to fully reflect the new Cambridge English: First exam.

What else can teachers and students expect to find in the Target Cambridge: First Student’s Book?

We didn’t want to make this ‘just’ an exam preparation book. We also wanted to create materials that were relevant to students’ wider English learning needs and interests. Some key questions that informed the writing of Target Cambridge English: First were: ‘Is this meaningful?’ and ‘Is it rewarding?’.

To this end, Target Cambridge English: First has been developed with a strong focus on real-life situations and concerns, and features a wide variety of engaging and thought-provoking topics and texts, including some authentic materials from novels and songs. There are plenty of opportunities for discussion and personalisation, making it easier for teachers and students to enjoy lively, communicative lessons. Keeping motivation high can be a challenge on exam preparation courses. We’ve tried to meet this challenge by providing thorough exam preparation through interesting contexts, and - dare I say it? - even introducing a bit of fun on occasion!

What’s your favorite part of the course?

Tough question! Well, if I have to highlight just one aspect of the course, I’m particularly fond of the full double-page spread on writing skills that ends every unit, and feedback from teachers on the previous edition has suggested that this feature has been popular with students too.

Target Cambridge English: First aims to advance students in all four of the skills areas, as well as in grammar and vocabulary. In some exam preparation courses writing can get ‘squeezed’, which seems a shame, as this part of the test can present particular problems for students.Target Cambridge English: First is different. The writing spread not only provides a clear model text, targeted language work, and analysis of a key exam task type, it also gives students a step-by-step guide towards producing their own written work. By the end of the course, students are fully equipped with the tools they need to be able to write better autonomously.

Tell us about you:

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and background?

I’m an ELT writer with more than ten years’ experience in ELT publishing. During that time, I’ve been lucky enough to work on a wide range of exciting projects, including international courses, schoolbooks, exams, web and video materials, games and stories. In addition to writing Target Cambridge English: First, I co-authoredThe Big Picture Pre-Intermediate for Richmond, and have also written books and courses for other publishers, including Oxford University Press. I’ve also enjoyed presenting and facilitating workshops in various glamorous and not-so-glamorous locations, from Moscow to Harrogate (less exciting for me - it’s my home town!).

Before moving into ELT publishing, I taught English in Bosnia and Poland, took a first-class English Literature BA at Cambridge University and a Medieval Studies MA at York University (if anyone wants any Middle English materials, let me know!), and spent a few years as a lexicographer at the Oxford English Dictionary. During my time at the OED, I created new entries for the British idioms ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ and ‘who ate all the pies?’ Sorry about that. 

And finally … what about life outside ELT?

Well, in addition to all the usual things (family, friends, reading, walking, travel, spending too much time in front of a screen):

  • I love Studio Ghibli films and am writing this with a Howl’s Moving Castle mouse mat on my desk. I spend lots of time at this desk.
  • I’ve discovered that baking old-fashioned cakes can be very satisfying - seed cake is the best. They’re also great for eating at my desk.
  • I have a lovely little dog who looks like a lamb (type “Bedlington Terrier” into a                       search engine and you’ll see what I mean!). She is extremely skilled at reminding                 me to leave the desk.