10 Apr 2024

About Pre-A1 Starters Reading and Writing Part 3

In Part 3 of Pre-A1 Starters Reading and Writing, learners’ vocabulary and knowledge are tested.

Let’s look at an example from the Starters Sample Test, available to download from the Cambridge website..

Sample Test 1

As you can see, all the words come from the same topic (in this case, animals).

There is one example. There is a picture of a snake, the five lines for the letters in this word, plus the letters s n a k e written on the lines. There is also a picture, related to the topic (in this case, a cage) where the letters are jumbled.


Cambridge places words in order from shortest (fewest letters) to longest (most letters).

Preparing for this part with students


  1. The first time you do this activity, show how the letters are all on the right, but in a jumbled format. Write the word, then scramble the letters to show them what’s happened to the word. Some young learners find this hard to grasp and it can be very frustrating for them. Other learners will get the hang of it straight away.
  2. Train learners to look at the pictures and think of the word. They will usually know most of these words. *Sometimes, though, for some reason, the picture might not be clear to learners. I remember being in a live test and there was a picture of a teacher in a classroom and the word being tested was ‘teacher’ but everyone seemed to be thinking of ‘classroom’ because the scene was distracting them.
  3. Next, tell them to look at the letters on the right. If they know the word for the picture, they will probably be able to unscramble them quickly.
  4. Sometimes, they may have thought of the wrong word, or don’t remember the correct spelling. In this case, they can play around with the letters.
  5. They should make sure they write a letter on each line AND cross out each letter as they use them. And make sure they use all the letters and only use each one once.
  6. Work on tricky spelling patterns that learners often have problems with. e.g. the letter ‘k’ doesn’t like being on its own. It likes to follow its friends oo (book), c (duck, chicken), n (monkey) and/or it likes e to follow it (snake, monkey). Learners often forget the c before k.

Further practice

As well as doing practice tests, it’s great to get learners to make their own jumbles. Take a big picture and get them to think of 3 or 4 words for things in the picture and make jumbles. Then, they swap their jumbles with another learner, who has to unjumble the letters to make the word. Learners love doing this!

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