Several times a year I have students rush to me begging me to help them prepare for their EIKEN interview. Students only take the interview if they pass the paper test, so they usually don’t even think about it until the results come out (which is about two weeks before the interviews are scheduled). For me, it’s a time of frustration and overwork, and it was very stressful when I was a new ALT and had just barely learned what EIKEN is. How can we help our students prepare for their interviews in such a short amount of time? The first step is understanding what is expected of the students during the interview.
- The student will wait for their name to be called. At the door, they should ask, “May I come in?” before entering.
- There will be a card turned over on the desk, but they should not look at it. First there will be a simple greeting. This is where the judgement of the student’s attitude begins.
- After that, the student will read the passage. They will be scored on their pronunciation and answers to questions.
- For those taking Pre-2, after reading the passage and answering a question about it, they will have to describe some pictures (which I will explain in a different post).
*disclaimer: While I do provide point values (obtained here and here), I do not advise telling students a score for their practice interview. As I am not an EIKEN interviewer, I am uncomfortable scoring the students and artificially raising their confidence, or possibly making them think they no longer need to prepare. If their actual interview score and the score I give them on the practice interview do not match closely, I believe it damages their belief in themselves and in you as their teacher. Rather, I suggest you mentally take a score for yourself, then based on that, guide the students toward improving their weak points.
For both of these, the minimum score is 19 points, with a total possible score of 33 points.
Attitude (3 Points)
Students are scored on their attitude during the interview. Several aspects are taken into account when scoring their attitude.
- Clothes and Greeting Correctness (clean clothes, hair neat, proper bow, etc).
- Speaking Volume
- Eye Contact
- No Silence (if they don’t understand, they should say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”)
Students should try to appear clean, friendly, and positive during the interview. This is difficult for a lot of students who are naturally quiet and shy. Such students may need more practice interacting with strangers for this interview.
Passage Pronunciation (5 Points)
- They should read the passage, beginning with the title.
- If they don’t know words, students should focus on the flow and pronunciation of their reading overall rather than quick speed or re-reading words they make mistakes on.
- Rather than pronounce words one-by-one, the students should read the passage as one piece and be careful about speed and rhythm.
The students are given 20 seconds to read the passage silently. Students can usually read the words they know easily even without preparation time. Therefore, I instruct my students to try to think about the pronunciation of words they don’t recognize, and to identify connecting words (for example “and the” usually becomes “an-tha” when we’re speaking) so that they can aim for more natural pronunciation, during this time. I’ve found that even if the students don’t pass the interview, their reading skills increase dramatically from this practice.
Q&A (25 Points)
- The first question is about the passage. The second and third are about the pictures. The fourth and fifth questions are about the student.
- If they don’t understand, they should not stay silent. Even if they can’t make sentences, they should say simple words.
- They don’t have to use difficult grammar. They should express themselves as simply as possible.
Because this section has the highest point value, it’s good to practice this many times. I even sometimes re-do the same practice interviews with the students to confirm that they truly understand and can answer the questions.
- If the question begins with “Why“, they should answer “Because….“
- If the question begins with “How“, they should answer “By VERBing…“
- A subject noun contained in the question is often changed to a pronoun in the answer.
- For example, if the question is, “What do some people like to do on the weekends?” the answer should be something like, “They like to go camping.”
These patterns take time to become ingrained, so I usually write some examples on the board, and then when they start to answer incorrectly, I point to the board and say, “Whyyyyy?” or “Hooooow? to draw their attention to their mistake, which they can them correct themselves.
Questions 4 and 5
A lot of students struggle with questions 4 and 5. Question four on grade 3 is a free question, like “What is your hobby?” Question 5 is a yes or no question. The answers should be one simple sentence for each.
On Pre-2, both question 4 and 5 are yes or no questions. Be sure to emphasize that the answer to “Do you” questions should be “yes” or “no” first, as I have many students skip it and jump into a longer sentence. For example, the question might be, “Do you like cooking?” and instead of saying “yes” or “no”, my students jump to, “I like making cakes.”
Those taking Pre-2 have to give two sentence answers. They have problems answering more than one sentence because they struggle to think deeply about the questions. For instance, if the question is, “Do you think students should participate in clubs”, and the student says, “Yes”, they might give the reason, “Because being in clubs in healthy”. Their reason for giving this answer is that they are in a sports club. However, they will fail to clearly link their thinking and their words. An acceptable answer might be something like, “I think clubs are healthy. Students can play sports with others and build strong bodies.”
Students can also use their own experiences, or even lie, to answer these questions, which they they usually don’t realize is okay. If they struggle, I will give them some examples of how to answer, and also give them a chance to try to answer again (though they usually struggle to make their own ideas after hearing your idea, so sometimes it’s better to move on to a new practice question).
Tips and Tricks
- After about 10 seconds of silence, the interviewer will repeat the question whether or not the student asks for it. This leads to point deduction, so students should be careful.
- If students need to hear the question again, they can say, “Could you repeat the question, please?” at least one time per question without losing points. It’s best if the students have not begun to answer the question when they ask to hear it again. They should try not to say it more than once per question to avoid losing points.
- Even if they don’t need to hear the question again, the students can say, “Could you repeat the question please?” Instead of listening to the question again, they can use this extra time as thinking time and organize their thoughts and grammar.