Reviewer: Els Van Geyte
29 June 2011
New FAST CLASS for First Certificate is a visually attractive exam preparation course. It contains ten units, which have topics such as Relationships, Entertainment, and Technology. These themes appear as footnotes, whereas the headings of the chapters consist of a number and a skill (e.g., 01 Reading). This organisational principle reflects the First Certificate exam: each unit is divided into five sub-sections which correspond to the exam format (i.e., the four skills and Use of English), and a sixth section with extension and revision exercises. The book contains exam-type tasks, tips, well-chosen reading texts, carefully built up controlled practice writing exercises, sample answers, and some examiner comments. Vocabulary and grammar are treated in detail. An exam overview section and a complete practice exam are also provided.
The workbook, which is only available online, can be used as a self-study or class resource, and allows teachers to track students’ progress. Non-writing exercises are marked online, with feedback and explanations given. It also contains extra exercises (including word transformation practice), exam-style tasks, unit wordlists, exam tips, audio, scripts, useful expressions for speaking, and links, e.g., to an online dictionary.
The teacher’s pack contains everything you would normally expect, and includes a CD-rom with unit and progress tests, as well as video clips about the exam format, with advice and real examples.
This coursebook has everything you could possibly want to help students prepare for the exam. If anything, there is too much: it may take a teacher and student some time to become familiar with all the online and other options that are available, and perhaps with the organisational principles of the book. Also, registering as a student online should in theory be simple, but I failed to do so without problems, so this is an issue that may require a teacher’s time and attention. If I had to single out one area which could be improved, it is the grammar reference section. Although its conciseness is an advantage, especially as students have access to an online grammar resource too, there are instances where the information does not seem precise enough, e.g., the explanation of ‘in case’: ‘In case is used to explain that you do something anyway even if the other event might not happen’ which does not match with the example given: ‘I’ll take my mobile phone, in case I need to contact you urgently’ (p.114) [‘other event’ here relates to taking the mobile phone not happening].
These are minor issues in a generally well thought-out and practical resource, with relevant and intelligent content. It allows busy teachers to choose from a large selection of activities which would suit exam candidates’ needs and I would certainly recommend it.