How to ace the KET, PET, YLE, Cambridge & Other Exams with Genki English!

The junior high school I used to teach at.

Let me start off today with a little story ….

When I was in my 3rd year of teaching full time I had lunch with a local university professor.

I was telling him about the programmes I’d started and how I was trying to change how we taught.

As he listened I could see a lightbulb go off above his head, like he’d just solved a riddle, and he said “Ahhh, it must be you who’s teaching in Tamagawa!”

“Errr, yes.”  was my reply.

He was saying the local region, the prefecture, had been wondering why this one little junior high school in the middle of the mountains had suddenly leapt up in all their exam results.  They couldn’t figure it out.

(Because like most of us who teach Genki English, the high ups never really have an idea of what we actually do in our lessons!)

I didn’t do it on purpose….

Now I didn’t set out to get better exam results,  I just wanted better teaching.

But usually if you put good teaching into practice, you get good exam results almost as a side effect.

Over the weekend lots of teachers were asking me how to use Genki English to teach the KET, PET, Cambridge and other exams ( because the materials are pretty boring!)  As I only got time to explain to a few private groups in the breaks, I wrote this post for you….




If you want to be more exam focussed (not necessarily the best choice, but… ) the first option is to just do what we do with “How to teach Genki English with an existing textbook?

Write out the topics/themes that you “have to” teach on one side of a piece of paper and then match each one up with the nearest Genki English theme on the other side of the column e.g.

e.g. Baseline Lesson  1 –What’s your name?
Baseline Lesson 2 – Genki Disco Warm Up
Baseline Lesson 3 – Where are you from?
Baseline Lesson 3 – How old are you?
Baseline Lesson 4 – I, you, he, she, we

And keep going up and up till you get to the highest level you go.

Ninja Tip:  Use this page to see all the GE themes and also the advanced themes.

Then, just like we saw with adult classes, you “teach” using the textbook etc. for the first part of the lesson, and then do the Genki English lesson in the second part.

As you go through the year, the Genki English parts will get bigger and bigger.

But…..  especially in the beginning it’s best to have the majority of the lesson being the “boring” stuff just to keep the parents happy.

Eventually them come round, but it can take a few weeks or months!

Also just like with adult classes, also be sure to include all the confidence building themes and projects (e.g. Disco Warm Up, Superhero etc.) as confidence in English is a vital part of passing the exams.

And just look how important they were to the advanced teachers this weekend! 

Also as you’ll be doing reading, be sure to do as many GE themes as you can before you do the phonics to make the reading go much more smoothly.


Now if that sounds like you might as well just teach the whole Genki English curriculum first….. then well, yes, that’s what I usually recommend! 🙂

There is no other comparable course out there that will give your students as good a base as Genki English and Genki Phonics.     And, as you’ve seen, most of the exam material is in Genki English anyway, so you might as well do the whole thing first.

Especially if they have “done” English before (even to a high level), but aren’t confident in *using* the language, starting from lesson 1 of  GE can work wonders!

Ninja Tip:  To teach the extra vocab in the exams, just do the lesson plan as normal and then use the karaoke version to add in all the extra vocab!  



If you have any *big* gaps in your curriculum that we haven’t yet filled with either Genki English or the advanced Genki English then do write them up in the comments on this post.  


Give me as many example sentences as you can for each topic/grammar point and if I get enough requests on the blog I’ll see if I can make some themes for the most popular ones.


Ninja Tip:  I’ve got a post coming up later about “Do you have …?” and “Have you got?”


Ninja Tip 2:  Really do give me lots and lots of example sentences as that lets me get a feel for the types of questions you are preparing for. The more the merrier. 🙂

Ninja Tip 3:  Whilst you’re waiting for full new lessons, you can of course just use any of the games from the workshops for teaching any of the other grammar you have to teach.  My most popular game for this with high school kids is the stopwatch game.



As I said above, personally I’d just go for the best teaching you can, and let the exams take care of themselves,  we’ve had some astounding success from kids just doing Genki English and then walking straight into Cambridge exams with no prep and getting amazing results – much to the frustration of other parents who paid for countless hours of boring lessons for the same results elsewhere! 🙂

So I hope this helps you out, gets the kids confident and acing the exams, and if you have any questions, ask away in the comments!

Be genki,


P.S.  If you want to do your own Genki English test then this is an example of the Genki English speaking test we use in research projects and for the reading we use the Burt Reading Test.

P.P.S.  Oh,  just one other alternative!   You’ve probably heard about the Far East and how they get such great scores on all the international tests.  Well…. they don’t do this in school.  (Kids often sleep in school!)   They get the amazing scores from going to private cram school lessons in the evenings.  Here they don’t focus on English or maths or whatever, they focus 100% on exam technique. Basically how to cheat the exams!   This is exactly the same as what happens in private schools in places like the UK (We studied very little in grammar school other than how to ace tests!)    There are a whole host of strategies for this (I learnt loads!) and it is one option for you and of course a very easy sell to the parents.  But …. if you do go down this route, remember it has nothing to do with confidence, nothing to do with communication or English, it is purely learning how to game the system!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

15 Responses to “How to ace the KET, PET, YLE, Cambridge & Other Exams with Genki English!”

  1. Margit

    Thanks for this post.

    As we are all struggling more or less with this topic it is good to hear this again and again.

    When my parents sign up for their 5, 6 year olds, I have a written part in my contract saying that I don’T do any test preparation etc,

    However, the kids going into JH from my school, even those who don’t continue taking English class after 6th grade, take at least 80% of their tests for three years, WITHOUT studying for them, between 90 and 100 if they do study a bit.
    It is nice to see!

    Also, I am having an adult student now who started a year ago with a Toeic score of 480 at highest, and now after one year is up to 630, NOT with Toeic cramming! But with lessons completely focussed on speaking and listening and confidence building.

    I always start doubting about myself when kids change over to me, from cram schools, showing me what they’ve been doing:
    grammar I hardly ever use, and am not confident wether I could teach it correctly, pages after pages! But then, they can’T express how they feel or what their likes and dislikes are.

    Did your Tamagawa school build up on all your work somehow?
    Because this is my pain now. For all the moving arounds of teachers it is soooo frustrating every May to see those schools that have been shining in English within shortest time slip back to nowhere.

  2. Martin

    This doesn’t really apply to me as I teach 4-10 year olds, but the concept is great and it makes perfect sense. If you know English, if you KNOW the language then you can pass a test on it whether I learned out of this book or that book or just by playing video games. The key is actually learning the language or any topic for that matter and retaining it and having confidence in it.

    I’ve started seeing some major success with the Genki stuff in my young learner classes where I’ve introduced it mid-stream (as I have taken over these classes from another teacher). We’ve done the “How did you get here?” theme and now I can send them out of the room to ask people fluently…they also can answer fluently. I just mention a form of transportation and the kids will bust out the question or answer or even the song. Greatest feeling.

    I guess they are even still in flux about what courses to use at the school. Maybe I can get a Genki course!

  3. Barbara

    Very interesting! Actually, this is my problem now, 🙂 My kids have a great pronounciation but… they can’t write! The frustrating thing is that Italian teachers have no idea about English accent and keep complaining about the fact that the kids can’t write. So, I have to reassure parents that this is the best way to learn English. What I’m doing now, is taking the kids in the garden to play in English, making them use “unusual” words such as “cute” or “scary”. I can hear parents asking: “But what does it mean? I have never heard these words” :). I hope this will be enough to let them enroll the kids for the next school year 🙂

  4. Trevor

    It’s a great opportunity isn’t it Margit. When kids come in from cram schools and chain schools with all the textbooks and materials they’ve supposedly covered, you open it up and go through it with the student in front of the parent. Check if they can read the worksheets, how much vocab. they’ve retained, how much of it they comprehend. If they understand what they’ve studied great, but 9 times out of 10 they won’t remember or understand much of it at all. Without embarrassing the kid or the parent, you just suggest that here we will teach your child a useful amount of English that they can comprehend and retain and with our phonics program they will learn how to read properly.

    I do think parents and maybe kids value exams though, so it’s always good to know what levels of exams your kids should be able to pass with little or no preparation at any given stage of your own program.

  5. Richard

    @Margit: Yeah, that’s where I learnt the lessons of sustainability and making sure more than one teacher is pushing for things! As soon as I left the grammar teachers lept on the chance to reclaim things back without the parents complaining about not being in my class!

    @Barbara: Do you think it would be useful if I videoed the writing part of Genki Phonics for you? I might not get time in the workshops this week, but I could try if it would be useful to you!

    There is a video I did at Margit’s workshop too:

  6. Barbara

    @Richard: yes please! When you can. I’ll test it in Sept. and let you know how it works with my kids 🙂 Thank you!!!

  7. Emmanuelle

    Hi Richard…
    How about a new theme covering detective related vocabulary?
    Look for clues, where is the XXX ?

  8. Margit

    I think I know what you mean with “they can’t write”;

    Richard, as for writing with Genki Phonics, I would be interested what you have. If it is the writing (dictation) part on the lines on each page:
    This is easy for the kids.
    If it’s g they’ve learned and you say: “tag” they can write it,
    but it gets tricky when it comes to “go back” or ” My bag” or even worse:
    ee or ea or e_e or…
    green or grean or grene
    And writing it once or twice on the lines below doesn’t do it.

    Please share your ideas and thoughts, Richard.

    However, for myself I don’t really care too much, as kids don’t have to write here before they are 12,13 in JH.

    So, I do the GE speaking curriculum for 2 years, start with Phonics, and when finished with this do lots of reading + creating sentences little by little.
    The “Look at him/her/this” and “I think it’s ….” topics are very very helpful here.

    Barbara, I just had some great lessons with my 5th graders who haven’T done any writing till recently.
    Have a look at my blog (it is Japanese, so scroll down to the video and you’ll get the idea):

  9. Richard

    @Margit: Once they are up to that level there is no magic bullet and just like Japanese (but unlike you lucky Germans or Italians!) there’s no option but lots of time, practice and feedback from the teacher. The focus in England schools is getting the first stage you are talking about, where they can get something down that can possibly be read that way. Then the polishing of the spelling is done over several years.

    Are you also using the stories for dictation? They are a great source of correctly reproducible material. In general the more you do the more used they get to the most common ways of writing, again just like speaking it’s a case of lots of input. Which again, as always and as you say, comes back to, do we spend that time doing more writing? Or use it for the more important speaking?!

  10. Barbara

    @Margit and Richard: thank you very much… Frozen is a very good subject too :)! This summer I’ll put all the information together and decide what to do next September. The best thing is to stop teaching junior high … but this would be too easy:)

  11. Margit

    Wow, this is very confident building somehow.

    No, I don’t use the stories for dictation. I was thinking that I could do so, but as you said, this would take so much valuable time, and there would be kids who hate it and hate the whole thing then just for the writing.

    I might offer more intensive phonics courses for holiday time and include things like this.
    So far I did intensive courses only for low level kids to catch up, but would actually be a good idea and probably quite fun to do it once a year for other levels,too.

    I think in my lessons the writing should never be more than needed to support some great speaking activities or skit makings, etc.

  12. Richard

    Very interesting!!! …. a summer intensive writing course??

    As you know we used Oxford’s Read, Write, Inc for the advanced kids in India. It might give you some ideas, but what we found the most useful was the pictures they had where the kids had to write the story of what was in the (quite simple) picture.

    But …. you know the Imagination worksheets would be the perfect accompaniment for that, you just review the relevant GE song to warm them up, give them the imagination worksheet (or your 3 frame comics!) to draw and then get them to write the story.

    As they would be all working individually, but on similar topics you could then wander round checking all their spellings and showing them the exceptions.

    Then they present them to the class!

    What do you think????

  13. Susan K

    I’m sure you will rule JH one day, just give it time! 🙂

    Martin it’s interesting what you say about learning from a video game as I know kids who couldn’t spell and taught themselves from online chat on Roblox (interactive Lego game) and from reading books that they enjoy. Great for those kids who don’t enjoy homework!

    I was just thinking there must be some link between what they learn at school (or even outside school) and what is done in the cram schools. The difference is they will only do well if they put their heart into what they’re doing, which is usually (if not always) the case with GE. So many fun activities you can find something to suit everyone.

  14. Maria

    Hi Richard, I´m still happy teaching mainly GE ( for MANY years), and my students (age 6-10) love it. One very smart boy requested how he could learn to ask his way around e.g. London. I know most (Austrian) English textbooks. GE covers every topic of our syllable, except this “asking the way “. I know I could put together “Left and right”, North and South”, “Where is Mr. Monkey?” Still it would be quite nice to have a theme with street names and buildings? What do you think?
    Be genki
    and a peaceful Holiday season

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