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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 12/19/2022

5 Review Activities to Help Your Students Prepare for an Exam

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

An important part of teaching is assessing our students to make sure they are progressing in their language learning.  Different schools will have varying expectations on how and how often you need to do this.  However, it's a good idea to help your students review the material before they are expected to complete an exam.  These are five of our preferred ways to review with our students! 

 How Do I Assess my ESL Students as an ESL Teacher?

1 - Spoons

Spoons is a fun way to review vocabulary covered in a term, but it can be adapted for some grammar concepts like past tense conjugations, past participles or passive voice. 

Before playing this game in class, the teacher needs to prepare the deck of cards and have plastic spoons on hand.  You will need one spoon fewer than there are people.  For example, if you have 15 students, you will need 14 spoons.  For the cards, you want each group to have about the same number of cards as a regular deck of cards.  Therefore, I normally play with 25 or 26 words and their definitions.  One card will have the vocabulary word and the other will have a written definition. 

You will want to break your class into groups of five or six students to play the game, and each group will need one deck of the prepared cards.  Before playing the game, have the group work together to match all the words. Take turns reading all the words and their definitions aloud, making sure all players are familiar with the definitions.

Alright, let's play the game!  Like the card game spoons, this is a fast game.  The idea is to match the vocabulary word with its definition. Put spoons in the middle of the group, putting one fewer than there are people. If there are five people in the group, lay 4 spoons in the middle of the group.

Put all of the cards face down and mix the deck.  Each player should be dealt 4 cards. The dealer will pick up one card from the deck and decide if she wants it or not. If it doesn’t match anything in her hand, she will discard it to the person sitting on her left. Then she will pick up another and decide again.  The cards will go around the class.  When someone has 2 pairs (one word and its definition and another word and its definition), he/she can take a spoon. When someone starts taking a spoon, the rest of the players are allowed to take a spoon also.  The one person without a spoon, loses! The first time someone loses, they get the letter “S” until they spell out SPOONS, like when you play HORSE.  Make sure the group always checks the two pairs to ensure they are correct. 

The game can be played over and over again, changing dealers after every round.  Before wrapping up the game, ask the students to work together to match all of the words and definitions one more time! 

2 - Student A/Student B Crossword Puzzle

We love using Student A/Student B crossword puzzles to review vocabulary covered during a course, however, you can use them to review grammar also! In this activity, the teacher needs to create a crossword puzzle and complete half of it for Student A and another copy, the other half of the puzzle for Student B. The students are going to work in pairs but cannot look at each other's puzzle. The objective is for each student to describe the words they have to his or her partner in order for both of them to have a completed puzzle at the end of the activity. Use a website like puzzlemaker.com to create your puzzle with ease. 

          Student A: "Can you please explain 8 down to me?"

          Student B: "Sure, this is your mother's mother."

          Student A: "Grandma?"

          Student B" "Yes! I need 10 across please!"

          Student A: "Ok, this is your brother's son."

          Student B: "Niece?"

          Student A: "No, not the girl! His son!"

           Student B: "Nephew!"

3 - Jeopardy

A classic for any classroom, Jeopardy works well in an ESL/EFL classroom to review both vocabulary and grammar.  I like to prepare my categories and questions before creating the cards that will be used when we play in class.  Of course there are now a number of templates you can find online to play with a computer and projector, if you prefer.

In theory, your questions should get more difficult as the students work through a category, going from 100 to 500 points per question. 

I normally split my class into two or three teams so they can work together.  I do not allow them to use notes, but they can take notes over the questions to study more at home before the exam.

The following is an example of one of my Jeopardy boards. 



Past Participles

Present Perfect vs. Past Simple



We like to go ___ the mall _____ Saturdays.
Tell the past participle for
I ____ to Miami in 1999.  (go)
Give a definition for


I work ____ 8am ____ the morning.
Tell the past participle for
1- put
2- get
I ____ to Mexico many times.  (go)
Give a definition for
1- childhood


I listen to the news ____ the radio or read it ____ the Internet.
Tell the past participle for
____ you ____ sushi last night?  (eat)
Give a definition for


I was born ____ May 5th ____ 1986.
Tell the past participle for
2- read
_____ you ever ____ calamari?  (eat)
Give a definition for


We go dancing ____ night ____ the summer.
Tell the past participle for
I _____ salsa last year in Cuba, but I _____ never ____ bachata.  (dance)
Give a definition for

4 - Question Game

This game is best for reviewing content, like a piece of literature, but can be adapted for vocabulary or grammar review. 

Give each student six or seven small pieces of paper. They need to write separate questions (and the answer!) on the paper based on the content you are reviewing. For example, “What is the name of Scout's older brother?”  You can give them time in class to do this or assign it as homework.  

You need two teams to play the game. Have the students from Team A put their questions in one cup, Team B in the other. 

The teacher needs to draw one of Team A’s questions out of the cup and ask it to Team B. If students on Team B and think they know the answer to the question, they need to stand up. Teammates should not be discussing anything at this point!  One person on Team A will look at all people standing and call on one person to answer. If that person gets the answer correct, Team B will win a point for every person standing.  If that person answers incorrectly, Team B will lose a point for every person standing. It can be a bit of a gamble! 

Then ask one of the questions that Team B wrote to Team A.  If students on Team A  think they know the answer, they need to stand up.  One person from Team B will call on one person standing. If that person answers correctly, Team A will get one point for every person standing.  If he’s wrong, Team A will lose a point for every person standing.

Keep track of both teams' points on the board.  You will have lots of repeated questions of course, so throw those out until you find another good question.

We love this game for many reasons!  The first time students play it, they write easy questions because they think they are going to have to answer the questions. However, the next time they play, they write difficult questions with is getting them to study better and learn more! Plus, the students do the work; not the teacher!

What is Collaborative Learning?

5 - Peer-teaching

"The best way to learn is to teach."  Peer-teaching is a fantastic way to prepare your students for an exam.  A week or two before the review day, assign each student, or pair of students, one specific concept that was covered during the term.  The expectations are up to you, as the teacher, but my students are required to prepare a review of the concept, including a minimum of two activities or games to practice that specific concept.   

Students usually review the rules of the concept through some type of presentation, create a worksheet to practice and implement a game or activity, like a role-play.  Make sure you give the students some class time to prepare, so they can ask questions and use materials or resources that you provide, like other textbooks, construction paper, markers etc. 

During the review class, sit back and relax as the students take over!  All of the other students should be participating in all of the presentations and activities, which will help them prepare for the upcoming exam! 

Want to practice these reviews in a hands-on way and learn even more ways to practice and review concepts in your ESL/EFL classroom?  Take our 4-week TEFL course at International TEFL Academy Costa Rica!        

            Who can teach English in Costa Rica?

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