Have you ever wondered how English exam preparation materials are put together? Whether it’s a practice test or a study book, there’s expertise behind Michigan Language Assessment resources–and here’s your chance to read about one of the many who make it happen!

From teaching English abroad in Vietnam to developing test preparation materials for our test takers, Michigan Language Assessment academic services manager Emily Clifford has the knowledge and expertise to help our students and professionals succeed on a Michigan Test. Her years in the classroom, both as a teacher and a student, have prepared her to tackle her role with passion and expertise. 

Teaching English in Vietnam

Clifford did not always know that she wanted to teach, but after gaining professional experience coaching staff, she realized it was an avenue she was keen to explore. While in Vietnam, she started developing her teaching skills by earning a Cambridge CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults). Next she completed a UK teaching certification and a Master of Arts in Education at the University of Sunderland.

“Vietnam was a place I always wanted to visit. I had spent some time in Southeast Asia earlier in my life,” Clifford said. “A friend of mine was telling me about what a great place it was and we decided to take a chance. My husband and I booked our flights expecting that we’d be in Vietnam for a few months, but we loved the country and teaching so much that we stayed there for almost 10 years.” 

When asked what her favorite part of teaching abroad was, Clifford noted that there were many parts she enjoyed, but more than anything else it was the students she worked with. She taught in a few small bilingual schools and got to know the same group of students over a number of years, watching them progress in their English language skills. It was very special to her that she could get to know the students well rather than teaching in a larger school where there may have been fewer opportunities for one-on-one time. 

Students in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries are required to complete English language coursework to graduate from high school. More countries have been passing legislation to require English language courses, and the demand for English teachers will continue to grow. 

“The vast majority of my students saw English as a global language that would give them opportunities both in Vietnam and overseas. Many of them ended up at universities in the U.S., so I have students all over the world now,” Clifford said.

From the classroom to Michigan Language Assessment

Now in her role at Michigan Language Assessment, Clifford uses the experience she has in the classroom to develop preparation materials for test takers, support for test takers and teachers, and support for all those who interact with Michigan Tests. Clifford is part of the team that crafts resources such as practice tests and materials, develops instructional videos, and offers webinars and live sessions. She believes that her experience with ESOL students helps her to understand what support they need and what strategies will help them the most in a high-stakes exam.

“As a teacher, I had always prepared students for high-stakes exams and it was really interesting for me to get behind the scenes and learn how assessments are created and conducted. I really enjoy that I still get to teach and help students prepare for the Michigan Tests,” Clifford said. 

Clifford believes that Michigan Language Assessment’s preparation materials stand out and are effective because of the organization’s experienced staff of former English teachers, many of whom have also taught overseas. She strives to make the preparation resources personal and interactive, so test takers can ask questions and hear directly from those who are developing the tests. 

Practical advice for test takers and teachers

The best advice Clifford can give to test takers is to take a practice exam and develop a study plan that focuses on areas where they lack confidence. Above all else, she emphasized the importance of keeping studies fun and interesting. 

With many of the Michigan Tests designed for multiple levels on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) scale, Clifford keeps this in mind when developing materials so that there is something for everyone to benefit from. 

Aside from preparing test takers, Clifford also prepares teachers to get their students ready for exams such as MET Go!. 

“MET Go! is designed in such a way that it’s really easy to integrate the exam tasks within a regular English language curriculum. For example, one exam task asks test takers to describe a picture, which is really common in the classroom. My best advice for teachers preparing students for a Michigan Test is to incorporate exam-style tasks into daily classroom activities. It’s going to improve their language skills, but it’s also going to give them practical test-taking skills,” Clifford said. 

Visit our website to access our library of preparation materials for all Michigan tests.