Imagine that you are about to start studying Brazilian Portuguese and you know you’ll need to take the Celpe-Bras exam. How can you make it practical so you won’t lose time in getting ready for the exam?
If this is your situation, keep reading because in this article I’ll share how you can start getting ready for the exam while you start with the basics in Brazilian Portuguese.
First I’d like to tell you that I’m not crazy about language tests. I’ve taken the TOEFL once and this is the end of my language exams’ list. I believe languages are beautiful living things to be measured by tests. And I also know that language tests are necessary for getting admitted to or graduating from Universities, getting better jobs, finding jobs in different countries, etc. So as contradictory as it may seem, I love working with Celpe-Bras preparation. It’s almost as if I were doing the exam myself and on the days of the exam I keep remembering all my students who are taking their tests.
What is the Celpe-Bras exam?
Celpe-Bras is the only Brazilian Portuguese proficiency exam recognized by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. It only certifies Intermediate (B1) levels and above.
Where, when and how much
It normally takes place twice a year in May and in October in many places around the world. These places are called postos aplicadores. You can check here if there is a posto aplicador in your country or here, if you live in Brazil. If there isn’t, it’s good to check it close to the registration date, as they are always opening new centers.
Registration normally opens 2 to 3 months before the exam for 10 days only. It costs R$ 200,00 in Brazil and up to US$ 100 (or equivalent) abroad (this is the price by the time I’m writing this blog post).
What’s the exam like?
For the written part, you’ll have to write 4 essays called tarefa. The first one is based on a video, the second one, on an audio, the third and fourth, on texts. You can take notes of the video and audio on a paper called rascunho.
The oral part lasts 20 minutes. The first five minutes are based on personal information that you provided at the time of registration. The rest of the time is divided into 3 conversations based on images and texts called elementos provocadores (like the one in the picture).
What’s the best way to learn Brazilian Portuguese focusing on Celpe-Bras?
I guess if you don’t speak Portuguese yet, this may look scary. But if you need the Celpe-Bras certificate for some reason, then it’s better to focus on the exam when you start studying Portuguese.
There isn’t a specific grammar section in the exam, but you need to learn grammar to write and speak well.
Written part of Celpe-Bras
- Get used to writing in Portuguese by hand, you’ll have to do it during the exam. If you are having lessons with a teacher or by yourself, write paragraphs by hand whenever you learn new themes.
- As you advance, just be careful not to translate sentences from your native language to Portuguese. Sometimes translations work, sometimes you just make up something funny.
- Always ask for feedback and correction of your texts.
- The examiners will play the video and audio twice. Practice taking notes of the important parts that you’ll need when you write your tarefa.
- Find the strategy of taking notes that works best for you! Are you going to write anything while the video / audio is played for the first time? Or are you going to pay attention and write only during the second time?
In this YouTube playlist you can find almost all the videos and audios used in the previous exams.
Oral part of Celpe-Bras
- Get familiar with the themes that normally appear on the exam. Here you can find a list with these themes.
- Look for elementos provocadores of past editions and check the images, so you’ll have an idea of what they are.
- Here you can find a kind of a script of the questions. They follow a logic.
- Start writing your vocabulary notebook or creating flashcards based on the exam’s themes.
Tarefa 1 is based on a video and 2 is based on an audio file. They are around 2-3 minutes long. The media is not something made and recorded especially for the exam, they are realia (=materials from daily life used in teaching), excerpts from Brazilian radio or TV programs made for Brazilians.
It’s hard and demotivating for you as a beginner to practice listening with realia. But you can practice with audio files from text books prepared for students. Repetition is key here. You can also practice with music. Or listen and read from transcripts. But really pay attention onto the way people pronounce and link words.
Try to find your favorite Brazilian Youtubers. There is Fala Gringo, a great podcast for intermediate students. Look for themes that you enjoy so when you are studying it won’t feel like studying. I loved watching Friends to study English (there was no YouTube at the time), actually I loved Friends so much (I still do), that every time I was watching an episode I paid so much attention on the way they spoke, used words, expressions, made jokes because I was really interested in the show itself and it didn’t feel like studying or learning.
So discover your favorites (singers, Youtubers, TV shows, podcasts, etc) and watch or listen to them because you love them and not only because of the language.
There will be 2 articles and you’ll need them to write the last 2 tarefas. As you are studying, your vocabulary will grow and you’ll be able to understand written texts more and more. In the beginning read all texts you find in your textbooks and do the exercises. Again, find your favorite things to read and start trying to read them because you are interested in them. It’ll be frustrating if you want to start with a novel by Clarice Lispector, but starting smaller with easier things will make you feel motivated.
I know that for a beginner in Brazilian Portuguese this should seem overwhelming, but if you know that at one point of your language learning you will need to take the Celpe-Bras exam, the idea is that you study Brazilian Portuguese and get familiar with the exam from the beginning.
Think about a student who needs to learn the language to work in a car manufacturer in Brazil. Instead of just learning what’s in textbooks for regular lessons, the student can focus on learning vocabulary that he or she is going to use in their job!
And it’s the same idea for Celpe-Bras. As you are beginning to study, get familiar with the exam from the start and turn your efforts to the exam.
Let me know what you think about it in the comments! If you want to ask questions or practice for the exam, you can book a lesson here.