Students are often taken aback when they find out that the STANAG 6001 exam looks differently in every NATO country. It came as a surprise to me as well a few years ago. For the last four years, I have prepared soldiers from four different countries: Poland, Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic for the SLP exam.
Today I’m going to tell you about the exam format in Spain, as that’s where I’m currently living and where everything started. ????
MY LONG STORY SHORT
Before we get to that, long story short, the first time I heard about the STANAG 6001 exam was when I still lived in Poland and my dad was taking the 6-month STANAG 6001 Level 3 course in Lodz. I can still picture him doing his best and trying so hard, and guess what, he made it J! I was so proud of him and everything that happened afterward in his military career. Today he is a retired colonel.
A few years later, in 2018, I started working in the academy in Spain, where I was responsible for the SLP exam preparation. Pure coincidence? I don’t think so! That’s how this adventure began.
For the first two years I had been working with big groups of soldiers, but then, as I was made redundant owing to the pandemic (which was a blessing in disguise!) I decided to give online teaching a try and kicked off my project.
The SLP exam in Spain differs from the one in Poland in many aspects. Today I’m going to discuss all the skills at LEVEL 2, but before I get to that, I wanted to point out that it’s not a walk in the park to find the mock exams or detailed assessment criteria that specify the types of tasks that can appear on the exam. That’s a pain in the neck for both examinees and the SLP teachers. Spanish examiners like to keep it interesting and surprising… ????
SLP EXAM 2222 WRITING
The writing part of the exam is computer-based and so are listening and reading. It includes only one text to write (contrary to two texts in Poland), which consists of two parts: the first refers to Level 1 and the other one’s goal is to test whether a student can demonstrate the Level 2 skills.
Students are asked to write an informal letter, a semi-formal letter, or a formal letter, with some elements of descriptions, comparisons, pros, and cons, rarely it turns out to be a report, a narration, or a description itself. Occasionally something rather unusual appears. A few years ago my students were asked to write a blog entry about themselves. The lack of clarity in terms of assessment criteria and types of tasks makes the preparation phase more challenging, both for teachers and for students.
Example of a writing task:
You are planning a trip in which you are going to be away from home for a year. You will need someone to take care of your house. Write a letter to a friend telling him/her about your plans. (L1) Include a list of the things you have to prepare in advance, explain the purpose of the trip and ask him/her for help to keep your house in good condition, (L2) giving him specific instructions about its maintenance.
SLP EXAM 2222 LISTENING
During the exam, soldiers listen to approx. 35 short recordings, which touch upon a different topic and there is (usually) one multiple-choice task related to each of them. Interestingly enough, examinees can decide how many times they want to listen to a recording – they can do it just once, if they got the answer the first time and move on to the next one, or just simply listen to one recording as much as they need. However, they need to do it within the time limit established.
As I have mentioned, the exam is computer-based and everyone receives headphones for this part of the exam, but examinees are also allowed to bring their own ones.
Example of a listening task:
Question: What can be said about Moammar Quadafi?
A) He lost power shortly after the military overthrow
B) He depended only on foreign forces
C) He only trusted his family and loyal tribes
D) He united other Arab countries
Listening transcript: Moammar Quadafi
Moammar Gadhafi came to power in Libya on September first, 1969. He led a military overthrow while King Idris was away. He distrusted his own generals, so over the years, he built up special brigades. He built these forces with his sons and members of the military loyal to his native tribe and its allies. He also brought in foreign forces — African mercenaries. During the nineteen seventies, he tried to unite Libya with other Arab countries. Experts say that was also when he began to provide aid to what some governments considered terrorist organizations.
SLP EXAM 2222 READING
Reading at level 2 consists of… (wait for it ;)) 30 short texts. The format is quite similar to the listening part – multiple-choice questions. That’s the only type of task, we won’t come across true/false statements or missing sentences in paragraphs.
(POSSIBLY UNPOPULAR OPINION below)
If you ask me, I consider both the reading and the listening exam to be user-unfriendly, as the tasks do not reflect the way we process information in real life. Listening and reading 30+ pieces in such a short time is far from being natural and simply exhausting, as every time it changes we need to focus on a different story.
Nonetheless, that’s the format we have to adapt to whether we like it or not, or whether we consider it well-grounded. Spain is not the only country that opted for such a format of the exam. Don’t even get me started on the Italian JFLT exam. ????
Example of a task:
India’s government has said it plans to reduce the number of security forces in Indian‐administered Kashmir. Home Secretary GK Pillai said the aim was to pull out 25% of troops from populated areas in the next 12 months as a confidence‐building measure. The Indian government has never released official figures on the number of troops deployed in the region. But according to estimates, the number of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir is between 300,000 and half a million. They are fighting a two‐decade insurgency against Indian rule. In the summer, more than 100 people were killed in violent protests in the Muslim‐majority Kashmir valley. The withdrawal of security forces and the repeal of emergency laws have been the long‐standing demands of the region.
Question: Which of the following is true?
A) More Indian troops will be deployed in Kashmir.
B) There is a demand in the region for Indian troops to remain.
C) The withdrawal of some troops could build trust.
D) Indian rule in Kashmir has been overthrown.
SLP EXAM 2222: SPEAKING
The speaking part of the SLP exam takes place in front of the examination board, which often includes the service members who hold a higher level of the certificate (3 or 4) and/or a native speaker properly trained for the exam.
The exam consists of BORE, which stands for Biography, Occupation, Relaxation, and Education. Students are asked to tell the examiners something about themselves (which they can prepare in advance, to some extent, but always trying to make it sound natural and not learned by heart). Examiners ask some follow-up questions related to the BORE part (e.g. if an examinee mentioned that in their free time they run, they might be asked to elaborate on that by talking about the competitions they took part in, marathons, and how they prepared for them and the equipment they used.
The next part involves testing different kinds of Level 2-specific competences such as narrating stories in the past (e.g. talking about past missions, last weekend or holidays) and future plans (both short-term and long-term ones), descriptions (e.g. a hometown, friend’s appearance or good leader’s character) or instructions (e.g. how to get from examinee’s house to the base). Sometimes students are asked to do a role-play with the examiner or to describe a photograph.
And that’s what the SLP Level 2 exam in Spain looks like. All the parts are taken on the same day and students must wear a mask. (I’m writing this post in May 2021.)
It takes quite a long time to receive the exam results; it may even take up to 1.5 months. Usually, it’s a few weeks, though.
P.S. If your exam date is approaching and you need some last-minute tips, check out my webinars section (especially the one with exam prep tips and the Q&A). I keep my fingers crossed for you!
In my next post I’ll tell you more about the SLP Level 3 exam in Spain.