Over the last two years, I have worked with tandem partners from China who come to Germany to study at university. Before they can attend courses at university, they first need to prove their proficiency level by reaching level 4 in the TestDaF test, which corresponds roughly to C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Many Chinese students participate in TestDaF as soon as they have level B1 and repeat the test 4 to 6 times before they pass. (The TestDaF Institute cleverly allows people to participate as many times as they like.)
There are many preparation resources available, typically with past exam papers that students can use to practice the specific activities that are part of the test. Some Chinese students focus rather heavily on these materials; they buy several books with past exam papers and practice every test in them.
However, I have been noticing a discrepancy in skills or level between the language they use during this type of exam practice on the one hand, and the language used during freely flowing conversation. Students learn many language chunks that are useful for these exams but that are much less relevant outside that context. I think that this can hold back their progress in their exam preparation and that they would benefit from alternative activities.
What alternative exercises or activities may be useful and how can I motivate these students to do them?