Are you learning or improving your English? How do you know how good you are?
There are many qualifications you can obtain to prove your proficiency or fluency in English. However, if you’re learning English for professional reasons, demonstrating your language skills on your CV can be hard as different organisations may accept different exams.
Sitting an exam and obtaining a certificate can have enormous benefits. You can state your results on your CV and the majority of employers worldwide will immediately understand your level of English, no questions asked.
There are various educational systems around the world whose English certificates aren’t recognised and would be disregarded during a job interview.
If you’ve undertaken an English degree at university, employers do tend to recognise that. Unfortunately, not all English courses are globally accepted.
Even if you speak English well, have excellent listening skills, and know all the idioms out there, you'll likely still have to consider a specialised English course so you can sit one of these exams.
Fortunately, due to increasing globalisation, these exams are becoming more globally accepted and internationally recognised.
In terms of business, English is the common second language. And if you're travelling, most people in tourist areas will use English to speak to tourists who don’t speak their native language. Whether you like it or not, English has become the global language so you can no longer avoid it!
If you’d like to be certified for your English language skills, there is a variety of examinations you can consider, each with its own pros and cons.
Let’s look at some of these exams, which are recognised and where, and which skills they test.
Let’s begin with one of the most renowned, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL has been offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) since 1964.
Registration in Australia can cost approximately $270 (but this can vary depending on where you are, and there may be additional fees). However most of these exams cost money, so don’t consider this a disadvantage of the TOEFL.
A globally accepted exam that's been around for more than 50 years, it’s currently available in two different formats: TOEFL Essentials and TOEFL iBT (internet).
The exams are multiple-choice and are composed of four different sections:
The time for each section depends on whether you’re taking the Essentials or iBT test.
For the Essentials exam, you will receive an overall score between 1-12. Whereas for the iBT, you will receive a total score of 0–120.
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One drawback of the TOEFL is its validity for only two years. But language ability can change rapidly over time if the learner isn't consistently practising.
But a benefit of the TOEFL is that it is accepted worldwide by more than 11,000 universities and institutions in over 150 countries. It's also frequently utilised to verify the English level of graduates and interns.
Another drawback of the TOEFL is that it’s multiple-choice. This oversimplifies the test and your responses, and can’t wholly represent your language competency.
Younger students aged 11 and over can choose the “Junior” version. This is a great way of determining a student’s level and can also be used to evaluate the education system.
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The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is also run by the ETS. However, this exam focuses on business English instead of general English.
As a result of the demands of globalisation, the TOEIC was developed in 1979.
Over 14,000 organisations across more than 160 countries trust TOEIC English-language assessments.
The TOEIC exam isn’t all that different from the TOEFL and even has the same multiple-choice format. The main difference is that there are two separate exams. Let’s begin with the Listening and Reading Test.
- The listening part includes photographs, question-response, conversations, short talks, lasts 45 minutes, and contains 100 questions.
- The reading part includes incomplete sentences, error recognition, reading comprehension, also contains 100 questions and lasts one hour and 15 minutes.
You will receive a listening score, a reading score, and your total test score out of 990.
In order to complement these comprehension activities and provide a reliable measurement of all four English-language communication skills, there is also the Speaking and Writing Tests.
- The speaking test lasts 20 minutes and is graded out of 200 points.
- The writing test lasts one hour and is also graded out of 200 points.
Finally, the ETS launched the TOEIC Bridge in 2001 to measure English proficiency for beginning to lower-intermediate level learners.
While not as widely recognised, it can be beneficial for those who would like to set language-learning goals and monitor their progress, as well as those who want to take the TOEIC in the future and would like to get an idea about the test format.
There are tools available to help you prepare for the TOEIC. There is the TOEIC Official Learning and Preparation Course and there are also many tutoring centres and private tutors worldwide that would be happy to help you get ready for it.
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Let’s consider an exam that isn’t run by the ETS.
While the TOEFL focuses on academic and general English and the TOEIC focuses on business English, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is for those who would like to study English (or are currently taking English lessons) because they want to enter the field of business management.
This certificate is necessary for anyone who wants to study for an MBA or go to business school. It was developed in 1953 by the Graduate Management Admission Council in Virginia, USA.
It’s available in 3,000 business or management schools across 96 countries. Over 200,000 students take the exam and you can only take the exam a maximum of 5 times in a given year.
You must be at least 18 years old or between 13 and 17 years old with permission from a parent or legal guardian to take the test. It costs US$250 and you can take it at a test centre or online.
A tip is to read the answers before the question. Then, after you have read the question, you can eliminate the obviously incorrect answers before choosing the correct answer. This technique could save you a lot of time in an exam where you have to be quite efficient.
The test lasts 4 hours but as stated above, ensure you carefully manage your time.
There are four sections:
- Quantitive Section: 62 minutes, 31 multiple choice questions.
- Verbal Section: 65 minutes, 36 multiple choice questions.
- Analytical Writing Assessment: 30 minutes, one essay
- Integrated Reasoning Section: 30 minutes, 12 questions.
Your total GMAT score will range from 200 to 800 and you will also receive a Percentile Ranking.
Your Official Score Report will also include scores from any other GMAT exams you have taken within the past five years (the time of which your GMAT scores are valid).
Remember that most MBA programs in Australia require a minimum GMAT score of 550 but this varies depending on the institution. It could also be between 600 and 750.
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If the course is competitive, you must be able to differentiate yourself from the others with your English competency. Depending on your situation, you’ll need to decide which English test is suitable for you.
We’ve covered three of the most common exams: TOEFL, TOEIC, and the GMAT, but there’s also the IELTS run by the British Council and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).
Finally, there's Cambridge Assessment English, which provides globally accepted exams for nearly everyone. Children can begin with Pre A1 Starters to A2 Flyers while teens and adults can obtain qualifications from A2 Key to C2 Proficiency.
All of your linguistic abilities will be tested in these exams.
Ensure you take into consideration all your options before choosing an English exam. Think about why you need certification in English and make sure the people you need to prove your level to will recognise it!
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