English is often described as the universal language. No matter where you live in the world, you’re likely to be asked whether you speak English. Are you able to say yes or are you unsure whether your ESL course (English as a Second Language) taught you to perfect English?
Are you able to have a conversation with someone, effortlessly switching between your native language and your second language, or do you need to enhance your English? It’s recommended that you demonstrate your language skills on your CV but you definitely can't just claim to have a certain level without proof.
Whether it’s to study a university course in English, to get a job, or teach private English lessons, you should show how competent you are with certificates, diplomas, and qualifications. You should also ensure that people are familiar with the proof you're showing them!
Let’s have a look at some options…
How Can You Prove Your English Proficiency?
You might dread the idea of an English exam, but they're not really exams. Think of them as English evaluations.
Why? Because it’s not about passing or failing, rather your score indicates your fluency in English. This allows everyone to determine their level in a fair manner and when they put it on their CV, anyone who reads it will be able to understand their exact level.
According to the Australian Government's Department of Home Affairs, you can prove your proficiency in English with one of the following English exams: the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE)!
Let’s start by looking at the TOEFL.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT) is for non-native speakers of English and measures all 4 academic English skills — reading, listening, speaking, and writing — the way they are actually used in a classroom.
It’s especially useful for those who would like to study at an academic institution, like a university, in an English-speaking country.
In fact, it’s accepted by over 11,000 universities and other institutions in more than 150 countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, the U.K., and across Europe and Asia.
Your TOEFL scores provide a true reflection of your abilities that you can show admissions officers.
The test was originally created in 1964 at the Center for Applied Linguistics under the direction of Stanford University applied linguistics professor Dr. Charles A. Ferguson.
Most English tests you have to pay for and the TOEFL is no different. Unfortunately, you will have to pay for it. Before you pay to sit the test, you should understand what’s involved.
The TOEFL is a multiple-choice exam. The iBT internet version of the exam is scored out of 120 points.
The exam is divided into four parts, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The test takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
Once you have obtained TOEFL, it’s valid for two years.
ETS also includes lighter versions of the TOEFL for those whose English level doesn’t need to be as advanced. For example, there’s the TOEFL Junior for younger candidates.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures your English skill in Australia for study, work, and migration.
Like TOEFL, an IELTS certificate is recognised by more than 11,000 universities, immigration authorities, government agencies and employers around the world.
You can take either a computer-delivered or paper-based test, you will get a free online preparation course, you will have access to IELTS practice tests marked by IELTS experts, and you will take a face-to-face speaking test with a person, not a machine.
Two tests are offered: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Most universities in Australia will ask you for the Academic test.
Alternatively, you would take the General Training test for migration purposes. The organisation where you plan to work or study sets the requirements. So, before you register, you should confirm which one is right for you.
Like the TOEFL, the IELTS test has four sections: Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking.
It is up to each organisation to set a validity period that works for their purposes, however the IELTS partners recommend a two year validity period for IELTS test results.
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The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE) is an English test you can use to prove your English ability as part of all Australian visa applications. But not only that, PTE Academic is also accepted by all Australian universities, as well as by professional associations and state government departments.
You will have access to free online courses and links to a host of preparation providers, a range of self-study and classroom-ready official course books, a practice app that functions as a personalised study planner, and other self-study and classroom materials.
The test has three main parts, speaking and writing (together), listening and reading. The test is taken via computer in a single three-hour session.
PTE Academic assesses real-life, academic English, so you will hear excerpts from lectures and view graphs and charts in the test. You will hear a variety of accents, from British and American to non-native speakers, so you will be exposed to the kind of accents you will encounter in everyday life.
Other than these three major English-language examinations, there are also many English-language certificates you can obtain to prove your skills.
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Cambridge English Qualification C1 Advanced
C1 Advanced, formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), is one of the University of Cambridge’s English Qualifications. It is an in-depth, high-level qualification that shows you have the language skills that employers and universities are looking for.
Over 9,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments around the world accept C1 Advanced as proof of high-level achievement in learning English.
Those who pass the C1 Advanced demonstrate that they have the skills to make the most of studying, working and living in English-speaking countries.
The exam is targeted at Level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The examination also provides reliable assessment at the level above C1 (Level C2) and the level below (Level B2).
Scores at level B1 are also reported. You will not receive a certificate, but your Cambridge English Scale score will be shown on your Statement of Results.
The exam is computer or paper-based and is made up of four papers developed to test your English language skills: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening and Speaking. The exam takes approximately four hours.
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English Certifications for Tutoring
If you want to teach private tutorials in English, you don’t technically require any qualifications.
However, having qualifications can help you attract customers who trust you and will be willing to pay for quality English tutorials.
If you don’t, it might be hard to find customers even if you have an extensive vocabulary and are an expert of English grammar and irregular verbs!
One or two qualifications will make your profile look more appealing. They reassure customers and make it more probable that they will choose you as their tutor.
If you don’t have any, you should emphasise other qualities. For example, if you’re a native speaker, you should definitely mention it!
Remember to include whether you’ve spent a number of years, living, studying, or working in one of the numerous countries that make up the Commonwealth, or if your parents are native-English speakers.
Being perfectly bilingual can be a massive advantage. But to become bilingual, you need immersion! And a language exchange or a language stay may not suffice…
If you would like to teach English in a school, you will typically require a post-graduate qualification.
Finding a Tutor for Your English Test
All things considered, have you decided you’re going to take an English test? You will need to know a few techniques to assist you in passing these English exams.
You should be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. These aren’t the type of exams you can just show up to even if you are confident with your English. For one, you need to ensure that you stick to the time guidelines and don’t spend too much time on one question or section.
We advise reading the options first, then reading the question. That way, you can begin eliminating impossible answers as soon as you read the question.
Ensure you always have a piece of scrap paper to work on, too.
You can also get ready for the test by listening to and reading English-language media and revising everything you know intensely. Hiring a private tutor is a fantastic idea when you’re getting ready for these exams.
How do you decide which exam to take? Consider your objectives. For example, if you want to study, take the TOEFL or IELTS Academic. If you want to apply for a visa or migrate, take the IELTS General Training or PTE Academic. If you think your level is between B2 and C2, take the Cambridge C1 Advanced.
There’s no one size fits all. You need to consider the reasons why you're taking an English exam, what kind of student you are, and how the exam can assist you in the future.
If you've thought about all that and still want to sit an English test, we've compiled some tips on the best ways to prepare for it!
You can find a private tutor to help you learn English online or in person by visiting Superprof.
The platform that connects tutors and students