Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sipping English Exam Soup II

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In our previous post, we covered the primary exams for entry into a US university.

An entire testing industry is also devoted to British English and entry into university in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada.

The University of Cambridge administers the testing alphabet soup via its ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) department.

The British are more organized in spreading their brand of English with a British Council office is almost every country. American English on the other hand is diffused on a wide basis through popular culture - music and film without a strategic plan to advance the use of American English.

British English Exams

There are principal British English tests served up in our alphabet soup of exams today each leading to a higher level of English language proficiency.

1. KET (Key English Test) - The KET tests on a basic English language level. It's a starter exam to prove competencies in four main disciplines of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. According to its official handbook, "a language user at this level needs to be able to read simple
texts, many of which are of the kind needed for survival in day-to-day life or while travelling in a foreign country."

On the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), a scale of language abilities, the KET encompasses levels A1 and A2. The target age group is 12 to 16 year olds (mostly female), but some adults take the exam as well. The KET prepares one for the PET.

2. PET (Preliminary English Test) - The PET tests on an intermediary English language. "PET reflects the use of language in real life, such as understanding signs and announcements, and is accepted by many employers as proof of ability to use English in clerical, secretarial or managerial jobs."

3. FCE (First Certificate Exam) - The FCE tests on an upper-intermediary English language level. Mastery of the FCE demonstrates core competencies to function in work or study.

4. IELTS (International English Language Testing Sytem) is the granddaddy of the British English exams. Its official website boasts about a half of million candidates take the test every year, far less than the TOEFL. The nearly 3 hour exam is scored from 0-9 - a 9 indicates an "expert user." Many universities require a 7-8 for entry. The IELTS is required by universities using the British brand of English.

If you are in Buenos Aires and want English lessons personally designed to fit your needs, please call Professor Winn at 1160 461 342 or send an email to

Anyone interested in translations may send an email to for a prompt evaluation.

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