Hey you Anglophile, how’s life? So you’d like to know more the variety of English-language certificates available out there.
Good! Let me walk you through them.
Perhaps you’re unemployed and you’d like to stand out when you apply for a job.
Maybe you work, but you desire to improve salary-wise 💰, or to hop to a better job.
Or perhaps you’re a student, dreaming of enrolling in a foreign university or willing to get the B2 qualification most faculties now require before to major. 🎓
Whatever your situation, an English-language certificate can improve it substantially.
Follow me: in this post I’ll tell you how.
English-language Certificates: What are they for?
These are few of the most common reasons to get an English-language certificate:
➡ Improving your situation in the private sector: you work, but you’d like to obtain a better job.
Perhaps you don’t care about changing company or position, but you want to see your wage grow.
There is plenty of companies paying you a plus for each language you know well enough to work with.
Needless to say, they want an English-language certificate to prove it.
➡ Finding a job: if you’re unemployed, whatever your profession, adding an English-language certificate can significantly improve your chances. 👔
In any business, in any role.
➡ Getting prepared for a civil service position: official English-language certificates can be a must or a very good plus, to gain useful bonus points.
How to Get Hired, by Michael A. Harrison:An Insider’s Guide to Applications, Interviews and Getting the Job of Your Dreams.
➡ Majoring abroad: if you believed English was over at the end of compulsory school, or with that silly test during your bachelor studies, ugh, sorry to wake you up.
If you want to continue educating yourself at an academic level, you’re required to have English-language certificates. Often times, nowadays, even within the borders of your own country.
It makes a lot of sense.
➡ Working as a bilingual teacher: kindergartens, primary, junior high and high schools with subjects taught in English have been shooting up like mushrooms worldwide.
In Spain, for example, you have to obtain the so-called Habilitación Lingüística, (Linguistic Qualification), for both private and public institutes.
In order to sit that exam, you have to have an official English-language certificate in your professional folder. CCAAs (Autonomous Communities, that is, regional governments) decide which one.
➡ Getting your university degree: you need to proof a certain level of English, in order to graduate. That’s quite common everywhere now.
The minimum required is normally the B2, which is equivalent to the B2 First by Cambridge, previously known as FCE – First Certificate in English.
Why the University of Cambridge like to mess things up by changing the name of their long-known qualifications? 😒 Who knows.
➡ Going on Erasmus: if you wanted to be given your grant-in-aid, once, you had to have gained enough ECTS.
Now you have to proof your English too.
Some universities administer their own tests; the majority, anyway, accepts merely official English-language certificates.
➡ Obtaining the citizenship: in most Anglo-Saxon countries, you’re required to show an official English-language certificate to set the process in motion.
In the UK, for example, you must have a B1 at the very least.
Life in the UK Test: Study Guide 2019, by by Henry Dillon, Alastair Smith:The essential study guide for the British citizenship test.
There is still plenty of situation in which an official English-language certificate is needed.
But I guess I have already made my point, beside not wanting you to leave this post and check your Facebook feed.
I know, however, that you have a grumpy friend, doubting about the usefulness of official English-language certificates.
And we need to shut him up. 😤
English-language Certificates: Your know-it-all friend must keep silent
Perhaps you have not one, but dozens of grumpy friends.
I just want to shut one’s mouth: the one whom told you that in life it merely matters to talk a language. That there’s no need to pieces of paper demonstrating it.
I am sure he didn’t really need in his life any official English-language certificate.
But one’s life isn’t all’s life.
To the vast majority of people, such certificate may be a life-changer. 📜
Perhaps, your friend stirred up another argument: the habit some people have of piling up degrees and certificates, regardless of their usefulness.
While one can agree with him about this, in general terms, official English-language certificates aren’t useless. At all.
They are nowadays requested even to cleaners in the most forgotten rural area.
There are also those who question the whole certificate thing. Like it’s an imperfect diagnostic tool, proving incapable of assessing one’s English.
True: it’s imperfect, because life isn’t perfect either.
It’s just a few hours exam, contained in few pages. If it was longer and more exhaustive, it would render a more detailed picture.
If you’re caught in a bad day, you won’t give your best.
If the pal sitting next to you during the Listening wouldn’t have sneezed, you’d have guessed the answers better.
If you had more time to study the three weeks previous to the exam, your score would have been higher. 😒
Life is imperfect.
There is simply no better way of testing your level of English.
When your friend tells you that you only need to show directly your English to whom want to know how good it is, he ignores real life.
An international organization isn’t going to phone you to check how’s your English.
With tens of thousands of applications for each vacancy, the last thing they are willing to do is to waste their time with that. 🕰️
It’s the same for the academic or the business world.
Not only time is money, but many entities do not possess the human and material capital to check if what you state is true or not.
Beside that, an informal test by phone contains a brutal subjective distortion.
In order to carry on a proper evaluation of your level, they should organize an examination environment similar to that of an official test.
And it’s not their job.
To round things off, the average human being has a mind-boggling capacity to overestimate one’s language proficiency.
Most employers read English: Advanced and is inclined to believe due to experience: that’s an intermediate, at the most.
Summarizing, official English-language certificates haven’t been developed our of boredom by someone with a lot of spare time.
They are the most efficient way to ascertain how well one masters English.
Having said this, let’s proceed.
English-language Certificates: The best time to get them
As I was describing in the previous post about official language certificates, there are two exams with an expiration date, very focused on universities:
They have two years of validity. Then, you should sit them again.
If you do not intend to study in certain Anglo-saxon universities, I’d personally go for Cambridge examinations.
The whole name of the organizer is Cambridge Assessment English.
A big difference between the first two and the latter is that TOEFL and IELTS assess your level, whatever that is.
Cambridge’s, on the other hand, confirm you whether you are at a specific level or not.
Any official English-language certificate handled by Cambridge Assessment English is forever valid. No expiry date.
As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you obtain it, the better it is.
Let me answer with a few examples:
➡ If you’re about to sit for an official exam: the syllabus you need to go through tends to be… extraordinarily bulky.
By getting ASAP your official English-language certificate, you can then concentrate on such syllabus. Much less stress.
➡ You’re looking for a job: what can I say?
Every day gone by without an official English certificate in your CV, is an opportunity you lose forever.
And life is now, not someday.
➡ You’re interested in a postgraduate course: that’s a cumbersome task. Paperwork, permits and cover letters needed to be accepted in postgraduate studies… do you really want to add extra pressure by doing this all while preparing to sit the official English-language certificate you need? 😓
➡ You’re going on Erasmus: I’m sure you already have enough stuff to study during your academic year.
Get your official English-language certificate during the summer break, or even before to enrol for the university.
➡ You’re about to graduate: there’s people still haunted by nightmares twenty years after their bachelor or master dissertation: its preparation and discussion.
Doing Your Research Project, by Judith Bell and Stephen Waters: A Guide for First-time Researchers.
If possible, I’d avoid adding stress on top of stress.
➡ You’re willing to request either citizenship (or naturalisation): especially if you already reside in an English-speaking country, what are you waiting for?
By aiming to an official English-language certificate, you’ll:
- learn more English,
- improve your lifestyle and livelihood,
- obtain your citizenship according to current requirements.
The general trend is to approve ever restrictive criteria. Language mastery isn’t an exception.
Those countries requesting a B1, now want a higher one.
And as Cambridge’s certificates do not expire, get yours as soon as you can!
It’s all too easy to underestimate what major snafu our life is likely to become from one moment to the next.
Pregnancies, internships, relocations, health issues, kids to raise, elders to take care of, exhausting jobs, more courses to attend… 😩
The best moment to design your life is now.
I have been a slacker for very long.
Then, life gave me amazing opportunities of life, work, study. But I needed an official English-language certificate to grab them.
In some cases, I saw such opportunities being seized by lesser people, who had an English certificate nonetheless.
In some other cases, I had no choice but to start studying as a mad.
No sleep, swallowing coffee as an elephant swallow half a river, taking days off from work and risking social lynching by my family.
When you prepare this way for an official English-language exam, it may goes well.
Or you might want to bang your head against the wall. 🥴
A Mind for Numbers, by barbara Oakley: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra).
I lost chances such as:
- working for a huge Canadian video game company;
- joining a project about water management in Africa;
- internships in the European Union institutions;
- monitoring elections in the Balkans on behalf of OECD;
- be hired by corps headquartered in Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Italy, etc.
If you have some spare time now, little as it may be, make good use of it and disencumber yourself.
English-language Certificates: What is Cambridge Assessment English
It is a department of the University of Cambridge.
Its mission is to prepare, administer and correct the well-known exams that evaluate people’s linguistic abilities.
On earth, its certificates are the most widely recognized. 🌎
They offer certificates for kids, teens and adults. For specific needs or general English. They make available on their website placement and guidance tests.
They publish materials and suggestions for both teachers and students.
Since the kick-off in 1967, Cambridge Assessment English is the Holy See of English evaluation:
- It inspired the CEFR or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages;
- It publishes materials to learn English and to prepare oneself for its exams;
- It creates tools to study on an autodidact bases and in group settings.
English-language Certificates: Those they offer
Official English-language certificate designed for young learners (with their old name between brackets):
- Pre A1 Starters (YLE Starters)
- A1 Movers (YLE Movers)
- A2 Flyers (YLE Flyers)
- A2 Key for Schools (KET or Key English Test)
- B1 Preliminary for Schools (PET or Preliminary English Test)
- B2 First for Schools (FCE or First Certificate in English)
English certificates for adults:
- A2 Key (KET or Key English Test)
- B1 Preliminary (PET or Preliminary English Test)
- B2 First (FCE or First Certificate in English)
- C1 Advanced (CAE or Certificated in Advanced English)
- C2 Proficiency (CPE or Certificate of Proficiency in English)
Business-oriented official English-language certificates:
- B1 Business Preliminary
- B2 Business Vantage
- C1 Business Higher
Allow me now to focus on those for adults. Here they are:
How much time do you have to enrol?
The sooner, the better.
You can opt for a computer-based or a paper-based exam.
Computer-based: generally speaking, you can sign up up until a month before the test, or up until all available places are taken. 💻
Paper-based: normally, a month and a half before the exam. 📝
Having said that, be aware you’re most likely going to have your exam spread in more days.
The Speaking tends to take place in a different day than the rest of your exam.
Unlike TOEFL and IELTS, these are pass/fail exams: you either get it or not. You’re not going to be put in a level or another.
Anyway, there’s a slight nuance to this topic: I suggest you to read the posts I’ve written for each official English-language certificate. 👓
In TurboLangs, I’ve focused on the three most advanced: B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency.
Why neither B1 Preliminary nor A2 Key?
Because they are not so popular and requested as these superior three.
I strongly suggest you to obtain a B2 First at the very least.
English-language Certificates: Which one should I choose
You’ll have realized that these official certificates aren’t for free.
Beside, you have to factor in the cost of textbooks, dictionaries, private lessons (which I recommend), travels, audiovisuals, etc.
To make a long story short: it’s a small investment.
So, if you ask me Which exam would you recommend me to sit?, my answer is:
Seek the mid-point between the time you can spend studying for it and the level that will deliver you the best outcome.
If right now you do not need an A2 or B1 certificate, don’t get them.
Focus on higher, more beneficial levels. 💪
If you sit an exam for a specific need, then you’ll have to sit what you’re told to sit.
There are companies willing to hire bilinguals only –> you’ll take the C2 Proficiency.
Paper- or computer-based
As hinted, Cambridge’s exam can be paper- or computer-based.
Computer-based tests are identical in respect of content and timing to the paper ones.
You can jot down notes on paper, if you feel like, just as you’d do with the paper version.
A part of the instructions come from the examiner, another part from the computer itself.
Computer-based exams hold some advantages: 🖥️
- Results are given after three weeks;
- if your handwriting is dreadful, a computer is a great help;
- if you’re faster typing than handwriting, same;
- ink stains, erasures and the like: bye bye. You can deliver a pristine exam;
- you have your own earphones, so you can adjust the volumen of any audio track after your own taste;
- you have a clock in front of you, so you can easily manage your time.
Having said this, if you feel more comfortable sitting your official English-language exam in its paper-based version, go ahead.
Several people still prefer the good old paper.
I do feel more at ease with paper, generally speaking.
In my daily work, I first take note on post-its then start writing on paper. I turn to the computer only when it’s time to write out the draft.
However, in an exam with strict time limits, I resort to computers every time the opportunity is given to me.
How to prepare for a Cambridge exam
There is a variety of ways.
In my opinion, the most effective is to study on your own for the most part, getting a private tutor’s help once or twice a week.
There are many schools organizing specific courses, but I am just skeptical about their efficacies and costs.
Sometimes it is darn difficult to find the right school.
A lot of time invested in the search, no solid references, sky-high prices…
If you’re not sure about it, take your linguistic destiny in your own hands. 💪
With common sense, goodwill and planning, you can pass your official English-language exam. Timely and with a moderate budget.
You can find more detailed instructions in each exam-related post in this website.
I think it’s clear that I believe in the power of an official English-language certificate to improve people’s lives.
It can open uncountable doors.
Life is larger than… life. You never know when having one will grant you an awesome opportunity.
Have a look at my other posts concerning the B2, C1 and C2 exams. 🔖
But in case you’ve only just started with English, this is the first post you need to read ⤵
I hope to see you soon again here, all out with English 😉
Your personal Anglicist,