Intermediate level exams
"Intermediate" is one of the biggest levels in English!
It covers such a wide variety of abilities that it is often sub-divided (low intermediate, upper intermediate, post-intermediate...) but for the purposes of simplicity we have left it as one, broad level here.
At intermediate level there is one exam which is more famous than all the rest put together - Cambridge First Certificate. However it is not the only option and it may not be the best option for you. Find the best option by choosing one of these links:
- I have a good intermediate level. I need a general qualification for work, study etc.
- I have a low intermediate level.
- I want to take First Certificate one day but I need more preparation first.
- I want an intermediate level qualification in English for business.
The Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) is probably the best known of all English language exams. Over 250,000 learners take the exam every year, and it is widely recognised by employers as evidence of English ability at intermediate level. The exam has been around for a long time, but was extensively revised in 1996 to give a greater focus to the ability to use the language in realistic and practical ways.
There are 5 papers in the exam (which takes place in March, June and December). These are: Reading, Writing, English In Use, Speaking and Listening. Each paper carries 20% of the total marks. Like all the Cambridge exams, this means you need to be confident in all the major skills areas (speaking, listening, reading and writing). It is very unlikely that you will pass, for example, if you are good at listening, reading and writing but can't speak!
If you are thinking of taking First Certificate, you are strongly advised to follow an exam preparation course first.
Alternatives: if you don't want / aren't able to take First Certificate, have a look at:
PET - the Preliminary English Test - is another exam from the University of Cambridge. It is similar in some ways to the First Certificate but is at a lower level ("low" intermediate compared to FCE's "upper" intermediate). PET is therefore a good choice if you want to take an easier exam as part of your preparation for FCE. A pass at PET level is evidence of your ability to survive in English in social and work situations.
There are 4 papers in PET - Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Each paper is worth 25% of the total marks. There are two pass grades - pass, or pass with merit.
PET takes place throughout the year - usually in March, May, June, November and December.
For more information about the PET exam: www.cambridge-efl.org.uk
Pitmans Examinations in English are universally recognised. They are held at 5 levels - two of these (ELEMENTARY and INTERMEDIATE) are suitable for learners with an intermediate level of English. (The Intermediate exam is in fact quite challenging - don't choose it unless you have a good intermediate level!)
The exams test reading, writing and listening skills. Successful candidates are awarded the Pitmans Examination Institute Certificate in English. If you want a test of your spoken English, you can take the ESOL test (English for Speakers of Other Languages). These test the kind of English which you need to use in everyday life. The focus is on authentic use of the language.
Pitmans exams are extremely flexible - many Pitmans centres offer them on demand throughout the year.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), though its Examinations Board (LCCIEB) offers business qualifications that are recognised by employers worldwide. It is probably true to say that LCCI is not so well known (or well-promoted!) as English exam specialists such as UCLES and TOEFL. On the other hand the LCCI has direct links with the international Chamber of Commerce movement, giving it unique access and insights into the needs of modern businesses.
The LCCI second Level (a good intermediate level) consists of 3 sections: an extended writing task requiring candidates to produce a memo, article or report, a letter writing task, a reformulation task requiring candidates to expand, reduce or selectively rewrite a passage of English.
Some universities will accept a Second Level pass for entry on degree-level courses.
The First Level (low intermediate) consists of 4 sections: the composition of a letter or memo, a passage of text for comprehension, a look and think comprehension task, a look and write production task.
The written exams can also be taken in conjunction with the corresponding oral tests - Spoken English for Industry and Commerce (SEFIC). At the First level, this consists of a 30 minute test of your ability to discuss a variety of common work-related topics in business English. At the First level, there is a 25 minute test of your ability to perform basic tasks and discuss routine work matters in business English.
The LCCI English for Business exams are offered three times a year.
If you are thinking of taking an LCCI exam, you are strongly advised to follow an exam preparation course first.
For more information on the LCCI exam in general: www.lccieb.org.uk
- If you don't want or are not able to take an LCCI exam, consider The TOEIC® Test as an alternative.
The Test of English for International Communication assesses the English of non-native speakers who use the language in their jobs. It is designed as a global tool that can be applied to any work environment where English is , and as a result is widely accepted by corporate human resource directors worldwide.
The TOEIC® Test is very different from exams such as CAE or the LCCI exams in that you do not pass or fail it. Instead you get a score which reflects your overall ability in English. The higher your score, the better your level. An employer may, for example, insist on a minimum score before confirming your appointment to a job.
The TOEIC® Test also takes place much more frequently than the Cambridge exams. Churchill House is an officially Approved Test Centre (by ETS) TOEIC exam centre.The test itself is a two-hour multiple-choice test that consists of 200 questions divided into two Sections - Listening and Reading. Each section is in multiple-choice format - you select the correct answer from a list of four possibilities.
The test measures listening and reading directly and is also promoted as an indirect measure of speaking and writing. Studies with large samples of non-native speakers of English from around the world have confirmed a strong link between The TOEIC® Test results and an oral interview.
For more information on The TOEIC® Test: www.toeic.com
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