Do you speak English ? A question everyone gets asked the world over! Do you answer “yes” and still not really know whether you really did learn English at school?
When it comes to an interview or a telephone conversation, can you effortlessly switch between your native language and your second language or do you need to improve your English? It’s difficult to demonstrate your language skills on your CV and you certainly can’t just claim to have a certain level without proof.
Whether it’s to get a job, find students for private English lessons, or get onto English courses, you need to show how good your are with certificates, diplomas, and qualifications. You also need to make sure that the people you’re proving your level to are familiar with the proof you’re showing them!
Let’s have a look at how we get them…
Another English exam!? Don’t sweat it!
They’re not really exams. In fact, they should really be called English evaluations.
Why? Because rather than passing or failing, your score indicates your fluency in English. This means that everyone can judge their level fairly and then put it onto their CV and have it understood by almost anyone who reads it.
Let’s have a look at three of the biggest English exams. You might have heard of them…
Everyone should take a page out of Shakespeare’s book! (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Let’s have a look at the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) first!
The TOEFL is obviously for non-native speakers of English and is a varied test of your reading and writing skills, listening skills, and your spoken English. It’s particularly useful for those at academic institutions like university or those looking to study in an English-speaking country.
It was created in 1964 by Princeton University’s Educational Testing Service (ETS).
There aren’t many free English tests and the TOEFL is no different. Unfortunately, like almost every other English exam, you’ll have to pay for it.
Once you have your TOEFL, it’s valid for two years. However, before you open your wallet and pay to sit the exam, you should probably take a look at what it is, what it includes, and what it’s good for.
The TOEFL is a multiple-choice exam with two versions (the offline computer version has been replaced by the online version):
The PBT paper version of the exam which is scored out of 677 points.
And the iBT internet version of the exam which is scored out of 120 points.
Both exams are broken into four parts which include: listening (between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes), reading (1 hour), writing (20 minutes), and speaking (20 minutes using a microphone).
The TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) is also run by the “ETS” and has been around since 1979 and in many ways is very similar to the TOEFL.
The main and most important difference is that this exam focuses on international communication and is geared towards business English rather than everyday English like the TOEFL.
The TOEIC is accepted in 150 different countries by thousands and thousands of businesses. In fact, it was the Japanese government that gave Princeton the idea!
The exam tests listening and reading over the course of two hours. The results are on a scale of 990 with different colours indicating the grade boundaries.
There’s also a speaking and writing paper you can choose to take that lasts 1 hour 20 minutes.
Finally, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) takes another step towards business and management, in particular.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in the US first offered the GMAT in 1953.
The exam is indispensable for those wanting to complete an MBA in an English-speaking university. Some multinational businesses and top-rated universities require it as part of their recruitment or admissions procedure.
The GMAT lasts 4 hours and tests every linguistic skill imaginable before scoring you out of 800 points.
It also includes maths and logic questions.
Your score is calculated to include results from every time you’ve taken the GMAT within the last 5 years too.
In addition to the three giants of English-language examinations, there are also plenty of English-language certificates you can get to prove your abilities.
ETS also includes lighter versions of the TOEFL and the TOEIC for those whose English level doesn’t need to be as high. The TOEIC Bridge, for example, is designed for secondary-school students. There’s also the TOEFL Junior for even younger candidates.
E-learning might very well be the future of learning English. (Source: stocksnap)
The University of Cambridge in the UK also provides examinations which are more common for non-native speakers across Europe.
The KET (Key English Test) is equivalent to the CEFR A2, the PET (Preliminary English Test) and the FCE (First Certificate in English) correspond to B1 and B2 respectively.
Finally, they also offer the CAE (Certificate in Advanced English) for C1 and the CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) accrediting a C2 level of English.
If you’re not going to choose to do Cambridge exam, you could opt for the BULATS (Business Language Testing Service). You can also verify your level in French, German, and Spanish at the same time in doing so.
The British Council also offer the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) which is chosen by 3 million candidates every year! A number of English-speaking countries use this when it comes to immigration. Your result is given to you as one of the CEFR levels.
Don’t forget you can also opt for national exams. However, these aren’t often recognised outside of the country issuing them which can cause problems if you want to live, study, or work anywhere else in the world.
If you’re not planning on moving any time soon, though, you could always opt for one of these as they’re usually cheaper than the internationally-recognised exams we were talking about earlier.
If you want to give private tutorials in English, you don’t technically need any qualifications.
However, the qualifications you have can help you find customers who trust you and will be happy to hand over their hard-earned money for quality English tutorials.
If you don’t, it might be difficult to find customers even if you are a master of irregular verbs, English grammar, and have a fantastic vocabulary!
Lessons at an English-speaking university are a great idea. In fact, language immersion is the best school there is! (Source: Unsplash)
To make your profile more appealing, one or two qualifications can go a long way. They reassure customers and make them more likely to choose you if they haven’t already met you.
If you don’t have any, you might need to highlight some other qualities. For example, if you’re a native speaker, it would be very foolish not to mention it.
Don’t forget to say whether or not you’ve spent a number of years, living, studying, or working in one of the many countries that make up the Commonwealth or if your parents are native-English speakers.
Being perfectly bilingual can be a huge benefit. For that, you’ll need immersion! A language exchange or a language stay mightn’t be enough…
If you want to teach English in a school, you usually need at least a post-graduate qualification.
With everything you read above, have you decided you want to focus on business management and do the GMAT? You’re going to need to know a few techniques to help you pass the English part of the GMAT.
You have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This isn’t the kind of exam you can just show up to even if your English is really good. For one, you need to make sure you’re spending no longer than 2 minutes on every question!
We recommend reading the options before reading the question. This means you can start eliminating impossible answers as soon as you read the question.
Make sure you always use a piece of scrap paper to work on, too.
A good GMAT score basically means you speak English like a native would. (Source: Visual Hunt)
You should also be preparing for the exam with intensive revision sessions and reading English-language media. Hiring a private tutor is a great idea when you’re preparing for the GMAT.
How do you choose which exam to do? Start by thinking about your objectives and what you’re going to use English for. The GMAT won’t be of any interest to bookworms and Anglophiles, the TOEIC isn’t great if you want to go to university, and the KET or PET aren’t for bilinguals…
There’s no perfect English exam. You need to think about the reasons why you’re taking an English exam, what type of student you are, and how the exam can help you in the future.
If you’ve considered all that and still want to sit the GMAT, we’ve put together some advice on the best ways to prepare for it!