This is the first in a series of articles outlining the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) exams. Here we describe all the different tests offered by the organization, the extent to which they are recognized and how to take them. In future issues, The World of English will give an in-depth look into the structure of each of the exams and provide advice on how to study for them.
The most well known and popular UCLES exams are the First Certificate in English (FCE), the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). Along with these, the UCLES also administers many other tests which have widespread recognition in both Poland and abroad. In 1999 over 20,000 candidates took UCLES exams in Poland and a total of 60,000 Poles have been awarded FCE certificates.
There are five so-called 'Main Suite' general English exams:
Key English Test (KET) - elementary level, offered once a year in May;
Preliminary English Test (PET) - lower intermediate level, offered twice a year in May and November;
First Certificate in English (FCE) - upper intermediate level, offered twice a year in June and December;
Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) - advanced level, offered twice a year in June and December;
Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) - proficiency level, offered twice a year in June and December.
In order to take these exams it is necessary to register for them in advance. Registration for November/December exams takes place over two weeks in the second half of September. For the May/June session registration takes place during the last week of February and the first week of March.
In addition to the Main Suite exams, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is offered to individual candidates or organized groups twice a month at the British Council in Warsaw. Unlike the Main Suite exams it is not a pass/fail test, but instead is designed to grade the candidate's English in a nine-level scale.
There are three tests for Young Learners:
Starters, Movers, Flyers.
These tests are designed for children between seven and twelve years of age. 'Flyers' is at approximately the same level as KET. The tests are offered to primary and language schools which teach children at the suitable age. They are organized in the school premises on
a date chosen by the schools. The minimum number of students to be entered for these tests should be ten per level and entries should be registered at least eight weeks before the chosen test date.
The UCLES also offers exams in Business English:
Business English Certificate 1 (BEC1) - a business equivalent of PET;
Business English Certificate 2 (BEC2) - a business equivalent of FCE;
Business English Certificate 3 (BEC3) - a business equivalent of CAE.
These take place twice a year in November/December and May/June. Registration can be done at the same times as for the Main Suite exams. In addition, sessions for institutions and schools that would like to test groups of ten or more take place in March, June, August and November. To register for these sessions it is necessary to contact the exam co-ordinator at the British Council in Warsaw eight weeks before the date of the test.
Another, higher level Business English exam the UCLES offers is the Certificate in English for International Business and Trade (CEIBT). Registration should be done at the same times as the Main Suite exams.
The Business Language Testing Service (BULATS) is offered on demand to institutions and individuals. It tests the language ability of people working in a business context and can be used for evaluating the level of English of employees, trainees or applicants. The test lasts ninety minutes, and consists of Listening, Reading and Grammar/ Vocabulary sections. It is conducted in the institution premises.
Past exam papers should be available at good bookshops. Otherwise they can be obtained from the British Council in Warsaw. The FCE Handbook, with an example exam, is available free of charge from the British Council.
UCLES exams are widely recognized as valuable qualifications. CAE and CPE are recognized by the Polish Ministry of National Education as sufficient qualifications to teach English in state primary, middle and secondary schools, provided the methodological (TEFL) qualifications have been completed.
FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC2, BEC3, CEIBT and IELTS level 6 and above are accepted by the Polish Civil Service Office as an English language qualification required from Polish civil servants.
Holders of FCE and higher certificates are exempt from English classes in many Polish universities.
In April 1999 the Ministry of National Education decided that advanced level certificates in foreign languages awarded by foreign universities or examination boards will be recognized as equivalents of Polish school-leaving examinations. In the case of English, however, the final decision as to whether this should be FCE or CAE has not yet been made.
Results for June 1999
FCE Grade Candidates with that grade A 10% B 36% C 40% D 7% E 7% PASS 86% FAIL 14% CAE Grade Candidates with that grade A 7% B 19% C 50% D 9% E 15% PASS 76% FAIL 24% CPE Grade Candidates with that grade A 13% B 14% C 46% D 9% E 18% PASS 73% FAIL 27%
Source: British Council Poland Exams Unit