New tests on the block

Key players in the market for university-entrance language testing have new competition, writes Melanie Butler

Nowadays, to get into most European universities, students need to show evidence of their level of English on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

In both Italy and Spain, for example, students receive credit if they have an international exam at B2.

Greece, perhaps the biggest exam market in the world per capita, has long required a pass at C2 to teach English in schools.

So what exams are they taking?

The short answer is, everything but Ielts. The world’s biggest academic English exam does remain standard for the burgeoning English-medium undergraduate courses. The Dutch, for example, often require a stonking 6.5 on all four skills.

But local students tend to opt for the General English exams which they have studied at local private language schools or, increasingly, in their local state schools.

This market has been dominated by Trinity and Cambridge English Language Assessment, at least since City and Guilds withdrew from the market in 2015.

But now a new kid on the block has emerged: Language Cert. Their new Esol International exam was developed from City and Guilds tests and retains their popular two-module format, which allows speaking and listening to be taken separately from reading and writing. Widely revised and improved, the new language tests also make use of the latest assessment technology which is preferred by parent company People Cert.

Speaking at the British Embassy in Athens, former head of Cambridge English Language Assessment Mike Milanovic described the new suite of CEFR-benchmarked exams as ‘an exciting combination of heritage and innovation’. Milanovic, who is chair of the advisory board for the new tests, also emphasised the ‘modern operational systems and sophisticated technological solutions.’

The exams are regulated by Ofqual in England and are recognised by the relevant bodies in Wales and New Zealand.

Already launched in Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, all key markets for the old City and Guilds, the exam is currently delivered in 165 test centres in 25 countries. It aims to be in on offer in 150 countries in the next 18 months.