Recent Changes to the BEC Assessment Levels

The Business English Certificate exam is designed to show your employer or potential employer your ability to communicate in English. This certificate is recognized by many businesses who are looking for individuals who can speak and understand fluent English. If you are one of these individuals planning to take the BEC exam, there are some important changes that we’d like you to be aware of.

Just to give you an overview, the BEC exam is actually three distinct exams which are themselves divided into four distinct parts. The Business English Certificate exam is designed to measure the skill level of a variety of students. Although all three certification levels – Preliminary, Vantage, and Higher – have a Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking component, the exam varies in terms of the degree of emphasis they place on each aspect, their level of difficulty, and the forms of responses expected. Importantly, this is the only certain certification set to meet specific CEFR goals.

1.   BEC Preliminary – Set at CEFR Level B1

On the BEC Preliminary, the combined Reading and Writing section is made up of 45 reading comprehension questions (measured using multiple choice and short answer responses) and the 2 writing tasks over 90 minutes.

The Listening section, by contrast, is made up of 30 items over 40 minutes.

Finally, the Speaking section is assessed with 2 examiners and 2 candidates completing 3 distinct parts over a shared 12 minutes

2.   BEC Vantage – Set at CEFR Level B2

As compared the BEC Preliminary, several sections of the BEC Vantage are longer. The now separate Reading section is made up of 45 reading comprehension questions over 60 minutes.

The Writing section is likewise longer and comprised of 2 longer skills-based tasks over 45 minutes.

The Listening section is unchanged made but the Speaking portion is comprised of 3 distinct parts over a shared 14 minutes.

3.    BEC Higher – Set at CEFR Level C1

On the BEC Higher, nearly all sections of the exam are longer. The Reading section, now made up of 52 reading comprehension questions, still takes place over 60 minutes.

The Writing section is emphasized further and students are given 70 minutes to complete its 2 tasks.

The Listening section remained unchanged but the longer Speaking portion is comprised 3 distinct parts over a shared 16 minutes.


BULATS Computer Adaptive Test

The BULATS Reading and Listening Test is a Computer Adaptive Test which uses adaptive testing techniques to make the test-taking process easier and more accurate than typical paper exams. It does this by fundamentally changing the nature of the testing process used in most classrooms throughout the world.

Unlike paper exams, which are the same from beginning to end for all test takers regardless of their particular ability (and are notorious for steadily increasing their difficult level without respect to student performance), the BULATS CAT exam works to pinpoint (and eventually ask questions only at) a student’s level using adaptive testing techniques.

It does this by using the answers provided to earlier questions on the test as a way of selecting future questions within the same section. In practice, this means that starting with the second question, the BULATS CAT selects and presents each subsequent question on the basis of the answers to the question (or stream of questions) immediately before it. If, for example, the test taker gets the first question right, the second question will be harder but if he or she gets it wrong, the second question will be easier and so on throughout the exam.

In this way, the BULATS CAT hones in on the applicant’s true level by monitoring the difficulty of the questions and eventually choosing only those questions which match the candidate’s skill set. The test continues until accuracy threshold has been reached and the appropriate level has been determined. Thus, while all test-takers make get the same first question, no two testing scenarios are completely identical and while all test takers may take the same number of questions, those who answer more questions at a higher level correctly will earn higher scores than those who answer the same number of lower level questions. A demonstration of BULATS CAT can be viewed here


Commonly Misused Words in English

No matter if you are a beginner or advanced English learner – or even a native English speaker – there are so many words that sound the same but are completely different. While many students learn by listening, you may just find that the word you thought you heard is completely different from what is actually being said. That is why we have compiled some of the most commonly misused words in English, so that you’ll be able to show your English competency without flaw:

– Then, Than

This one is a difficult and commonly misused word in English since it is pronounced with minor distinction. Than is used to make a comparison. Then is used to denote time.

Example:
She went to the store, and then she walked all the way home.
He loves chocolate more than Sussie.

– To, Too, Two

Now all three words sound and are pronounced exactly the same with no distinction except for context. To is used as a preposition, two refers to the number, and too is an adverb meaning also or in addition.

Example:
She has two eggs on her plate for breakfast. (number)
She went with her class on a field trip too. (also)
She has to go to the store to pick up milk on her way back home. (adverb)

– Your, You’re

When you use an apostrophe, in many cases you are forming a contraction joining two words together. In this case, You’re is joining the words “you” and “are”. When you see the word you’re, think “you are”. If this does not work, chances are that you should use Your. Your is a possessive pronoun that denotes ownership.

Example:
You’re going to get sick if you do not wash your hands.
Your dog is so cute!

– Their, There, and They’re

Do you remember what we just covered about contractions? They’re is joining the two words “they” and “are”. So when you see this word, you should replace the sentence with “they are…” Their is a possessive pronoun and tells us to whom it belongs. There is usually referring to where, typically it is a place.

Example:
They’re going to dinner with us tonight. (They are going to dinner with us tonight)
Their dog is always walking in the streets without a leash. (Whose dog? Theirs!)
She will meet us there after work. (Where? There!)

These are just a few commonly misused words in English, however we will continue to bring you important examples to help you improve your English. Can you think of some other examples of commonly misused words in English and what tricks you use to remember them? There is no doubt that learning English is difficult to master. The more helpful hits you get and the more dedication and time you take to master your new language, the faster and more successful you’ll be at it!


Summer English Course

Learning a foreign language can be done either from home or abroad however most experts recommend that the best way to learn a language is through immersion. This is good news for many students as summer approaches!

You may be asking yourself, take a summer English course? Yes! There is no better way to spend your summer than traveling the world, exploring new places, and all the while learning a new language and culture.

In fact, many students will travel overseas for a few months during their summer break to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. The best way to learn English is to study at a program which offer a variety of summer English courses. Most students who are looking for an intense program will study at an English language institute during the day and live with a host family or on-campus at night. Many students find this to be the best way: learn the structure, grammar, and vocabulary formally at school and then apply your newly acquired language with your new friends and host family.

As you begin to look at the different programs, you’ll see that there are a variety of English language programs. One popular institute, Sacred Heart University, offers three types of language programs including intensive English, semi-intensive English, and a part time program. With these different options, students are able to determine how many hours they want to spend in the classroom – be it 23 hours or only 2 hours – so that they can learn at their own pace.

Many programs, like Sacred Heart University, also provide tutoring and conversation partners to enhance their learning experiences. Additionally, these programs will also incorporate activities along with the summer English course so that your experience will be both fun and rewarding! Let us know if you had an amazing summer course that you’d recommend!