Since its initial development some 20 years ago, the Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (or ECCE exam) has undergone constant study and refinement. Its last major revision took place in 2006 and affected the Speaking and Writing sections of the exam. Nevertheless, since then its developers at the University of Michigan English Language Institute have continued to update the parameters of the exam in order to create the most accurate and useful English proficiency exam possible. As a result of their work, beginning in 2013 the ECCE exam will include new changes to both the Listening and Reading sections.
While the length of the Listening section will not change (it will remain 30 minutes with a total of 50 questions), the second part of the listening test will have a new task in which test takers will listen to and answer questions about four short narratives (or “talks”). There will continue to be a total of 20 questions for this new aspect of the listening section and it will replace the extended listening task currently used on the exam. The ECCE feels that the older listening task, which simulates a radio interview related to a single event, can be improved by increasing the range of topics discussed.
While the Reading section of the exam is subdivided into three sections designed to assess grammar, vocabulary, and reading, there will be no changes to either the grammar or vocabulary sections in the new version. Instead, the 2013 version will include two new types of reading tasks: 2 short reading passages with 5 questions each and 4 short reading texts related to each other by topic with 10 questions each. As a result of these changes, the total number of questions on the Reading section will remain the same but the total amount of time allotted will be increased from 80 to 90 minutes.
Given the scope of these differences, a complete sample of the newly revised Listening and Reading sections will be made available online for test takers in early 2012.
While all politics may be local, in the 21st century all business is international. After all, in a world where shoes may be made in Sri Lanka, sold by a broker in Singapore and shipped to New Zealand (on a cargo ship registered in Panama), information about international regulations has taken center stage. Information is especially powerful now, given the continuing uncertainty plaguing world markets in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Thus, in this era where up-to-date and accurate information about the developments in international financial is so valuable, two new services have stepped in to fill the gap.
In response to the rise in demand for certified international financial analysts, organizations around the world have begun to offer certificates in International Financial Reporting. Uniquely, however, Cambridge ESOL alone has introduced its International Certificate in Financial English as a means of certifying the English proficiency of those would-be international financiers. The ICFE exam is designed shows that qualified candidates possess the advanced English language skills necessary to work in the international business community. This certificate comes as a welcome relief to businesses looking for a clear measurement of communicative ability.
At the same time, another new service, this time from BNA International, hopes to provide still more transparency. Their soon-to-be released International Financial Regulation Review will answer pressing questions about the cross-border implications of new financial initiatives such as the Dodd-Frank Bill, the EU’s Basel III, or the Volcker Rule. Led by one of the world’s leading experts in comparative and cross-border law, Phillip Wood, the International Financial Regulation Review will draw on a global network of experts to more fully understand legislative developments and anticipate changes. For example, it will provide essential information on recent and forthcoming international changes in regulations as well as provide comparative analysis to help consumers understand recent and forthcoming developments around the world.
In a way, then, even if neither services has fully succeeded in making international business truly local they have succeed in making them that much more accessible.
As part of an ongoing series of structural changes and reforms, the agency responsible for overseeing international student visa applications in the United Kingdom, the UK Border Agency (otherwise known as the UBA), has published new minimum score requirements for applicants taking the PTE Academic exam. These changes, along with the elimination of the Post-Work Study program and more restrictions about the the circumstances under which students and their dependents can work while living in the UK, stand to have a dramatic impact on international students.
The result of recent discussions between Pearson and the UKBA, these changes will lower the score students must demonstrate to meet Tier 4 visa requirements. In fact, beginning July 8th 2011 students pursuing the Tier 4 visa can use the newly updated criteria to satisfy the UKBA’s requirement for English proficiency.
Now student must achieve a PTE Academic score of at least 36 across all four the exam’s skill groups to earn a B1 proficiency certification. At the same time, students must achieve a PTE Academic score of at least 51 across all four sections to earn a B2 proficiency certification based on the Common European Framework. Higher certification levels, of course, remain valid.
Importantly, the UKBA will retroactively accept test scores which meet the new criteria. Because PTE Academic scores are valid for up to two years, this means that any test result that satisfies the new requirements is likewise now eligible for consideration., irrespective of when the test was taken. This includes test scores submitted to the UKBA before Friday 8 July 2011, provided that the score report is still valid. Applicants that have already submitted their scores to the UKBA online do not need to do so again but they will need to print the score report and send it with their visa application. For more information on these changes, please visit the Pearson.