3 Tips to Use IELTS Exam Prep for English Success

indexSince 67 sovereign states and 27 non-sovereign entities declare English as an official language, the IELTS is a pathway to much more than formal admission procedures. Though educational institutions and professionals view the test as adequate proof of English language skills, students who prepare for the IELTS as if it is more than just a test will not only receive better scores, but will be granted with years of English success.

Berni Wall, a teacher who has helped many IELTS students earn a 7 or 8 band score, states that the three golden rules for the IELTS are to 1) remember that you will be tested on your English language ability, 2) better these skills, and 3) understand that you will need to be immersed in the language (not just read practice books) in order to be successful. Continue reading “3 Tips to Use IELTS Exam Prep for English Success”

6 Tips to Beat the TOEFL Exam

ThinkstockPhotos-455627033Before you enter into the world of grueling exams, there is one that you must pass to unlock the gate of education in the U.S. International students who do not have English as their first language and would like to be accepted to a U.S. college or university must take the TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language exam. This demanding four and a half hour exam will determine your English proficiency and is highly important when seeking admission to a U.S. college or university. Although the test can seem intimidating, there are always steps you can take to make the test less of a struggle. Below are 6 tips from U.S. News Education that you can implement to help raise your TOEFL scores and get into the school of your dreams. Continue reading “6 Tips to Beat the TOEFL Exam”

Fast Facts: Pearson’s New Global Scale of English

s1x5uzj4_400x400Pearson English recently announced this year its release of its new “Global Scale of English” in an effort to establish what it calls a “universal benchmark for businesses, governments and academic institutions.” Such a development should be seen as more than an academic exercise, however – after all, when one of the biggest names in English-language assessments makes a change like this and it is sure to impact the lives of many. It is this importance that has compelled us to go investigate the story behind the headlines. Here, then, are the “need to knows” regarding Pearson’s new Global Scale of English:

What is it?
Like most English proficiency metrics, the new “Global Scale of English” measures the core components of language learning – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. What makes the GSE different is that it allows learners to measure their English proficiency on a scale of 10 to 90. Moreover, because this scale will be consistent across all of Pearson English’s exams, including the PTE Academic and the PTE General.

How is it different?
The result of 25 cumulative years of research, the new, numerical scale is tied (much like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages about which Pearson English consulted) to concrete skills it also offers important advantage for educators and employers who are interested in what functional abilities different candidates possess.

Why is this important?
Pearson English believes the new scale will be more accurate than other proficiency metrics. While earlier measurement devices have tended to divide test-takers into more nebulous bands of “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced, the GSE will allow test-takers to compare their results over time using a consistent, nuanced scale. Indeed, according to Pearson, the results of the exam are much more detailed than anything else on the market and should enable students, educators, and employers to measure both progress and proficiency in a much more meaningful way. According to the company, given the important of English in both the classroom and the boardroom such a scale is “long overdue.”

When will it be released?
Those interested in using the new results will still have to wait a while, however. While all of the company’s new products will begin using the GSE immediately, the company plans to gradually integrate the new assessment into its existing offerings over the next 18 to 24 months. Don’t worry, though: during this transition the results will still be tied to the existing scales. In this way Pearson English hopes to make the switch as easy as possible to handle.

Want to learn more about English language exams? See which language exam is right for you.

Changes in Australia Student Visa Options

Small person running through opened door for carrer opportunity479566953The Australian the Department for Immigration and Border Protection recently announced that, starting later this year, it will accept results from both the TOEFL iBT and PTE Academic as proof of English proficiency for a number of its post-graduate visa options. This decision, which goes into effect in November 2014, mirrors a 2011 change to accept these two exams for academic admissions purposes and means that these same exams will be accepted as proof of proficiency for all graduate, skilled, and business visa applicants.

Popularity Has Its Benefits

Not only does the addition of two more test systems give visa applicants a wider choice of English proficiency exams (and with it the opportunity to take the exam best-suited to their needs) it also gives their would-be hosts –that is to say, Australian universities and businesses– access to a larger pool of recruits. After all, the TOEFL iBT alone has been taken by more than more than 27 million people around the world and this ruling means that every one of them could potentially use their TOEFL results for undergraduate admissions and a host of post-graduate options. Continue reading “Changes in Australia Student Visa Options”

Pearson and Busuu partnership to change the face of English testing

online education179151975The Announcement

Two of the largest players in English education have  joined forces in a partnership that destined to change the face of English proficiency exams as we know them. Once the preserve of institutions and exam centers, one of the industry’s biggest players is turning to social media to help deliver the first in a new breed of English language assessments. Pearson English, a division of Pearson – itself well-known as the world’s largest learning company – has signed an exclusive cooperative agreement with Busuu, the world’s largest social network for language learning. Together the two companies hope to leverage their unique strengths – Busuu’s in educational social media and Peason’s in assessments – in order to help English learners more accurately measure their language learning.

The Terms

As a result of the Pearson and Busuu partnership, Busuu will be the first online social media company to have access to Pearson English’s new online proficiency assessment, gSET. In fact, more than that, Busuu will be the first company of any kind to employ the new test. The gSET is uniquely suited to a user-administered approach because it was developed by Pearson English to provide a comprehensive “Global Scale of English” score that measures the core components of language learning – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The exam is designed to measure performance on an on-going basis using a consistent, nuanced scale. According to Pearson, the results of the exam are much more detailed than anything else on the market and should enable students to measure their progress over time in a much more meaningful way.

Getting Started

The test, which will be available exclusive on Busuu for a four month period beginning in the summer of 2014, will be fully integrated into all Busuu courses and made available to all of Busuu’s 40 million users (paying subscribers will have free Access while free users will need top ay a nominal fee).

>> Want to learn more about English language exams? Check out more on our resources section.

Comparing TOEFL and TOEIC scores

concentration154216896The TEOFL and the TOEIC are practically synonymous with English as a Second Language proficiency and it is no wonder. Despite their common applications and origins – both are developed, administered, and offered by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service at hundred testing centers around the world every year – they are nevertheless hardly synonymous with each other. Although there are other differences, one of the most galling is the fact that the TOEFL (or as it is more formally known, the Test Of English as a Foreign Language) and the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) use fundamentally different grading scales to evaluate their students. Thus the manner in which ESL tests can be compared can seem daunting. Looks can be deceiving, however, and a closer examination of the standards that underpin the two exams makes English exam comparison relatively easy.

Although aligning to two exams to one another would be problematic, the fact that both exams are tied to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF) and its six benchmark levels of language proficiency means that the two exams can be compared to one another through this common medium. The following table does exactly that by comparing TOEFL and TOEIC scores:

toefl and toeic

Better still, and with the knowledge that the two exams are each comprised of four distinct parts designed to measure proficiency in Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing, individual section scores can themselves be aligned to the CEF benchmark levels. Thus even these subsections of the two ESL tests can be compared.


ETS Scandal May Lead To Wider Reforms in UK

exclamation mark462307749Breaking News:

An expose by the BBC investigative news program Panorama has not only shamed the US-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) but also has caused many to call for tighter immigration controls in the UK. The investigative report, which came to light in early February, shows test center employees at two locations in the UK offering undercover reporters a “guaranteed pass fee” of £500. As a result the UK Border Agency has suspended the test in question – the Test of English for International Communication, better know as the TOEIC – as well as another ETS exam – the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

What This Means For You:

As a result, the UK Border Agency has suspended all Tier 4 student visa applicants that are currently in process and used an UK-based, ETS-delivered exam to demonstrate their English proficiency. Applicants already in the country will be permitted to stay pending a larger investigation and those affected will be notified by the department and provide with additional details. While such scandals occasionally occur in other countries, in an unusual turn of events the Border Agency announced that international students who took the exams outside Britain would not be affected.

Because of these events – and pending an end to the moratorium- many counselors are advising that would-be international students take other approved English proficiency exams (such as the IELTS) in lieu of the more well-known ETS exams. For a complete list of approved exams, check the UK Border Agency’s official list here.

The Effect Beyond Students

The affair, meanwhile, has affected more than students. Border Agency officials are facing demands to put stricter controls not only on testing facilities but on student visas in general. Theresa May, the UK home secretary who was already an advocate of tighter restrictions, has already stopped some 700 colleges from bringing students into the country and now suggests that a greater emphasis on face-to-face interviews may be in the works in order to combat fraud. This ETS scandal may lead to wider reforms in the UK, after all.

English Exam Overviews: The ECPE

examen-michigan-ecpeWhile similar in name the ECCE exam (and likewise offered by Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment), as the following overview reveals the ECPE is a distinct exam designed to meet the needs at a unique subset of English language students.

What is the ECPE and what makes it unique?
Like its brother exam the ECCE, the ECPE was original developed by the University of Michigan and, accordingly, tests students on their mastery of American-style English and its conventions. This naturally makes it ideal for English as a Second Language students with an interest (or experience) in using English the United States for professional or academic purposes. The “P” in ECPE stands for Proficiency and this, indeed, has significant implications for would-be test-takers. Proficiency is in this case means that the exam is calibrated at the C2 – advanced – level and this makes it an ideal choice for university- or professional-minded test takers.

How is the ECPE scored?
Scoring on the ECPE shares make of the characteristics common to the Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment group of exams. That means that both the listening grammar, cloze, vocabulary, and reading (GCVR) sections of the test are scored electronically and reported on a scale that ranges from 0 to 1000 while the speaking and writing sections are assessed separately by human grades according to a pre-established rubric on a scale of A to E. While passing grades must be achieved in all areas to receive a certificate of proficiency, highest marks in all sections entitle a student to receive a “Certificate of Proficiency with Honors.”

Where can I take the exam and how do I register?
Though offered around the world, registering for the exam nevertheless requires advanced planning as the ECPE exam is administered at Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment test centers only two times each year. To find out more, check their list of approved testing centers in your area and contact the most convenient testing center directly. Of course, if you have any other questions about the make-up and layout of the exam check our full overview!

English Exam Overviews: The ECCE

eccelogo_cmykAs one of the five Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment exams, the Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (or ECCE) may seem like just another entrant the world of English language proficiency assessments. As our brief overview below explains, however, there are several factors that make the ECCE a distinct and compelling choice.

What is the ECCE and what makes it unique?
Designed to meet the needs of upper-intermediate level English as a second language students, the ECCE is meant to serve the needs of  intermediate-level (B2) students. Unlike many other exams designed for this skill range, however, because the ECCE was originally designed by the University of Michigan it emphasizes the conventions of American English. This means that students are assessed using the spelling, grammar, and pronunciation rules that are used in the United States. This makes it an ideal choice for students who studied (or wish to study) English in the United States.

How is the ECCE scored?
The listening section and grammar, vocabulary, and reading (GVR) section of the ECCE exam are scored electronically and reported on a scale that ranges from 0 to 1000. By contrast, the speaking and writing sections are assessed separately by human grades according to a set of standards established by Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment. Although assessed separately, scores on all four sections of the exam are factored into a student’s overall score. Thus students cannot pass three sections and fail the fourth and still receive a passing grade.

Where can I take the exam and how do I register?
The ECCE exam is offered at Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment test centers all over the world. Because rules and procedures can vary by location, however, it is a good idea to check the online registry of approved testing centers and contact the one that best meets your needs directly. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about the exam itself, be sure to check our full overview!

English Exam Overviews: The MELAB

MELAB_logoEven if its acronym does not reveal its roots, the MELAB’s name – the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery – is proof enough that the exam, like the ECCE and ECPE, originated at the University of Michigan. While the exam is aimed at a broader range of skill levels than either, it nevertheless offers several unique features to its target audience: students interested in English-language higher education.

What is the MELAB and what makes it unique?
Though now administered by Cambridge Michigan Language Assessment, the exam – like its brethren – maintains its connection to its American origins by emphasizing the American conventions of spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. Moreover, almost unique among language exams, the MELAB is comprised of three parts that are mandatory and one that is optional. That is to say that while the writing, listening, and “grammar, cloze, vocabulary and reading comprehension” (GCVR) sections are required of all test-takers, candidates sit for the optional speaking test only if they so desire. As a result, the MELAB attempts to meet the varying needs of academic students.

How is the MELAB scored?
While both the listening, and “grammar, close, vocabulary and reading comprehension” (GCVR) sections are graded by way of multiple-choice questions, both the writing and (optional) speaking section are evaluated by trained examiners according to a pre-determined set of criteria. Part of the speaking test’s score is determined by the interviewer who administered the one-on-one speaking component.

Where can I take the exam and how do I register?
The MELAB is administered under tightly controlled security procedures in order to prevent fraud and otherwise preserver the integrity of the exam. As a result, test-takers must complete and submit a MELAB Official Identification Form prior to their test date. Moreover, as the speaking test is not offered at every test center but may not be taken separately, if you need to take the speaking component of the exam be sure to check that your test center offers it before registering. For more information about these and other details, see our MELAB exam overview.