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.


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