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!


ECPE Speaking Test

In 2005, as the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (or ECPE) test celebrated more than five decades of service, the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute announced that it would be making a number of changes to the Speaking section of the exam. Designed in response to careful research and study, these changes – which came into effect in 2009 – are important considerations for first-time and repeat test takers alike. This change impacts both the exam’s tasks and its evaluation.

First and foremost, the new ECPE speaking test will require candidates to participate in what the UM-ELI calls a “semi-structured, multistage task involving two candidates and two examiners.” In practice this means that, following a detailed introductory conversation in which test takers are expected to actively engage each other and the examiners, applicants will be asked to complete a series of multi-part tasks which progress though the selection of four available decision making options and their consequences. As an example, consider a scenarios in which applicants are asked to select one person for a job from a short list of four. After reaching individual conclusions, they should be able to explain and justifying their choice to their partner. If they disagree, they should then work to reach a consensus by using persuasive skills. Finally, having primarily addressed one another through this process, they should present their choice to the examiners.

While there are no right or wrong answers, remember that the exam is designed to assess the use of formal English, so if possible applicants should emphasize both fluency and accuracy throughout.  Moreover, each candidate’s abilities will be evaluated independently by the two examiners so it is important that each candidate contributes equally throughout the speaking activity. In making their evaluations, the examiners will receive use a five-band measure designed to assess all aspects of active English communication.