Once you have completed and mastered the Key English Test (KET), then you are ready for the Preliminary English Test (PET) which tests at a B1 level of the Common European Framework. This PET exam is for individuals who can use everyday written and spoken English at an intermediate level testing reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The Preliminary English Test tests real life English examples ranging from work, study and leisure. Like the KET, this exam is valid for life and is recognized throughout the world.

The 5 W’s of the Preliminary English Test

Who takes the PET exam?

The Preliminary English Test is designed for intermediate students looking to improve their English. It is designed to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses to continue improving their day-to-day use of English. According to the Cambridge English guide, at B1 level you are expected to:

The PET is typically used after further studying once you have mastered the Key English Test. This exam is take prior to taking the First Certificate in English (FCE).

Why should you take the Preliminary English Test?

To master the Preliminary English Test usually requires about 380 hours of study. With such a commitment to studying, how do you convey your accomplishments to government, schools, and employers? Taking the PET is one internationally recognized way! You will be able to see how you perform based on reading, writing, speaking and listening. Not only will you receive accreditation, but you will also be able to focus on areas of improvement. The University of Cambridge has put together a database to see who accepts this certification.

What can I expect to see on the PET?

Understanding the Format

The PET is also available in either a paper or computer version called the CB-PET depending on the center administering the exam. The PET exam approximately takes 2 hours and 15 minutes testing reading & writing, listening, and speaking.

Reading and Writing 50% of overall score

The Preliminary English Test is organized into 8 parts, the first 5 parts test reading (35 questions) and the second 3 parts test writing. This section takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes and is worth 50% of your total score – 25% based on reading and 25% based on writing. For the reading section, you will have a variety of texts, ranging from notices, signs, packaging, and communicative messages where you will have to choose the best descriptive sentence from a list of options, choose which sentences are true/false based on factual text, and choose from a list of words which word best completes the sentence. For the writing section, you will need to fill in your own missing words so the sentence means the same as a sentence already provided. You will also have two additional sections that will require you to write at least 35-45 words based on a prompt and lastly create a 100-word informal letter or story.

Listening 25% of overall score

The PET is organized into 4 parts with 25 questions. This section takes about 25 minutes and is worth 25% of your score. This section requires you to listen to conversations, monologues, and interviews. You will have to choose what picture best corresponds with the audio, answer questions based on the conversation with your own responses and multiple choice, and finally choose what statements are true/false based on the conversation. For part 2 and 3, the audio will be played twice.

Speaking 25% of overall score

The Preliminary English Test is divided into 4 parts where you will be paired with another candidate and two examiners. In the case that there are an odd number of students, the last group will have three candidates paired together. This section takes about 10-12 minutes and is worth 25% of your score. You will be asked to speak with the examiner including spelling your name, talk about a simulated situation with other candidates based on a prompt sheet, describe a photograph, and lastly talk with your partner relating the photograph.

Understanding your score

Once you take this exam, you will be able to identify both your strengths and weaknesses based on your score. Your score will range from 0 to 100 so you can determine where on you fell on the scale. According to this score, you will fall into four possible results:

100-85 Pass with Merit
84-70 Pass
69-45 Council of Europe Level A2*
44-0 Fail

*if you did not achieve a ‘pass’ but demonstrated ability at the level below this

You will receive a certificate with the all results except for fail. You will also get a breakdown on the four sections (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) as to whether you performed exceptional, good, borderline, or weak.

Where and When can you take the Preliminary English Test?

The Preliminary English Test is available in both a paper and computer format and is administered in over 2,000 test locations around the world. Before selecting your exam date, we first recommend choosing the preferred format. Remember, you will want to choose the format you are most comfortable with. Once you have done this, you can locate an exam center. Typically, a testing center alternates between the computer and paper format so just be sure that your format is being administered on your exam date. Fees are set by the test center, however costs are approximately $166 USD, €82, or £69.

Check out the Cambridge ESOL Exam centre tool to find the exam time best for you.

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