The Young Learners Test of English, as the name suggests, is a youth-oriented English assessment test offered by Cambridge Michigan Language Assessments. Made available to the public in 2013, the exam – which is more widely known as the YTLE exam, thanks to its initials – represents CaMLA’s first English assessment with children in mind. As it is specifically meant to cater to the unique needs of young learners of elementary and middle school age, its assessments and tasks are designed with their needs in mind.
The YTLE exam offers candidates make unique advantages. Not only is it the first CaMLA offering to take the unique needs of school-aged test takers in mind but also, as a product of CaMLA it uses the conventions of American English throughout the exam. Though international in scope – and accepting of student responses that use either American and British standards – the fact that the spelling, grammar, and pronunciation used throughout the exam are of the American English style represents a clear advantage for test takers with experience in the United States.
At the same time, although the exam is an exam like any other and therefore designed to help young learners gauge their level of English proficiency, it is also unique in that it is meant to serve as a positive and motivating springboard for future English success rather than as an institutional measurement device. Thus the test is intended to help students assess themselves and, in so doing, encourage them to further develop their English skills. Thus, while the YTLE can be used by institutions and language schools, its principle constituents are the test takers themselves.
Though the YLTE provides candidates with three levels of difficulty – named Bronze, Silver, and Gold, there are broad similarities in content and structure across all versions of the exam. For example, all three exams are pen-and-paper assessments that test the four critical areas of language proficiency:
At all three levels the reading and writing sections are scored together and the examiner score the speaking test (making for a total of three separate sections).
At the Bronze level, students are asked 20 questions over 4 parts in the listening test, 25 questions over 5 parts for the reading and writing test, and 5 questions over 5 minutes for the speaking part.
The more rigorous Silver level assessment increases the duration of all of these sections. At the Silver level students are asked 25 questions over 5 parts in the listening test, 40 questions over 6 parts for the reading and writing test, and 4 questions over 7 minutes for the speaking part.
Finally, at the most advanced – Gold – level, candidates are expected to answer 25 questions over 5 parts for the listening section, 50 questions over 7 parts for the reading and writing section, and 4 questions over 9 minutes for the speaker section.
Though structurally similar, the three versions of the exam differ in terms of the nature of the tasks they ask students to complete as well as the criteria used for assessment. An example of this can be seen in the breakdown of the speaking section, which actually asks fewer questions as the level of difficulty increases but asks test takers to provide considerably longer responses.
Upon completion and evaluation, all test takers receive a certificate that shows how many “medals” they have earned. Each section has a maximum score of five medals and the greater the number of medals the greater a students proficiency is at that level. Students who earn more than a combined 10 medals from all three sections are deem ready to take the next level of difficulty YLTE exam.
As of 2013 the YLTE is still a relatively new exam. As a result, it is still being released to testing centers around the world. Those interested in taking the YLTE should check the official CaMLA website for details about testing centers and times that may be available in your area.