International students who wish to pursue a degree abroad know that there is a list of prerequisites that increase the chances of their approval at the chosen university. Among them, a good grade in an English proficiency exam can be the differential that will make you get the much dreamed place.
However, many questions may arise about which are the main exams, which is the most suitable for each region and what to expect from the exam.
Therefore, we have separated the three tests most requested by universities abroad and we are going to explain the characteristics of each one of them. Read on and check it out!
What is the purpose of English proficiency exams?
Before explaining the particulars of each test, it is essential to remember that the English proficiency exams are intended to prove the student’s ability to communicate in the English language.
Therefore, each university chooses whether to adopt only one or several tests to analyze the candidacies. This decision is based on what each institution believes is sufficient to prove the ability to use the language.
So, once you’ve decided which university to choose, see ahead of time which exam is required by that university. Thus, you can prepare properly to take a good test.
It is also important to remember that no exam fails the candidates. The grade classifies the level of English, from basic to advanced. So, also pay attention to the minimum amount you need to reach for you to be accepted, as it may vary from institution to institution.
What are the top 3 English proficiency exams?
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the most widely accepted exam in the world, mainly in the United States and Canada. However, universities in Australia, New Zealand and some European countries also usually accept the certificate.
It can be done in two ways:
- ITP: Institutional Testing Program;
- IBT: Interned Based Test.
For those who want to study at a foreign institution, the second is the most recommended, because it covers reading comprehension (listening), writing (writing) and speaking (speaking).
Lasting 4 hours and 30 minutes and a 10-minute break, the maximum exam score is 120 points. To calculate the total, the points for each step are added together. The IBT test is divided as follows:
- Reading: The candidate has 60 to 80 minutes to answer between 36 and 56 questions about academic texts. Here, your text interpretation will be mainly evaluated;
- Listening: include between 34 and 51 questions about the audios exposed in the test. These are usually dialogues or lectures, and 60 to 90 minutes are given to answer the questions. At this stage of the test, it is essential to remember that the accents are from various places, such as North America, Europe and Oceania;
- Writing: the candidate has 50 minutes to write an essay and show that he is able to give his opinion and reason in the foreign language. In addition, there are questions about what was read and listened to in the previous steps;
- Speaking: This is the shortest phase, but also one of the most challenging. The student must talk for 20 minutes with an exam administrator about a specific topic or subjects mentioned in the test. The step is done by computer, as well as the rest of the test.
Period of validity: two years. After this period, it is necessary to retake the exam.
Done by University of Cambridgein England, this test is mostly accepted in Europe. Like TOEFL, it offers more than one test modality. Among the various types of the exam are:
- B2 First or FCE (First Certificate of English): aimed at proving the intermediate level;
- CAE (Certificate of Advanced English): proves the advanced level;
- CPE: (C2 Proficiency): certifies fluency.
You don’t have to do all of these, you can go straight to the one suitable for your level of expertise.
Cambridge maximum scores will vary by exam type. At these levels, it can be from 160 to 230 points. If you’re in doubt about which one is right for you, don’t worry! You can take an online test on the website to find out which one fits your level.
The duration of the test also changes according to the modality the candidate chooses, but the test time is about 4 hours. Like the TOEFL, it is divided into reading, listening, writing and speaking, and the period is divided as follows in B2 First, for example:
- Reading: 1 hour and 15 minutes are available for text interpretation questions;
- Listening: the candidate has 40 minutes to listen to the audios and answer questions related to them;
- Writing: most of the minutes of the test are applied in this phase. Two essays are required and, therefore, the candidate has 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete
Another favorite of European institutions, the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is also suitable for those wishing to study abroad in Australia or New Zealand. It is carried out by the British Council and has two modalities:
- IELTS Academic;
- IELTS General Training.
For those who intend to enter a university, Academic is the most suitable. General Training is aimed at those who want to immigrate or get a job. The score ranges from 0 to 9, and each institution requires a minimum grade to accept the student.
The test has the same format as the others, the difference is that speaking does not need to be done on the same day as reading, listening and writing. The exam is structured as follows:
- reading: 60 minutes to answer 40 questions referring to three texts. The questions are divided between multiple choice, filling in the blanks, among others;
- listening: there are also 40 questions on four audios that address everyday and study topics. The candidate has 40 minutes to respond;
- writing: 60 minutes to write two essays on different subjects;
- speaking: it is divided into three parts. First, the student must talk about their daily lives, then about a specific topic defined by the examiner and, finally, carry out a conversation based on some subject of the written test. This phase lasts 10 to 14 minutes and can be scheduled for a week before or after the test.
Expiry date: there is no expiration date, however, it is also recommended that it be done within a maximum period of 2 years.
As we’ve seen with this information, it’s imperative to study the test model so that you get a good grade on your test, regardless of which exam your university asks for. For this, the best way is to analyze simulated tests applied in previous exams. You can try to do them and set the time for each step, so you get trained to finish it on time.
For those of you who want to do an exchange and study at an institution in Australia or New Zealand, in addition to having a great score on the English proficiency exam, talking to someone who understands the subject can help in the process.