I can imagine that’s not the most popular suggestion I’ve ever made. 😉 Taking exams is a bit like going to the dentist: you can’t get through life without ever doing it, but at the same time you’d probably like to keep it to the absolute minimum. 

Over thirty years later, I still dream that I’ve got to sit my French A-level exam the very next day. I haven’t revised for it, I haven’t read any of the set books. The feeling of panic is very real. And it’s a huge relief to wake up and realize it was all just a bad dream.

So I understand if your first reaction to my suggestion that you take a business English exam is: What? Do an exam voluntarily? Are you mad?

I’m not. Let me explain why I suggest it. Perhaps I can convince you of the benefits.


Prove your English skills to a potential employer

What do you write if you apply for a job requiring English skills? It can be difficult to know how to describe your level. Good? Fluent? It’s all rather subjective. And pointing out that you had English at school for xx years isn’t very helpful either. A potential employer needs to be convinced that you would be able to do the job in English. So he or she is more interested in whether you can write emails, make telephone calls, play a full role in meetings etc. than your knowledge of English literature.

This is where specific business English exams have clear advantages. They not only test your business vocabulary, but also your skills in typical job-related situations.
Exams leading to a qualification based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) have an additional benefit: personnel departments are familiar with this system and know exactly what a pass at the various levels (B1, B2 or C1) means and which level corresponds to the requirements for the post in question.


Show that you’re ready for new tasks

But I wouldn’t just recommend doing an exam to people looking for a new job. It can also be a good move for developing your career in your current company. By gaining a business English qualification you can show your boss that you’re ready to take on new tasks, that your English skills are strong enough for working on an international project, for example. Not to mention the fact that taking the initiative and responsibility for your further training and development in general makes a very positive impression.


Take your English up to the next level

This brings me to the third and final reason. Some people always seem to be saying, “I must do more for my English”. But they never do. Preparing for an exam can provide the structure they need for actually taking action. The beauty of an exam is that it gives you a fixed timeframe – once you’ve registered, there’s no going back. So you’re practically “forced” to make language learning a priority. And the more time you allot to it, the more progress you make, which in turn motivates you to spend more time on it. It’s a virtuous circle.


Afraid that it’s all too theoretical and won’t reflect your real-life needs?

That’s not the case if you do the right exam. The Cambridge Business English Certificates, for example, test your skills in a business setting. The tasks are very practical and reflect those you’re faced with in your job. For example, one part of the reading exam tests your ability to proofread to find mistakes in a text – something you need to do whenever you write an email or report. One part of the listening test requires you to note down names (with the correct spelling), dates, order numbers etc. as you might have to do in a phone call. The speaking test involves interacting with a partner to find a solution to a problem. So you really do improve the skills you need in your job.

So what do you think? Is a business English exam just the challenge you need in 2018?


Read more about the Cambridge Business English certificates

Find your nearest examination centre

And if you need any support while you’re preparing for the exam, just let me know.


Posted on Jan 8, 2018 in getting ahead
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Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too. » more