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What English skills do international applicants need to thrive at university?


This is why choosing the right English language tests for admission is so important. The right test will help you reliably test a student’s communication skills and open the door to a more diverse group of international students.

In this article, you can learn about the three main things you need to pay attention to during the English test.

1 Confidence that applicants have the necessary skills to succeed

This is perhaps the most important aspect of the big test: do your applicants have are relevant English language skills and abilities to thrive in an academic environment?

Here at Cambridge University Press and Assessment, we devote much of our research to this issue and ensure that our tests are fit for purpose by using the following basic test design philosophy:

  • Validity period– are our exams a real test of English in real life?
  • Reliability– are our exams consistent and fair?
  • Impact– do our assessments have a positive impact on teaching and learning?
  • Practicality– do our assessments meet the needs of learners within the available resources?
  • Quality– how we plan, execute and verify that we deliver excellence in all these areas.

So how can you check if a test is valid? We put this into practice using the Can framework researched by the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE), of which we are a founding member. The ‘Can’ structure makes qualifications more user-friendly by clearly defining the language skills you can expect from a student at different levels of the exam.

Let’s take the example of our most popular entry qualification, C1 Advanced. This qualification helps learners develop the skills they need to get the most from studying, working and living in English-speaking countries, ensuring they ‘Can’:

  • Listening/Speaking: CAN follow abstract reasoning, such as balancing alternatives and inference.
  • Listening/Speaking: CAN make critical comments/disagree without being offensive.
  • Reading: CAN read quickly enough to cope with the demands of an academic course.
  • Reading: CAN take reasonably accurate notes in meetings or write work that demonstrates communication skills.
  • Writing: CAN write an essay that demonstrates an ability to communicate without difficulty for the reader.
  • Writing: CAN select the most important and relevant ideas and present them clearly and concisely.

2 Diversify your foreign applicant population

Securing your applicants are relevant language skills and abilities are of course crucial, but they are only part of the big exam. We ourselves are part of a leading global university, understand the challenges and opportunities of higher education and share the mission to contribute to the development of society by supporting the widest possible student access to higher education.

“All applicants should be given the opportunity to prove that they have what it takes”

We believe that all applicants should be given the opportunity to prove that they have what it takes. Taking our tests is completely free and helps institutions diversify their student population. Our tests are available in 130 countries around the world.

3 Results you can trust

Finally, any test you use for admission must be completely safe and reliable. Here are the advanced security features we offer with our tests that you should look for in any test you take: secure production of test materials; a secure method of delivery both at the test center and online; a photo of the day of the test; centralized marking; statistical analysis of results before release; and online result check.

About Cambridge University Press & Assessment

We are a part Cambridge University Press & Assessment, a division of the University of Cambridge. Our leading range of qualifications for entry Cambridge English qualification and millions of students around the world have gained these qualifications through schooling. If you want to expand the reach of your recruitment with Cambridge English qualificationit’s completely free.

About the author: This is a sponsored post by Nicola Johnson, Head of Global Recognition at Cambridge University Press & Assessment. Nicola has a background in international education and assessment and has been with Cambridge Assessment for over 15 years. While studying at Cambridge Assessment English, she was involved in various business development and marketing projects, including for IELTS and C1 Advanced, and recently took on the role of strategic leader for the organization’s global recognition. Prior to this Nicola worked at Cambridge Assessment International on IGCSE and Cambridge Pre-U. Nicola graduated in 2003 with a BA (Hons) in Media and English.

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