In early December 2021, an announcement was made by Cambridge English Assessment that rocked the English teaching world in Switzerland. The well-known standardized Business English tests: B1 Business Preliminary, B2 Business Vantage and C1 Business Higher will be eliminated as of June 2024. It was an unexpected surprise for many. Others foresaw it as a change long time coming.
Why are BEC Exams being cancelled?
Exams, if they are to stay relevant, need updating to reflect the communication style and forms. Although BEC Exams have been highly sought after in Switzerland, they have been popular in only a few countries. So, instead of updating BEC, it was decided instead to phase them out.
According to Cambridge English Languages GmbH based in St Gallen, “…(they) have seen a significant decrease in the number of candidates taking BEC globally over the past five years. Some of this is the result of demographic factors but (they) must also recognize that requirements for assessment products are changing, with a greater need for assessments that can be taken on-demand and remotely”.
Should I take the IELTS instead of a BEC Exam?
A popular high stake test beginning to replace BEC Exams is called IELTS. It is a multi-level test which has been authorized by English-speaking country immigration officials from England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as a mandatory part of their immigration process. The IELTS test complies with strict security requirements to ensure test takers can not cheat. This makes IELTS a highly coveted certificate.
Not only have such government authorities adopted IELTS as their go-to language proficiency check but, so too have other institutions. Swiss universities, colleges and companies are amongst the thousands of tertiary institutions and international companies around the world that recognize IELTS results as legitimate validation of English language proficiency.
Are there any other tests comparable to the BEC suite?
There are a variety of professional standardized English language certifications recognized around the world. Most of them are not necessarily business oriented, however. These non-business related certificates include the well-known Cambridge General English examinations: B1 Preliminary, B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency.
For American testing options for college bound or work bound individuals in the United States, there are the multi-level TOEFL and TOEIC tests. TOEIC is the business English alternative. Both test results are highly recognized throughout the USA and has been well established for many decades as the test required as a key part of university application processes not only in the USA but around the world.
Last but not least, there is also a quick online computer test that can be used to measure your level quickly and serve to measure progress – a computer-based test called LinguaSkill. However, this certificate is not recognized for university or immigration purposes. It could be, however, an alternative for companies needing to verify the language level of applicants and/or current employees.
What will be required within Swiss Business Commercial Schools?
Further Educational Schools such as “KV” schools already developed their own internal business English tests a few years ago. These tests are offered as an option to students who wanted to avoid the cost and pressure of taking an international test. The KV internal English tests have instructions written in German and culturally designed for the Swiss market. Those for KV Profile B and E students are set at a B1 level and have been designed more simply than the B1 Preliminary.
I soon will learn how KV schools will go forward and will be sure to update this blog once this information has been received. However, I can imagine that these KV internal English language tests may continue to be used after the B1 Business Preliminary exam has been phased out in 2024.
Here are links to download sample tests and answer keys for:
Can I still prepare for the BEC Exams through The Boston School?
Yes. The Boston School will continue to offer preparation courses on a one-to-one basis for Cambridge BEC Exams as well as Academic and General IELTS tests to those interested in receiving an internationally renowned language certification. Group classes with a minimum of 2 students per course can also be arranged. Please visit our group course page for scheduling and pricing details.
Still not sure which language qualification is most suitable for you? We welcome your call so that we can listen to your needs and offer specific advice to you. Whether it is for yourself, a family member or your staff.