business english exam UCT English language Centre

The majority of working professionals will join a business English course to either brush up and improve their business English, or to learn how to specifically communicate in that English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Their goals are often more to do with expending their knowledge to be able to apply it to their immediate work environment or possibly for a potential career/job change or promotion. As such, they are not really under pressure to write a business English exam.

On the other hand, younger people who are still studying, have completed their studies and embarking on their professional careers and starting to apply for jobs, etc. may either need to prove their business English ability with an exam, or may feel it is useful to add to their curriculum vitae when they are applying for jobs.

So, what exams are available to business English students?

Probably the most well-known suite of business English exams are the Cambridge exams. For business they offer 3 types of exam (Business English Certificate or BEC) that are graded accordingly.

The intermediate level (B1) exam is called BEC preliminary and shows that you can communicate on a practical level in business. The exam is about 2 hours and 20 minutes long.

According to Cambridge University Press, achieving this certificate means you can:

  • talk about business subjects
  • understand charts and graphs
  • write a short business email
  • follow short telephone conversations.

The BEC vantage is aimed at an upper intermediate level (B2) and shows that you can communicate within a business environment. It is aligned with the Cambridge FCE (First Certificate) general English exam. The exam is 2 hours and 40 minutes long.

According to Cambridge University Press, achieving this certificate means you can:

  • write short business messages and reports
  • read articles from business publications
  • listen to, understand and give your opinions in meetings.

The highest Cambridge business English exam is the BEC Higher (C1) aimed at an advanced level of English. This exam shows that you can confidently communicate within an English business context. The exam is about 3 hours long.

According to Cambridge University Press, achieving this certificate means you can:

  • communicate effectively at managerial and professional level
  • participate with confidence in workplace meetings and presentations
  • express yourself with a high level of fluency
  • react appropriately in different cultural and social situations.

These exams are all pass / fail exams. This means that you must attain a minimum grade to pass the exam.

While the UCT English language Centre does not currently offer business English exam preparation courses, we do run an afternoon business elective, and you would be welcome to contact us for more information on private lessons to prepare you for an exam with one of our highly experienced and qualified English teachers.

To those of you considering whether or not you should do a business English exam, this will depend on you and the possible requirements from your company or a place you wish to work at.


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