Should you take an English Exam?

Many students are surprised by my initial answer to this question.

But it’s not that simple… of course.

Maybe you’ve already registered for an exam and you’re in the middle of your preparation. If that’s the case, I’m sure you had a valid reason for embarking on the exam preparation journey. But, for many people it’s not that simple and they often struggle to take the decision, which is understandable as there are obvious advantages and disadvantages that have to be taken into consideration. In fact, one the most common questions I get asked is “Should I take an English exam?” and many people are surprised (given the fact that a lot of my videos and courses are on Cambridge English exam preparation) that my first response is “No” quickly followed by “unless…”

I say “no” because learning a language shouldn’t be about passing exams or getting certificates. First and foremost, it should be about communication, and exam preparation can often interrupt the learning process rather than contribute to it. So, if you feel you have a good relationship with English and you’re happy with your progress, maybe you should think twice before signing up for that exam.

However, I always add “unless” because there are many valid reasons why you might want to take an English exam, including;

  • Personal Development: Exam preparation can be a rewarding and motivating experience, and some individuals see English exam preparation as a personal goal to measure their language progress and get a sense of accomplishment. I would say that this is the most common reason for the majority of my C2 Proficiency (CPE) students.
  • Organisation and Structure to your Studies: Many language learners find it difficult to organise their studies and find themselves simply watching a couple of episodes of their favourite series a week or listening to a podcast every now and then and nothing more. English exam preparation can encourage you focus in a more systematic way and really help you reach the next level.
  • Academic and Educational Purposes: Many students and professionals take English exams as part of their academic requirements or to apply for educational opportunities abroad, such as enroling in a university or pursuing a degree programme in an English-speaking country
  • Employment and Career Opportunities: Taking an English exam can enhance job prospects and career opportunities, especially in multinational companies or industries that require English proficiency.
  • Immigration and Visa Requirements: Some countries have English language proficiency requirements for individuals seeking immigration or work visas. An English exam certificate can serve as proof of language skills for visa applications.
  • Study Abroad and Exchange Programs: If someone is interested in participating in a study abroad or student exchange program, they may need to demonstrate their English language proficiency through an English exam.
  • Certification and Standardization: English exams are designed to assess language skills based on standardised criteria, providing a consistent measure of proficiency that is recognised internationally.

If any of those apply to you, you may want to contact your nearest exam centre. But… bear in mind exams should be short term goals and the moment you start to feel overwhelmed by the process, I recommend you consider another path which is more sustainable. 

Feel free to contact me if you have a questions regarding English exam preparation or you need more information about my online Cambridge exam courses.

Ben Gill

English teacher

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