Cambridge English: Preliminary

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Comparison between the exam Cambridge English: Preliminary and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Cambridge English: Preliminary, also known as the Preliminary English Test (PET), is an English language examination provided by Cambridge English Language Assessment (previously known as University of Cambridge ESOL examinations). Cambridge English: Preliminary is an intermediate level qualification which demonstrates the ability to communicate using English for everyday purposes.

Launched in 1980, Cambridge English: Preliminary is designed to show that learners can use their English language skills in everyday situations when working, studying and travelling. It is focused on Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Cambridge English: Preliminary is offered in two variations: Cambridge English: Preliminary for adult learners and Cambridge English: Preliminary for Schools, for school-aged learners. Both versions of the exam lead to the same qualification, the Preliminary English Test. Both versions have the same exam format (three exam papers) – the only difference is that the topics in the ‘for Schools’ version have been targeted at the interests and experiences of school-aged learners.[1]

Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) for Schools is part of a suite of qualifications designed specifically for school-aged learners, which includes Cambridge English: Key (KET) for Schools, focused on CEFR Level A2, and Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools, focused on CEFR Level B2.

History[edit]

Cambridge English: Preliminary was launched by the University of Cambridge Local Exam Syndicate (UCLES) in 1943 as the Preliminary English Test. It had been created as a special exam to meet the contingencies of the Second World War – catering for the large numbers of foreign servicemen needing English. However, despite recording over a thousand candidates during its first year, the exam was discontinued at the end of World War II (1946).

It was not until the late 1970s that UCLES reconsidered and explored the viability of a preliminary level exam that tested language at a level approximately two-thirds of the way towards Cambridge English: First (FCE).[2] Cambridge English: Preliminary was reintroduced in 1980 and offered to candidates throughout the 1980s in restricted entry form.

Cambridge English: Preliminary emerged as a fully fledged exam in the 1990s, receiving updates in 1994. In 1999, the exam was reviewed with stakeholders and the current version was launched in March 2004.

Cambridge English: Preliminary was the first Cambridge examination to make reference to a European Level. The Council of Europe’s Threshold level was introduced in 1980 and its content was used in the development of the exam.[3]

Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) for Schools[edit]

From 2009, in response to increased use of Cambridge English exams within schools, Cambridge English Language Assessment introduced versions of some of its exams designed for school-age students. This included: Cambridge English: Key (KET) for Schools, Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) for Schools and Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools.

Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) for Schools follows the same format as Cambridge English: Preliminary for adult learners. The level of the question papers is identical and both versions of the exam lead to the same certificate. The only difference is that the content and treatment of topics in the ‘for Schools’ version have been targeted at the interests and experiences of school pupils.[4]

Format[edit]

Both versions of the exam are made up of three exam papers, which incorporate all four language skills (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking).[5] Candidates have the choice of taking their exam on either a computer or on paper.[6]

1. Reading and Writing (1 hour 30 minutes – 50% of total marks)

The Reading and Writing paper has eight parts and 42 questions. Candidates are expected to read and understand different kinds of short texts and longer, factual texts. Text sources might include signs, brochures, newspapers, magazines and messages such as notes, emails, cards and postcards.

Parts 1 to 5 focus on reading skills, including underlying knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. The exam includes tasks such as answering multiple choice questions, selecting descriptions which match different texts, and identifying true or false information.

Parts 6 to 8 focus on writing skills, including underlying knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. The exam includes tasks such as completing gapped sentences, writing a short informal letter of 35 – 45 words based on 3 given instructions, and producing a longer piece of writing – either a long informal letter or a story of about 80-100 words.

2. Listening (approximately 35 minutes – 25% of total marks)

The Listening paper has four parts comprising 25 questions. Candidates are expected to understand a range of spoken materials, in both informal and neutral settings, on a range of everyday topics. Recorded materials may include announcements, interviews and discussions about everyday life.

Part 1 has seven short recordings and three pictures for each. Candidates listen for key pieces of information in order to complete seven multiple choice questions.

Part 2 has a longer recording either in monologue or interview format. Candidates identify simple factual information in the recording to answer six multiple choice questions.

Part 3 has a longer monologue, which may be a radio announcement or a recorded message with information about places and events. Candidates are given a page of notes summarizing the recording and must fill in six pieces of information which are missing from the notes.

Part 4 has an informal conversation between two people who are discussing everyday topics. Candidates decide whether six statements are true or false, based on the information, attitudes and opinions of the people in the recording.

3. Speaking (10–12 minutes – 25% of total marks)

The Speaking paper has four parts and is conducted face-to-face, with one or two other candidates and two examiners. Candidates are expected to demonstrate conversation skills by answering and asking questions and talking freely about their likes and dislikes.

Part 1 is a general conversation with the examiner. Candidates give personal information about themselves, e.g. talk about their daily life, studies, plans for the future, etc.

Part 2 is a collaborative task with the other candidate(s). The examiner gives the candidates some pictures and describes a situation. The candidates discuss the issues and decide what would be best in the situation.

Part 3 is completed individually. Each candidate has one minute to describe a photograph provided by the examiner.

Part 4 is a discussion with the other candidate(s). The candidates discuss the topic related to the photographs they were given in Part 3 of the exam, talking about their opinions.[7]

Scoring[edit]

All candidates (pre- and post-2016) receive a Statement of Results, with those scoring high enough also receiving a certificate.

In February 2016, Cambridge English Scale scores replaced the candidate profile and standardised scores used for pre-2016 results.[8]

Scoring from February 2016[edit]

From 2016, the Statement of Results and the Certificate have the following information about the candidate’s performance:

  • A score on the Cambridge English Scale for each skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking)
  • A score on the Cambridge English Scale for the overall exam
  • A grade (Pass with Distinction, Pass with Merit and Pass) for the overall exam
  • A CEFR level for the overall exam.[9]

Cambridge English: Preliminary is targeted at CEFR Level B1, but also provides reliable assessment at the level above B1 (Level B2) and the level below (Level A2).

The candidate’s overall score is averaged from the individual scores for each skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking).

The following scores are used to report results:

Grade Cambridge English Scale Score (120–170) CEFR Level
Pass with Distinction 160–170 B2
Pass with Merit 153–159 B1
Pass 140–152 B1
CEFR Level A2 120–139 A2

Scores are reported between 120 and 139. Candidates who achieve a score in this range will not receive the Preliminary English Test certificate, but their score will be shown on their Statement of Results.

Scoring pre-February 2016[edit]

Pre-2016, the Statement of Results had the following information, reflecting the total combined score from all three papers:

  • A grade (Pass with Distinction, Pass with Merit and Pass) for the overall exam
  • A score (out of 100) for the overall exam
  • A CEFR level for the overall exam.
Grade Score (total mark out of 100) CEFR Level
Pass with Distinction 90–100 B2
Pass with Merit 85–89 B1
Pass 70–84 B1
CEFR Level A2 45–69 A2

Pre-2016, the Statement of Results had a Candidate Profile, which showed the candidate’s performance on each of the individual papers against the following scale: exceptional, good, borderline and weak.

Pre-2016, candidates who achieved a score of 45 or more (out of 100) received a certificate.

Timing and results[edit]

Candidates take the Reading and Writing and the Listening papers on the same day. The Speaking paper is often taken a few days before or after the exam.

The exam is available to be taken at test centres in paper-based and computer-based formats. Both versions of the exam lead to the same form of internationally accepted certificate. The Speaking test is only available to be taken face-to-face with an examiner.

Dates to take the paper-based exam and computer-based exam are offered at test centres throughout the calendar year. A directory of all global exam centres and their contact details can be accessed on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website.

Successful candidates receive two documents: a Statement of Results and a certificate. Employers and other organisations may require either of these documents as proof of English language skills.

An online Statement of Results is available to candidates four to six weeks after the paper-based exam and two weeks after the computer-based exam. Successful candidates (those scoring above 45) receive a hard copy certificate which is despatched to the exam centre within eight weeks of the paper-based exam and within three weeks of the computer-based exam.

Usage[edit]

Cambridge English: Preliminary demonstrates language proficiency at Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is an intermediate level qualification and is designed to show that a successful candidate has the ability to use English language skills to deal with everyday written and spoken communications, e.g. read simple books / textbooks and articles, write simple letters on familiar subjects, make notes during meetings / lessons.[10]

Learners can use this qualification for education or work purposes, as well as to progress to higher level English language qualifications such as Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools / Cambridge English: First (FCE) at CEFR Level B2 and Cambridge English: Advanced <link> at CEFR Level C1.[11]

Many higher education institutions around the world accept and use Cambridge English: Preliminary as an indication of English language proficiency. This includes Universities based in:

  • Brazil (e.g. Centro Universitário Newton Paiva)
  • Chile (e.g. Universidad de Chile)
  • Germany (e.g. Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Italy (e.g. La Salle Centro Universitario)
  • Mexico (e.g. Tec de Monterrey)
  • Peru (e.g. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)
  • Vietnam (e.g. Hue University)
  • Spain (e.g. La Salle Centro Universitario)
  • UK (e.g. INTO Partnership Universities such as the University of Exeter).

A full list of organisations can be accessed on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website.

Many global companies and brands accept Cambridge English: Preliminary as part of their recruitment processes, including Metrostay in the Czech Republic, Chelsea Football Club Academy in the UK and MNG Airlines in Turkey.

Preparation[edit]

A comprehensive list of authorised exam centres can be found on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website. Free preparation materials, such as sample tests, are also available from the official website.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]