There’s one simple line on your resume that can make all the difference in a job interview: “Cambridge Business English Certification”.In today’s business world, a proficient grasp of the English language is increasingly in demand. Obtaining a Business English Certificate, or BEC, can help you spring forward in your career or your studies.
Why take a BEC Vantage or Higher exam?
The University of Cambridge exams for Business English are the highest quality exams available, setting the standard for professional language in business contexts. As University of Cambridge describes, a BEC exam is a “valuable stamp in your passport to success.” The certification expands your mobility to work or study around the world.
Julie Fillingham, a teacher at Kickstart Language School in The Hague, believes that the Cambridge BEC can make a difference. “They are internationally recognised qualifications and are a really plus factor on anyone’s CV when applying for jobs in the global job market,” she says.
The list of companies that recognise Cambridge exams is extensive: more than 12,500 universities, employers, agencies and other organisations worldwide look for candidates with this level of English. Here in the Netherlands that includes Shell, Nokia, Philips, Vodafone, Siemens, Clifford Chance, the Van Gogh Museum and more, plus numerous economics and finance university programmes. (Tip: The Cambridge ESOL site has a handy ‘recognition database’ you can check to find out which organizations around the world require these exams.)
What to expect from the exams
The Cambridge BEC exams are offered in three levels:
• BEC Preliminary (Level B1 of the CEFR, or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
• BEC Vantage (Level B2)
• BEC Higher (Level C1)
There are four parts to the exams, each worth 25% of the total mark. In the BEC Cambridge Vantage and Higher exams you’ll exhibit the ability to express your viewpoint on business-related issues and current events, write e-mails, interpret reports, summarise graphs, read longer business articles and the like. Here is a brief description of the tasks involved¬:
• reading – matching, gap-filling, multiple-choice questions, text correction;
• writing – produce two pieces of writing (for example, a report and a correspondence);
• listening – sentence-completion, gap-filling, note-taking, multiple-choice questions;
• speaking – a test conducted by two external examiners.
Preparing for the exams
Of course the BEC Vantage and Higher exams are more than just a line on your CV, but the path to communicate confidently in business. It may take hours of study but the effort pays off. Julie says, “Working towards an exam gives students the added incentive and motivation to word hard on their language skills whilst participating in a group of like-minded individuals.” Through a preparation course you’ll learn the right buzzwords and phrases, and practice appropriate language for negotiations. Ultimately, you’ll develop a profounder understanding of the nuances of English that can make or break your business relationships.
Many BEC preparation courses now implement “blended learning,” a method combiningtraditional classroom experience with an online component. The web platform English360, for example, is chock full of materialfrom University of Cambridge, making it a perfect resource for students training for the BEC exams. With top materials, and a balance of in-class and at-home work, these courses work well for busy adult learners. “Progress can be monitored online,” says Julie,“and students can work at a pace that suits them and yet be part of an interactive and fun-filled classroom.”
Around 1.75 million people in 135 countries take Cambridge ESOL exams every year. Join this prestigious group so that you can better compete in today’s business world. Get in the lead and sign up today for a BEC Vantage or Higher exam prep course.
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