Most teachers now add to their CVs “business English experience“. They know there’s a huge demand for Business English classes in Spain, and the money is in companies. Companies can pay those higher rates that individuals can’t/won’t.
However, very rarely do I meet a teacher, during our weekly interviews, who knows what Cambridge BEC Exams are. I’m used to them not knowing by now, but it still seems strange to me. We’ve been preparing BEC exams since they came out and they are, to us, just like the mainstream exams PET,KET,FCE,CAE,CPE. They are just another product, better suited for certain kind of clients.
Why where the Business English exams (BECs) created?
Cambdrige English is a business…I’m not uncovering any secret. So they are always trying, as they should, to increase the amount of products they can offer their clients. They soon realised that they could design specif exams for specific groups of students. This is what I tell teacher during their interviews when I have to explain the BECs to them:
Cambridge soon realised it made no sense to have a professional writing an email to a friend about what they had done during the summer holidays, or learning everyday vocabulary. So they created a specific set of exams where they would have to learn and practice business vocabulary and, for example, write a report to their boss about a specific proyect.
They’ve done the same with the set of exams “for schools” where they targeted less mature students, or with the, now retired, ILEC for lawyers.
What exams are we talkig about?
These are the three exams which form part of the BEC group:
- BEC Preliminary. The B1 level exam. You can see more information here.
- BEC Vantage. B2 exam. More information here.
- BEC Higher. C1 exam. More information here.
Why is it a good idea to prepare for the BECs?
At our academy, we use exams as “goals”. Students can decide, at the end of the road, if they want to take the official exam or not, but both the teacher and the student know where they are heading to. And the teacher has loads of material to prepare for the four main skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking).
Doing all this through the BEC syllabus, the student practices useful skills and vocabulary which he can use at work. He can use what the learns for his daily professional life.
Have they any other use?
BECs have equivalent CEFR levels to the mainstream exams, ranging from B1 to C1 (where most students can be classified into). So they serve to show an English language level the same as PET,FCE and CAE.
Some of our students took their mainstream exams more than 5 years ago, and they want to retake an exam to show their level or keep their certifications up to date. This is another use of the BECs.
Where can I take the exam?
As I said before, not many teachers prepare for the BEC exams. For some strange reason, which I don’t fully understand, BECs have not had, in Spain, the success they’ve had in other countries. So you don’t have as many exam dates as for the rest of exams.
You can check with your academy or exam provider.
What material can I use to prepare the exam?
There’s loads of text books you can use, from those recommended by Cambridge to any Business English text book. There are also many sample tests, vocabulary lists, and free resources.
I do recommend Cambridge’s past paper books because you can get the gist of how the exam goes. Please be aware it has changed since it started, so you’d better get the latest ones (I think they are number 5 now). They come out every seven years or so.
I hope this helps to make these exams know to teachers who read the blog. Those who don’t will eventually be marked as the “non TeacherMadrid’s blog readers” during interviews hahahaha.
Nice teaching to all, and see you next week.