This week, we are continuing our series of language exam guides. We are taking a closer look at the ECL proficiency tests.

We will provide a short introduction to what the ECL tests are, where to take them, and we will provide some tips on how to best prepare for taking the exam.

ECL language exams – What are they?

ECL is an acronym for the European Consortium for the Certificate of Attainment in Modern Languages. This not-very-smoothly named organisation is essentially an association that unites different institutions representing European languages. They provide standardised tests for the languages of EU member states and candidate countries. These standardised tests are the ECL language exams.

This is good news for Europeans (or anybody else) who want to take several language proficiency exams since the ECL provides a unified system for doing so. The results of the exams are recognised in all of the member states without requiring national validation. The bad news is that, although the organisation is aimed at providing standardised tests for all the languages in the EU, so far they only cover 15 – Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, and Spanish.

How to take ECL language exams?

To take an ECL language test, you need to register to take the exam in one of the recognised exam centres. ECL exams are administered in over 200 sites in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia. You can find your nearest exam centre on the ECL exam website.

The testing takes place five times a year, in February, April, June, October, and December. You can take English and German tests in any of the five exam periods while tests for other languages are offered twice a year. Different language levels also test on different dates.

To take the exam, you need to first pay the exam fee. Since the Consortium determines the exam fee in Euros while the National ECL Language Exam Center determines it in the given national currency, the fees can differ from location to location. To get more information on how you are expected to pay the fee, contact your national testing centre directly.

Before the exam, also read the general advice the ECL provides to make sure you understand the testing rules.

What does an ECL language exam look like?

The ECL language exams measure your language skills according to a four-level framework that is adapted from the
Common European Framework. The scale goes: A2, B1, B2, C1.

The exam consists of four parts: oral, writing, listening, and reading. Each skill is tested by two tasks and evaluated on a scale from 0 to 5, with a combined possible score of 25 points for each of the sections. You will pass the oral exam if you achieve at least 40% of the oral and listening skills and your overall score is at least 60%. The written exam will be passed with 40% in writing and reading skills and an overall score of 60%.

The time given to complete the whole test differs according to the level of language proficiency. For example, people taking the A1 level test will get 35 minutes to finish the reading part and 45 minutes to complete writing, while the C1 level gets 45 minutes for reading and 90 minutes for writing.

Perhaps weirdly (but as a welcome news to almost everybody), the exam does not contain any grammar tests or translation tasks. You can find out more about the format and parts of the exam on the ECL website.

How to prepare for an ECL language exam?

Your private language teacher is sure to help you achieve a high result on your language test. Many of our teachers have experience with guiding students through the testing process.

A good idea would also be to familiarise yourself with the test beforehand. The ECL offers sample tests in all of the languages you can take exams in. The only part that would be more difficult to practice would be the oral skills. It is always a good idea to tell your language teacher that you’re preparing to take a proficiency exam since they will then be able to customise your lessons to help you with the exam.

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