Pretests give students the opportunity to practise taking a Cambridge English exam using genuine questions under exam conditions.
After taking the Reading, Listening and Use of English papers, the pretesting students are given scores. Writing papers are marked by genuine Cambridge English Language Assessment examiners, and candidates receive information about how they performed in the Writing test. We do not currently pretest Speaking papers.
This helps students know which areas they need most practice in, and gives them experience and confidence in taking tests. For teachers, it helps highlight areas where their students might need more help.
Pretests are an essential part of the exam production process. Statistical data is obtained for each task which allows us to construct our exams to the right level of difficulty. This ensures, for example, that a Cambridge English: First Reading paper produced for June 2012 is at the same level of difficulty as the same exam produced in December 2012.
Exams with fixed dates, (such as Cambridge English: Preliminary, Cambridge English: Key and Cambridge English: First), usually have a pretest window of about three weeks.
Exams which are ‘on demand’ (such as IELTS) usually have an open pretest date. The Pretesting Calendar gives the pretest dates available for this year as well as information about the length of the pretest.
It is best if students take pretests about 6–8 weeks before their real test. This means that they are nearly ready for the exam, and so are at the right level. It also means that teachers will get the scores back in time to focus on any particular language areas in need of practice.
- All test papers and UPS despatch costs are paid by Cambridge English Language Assessment.
- Pretest papers are marked in Cambridge, and scores are returned to schools within three weeks (Writing papers are sent to examiners, so these scores and reports may take a little longer).
- Students take the pretests under exam conditions: pretest centres simulate the real exam, so that students not only experience the kind of questions they will face in their live exam, but also complete the answer sheets in a ‘test-like’ environment.
- After the pretest, all materials must be sent back to Cambridge English Language Assessment. Materials cannot be kept for classroom practice.
To take part in pretesting, your school must either be a Cambridge English Language Assessment test centre or be a ‘Pretest Approved Institution’.
If your school is not yet approved your exam administrator needs to complete the Pretesting Institution Approval Form, and this needs to be signed by the Local Secretary of the centre at which your students will take the real exam. Once the form is returned to Cambridge English Language Assessment and has been checked and approved, your school may then be invited to participate in pretesting one or more of the Cambridge English exams that your students sit.
Download Pretesting Institution Approval Form
If you are a registered Cambridge English Language Assessment centre/approved Pretesting Institution you can request pretests by logging on using your username and password to www.cambridgeenglish.org/pretesting. Please contact us if you have any problems with this.