Cambridge English has been publishing wordlists for A2 Key, B1 Preliminary and their for schools variants since 2006. The wordlists have a number of functions: specifying core vocabulary to enable item writers to produce appropriate questions at each level; giving transparent information to teachers and learners about the kind of vocabulary typically needed for exam preparation; and importantly, supporting the validity of the exam as it then contains only vocabulary which can be reasonably expected for the level.
Historically, the wordlist was compiled on the basis of teacher and expert judgements, but we are now able to use language corpora – electronic collections of language – to provide further empirical evidence for exam development. In Updating the A2 Key and B1 Preliminary vocabulary lists, Lanes, Love, Kalman, Brenchley and Pickles describe the process of updating the wordlist for A2 Key and B1 Preliminary exams and their for schools variants. The update was part of the cyclical review that all our exams periodically undergo to ensure they are fit for purpose. A main objective was to extend the breadth of vocabulary across functions and topics, and update the list to reflect the influence of social change on language – for instance, ‘floppy disk’ has now made way for ‘app’.
This revision had three stages. First, experienced item writers suggested new words to expand the breadth of the wordlist, and then identified words which were no longer relevant. The list of prospective words was then analysed by corpus specialists at Cambridge English. Revised lists were published in 2018 and are freely available on the Cambridge English website:
A2 Key vocabulary list
B1 Preliminary vocabulary list
You can learn more about the three-step process in this Research Notes article.