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Cambridge Assessment English
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Exams and tests
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Welcome, this is the pretesting area of the Cambridge English website, dedicated to helping centres and schools request and administer Cambridge English pretests.
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We want to make sure that our examinations are as fair as possible, test to the relevant level and that there are no questions which are likely to test anything but a candidate’s language ability. We therefore need detailed statistical data which can be used to help construct examinations which are equivalent in difficulty and content to their predecessors and are, therefore, fair for all candidates.
Before any questions are considered for inclusion in a Cambridge English examination, they are first pretested on groups of students. Usually these students are enrolled for the exam in which they are being pretested. A sample of at least 150 candidates with a variety of first languages take each pretest. Around 150,000 pretests are despatched worldwide each year.
The commissioning of new exam questions takes place at least three years before they are used in an exam. A pretest is, in most cases, constructed of a number of sections, and are usually as similar as possible to the content of the exam.
Once the papers are despatched to centres, administered and returned to Cambridge, the sample is marked, statistical analyses are produced and then the tests are reviewed in relation to the statistics and any comments from centres. This enables us to see what level of difficulty each item has so we can ensure that the questions and tasks are at the right level for the relevant exam. We can also see how successfully each question discriminates between candidates of differing levels.
At the review meeting a decision is made to amend the question slightly, rewrite it more substantially or reject it. If the question needs rewriting, the question or section may be included in a future pretest. Once sections are accepted, they are placed in the ‘live exam bank’, ready to be included in different live exams at least two years later.