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Exams and tests
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Pretesting is a vital element in the Cambridge English examination development process. Trialling exam materials with students before they are used in exams helps us ensure:
We do this by:
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 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 B2 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 B1 Preliminary, A2 Key and B2 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.
To take part in pretesting, your school must either be a Cambridge English test centre or be a ‘Pretest Approved Institution’.
If your school is not yet approved you will need to complete an online Pretesting Institution Approval Form. Once the form is returned to Cambridge English and has been checked, a referee will be approached for your application to be endorsed. Once approved, your school may then be invited to participate in pretesting one or more of the Cambridge English exams that your students sit.
If you are a registered Cambridge English centre or an approved Pretesting Institution you can request pretests by logging into your account. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any problems.
You can find more information about the purpose and practice of pretesting in the Pretesting Guide.
Download Pretesting Guide
If you have any further questions about participation in pretesting, please contact us:
Please note: pretests are not available for Speaking papers.
Download the pretesting calendar 2023
Download Pretesting guide
Complete the Pretesting institution approval form