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So, you have put all this effort into improving your English skills. Hours of English classes. Reading and listening practice. Studying English vocabulary over and over again.
And what do you have to show for? How can you prove to your (potential) employer, business partners, or client how competent you are in English?
Enter: English language certificates for business purposes!
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An English language certificate serves as a guarantee for your professional English skills to employers and clients. English language certificates can give you a competitive advantage over other candidates when you apply for jobs and university programs.
For yourself, getting a Business English certificate can be a professional challenge, a source of motivation, and offer you career opportunities in the future.
However, a Business English certificate is not for everyone. Knowing why you want to get a business English certificate, who it is for and how it will help you achieve your goals is crucial.
If you are considering getting a Business English certificate – great! Now, you have to answer the question of which business English certificate to get.
Which business English certificate will you get?
There is no shortage of English language certificates you can choose from. I stopped counting the ones listed on Wikipedia.
Even Cambridge English, an internationally recognized institution for English language testing, offers a wide range of English language tests you can choose from.
If you are lost and unsure which Business English certificate will offer the most benefits for you, read on. In this article, I will give you the options of the most widely recognized English language certificates for business and questions to consider when choosing which one is the right one for you.
I know that choosing the right Business English certificate is a difficult but important decision, so you should think carefully about the following questions:
- Is the business English certificate required or desired?
- What are your professional needs?
- What is your English language level?
- Which certificates are accepted internationally?
1. Determine if you need a Business English certificate and why
First of all, you should know who wants you to have an English certificate. Is it required or desired?
Second, be clear about your professional goals. What do you need it for?
You might need the English language certificate for:
- an application: proof for your future employer
- a promotion or raise: proof for your current employer
- university admission: as a requirement for an MBA or Master’s programme
- yourself: for better opportunities in the future
Knowing if an why you need an English language certificate will help you decide which certificate to get.
Ask yourself: Who is asking for a Business English certificate and why? How will the investment in an English language certificate pay off?
2. Choose a Business English certificate based on your needs
Firstly, taking an English language exam requires a substantial investment. The preparation for the exam and the fees for the exam itself can cost a lot of money.
You will need to buy special books and materials. Maybe you will need special classes. You might have to travel to the exam location. How much money can you afford to invest in the certificate?
Secondly, you need to take care of the administrative aspects of the exam. When do you need the certificate? When can you take the test? Most official exams have fixed schedules and are only offered on a few dates each year. Therefore, you need to plan months in advance.
In addition, you might have to think about travel time, because most exams only take place in certain cities worldwide. You can find the exam locations online in the links below.
If you prefer to take a test that is flexible and online, the BULATS is recommendable (see below).
Thirdly, you need to prepare for the test itself. Official exams are difficult and stressful. So, it also takes much effort to prepare for the exam.
Know that it requires a lot of preparation time. It might take months to study for the test. Do you currently have the level that the certificate requires? How much time can you afford to spend on the preparation?
Ask yourself: How much money, time, and effort can I invest in getting an English language certificate? When do you need it?
3. Choose a Business English certificate based on your level
Most English language exams are valuable for intermediate and advanced levels.
If you have an elementary or intermediate English level, I believe that an intermediate Business English test does not give you as much value as an advanced level certificate.
Think about the time and money you have to spend on this exam. Personally, if it is not required for your job or university programme, I think you should wait and work towards getting an advanced level certificate (C1 or C2 level).
However, if you want to specialize in international business and want to have a competitive advantage, it is a good idea to get an intermediate level certificate (B1 or B2), such as the TOEIC, LCCI Business English, BEC Vantage (B2), or BEC Preliminary (B1).
If you have an advanced English level, it is recommended that you work towards an official certificate as proof of your excellent English skills.
Having the Cambridge CPE exam for the C2 level is an invaluable asset for your career in any industry. For international business, the BEC Higher, TOEIC or LCCI are great certificates to have.
Ask yourself: Is it worth investing money, time and effort into an elementary or intermediate level test now? Is it better to wait a few months or years to get an advanced certificate?
4. Choose an internationally accepted certificate
Now, go back to the first question: who requires it and why? If you have the choice, you should choose an international certificate by a recognized institution, such as Cambridge English.
When you apply for a specific university program, such as an MBA, or a job, universities and employers sometimes tell you which certificate they prefer. If not, you should decide which type of certificate is best for your career: a general English certificate or a business English certificate.
The general and business English certificates below are the most widely accepted ones. Most general English certificates are accepted by universities and companies worldwide. Moreover, most business English certificates are accepted and valued by many international companies.
General English certificates:
- Cambridge English CAE
- Cambridge English CPE
Business English certificates:
- Cambridge BEC
- LCCI English for Business (EFB)
- International Communication TOEIC
Ask yourself: Which certificate will support my goals best in 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years from now: a general English certificate or a Business English certificate?
List of Official English Certificates for Business and Work
Look at the aims of the tests, costs, levels, locations of the most widely accepted certificates for business English.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures the language skills of anyone who wants to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. The IELTS is becoming more popular as a general English language certificate.
There are two versions of the IELTS:
- Academic – for people applying for higher education or professional registration, and
- General Training – for those moving to an English speaking country, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment.
The exam tests the four language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
Overall, the IELTS is a valuable certificate testing general English language skills, but not specifically the language skills you need for international business. Nevertheless, this certificate is a valuable a proof of your English communication skills. Your (future) employer, university or partners will see that your English skills are sufficient.
Price: 215–240 USD
Levels: B1-C2, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9)
2) Cambridge English CAE
This is a high-level qualification that shows you have the language skills that employers and universities are looking for. The Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) helps learners develop the skills to make the most of studying, working and living in English-speaking countries and environments.
Price: 173.45 USD
3) Cambridge English CPE
The CPE proficiency is the highest test for non-native speakers. It has been recommended to me on several occasions. A Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) qualification shows the world that you have mastered English to an exceptional level. It proves you can communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker. If you pass this exam, it means you have the level of English that’s needed to study or work in a very senior professional or academic environment, for example as a manager or a postgraduate programme.
Price: 183.74 USD
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) measures your English language skills, specifically to enroll in English-speaking universities. The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions. The TOEFL is one of the two major English-language tests in the world, the other being the IELTS. After the test, official score reports are sent independently to institutions. The certificate is valid for two years following the test.
Price: 160 to 250 USD, depending on country
Official Business English Certificates
5) Cambridge English BEC
The Cambridge English Business English Certificate is a qualification for professionals who want to work in an international business environment.
- Cambridge English: Business Preliminary: You will learn to understand routine letters, make notes, follow basic presentations and advise clients on simple matters
- Cambridge English: Business Vantage: You will learn to understand the general meaning of reports, write non-routine letters and present arguments
- Cambridge English: Business Higher: You will learn to deal with unpredictable questions, argue a business case and write business reports
Costs: 100-200 USD
CEFR Level B1: Cambridge English: Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary)
CEFR Level B2: Cambridge English: Business Vantage (BEC Vantage)
CEFR Level C1: Cambridge English: Business Higher (BEC Higher)
BULATS is a flexible online tool that assesses English language skills for business, industry, and commerce. If you are a manager or business owner, it helps you develop a workforce that is confident communicating in international business environments. The test can be done with BULATS agents around the world.
Price: 85-100 USD
Levels: all levels, A1–C2
The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is an English language test that measures the English skills of people working in an international environment.
There are different forms of the exam:
- The TOEIC Listening & Reading Test consists of two tests of comprehension assessment
- The newer TOEIC Speaking & Writing Test tests your pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, overall coherence, and structure (organization of sentences)
Price: 85 USD
8) LCCI English for Business
The LCCI International Qualifications in English for Business helps you to develop your reading, writing, listening and speaking business English language skills.
They are suitable for you if you:
- want to develop these skills at a basic functional level,
- are already able to communicate in a business situation effectively, or
- are fluent and participate completely in all areas of business.
Price: 50-200 USD, depending on the level
Levels: all levels, A1-C2
In all, when choosing an English language certificate, keep in mind what exactly you need it for. Who requires it and why? What is your English level and what are your needs? Which internationally accepted certificate fits your level and your needs best?
Which business English certificate is for you?
Now, I would like to hear from you: Which English certificate for business would you like to get? Or which one do you already have? Why?
Read also: How to write a job application in English
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