Are you an expert in English? Maybe you’re not sure but you would like to see how good you are. Maybe you just need a certificate for a job or a degree you are applying to. Well, don’t look further, we have exciting news for you. There is a new and improved exam from Cambridge Assessment English called Linguaskill that will do exactly what the name says: it will certify your knowledge of the English Lingua. If you got a bit confused with that last word, let me explain: Lingua is not a real word in English. It is Latin for “Language” and it is still used in some languages. Is it used in yours? Write a comment at the bottom of the page and let me know!
What Is Linguaskill?
Linguaskill is a fully online English test that can be taken from home, an office, or pretty much anywhere, as long as you have a computer, a connection to the internet and a set of headphones. You can do it for your own purposes but it can also be administered by an organisation or university that you are applying to.
Which Institutions Accept Linguaskill?
This exam is growing in popularity. This is mainly due to it’s convenience and ease in comparison with some other English exams which we will talk more about later. For that reason more and more work, education and other institutions are beginning to accept the exam. As for educational institutions, one good example is the ‘Tecnológico de Monterrey’, a Mexican University, which has implemented it to new students in order to assess their English level. You can find more places which accept the exam here: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/why-choose-us/global-recognition/
Can You Cheat On Linguaskill?
While writing this article, one question I asked myself was “IS IT EASY TO CHEAT ON THE TEST IF YOU DO IT AT HOME?” Honestly, after some research, I haven’t found a concrete answer to this question. Cambridge English say it is up to the administration board to regulate the test. So, each institution will set its own criteria for how the test is delivered. Some institutions may allow you to do the test at home but they might apply some restrictions. I would like to find out how specific institutions prevent candidates from getting a (much better at English) friend to do the test for them. Do some institutions watch you via webcam to ensure you're not cheating? Hmm...if you have any knowledge of this, please write a comment below!
Which Level Should I Take?
You might at this point be asking: do I need to know beforehand which Linguaskill exam level I should take? The answer to this question is “No way Jose”. As it is a multi-level test, the exam will simply tell you your level. Hmmmm, but Rory, how does that work? Well, it’s very clever actually, by using artificial intelligence, the system adjusts the questions as you answer them. For example, when you get a question right, the next question will be harder. After a certain number of questions, the system is then able to qualify your skills and translate it into a grade.
Are you as excited as I am to know more about the specific Linguaskill questions? Good! Let’s give you an extra hand with that.
Linguaskill Exam Structure
Let’s focus now on the most important part, the exam questions.
The exam is composed of four parts: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking.
Reading and Listening will take 60-85 minutes and there is no fixed number of questions. Let’s look into the two parts separately.
There are five types of Reading questions you will encounter:
- ‘Read and Select’. You will be presented with a short text and three different sentences. From those sentences, you will need to choose the one which most closely resembles the meaning of the text.
- ‘Gapped sentences’. The second type of question you might face is a sentence with a gap where, from a few options, you will have to choose the one that fits best in that gap.
For a useful technique which you can apply to this type of exercise, take a look at my Use of English multiple-choice cloze webpage: https://c.studentlanguages.com/use-of-english-multiple-choice-cloze/
- ‘Multiple-choice gap-fill’. This is similar to the previous exercise, with the exception that instead of a single sentence you will find several gaps in a text.
Again, my Use of English multiple-choice cloze webpage: https://c.studentlanguages.com/use-of-english-multiple-choice-cloze/ will help you learn a technique for this part of the exam.
- ‘Open gap-fill’. In this type of question, as in above, you will find a text with some gaps that you will need to fill. However in this case you do not have options to choose from, you need to write the word yourself.
My Use of English Open Cloze webpage should help you with the technique for this part of the exam: https://c.studentlanguages.com/use-of-english-open-cloze/
- ‘Extended reading’. You will have a text to read and following that, a series of multiple choice questions regarding the text.
In this case, the order of questions will follow the order of the text.
Again, my FCE Reading Part 5: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/fce-reading-part-5/ and CAE Reading Part 5 pages: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/cae-reading-part-5/ will help you with these questions.
Regarding the listening questions, there are two possible types:
- ‘Listen and select’. You will listen to an audio and after that you will be presented with several multiple-choice questions. In this case, the audio will be short. Here is one example where you listen and then choose the answer from 3 different pictures:
Here is another example where you listen and then choose the answer from 3 different sentences:
My FCE Listening part 1 page will show you a really useful technique to help you with these types of questions: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/fce-listening-part-1/ but if you want to practise with more difficult listenings, try my CAE Listening part 1 page: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/cae-listening-part-1/
- ‘Extended listening’. This exercise will be the same as before, with the difference that here you will be listening to a longer recording.
Here again, as in the reading part, the order of the questions follows the order of the audio.
You should check out my FCE Listening part 4 page for tips, tricks and similar practice exercises: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/fce-listening-part-4/. If you find those too easy, you can find some more difficult practice exercises along with further tips and techniques on my CAE Listening part 3 page: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/cae-listening-part-3/
When you get to the Writing section, you will have 2 parts and you will have 45 minutes to complete both. Before looking more specifically at these 2 parts, it is important that you understand how your writing is marked. Here is a useful video which explains this: https://youtu.be/nywrpzN6s9g
Okay, so hopefully you now have an understanding of how the writing is assessed, so now let’s look in more detail at the 2 writing parts. You should spend around 15 minutes on the first part to allow you to have the remaining 30 minutes to focus on the second part.
- Email. The first part is always an email of 50+ words. You will be given the topic of the e-mail and what should be mentioned in it.
I have a couple of pages which help students write longer emails for the B2 First and C1 Advanced exams. The questions are very similar, so you should definitely check out those pages, just remember, you don’t need to write as many words, so make sure you tailor your answers for the shorter word count.
- Various. The second part of the Writing is a long text of at least 180 words. For this part, if you are taking the Linguaskill General, you might be asked to write: an article, a review, etc. If you are taking the Linguaskill Business you will be asked to write a text directed to a manager or client. Here, just like in the previous part, you will be given the topic and the details you should include in your long text.
As I teach in my FCE and CAE exam courses, the target reader is important. You should identify who you are writing to and this will indicate the type of language you should use. My writing courses teach you useful vocabulary and grammar structures as well as how to plan and structure your writings to get high marks in the exam.
I recommend taking my English language test online and then checking your answers to see what level you are. You can do this on this page: https://studentlanguages.com/english-language-test-online-with-answers/
If you are an A2-B1 level, I recommend going through my FCE writing course: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/fce-course/writing-online/ as you will learn some incredibly useful tips for various types of writing which you might face in part 2 of the Linguaskill.
If you are B2-C1 level, have a look at my CAE writing course, for the same reasons: https://studentlanguages.com/courses/cae-course/writing-course/
Even though part 2 of the Writing is expected to be longer than part 1, they will weigh the same on the final result therefore pay the same amount of attention when preparing for both exercises.
Last but not least (the scariest part, in my opinion) the Speaking section. If you also think this is the scariest section, you don’t have to, I’m here to help you get through it. This section is divided into 5 parts and it should take you 15 minutes to complete.
Before looking at the individual parts of the speaking paper, let’s first understand how your speaking is assessed.
Speaking Marking Criteria
The Speaking paper for tasks 1, 3, 4 and 5 is assessed on the following criteria:
Task Achievement: Do you complete the task accurately and appropriately. If you achieve the task but with difficulty and your questions are not completely appropriate, you will not reach the highest level.
Coherence / Discourse Management: The complexity and coherence of your ideas will be evaluated here. The less coherent your speech is, the lower your grade will be.
Language Resource: For this criterion, your use of grammar and vocabulary will be assessed. Make sure you are using the correct verb tense for the context and that the expressions you use are grammatically correct.
Pronunciation: I hope you have been practising your pronunciation of words because they will pay attention to that during your Speaking exam. Besides pronunciation, the rhythm and intonation of your words is also evaluated.
Hesitation/Extent: It is very important for you to give natural and rapid answers while maintaining good pronunciation and coherence. Your time management while answering the questions will also be tested. This is why you should use your preparation time wisely.
In Part 2, the criteria differs as it is a different exercise as well. Here the examiners will pay close attention to :
Overall Intelligibility: Whether your pronunciation is clear and if the words you use are easily understandable. The more difficult it is to understand your ideas the lower your grade will be.
Individual Sounds: Make sure all the sounds you pronounce are clear. It should be easy for listeners to understand all the sounds you make.
Stress, Rhythm and Intonation: Make sure you use good rhythm and intonation when you encounter a coma, an exclamation mark, a question mark etc. It’s very important that you stress the expressions you are reading appropriately.
You can find out more details on these criteria here:
Now that we know what examiners will be looking into when you are taking yout speaking exam, let’s see what type exercises you will need to complete.
- Interview. To start, there will be an interview with 8 questions. In this initial interview you will be asked questions about yourself, such as your name, where you’re from, what you like to do during the weekends, etc. Here are some example questions that I was asked when I took a Linguaskill practice test:
If you want to see me and a student practising some typical question you might be asked in the Interview, check out my CAE Speaking part 1 page: https://c.studentlanguages.com/cae-speaking-part-1/
- Reading Aloud. Following this, you will be presented with 8 sentences you will need to read aloud. Here are some example sentences:
The following 3 parts require more attention and preparation, as explained below:
- Long Turn 1 (Presentation). When you get to this part, you will have a topic to talk about. You will be given 40 seconds to prepare yourself and after that you have to talk about the topic for one minute.
This is a very similar type of exercise to part 2 of the IELTS Speaking exam. There are some really handy tips for this type of exercise on my friend Charlie’s page: https://ieltscharlie.com/ielts-speaking-part-2/ Be mindful that in the IELTS exam you have 1 minute to prepare, so slightly longer than here.
- Long Turn 2 (Presentation with Visual Information). For this part, instead of a topic you will be given one or more charts, diagrams, etc. to talk about. For preparation you are given 1 minute.
In part 2 of the B2 First and C1 Advanced English exams, you have to talk for one minute about some pictures, without stopping. That is a very similar exercise to this, so if you want to learn some tips and techniques for doing that, check out these pages:
In those two exams, you don’t have any time to prepare before you start speaking, whereas here you have 1 minute...lucky you!
- ‘Communication activity’. The last part of the Speaking test comprises 5 questions which will be focussed around a specific topic. These questions are designed to get your opinion on the topic. Once again, you are given 40 seconds to prepare yourself.
Throughout the Speaking section, use your preparation time wisely to make sure you say all the information required of you. You should aim to speak for the entire time given to you in order to show more of your language ability and knowledge. However, your main focus should be delivering all the necessary information. Do not waste time by speaking about unnecessary topics or overexplaining an individual topic.
As in previous exercises, all parts weigh the same in the final result, therefore give the same importance to all of them.
How Is My Linguaskill Test Weighted?
I have given a few hints before about the weight of the questions in each section but let’s go a bit deeper in this matter.
In both the Reading and Listening parts, it is not possible to know the weight of each question as the number of questions is variable. But bear in mind they are all likely to have the same importance on the final result.
In the Writing section, as mentioned before, each task will comprise 50% of the final result.
In the Speaking section, there are 5 parts that will account for 20% each.
In the end, your final result is calculated from the average of all the different exam sections you are tested on.
How Is My Linguaskill General & Linguaskill Business Test Marked?
And now you may be asking: but if I am taking the test online, who is behind the screen to assess it? Well the answer to that question is not straightforward. However, it is largely the same for the Linguaskill General and Linguaskill Business....
As for the Reading and Listening section, the questions are automatically and immediately marked.
The Writing section is evaluated by an auto-marking technology. This technology compares your essay to other essay samples of varying quality and with the help of an algorithm it is able to accurately identify the level of your work. If you want to learn more about it you can check the following video...
The most innovative assessment system is in the Speaking section. After all, this is a fully oral exercise so one might think it’s not possible to be reviewed by a machine. But artificial intelligence (AI) is capable of many things. OOOOOO….scary!
If you are taking the Linguaskill General Exam your speaking skills will be marked based on an ‘hybrid marking model’. With this innovative model your test will be marked by a “combination of human examiners and auto-marking technology”. Human examiners will intervene in the assessment when the computer is not able to properly mark the exercise. There is a slight difference between the marking for Linguaskill General and Linguaskill Business in the speaking section. For the Linguaskill Business exam, your performance will be entirely assessed by human examiners. Follow this link if you would like to learn more about the Speaking exam and its assessment.
After The Test
After you complete all three sections, Reading and Listening, Writing and Speaking, the results will be ready within 48 hours. You will obtain a result from 0 to 180+, which will be converted to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) scale:
You or your employer/institution will receive a detailed and personalized test report on your performance.
Linguaskill vs Other Exams
I have mentioned some specific similarities and differences between the exams throughout the information above. However, I want to point out a few more general differences.
- Business. One major advantage when comparing Linguaskill with KET, PET, FCE, CAE and other exams is that with Linguaskill you can choose between two available categories: Linguaskill General and Linguaskill Business. The first one will test your daily English and the second will focus on specific business topics and vocabulary. This can be very helpful if you need the test for a Business degree or position.
- Cost. Cost https://www.londonschool.com/linguaskill/
If you are taking the exam individually the cost to test the three sections (the four main skills) is £80. If you only wish to test one part, the breakdown of prices is as follows: Reading and Listening: £35; Speaking: £35; and Writing: £35. Other exams typically cost from £100-£200.
- Exam Time. Another big difference is the time. Whilst FCE and CAE will take you around 3 hours and 30 minutes, Linguaskill will only take you 2 hours to 2 hours 30 to complete.
- Online. You can take the exam online, from the comfort of your own home.
- Results. You get the results in a much quicker time. With some other exams, for example the FCE and CAE, it can take up to 2 months to receive the results.
After assimilating all the information above, you can now breathe. It is a lot to take in but believe me, it will all be worth it when you ace your Linguaskill exam!
If you still have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments section below.