Cambridge ESOL delivers exams to more than 2,000 centres in over 130 countries. We are constantly seeking ways to enhance our service to our exam centres and the 2 million candidates who take our tests.
Computer-based testing (CBT) offers additional flexibility for candidates and centres: choice of the mode of the exam, more frequent sessions, reduced lead-in and turnaround times and enhanced security.
Now there are two ways to offer Cambridge exams
Computers are now an established part of our daily lives. Their use in education has become widespread and many students around the world have excellent keyboard skills and gain computer knowledge from an early age.
The CBT versions follow the same test format as the paper-based tests. The speaking part of the test is completed in exactly the same way as in the paper-based version — through face-to-face assessment.
Centres do not have to offer the computer-based versions. We offer paper-based tests alongside the new CBT.
Same format, same questions, same certificate
The CBT includes the same question types which are marked on the same criteria. The certificate awarded and its value are identical to the paper-based test.
Safe, efficient method of language assessment
Cambridge ESOL's CBT has been carefully designed and extensively trialled to ensure the same high standards of testing as the paper-based tests. They provide a safe, secure and efficient way of assessing candidates' English language skills and knowledge.
For information of various CBT trials, see these editions of Research Notes:
Recent advances in technology and online security make CBT accessible in an increasing number of locations. Its rise in popularity as another way to take tests has been rapid.
The software system we use runs on a standard computer network. A number of candidate workstations are linked to an administrator workstation. The test materials are downloaded directly by the centre using a highly secure internet-based system. Once the candidates have completed the exams, the exam responses are uploaded directly through the Cambridge Connect system to Cambridge ESOL for assessment. This takes away the need for secure postal returns.
There is a quick online tutorial for candidates to use before they begin their exams.
Easy, standard web functions
CBT uses standard web navigation that is clear and easy to follow. The quick and helpful tutorial session at the start of the exam ensures candidates can spend a few moments making sure they know how the test works and what they need to do.
Making exams easy to run
There are no specialist requirements. Exam centres using the Cambridge Connect software system that runs the computer-based tests do not need to have a dedicated computer-testing suite.
The system can be installed and operated on a standard IT infrastructure with internet connection at sites such as universities, colleges or schools. Cambridge Connect can also be installed on laptops on a wireless network.
Centre staff are trained and fully supported in the use of Cambridge Connect.
Because the CBT exams are paperless, so is the administration.
- Additional exam sessions
The flexibility of CBT means that more exam sessions can be offered to candidates. Centres can respond to demand and additional exams can be run at different times of the year to the paper-based tests. This will suit candidates who are ready to take the exam at different times of the year.
- Faster turnaround of results
Exam results are delivered quickly and securely to candidates who sign up to use the Results Online service. They are available to both the centre and candidates within three to four weeks of the exam taking place. With CBT, candidates can enter for an exam, take the exam and receive their results within just five weeks.
- Making exams more accessible
Our research shows that many candidates prefer taking the Writing and Listening parts on a computer, especially younger candidates who are used to working with keyboards and headphones and who are comfortable taking exams using technology that is familiar to them.
- No special preparation is needed
Teachers do not need to do any special preparation with their students and they do not need any special technical knowledge. Exam preparation remains the same as there is no change to the curriculum or the teaching approach.