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Which is the best exam for Business English?

2015/08/31


There are several tests designed to assess business English ability. Some of the best ones use computer-adaptive algorithms where the tests adapt to the test-takers responses, and alters the course of the test accordingly. This way the test is never be too easy or too difficult, and rather than having a pass or fail system the test will identify the level of proficiency and issue a score reflective of ability.


Most online tests use this adaptive method, and can be a useful way to initially assess students and informally show their progress. A lot of these online tests are free, but you get what you pay for, because without an official examiner to ensure test integrity, and perform a speaking assessment, these online tests just don't carry much weight. But they could still be an excellent and cheap option for your business English lessons.



  • EFSET plus is a free online computer adaptive test which separates test-takers into 6 levels of proficiency with correlations to CEFR, TOEFL, and IELTS results. EFSET requires 120 minutes to complete (with a 50 minute option as well) and is the most respected of the free online tests, having been created by data scientists from UCLA and Oxford.


  • Examagram is another free online computer adaptive test with a more business centric focus than the EFSET. It has several powerful tools for teachers, with a control panel from which teachers can send tests to their students, and then record those results and compare progress over time. In this way, Examagram has more useful features for teachers, but the test is less comprehensive. Requiring only 30 minutes to complete before placing students into 6 levels which correlate to CEFR standards.


For a more robust and officially recognized business English test your students will either have to visit a test center, or pony up for a examiner to visit the class in person. But this is the only way to take an official exam that tests speaking abilities directly.


  • BULATS is one of the top business English exams. But how much does BULATS cost? It's actually one of the more affordable English exams, costing roughly ?6,900 per student (10 students minimum) for an examiner to visit and administer the test, which requires 170 minutes to complete. It is a highly respected test designed by Cambridge University, and one of the first major exams to use a computer-adaptive system for assessing students into 6 different levels which correlate to CEFR and IELTS standards.


  • IELTS is gradually becoming the premiere test for English assessment, having an outstanding pedigree of being jointly maintained by the British Council and Cambridge University together. It is not computer-adaptive, but separates a test-taker into 1 of 9 different categories, and attempts to clearly define their English abilities, and what needs to be improved. IELTS can only be taken at a certified exam center and in Japan it costs roughly ?25,380 per student.


We recommend teachers assess their students at the beginning of a new course, and then again at the end to quantify their progress using a convenient online test like the Examagram or EFSET. But if you've had the same students for awhile, then it might time to arrange for them to take the BULATS or IELTS and help them to walk off with that sweet certification.

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