Everything you need to know about Cambridge exams 1 – BEC Vantage and BEC Higher

In this week’s post, we interviewed our Courses Manager Ben about the Cambridge Business English Certificate exams. With our next preparation courses starting soon, we thought that this was the perfect time to pick his brains!

Could you tell us who the BEC exams are for?
The BEC exams are for any student who is looking to improve their business English. The exams are recognised by a large number of employers and are nice qualifications to add to you C.V.

What do the exams involve?
Both exams are made up of four papers: reading, listening, writing and speaking and test a learner’s knowledge of the English language and not their knowledge of business. During our four-week preparation courses, course participants are introduced to, and then prepared for, all aspects of the exams. The reading papers consist of various parts which test general comprehension, in addition to grammatical and lexical accuracy. The listening papers are made up of three sections focusing on note completion, matching and multiple choice questions.

In the writing papers, candidates are required to produce two pieces of business writing, one of which is a short internal company communication for the BEC Vantage exam and a description of a graph for the BEC Higher exam; the other is a report, proposal or letter in both exams. In the speaking papers candidates talk about themselves and their interests before giving a short mini- presentation and then discussing a business topic with another candidate.

What is the main difference between the two exams?
Obviously, the main difference between the two exams is the levels, and candidates taking the BEC Higher Exam are tested in more detail and are required to have a more detailed knowledge of Business English and display a wider range of English skills

The BEC Higher Exam course is suitable for learners who are at an upper-intermediate to pre-advanced level, while the BEC Vantage Exam Course is suitable for leaners at an intermediate to upper-intermediate level. In many ways, the exams are very similar and many of the skills needed are the same.

Could you tell us a bit more about the preparation courses?
Certainly! I enjoy teaching the courses as they are quite intensive and focussed. Everyone has the same clear goals and as a trainer it allows me to concentrate on improving the course participants’ skills and abilities, in the areas mentioned above. The first two weeks are spent looking at the constituent parts of the exam in detail, and the second two weeks are spent practising the skills and techniques that are required for success. The course participants do mock exams and receive constant feedback throughout the course on how and where they can improve. The course participants take the exams at the end of the four weeks, if they have followed the all advice and feedback they have been given, they will have a high chance of success.

When do the next courses start?
The BEC Higher Exam course starts on the 20th October and two weeks later on the 3rd November, the BEC Vantage Exam course begins. Both courses are our business and professional centre in Holland Park Gardens. They are full-time courses (24 hours per week) and run for 4 weeks.

Thanks Ben!


to pick sbys brains (idiom) – to ask somebody, usually an expert, for advice or information
consist of (v.) – a verb used to show the parts that make a total
lexical (adj.) – relating to vocabulary or words
to be made up of (phr.) – a phrase used to show the parts that make the total
candidates (n.) – a person taking an examination or test
internal (adj.) – coming from the inside
constituent (adj.) – part of a whole
mock (adj.) – not being real

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