5 Surprising Reasons to Take an English Language Exam | Top Universities

5 Surprising Reasons to Take an English Language Exam

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated April 6, 2021 Updated April 6, 2021

This article is sponsored by Cambridge English.

You want to study or work abroad in an English-speaking country, but English isn’t your first language: what do you need to do? You normally need to take an English language exam, which are required by universities, immigration departments, professional bodies and employers.

But, aside from formal requirements, there are lots of other reasons why taking English language tests can be good for you…

1. Increase your motivation levels 
Increase your motivation levels

Before a test, you tend to study harder than ever. Research has shown that this can lead to improved language ability.

Whether you love them or hate them, tests clearly motivate us to get learning. Research has found that students who are given regular tests study the longest and the most regularly. Students who have less frequent tests tend to study just before their test.

2. Learn the right kind of language skills

By taking a focused academic English language exam, you will learn the right kind of skills to succeed in your studies.

Academic English language exams use real-life language, tasks and topics. This means that, in addition to developing real-life English language communication skills, you develop a range of practical academic skills. For example, you will develop the skills to: 

  • Write essays with a good organizational structure and supporting conclusions
  • Follow lectures and ask detailed questions
  • Read quickly enough to cope with the demands of an academic course
  • Read textbooks and grasp the main topics and ideas
  • Give clear presentations.

3. Succeed in your academic studies

Research shows that students who do well in academic English language exams, such as Cambridge English: Advanced, are most likely to perform well academically. One recent research study about who achieves the best academic grades at a UK business school, found that 36% of the difference in grades is due to students’ reading and writing test scores.

4. Improve the way you study 

Tests and quizzes are really useful study techniques, which can improve how quickly you learn.

When you do an exam, you have to recall and apply what you have learnt. This process greatly improves your chances of remembering information. It also makes future study sessions more productive, by showing what you need to work on next.

In addition, by taking exams, you can improve your ability to apply what you’ve learned in new contexts. In particular, open-ended assessments (such as essay writing) help our brains to organize information, which produces ‘deeper learning’ – so you can retrieve that knowledge flexibly and transfer it to other situations.

5. Get ahead of your peers

Despite clear evidence about the benefits, most students still avoid doing tests wherever possible. This means that the students who do take tests are at an advantage.

One research project asked university students to choose between self-testing or just doing more study. Only 18% of the students chose to self-test. These students were able to find out how much they knew and used their results to guide further study. Guess which students did better…?

Want to stand out from the crowd? 

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re interested in taking an English language test.

For entry to undergraduate study, we recommend taking Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), one of our most popular academic English language exams. It’s accepted by over 6,000 universities and employers around the world. Preparing for it will give you the skills you need to succeed at university and beyond.

Which Cambridge English exam is right for me?

If you're not sure of your English language level, try our free online level test. It's quick and you'll get instant results that tell you your current level and which Cambridge English exams to aim for.

About Cambridge English

Cambridge English Language Assessment is part of the University of Cambridge. We develop and produce the most valuable range of qualifications for learners and teachers of English in the world. Over 5 million people in 130 countries take our exams every year. Around the world over 20,000 universities, employers, government ministries and other organizations accept our certificates.

This article was originally published in January 2016 . It was last updated in April 2021

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