Hello Exam Seekers,
As you know, I’ve been posting about the Cambridge English Main Suite Exams for a while now. I’ve already posted about:
- B1: Preliminary (former PET);
- B2: First (former FCE);
- C1: Advanced (former CAE);
- C2: Proficiency (former CPE);
There are also texts about the Young Learners Exam (YLE), the Pre A1: Starters, A1 Movers, and A2 Flyers. But today, I am going to talk about the first Main Suite Exam, I am going to give you an overview of the former Key English Test (KET), the new A2: Key.
An A2: Key qualification is proof of people’s ability to use English to communicate in simple situations. This basic-level qualification is a great exam to take if you’re new to learning English.
Candidates usually sit for this exam right after the Young Learners Exams. There is no rule though, once you have the requirements for one of the exams, you can take them in whichever order you prefer. However, this is the first “real exam” after the YLE. That means it is not a children’s test anymore, you won’t earn shields or take a colored exam with colored pictures anymore. It is still one exam to give you the confidence to go on and study for higher-level exams though, so it is lighter than the B1 Preliminary and the B2 First, but it takes the candidates more seriously than the Young Learners Exams.
What does Cambridge English: Key involve?
It requires you to understand and use basic phrases, expressions, and simple written English. It expects you to introduce yourself and answer basic questions about yourself, also interact with English speakers at a basic level.
The A2 Key exam is divided into three sections: Reading and Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Each section is composed of different parts, and each one carries different marks, as you can see below:
- Reading and Writing consists of seven parts and has, in total, 32 questions. It is expected that you show that you can understand simple written information such as brochures, signs, newspapers and magazines. You have up to 1 hour to finish the exam. It is 50% of your marks.
- Part 1 – Multiple Choice: Read six short real-world texts for the main message;
- Part 2 – Multiple Matching: Read seven questions and three short texts on the same topic, then match the questions to the texts.
- Part 3 – Multiple Choice: Read one long text for detailed understanding and main ideas.
- Part 4 – Multiple-Choice Cloze: Read a factual text and choose the correct vocabulary items to complete the gaps.
- Part 5 – Open Cloze: Complete gaps in an email (and sometimes the reply too) using one word.
- Part 6 – Guided Writing: Write a short email or note of 25 words or more.
- Part 7 – Picture Story: Write a short story of 35 words or more based on three picture prompts.
- Listening consists of five parts, and you need to answer 25 questions. It is expected that you show that you understand announcements and other spoken material when people speak reasonably slowly. The tracks will be played twice before moving on to the following piece. The full recording takes approximately 30 minutes (plus 6 minutes to transfer the answers if you are taking the paper-based exam). It is 25% of your marks.
- Part 1 – Multiple Choice: Identify key information in five short dialogues and choose the correct visual.
- Part 2 – Gap Fill: Listen to a monologue and complete gaps in a page of notes.
- Part 3 – Multiple Choice: Listen to a dialogue for key information and answer five 3-option questions.
- Part 4 – Multiple Choice: Identify the main idea, message, gist or topic in five short monologues or dialogues and answer five 3-option questions.
- Part 5 – Matching: Listen to a dialogue for key information and match five items.
- Speaking consists of two parts and takes an average of 8-10 minutes. You will most probably do the exam in pairs – there is a chance that it will end up being a trio, but never alone anymore. And there will be 2 examiners (an assessor and an interlocutor), not only one anymore. You will need to show that you can take part in a conversation by answering and asking simple questions. It is 25% of your marks.
- Part 1 – Interview: (3-4 min) Respond to questions, giving factual or personal information.
- Part 2 – Discussion: (5-6 min) Candidates discuss likes and dislikes, and give reasons.
How are the grades calculated?
Every candidate will receive a separate score for each of the papers (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing), in a way that the candidate can acknowledge how well he/she did in each part of the exam. These scores are summed and averaged to provide an overall result for the exam. The overall result will also provide a grade and a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level.
As you can see in the picture above, if you get 100-119 as a grade, you failed to achieve the level. However, you will still get a certificate attesting that you are a level below the intended exam. On the other hand, if you get 140-150 points, you will receive a certificate certifying that you are a level above the intended exam (Grade A – Level B1). If your score is between 120-139, you are the level, and your certificate will show that you got a Grade C or Grade B.
Once the results are out, you will receive them online. However, your certificate will take a little longer to arrive (approximately four to six weeks after the exam for paper-based exams, and two to three weeks after the exam for computer-based exams), since it comes from Cambridge in England. On the other hand, you will get your Statement of Result much sooner with the scores, grades, and scales.
This is a sample of the Statement of Results:
Paper-based or Computer-based?
Most Cambridge Exams offer now a computer-based exam, which is very helpful because it’s practical and it is environmentally friendly. However, it’s all up to you to choose the format to take. I’ve already mentioned some differences between paper-based and computer-based in the C1: Advanced post. However, an extra piece of information might help you to choose if you still have questions: as you can see on the Cambridge website there are many more dates to choose to take the exam if you are taking the computer-based. Just make sure to check the info at a center near you.
KEY for Schools?
The real question, however, is not if you are taking the paper-based or the computer-based, but if you are taking the KEY or the KEY for Schools. If you didn’t know, here is a very interesting piece of information: there are two types of exams for KEY.
If you are a student and you have already taken the Starters, Movers, and/or Flyers, the next step should be the A2: KEY. However, this is not a rule, the only requirement is that you have done about 250 hours of studying English. In general, students who have already taken the previous exams go for the KEY, and since these children are at school, they take the KEY for Schools. Which is mainly used by secondary school students or strong primary school students with the necessary background. Teenagers and younger children usually opt for the “for Schools” version of the test, because the vocabulary of the “for Schools” involves school. On the other hand, if you are an adult the idea is that you don’t actually choose an exam with “school” as its main theme. Therefore you have the regular version that only differs in the topics, which are more suitable for adults.
How much is the KET / A2: Key?
How much does the A2 KEY cost? When you register for the A2: KEY, you will need to pay a fee of around €95, but it varies depending on the currency and the center. For that reason, on the Cambridge website, you can find a center near you and check all the requirements and values accurately. You can check the website here.
Remember that it might cost a bit much, but your Cambridge English certificate does not expire. So it’s a certificate for life recognized by many institutions around the globe.
I will be talking more extensively about each part in the following posts. However, should you have any questions about the exams, feel free to leave a comment and ask! I would love to hear from you and help you out with whatever you may want to know about this exam!
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Have a great week,