Whatever language you’re studying, there’s a very good chance that the government of a country where it is spoken has created, sponsored or at least approved of a standardized test for it. Today, we’re sharing some of the best reasons to take such tests, as well as some ideas on how to prepare for them.
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Language Tests Around the World
You may have started learning your target language just to get good enough to converse with others, or even just enough for a “survival” level when you travel or go on business trips to certain locations. If you’re serious about learning another language, however, then you should think about the following kinds of tests:
English – IELTS – International English Language Testing System (UK)
English – TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language (US)
French – DILF – Diplôme Initial de Langue Française
Spanish – SIELE - Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española
German – DSD - Deutsches Sprachdiplom Stufe
Mandarin – HSK – Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi 汉语水平考试
And the list goes on and on…
Above, we’ve only even provided a single example for the many options available in each country or region. All of the most popular target languages in the world have some kind of official standardized test to measure proficiency in a way that is recognized by governments and other institutions around the world.
Why Take One of These Tests?
We can already hear some readers grumbling, “But I only want to some basic conversation, why should I take a test?” The fact is, if you have no desire or need to gain formal recognition of your language skills, then by all means don’t worry about it. On the other hand, you’d be missing out on a whole raft of potential benefits if you do ignore the test.
1. Prove Your Level
If you’re filling in your language skills on your LinkedIn profile, it’s easy to just click “Full Professional Proficiency” on a language. Others may read it and believe it without question. Others will be skeptical. There’s another space on LinkedIn where you can record your certifications. Something official will go a long way to proving your language skills to potential employers, or to universities if you’re planning to go abroad and study for a degree.
2. Visa Approval
Far from just proving your language abilities to a university or workplace, you may actually need one of these certificates down the line to prove your language ability for visa purposes. Some countries won't approve a visa if the applicant has not passed the required test. Often the exceptions to these rules are those who are going to that country to study the language itself.
3. Provides Structure to Learning
When you prepare for an exam, there is usually some kind of guidebook or other written framework to work from. This provides you with a great scaffold on which to build your language learning program. Many learners start a language totally blind and directionless, and the result is that they learn very little in a long time. Following a well-structured set of materials is a great help.
It also gives you a goal to work toward. By taking the test, whether you pass or fail, you know if you are improving or going backwards according to your results and/or by how hard the test feels to complete.
4. Comprehensive Learning
Since these language tests will assess you on all four of the key skills --- listening, reading, speaking and writing --- preparing for one is a great, comprehensive way to learn. What’s more, the four skills are well balanced so you can raise your skill level in each area equally. Without that kind of balance, you might improve your spoken level, but at the expense of your writing or reading ability.
It can all seem a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but there are some simple things you can do to get the process started:
First, look into the tests that you are either interested in or required to complete, depending on your situation. It’s important you know the basic structure and requirements, as well as test dates, locations and the cost of taking the test. All of this has to be part of your overall study plan. Some of these tests are expensive to take, so you will want to save your opportunities for times when you can feel very prepared.
Next, buy either nicely reviewed or officially sanctioned course books to use as your learning material. These will contain the most up-to-date vocabulary needs, as well as practice questions and probably practice test papers as well. They are your main map to success.
Finally, look for an experienced tutor with knowledge of the test and a proven track record in helping students get through it successfully. This is very important. There are always tips and tricks to these tests that the pros know about and can share with you. They will also help you assess your learning progress, check your practice work, and keep you on track for improvement!
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