IELTS, TOEFL, TestDaF, WiDaF, DELF, DALF… These are not secret codes worthy of Master Leonardo. Although, in certain situations, those few letters on your CV can be the magic key that opens new doors and possibilities. Behind these mysterious abbreviations and acronyms are various types of prestigious language exams, which attest to your command of the given foreign language. If you manage to pass them successfully, that is :).
How to choose the right one for you?
Navigating the wide range of international language exams is no easy task. Choosing the language you want to take the exam in is probably not all that complicated. However, for each of the world languages, you have many options and levels to choose from. These vary in terms of the prestige of the final certificate, the range of validity or price, the level of language skills tested and the format itself. Some focus only on passive listening and reading, while others are more demanding, comprehensive and assess all language competences, including speaking and writing.
Whether you are preparing for an English, German, or any other language exam, consider the purpose of the exam when choosing the specific type. Some institutions, be they universities or employers, require specific certificates and often a minimum score. The fact that some prestigious certificates recognised worldwide (e.g. English TOEFL or IELTS) have a limited validity period (2 years) can also play a role in your decision-making process. But the very popular DELF/DALF or Cambridge exams do not have a limited validity.
You surely have some knowledge to begin with
Before you start preparing for the exam, make a careful and honest assessment of your current language skills. If you plan to take the exam at B2 level, but your current language skills are still only at B1 level, it is a good idea to work on improving your language level first and then start preparing for the desired exam.
So don’t be afraid to wait a few months before taking the exam and practise your language skills for a while. The time invested in studying the language will undoubtedly pay off in passing the exam at a higher level. Not to mention that you will become more confident in the language yourself.
If you have any doubts about your level of proficiency in a given language, contact your teacher or language school. Your preparation will then depend on the specific level and the certificate you choose. The format of the exam requires preparation in advance.
Careful preparation pays off
Don’t underestimate your preparation for the language exam and start well in advance. Continuous preparation is ideal for developing and maintaining your foreign language skills. And know that twenty minutes of language study a day is much more effective than the tedious week-long cramming before an exam or test.
Language skills need to be kept in shape, but practice at home in the form of self-study will not always be enough. It is more effective to prepare for a language exam under the guidance of an experienced tutor, who is familiar with the format of each type of exam and can give you lots of useful advice on how best to pass.
Tutors can also help you with grammar, vocabulary, written expression or any other area you struggle with in the target language. In any case, it’s worth focusing on what you find most difficult.
Also, get a recommendation for a suitable textbook and a set of exam tests aimed specifically at preparing you for your chosen exam. The study materials will give you plenty of practical tips and will also familiarise you with the type and composition of the tasks you will encounter on the exam. Ignorance of the format of the exam is quite often the cause of unnecessarily low scores or even failure.
Go for it!
Ready? Now all you have to do is choose when, where and how you want to take the exam. Language exams are held regularly throughout the year at various locations around the country. Most of them are in person, but some can be taken on-line.
Expect to pay several thousand Czech crowns for a good-quality language exam and know that preparation will cost you a considerable amount of time as well. However, it will be a worthwhile investment.