Diary submitted by Lisa L., Barcelona, 2020
There are different EFL exams that people can choose to take in France, but the suitability of each of them depends on why they need it. It is interesting to note that people seldom decide to seek official recognition of their English level if it is not required of them by institutions with different aims and backgrounds, hence the wide range of options.
TOEIC: a springboard for your career
Nowadays, companies in France tend to ask their employees to undertake the Test Of English for International Communication in order to have more credibility on the global market. It consists of 200 questions split into a Listening and a Reading part meant to assess the skills of participants in a professional context. If needed, people can also decide to do a Speaking and Writing part (4 skills), although these are done on a computer and are not always required. Due to its focus on marketing, finances and office related lingo, the TOEIC has become a way for prospective employees to prove their employability, so much so that it is now a requirement for graduating from some marketing schools, Grandes Ecoles, or universities.
TOEFL & IELTS: for academic purposes
While the TOEIC is more work oriented, French people who want to prove their linguistic skills in an academic context favour the Test Of English as a Foreign Language. Be it to validate credits, get a visa, or prove one’s English level to go study abroad, this online test assesses the four core language skills by being split into a Listening, a Reading, a Speaking, and a Writing part. It is recognised all around the world, but particularly in the USA, which is why it is so popular among French student.
The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is used for the same reasons as the TOEFL, although it is more recognised in the United-Kingdom, in Australia, New-Zealand, and Canada, especially for immigration purposes. Besides, there are two versions of the test: an academic one and a professional one. However, as stated above, the majority of French people tend to go for the TOEIC when they need to pass an exam for professional reasons.
Cambridge exams: for work and academic purposes, but also for younger people
I know that Cambridge exams are recognised in France, but they are not as widely advertised as the three EFL exams previously mentioned in this diary. If they fit academic and professional requirements, they are mainly the go-to exams for younger people in language academies or schools. Indeed, schools tend to be in charge of registering and preparing their students for such exams since, unlike the TOEIC, TOEFL or IELTS, each Cambridge exam validates a specific level instead of assessing a person’s general level.
Ultimately, French schools and companies can choose from a wide range of EFL exams depending on their goals. In fact, despite the clear international aim of having a proof of one’s English, the exam and results required will depend on if people will be based in France or not.