August 2009 issue

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Exams in Canada

Toefl may be the staple test preparation course offered by a majority of providers in Canada but Ielts and Cambridge exams are becoming increasingly popular. Nicola Hancox analyses market trends and details the array of options including some of the more unusual offerings, like BEC and SSAT.

We have always believed that offering students a programme that can improve and also certify their language is important,” asserts Nancy Jackson, Director of Studies at Canada West Academy in Vancouver, BC. “As more people learn English, the greater the necessity for students to be able to inform institutions and organisations of their English ability,” she adds.

“Toefl is our most popular exam course – running year long with a high attendance rate,” relates Tanya de Frias, Head Administrator at Four Corners Language Institute in Victoria, BC. “Several of our students are looking to enter Canadian universities and therefore benefit greatly from this course.” Keira Bulloch, Director at Heartland International English School in Winnipeg, MB, agrees, pointing out that their Toefl programme – introduced in 2005 – typically appeals to university-aged students from countries such as Korea, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

However, according to Ken Gardner at Vancouver English Centre, in Vancouver, BC, interest in Toefl prep waned somewhat prior to the launch of the Internet version in 2006. New material and additional course components could be responsible for a resurgence as well a preference for an internet-based format. David Oancia at Hansa Language Centre in Toronto, ON, explains that new software has helped no end. “The new material such as Toefl iBT CD Roms gives a better understanding of how the exam actually is [presented] and a better sense of time needed to complete each section,” he notes.

Meanwhile, Bulloch observes that their course is much more interactive now. “We have introduced blended learning in the course so students receive not only textbook-based learning but also the experience of practising the test on the Internet in our computer lab,” she states.

As the only internationally available test recognised by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ielts is also increasing its profile among Canadian providers such as Global Village (GV). “We have recently added Ielts to our exams repertoire for its quality recognition and benefit to the students,” says Donna Daly at GV Toronto, ON. Here, students can opt to take either an evening class or enrol on a full-time course for a duration of seven to 12 weeks. “Ielts is a growing market,” she notes.

Meanwhile, Cambridge exams such as PEC (Preliminary English Certificate), FCE (First Certificate in English) and CAE (Certificate in Advanced English), have a clear advantage over other Esol examinations. Unlike Ielts and Toefl where test results are valid for a maximum of two years, Cambridge certificates are, as Tamsin Plaxton, Director of Tamwood International College in Vancouver, BC, highlights, “renowned around the world and once obtained they don’t have an expiration date as other exam alternatives do”.

Plaxton notes that approximately 20 per cent of the school’s population are enrolled on a Cambridge prep course and that they are typically suited to students who already have a good command of English. “It is usually a very popular alternative for students coming for at least eight to 12 weeks and with a high intermediate or high level of English,” she states. The school added yet another Cambridge exam to its suite this year. “The BEC Vantage (Business English Certificate) has been successful so far,” she says. “We decided to start offering the BEC because of the success with the other programmes, which are frequently sold out months before the start date.”

Nadine Zerbel from ILSC says they introduced Cambridge preparation courses back in 1997 and she outlines that although now widely accepted by post-secondary institutions, future employment is the main motivation. “A number of students choose Cambridge exams for increased opportunities in their work life,” she says.

Meanwhile, the Toeic test attracts a more modest following. Specifically designed for those looking to test their English skills for an international workplace, De Frias notes it has a distinctly Asian following. “Asian countries seem to value test scores the most in the corporate world,” she says, adding that a revised version – called Toewic – is sure to generate a buzz. “We have restructured our Toeic course to include a Working in Canada component. This enables students not only to prepare for the business English examination, but also to prepare themselves for the job market in Canada,” she outlines.

Younger students are also well catered for and Jackson notes that their SSAT and SAT exam courses are popular. The SSAT exam is for students aged between 10 and 16 who wish to attend a private school in North America, while the SAT model is expressly for students (Canadian or otherwise) looking to attend university in the USA.
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English Australia  
Feltom Malta  
IALC International  
Languages Canada /
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Perth Education City
Quality English  
WYSE Travel

Boa Lingua  
Central de
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English Australia  
IEFT- International
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Student Guard

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism
Perth Education City

Engliah Bay College
ONECO - the
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Professionals UK 

English Australia  
English Language
Perth Education City

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Hansa Language
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ILAC - International
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Studio School of
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University of
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France Langue  
French in

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IP International
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Atlantic Language
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IH Milano  

Kai Japanese
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Kudan Institute of
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Feltom Malta  
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Home Language


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Good Hope Studies

Almeria Spanish
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Malaca Instituto -
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IEFT- International
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Angelo State
California State
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Human International
San Diego State
St Timothy's School
University of
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University of
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Zoni Language
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