Introducing the online Pearson English International Certificate

Pearson English International Certificate

After years of success helping test-takers around the world achieve their dreams of getting an official certificate in English, we’re excited to announce the new online Pearson English International Certificate. 

This flexible, on-demand test has been designed to meet the practical needs of 21st century test-takers, employers and universities.

While you might already be familiar with the paper-based International Certificate (previously known in some markets as PTE General), the new online version allows learners to take the test in the comfort of their own home. You can now schedule tests at a time that best suits you or your class. A single test that takes under two hours.  

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the new online International Certificate, the format and how it’s scored.  

What is the online Pearson English International Certificate? 

The online International Certificate is an assessment that tests a candidate’s ability to use real-world English in relevant, authentic contexts. Candidates must complete a variety of communicative tasks such as writing messages, understanding newspaper articles and participating in conversations.  

It also assesses the test-takers’ core skills, including vocabulary and grammar. However, rather than requiring students to memorize information, these skills are tested in the context of communication skills.  

Like the paper-based test, it measures listening, reading, speaking, and writing proficiency as individual skills, and in combination at six levels in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR): 

  • (A1) Foundation A1 
  • (A2) Level 1 
  • (B1) Level 2 
  • (B2) Level 3 
  • (C1) Level 4 
  • (C2) Level 5 

Learners can schedule an exam at home using OnVue, our Online Proctoring system or at a Pearson-approved testing center. When taking the online version, students can schedule the test as little as 24 hours in advance – and there is no need to wait for scheduled exam dates. Note, they will need their own computer or tablet, a good internet connection, a webcam and a microphone. 

Results are delivered in the form of a useful, detailed digital score report, plus an official Certificate, in hard-copy sent by post, which is recognized by employers and universities in countries around the world and never expires.  

Let’s take a quick look at the format and the range of tasks candidates will have to complete.  

The test format

The test is divided into two different sections: 

  • Part 1: Listening and speaking 
  • Part 2: Reading and writing 

Each section includes a variety of tasks, some of which test multiple skills at the same time. Students have 40-55 minutes to complete each part.  

Part 1: Listening and Speaking  

Read aloud (speaking and reading)  

Test-takers must read a sentence or short text aloud. This tests if they have understood the words in the text, their pronunciation and fluency.  

Describe image (speaking)  

Test-takers look at a picture and describe what they see. This tests their ability to explain concepts, ideas and information, as well as the accuracy of speech.  

Listen and repeat (listening and speaking)  

Test-takers listen to a sentence or short text and repeat it. This tests listening comprehension, as well as their pronunciation and fluency.  

Listen to a conversation (listening and speaking) 

Test-takers listen to a short conversation and then answer a question about it. This tests the accuracy of their listening comprehension, as well as their ability to convey the information they have heard.  

Level(s): A1-A2  B1 and above  
Passage comprehension (listening) 

Test-takers listen to a short passage. They answer three questions by choosing the correct image to match what they heard from a choice on the screen.  

Passage comprehension (listening) 

Test-takers listen to a short passage and answer three questions with a short, spoken response. This tests their listening comprehension and speaking skills.  

Listen and read: Hotspots (listening and reading) 

Test-takers read and listen to a text at the same time. They must find the differences between the written and spoken text. Then, they click on the words on the screen that are different to what they hear. This tests their ability to recognize individual words in a text.  

Listen and writing: Dictation (listening and writing) 

Test-takers listen to a sentence or short text and write down what they have heard. This tests their listening comprehension, their ability to write accurately and understand sentence structure, word order and connectors.  

Part 2: Reading and writing  

Level(s): A1-A2  B1 and above 
Choose the right picture (reading) 

Test-takers read a short text and select the best picture from a choice of three to match what they have heard. This tests their holistic understanding of short messages, notes and short pieces of writing.

Short answer questions (reading) 

Test-takers must read a text and provide short answers to the questions relating to it. This tests reading for specific information within a text. 

Choose the word or phrase: Gapfill (reading) 

Test-takers read a short text and select the best word or phrase from the options available to complete it. This tests their reading comprehension.  

Read and then write (reading and writing) 

This asks test-takers to read a short story or piece of factual text. The text then disappears and learners have to reconstruct it. This tests reading comprehension, their ability to write accurately and understand sentence structure, word order and connectors.  

Level(s): A1-A2  B1 and above 
Short writing task (writing)* 

Test-takers need to write a short description of an image.  

Short writing task (writing) 

Test takers have to write a short essay in response to a prompt.  

*Both writing tasks test the candidates’ writing skills including paragraph and sentence structure, the range and accuracy of language used, the ability to construct an argument or discussion in a written context. They also test grammar and vocabulary.  

How is the test scored? 

Unlike the paper-based International Certificate, the online test will use computer scoring, making turnaround time for results much quicker.  

While the AI scoring system is calibrated, tests will be marked by a hybrid of computer and human scoring. The computer will automatically mark the multiple-choice items, while human evaluators mark the speaking and writing tasks. That being said, after calibration is complete, scoring will be completely done using artificial intelligence (AI), as with our high-stakes exam – PTE Academic. This will bring results turnaround times down drastically, to 1-2 weeks from 2022. 

There are two types of scoring:  

1. Correct or incorrect  

For these item types, one point is given for a correct answer, and no points for an incorrect answer. 

2. Partial credit 

For these, answers can be scored as correct, partially correct or incorrect. Correct responses receive the maximum number of points available, while incorrect responses receive 0. Yet, partially correct responses will score in between 0 and the maximum score.  

The results come back in the form of digital score reports, for individuals and groupsThese are useful for teachers as they include all the necessary information to measure, track and compare individual and class performance.  

They state exactly what the student scored in each area and offer a short performance summary, as well as recommended activities to fill any skills gaps. This is beneficial for teachers who would like to tailor lesson plans to help learners work on and improve specific skills. For those who are using a Pearson English course (including Speak Out, Gold Experience, Wider World or Business Partner) the score report points to specific activities that will help. 

Get started with the online Pearson English International Certificate

Not only is International Certificate is delivered by Pearson, the world’s learning company. It’s awarded by Edexcel, the UK’s largest awarder of academic and vocational qualifications. And it’s accredited by Ofqual, the official regulator. 

Find out more about the online Pearson English International Certificate.

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