An introduction to Pearson English International Certificate – Young Learners

PTE Young Learners in action

English language exams for young learners are becoming increasingly important. However, finding the right ones for your lower level students is crucial to help keep them motivated, interested, and having fun.

Pearson English International Certificate – Young Learners (previously PTE Young Learners) is designed to do just that. Spanning four different levels of proficiency, it gives young students a memorable first experience of learning English.

With a focus on fun, real-life communicative tasks, the exam gives your students the opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. It also gives them a certificate of achievement and lots to be proud of when they pass.

This article will help answer some questions you may have about the exam and provide links to useful resources.

What is International Certificate – Young Learners?

These tests give young learners an enjoyable first encounter with English language exams and a certificate awarded by EdExcel, the UK’s largest examining body for academic qualifications.

Starting with Firstwords (Level 1) and continuing through to Breakthrough (Level 4), students are encouraged to understand and talk about language related to their own lives. There is a strong emphasis on effective communication, rather than memorising grammatical structures and vocabulary.

For information on each specific level, you can download guides from the International Certificate – Young Learners website.

Who is it for?

International Certificate – Young Learners is suitable for speakers of other languages aged 6 to 13, and whose levels on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) range from pre-A1 to A2.

It can be taken in over 40 different territories worldwide, on dates throughout May, June, October, November and December.

What is the structure of the exam?

All four levels are separated into two parts; a written paper including listening, reading, and writing sections, followed by a final spoken test.

For Firstwords (Level 1), Springboard (Level 2), and Quickmarch (Level 3), the exam takes a total of 80 minutes. The written papers last 60 minutes, with six different sections, and the speaking test lasts 20 minutes, with two sections.

The Breakthrough (Level 4) exam follows the same structure, however, the written paper is a total of 75 minutes for the six different sections, followed by the 20 minute speaking test.

What skills are tested?

The exams test all four of the core skills; reading, listening, writing and speaking.

In addition, because of the communicative nature of the tasks, International Certificate – Young Learners includes a range of integrated skill assessments, such as reading and writing combined. These become more frequent in the higher levels, yet remain age-appropriate throughout.

Each exam begins with two listening or integrated listening tasks, involving picture matching, multiple choice, or answering questions about a conversation. These tasks assess your students’ understanding of simple concepts, such as time telling, locations, quantities, or past and future activities.

The next three sections include reading or integrated reading and writing tasks, ranging from picture matching and multiple choice dialogue completion, to gap fill exercises using their own words. These assess your students’ understanding of familiar functional language, the structural relationship between questions and appropriate responses, and the use of contextualised grammar and vocabulary.

In the final part of the International Certificate – Young Learners written paper, the students have a writing task which varies by level, from a simple gap fill exercise to the production of a 75 word story. This final section is designed to test their ability to either understand or produce a coherent story on a topic they will be familiar with.

Once this Written exam is complete, the students take the 20 minute Speaking exam, where they interact with the examiner, and four other young learners taking the test too.

The first section of this test is a board game, where each student takes turns to ask and answer short questions about themselves on familiar topics such as school and their family. The second section requires the students to speak for a minute about a similar topic, but also engage with and ask questions to the others about their answers.

This Speaking test allows the examiners to assess the students’ abilities to structure responses to themes they are comfortable with, along with their range of vocabulary and awareness of pronunciation patterns and sounds.

What are the key features?

Key to International Certificate – Young Learners is the focus on assessing students’ use of real, practical English in age-appropriate and enjoyable contexts.

The various structures and functions used in real-life scenarios take priority over simply remembering lists of grammar and vocabulary, and in the higher levels they are encouraged to demonstrate the use of integrated skills to complete common communicative tasks.

Additionally, the content throughout the different levels follows the everyday adventures of a British family called The Browns. In doing so it allows the students to become comfortable with what’s required of them and more confident in their use of the language.

For more information on each level, administrative documents, and multiple resources to help ensure your students are fully prepared for their exams, visit the online resource page, or International Certificate – Young Learners website.

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