Legal English Exams (ILEC) at Cambridge ESOL office
“On Sunday 11 December something unusual happened in the Cambridge ESOL representative office in Berlin. While the Berliners and tourists spent the afternoon of the third Advent at the various Christmas Markets or home enjoying coffee and the traditional German Christmas Stollen a small group of people gathered in our office for an ILEC (International Legal English Certificate) examination.
You will probably wonder about this as the Cambridge ESOL office is in charge of marketing and providing support for teachers, whereas examinations are administered by authorised Cambridge ESOL test centres. This is correct, but last Sunday was a major exception and this is how it came about: In late summer I was contacted by Dorthe G. A. Hartmann, a highly committed lecturer at the University of Greifswald, who integrates preparation for the ILEC examination into her legal English classes. The examinations are normally administered in Greifswald under the auspices of the prestigious Bucerius Law School, an ILEC test centre in Hamburg.
This year, however, there were logistical problems. While the written parts of ILEC took place in Greifswald, the speaking tests, for which specially trained Speaking Examiners need to examine the candidates face to face, presented problems. The only possibility to offer the speaking tests was in a place nearer to Hamburg and the Centre Exams Manager James Faulkner suggested the Cambridge ESOL office. When Dorthe and James first approached me I was very surprised and I needed to check whether our offices could be used as a speaking exam venue, i.e. whether they meet Cambridge ESOL’s exacting standards. After consulting Cambridge ESOL’s Handbook for Centres, which contains very detailed instructions about how the examinations are to be run, I decided that it would be feasible for such a small group of candidates.
Accordingly I set off last Sunday to turn our small office into an examination venue. I shifted the furniture in my room to accommodate the two examiners and the candidates, who came in groups of two and three. I set up a martialling room for the candidates and finally I stripped the office of anything which might be regarded as “helpful materials”, i.e. brochures in English and cartoons in English on my whiteboard. I was joined by Dorthe and her husband, who had also come from Greifswald for the exam and who supplied the official documents and further equipment such as clocks for timing the tests.
Last but not least the Centre Exams Manager, James Faulkner, arrived with the two examiners, who declared themselves duly satisfied with my arrangements. I have to admit I was relieved as it would have been highly embarrassing if a Cambridge ESOL office had fallen short of the standards. When everything was set up Dorthe gathered the candidates who were nervously waiting in a nearby coffee shop. While the examiners and the candidates worked hard the rest of us sat chatting in one of our offices. Dorthe and James were telling us about their positive experiences with Cambridge English Examinations and the positive washback the exams have on teaching. I reported on how we increase the recognition of our examinations in Higher Education and elsewhere, how we ensure that the examinations are administered in a secure way and according to uniform global standards.
After two hours the last group of candidates left. The examiners, who praised Dorthe for her excellent teaching, and the others left soon afterwards as they still had a couple of hours to travel home. While I changed the examination venue back into an office I was thinking about how impressive this experience was: There were seven extremely pleasant and bright law students, two examiners and a Centre Exams Manager as well as a lecturer and her husband giving up a Sunday (and undertaking a journey of several hours) to sit/administer/support an examination. I truly admire this commitment for education and I was very proud to have had an opportunity to contribute.
I left the office in very high spirits after an unusual way of spending an Advent afternoon. If you are interested in finding out more about the examination, for which students, teachers and examiners are prepared to sacrifice a Sunday, visit http://www.legalenglishtest.org.”
Kerstin Großmann, Cambridge ESOL Regional Manager