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1. Business English Certificate VantageExamination Report2010CONTENTS PageIntroduction 1Paper 1 – Reading 3Paper 2 – Writing 8Paper 3 – Listening 14Paper 4 – Speaking 19Feedback Form 23WEBSITE REFERENCEThis report can be accessed through the Cambridge ESOL website at:www.CambridgeESOL.org© UCLES 2010 0352
INTRODUCTIONThis report provides a general view of how candidates performed on each paper in the 2010past paper pack, and offers guidance on the preparation of candidates. GradingThe four BEC Vantage papers total 120 marks, after weighting. Each paper (Reading, Writing,Listening, Speaking) represents 25% of the total marks available. It is important to note thatcandidates do not ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ in a particular paper or component, but rather in theexamination as a whole. A candidate’s overall BEC Vantage grade is based on the aggregatescore gained by the candidate across all four papers.The overall grades are set using the following information: statistics on the candidature statistics on the overall candidate performance statistics on individual questions, for those parts of the examination for which this is appropriate (Papers 1 and 3) the advice of the Principal Examiners based on the performance of candidates, and on the recommendation of examiners where this is relevant (Papers 2 and 4) comparison with statistics from previous years’ examination performance and candidature.BEC Vantage has three passing grades: A, B and C, and two failing grades: D (Narrow fail) andE.Statements of Results contain a graphical display of a candidate’s performance in each paper.These are shown against a scale of Exceptional – Good – Borderline – Weak and indicate thecandidate’s relative performance on each paper. Special ConsiderationSpecial Consideration can be given to candidates affected by adverse circumstancesimmediately before or during an examination. Examples of acceptable reasons for givingSpecial Consideration include illness and bereavement. All applications for SpecialConsideration must be made through the local Centre as soon as possible after theexamination affected. Irregular ConductThe cases of candidates who are suspected of copying, collusion or breaking the examinationregulations in some other way will be considered by the Cambridge ESOL MalpracticeCommittee. Results may be withheld because further investigation is needed or because ofinfringement of the regulations. Read more… Notification of ResultsCandidates’ Statements of Results are issued through their local Centre approximately twomonths after the examination has been taken. Certificates are issued about six weeks after theissue of Statements of Results. Requests for a check on results may be made through the localCentre, within one month of the issue of Statements of Results. Read more… Useful documentationCambridge ESOL produces the following documents which may be of use to teachers orinstitutions preparing candidates for BEC Vantage: Regulations (produced annually, for information on dates, etc.) BEC Handbook (for detailed information on the examination and sample materials)© UCLES 2010 0352 1
Past Paper Pack (including Examination Papers 1–3, CD and recording script for Paper 3, keys, sample Speaking test material and Paper 2 mark schemes and sample scripts) BEC Speaking Test Preparation Pack (for information on the Speaking test including Teachers’ notes, Student worksheets, visuals and DVD)In addition, online teaching resources for BEC Vantage are now available. Included are sampletasks, tips for teachers and students, and a range of familiarisation and practice activities.Users of this Examination Report may find it useful to refer simultaneously to therelevant Past Paper Pack. This, together with further copies of this report, is available from theCentre through which candidates entered, or can be purchased using the order form online atwww.CambridgeESOL.orgIf you do not have access to the internet, you can obtain an order form from:Cambridge ESOL Information1 Hills RoadCambridgeCB1 2EUUnited KingdomTel: +44 1223 553355Fax: +44 1223 553078Email: ESOLinfo@CambridgeESOL.orgWebsite: www.CambridgeESOL.orgFeedback on this report is very welcome and should be sent to the Reports Co-ordinator,Cambridge ESOL, at the above address. Please use the feedback form at the end of thisreport.© UCLES 2010 0352 2
BEC VANTAGE READING Number ofPART Main Skill Focus Input Response questions 1 Reading – scanning and gist One longer or four shorter Matching 7 informational texts (approx. 250 – 350 words in total) 2 Reading – understanding text Single text: article, report, etc. Matching 5 structure with sentence level gaps (text plus 7 option sentences approx. 450 – 550 words in total) 3 Reading for gist and specific Single text (approx. 450 – 550 4-option multiple 6 information words) choice 4 Reading – vocabulary and structure Single informational text with 4-option multiple 15 lexical gaps (text including choice cloze gapped words approx. 200 – 300 words) 5 Reading – understanding sentence Short text (identification of Proof-reading 12 structure / error identification additional unnecessary words in text of approx. 150 – 200 words)The BEC Vantage Reading Paper is based on five texts, with 45 questions of varied types(multiple choice, multiple matching and proof-reading). One mark is awarded for each correctanswer, and the total out of 45 is then weighted to 25% of the candidates overall mark.Candidates are required to transfer their answers onto an answer sheet, as instructed on thequestion paper, with no extra time being allowed for this purpose. Once received atCambridge ESOL, candidates’ answer sheets are computer-scanned.Part 1 of this paper is a matching task containing a text divided into four sections (or four shorttexts on a related theme). Although the context of each text or section is similar, there will beinformation that is particular to each. Candidates are presented with seven statements and areexpected to match each statement to the relevant section.Part 2 is a matching task, comprising a text that has had six sentences removed from it and aset of seven sentences labelled A–G. Candidates are required to fill each gap with thesentence which they think fits in terms of meaning and structure. There is one example at thebeginning. This part tests understanding of text structure as well as meaning and candidatesare tested on a variety of cohesive features with both a backward and a forward reference,sometimes going beyond sentence level.Part 3 consists of a text accompanied by six, four-option multiple-choice items, the stems ofwhich may be in the form of a question or incomplete sentence.Part 4 is a multiple-choice cloze test with fifteen gaps, most of which test lexical items, and mayfocus on correct word choice, lexical collocations and fixed phrases.In Part 5, candidates are presented with a text of 12 numbered lines. They have to identifywords (no more than one in any line) which have been incorrectly inserted into the text.However, some lines are correct.© UCLES 2010 0352 3
Comments on candidate performancePart 1Candidates performed very well on this matching task and it presented few difficulties for themajority of candidates. Strong candidates coped particularly well with Question 3, correctlymatching it with the reference in section A to it pushed forward even more aggressively byopening networks in four new countries.Question 1 proved more challenging, with weaker candidates incorrectly matching it withsection A or D. The correct answer to Question 1 is C. It targets both the first and secondsentences of C and requires candidates to process a relatively large piece of text. The keypoint in this part of the text is that specialists are doubtful of PTG’s claims for its cutting-edgeproduct, which matches with the reference in the question to considered to be over-confident inthe innovative nature of its product.It is possible that the candidates who incorrectly chose section A were attracted to the first twosentences; in particular to he didn’t cut corners and laid out $16 billion on new technology.However, although A mentions PTG’s owner’s strong investment in technology, it does not referto the belief that the company was over-confident or describe PTG’s technology as cutting-edge.The weaker candidates who chose section D as their answer to Question 1 may have beendrawn to the reference to cash-rich PTG remained confident it would survive its initial problems.However, this is not the same as being considered over-confident, which is the focus of thequestion. It is important that candidates are not unduly attracted to sections that containindividual words that appear in the question. They need to consider the complete meaning ofthe question and the text.Part 2This was the most challenging part of the paper with Questions 10 and 11 proving difficult forsome candidates.The correct answer to Question 10 is C. The text before the gap describes how changes tocompany structure and developments in communication technologies enable supervisors tomanage more effectively. C refers to an increase in the number of tasks allocated toautonomous teams, which exemplifies the move towards effective management. The focus onteams and how they are best managed is continued after the gap by the reference to weavingnetworks together.Some weaker candidates chose A or D as their answer to Question 10. Extract A is a distractorand does not fit anywhere in the text. Extract A states that certain factors have shown that theprospects for some companies are good. It does not develop the point that certain changes willimprove management. The time reference in extract D, which refers to events in the first half ofthe 20th century means that this extract is not located in this part of the text.The correct answer to Question 11 is F. The text before the gap describes further changes thatare taking place in the modern company. The writer argues that economic value is not primarilya matter of assets and F develops this point further by stating that economic value resultsprimarily from customers’ trust. Stronger candidates recognised this line of development andwere able to link the pronoun at the beginning of F to ‘real economic value’ in the text.Some weaker candidates chose E as their answer to Question 11. Extract E, which is thecorrect answer to Question 9, does not develop the idea that value is dependent on factorsother than assets. In addition, it does not fit grammatically in this part of the text.© UCLES 2010 0352 4
Part 3Candidates coped very well with this task and for most it presented relatively few problems. Forexample, a large percentage of candidates handled Question 16 well, correctly identifying D asthe answer. Option D targets the second sentence of the fourth paragraph, which states thatrecent school and college leavers regard training as a permanent aspect of their working lives.Despite candidates coping well overall with the task, Questions 14 and 17 caused a fewproblems for weaker candidates. The correct answer to Question 14 is C. It targets the end ofthe second paragraph, specifically the reference to directors … actively encouraging better stafftraining. Some candidates incorrectly identified B as the answer. They may have been attractedto there are……more and more human resources managers. However, this is not the same asan improvement in the status of managers responsible for training.The correct answer to Question 17 is A. It targets the last sentence of the fifth paragraph, whichdescribes how employees want to gain “portable” skills. In option A, portable skills are equatedwith knowledge that employees expect to benefit from. Some weaker candidates incorrectlychose D. Although the fifth paragraph refers to the acquisition of skills that can be transferred toanother company, it does not refer to which skills other companies require.Part 4For some candidates this was a relatively challenging part of the paper with Questions 28 and31 in particular being challenging for candidates. The text that Question 28 targets describesthe need for smaller companies to manage their supply chains, by monitoring orders and stock.The correct answer is A, levels. When selecting an answer, candidates need to look at thewords that surround a gap and consider factors such as collocation, as well as taking intoaccount the meaning of the four options. The same applies to Question 31, where the phrase’perform a task’ is being targeted.Question 23 also caused problems for some candidates. The correct answer is A but quite afew weaker candidates chose option B or C. This question focuses on lexical precision andcollocation. While it is appropriate in this context to describe a trend as particularly evident, thatis not the case with strongly or considerably.Question 32 caused fewer problems for candidates. A high percentage of the strongercandidates correctly identified B as the answer, although some weaker candidates chose C.Candidates should remember to consider the grammatical context when selecting one of the 4options. Although B and C are similar in meaning, C needs to be followed by the preposition ‘of’and can therefore be ruled out of the gap.Part 5Most candidates handled this task well and for some it was a relatively straightforward task.Most candidates recognised the duplication of determiners in Question 43 and correctlyidentified one as the extra word.However, a more challenging part of the task for some candidates was Question 40. Thegrammatically incorrect word in this line is them but some weaker candidates identifiedhowever as the extra word. It is important than candidates distinguish between words that areincorrect and words that are superfluous. Although however is superfluous and could beremoved, it is not, unlike them, grammatically incorrect. Another word that some weakercandidates identified as the extra word was has. Candidates need to consider the whole textand not just the line that the extra word appears in. The text refers to a point in the future whenthe sale of discounted items has finished. The removal of has would change the tense to pastsimple, which is not appropriate in this context.Question 41 also caused problems for some candidates. Although this is a correct line, a lot ofweaker candidates incorrectly identified much as the extra word. As with Question 40,candidates need to remember the difference between words that are superfluous and can beremoved and those that make the line grammatically incorrect.© UCLES 2010 0352 5
Recommendations for candidate preparationIn addition to specific examination practice, students should be encouraged to read as widelyas possible. The texts that appear in the test are drawn from magazines, newspapers andbooks, and it is important that students are familiar with these text types. Whenever possible,students should be given a range of reading purposes (retrieving information, getting the ‘gist’,understanding detail, etc.) since this will prepare them for the different task types that occur onthe paper.Part Two was the part of the paper candidates found most challenging and it may be a tasktype that candidates need additional practice in. With gapped texts, candidates need to readthe text before and after the gap carefully. It is also important when choosing an option thatcandidates process the whole text rather than trying to match individual words.Part Four was also a challenging part of the paper. In order to improve their performance onthis part of the paper, it may be useful for candidates to increase their range of businessvocabulary, particularly in the area of collocations, fixed phrases and phrasal verbs. They alsoneed to consider how the grammatical environment limits their choice.Part Five was another challenging task. It has a grammatical focus and candidates may needto do more tasks that focus on accuracy. Candidates should also remember that the extra wordhas to be wrong and not simply superfluous.Although candidates did not perform badly in Part 3, they may benefit from practice inidentifying and locating main ideas in a paragraph or section. It is also important for candidatesto read the questions carefully. The task is testing detailed understanding and three of theoptions A – D may say something similar, but not exactly the same as the text; or the optionsmay occur in the text but only one is correct with a particular stem or question.© UCLES 2010 0352 6
Preparing for BEC Vantage Reading (a summary)Candidates should pay attention to the complete meaning of the sentences in Part 1 read the whole text in Part 2 and try to predict what kind of information is missing from each of the gaps, as working on the extracts before reading the base text is potentially confusing look very carefully at the pronouns that occur in the extracts in Part 2. They must refer correctly to the nouns that precede and/or follow the gap in the base text. regularly review their choices in Part 2. As they work through the task, a difficulty in finding a particular extract may indicate that they have already used it incorrectly for an earlier gap. Always leave enough time to double check answers against the text. pay attention to the general theme of the paragraphs in Part 3 read the text and questions very carefully in Part 3. Remember that the options A – D in the question may say something very similar, but not the same, in meaning as the text. read the question or stem very carefully in Part 3. It may be that all of the options occur in the text but only one of them is correct with a particular stem or question. keep vocabulary lists and try to make use of words that are new. This will be particularly useful for Part 4. look carefully at the sentences in Part 5. Is the word chosen followed by a certain preposition or grammatical structure? Does it collocate with the surrounding words? remember that the extra word in Part 5 has to be grammatically wrong and not just superfluous write the whole word in Part 5 in capital letters and not a mixture of lower and upper case.Candidates shouldn’t match words alone in Part 1. There are usually some similarities between sections and candidates need to make sure that their choice matches the complete meaning of the question. ignore the introductory adverbs or phrases which link with ideas that go before the gap in Part 2. For example, ‘however’ or ‘but’ must be preceded by a contrasting idea. forget the need for tenses in the Part 2 extracts to fit logically with those already present in the base text choose more than one letter for any of the answers in Parts 1 – 4 write more than one word for the answers in Part 5.© UCLES 2010 0352 7
BEC VANTAGE WRITINGPART Functions/Communicative Task Input Response Register 1 e.g. giving instructions, explaining Rubric only (plus layout of output Internal communication Neutral/ a development, asking for text type) (medium may be note, informal comments, requesting information, message, memo or agreeing to requests email) (40–50 words) 2 Correspondence: e.g. explaining, One or more pieces of input from: Business Neutral/ apologising, reassuring, business correspondence correspondence formal complaining (medium may be letter, fax or (medium may be letter, email), internal communication fax or email) or short Report: describing, summarising (medium may be note, memo or report or proposal Proposal: describing, summarising, email), notice, advert, graphs, (medium may be memo recommending, persuading charts, etc. (plus layout if output or email) (120–140 is fax or email) words)For BEC Vantage, candidates are required to produce two pieces of business writing. Thequestions supply candidates with sufficient information to enable them to identify the targetreader, use an appropriate style and register, and address all the content points.Both Part 1 and Part 2 tasks are compulsory. Part 1 requires candidates to produce a concisepiece of internal company communication of between 40 and 50 words. This means writing to acolleague or colleagues within a company on a business-related matter. Candidates are giventhe layout of memos and emails (e.g. to/from/date/subject) on the question paper and need notcopy this out as part of their answer. In Part 2, candidates are asked to produce an extendedpiece of business correspondence of between 120 and 140 words. This task involves theprocessing of one or two short input texts, which may contain visual or graphic material, andwhich have ‘handwritten’ notes on them.Each Writing task is marked by a trained examiner. Examiners mark in teams, monitored byTeam Leaders. Each marking session is led by a Principal Examiner. Examiners refer to aGeneral Impression Mark Scheme which provides detailed descriptions of performance at eachof five levels of proficiency, with scores converted to provide a mark out of 10 for Part 1 and outof 20 for Part 2 (a total of 30 marks, i.e. 25% of the candidates overall score). In addition tothis, a Task-specific Mark Scheme for each question gives guidance on the features an answershould contain.In Part 1, the assessment focus is on content, effective organisation of input, appropriacy to theintended audience, accuracy and conciseness. In Part 2, the focus is mainly on content,style/register and, because the task is longer than Part 1, candidates have more scope todemonstrate a range of structure and vocabulary.© UCLES 2010 0352 8
Comments on candidate performancePart 1This part of the paper was an email informing the company’s Human Resources managersabout the annual HR conference. The majority of candidates understood the scenario and dealtwith it well. However, some candidates failed to deal with the third point appropriately, partly asa result of misunderstanding the phrase ‘make a presentation’. Most addressed the three pointsin the order given, although some addressed points one and two in reverse order; stating why itwas important for HR managers to attend before giving the date of the conference. This wasacceptable as candidates are not required to deal with the points in a particular order.On the whole, responses showed a good understanding of the scenario and who the targetreader was. Although a majority reformulated the input and addressed the points concisely, afew wrote over-length answers. Candidates should remember they are required to write 40 – 50words in Part 1. Where the task is to write an email, candidates do not need to include to / from/ date / subject details. Also, since twice as many marks are available for the Part 2 task as forthe Part 1 task, it is important that candidates allocate their time appropriately and do not spendtoo much time on Part 1.Point 1For this point, candidates were required to inform HR managers of the date of the conference.Most dealt with it well, either providing a date or a day of the week for the conference. Eitherresponse was acceptable. Appropriate answers included:The annual conference for HR mangers is going to be on 5 June.The company is holding its annual conference for HR managers next Monday.A few candidates failed to address the point fully. Although they stated there was going to be aconference, they did not specify when. Candidates must remember to read the task carefully andaddress each point appropriately.Point 2This point required candidates to indicate why it was important for HR managers to attend theconference. Better candidates had relatively few problems providing an explanation.Responses included:we would like to review the staff performance in recent monthssubjects include future goals for our companyto decide the training courses for staffAlthough most candidates gave good answers, some failed to develop the point fully.Candidates must remember that where expansion is required, for example an explanation or arecommendation, they should ensure they provide this.Point 3For this point, candidates had to say what HR managers needed to do if they wanted to make apresentation. Most dealt with this well and responses from strong candidates included:Please email me if you would like to make a presentation.Could you send the PowerPoint to me as early as possible if you would like to make apresentation?© UCLES 2010 0352 9
However, some candidates misinterpreted this point. Some appeared to think that ‘apresentation’ meant ‘being present’, while others regarded it as ‘personal presentation’ or‘personal appearance’. Examples of these misinterpretations included:please make sure you would all be presentunless [you] clarify the reasons for me, everyone should not be absentwear the company cloth[es] and have a tieyou’d better [be] dressed in formal clothesIn addition, there were some candidates who did not refer to making a presentation but statedinstead how HR managers should prepare for the conference. Examples of thismisinterpretation were:Please prepare your comments and feedback when you attend it.Please prepare a report about staff in your area and make a plan for training.Prepare ideas about new recruitment and take notes.Part 2This part of the paper required candidates to write a proposal regarding the future of thecompany’s New York store. The majority of candidates coped well with the task and seemedwell prepared. They understood the scenario and were able to produce proposals in anappropriate format and in a formal or neutral tone. Candidates also demonstrated good lexicalrange and an awareness of collocation and business terminology. Examples from strongcandidates included:enhance their commitmentpromote a harmonious working atmosphereexpand our target marketattract more repeat customersPoint 1This point required candidates to recommend keeping the New York store open. On the whole, itwas dealt with well. Typical responses included:I think we should keep the store open and I reckon the company will thrive if we make a goodperformance.In a number of responses, the recommendation to keep the store open was implied rather thanmade explicit. The essential point for the target reader was that the company had potentialand that its performance would improve. Therefore, references to the strength of thecompany’s situation were considered acceptable. Examples of this were:the store’s future is brightour store will be better in the following yearsPoint 2This point required candidates to suggest ways in which the running costs of the store couldbe reduced. There were relatively few misinterpretations of ‘running costs’ and mostcandidates took the opportunity to expand the point and demonstrate some resource ofvocabulary and structures. Examples of strong candidates’ responses included:suggest we reduce the stores overheadswe should save [on] electricity and waterwe need to find new cheaper supplierswe should close the store when it is not busy© UCLES 2010 0352 10
Point 3For this point, candidates had to recommend a way to motivate staff. It was another opportunity forcandidates to demonstrate range and on the whole, it was handled imaginatively and accurately.Examples of good responses were:organize some activities and encourage staff to participate actively in improving the staff’sperformancewe should provide better training for staff to help improve moraleSome stronger candidates successfully linked their suggestions with Point 4. Where possible,candidates should aim to link appropriate elements of a task as this helps to improve overallcohesion. One example of this was:a bonus scheme linked to sales volume could be introduced since this would enhance staffmorale as well as boosting salesPoint 4This point required candidates to suggest a way of dealing with falling sales. On the whole, it washandled well. Typical responses included:we need to improve the environment for customerswe should discount our products to attract more customersit is a good idea to offer some free samples and prepare some giftsPoint 5For this point, candidates had to recommend introducing a new store design. The point did notrequire expansion, but many candidates chose to develop it. Although candidates are expectedto keep broadly within the word count for Part 2, some expansion of content points helps toproduce a good response. Examples of good responses were:the layout remains exactly the same as 5 years ago and needs to be improvedour store looks like a warehouse and it needs to look a lot better than thiswe should improve store’s image by providing good after sales service. Recommendations for candidate preparationPart 1The writing task in Part 1 tests whether candidates can write concisely and convey specificinformation to a named target reader. Being able to write concisely means first gaining a clearunderstanding of the purpose of the message and what it seeks to achieve. Students need topractise reading tasks very carefully and identifying the key content points.Sometimes in Part 1 candidates are tempted to copy the explanatory information provided aspart of their answers. Although it is expected that they will use certain key words from the task,they should, wherever possible, consider how they can rephrase to show expansion and rangeof language.However, there is a fine balance between expansion and range on the one hand andirrelevance on the other, and students need to develop skills in expressing importantinformation in a few words. Students can be aided in this by learning and using precisebusiness-related vocabulary, which will also help them to produce a more authentic response.The most frequent reason for penalising answers is omission and candidates need to checkthat they have covered each of the bulleted points adequately.Candidates should also remember that they do not have to tackle the points one by one, butshould think of the whole message, understand what the points mean, express them in their© UCLES 2010 0352 11
own language succinctly and effectively and combine them skilfully with appropriate linking andreordering if necessary. They should also think about the register and tone of the answerdepending on whom they are writing to and what is being said.Part 2As in Part 1, candidates should be encouraged to read the question very carefully and carry outwhat is required, addressing all the necessary content points and keeping to the task set. Thebest practice is to read the whole question before writing anything, paying special attention towhere the arrows from the handwritten notes are pointing. Candidates need to keep checkingthat they have covered every point. It may be useful if they tick the circled points on their exampaper once they have dealt with them. In class, they could practise reading the question for fiveminutes and then cover it up and try to recall the information that they have to supply.When candidates respond to the handwritten notes they should try to be inventive with theinformation that they need to supply, but not go into too much detail as they will be wasting timeand effort. If there are tables and figures, they should not analyse every detail in writing, butuse them as a basis for comment.One important consideration is the creation of grammatically sound sentences from the notes,and information presented. Many candidates, for example, struggled with verb forms and withthe spelling of words that occur frequently in business contexts such as ‘staff motivation’ and‘recommendation’ (staff motivasion, and recomendation were common misspellings).For any report, clear organisation is very important and useful work can be done in class onreport layout and structure, with attention being paid to paragraphing and sub-headings. It isalso clear that students need to consider ways of ensuring a neutral tone in their reports, and toensure that they do not include letter features, such as ‘Dear Sir’ and ‘Yours sincerely’, as wellas overly personal references.© UCLES 2010 0352 12
Preparing for BEC Vantage Writing (a summary)Candidates should read the question thoroughly and underline the important parts check that they have included all the content points in Parts 1 and 2 expand the points in Part 2 with relevant ideas and information make sure they include important information in a grammatically correct way use a range of business words and expressions write clearly so that the examiner can read their answer keep to the word limit keep to the correct task format and avoid mixing them, e.g. report with letter features check each answer carefully at the end.Candidates shouldn’t add too much information to Part 1 answers ‘lift’ too much language from the question paper misspell key words which appear on the question paper misinterpret or mix up information contained in the question use words and structures repetitively over-analyse visually presented information mix formal and informal language.© UCLES 2010 0352 13
BEC VANTAGE LISTENING Number ofPART Main Skill Focus Input Response questions 1 Listening for writing short Three telephone conversations or Gap filling 12 answers messages 2 Listening; identifying topic, Short monologues; two sections of Multiple matching 10 context, function, etc. five snippets each 3 Listening; following the main One extended conversation or Multiple choice 8 points and retrieving specific monologue: interview, discussion, information presentation, etc.The Listening Paper is designed to test a range of listening skills. The test lastsapproximately 40 minutes and contains 30 questions, with one mark awarded for each correctanswer. The score obtained represents 25% of the candidates overall mark.There are three parts to the test and a range of text and task types is represented. All parts ofthe recording are heard twice. All instructions, rubrics and pauses are recorded onto the CD, asis the ten minutes copying up time at the end.Candidates write their answers on the question paper. In Part 1 of the test, they are required towrite a word or short phrase in response to the written prompt. In Parts 2 and 3, they mustchoose the correct answer from those provided: A, B, C, etc. At the end of the test, candidateshave ten minutes to transfer their answers on to the separate answer sheet.In Part 1, candidates hear three conversations or answering machine messages, and for eachone, they have to complete a gapped text with one or two words or a number in each gap. Thispart of the test concentrates on the retrieval of factual information and it is important forcandidates to listen carefully using the prompts on their question paper in order to identify themissing information. Answers to this part are rarely a simple matter of dictation, and somereformulation of the prompt material will be required in order to locate the correct answer.Part 2 is divided into two sections. Each section has the same format: candidates hear fiveshort monologues and have to match each monologue to one option from a set of eight (A–H).In each section, the eight options will form a coherent set and the overall theme or topic will beclearly stated in the task rubric. The two sections will always test different areas and so if thefirst section focuses on, say, topics, the second section will focus on something else, such asfunctions. In this part of the Listening test, candidates are being tested on their global listeningskills and also on their ability to infer, extract gist and understand main ideas. In order toanswer the questions successfully, they will need to work out the answer by developing ideas,and refining these as the recording is heard. It will not be possible to ‘word match’ andcandidates should not expect to hear such overt clues. However, there will always be a ‘right’answer and candidates are not expected to opt for the ‘best’ answer.In Part 3, a longer text is heard, usually lasting approximately four minutes. The text willtypically be an interview, conversation or discussion with two or more speakers, or possibly apresentation or report with one speaker. There are eight, three-option multiple choice questionsthat focus on details and main ideas in the text. There may be questions on opinions andfeelings, but these will be relatively straightforward and will not require candidates to rememberlong or complex pieces of information.© UCLES 2010 0352 14
Comments on candidate performancePart 1Conversation One: As intended, candidates found the first Part 1 task very accessible, withQuestion 1 causing the least difficulty. However, some candidates wrongly wrote countingsoftwares as the answer to this question, which meant they had misheard the correct answer,accounting software. Candidates should be advised to listen carefully for the beginnings andendings of words; care is taken to ensure these are recorded clearly. Question 3, frozen food,also proved reasonably straightforward, although there was some mishearing, with both frozenfruit and fast food appearing as wrong answers. In Question 4, some candidates incorrectlywrote a training as the key, clearly not realising that training is an uncountable noun, andtherefore does not require an indefinite article. Question 2 proved slightly more challenging,with some candidates struggling to spell the key, payment processing or wrongly giving ourpayments in the plural as the key, which changed the meaning and was therefore not accepted.Conversation Two: Candidates found this Part 1 task the most challenging of the three, withQuestions 6 and 7 proving more difficult than Questions 5 and 8. In Question 8, mostcandidates correctly identified the key as documentation, although documents was alsoaccepted as it meant candidates had clearly understood the conversation. A number of weakercandidates had problems with the ending of the word and thus wrote either documentations ordocument, neither of which was grammatically correct in context. In Question 5, there wasevidence that most candidates had understood the answer cancel. However, some candidatesfailed to spell it correctly, with cancle being a common misspelling, while others wrotecancelled, which was grammatically incorrect. In Question 6, weaker candidates found thespelling of the key, redundancies, difficult, although it is a high frequency word. There wassome mishearing involved in this, as a number of candidates wrote redundances, which wouldbe pronounced very differently. Others misheard the relevant part of the conversation and thuswrote few redundancies, which was not correct. Finally, in Question 7, the key was technical,with the answer being clearly stated in the words technical people are safe – we were told theywant to recruit more. However, some candidates failed to process this correctly, and insteadwrote marketing specialists, which, although a plausible distractor, was not correct.Conversation Three: This task proved to be relatively straightforward, and most candidatesperformed well on all four questions. In Question 9, some candidates failed to hear the endingof the key, product range, and thus wrote project ranges in the plural rather than the singular.Others wrongly opted for the distraction, machinery or factory. A number of candidates alsofailed to process all the information in Question 10, which led to them writing installationcharge, which did not make sense in the gap, instead of the correct answer, which was simplyinstallation. Weaker candidates also experienced difficulty with the answer to Question 11,writing deliveries times, instead of the correct answer, delivery times, which is a very highfrequency expression. A similar mistake was sometimes made with the key to Question 12, withsome candidates writing services agreement, rather than the correct answer, serviceagreement. Again it is important to stress that candidates should listen carefully to the ending ofkey words, and also look at the gap to be completed to see whether the grammar will help themdetermine whether the answer required is singular or plural.Part 2Performance on this task was very similar to that on Part One, with most candidates answeringthe questions in both sections correctly.However, in Section 1, a number of candidates found Question 14 more challenging than theother questions. The key was option E, reducing product quality. Candidates had to listencarefully to the whole of what the speaker said to get this. He began with the words, First wediscussed using cheaper materials. The marketing manager argued against that, but aftersaying that the company had considered other options he states, But in the end we decidedthat would be administratively complex, so we had no choice but to go with the original© UCLES 2010 0352 15
proposal, despite objections from Marketing. This referred back to cutting costs by usingcheaper materials, and revealed the key was E.In Section 2, the last question proved the hardest. The key to Question 22 was B: Offer yourcustomers attractive incentives. This came from the words, Think up some exciting promotionsthat are different from the competitors – that’ll make them more keen to see you. Candidateswho got this answer wrong mostly selected option C, Negotiate reasonable targets with yourboss, probably because the speaker began by saying, We all know how hard it is to meet thetargets the boss sets each month. However, this was simply a statement of fact; candidateshad to identify what advice the speaker gave, so C was not the key. Candidates should listen tothe whole of a section before deciding on the answer, because there will always be distractionin this task type.Part 3Candidates were obviously extremely familiar with this type of multiple-choice task, and thusperformed very consistently. Most answered the majority of questions correctly, butexperienced a little more difficulty with Question 25.In Question 25, the key was C, given in the closing words of the turn, 10,000 staff will undergosome training this year and that improves morale, in my view. Candidates should be aware thatthey may have to process the whole of a turn in order to select a key. It was obvious thatweaker candidates who chose A had opted for what Ray Osborne says about the organisationat the beginning of his turn, There are only six levels between me and the junior check-outassistants, something which is unusual in large organisations, failing to realise that Ray wassimply making a statement about the structure of the organisation; he was not giving hisopinion about training. Recommendations for candidate preparationPart 1In preparing for this part of the test, candidates need to be able to write words and phrasesquickly and accurately. It is important that candidates’ handwriting is legible and that the 20seconds provided at the end of this part is used to check spelling.Candidates should practise trying to predict what will come next in the listening, using therubric, forms or notes on the question paper to help them. They should look at the words beforeand after each gap, and think about what kind of information is missing, in terms of bothmeaning and grammar. The use of pre-listening tasks in class will be of great benefit in raisingawareness of this, and candidates should learn to make effective use of the time available forreading task instructions and questions to establish what is required. Answers to this part arerarely a simple matter of dictation, so candidates should be aware that the prompt in therecording is likely to correspond to the wording on the question paper, but not be identical to it.If candidates are unsure of an answer, they may find it helpful to write down possible answersthe first time they listen to the recording and then make up their minds during the secondlistening. They should be made aware that the answer must fit the prompt grammatically aswell as in terms of meaning and context. However, candidates should not spend too longstruggling with one particular question, as this may prevent them from answering subsequentquestions.As candidates are expected to write down only the exact words or number spoken, attempts atre-phrasing may well lead to the answer being marked as incorrect. For the same reason,candidates should be discouraged from writing down any additional information.Although minor spelling errors are accepted, the words or phrases tested in this task are oneswhich candidates can reasonably be expected to spell correctly, and therefore candidatesshould make good use of the allotted time to check their answers.© UCLES 2010 0352 16
Part 2For this part of the test, candidates should again be encouraged to think carefully about thecontext and to use the preparation time to read the options and consider what they might behearing, e.g. how each option might be expressed or exemplified, and the vocabulary thatmight be used. Candidates should consider the whole of each text, and not choose an answersimply because one or two identical words occur both in the recording and in an option.Candidates should be advised to make good use of the second listening to check theiranswers, even if they have answered every question first time round. It may even be necessaryto change more than one answer if an error is detected, because one incorrect answer mayhave a knock-on effect on other questions.Part 3For multiple-choice question tasks, candidates should be aware that they have 45 seconds toread the questions before they hear the recording, and that this time should be used to identifythose aspects they are to be tested on. It is very important that they try to read all the stems ofthe questions before they listen to get a feel for the focus of the whole text. In addition,candidates should pay particular attention to understanding the stems of the questions so thatthey can focus on finding the answer as they listen. This is because, although a particularoption may be true according to what is said in the piece, it is not necessarily the correctanswer to the question that has been asked.Candidates should be aware that all three options in multiple-choice questions will includeideas and information from the text, but only one (the key) will combine with the question stemto reflect that exact meaning expressed in the text.© UCLES 2007 0352 17
Preparing for BEC Vantage Listening (a summary)Candidates should use the full time allowed to read the questions carefully before they hear each piece, and underline key words and phrases in the instructions and questions. If they familiarise themselves with what is being asked, they are more likely to focus precisely on the points being tested. For example, in Part 1, this will help candidates anticipate what kind of answer is required. write no more than two words and/or a number in Part 1 write the exact word(s) or figure(s) which are heard in Part 1 use their time efficiently to check that the answers in Part 1 make sense with the prompt material. remember that any error discovered in Part 2 when hearing the piece for the second time may have an effect on the other answers concentrate on gaining an in-depth understanding of what the speakers say, rather than only a superficial one, particularly in Parts 2 and 3 make sure that in Part 3 they choose an option that is not only true according to what is said, but also true in answer to the question answer every question, even if they have to guess, as no marks are lost for wrong answers take particular care to transfer their answers correctly to the answer sheet.Candidates shouldn’t worry if they are unsure of the answers the first time they hear each piece try to write a more complicated word or phrase than the one heard in Part 1 spend too much time on a question that they are having difficulty with, they may miss the next question.© UCLES 2010 0352 18
BEC VANTAGE SPEAKINGPART Format/Content Time Interaction Focus 1 Conversation between the interlocutor and About 3 minutes The interlocutor encourages the candidates each candidate to give information about themselves and to express personal opinions. Giving personal information. Talking about present circumstances, past experiences and future plans, expressing opinion, speculating, etc. 2 A mini-presentation by each candidate on About 6 minutes The candidates are given prompts which a business theme generate a short talk on a business-related topic. Organising a larger unit of discourse; giving information and expressing and justifying opinions 3 Two-way conversation between candidates About 5 minutes The candidates are presented with a followed by further prompting from the prompt to start a discussion on a business- interlocutor related topic. The interlocutor extends the discussion with prompts on related topics. Expressing and justifying opinions, speculating, comparing and contrasting, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.The BEC Vantage Speaking test is conducted with pairs of candidates by two Oral Examiners:an Interlocutor and an Assessor. The test takes approximately 14 minutes and is divided intothree parts:In Part 1 of the test, candidates are assessed on their ability to talk briefly about themselves, toprovide concise information on subjects such as their home, interests and jobs, and to performsimple functions such as agreeing and disagreeing and expressing preferences.In Part 2, each candidate is given a choice of three topics and has one minute to prepare anindividual presentation lasting approximately one minute. After each candidate has spoken,their partner asks a question about what has been said. In Part 2, candidates are tested ontheir ability to organise a talk using language accurately and appropriately.Part 3 of the test is a discussion between the candidates based on a topic given to them by theinterlocutor. Candidates discuss the topic for about three minutes, and are then askedquestions related to the main theme. In Part 3, candidates are tested on their ability to interactappropriately using appropriate functional language and strategies.© UCLES 2010 0352 19
AssessmentThe assessor awards marks to each candidate for performance throughout the test accordingto four analytical criteria (Grammar and Vocabulary, Discourse Management, Pronunciationand Interactive Communication). The interlocutor awards marks according to a globalachievement scale, which assesses the candidate’s overall effectiveness in tackling the tasks.Mark sheets are completed by the examiners and computer scanned. The Speaking paper isout of a total of 30 marks (25% of the candidate’s overall score).Candidates are assessed on their own performance according to the established criteria, andare not assessed in relation to each other. Candidates are not penalised if they have difficultyunderstanding their partner. Comments on candidate performanceCandidates who have not met each other before the Speaking test do not need to feelconcerned as evidence suggests that this does not affect performance. In order to provideevidence of their language ability, it is important that candidates should take advantage of theopportunities provided to speak and interact with their partner.Part 1This part of the test gives the examiners their first impression of the candidates and it istherefore important that candidates speak about themselves and their work or studies inappropriate detail – relatively short responses suffice in this part due to the limited timeavailable. Candidates are advised not to rehearse answers to questions that they think may beasked as this often leads to inappropriate responses.Part 2In this part of the test, candidates are expected to produce an extended piece of discourse inthe form of a mini-presentation. Candidates should use the preparation time allowed toorganise their thoughts and produce a structured, connected talk, which will be reflected in thescore for Discourse Management. It is best for candidates to make brief notes to help themfollow the structure of their talk, rather than trying to write down exactly what they will say.Candidates should follow instructions to listen carefully to their partner’s talk and ask a questionafterwards.When choosing the second of the three topics (designed for those with some general businessexperience), good candidates will use examples of their own experience, or someone else’swhere they have no previous work experience. Weaker candidates and those with littleexperience are advised not to base their talk on the third topic (which assumes knowledge of aparticular area of business), as they may experience difficulty with the subject matter and inusing suitable language. Therefore, such candidates may wish to speak about the first choice,which is designed to be accessible to those with little or no experience of work.Part 3The collaborative task gives both candidates the opportunity to interact and co-operate witheach other. Candidates who perform well do not merely agree with their partner, but expresstheir own views and opinions and develop their partner’s comments. Candidates are expectedto negotiate and should not feel concerned if they do not agree. However, strong disagreementcan undermine a partner’s confidence and an over-assertive candidate may lose marks.Candidates should make full use of the time available, starting their discussion when they haveabsorbed the information fully, and finishing only when the examiner asks them to. They shouldnot feel concerned when they are asked to stop as this will simply mean they have talked forthe allotted time.After the discussion activity, the follow-on questions provide a further opportunity for candidates© UCLES 2010 0352 20
to express their point of view. This also provides an opportunity for examiners to redress anyimbalances in turn-taking that may have occurred earlier in Part 3. It is therefore vital thatcandidates offer more than a minimal response and take the opportunity to initiate discussionas well as answer the interlocutor’s questions. Recommendations for candidate preparationCandidates should be aware that examiners can only base their assessments on what theyhear and see. They should therefore take a full and active role in the test, and speak clearlyand loudly enough to be heard. Candidates who fail to take up the opportunity to show whatthey are capable of will undoubtedly under-perform.Candidates should be aware that long silences and pauses will diminish their opportunity to dowell. Even if candidates have few ideas, they should be prepared to comment on what theexaminer has asked them, and not adopt a role which is too passive.Candidates should be advised not to over-rehearse the interview part of the test with theirpartner before the test, as this can lead to inappropriate answers being given. Examiners arelooking for genuine interaction.Candidates should not feel disadvantaged because they cannot remember or do not know anoccasional word. Credit is given for paraphrasing and substituting vocabulary, especially if it iscommunicatively effective.Students should be encouraged in class to practise a variety of paired or group activities.Familiarity with the Speaking test format usually helps candidates give a more effectiveperformance and can also help with nervousness. A Speaking Test DVD for all BEC levels isavailable to help with this. However, there is no substitute for a genuine interest in the languageand in communication with others.Candidates should be aware that attempts to dominate their partner will be penalised.Candidates should show sensitivity to the norms of turn-taking and should respondappropriately to each other’s utterances, as well as inviting opinions from others. They shouldavoid cutting across or interrupting impolitely what their partner is saying.The best preparation for the discussion activity is for candidates to practise taking part indiscussions in small groups so that all candidates have the opportunity to participate.Candidates with a quieter disposition should be encouraged to develop strategies to ensurethat they are able to take their turn. Suitable thematic areas for discussion can be found inmany business course books and there is a list of topic areas in the BEC Handbook.© UCLES 2010 0352 21
Preparing for BEC Vantage Speaking (a summary)Candidates should familiarise themselves with the form, function and procedures for all parts of the test take every opportunity to practise their English in groups and pairs, both inside and outside the classroom before the test, particularly in a business environment, if possible take opportunities to show what they are capable of and try to produce an extended sample of language for the examiner to assess listen carefully to instructions and questions asked throughout the test and focus their answers appropriately ask for repetition of instructions if they are unclear about what to do show sensitivity to the norms of turn-taking and respond appropriately to their partners utterances try to avoid long silences and frequent pauses be prepared to initiate discussion in Part 3, as well as respond to what their partner has said speak clearly and loudly enough for the examiners to hear.Candidates shouldn’t prepare long responses in advance, as it is unlikely that questions will be answered appropriately try to give their views during their partner’s long turn try to dominate their partner or interrupt in an abrupt way worry if they disagree with their partner. As long as they are polite and not overbearing, this is all part of interactive communication. worry about being interrupted by the examiner. For administrative reasons, it is important that tests do not overrun.© UCLES 2010 0352 22
FEEDBACK FORMBEC Vantage Examination Report – 2010We are interested in hearing your views on how useful this report has been.We would be most grateful if you could briefly answer the following questions and return aphotocopy of this page to the following address:University of CambridgeESOL ExaminationsReports Co-ordinator1 Hills RoadCambridgeCB1 2EUFax: +44 1223 4602781. Please describe your situation (e.g. EFL/ESOL teacher, Director of Studies, Examinations Officer, Local Secretary).2. Have you prepared candidates for BEC Vantage? YES/NO3. Do you plan to prepare candidates for BEC Vantage in the future? YES/NO4. How have you used this report (e.g. to provide feedback to other teachers, for examination practice, etc.)?5. Which parts of this report did you find most useful?6. Which parts are not so useful?7. What extra information would you like to see included in this report?8. Your name (Optional) .............................................…………..…. Centre/School ..................………………………………............Thank you.© UCLES 2010 0352 23