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ECPE

The Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) is a standardized English as a foreign language (EFL) examination. It is recognized in several countries as official proof of advanced proficiency in the English language and can be used for academic and professional purposes. It is accepted by some universities as evidence of proficiency in English if it has been received within the past two years.

Since its introduction, the ECPE has been regularly updated to ensure that the examination reflects current research in language teaching and assessment and also continues to provide test takers with a test that helps them to demonstrate their language proficiency.

Test Description

The ECPE is a standardized advanced-level English as a foreign language (EFL) examination and is administered at authorized test centers around the world. A new test form is developed for each administration.

Test Purpose

The ECPE is administered internationally and is appropriate for adults and university-aged students residing in any country where the common language is not English. The ECPE assesses linguistic, discoursal, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic elements of the English language. Listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills are evaluated through a combination of tasks.

The purpose of the ECPE is to certify advanced English language proficiency. The examination focuses on skills and content at the C2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

Typical Test Taker

Language users at the C2 proficiency level:

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express [themselves] spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 24)

Therefore, ECPE certificate holders are expected to be comfortable engaging with abstract ideas and concepts. They are interactive oral English speakers; they contribute to the development of a discussion, can understand conversational questions, can grasp both the gist and details of a conversation delivered in Standard American English, and can understand extended spoken discourse. They should also have a wide-ranging and flexible vocabulary as well as a sound grasp of English grammar. They can understand written materials that are encountered in both general and specialized professional contexts as well as in university-level reading. Additionally, they are able to communicate in standard written English with good expression and accuracy.

Test Content

Stimuli in the ECPE reflect a range of situations likely to be met in most countries. The CEFR identifies four basic domains, namely personal, public, occupational, and educational (Council of Europe, 2001: 48–49). The ECPE focuses on the public, occupational, and educational domains. Various topics are used across these three domains. See the table below.

Public public spaces (street, shops, restaurants, sports, or entertainment venues) and other social networks outside the home
Occupational workplace settings (offices, workshops, conferences), etc.
Educational schools, colleges, classrooms, residence halls, etc.

Topics

Test takers should require no specialized knowledge or experience to understand the content of the items or prompts. Topics should be equally accessible to a range of ages and should represent a variety of opinions. In addition, the input should not present controversial, emotionally upsetting, or unrealistic scenarios.

A concerted effort is made to make sure topical content in the ECPE is not biased. Hambleton and Rodgers (1995, para. 1) define bias as “the presence of some characteristic of an item that results in differential performance for two individuals of the same ability but from different ethnic, sex, cultural, or religious groups.” They further note that another characteristic related to bias is offensiveness, which can obstruct the purpose of a test item. They explain that, “while the presence of such material may not make the item more difficult for the test taker, it may cause him or her to become ‘turned off,’ and result in lowered performance” (op. cit., para. 7). Consequently, ECPE material is scrutinized to ensure that it is not inflammatory, emotionally upsetting, or controversial. This is meant to decrease the potential for bias.

Score Reporting

ECPE test takers who achieve an average score of 650 or higher will be awarded a certificate. Additionally, those who achieve a score of 840 or higher in all four sections will be awarded a Certificate of Proficiency with Honors. An ECPE qualification is valid for life.

Scaled Score Per Section
Honors (H) 840-1000
Pass (P) 750-835
Low Pass (LP) 650-745
Borderline Fail (BF) 610-645
Fail (F) 0-605

The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) includes six common reference levels, ranging from basic user to master as defined by the Council of Europe (2001). The ECPE is aimed at the C2 (Mastery) level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Language users at this proficiency level:

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express [themselves] spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 24)

Therefore, ECPE certificate holders are expected to be comfortable engaging with abstract ideas and concepts. They are interactive oral English speakers; they contribute to the development of a discussion, can generally understand conversational questions, can grasp both the gist and details of a conversation delivered in Standard American English, and can understand extended spoken discourse. They should also have a wide-ranging and flexible vocabulary as well as a sound grasp of English grammar. They can understand written materials that are encountered in both general and specialized professional contexts as well as in university-level reading. Additionally, they are able to communicate in standard written English with good expression and accuracy.

When interpreting an ECPE score report, it is important to remember that the ECPE estimates a test taker’s true proficiency by approximating the kinds of tasks that may be encountered in real life. Also, temporary factors unrelated to an test taker’s proficiency, such as fatigue, anxiety, or illness, may affect exam results.


Format and Administration

The test is divided into four separate sections: a speaking test, a writing test, a listening test, and a GCVR test (grammar, cloze, vocabulary, and reading). The table below presents the format and content of the ECPE.

Section Time Description Number of Items
Speaking 30–35 minutes Test takers participate in a semistructured, multistage task involving two examinees and two examiners. 1 task
Writing 30 minutes Test takers write an essay based upon one of two topic choices. 1 task
Listening 35–40 minutes Part 1 (multiple choice)
A short recorded conversation is accompanied by three printed statements. Test takers choose the statement that conveys the same meaning as what was heard, or that is true based upon the conversation.
15
Part 2 (multiple choice)
A recorded question is accompanied by three printed responses. Test takers choose the appropriate response to the question.
20
Part 3 (multiple choice)
Three recorded talks, such as those that might be heard on the radio, are each followed by recorded comprehension questions. The questions and the answer choices are printed in the test booklet. Test takers choose the correct answer from the choices.
15
Grammar
Cloze
Vocabulary
Reading
75 minutes Grammar (multiple choice)
An incomplete sentence is followed by a choice of words or phrases to complete it. Only one choice is grammatically correct.
40
Cloze (multiple choice)
Two passages with 10 deletions each are followed by choices of words and phrases to complete the text. Test takers must choose the option that best fills each blank in terms of grammar and meaning.
20
Vocabulary (multiple choice)
An incomplete sentence is followed by a choice of words to complete it. Only one word has the correct meaning in that context.
40
Reading (multiple choice)
Four reading passages are followed by comprehension questions. Test takers choose the correct answer from the printed answer choices.
20

The ECPE speaking test section is given separately from the other sections and may be scheduled either before or after the written test administration. The writing, listening, and grammar, cloze, vocabulary, and reading (GCVR) sections are administered together in a single sitting, in the order cited above.


Listening Section

At the C2 level, the test taker:

Has no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided [they] have some time to get familiar with the accent.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 27)

Test takers are also expected to have mastered abilities described under lower levels of competence (A1–C1). Therefore, what is described generally as “any kind of spoken language” should include, among other things:

  • extended speech, including technical discussions, on abstract and complex topics both within (C1 and B2 levels) and beyond the language users’ field of specialization (C2 level);
  • a wide range of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms, appreciating register shifts (C1 level);
  • extended speech which is not clearly structured and in which relationships are only implied and not signaled explicitly (C1 level); and
  • speech that is affected by moderate background noise (B2 level).
    (adapted from Council of Europe, 2001: 66)

The CEFR applies these general expectations to four specific listening activities, namely understanding interaction between native speakers, listening as a member of a live audience, listening to announcements and instructions, and listening to audio and media recordings. With regard to understanding conversation between native speakers, individuals at the C2 level are described as being able to:

Easily follow complex interactions between third parties in group discussion and debate, even on abstract, complex, unfamiliar topics.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 66)

When listening as members of a live audience, C2-level users are expected to be able to:

Follow specialized lectures and presentations employing a high degree of colloquialism, regional usage or unfamiliar terminology.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 67)

Concerning listening to announcements and instructions, it is assumed that users at the C2 level are able to:

Extract specific information from poor quality, audibly distorted public announcements, e.g. in a station, sports stadium etc.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 67)

They should also be able to:

Understand complex technical information, such as operating instructions, specifications for familiar products and services.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 67)

Finally, when listening to audio media and recordings, C2-level users should be able to:

Understand a wide range of recorded and broadcast audio material, including some nonstandard usage, and identify finer points of detail including implicit attitudes and relationships between speakers.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 68)

Format of the Listening Section

Type of Task

The ECPE listening section comprises 50 items in three parts:

Part 1 presents 15–20 items
Each item is a short recorded conversation between two speakers and is accompanied by three printed answer choices.
Part 2 presents 15–20 items
Each item comprises a single-sentence stem formulated either as a statement or a question. It is accompanied by three printed response options.
Part 3 presents 3 sets of 5 items each
Each set comprises an extended conversational exchange. The conversation is followed by multiple-choice items. The items comprise a question and three options.

Notetaking is allowed during the listening section but is not required.

Duration

The entire listening section lasts 35 to 40 minutes.

ECPE Listening Subskills

The abilities that L2 listeners access when focusing on specific listening purposes are referred to as (listening) subskills. These form three subgroups of listening skills: global, local, and inferential listening skills and include (among others):

Global
  • understanding main idea
  • identifying speaker’s purpose
  • synthesizing ideas from different parts of the text
Local
  • identifying supporting detail
  • understanding vocabulary
  • synthesizing details
  • recognizing restatement
Inferential
  • understanding rhetorical function
  • making an inference
  • inferring supporting detail
  • understanding pragmatic implications

Design of ECPE Listening Items

Format of the Input

Part 1

The aural input for each item is a short conversation between two speakers comprising up to four turns and lasting 5 to 15 seconds.

Listening Part 1 Example

Speaker 1: How was the soccer game yesterday?

Speaker 2: Well, we almost had to forfeit the game because the referee thought we were yelling at him.

Speaker 1: So what really happened?

Speaker 2: Nothing! We were just cheering.

Part 2

The aural input for each item comprises a minimally contextualized, single-sentence stem formulated either as a statement or a question and lasting 2 to 4 seconds.

Listening Part 2 Example

Speaker 1: Shouldn’t I fill out the form before I see the doctor?

Part 3

Each of the extended conversational exchanges lasts 3 to 4 minutes and involves up to four speakers.

Listening Part 3 Example

News Anchor: Preserving ancient stone monuments has been a concern of people for years. Although built to last a long time, stone monuments, like temples and statues, simply don’t last forever. This is quite problematic, not only because of the cultural heritage preserved in such monuments, but also because they provide valuable tourism income for many regions. Mary Brown reports.

Mary Brown: All over the world, stone monuments have been suffering from the effects of weather and pollution, which can cause cracks and crumbling. Monuments made from limestone and marble are particularly vulnerable to damage, because of tiny pores, or holes, on their surface. Pollution, rainwater, and even dangerous fungi can collect in the pores of the statues and start to erode them. Now, researchers have developed a creative new way to help protect these cultural artifacts. We’re here today talking with Dr. Peter Olsen, who has discovered a way to use a certain type of soil bacteria to protect them. Now, we usually think of bacteria as something harmful. So why on earth are you covering these monuments with bacteria?

Dr. Olsen: Well, several methods for restoring monuments have been tried in the past, but they have all had considerable drawbacks. For example, some people have been spraying chemical treatments onto monuments. While these chemicals do remove the dirt and fungi, they also damage the structures themselves. Another drawback is that they’re very harmful to the natural environment. Other people have tried using small lasers to blast away dirt, but this is extremely expensive, and cannot be used on some types of painted surfaces. The great thing about using these bacteria, then, is that in the process of repairing damage that has already occurred, they actually protect against future damage as well. They do this by secreting calcium carbonate, a mineral compound extremely similar to the one found in limestone and marble. Thus, when we apply the bacteria to the monuments, they grow and leave behind a mineral that is almost identical to the ancient stone. This calcium carbonate looks the same as the regular stone, and in fact it is even stronger, and can actually help repair damage. The added strength will go a long way towards saving statues, temples, and many other historical sites from further damage.

Mary Brown: I’ve heard that many environmentalists are very pleased with your work.

Dr. Olsen: Yeah. What they like about it is that it’s an extremely safe and natural way to protect ancient monuments. These bacteria are completely natural and biodegradable, unlike a chemical washing fluid. Furthermore, the bacteria are extremely common—you can find them in many different types of soil, probably even in your own backyard. So it won’t damage the earth to collect a small sample of these bacteria from their natural home and spray them onto monuments instead.

Mary Brown: Thank you Dr. Olsen. And so, the next time you go on vacation and visit a historical landmark, bring along a microscope. You just might see the world’s smallest restoration team, hard at work.

Format of the Response Options

Part 1
The aural input is followed by three printed answer choices. Test takers choose the option that conveys the same meaning as what was heard, or that is true based upon the conversation. Each answer choice is approximately the same length.

Part 2
The aural input is followed by three printed response options. Test takers choose the appropriate response to what they have heard. Each answer choice is approximately the same length.

Part 3
Each conversation is followed by 5 multiple-choice items. The items comprise a question and three options. The conversational exchange and questions are presented aurally via audio recording and are heard once. The question stems are also printed in the test booklet along with the options and are visible to the test taker while listening to the conversation.

Evaluation of the ECPE Listening Section

The listening section is scored automatically by computer. There is only one correct answer for each item. Correct answers receive one point. Incorrect answers receive zero.


Grammar Subsection

The CEFR offers illustrative scales, or can-do statements, for grammatical accuracy and propositional precision. In terms of grammatical accuracy, users of English at the C2 level are described as being able to:

Maintain consistent grammatical control of complex language, even when attention is otherwise engaged (e.g. in formal planning, in monitoring others’ reactions).

(Council of Europe, 2001: 114)

At this level, users are expected to have mastered abilities described under lower levels of competence (A1–C1). Therefore, a C2 level user of English can produce language that is mostly free of:

  • occasional “slips” or nonsystematic errors and minor flaws in sentence structure (common in B2-level performance);
  • noticeable mother tongue influence (typical of high B1-level performance);
  • reliance on frequently used “routines” and patterns (often observed in language produced by low B1-level users).

(adapted from Council of Europe, 2001: 114)

In terms of propositional precision, C2-level users are said to be able to:

Convey finer shades of meaning precisely by using, with reasonable accuracy, a wide range of qualifying devices (e.g., adverbs expressing degree, clauses expressing limitations).

(Council of Europe, 2001: 129)

Finally, at the C2 level, users should be able to “give emphasis, differentiate and eliminate ambiguity” (Council of Europe, 2001: 129).

Format of the Grammar Subsection

Type of Task

The ECPE grammar subsection is part of the larger GCVR section. There are 40 grammar items.

Duration

The entire GCVR section lasts 75 minutes.

ECPE Grammar Subskills

ECPE grammar items focus on a variety of grammatical features observed in written American English. It is assumed that test takers have the ability to “maintain consistent grammatical control of complex language” (Council of Europe, 2001: 114); this entails familiarity with grammatical features at the more difficult end of the complexity spectrum, which tend to be “late-acquired,” or to take time to be mastered (Collins, 2009).

Design of ECPE Grammar Items

Format of the Input

Each ECPE grammar item comprises 1 to 2 sentences from which a string of words has been removed. Each item can test one or more grammatical feature and is up to 25 words in length.

Each ECPE grammar item should elicit a “tip-of-the-tongue” effect, in which test takers should ideally be able to mentally fill in the gap even before reading the options. The wording of ECPE grammar items is intended to reflect, as closely as possible, language use in real-life situations and provide a representative sample of different frequently observed genres in written English.

I wish I had not taken this class without _______ my advisor.

Format of the Response Options

Four answer choices are provided, one of which is the correct answer. All the incorrect options are grammatical in isolation from the input sentence.

Evaluation of the ECPE Grammar Subsection

The whole GCVR section (including the grammar items) is scored automatically by computer. There is only one correct answer for each item. Correct answers receive one point. Incorrect answers receive zero.


Cloze Subsection

The cloze subsection brings together the test taker’s reading skills, and grammatical and lexical abilities, and has been designed to assess test takers’ language knowledge and abilities at the C2 level on the CEFR. At this level, the test taker:

Can understand and interpret critically virtually all forms of the written language including abstract, structurally complex, or highly colloquial literary and non-literary writings. [They] can understand a wide range of long and complex texts, appreciating subtle distinctions of style and implicit as well as explicit meaning.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 69)

They can also “maintain consistent grammatical control of complex language” (Council of Europe, 2001: 114) and have “a good command of a very broad lexical repertoire including idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms; [they show] awareness of connotative levels of meaning” (Council of Europe, 2001: 112). As a consequence, test takers at this level can “convey finer shades of meaning precisely [. . .] give emphasis, differentiate and eliminate ambiguity” (Council of Europe, 2001: 129).

Format of the Cloze Subsection

Type of Task

The ECPE cloze subsection is part of the larger GCVR section. There are two cloze passages, each containing 10 cloze items (making a total of 20 items).

Cloze Example

Once thought to be signs from the heavens of future events, comets now are understood to be relatively simple astronomical phenomena. Comets are celestial bodies of small mass (1) mainly of gases. They consist of a nucleus of ice and other similar (2) materials, followed by an extensive tail. The tail is formed (3) the comet approaches the sun, as particles from the edges of the nucleus are (4) off. Comets have traditionally been regarded as (5) of both good fortune and imminent (6). People have often pondered the nature of the events that these celestial bodies have been (7) to bring. In 1066 AD, a comet appeared, which greatly concerned King Harold of England. He was (8) towards an armed conflict with William of Normandy. His men wondered (9) this comet was a sign of victory or defeat. The Normans answered this question on Saturday, October 14, 1066. Late that afternoon, after a fierce battle at Hastings, King Harold (10) dead among many hundreds of his soldiers. William had all but conquered England and changed the course of world history.

Duration

The entire GCVR section lasts 75 minutes.

ECPE Cloze Subskills

ECPE Cloze sets intend to measure the test taker’s ability to:

  • select the best word to restore the intended meaning of a chunk of text;
  • identify the correct grammatical form of a word for the blank; and
  • identify the most appropriate content word for the blank.

Design of ECPE Cloze Items

Format of the Input

Each ECPE cloze passage consists of a self-contained passage that could be found in any formal written context. It is typically up to 190 words long and has ten blanks where one or more words have been removed. Each blank should elicit a “tip-of-the-tongue” effect, in which test takers should ideally be able to mentally fill in the gap even before reading the options.

The first and the last sentence of the passage is always left intact.

Format of the Response Options

Four answer choices are provided, one of which is the correct answer. Wherever possible the correct answer is not apparent until the reader finishes the sentence or continues to the next sentence of the passage.

Evaluation of the ECPE Cloze Subsection

The whole GCVR section (including the cloze items) is scored automatically by computer. There is only one correct answer for each item. Correct answers receive one point. Incorrect answers receive zero.


Vocabulary Subsection

The CEFR offers illustrative scales, or can-do statements, for vocabulary range and control, and propositional precision. In terms of vocabulary range and control, users of English at the C2 level are described as having “a good command of a very broad lexical repertoire including idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms,” as well as “an awareness of connotative levels of meaning.” (Council of Europe, 2001: 112).

In the B2- and C1-level descriptors, a distinction is made between “lexical gaps (. . .) incorrect word choices” and “occasional ‘slips’ or minor vocabulary errors” (Council of Europe, 2001: 112). While the first concerns limitations in vocabulary size (i.e., amount of knowledge, or how many words test takers know), the latter seems to refer to vocabulary depth (i.e., quality of knowledge, or how well test takers know words). At the C2 level, test takers are not limited by either the size of their vocabulary or by the depth of their vocabulary knowledge. Additionally, test takers at the C2 level should not make “major errors when handling unfamiliar topics” (Council of Europe, 2001: 112). At this level of competence, test takers should feel comfortable using vocabulary that is restricted to or more commonly used in certain subject areas, such as acute and syndrome in medicine.

In terms of propositional precision, C2-level users are said to be able to:

Convey finer shades of meaning precisely by using, with reasonable accuracy, a wide range of qualifying devices (e.g., adverbs expressing degree).

(Council of Europe, 2001: 129)

For instance they are able to recognize that even adverbs defined as synonymous may convey different evaluative judgments. Finally, at the C2 level, users should be able to “give emphasis, differentiate and eliminate ambiguity” (Council of Europe, 2001: 129).

Format of the Vocabulary Subsection

Type of Task

The ECPE vocabulary subsection is part of the larger GCVR section. There are 40 vocabulary items.

Duration

The entire GCVR section lasts 75 minutes.

ECPE Vocabulary Subskills

ECPE vocabulary items measure vocabulary size and tap certain in-depth aspects of vocabulary knowledge. It is assumed that test takers are comfortable using relatively rare vocabulary and can “convey finer shades of meaning” as well as “give emphasis, differentiate and eliminate ambiguity” (Council of Europe, 2001: 129).

Design of ECPE Vocabulary Items

Format of the Input

Each ECPE vocabulary item comprises 1 to 2 sentences from which a word or lexical chunk has been removed.

Each ECPE vocabulary item should elicit a “tip-of-the-tongue” effect, in which test takers should ideally be able to mentally fill in the gap even before reading the options. The wording of ECPE vocabulary items is intended to reflect, as closely as possible, language use in real-life situations and provide a representative sample of different frequently observed genres in written English.

Vacation policies continue to be a source of _______ between management and the workers.

Format of the Response Options

Four answer choices are provided, one of which is the most appropriate answer for the context.

Evaluation of the ECPE Vocabulary Subsection

The whole GCVR section (including the vocabulary items) is scored automatically by computer. There is only one correct answer for each item. Correct answers receive one point. Incorrect answers receive zero.


Reading Subsection

The ECPE reading subsection has been designed to assess the comprehension of written English at Level C2 of the CEFR. At this level, the test taker:

Can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialized articles and literary works.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 27)

At this level, test takers are expected to have mastered abilities described under lower levels of competence (A1–C1).

The CEFR applies these general expectations to four specific reading activities, namely reading correspondence, reading for orientation, reading for information and argument, and reading instructions. With regard to reading correspondence, individuals at the C2 level are described as being able to “understand any correspondence given the occasional use of a dictionary” (Council of Europe, 2001: 69). When reading for orientation, C2-level users are expected to be able to:

Scan quickly through long and complex texts, locating relevant details; quickly identify the content and relevance of news items, articles and reports on a wide range of professional topics, deciding whether closer study is worthwhile.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 70)

Concerning reading for information and argument, it is assumed that users at the C2 level are able to:

Understand in detail a wide range of lengthy, complex texts likely to be encountered in social, professional, or academic life, identifying finer points of detail including attitudes and implied as well as stated opinions.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 70)

Finally, when reading instructions, C2-level users should be able to:

Understand in detail lengthy, complex instructions on a new machine or procedure, whether or not the instructions relate to his/her own area of speciality, provided he/she can reread difficult sections.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 71)

Format of the Reading Subsection

Type of Task

The ECPE reading subsection is part of the larger GCVR section. There are four reading passages, each accompanied by 5 multiple-choice items (making a total of 20 items).

Reading Example

This passage is about snow.

In many of the temperate, mountainous regions of the world, winter sports are a significant part of both the economy and the culture. Ski resorts are found on all continents except Antarctica, and sufficient amounts of snow are needed for their operation. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, artificial snow is created.

The large-scale implementation of snowmaking began in the 1970s in the French Alps. It gained popularity in North America after the disastrous 1977 ski season, when a drought kept many resorts closed for the entire winter. With the advent of snowmaking, the slopes started opening earlier and closing later in the season. During the ski season, snow levels can be maintained, even without regular snowfall.

The creation of usable artificial snow requires certain conditions. Temperatures should ideally be between -5°C and -10°C, with relative humidity less than 40 percent. Large machines called “snow guns” shoot water and compressed air into the atmosphere. The water droplets freeze as they fall. In many cases, additives of bacterial protein are used to accelerate freezing, in spite of concerns about how these bacteria may disrupt ecosystems. Because it is formed from water droplets, artificial snow is inherently different from naturally occurring snow. Instead of water droplets, natural snow comprises thin flakes made up of tiny points in a symmetric design. The structure of natural snow creates a texture with a desirable level of friction, but artificial snow lacks this complex crystalline structure. Additionally, machine-made snow is often wetter than real snow, which is relatively dry.

As it lacks the texture of actual snow, artificial snow is not uniformly popular with winter sports enthusiasts, in spite of its widespread use. It causes concern amongst environmentalists as well. The energy required to create snow is considerable, and a huge amount of water is needed for snowmaking. Much of this water is being diverted from rivers and streams—in areas that are already prone to water shortages. But the winter sports industry has experienced expansion and consolidation that brings with it an increased drive for profit. This, coupled with the burgeoning effects of increasing average temperatures in many areas, makes it unlikely that the popularity of snowmaking will begin to wane any time soon.

Duration

The entire GCVR section lasts 75 minutes.

ECPE Reading Subskills

The abilities that L2 readers access when focusing on specific reading purposes are referred to as (reading) subskills. These form three subgroups of reading skills: global, local, and inferential reading skills and include (among others):

Global
  • understanding main idea
  • identifying speaker’s purpose
  • synthesizing ideas from different parts of the text
Local
  • identifying supporting detail
  • understanding vocabulary
  • synthesizing details
  • recognizing restatement
Inferential
  • understanding rhetorical function
  • making an inference
  • inferring supporting detail
  • understanding pragmatic implications

Design of ECPE Reading Items

Format of the Input

Each ECPE reading text consists of a self-contained passage that could be found in any formal written context. It is preceded by a short, introductory sentence (see the example on the next page) and is 250 to 400 words long.

Format of the Response Options

Each reading passage is followed by 5 multiple-choice items. The items comprise a question and four options.

Evaluation of the ECPE Reading Subsection

The whole GCVR section (including the reading items) is scored automatically by computer. There is only one correct answer for each item. Correct answers receive one point. Incorrect answers receive zero.


Writing Section

The ECPE writing section has been designed to elicit written language representative of Level C2 of the CEFR. At this level, the test taker:

Can write clear, smoothly flowing text in an appropriate style. [They] can write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effect logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points. [They] can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 27)

The test taker can also:

Exploit a comprehensive and reliable mastery of a very wide range of language to formulate thoughts precisely; give emphasis, differentiate and eliminate ambiguity. [There are] no signs of having to restrict what [they] want to say.

(Council of Europe, 2004: 110)

Format of the Writing Section

Type of Task

The ECPE writing section comprises a single essay question. Test takers are given two tasks to choose from. They write only on one essay question. There is no word limit but test takers are advised that their responses will be marked down if they are extremely short.

Duration

The entire writing section lasts 30 minutes.

Skills Elicited by the ECPE Writing Task

The ECPE writing task gives test takers the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to:

  • develop a topic and organize the content;
  • make smooth connections between ideas;
  • use a variety of grammatical constructions accurately and appropriately; and
  • use a range of vocabulary accurately and appropriately.

Design of the ECPE Writing Task

Format

A typical writing task includes three parts:

  • the context/situation (e.g., “Some psychologists claim that people inherit most of their personality traits from their parents.”)
  • a statement of what the test taker has to discuss (e.g., “Do you believe we can tell more from body language than from what people say?”)
  • instructions of what is to be achieved (e.g., “Give specific details and reasons to support your viewpoint.”)

Evaluation of the ECPE Writing Section

The test taker’s writing performance is evaluated independently by two examiners. The 5-band rating scale guides raters to attend to the test taker’s performance in the following areas:

  • Rhetoric (topic development, organization of information, and connection between ideas)
  • Grammar/Syntax (range and accuracy of grammar)
  • Vocabulary (range and accuracy of vocabulary)


Speaking Test

The ECPE Speaking Test has been designed to elicit spoken language representative of Level C2 of the CEFR. At this level, the test taker:

Can present a clear, smoothly flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the [listener] to notice and remember significant points.

(Council of Europe, 2001: 27)

The test taker can also:

Take part in any conversation or discussion and [has] a good familiarity with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms. [They] can express [themselves] fluently and can convey finer shades of meaning precisely. If [they] do have a problem [they] can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it.

(Council of Europe, 2004: 27).

The ECPE Speaking Test is a structured two-on-two (two test takers and two examiners) multi-stage test that lasts approximately 35 minutes.

Format of the Speaking Test

Type of Task

Test takers participate in a decision-making task with one other test taker in the paired format or with two other test takers in the three-way format. Each administration of the speaking test is organized to have an even number of test takers to ensure the use of the paired format. However, in the event that one test taker of a pair is absent, the three-way format is used. Each test taker is given descriptions of two different options. Test takers collaborate to decide on, to present, and to defend a single option. For example, in the paired format each test taker might be given a description of two people who have applied for a particular job (for a total of four different job applicants). The two test takers decide which person should be offered the job.

Number of Stages

The speaking test consists of five clearly demarcated stages that require test takers to interact with each other and with examiners. The stages are designed so that each test taker is provided ample opportunity to speak individually as well as to engage in discussion with others.

The five stages of the test are presented on the next page. The examiner gives test takers instructions of what to do during each stage of the test.

Duration

The entire speaking test lasts approximately 35 minutes in the paired format and approximately 45 minutes in the three-way format.

Number of Examiners

There are two examiners present during the entire test. Examiner 1 conducts Stages 1 through 4. Examiner 2 participates during Stage 4 and Stage 5. Throughout the majority of the test, the participation of the examiners is minimal. During Stage 1 and Stage 5, the examiners will be participants in the speaking activity. However, examiner involvement during Stages 2 through 4 does not extend beyond giving directions and answering questions pertaining to test directions.

Skills Elicited During the ECPE Speaking Test

Throughout ECPE speaking test, test takers are given the opportunity to:

  • ask and answer questions;
  • orally summarize information from written descriptions of people, places, or things;
  • provide suggestions or recommendations;
  • explain opinions and decisions;
  • negotiate a decision;
  • present a position or decision; and
  • justify a decision.

The five stages of the test build on each other; the linguistic and interactional demands become increasingly more difficult as the test progresses.

Design of the ECPE Speaking Test Task

Topics

Test takers should require no specialized knowledge or experience to engage in the speaking tasks. Topics should be equally accessible to a range of ages and must involve a task that requires a decision-making process (e.g. selecting a television advertising campaign); it should be the type of decision that concludes with a person of authority (e.g. the president of the company) being presented information that might be used to make a final decision. Each of these decision-making tasks is one that may occur in reality.

Context

When creating tasks, the context and roles (test takers and examiner 2) should be included. Minimally, test takers should be told:

  • what they need to decide (e.g., selecting an artist’s work for display in a gallery)
  • their role (e.g., the test takers work at an art gallery)
  • the role of Examiner 2 (e.g., Examiner 2 is the owner of the art gallery)

Test Taker Sheets

Each test comprises three candidate sheets. Each candidate sheet contains two options. All the options should be equally ‘attractive’ and independent of one another so that test takers cannot immediately rule out an option. The options should generate discussion and be equally viable choices for the decision that must be made. Each option should include:

  1. An option title (e.g., the name of an artist, or the location of a summer writing program)
  2. Seven bulleted features. These are facts or pieces of information that characterize the option. These may be positive, neutral (e.g. the cost of a location), or negative. Negative features must conform to the fairness principles currently in force.

Word Counts

To ensure that no single test taker has a higher reading load than other test takers, the total number of words for each candidate sheet should be approximately equal.

Stages of the ECPE Speaking Test

Five Stages of the ECPE Speaking Test

1. Introduction, 3–5 minutes
The goal of Stage 1 is for Examiner 1 and the test takers to introduce themselves and for test takers to become comfortable interacting with each other.

Test takers are expected to actively participate in the conversation by providing expanded responses and also by asking each other and Examiner 1 questions.

2. Explaining and Recommending, 5–7 minutes
The goal of Stage 2 is for test takers to learn what all the options are, to make a recommendation to their partner, and to choose one of their own options as the best.

For this stage, each test taker is given an information sheet with descriptions of two options (for a total of four different options in the paired format). Test takers are allowed to keep the information sheet during the test and can take notes on their information sheet. However, during this stage, test takers are not permitted to see their partners’ information sheet.

Test takers are given time to read through the information. They then take turns explaining the descriptions of their two options to each other. They must listen carefully to each other during the explanations because afterward test takers will make a recommendation to their partner of the best option from the two options presented by their partner. Test takers may take notes while their partner is explaining.

At the end of this stage, each test taker decides which of the two options on their information sheet is the best.

3. Consensus Reaching, 5–7 minutes
The goal of Stage 3 is for the two test takers to come to an agreement on one single option.

Test takers compare and contrast the options they have individually chosen and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Test takers are still not allowed to look at each other’s piece of paper.

4. Presenting and Convincing, 5–7 minutes
The goal of Stage 4 is for the test takers to present and to convince Examiner 2 that the option they have chosen is the best one.

Test takers formally present the option they have chosen to Examiner 2, who is in a position of power (for example, Examiner 2 may be the principal of a school that needs to hire a new teacher). Test takers are given time to collaborate and plan the short presentation. At this point, they may look at each other’s paper, if they wish. Each test taker presents different reasons for deciding on a particular option and explains why those reasons are important.

5. Justifying and Defending, 5–7 minutes
The goal of Stage 5 is for each test taker to address questions and challenges presented by Examiner 2.

Based on the presentations made during Stage 4, Examiner 2 questions the test takers about the decision they have made and about the reasons for that decision.

Evaluation of the ECPE Speaking Test

A test taker’s linguistic ability (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation) is evaluated independently by two examiners and separately from the other test taker’s ability. The test also assesses a test taker’s ability to participate in extended, coherent discourse with the other test taker. This means that a test taker should not try to dominate during any stage of the test. At the same time, a test taker should not play a passive role. Test takers are expected to contribute equally to the speaking activity. The stages of the speaking test are designed so that each test taker is provided ample opportunity to speak individually and to engage in discussions with others. Test takers are evaluated at every stage of the test. The rating scale, a five-band measure, guides raters to attend to a test taker’s performance in the following areas:

  • Discourse and Interaction (Development, Functional Range, and Listening Comprehension)
  • Linguistic Resources (Range and Accuracy of Vocabulary and Grammar)
  • Delivery and Intelligibility


A C2 level of English proficiency is invaluable—helpful for vocational, occupational, and academic situations. And an ECPE certificate is valid for life.

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