BULATS, the Business Language Testing Service, evaluates candidates’ level of Business English. The exam tests all four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. BULATS can be taken only online. There is no “pass” or “fail” results. The level is determined according to the test results so the candidates do not register for the exam for a certain level. The results are aligned with CEFR.
Reading and Listening
There are 7 parts. They last for about 60 minutes. The texts are about 250 words in length. There is no fixed number of questions. This test is adaptive, which means that every question allows the computer to determine the candidate’s level. The test is finished when the correct level is identified. The student can see their result instantly after they’ve finished this part.
The candidate records his answers on the computer using the microphone. The assessors mark the responses later. The topics can be the following: business travel, human resources, learning, training and development, buying and selling, clients’ entertainment, etc. There are 5 parts. They last for 15 minutes. Part 1 includes 8 questions about the candidate’s work, plans, background, etc.
Part 2 includes 8 sentences to read aloud. It checks pronunciation, stress, rhythm, intonation.
Part 3 is a presentation. The student has to talk for 1 minute about a business-related topic (e.g. the company structure). They have 40 seconds to prepare.
Part 4 is a presentation with a graphic. The student is supposed to describe for 1 minute a pie chart of a line graph with a business focus (e.g., decline/increase in sales). They have 1 minute to prepare.
Part 5 is a communication activity. The student is given a scenario (e.g., planning a business event) and is supposed to answer 5 questions about it. They’ve got 40 seconds to prepare.
The student types the answers and sends them. They’re assessed later by the examiner. The topics covered can be: business travel; human resources; learning, training and development; products and services, general business environment. etc. Writing includes 2 parts. They last for 45 minutes.
Part 1: The candidate has to type an email for 50-60 words.
Part 2: The student has to type a report or a letter of 180-200 words. They can choose one of two tasks.
Read more about writing mark scheme.
To learn more about the test format and tasks’ types read the Guide for Candidates.
How to prepare?
Cambridge also offers some free resources for students and teachers to use when preparing for this exam.
- 11 preparation emails that include online activities, tips, exam tasks and vocabulary practice. You can sign up here.
- Sample tests: Reading and Listening, Writing and Speaking. Tell the student to click on ‘Tutorial’ first to get to know the format and then click on ‘Test’. They will also need to enter a code they can find here.
- Vocabulary builder will help the student to enrich and enhance their business English vocabulary.
As extra practice, I send students articles on business topics from such resources as the Guardian, Forbes, The New York Times, The Economist. I also ask them to listen to business podcasts or news, for example you can find some on CNN or BBC.
Hope this article was useful and your students will successfully pass the exam!