Which Test Should I Take?

FCE, TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, KET, YLE...there are dozens to choose from! If you want to take the test to have a certificate to show someone or some entity, then choose the test that is more familiar to that person or entity.


There are two main entities that create internationally recognized English proficiency exams.One is called English Testing Services (ETS) and the the other is called University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate which is often branded as Cambridge Assessment or the British Council..

Institutional Exams

Products (tests) that are sold to educational institutions for the internal purposes of those institutions are scored by those institutions and there is no record of the scores kept by the entities that actually create and sell the products And the scores on these "institutional tests" may or may not be given to the test-takers and may be kept for whatever period of time the institution chooses to keep such records. Nevertheless the scores are for internal purposes only and generally are not, even upon one's request, used to validate the test-takers scores to people or entities outside of the institution which originally purchased the product to be used for internal purposes. So, it is recommended when available to take English proficiency exams whose score can be used and validated outside of the place where the exam was taken.

Some products offered generate a certificate from the company that "manages/creates" the test, and the record of the test-taker's scores are issued to the test taker and kept by the managing company. The managing company keeps the scores for a limited period of time. The test taker can keep his certificate forever, however, the authenticity of his certificate cannot be validated by the company that issued the certificate because they do not keep a record of the test taker's score forever. Typically, such companies keep a record of scores for a two year period.

Which test should Maxim take? There are several dozen internationally recognized English proficiency texts owned t by ETS, Cambridge English Assessments, and Pearson. Pearson has been a publisher of English language learning material for a long time. ONly in the past 2 or 3 years has Pearson entered the testing business on par with ETS and Cambridge English.

Which test Maxim takes depends on your purpose.  Who do you want to show Maxim's certificate to? Besides you, what other person or institution or government or company or agency do you anticipate will require such a certification? Maxim should take the test that is most familiar to the person or entity that you want to show the certificate to.

There are well over several dozen different English proficiency tests!

Here are a few produced by the company known as ETS, or Educational Testing Service.

TOEFL  ITP (pencil and paper, no speaking, no listening) TOEFL  CBT (computer based, no speaking)

TOEFL iBT (internet based, all 4 skills)

TOEFL Junior TOEIC Listening and Reading

TOEIC Speaking and Writing

TOEIC Bridge

and the list goes on and on and on

There are well over a dozen different English proficiency tests!

Cambridge English Assessments (and partners) or Cambridge Assessment (really UCLES)

B2 First ("FCE")

YLE (several current versions)


IELTS (two current versions)



There are well over a dozen different English proficiency tests! The site can also be seen in Russian.

Pearson (Pearson is NEW to this area of "internationally recognized English proficiency tests, gut the name "Pearson" or "Longman" or "Longman-Pearson" has been in the publishing business for decades)

Without knowing your purpose in more detail, I cannot make a recommendation as to which specific test Maxim should take. And I don't know if the stress of preparing a month or two before taking the test and actually taking an English proficiency test every 2 years for the next 10+ years is economically or psychologically prudent.

At this time in terms of overall English (reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, writing) Maxim's level is A2 or B1 depending on the day and his physical and psychological condition.

It would be helpful, in my opinion, if as a family, you engaged in English language activities that involved Maxim's speaking (reading aloud and speaking spontaneously) and Maximim's writing) Speaking and writing are active activities.  Listening, reading silently, watching images are passive activities and less useful in Maxim's English language fluency.

All of these English tests claim to give the level of English of the text taker. In fact, the scores also reflect the test takers familiarity with the specific test given, the conditions under which the test taker took the test (crowded facility, cold room, noisey distractions, other physical distractions, toilet conditions at the facility etc) and also the results are affected by the test takers personal physical and psychological state.

If possible, Maxim should be involved with active English all year round, so that he doesn't make elementary mistakes due to lack of practice.  For example, taking turns reading a story together and then asking each other questions about what was read, guessing what might happen next, guessing what happened earlier, before the story started. This is something that Maxim can do daily with you for 20 to 20 minutes. It would involve reading aloud, speaking spontaneously, using a variety of verb tenses and vocabulary expansion. The vocabulary expansion comes when words from the text being read are new or when the words that are needed to express oneself only come to mind in Russian.

Will his new school offer English 6 days a week? I saw a video recently about a girl going to school in St Petersburg on September 1 for her first day of 7th grade. The school, according to her father, would provide English classes to his daughter 6 days per week!

At this time Arthur's English and your husband's English may not be at a high enough level to engage in this kind of active English activity with Maxim. But your English is high enough. In fact, your English is probably at a higher, overall level, than Maxim's level. 

No matter what certificate you decide you want Maxim to have, I recommend buying the test preparation book sold by the same company that creates the exam. Buy the book that has 4 or more complete sample tests, not a book that simply offers a few examples from each section of the test. You want full length tests.

I would be happy to design a test preparation program for Maxim, if you select the test he should take and buy the book that I recommend that has the practice exams that I just mentioned:Maxim should have at least 3 months to prepare, doing at least 20 to 30 minutes of activity daily no matter if he is in school, on vacation or in any other condition.

Not only will his 4 skill areas need to be strenthened and more consistent, but his familiarity with the test format and test activities must be intact, so that no matter what the test conditions are or no matter if his personal physical or psychological conditions are non-ideal, he will still do well on the test. He will still be able to do his best despite any distractions or discomforts.

Now, do you see why I asked you about Maxim's path from  where he is as a 14 year old school boy to Maxim the pilot?

Warm regards to you and your family.

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