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Dr Michael Milanovic talks to ELT NEWS about the new LanguageCert certificates administered online

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Michael Milanovic has worked in English Language learning and assessment since 1977. He holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics, and has over 30 years’ academic, practical and managerial experience in the field. He has led major projects in collaboration with government departments around the world, and has also worked closely with the Council of Europe on its Common European Framework of Reference. He joined Cambridge English Language Assessment in 1989, and was CEO from 2003 until his retirement in 2014.

Michael Milanovic is Chairman of the Board and Advisory Council Member of LanguageCert. These language exams give candidates the option to take the exams online from the comfort of their workplace or home.

  • Old habits die hard - have candidates and their parents been convinced that computer-based exams are as valid and reliable as pen-and-paper-based exams?

 I think that a growing number of candidates and parents are increasingly knowledgeable about examination boards. They expect ‘quality’ examinations that guarantee the ‘validity’ and ‘reliability’ of both paper-based and computer-based exams. They probably know that the same team of experts prepare both types of exam, and that both exam formats are very similar in terms of content and structure. Some may even be aware that research findings have demonstrated that there is no significant difference in performance between candidates who take a paper-based or computer-based exam.

However, the key factor to consider before deciding on the format of an exam, be it paper-based or computer-based, is to choose an exam board whose exams measure what they claim to measure (‘validity’) and that they do so consistently or in other words, reliably.

 

  • Are computer-based exams more suitable for adult learners, the majority of whom have work commitments and find it more convenient to take the exam from the comfort of their home? 

Of course- while most computer-based exams take place in exam centres, LanguageCert has developed a unique system that allows candidates to take high stakes, regulated computer-based language exams from home. Computer-based exams are appropriate for candidates of all ages, adult learners included.  For many adult learners such exams may be more suitable than traditional paper exams for several reasons. As personal and professional commitments compete for their time, this format of exams not only allows candidates to take an exam from the comfort of their home or office, but also enables them to invest less time in the examination process as a whole. They can take the exam at any time as they can tailor it to their own schedule and often simply need to register just a few hours beforehand. Clearly, this format of exams will help them to avoid additional travel costs and not worry about any administrative complications, since as all the required steps are dealt with in seconds. Even more importantly for some candidates, results are issued earlier than if they would be with the paper-based exam.

Candidates will need to make sure that they have the necessary basic computer skills before taking a computer-based exam. Taking a practice version is also advisable, helping candidates feel more comfortable and confident on their exam day.

 

  • Has the exam market been saturated or there is still room for more players?

 The answer depends on which market or countries we are referring to. An exam market is saturated when no more exams can be sold or when fierce competition impacts on all existing exam boards and there is hardly any growth for most of them. Although the market may be saturated in some countries, there is certainly room for growth in others, even in English-speaking countries.

Let us not forget that the EFL/ESL market is expected to continue to grow over the next 10 years or so. It has been estimated that approximately 1.5 billion people were learning and using the English language worldwide in 2015. That number is expected to rise to 2.5 billion in the next decade. Approximately 100,000 new English teaching positions open every year, not only in China and India but also in countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, and Mexico where an unprecedented growth is also expected. So, yes, there will certainly be new exam players in certain (non-saturated) parts of the world soon and a number of major examination boards have already started expanding their operations there.

 

  • Why should a candidate choose LanguageCert?

LanguageCert is an exam board built on quality and innovation with a real focus on customer service and recognition, so it represents a very strong and rapidly growing brand. If you are looking for those qualities in an exam board, then LanguageCert is the choice for you. We offer a full range of internationally recognised language exams delivered in a wide variety of ways. As a member of the much larger PeopleCert Group, a global leader in the certification industry, LanguageCert is part of a team that delivers millions of exams in many subjects in over 200 countries. One of the aspects we are proudest of is our state-of-the-art, innovative and award-winning exams administration technology and systems.  

With teaching and learning moving online at such a fast pace, we recognise that exam delivery must do the same and, in this context, LanguageCert launched its own Online exams with remote, live invigilation in 2019. This system, developed by our parent company PeopleCert several years ago, is already tried and tested with many thousands of candidates all over the world. LanguageCert is unique among its competition in allowing candidates to take internationally recognised, Ofqual regulated, high-stakes English language exams from a time and location of their choosing without having to go to a Test Centre.

 

  • What are the key benefits of live online invigilated exams?

We all know that people’s lives are getting busier and busier, so being able to take an exam that fits in with your schedule is particularly appealing. LanguageCert Online exams offer candidates the chance to take high-stakes language exams anytime, in a secure online environment from the comfort and safety of their own home, with the support and monitoring of a real person.

Our research has shown that candidates really value being able to take an exam at a time and place that suits them. The booking system is flexible and tailored to a candidate’s personal schedule, while the whole process is simple, secure and reliable with results available in just 3 working days. Successful candidates are awarded an e-certificate, hard-copy certificate and a digital badge. The whole approach is designed to make taking our exams as accessible and friendly as possible while maintaining security and offering international recognition.

 

  • Are online exams really secure enough?

An obvious question to ask is whether you can trust the security and integrity of online exams. In the case of LanguageCert, the answer is straightforward. Our proprietary, cutting-edge software guides candidates through the exam process, making sure that their experience is comfortable and stress-free, while maintaining the highest security standards. Candidates are identified by an online invigilator through a secure ID process and are monitored unobtrusively throughout, to ensure that the testing environment meets LanguageCert’s security standards. All candidates will need to install ExamShield, our award-winning security software that locks down their device and ensures that strict security is in place throughout. This software is secure and simple to install and use, compatible with both Windows and Mac. Simultaneously, a series of compatibility checks make sure that all necessary device functions, such as microphone, sound, and camera, are working correctly.

 

Once connected to one of our expertly trained online invigilators, further ID checks take place and candidates are asked to perform a 360-degree web-cam rotation of the room they are in to ensure no inappropriate material is present. Any issues identified are addressed before the exam can proceed. The online invigilator is always available to support candidates if needed. 

So, yes, our online exams really are secure enough!

 

Concluding thoughts

I’m happy to say that LanguageCert is providing candidates with the opportunity to take high-stakes exams online and securely, which is helping to transform the exam taking experience, making it more accessible and tailored to the needs of individual candidates.

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