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General English exams

About our exams

Path exams assess the ability to receive information (reading and listening skills) and provide information (speaking and writing skills). Furthermore, we look for evidence of active communication skills. In order to achieve this, our examinations offer more opportunities for free expression of ideas. The relevance and clarity of those ideas may be enough to achieve good marks. Appropriate vocabulary with correct spelling, or clear pronunciation when speaking, is however important.

We do not want students to have to attend lengthy exam preparation classes in order to learn ‘exam techniques’ or a certain exam format. We are interested in communication skills, so all that is really needed is to attend regular classes.

Our examinations are carefully designed around the following elements of language use and acquisition:

These are the broad areas of life in which we function as human beings, and can be categorised as follows:

- The personal domain concerns us as individuals. It is about our family and friends, hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes.

- The public domain is where we interact as members of the public, with organisations or other people who are not as close as family and friends. An example is going on holiday, where we interact with representatives of airlines, hotels, restaurants and local people.

- The educational domain is where we are a part of organised learning, for example at university. It concerns the need for skills such as essay and report writing, as well as abilities to use pragmatic and discursive language.

- The occupational domain concerns the workplace, and the learner as an employee or member of a profession. It concerns the vocabulary and communicative skills related to our jobs.

Alongside the core skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, there is a comprehensive skill set, including interaction. This concerns the spontaneous exchange of language between two or more people in conversation or transaction, and strategic interaction by email or other written media. Skills also include mediation, where a language user must pass on information, either by speaking or in writing, to another party who was not present when the information was originated, such as passing on a telephone message, or reporting on a political debate.

There are various competences which inform our ability to use the language:

  • Lexical: This concerns the building blocks of language; its vocabulary, expressions and standard phrases.
  • Grammatical: The ability to use correct and accurate grammar forms, in order to provide contexts such as time and comparison.
  • Semantic: This is primarily concerned with the awareness of meaning, grasp of connotation, and the understanding of collocation, synonymy and antonymy.
  • Phonological: This concerns skill in the understanding of, and ability to produce, spoken words and sentences.
  • Orthographic: This concerns skill in the understanding of, and ability to produce, written words and sentences.
  • Sociolinguistic: This is concerned with the social dimension of language, e.g. formality and politeness.
  • Pragmatic: This primarily concerns discursive and interactive skills.
  • Functional: This is concerned with the ability to perform functions such as making enquiries and asking for opinions.

Exam modules

Our examinations are divided into modules, which may be taken separately or altogether:

Speaking module

Listening module

Reading and writing module

These are the reasons why modules can be taken individually



Students may decide not to take all modules because they do not need to. If a job position involves, for example, sending and receiving emails in English, candidates may simply be required proof of their writing skills. The opposite will happen, for instance, for the position of call centre assistant, where proof of speaking skills will be more relevant.



All people, as language users, have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the different language skills. A student may be stronger at writing than at speaking. Therefore, they may choose a different level for each skill. E.g. A candidate may decide to take a reading and writing module at B2 Competency level, and speaking module at B1 Progress level.



An overall mark of all modules does not show the student’s genuine level. If a candidate obtained, for example, 69% in listening, 66% in writing, and 96% in speaking, the overall mark would be 77%, despite the fact that their speaking skills are higher.