As many of you will know, the Level 4 Exam changed in July 2020. This was in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and both the Central Examinations Boards and many people around the country were working online or had some other restrictions.
Since that time there have been a couple of annual Level 4 exams using the new format but for many people, it may still be a bit confusing as to what the differences are between the old and new models. It is important to also remember that the sample exams on the Łódź website are all examples that follow the old format. It will no doubt still take another year or so for past papers of the new format to be posted online.
Therefore, let me try and give you a general overview of the changes. For ease, I have compiled the changes into a downloadable PDF that you will find at the bottom of this post.
As mentioned above, the new exam was published by the Ministry of National Defence in July 2020 and full Exam Specifications can be found here.
As with all Stanag 6001 exams, the examination consists of four parts: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. The new specifications represented a complete revision of the Speaking and Writing tasks as well as a partial change of Listening and Reading.
So, what changed?
In the old exam, there were three tasks, a gap-filling exercise, a matching exercise, and multiple-choice questions. The big change here is that Task One, the gap-filling exercise, has gone. The other two tasks, the matching and multiple-choice have swapped order and changed a little bit in the division of the number of questions.
In the new exam, the test is 75 minutes long. There are two tasks with a combined length of between 2400 and 2800 (words followed by 20 questions)
13/14 four-option multiple choice questions: a number of texts of varied length with
1 to 5 questions per text
6/7 sentences to be matched with paragraphs; one long text (maximum 10 paragraphs)
The main difference here is the number of times you hear an individual item (task), as with the old exam there are four tasks, multiple-choice news items, multiple-choice interview items, note-filling from a discussion and note-filling from a monologue (presentation).
However, in terms of the repetition of the audio the following now applies:
Task One Once (the same as the old exam)
Task Two Twice (in the old exam it was played only once)
Task Three Twice (the same as the old exam)
Task Four Once (the same as the old exam)
Here is where the real changes are. Both the Speaking and Writing have been completely revised and are completely different to the old format. It is therefore of little use listing the parts of the old exam and we can concentrate on the new exam.
The task now consists of an essay of a minimum of 500 words. Candidates have 75 minutes and are presented with a statement to discuss such as: Migration is destroying national identities. There are no extra inputs given to aid the candidate.
For a more in-depth look at this part of the exam please see our blog post on Level 4 Writing.
The speaking exam has been completely changed and bears little resemblance to the previous Level 4 Exam. The new speaking exam consists of three tasks.
Candidates must deliver a 4-5 minute monologue on a topic chosen at random. They only have thirty seconds to prepare their ideas. Following their talk, their partner must challenge one or two ideas from the talk.
In pairs, candidates must discuss a given topic for 6 minutes. They must include in their talk at least two of the sub-topics on the prompt card.
Candidates must discuss, together and with the examiner, statements read out by the examiner. The task lasts 6 minutes and covers between 2 and 5 statements depending on the thoroughness of the discussion.
For a more in-depth look at this part of the exam please see our blog post on Level 4 Speaking.
In summary, the new specifications changed several things, but most importantly, in terms of writing, it removed the examiner input and reduced the writing task to a simple essay title which can be interpreted as the candidate sees fit. This change brought it more in line with the academic and C2 nature of Level Four (see our post on CEFR). Likewise, with Speaking, it became less guided and more akin to other C2-level exams.
For a printable summary of the above please download the PDF below.