CEFR Language Exam Resource Centre

PART 2: LISTENING Trinity vs Cambridge

To determine the difficulty of the listening exams, I have measured the following aspects:

• Sentence complexity – Like with the reading exams, “Readability” score based on the word complexity (syllables and characters) and sentence complexity (average words per sentence) of the listening scripts.
• Vocabulary – Like with the reading exams, the percentage of basic vocabulary (CEFR: A1-A2)
• Speed – Words per minute

B1: ISE I vs PET

Trinity ISE I is easier than Cambridge PET.

B2: ISE II vs FCE

Cambridge FCE is easier than Trinity ISE II.

C1: ISE III vs CAE

Cambridge CAE is easier than Trinity ISE III.

B. CEFR Vocabulary Profile

English Profile is an online tool which can map the CEFR classifications of the words in a text (in this case, the listening script). If a script has a larger proportion of A1-A2 (low level) vocabulary, it can be fairly deemed to be easier to listen to.

As reference, if a 10’000 word sample from Ulysses, by James Joyce, is analysed, only 28% of the words are A1-A2.

B1: ISE I vs PET

The % of basic vocabulary is almost exactly the same.

B2: ISE II vs FCE

The Cambridge FCE contains over 10 % more basic vocabulary than ISE II and can there be considered easier in this respect.

C1: ISE III vs CAE

The % of basic vocabulary is almost exactly the same.

C. Words per minute

The average number of words per minute is a measure of how fast the speakers are speaking.

B1: ISE I vs PET

Trinity ISE I is considerably slower than Cambridge PET. In fact, the Cambridge PET is faster than either ISE II or ISE III!

B2: ISE II vs FCE

Trinity ISE II is slower than Cambridge FCE.

C1: ISE III vs CAE

Trinity ISE III is considerably slower than the Cambridge PET

Final Listening Exam Verdict

B1: ISE I vs PET

Trinity ISE I is easier than Cambridge PET.

Although the percentage basic of basic vocabulary is similar, the Cambridge PET complexity in terms of average word and sentence length is higher and the Cambridge PET is spoken 28 words per minute faster than Trinity ISE.

B2: ISE II vs FCE

Cambridge FCE is slightly easier than Trinity ISE II.

The readability formulas demonstrate that ISE II is more a bit more complicated while then CEFR vocabulary profiler states it has a lower percentage of basic vocabulary. This said, the Cambridge FCE is 10 words a minute faster than Trinity ISE II

C1: ISE III vs CAE

Trinity ISE III is easier than Cambridge CAE.

Although the readability scores suggest the scripts of Trinity ISE III are more complex, the sheer speed of Cambridge CAE makes it a lot more difficult than Trinity ISE.