Aptis - an adaptable new approach to testing global English from the British Council

Summary:Aptis is a new and innovative global B2B English assessment tool from the British Council. It is uniquely flexible and accessible to help organisations reach more people, connect with them and raise standards of English.

Aptis is an English test for adults to assess the skills relevant to your requirements accurately, and get results within as little as 72 hours. It is also an affordable and efficient test, with fresh, relevant content, meaning more people can be assessed with minimum fuss.

Aptis allows an organisation to test the ability in all four English skills - speaking, listening, reading and writing. Each skill or group of skills is tested with a grammar and vocabulary core test. A company can administer the test themselves, and results are available within 72 hours, or even a couple of minutes for reading and listening. Results are received on a scaled score for each of the skills (0-50) and a Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) score (A1-C) for each skill for individual and group scores.


Research performed by IPSOS in 2012 for the British Council showed that knowledge of foreign language is an important asset for business:

  • 68 % of job advertisements required knowledge of foreign language;
  • 37 % of job advertisements required fluent foreign language skills;
  • 75 % of corporations checks language skills of candidates.

However, the methods used to test the language skills of job applicants are not reliable enough: 95 % make a decision on the basis of interview in foreign language, 65 % rely on candidates self-assessment, and 30 % on recommendations from previous employers. Only 44 % use language tests, usually “home-made”.At the same time 49 % of respondents of "Competition without borders" research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the EF Education First admitted that lack of knowledge of foreign languages makes it difficult to conduct business. The research revealed that:

  • incorrect communication in a foreign language and errors in translation disrupt international agreements and bring businesses to financial losses. bring businesses to financial losses;
  • 47% of management executives say that complexity of the relationships with foreign partners results from lack of foreign language learning for employees;
  • during recruitment process, too little attention is paid to the experience and ability of candidates to work in an international environment/ The biggest problem have BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and southern Europe. The smallest - Scandinavian countries where only 36 % of managers believe that language and cultural barriers affect their plans of development in international market.


Aptis is extremely flexible – it can be carried out at the place designated by the institution with administrative support from the British Council or by the customer. It can be used for:

  • Benchmarking students or employees;
  • Language audits to identify training needs;
  • Filtering potential employees for interview;
  • Filtering students to identify those ready for other exams;
  • Filtering current employees for promotion;
  • As a diagnostic tool to identify strengths and weaknesses of people seeking employment;
  • Evaluating language development projects.


Due to those advantages the first self-administered Aptis package globally was run in Poland by Adecco - an international company specialising in outsourcing the personnel. The company received a trial package from the British Council. The testing was implemented among employees of the Welcome Centre, whose main task is to register service requests of external customers from EMEA in 11 languages. All members of staff must be proficient in English and in one other language. All transactions have assigned KPIs, which cannot be achieved without fluency in the language. Quality of service, including language skills of Adecco employees, is rated by customers through the Customer Satisfaction Survey. The recruitment process for the project involves an interview in a foreign language and also a language test (mainly third – party testing and internal testing) conducted on-line.

54 employees participated in the project. The test was applied to all employees, both already working and newly recruited. The aim was to gain knowledge of current language skills and the unification of assessment.

“We have decided to test our employees. Our goal was to test the language skills vital for their work. We have already carried out a number of pilot tests, which convinced us that Aptis meets our needs perfectly. The vocabulary and phrases used in the test are exactly the same as those used in everyday work situations. That is why we have decided to extend our co-operation with the British Council and test all the employees participating in the project using the full, four part version of the test. A great help in making this decision were the reasonable price and the reputation of the British Council.” - Marta Gerlach-Kaleta, Project Manager, Adecco.

The Aptis testing brought very good results. It appeared that Aptis test is better for the employee as it allows to measure all the skills in one test, and gives the result described on the scale of the Council of Europe - appreciated in the international environment. The big advantage of this test is the precision and speed in reviewing skills – maximum 72 hours. Words and phrases used in the test are exactly what Adecco employees uses in everyday work. With a simple test you can quickly explore all competence of the candidate that are of interest to company. The test is international, so you can present it to international clients.

“Our company has been using various language tests (both internal and external) in the application process for years, because they provide credible information on the level of candidate’s skills. This year, we have used Aptis for the first time. Precision and speed in verifying abilities are great assets of this test. An entrepreneur uses a ready-made placement test, which gives thorough information on competence.” Marta Gerlach-Kaleta, Project Manager, Adecco.

After testing Aptis, Adecco decided to purchase further packages of test for a project designed for Alcatel-Lucent, deciding that Aptis would be the only EFL test the company would use from now on.

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Author: British Council Publication date: 2013-06-01 Price: 0