Guide to Language Exams: BULATS

If you’re thinking of accepting a professional post overseas, or simply in a company where English is the language for communication, you will most likely need to get familiar with BULATS. It is the de facto English test for many international companies which use it to assess the English proficiency levels of their prospective employees.

As the next addition to our Guide to Language Exams series, we are taking a close look at BULATS – what it is, how to prepare and take the test, and how to ensure the best results.

BULATS – What is it?

BULATS stands for Business Language Testing Service. As the name would suggest, it is mostly used in the professional capacity and favoured by recruitment managers, since the test focuses mostly on language skills needed in business.

BULATS is developed and administered by Cambridge English Language Assessment. This organisation is behind a lot of the official tests for English – including IELTS. Their certificates are some of the most recognised in the world, with more than 20,000 organisations accepting the results.

Until January 2017, Cambridge English Language Assessment will also carry out BULATS tests for German, Spanish, and French. After that, the responsibility for these will be handed over to the Goethe Institut, University of Salamanca, and Alliance Française, respectively. Check the websites provided for the most up-to-date information on how these versions of BULATS will be reviewed (and hopefully revived).

How to take BULATS?

Another change that is taking place from 2017, is that the tests will be administered solely online and the paper-based versions withdrawn. So, if you’re thinking about registering for a preparation course, make sure they focus on the online BULATS.

One of the most valued aspects of the BULATS exam is its flexibility – the tests are administered when the requesting companies need them. To register for a BULATS exam, you need to find a certified agent near you and contact them for more information on test times and prices. To find your local BULATS agents, please visit this page.

What does BULATS look like?

The Online BULATS tests all of the four major language skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There is no pass or fail grade, instead, the test takers are graded and given a score aligned with a CEFR level. Test results are linked to statements that describe which role a particular level is able to fulfill in the workplace.

The online BULATS test is divided into three parts that can be taken together or in any combination. The exercises in the tests are designed to mimic a real-life working environment.

The first part is the reading and listening part which lasts for about an hour. This part is divided into two sections: Listening; Reading and Language Knowledge. The results are available right after the test.

The next part is the speaking test which takes about 15 minutes. This consists of five parts that are designed to resemble situations test takers might encounter in everyday business. The responses are recorded and graded by examiners.

The last part tests the taker’s writing skills and lasts for about 45 minutes. This part is also divided into two sections: writing a shorter email, letter, or presentation of about 50-60 words, and a longer report or letter of about 180-200 word – this section also includes a choice of tasks about the assignment.

How to prepare for BULATS?

Several of our teachers offer preparation courses for taking the BULATS, or if your workplace registers for the exam, they might offer the same.

You can also choose to take a sample test or read one of the official handbooks which explain the exams and give example questions. The Reading and Listening sections also have demo versions available in German, Spanish, and French.