The Cambridge English: Preliminary exam, also known as the PET exam, which stands for Preliminary English Test, is designed for students with intermediate English. Like all of the Cambridge English exams, the PET Exam is a pass/fail test and for those who pass, it delivers a certificate that does not expire. The PET exam can be either a paper-based test or a computer-based test. In both versions, the PET lasts 140 minutes in total.
The PET exam tests all four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It is structured as follows:
Part 1 (90 minutes) – The first section of the PET Exam tests reading comprehension and writing ability at the same time. It is subdivided into 8 subsections with a total of 42 questions. The first 5 subsections focus on reading comprehension and the last 3 focus on writing skills. There are multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions, but also two writing prompts (a postcard and either a letter or a story).
Part 2 (30 minutes of recordings + 6 minutes extra to transfer answers to the answer sheet) – The second section of the PET exam test listening comprehension. You hear each recording twice and must answer questions about the recording. There are a total of 25 questions in this part, each worth 1 point. The question types are multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false.
Part 3 (10 to 12 minutes) – The last section of the PET exam tests speaking ability. Students are put into pairs and asked to have a conversation with an examiner and then with each other. There is a second examiner listening. The speaking test starts with the examiner asking questions about each student. The examiner then presents a situation and the students discuss possible solutions. Finally, the examiner gives the students a picture and the students describe and discuss it. The speaking test may be given on a different day from the first two parts of the PET Exam, depending on the exam center’s scheduling.
From 2016, all Cambridge English Exams are reported using the same scoring scale. Lower-level tests are able to deliver scores on a lower range of the scale and more difficult tests are able to deliver scores higher on the same scale. In the past, the PET had its own scoring scale, so PET test scores prior to 2016 must be converted to the new scale in order to be compared.
Scores on the PET Exam today range from 120 to 170. A score of 140 or above is considered a “pass” and students with that score will receive the PET Exam certificate, which corresponds to a level B1 in English on the CEFR. Students scoring 160 or above on the PET Exam will receive a Cambridge Preliminary English Test certificate for level B2.
As on the KET exam, the first part of the PET Exam is worth 50% of the total score and the second and third parts of the PET Exam are each worth 25% of the total score. Each student receives his PET results broken down by the three parts of the exam, as well as an overall result and the corresponding CEFR level. If the student got a passing score on the PET, he will also receive a PET exam certificate which is valid forever.
The next test in the Cambridge Exam suite is called the Cambridge First Certificate. Taking the free Cambridge placement test can help you decide which of the Cambridge exams is the right one for your current level of English.
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