colleagues sit side-by-side at a long table, working.

Finding the Right English Proficiency Tests to Assess Your Employees’ Language Skills

Jul 25, 2023

If your company is operating on an international level, chances are conversational and Business English are major components of daily operations. Finding the right English proficiency test to assess employees’ language skills can ensure employees are meeting industry standards and requirements. From customer-facing interactions to supplier negotiations, English is the global standard for successful business ventures. Being able to assess employees’ English language skills is critical for recruitment and employee retention.

Companies use English proficiency tests for a variety of purposes. In some industries, English proficiency is a legal or regulatory requirement, so testing is used to show evidence of meeting that requirement. Tests are often used in recruitment or onboarding, as part of internal training and development, as part of performance evaluation, and for benchmarking and standardization purposes. Tests are also used as part of English language training programs, at both the beginning and end to evaluate the effectiveness of training and the progress made by participants.

Different English proficiency tests may be better suited for different organizational purposes. Let’s look at why finding the right English proficiency test is important for multinational companies, and then review some of the common English proficiency tests and their typical uses.

Read about reasons multinational companies should invest in language training for non-native employees.

The importance of English proficiency testing

Each multilingual employee will have varying strengths and weaknesses in their non-native language. What employers need to determine is where employee language skills can be improved. Some ways that English language proficiency affects the bottom line are:

  • Customer satisfaction with employee interaction
  • Cultural exchanges with business partners
  • Cost of English language training
  • Expansion opportunities into English-speaking markets
  • Ability to present, negotiate, and foster business relationships in the industry

Additionally, there’s an incredible demand for multilingual personnel on a global scale. It’s vital that firms invest in a standardized means for management to assess employees’ English language skills. From return on training investments to product delivery, proficiency is the key to long-term success in English-speaking markets.

Curious how long it takes to learn a language? Read more about the time commitment and factors that influence how long it takes to become proficient.

an employee sitting at a desk on the phone with a customer.
Phone interactions with clients and partners are a critical undertaking that requires non-native English speakers to rely on auditory processing to communicate effectively.

Finding the right English proficiency test to assess employees’ language skills

The main question when companies decide to assess employee English language skills is which test to invest in. As a result, many institutions, methods, and exams claim to be an accurate means of determining English fluency. Bridge has 30 years of industry expertise to draw from and has partnered with the best educational groups from around the world.

Bridge has vetted many assessment organizations to bring you the best the industry has to offer, from major names in English education to competitive up-and-coming organizations. Moreover, Bridge will help you run a needs assessment to determine the best way to plan, implement, and execute a language assessment for your team, big or small.

Learn more about Bridge’s learning path solutions that begin with detailed needs analyses and consultations to identify specific goals and objectives.

Bridge’s trusted assessments

The BridgeEnglish Language Assessment Solutions bring a tailored, data-based approach to assessing employee English language skills. Many testing solutions developed by experts incorporate AI and are internationally recognized for company use as well as by universities and governments. These tests provide accurate, reliable results, from reading and writing to industry-specific communication skills.

Bridge test solutions Linguaskill, Versant, PTE, and TOEIC.
Tests offered at Bridge include specific exams in Practical, Intensive, and Business English as well as General and Academic English.

Linguaskill is a convenient test to help companies check the English levels of individuals and groups. Linguaskill is produced by Cambridge and provides accurate results within 48 hours thanks to its innovative application of AI technologies. This test covers the four major areas of fluency: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Results are aligned with the CEFR.

The exam is taken online, so it can be taken at any time. LinguaSkill provides proctors and examination staff.

LinguaSkill is typically used for:

  • hiring and recruitment
  • employee training and development
  • assessing language proficiency for internal transfers or promotions
  • establishing organizational language proficiency benchmarks
  • compliance and regulatory requirements

Versant is often used as part of the hiring process to determine the language skills of job applicants. Some businesses use the Versant test to identify the language training needs of their employees or when considering employees for internal promotions or transfers.

Versant is one of two Pearson proficiency exams trusted by BridgeEnglish. This exam is also delivered online, so it is available at any time, making it a popular choice for independent learners or those working after-hours on their language proficiency prep. Explicitly geared toward businesses, this test is designed with recruitment and talent management in mind.

There are three options for testing: testing all four skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, speaking only, and writing only.

Versant is typically used for:

  • pre-employment screening
  • employee training and development
  • assessing language proficiency for internal transfers or promotions
  • assessing language proficiency as part of performance evaluations
  • assessing language proficiency for international assignments and customer-facing roles
Pearson’s video introduction of the Versant Exam product.
Pearson PTE

The PTE is sometimes used as part of the recruitment process but is often used in training and development, for professional certifications and licensing, and in language training programs.

The Pearson Test of English is internationally recognized by foreign governments and universities as a verified English proficiency assessment. Trusted for visa applications and higher education requirements, the PTE is a demanding computer-based exam. Test takers will need to find a testing location near them, or apply for a proctored online exam.

Pearson is a Bridge partner, collaborating to provide resources for Bridge’s Teaching PTE Test Prep Micro-credential course, as well as other resources for Bridge teachers.

PTE is typically used for:

  • employment screening
  • employee training and development
  • professional certifications and licensing
  • assessing language proficiency for international assignments or mobility opportunities
  • English language training programs

Lastly, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides a variety of English communication skills assessments for businesses worldwide. What sets the TOEIC exams apart is their range of testing levels. Organizations can opt for beginner, intermediate, or advanced testing options based on your team’s unique experience level.

Unlike the Pearson and Cambridge proficiency exams, the ETS TOEIC uses an independent scoring system rather than the CEFR. While still effective, the TOEIC score reports will not be standardized across institutions.

TOEIC is typically used for:

  • hiring and recruitment
  • employee training and development
  • internal promotions and transfers
  • benchmarking language proficiency
  • internal communication and collaboration in cross-border projects
  • external communication and customer service
  • compliance with language standards
a CEFR scoring graphic for English language assessment.
The CEFR scale scores test takers from A1 beginner to C2 mastery.

Learn more about Bridge’s program management solutions that provide instant, detailed data and analytics of all aspects of the language program.

Using the CEFR to assess employees’ English language skills

The CEFR is considered a global baseline for scoring English proficiency exams. Developed by Cambridge and ratified by the Council of Europe, the CEFR has been used by testing and education groups around the world for more than 20 years. Bridge uses the CEFR standard to interpret language test results and track learners’ long-term progress.

Bridge uses Pearson’s Global Scale of English (GSE) to interpret test results, providing a more detailed breakdown of score results. The GSE is based on the CEFR but further breaks down the CEFR’s six-point scale to a 10-90 scale, providing detailed objectives that can be used to identify short and long-term learning goals.

The GSE differs from the CEFR because it provides specific information for teaching and learning Business English, such as specific skills and learning outcomes; whereas the CEFR skills and outcomes focus on more general English. Bridge language assessment solutions provide exceptional data that can provide data on learners’ micro-progressions, as well as progression among proficiency levels.

Bridge offers a variety of independently verified solutions that provide language learners with the insights they need to understand their current level best and to set realistic learning objectives. Find the ideal assessment testing solution for your company today.

Learn more about Bridge’s language assessment solutions that include Business English-specific exams as well as general and academic English assessments.

Savannah Potter

Savannah is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience as a content creator, editor, and journalist. Currently specializing in culture writing with a focus on the digital nomad revolution, she enjoys finding where culture, business, and technology meet. "Early adopter, coffee aficionado, people person."