New exam for financiers

ENGLISH has become the international working language and knowing it well has become increasingly important for any ambitious finance professional. Passing these new specialised exams will certify one’s existing language skills and ability to work in an international context while students preparing for these exams can learn to use their language skills and hone their ability to clearly express opinions.

ENGLISH has become the international working language and knowing it well has become increasingly important for any ambitious finance professional. Passing these new specialised exams will certify one’s existing language skills and ability to work in an international context while students preparing for these exams can learn to use their language skills and hone their ability to clearly express opinions.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) joined forces with the University of Cambridge ESOL to develop an International Certificate in Financial English (ICFE). Candidates successfully passing the exam demonstrate that they have the English language skills to effectively communicate in an international financial environment.

“ACCA’s input ensured that the exam syllabus reflects real-life materials and scenarios that finance and accounting professionals encounter in their day-to-day roles, such as international accountancy and auditing standards, corporate documents, financial reports and accounts,” Katka Benešová, head of ACCA in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, told The Slovak Spectator. “Students also learn how to write letters, reports and proposals with an accounting and financial context.”

Cambridge ESOL and ACCA signed the agreement to jointly develop the qualification programme in 2006 and the first Cambridge ICFE exam was held in May 2007.

The exam consists of four parts: tests of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

“Until now interest in the International Certificate in Financial English in Bratislava has not been very high,” Jana Riečanská, marketing and communications manager of the British Council in Bratislava told The Slovak Spectator. “So far, about 10 people took up this exam here and all of them passed it.”

Riečanská partly ascribed the somewhat limited interest in the new exam to the fact that it was introduced only recently. Moreover, people are only gradually understanding the differences between the Business English Certificate and the International Certificate in Financial English and the advantages of the ICFE.

“The potential for the ICFE is great,” said Riečanská. “The banking sector in Slovakia is strong and there are a lot of employers who recognise this certificate. As far as we know, the ICFE and the International Legal English Certificate are popular exams in other countries and many professionals have been taking exams to get these certificates.”

The ICFE exam is set at levels B2-C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Modern Languages (CEF). These levels are commonly referred to as upper-intermediate (B2) and as lower advanced (C1).

“Where a B2 or C1 level of English language proficiency is required, Cambridge ICFE can be used as proof of this level,” said Benešová. “For those planning a career in finance and accounting, it will demonstrate to potential employers they have the skills to use English to communicate in an international financial environment. For professionals with established careers, it can be used to certificate existing language skills and provide proof of ability to work in an international context. It gives employers confidence in employees’ abilities to conduct business internationally or with international clients and colleagues.”

Cambridge ICFE is currently recognised by two important government agencies in the UK - OfQual (the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator) and the BIA (the Borders and Immigration Agency). Holders of an ICFE certificate at the C1 level are recognised as meeting the English language requirements for entry to the UK under the points-based migration system for Tier 1 highly skilled jobs and holders at B2 level meet the same requirements for Tier 2 skilled workers with a job offer.

Many of the world’s leading consulting companies have already discovered that ICFE is an effective tool in assessing the language proficiency of financial and accountancy staff, in evaluating training and development needs and in decision-making.

“ICFE is a prospective exam,” said Riečanská. “People are already coming to the British Council in Bratislava and asking whether they can attend the ICFE preparation course. It seems that we will open it during the upcoming semester.”

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