August 27, 2020

What is a Topic-Based Test?

In this post, we will discuss the format of the CAEL Test, and focus on what a “topic-based” test is, and how it provides you with an accurate representation of language use in a Canadian academic context.

The CAEL Test is structured to mirror the academic content of a first-year college or university course. When you take CAEL, you will read articles, listen to lectures, answer questions, and write a short essay, just as you would in your classroom. The unifying feature of CAEL, and what sets it apart from other academic language proficiency tests, is that it is topic-based.

Topic-based means that during your test, you will use more than one skill to answer questions on a unified topic. For example, a speaking task will require you to answer questions based on what you have read and listened to, and to write responses based on a reading passage and mini-lecture. This approach assesses your ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources, just as you would be expected to in your post-secondary courses. When you are writing in a college or university course, you will be required to bring together information from a variety of sources such as lectures, online materials, books, and journals. By preparing for the test, and by practicing these skills, the CAEL Test will prepare you for these activities when you encounter them in college and university classrooms.


Topic-Based Features:

  • During your test, you will use a variety of information sources to answer each set of questions for each task: speaking about what you’ve listened to, writing about what you’ve heard.
  • Topic-based testing represents the types of work you will encounter in university and college courses, helping you to prepare for post-secondary life


  • For test takers that want to demonstrate their language proficiency, as well as prepare for their college and university courses, CAEL gives an accurate representation of both
  • CAEL tasks include each of the four primary language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking
What I liked most about the CAEL was that you can do the test on the computer, it uses Canadian English, and the results are released quickly!
- Alinsson, CAEL - Test Taker
I appreciated the availability of test dates for CAEL, and found it convenient and inexpensive compared to other English proficiency tests.
- Aashima, CAEL - Test Taker
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