British Council has made attempts to improve the employment prospects of individuals through its latest English assessment product called Aptis. This is an assessment test that would combine computer, telephone and pen-paper delivery models to allow candidates to sit for the test through different channels.
Aptis is a business-to-business English assessment service available to organisations and not individuals, and is an integrated test development, management and reporting system. It can be used to assess ability in all four English skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing). The content of Aptis can be adapted to suit specific domain, such as for teaching or travel and tourism, and can also be customised to suit specific cultural contexts and variants of English.
Mark Walker, Director of Exams, British Council said that Aptis will help organisations easily access the English language levels that are relevant to their requirements. He further explained that candidate performance in each skill is mapped to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). CEFR has levels from A1 which refers to basic English knowledge to C2 which denotes mastery of the English language.
"It is crucial among Indian companies to do a proper assessment of individuals at the interview stage. Aptis would help them get a clearer perspective on what the deficiencies in the candidate are, instead of branding a candidate as one with 'good' or 'poor' English," he said. Walker added that since internal communication and use of English in this process has become very important especially among the multinational companies in India, Aptis will ensure that this process is conducted smoothly.
British Council has also conducted a survey to understand the use of English language in the Indian workplace, while launching this product. The survey showed that English language skills varied between job types and between individuals with similar work functions. The key issues that were identified include all syllables in sentence being stressed, lack of intonation to indicate that a question is being asked, non-standard patterns of linking words in the sentence and differences in word stress.
These aspects could have had a negative impact on communication, according to this study by Philda Schellekens, Senior Advisor to the British Council. Feedback from the corporates who participated in this research indicated that a product like Aptis would be suitable at recruitment stage, to understand training needs of individuals.
Sarah Deverall, Director, Examinations India and Customer Services, South Asia at British Council explained that this was a product that would help companies emphasise on the positives of a candidate, rather than rejecting him/her for lack of English language skills. "Aptis will act as a tool to test the skills and decide on the next course of action to develop the English skills. Since British Council has been strong in the English training segment as well, we would also be able to assist companies in training candidates, as per their requirements," Deverall said.
She further said that the product has been kept at an affordable rate for the benefit of users. Different packages of the test are available and can be chosen as per an individual company's needs.
"An advanced level of English may not be required for a waiter or a bell boy in a hotel. Therefore, this assessment would help test the skills required only for that particular job and would not be a generalist test," she added.
According to Walker, the British Council has received a good response from sectors like hospitality, ITeS, IT and retail for adopting this test and would be launching a telephonic version of it soon. Further, it would be customised as per the company requirements, time and again.