Podcast - The first Cambridge English exams

The first Cambridge English exams

25 Nov 2020 (2:55)

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The first Cambridge English exams - an extract from Chapter 5 of 'Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate', by Peter Falvey and Gillian Cooke.

As part of a special series of short podcasts, Cambridge Assessment's Group Archivist Gillian Cooke shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Find out more about our Archives & Heritage

Podcast transcript

Alana Walden: [00:00:07.34]

Hello. Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. I'm Alana Walden, and I'm here to introduce a special series from Cambridge Assessment's Archives and Heritage. In each episode, our group archivist Gillian Cooke shares short extracts from Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, our publication that shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:36.34]

The first Cambridge English exams from Examining the World, Chapter 5, Peter Falvey and Gillian Cooke.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:43.69]

The Cambridge Proficiency in English examination was a comparative newcomer in the context of Cambridge exams.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:50.14]

It was not introduced until 1913, fifty-five years after the first Cambridge examinations were held.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:54.84]

The first reference to what became the CPE emerged in March 1911 in a request from the University’s Council of the Senate to the Syndicate asking it to institute a Teaching Certificate in Modern Languages.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:10.04]

This was prompted by an earlier request from the Modern Languages Association asking the University to establish teaching certificates ‘testing the knowledge of Modern Languages possessed by teachers, or those who intend to be teachers, of those subjects’.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:24.84]

English was not included in this original brief and almost a year’s deliberation followed, involving the Secretary James Flather, who corresponded with various individuals as well as the Modern Languages Association about syllabus outlines for Modern Languages Certificates.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:41.54]

As a result of Flather’s work, the General Purposes Committee of the Syndicate recommended, in February 1912, that the Syndicate establish Certificates of Proficiency in French and German, English for Foreign Students and Religious Knowledge - all to be in association with the Cambridge Higher Examinations which were set for candidates over the age of eighteen.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:04.77]

Entry was ten shillings and the qualification comprised twelve and a half hours of examinations.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:11.64]

It was not as a test of language proficiency for learners of English, but the requirement for candidates to be foreign students was dropped before the first examinations in June 1913.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:22.14]

Despite this relaxation of the regulations, none of the first three candidates were successful – the first pass came the following year in June 1914.

Alana Walden: [00:02:32.84]

Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. You can find more of our podcasts on our website, just search for Podcast Gallery, or you can find us on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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