The Cambridge English B1 Preliminary exam, previously known as the PET exam, which stands for Preliminary English Test, is designed for students with intermediate English. Like all of the Cambridge English exams, the PET Exam is a pass/fail test and for those who pass, it delivers a certificate that does not expire. The B1 Preliminary exam can be either a paper-based test or a computer-based test. In both versions, the PET lasts 140 minutes in total.
The B1 Preliminary exam tests all four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. It is structured as follows:
Part 1 (45 minutes) – The first section of the PET Exam tests reading comprehension. It is subdivided into 6 subsections with a total of 32 questions. There are multiple-choice, matching and fill-in-the-blank questions, but also two writing prompts (a postcard and either a letter or a story).
Part2 (45 minutes) – This section of the B1 Preliminary exam tests writing ability. It was previously part of the first section but was separated into its own section in 2020. It is composed of two writing prompts: an e-mail and either an article or a story. Each writing sample should be about 100 words.
Part 3 (24 minutes + 6 minutes extra to transfer answers to the answer sheet) – The third section of the PET exam test listening comprehension. You hear each recording twice and must answer questions about the recording. There are a total of 25 questions in this part, each worth 1 point. The question types are multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank.
Part 4 (12 to 17 minutes) – The last section of the B1 Preliminary exam tests speaking ability. Students are put into pairs and asked to have a conversation with an examiner and then with each other. There is a second examiner listening. The speaking test starts with the examiner asking questions about each student. The examiner then gives each student a picture and the student describes and discusses it. The examiner then presents a situation and the students discuss possible solutions. Finally, the students discuss likes and dislikes. The speaking test may be given on a different day from the first three parts of the B1 Preliminary, depending on the exam center’s scheduling.
From 2016, all Cambridge English Exams are reported using the same scoring scale. Lower-level tests are able to deliver scores on a lower range of the scale and more difficult tests are able to deliver scores higher on the same scale. In the past, the PET had its own scoring scale, so PET test scores prior to 2016 must be converted to the new scale in order to be compared.
Valid scores on the B1 Preliminary exam today range from 120 to 170. A score of 140 or above is considered a “pass” and students with that score will receive the B1 Preliminary exam certificate, which corresponds to a level B1 in English on the CEFR. Students scoring 160 or above on the PET Exam will receive a Cambridge Preliminary English Test certificate for level B2. Students scoring between 120 and 139 will receive an A2 English certificate.
Each section of B1 Preliminary is worth 25% of the total score. The results are broken down by the four parts of the exam, as well as an overall result and the corresponding CEFR level. If the student got a passing score on the B1 Preliminary, they will also receive a B1 English certificate which is valid forever.
The next test in the Cambridge Exam suite is called the Cambridge B2 First Certificate. Taking the free Cambridge placement test can help you decide which of the Cambridge exams is the right one for your current level of English.