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Exam Preparation

A2 Key

Exam Preparation

A2 Key

Information for candidates

A guide to the exam, with advice on preparing for the exam, tips for exam day and useful links.

Download A2 Key information for candidates

Exam format

A2 Key is made up of three papers developed to test your English skills:

1 hour

The A2 Key Reading and Writing paper has seven parts and different types of texts and questions. Parts 1–5 are about reading and Parts 6–7 are mainly about writing. This paper accounts for 50% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple-choice)
  • Read six short real-world texts for the main message
  • 6 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Multiple matching)
  • Read seven questions and three short texts on the same topic, then match the questions to the texts
  • 7 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Multiple choice)
  • Read one long text for detailed understanding and main ideas.
  • 5 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Multiple-choice cloze)
  • Read a factual text and choose the correct vocabulary items to complete the gaps.
  • 6 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 5 (Open cloze)
  • Complete gaps in an email (and sometimes the reply too) using one word.
  • 6 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 6 (Guided writing)
  • Write a short email or note of 25 words or more.
  • 1 question
  • The question has a maximum of 15 marks available
Part 7 (Picture story)
  • Write a short story of 35 words or more based on three picture prompts.
  • 1 question
  • The question has a maximum of 15 marks available

30 minutes, including 6 minutes’ transfer time

The A2 Key Listening paper has five parts. For each part you have to listen to a recorded text or texts and answer some questions. You hear each recording twice.

Part 1 (Multiple choice)
  • Identify key information in five short dialogues and choose the correct visual.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Gap fill)
  • Listen to a monologue and complete gaps in a page of notes.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Multiple choice)
  • Listen to a dialogue for key information and answer five 3-option questions.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Multiple choice)
  • Identify the main idea, message, gist or topic in five short monologues or dialogues and answer five 3-option questions.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 5 (Matching)
  • Listen to a dialogue for key information and match five items.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer

8–10 minutes per pair of candidates

The A2 Key Speaking test has two parts and is taken with another candidate. There are two examiners: one examiner talks to you and the other examiner listens. Both examiners give marks for your performance.

Part 1 (Interview)
  • Respond to questions, giving factual or personal information
  • 3 – 4 minutes.
Part 2 (Discussion)
  • Candidates discuss likes and dislikes and give reasons.
  • 5 – 6 minutes.
Choosing your Speaking Test partner

If you would like to be paired together with a friend/classmate, you can request this when you register for the exam. Please note however that research has shown that there are both advantages and disadvantages in taking the test with someone you know and that in the end it doesn’t matter. What is important is that the test judges you on your own performance.

Groups of three candidates

Almost all A2 Key Speaking Tests are conducted in groups of two candidates. However, if there is an uneven number of candidates at an exam session there will be one test with a group of three candidates, normally at the end of the day or before a long break. The test format is exactly the same but will last a little longer. Please note that you cannot request to take your test in a group of three.

Frequently asked questions
and exam day tips

A guide to the exam, with advice on preparing for the exam, tips for exam day and useful links.

A2 Key FAQs

Exam day tips – paper-based exams

Exam day tips – computer-based exams

Exam day tips – Speaking test

Sample tests
Computer based

Watch this tutorial before you start to help you understand what you need to do.

You will need to use the Firefox browser to access these sample tests.

Download Firefox for free here.

Answer keys

There is no answer key for Reading & Writing Part 9, but there are sample answers and examiner comments in the relevant pages of the A2 Key handbook.

Vocabulary list

This list gives teachers a guide to the vocabulary needed when preparing students for A2 Key and A2 Key for Schools.

Download A2 Key vocabulary list

Speaking test video with examiners’ commentary

These video will help you to understand what happens during the A2 Key and A2 Key for Schools speaking test. You can also download examiners’ comments for this video.