What is the Tweetalig Onderwijs (TTO)?
The TTO is a great opportunity for students in the Netherlands to take their English to a really high level, putting students in a great position for applications to UK universities and, later, to use English in a professional capacity all over the world. It is offered by over 120 schools in the Netherlands, and there are several different options of English certificate available at the end of TTO studies, so making the right choice is crucial. Elite IB would like to simplify this process, explaining clearly the three main options that are available for students and schools, and detailing the kind of support we can offer.
Option 1 - International Baccalaureate - English Language and Literature
This excellent course combines many different elements to give students a holistic education in English. There are a variety of texts studied for this course, which are divided in Parts 1 and 2 (non-literary texts which would include adverts, newspaper articles and webpages), 3 (literary texts, including works in translation) and 4 (literary texts).
The coursework involves doing Further Oral Activities, which are presentations on the non-literary texts in Part 1 and Part 2. Students must also keep a portfolio of Written Tasks, where they can practice forms of writing other than essay writing, such as letters, blogs or interviews. Finally there is an Individual Oral Commentary, in which you have to speak about a text for 10 minutes.
Students must also complete two exams at the end of their second year. Paper 1 is an unseen commentary where students must compare and contrast two texts, identifying their overall meaning and exploring the techniques by which that message is conveyed. Paper 2 requires candidates to answer a comparative essay question on the literary texts they studied in Part 2 of the course.
This course goes far beyond English grammar and language, but in doing so it equips students far better for life at UK Universities, where courses will be taught in English. It teaches real critical thought, close reading, and candidates study a wide range of interesting texts that provoke discussion about the media, society and literature. Concrete skills taught by IB English are: presentations, essay writing, non-essay writing, and the ability to analyse texts effectively. This is an excellent choice for students fully confident in their English-speaking or language-learning abilities, or who are less fluent but ready for a challenge- the course provides the opportunity to consider English-language texts with nuance and subtlety, and is therefore not suitable to those with no prior English speaking or reading experience. The IB English Language & Literature course is recognised globally, and should bolster any application to English-speaking universities, showing fluency as well as demonstrating essay-writing and complex analytical skills in English.
Option 2: Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English
Compared to the IB, the Cambridge exam is focused more on language acquisition and comprehension, and is more of an English language exam. The exam does not test critical analysis of texts, compared to the IB’s focus on this. At no point does the IB directly test your grammar or vocabulary, as this is already expected to be at a high standard. The Cambridge exam, therefore, is an option for a student who is keen to gain full English fluency but perhaps does not feel confident taking on the demands of the IB English course. Students who graduate with the Cambridge Certificate move from proficiency to an advanced level of English, and the Cambridge exam is sufficient proof of English fluency to gain entrance into most UK universities, including Oxford & Cambridge, LSE, UCL, and Imperial College London, and other English-speaking universities worldwide.
The Cambridge Course is structured as follows:
1) Reading paper - With 8 parts, this varied paper examines a wide range of English comprehension skills. Students have to answer multiple choice questions and short-form answers, which test the ability to fill in gaps in a text. The test starts off easily, but then progresses to testing more sophisticated skills, such as selecting the mood of a passage from a list of options, putting paragraphs in the right order and discerning precise information from a text.
2) Writing paper - in 1.5 hours, candidates have to answer one compulsory question and one chosen from three options. In Part 1, students must respond to a given text, writing a response inspired by the points raised in the text. The second part requires students to compose their own writing, choosing which form of non-essay text to use (e.g. emails or letters). Both of these parts require responses of around 260 words. This is substantially less than what the IB would expect you to write in 1.5 hours.
3) Listening paper - in this 40 minute paper, students must listen to a range of audio recordings. The first section is multiple choice, where candidates need to select the right response to three short extracts. After that, students must complete sentences based on incomplete recordings, and then in section 3 answer multiple choice questions based on longer extracts. Finally students must match a recording to the appropriate answer.
4) Speaking paper - this paper is done in pairs, and in Part 1 students have to answer questions about themselves. Part 2 requires students to comment on a picture, and talk about the answer their partner has given. In Part 3 students must converse with their partner about written prompts for about 3 minutes.
Overall, the Cambridge system is very useful for raising the level of English, but the key contrast with the IB is the lack of critical essay-writing and presentation skills. For students looking to study a humanities subject at university abroad, this might seem less impressive than a good grade in the IB that demonstrates a sophisticated ability in English, however if you wish to simply gain and prove your fluency in English and gain entrance to UK universities, the Cambridge certificate is an excellent choice.
Option 3 - Anglia
This course is structured similarly to the Cambridge Certificate, and is focused on grammar and vocabulary. It also requires students to fill in gaps in sentences, and compose short essay responses about everyday topics. It is similarly structured around Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. It differs from the Cambridge course in that it places more emphasis on good knowledge of English grammar, requiring students to translate a sentence into a different tense, for example. The Anglia course is less well-known at UK universities, and so if you are opting between the Anglia and Cambridge English exams for this purpose, we would recommend the Cambridge Certificate, as we can be confident this is broadly accepted at top UK institutions.
Which option is best?
This depends on your confidence and ability in English, but if you are looking for the best possible advancement in your English analysis skills, the IB is definitely the best option. On a university application this will look very impressive, as the IB is an internationally-respected qualification that admissions departments are very familiar with, although of course the Cambridge English exams are also widely recognised and highly respected. The fact that the course is structured very differently from language-learning exams will also demonstrate a higher level of English knowledge, because the Cambridge and Anglia exams resemble foreign language exams much more. Also, as IB specialists, Elite IB will be able to help you with the more difficult aspects of the English Language and Literature course. We have a wide range of expert tutors who are very experienced in teaching this subject, and we can help you understand your texts and aid you in developing your essay writing technique and analytical skills needed to succeed. As leading providers of international education, however, and with increasing numbers of students undertaking Cambridge International studies, such as IGCSEs, our tutors are also expertly placed to provide Cambridge Advanced English support. Overall, then, we know we’re biased, but we think the IB English Cert is the best option for TTO students looking to master the English language for all future academic and educational adventures, with the Cambridge exam making an excellent stepping stone for those wishing to study or work internationally in future!
If you would like further information about how we can help you or your students with their TTO studies, please contact us here.