So you're invited for Berlitz, but have zero idea of what it is? Perfect place for you, because in this post, you'll learn what goes on during Berlitz, and how you can pass it, even if you have no center experience. I'll also give two Berlitz sample conversation, both of which I experienced with my Berlitz tests.
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What is Berlitz Test?
Berlitz is a test to determine the English communication skills of the applicant. Among the companies that use it are call centers and BPO companies.
This is how Berlitz test is set up: You, the applicant, will talk to a facilitator, who will listen and talk to you in English. He will then grade your English communication skills based on your conversation.
It's like a Versant test. The only difference is, unlike Versant, the judge of your English is a human being instead of a computer program. Also, the conversation is more conversational than robotic.
If you ask me, Berlitz is a better way to test the applicants' communication skills than Versant, simply because a human, not a computer, listens.
But is it harder? Let's find out.
What You Need to Pass Berlitz
1&2. Pronunciation and Accent
If you are to make a living by talking to English speaking people over the phone, your accent and pronunciation must be clear and understandable. Otherwise, you're out.
Remember though: With most call centers, you don't have to sound like the standard American accent or any particular English accent. As long as it's clear to the native English speaker's' ears, you're good. Note that the typical Filipino accent won't pass to all English speakers ears. So if that's where you are now, yes, you have to improve.
Click here for tips on how to improve your pronunciation and accent.
Excellent communication skill means proper grammar. You might get away with a very few grammar lapses here and there. But never forget the basics.
There is no secret to any language fluency but to constantly repeat it. Having said that, I cannot recommend a shortcut for you. I can, however, suggest some ways to make it as less boring and more entertaining.
Here's what happens during Berlitz
1. Setup & Instructions
The whole exam takes place over the phone. When the phone rings, answer it. The Berlitz facilitator on the other line introduces himself and explains everything you need to know about the test along with the instructions.
The facilitator could be calling from the other side of the room (which means he's working in the company itself and is likely a Filipino), or from the other side of the world (which means he's working for a company that specifically conducts Berlitz, and he's likely a foreigner).
My Own Experience:
In my first Berlitz, the facilitator was a guy and he sounded friendly enough for me not feel intimidated. He spoke fluent English but I could tell he's a Filipino. That made me feel better.
My second time, however, was a native American speaker, but having already experienced it before, I already knew how the whole test would go. It all went well.
2. Introduce Yourself
Just like the typical job interview, the Berlitz interviewer will ask you to say something about yourself.
- Although you can repeat the answer you said during the typical interview, feel free to add something extra. Example are your hobbies and interests.
- The interviewer may specifically ask a question like: "Tell me something about yourself that is not work-related." I've written an article on how to answer: Tell Me Something About Yourself That Isn’t On Your Resume
How hard are the questions?
If you speak fluent English, the questions aren't hard at all. So do yourself a favor and go back to basics- grammars, accent, pronunciation, tone of voice, etc. Note: you cannot skip this step if you want a sure pass.
The next questions will depend on your previous answers.
For example, if you say you like hiking, it has to be true. Otherwise, you're gonna struggle on what to say next. The next question will likely be about hiking. And if you want to have enough to say, make sure you're talking about a topic you know so well. It's already hard to talk in a foreign language. Don't make it harder by talking about a topic you hardly know about.
Too personal questions?
Since you can freely talk about anything outside work, you'll likely talk about your personal life. If a certain question feels too personal and uncomfortable for you answer, you have the right to decline it. I don't think this will happen though. In my experience, the questions asked are far from personal and intrusive.
An Actual Berlitz Example
With an American Berlitz Facilitator
This was my second Berlitz exam with an American and the best of what I can recall.
Berlitz: So why don't you start by telling me something about yourself, anything, even something outside work.
Me: I graduated a Computer Programming course and I've been in the BPO industry for 4 years now. For the first 2 years, I worked as a Customer Service Representative and the other 2 as a Quality Analyst, listening to calls and making sure it follows the quality standard. Outside work, I write blogs for call center beginners who can't afford training and I provide tips on how to prepare for a job interview. I also looove reading self-help books.
Berlitz: Interesting. What books do you read?
Me: For fiction, I love reading just about anything. For self-help books, I love reading Seth Godin's books. And my favorite Marie Forleo. I don't know if you know her but...
Berlitz: Yes, I know her!
Me: Great! She's amazing. And the other day, when I searched her books, I just found out that her books were available for free download. I was sooo happy I downloaded all of them.
(Here, I disclosed all info I could think of to not run out of words to say. I was nervous! And just when I was about to talk to her about the other author, she politely interrupted me, as the call should end in 15 minutes.)
Berlitz: I can sense a lot of enthusiasm there, Sheina. But I have to stop you right there because we're only set for 15 minutes. But we'll go back to that later.
Me: Sure! (I'm pretty much embarrassed there but what the heck! I have to say something.)
Berlitz: You mentioned that you worked as a CSR and a QA. Can you describe the difference between these two positions?
Me: Well, when I was a CSR, the majority of what I do is talk, talk and talk (I can't believe I actually said that 3 times.) But when I was a Quality Analyst, I usually listen. I mean I still listen to customers when I was a CSR, because I have to, but being a QA, not saying anything throughout the whole 8 hour shift is completely possible.
Berlitz: Do you have pets at home?
Me: Yes, we have dozens of cats at home in the province but we didn't really buy them. One day, two cats just showed up at our house and the next thing we know, they multiplied, made babies and now, they're living full time at home.
Berlitz: (Laughs). Now Sheina, can you tell me the directions on how to get from your house to work?
Me: (I hate giving directions because it involves a lot of prepositions like across, beside, adjacent, fronting, that we don't just use. In our everyday English, we usually just say here, there, over there to point at something. And when we see a Hey Joe asking for directions in the street, our grammar is just limited to "...go right, then left, and then you see the mall, go straight." So I was really struggling to describe the direction. But then again, I have to say something so...)
First, you ride a motorbike and just when you're at the two intersections, go right. After that, you'll see another intersection and you should go left. Once you see the Chinese temple, you'll know that you're close to JY Square and that you have to turn left. Across the McDonald's entrance of JY Square, to the right, is the road going to IT Park. Overall, it's a 5 minute drive."
(That wasn't the best descriptive instructions but a good listener will probably find her way to IT Park. My advise for you is that you practice giving directions before the exam. In my first Berlitz, I wasn't really asked this.)
Berlitz: Alright, another question. What do you think about recycling. Should we do or not do it?
Me: (I guess this was the beauty pageant question they were talking about.)
Yes, absolutely. We need to recycle. Not because it's the right thing to do but because we have no other choice. We basically can't live in another planet if we destroy Earth. With the great human progress and industrialization comes the great pollution. Recently, I heard a news about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia that can no longer be saved due to global warming. Mind you, this is one of the Earth's landmark that can be seen from the moon (not Great Wall of China) and it's very sad to know that this reef won't be around a few years from now. Because of global warming. So going back to the question, yes, we should really start recycling now if we wan't to live.
Berlitz: Well, that's a very sad news.
Me: It is.
Berlitz: About the books you download for free, what do you think is the difference between buying it and downloading it for free
Me: Well, with the free books, the formatting is a little bit off. When I transferred it to my Kindle, there are some texts that are not properly aligned but overall they are legible. Also, you can't really complain because it's for free.
Berlitz: Alright, the 15 minutes is almost up. So, back to your cats in the province, what are their names?
Me: (Smiles) We don't really name the cats in the province. I mean most people do here in the city but in the province, it's pretty uncommon.
Berlitz: Oh! (laughs, surprised) Okay! Well thank you so much for your time Sheina.
Me: You're welcome! It's nice talking to you! (I was gonna say her name but I forgot. I suggest taking note of the facilitator's name for building rapport.)
With a Filipino Berlitz Facilitator
Because I revealed that I'm more of an introvert who usually prefer staying at home, reading books rather than going to parties and meeting new people, he asked me more questions about it.
Berlitz Guy: Who is your role model?
Me: I can't really think of anyone. I always watch TedTalks and I admire the people there but I can't remember a name in particular.
Berlitz Guy: It could be anyone, remember someone who you really admire. Just one.
Me: (Light bulb!) Oh that would be Susan Cain.
Berlitz Guy: Uh huh...
Me: Because of her, I learned that me not liking being in a large group of people is normal. Two years ago, I found her TedTalk video in YouTube. In her speech, she talked about how introversion is actually a normal thing. According to research, the brain of extroverts and introvert are differently wired. While extroverts are stimulated when they're around people, introverts feel their best when they're alone. Therefore, it makes more sense that people should stop labeling introverts as killjoy, shy, and inferior. It just means we're different.
She also talks how our society and schools favors extroverts over introverts. But really, if we think about it, most of the best ideas were born because of solitude.
Berlitz Guy: That sounds really interesting. In your opinion, what do you think are the advantages of being an introvert over an extrovert?
Me: Because of our silent nature, we tend to think about a lot of things. Things that extroverts usually don't think about, not because they can't but because they usually tend to get bored of it.
When psychologist look at the lives of the most creative people throughout history, most of them were introverts. It's because solitude is an important ingredient of creativity. And being alone is just what most introverts love to do. We are stimulated by it. It's like our oxygen and it's how we recharge. Susan provided a lot of examples of brilliant people who are introverts but the only one I can remember is Albert Einstein.
And she's not saying that introverts are better than extroverts. She's saying that we are just different. And it's time people should understand it, otherwise, our world is missing out on something really important.
Berlitz Guy: I'm more of an extrovert myself. I'm curious though, would you prefer an introvert friend or an extrovert one?
Me: It doesn't really matter. I like introverts because I truly relate to them but sometimes, it's also great to have a friend who keeps you talking. Because let's face it, introverts do need to talk too. Nobody can just be alone all the time. And mind you, introverts aren't necessarily reserved and silent all the time. When they're around people they know well, they could be the very outgoing people in the room. It's just that meeting new people could usually be hard for them.
Berlitz doesn't just measure your English accent and pronunciation like how Versant does.
It measures how handle real conversations with real people, like how a call center agent should be. Avoid sounding monotonous or robotic. That's just not how humans talk. Talk like a human when talking to humans over the phone.
If I were the owner of a company, I'd ditch Versant for Berlitz because it really does a better job in gauging the applicant's communication skills. There's very little chance for the applicants to memorize the answers beforehand because applicants can't know the exact questions.
Or can they?
1. Talk about things you know a lot about.
True, you don't know the questions. But you can steer the conversation where you want it to go. The interviewer's question will most likely revolve around the topic you initially talk about. So talk about the things you know so well right at the start of the conversation, and you won't find it hard to come up with things to say.
Now, your homework is to think of that one topic that you can talk about without running out of something to say.
2. Avoid sounding negative.
In both of my Berlitz tests, both interviewers had a friendly and laid-back tone of voice, but it didn't mean that they weren't observing me. They might have sounded friendly and accommodating over the phone. But that's because that's what they're paid to do.
Thinking that you're talking about something personal and casual, you might completely let your guard down and talk about how you hate your ex boss who bitches all day. Don't even think about it. Never make strong and negative, hateful comments. This will put you in a bad light.
At the end of the day, interviewers are still interviewers and who are paid by their companies. Make sure you're talking about something happy and positive. Hold your tongue when you feel the urge to talk about how you hate your love life, your demanding boss, your gossipy neighbors.
3. There are no wrong or right answers.
You don't have to tax your mind on whether knowledge is more important than power or the other way around. As long as you can perfectly defend, explain, elaborate and give examples to your answer, then you're all good.
Just make sure your answer doesn't put you in a negative light. Especially if it's work-related (like badmouthing your previous workplace).
4. Polish your English as best as you can.
If you think your English needs serious polishing, chances are, you're right. So, by all means, do not apply yet. Take your time. Set a certain period of time, say after three-five months of self-study, before you jump in. It'll save you lots of time and disappointment.
5. Build rapport
Treat the interviewer like a friend. You can ask questions too about his life, maybe not too personal. Something related with the topic you're talking about. I don't think I asked him questions during my exam because I'm usually not good with talking to new people. But, I did smile. A lot. Smiling over the phone makes you sound more friendly. It also works wonders with your tone of voice.
6. Use PREP.
I've talked about this in my previous posts and expect that I always will. This format is just so effective you shouldn't ignore this. Your self-study time should revolve around this most of the time. To find out more about PREP, click here: How to Express Your Thoughts in English in a Painless Way.
Is Berlitz harder than Versant?
Yes. Since it is evaluated by a real human, it is harder than Versant. There's no way to cheat like how you can with Versant. But with all the info in this article, you'll have an advantage over the other candidate.
That's all for now. Build your daily habit around these tips and I guarantee that you'll be on your way to signing that job offer. Goodluck! 🙂
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