A2 Key - 2020 format update

Tens of thousands of people every year take the international Cambridge A2 Key exam, which is more familiar to many by its old name – KET. This popularity is easy to explain – despite being a basic level exam, A2 Key certificate provides the opportunity of working in certain fields in countries such as Denmark and Netherlands. A2 Key is also often taken in order to get a “fiance visa” when immigrating to the United Kingdom. In Ukraine, only IELTS may rival A2 Key in popularity – more than 400 people took it in the ILC Authorised Cambridge Exam Centre over the last year.

Little helps boost confidence when taking an exam as much as getting a firm grasp on its format - parts, tasks and their duration, nuances of grading and so on. Hence, we would like to inform you of the changes to the A2 Key exam format by Cambridge Assessment English that are upcoming in January 2020.

These changes apply both to the standard and the “for Schools” versions of the exam and can be briefly summarised as follows:

  1. The exam will become 10 minutes shorter.
  2. Each part will have some new or revised tasks.
  3. The grading will change – the candidates will receive A, B or C grades.

In this article we are going to examine each part of the exam closely and analyse the changes.

Reading & Writing

The Reading & Writing part has changed the most in the new format. It now consists of 7 tasks (instead of 9) that amount to 32 questions (compared to 56 in the current version) and lasts for 60 minutes.

Tasks 1-5 (Multiple choice short text, Multiple choice long text, Matching, Multiple choice gap fill, Open gap fill) are mainly about Reading. They are shorter than before and there are less of them, but they still cover all the same language skills and tests at the same level as the current version.

Tasks 6 and 7 are mainly about Writing. Instead of writing one short text and filling in missing words, candidates now must write 2 short texts. In addition to a short message (25 words or more), they will have to write a short story (35 or more words). Notice that the maximum limit for the number of words doesn’t exist anymore, whereas before you could get a lower mark if your text was too long.


The duration of the Listening part remained the same, as well as the number of tasks it includes – it’s 30 minutes for 5 tasks and 25 questions. 4 out of 5 tasks are also the same (Multiple choice short texts, Multiple choice long texts, Gap fill and Matching), only their order has changed. Compared to the current version, the second Gap fill task has been replaced with the third Multiple choice, in which the candidates will need to listen to five short texts for the main idea or message.


The Speaking part is the one that has changed the least – the duration is still 8-10 minutes, it’s done in pairs and consists of 2 tasks: Introduction, where the candidates give factual information of a personal nature and answer the examiner's questions, and the Collaborative task. The format of the Collaborative task has changed somewhat: instead of getting a list of questions to discuss from the examiner, the candidates will now be shown several pictures. They will first need to describe what they see on the pictures themselves and then discuss it with their partner. Just as before, Speaking is graded by two examiners – one talks to you and the other one listens, both give marks for your performance.


The effect of different parts of A2 Key on the final mark will remain the same as it was: Reading & Writing – 50%, Listening – 25%, Speaking – 25%. The grades themselves have changed, however - instead of Pass with Distinction (level B1), Pass with Merit (A2) and Pass (A2), the candidates will get, respectively, A, B or C.

These changes to the format of the Cambridge A2 Key exam are not drastic. To quote the Cambridge Assessment English, "they are made to make sure that the exams are up to date with the latest research in language learning and teaching". Nevertheless, even changes to the duration of some parts and the number of tasks of different kinds are important to consider when preparing for A2 Key in order to increase the chances of success. Let us remind you that just like before, receiving the highest grade for A2 Key will get you a certificate that confirms your level of English at a level higher (B1). In addition, any certificate you receive for taking this exam will be valid indefinitely and you will not have to take it again.