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IoLET Level 3 Certificate in Bilingual Skills (QCF)

Benefits | Format | Centres & Courses | Fees & Dates | Links & Resources | Registration & Process
 Attention CBS Trainers!

The CBS Handbook for Trainers has now been produced. As the document evolves, any further amendments will be incorporated in this website version. Click here to access the document.




The CBS was first introduced in 1986 and demonstrates the IoLET's commitment to language training for the workplace and the DfE's National Languages Strategy.

It is an 'A' level equivalent award that aims to establish a benchmark of competence at foundation level for those working or intending to work in the public services or voluntary sector where practical bilingual skills are a necessary attribute.



Examination Completion Timeframe

Please note that all of our examinations have a five year completion period.

The five year full examination completion period applies from the first year that a Candidate receives a letter of Credit or Unit Certificate. Therefore, once a Candidate has received a 'Pass' in any part of an examination, they have four more years to successfully complete all outstanding parts of the examination. For example, if a candidate receives a 'Pass' in 2000, the completion period will be from 2000 until 2004.

» Also

Handbook CBS Handbook
Bulletpoint Search for your nearest Examination Centre

Bulletpoint Compare CBS with other IoLET qualifications

Bulletpoint Find out when you can take CBS and how much it costs


The CBS offers a range of benefits:



  • A practical, vocational alternative to a traditional "A" level, for all those working in the public or voluntary sector and who wish to use their language skills in their workplace.
  • All tasks in the examination are based on real-life situations in a public service context (Local Government, Health Service, Social Services, etc.)
  • Demonstrates proven capability in English and other languages at foundation level.
    Whether already employed or looking for a new career  you will be qualified to use your language skills, improving your career prospects.
  • A useful starting point for those wishing to become professional interpreters.
    The CBS is a stepping stone towards the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI), a higher, professional level examination offered by the IoLET.
  • Wide range of languages covered
    The examination is available in more than 40 languages.
  • Tailored examination.
    If you have specific needs, and provided there are sufficient candidates, an examination can be devised to cater for these; e.g. for those in a branch of the Health or Probation Services.
Accreditation & Funding
  • Officially accredited by Ofqual. 
  • Entered in the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) at Level 3.
  • Eligible for Skills Funding Agency funding.



The examination is held in May (Deadline for applications on 31st January) and consists of the following modules:

  • Role-play in a bilingual context
  • Sight translation from English and the other chosen language
  • Letter in English and the other chosen language
  • Translation into English and the other chosen language

The CBS can be taken in a range of languages including French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Spanish. View the complete language list for the CBS examination.


If the Institute is unable to locate adequately qualified examiners to carry out the examination in any of the above languages, it reserves the right to withdraw the examination. In such cases candidates' fees will be refunded but the Institute will not be liable for any additional expenditure the candidates may have incurred. The setting of an exam paper in a particular language may be subject to a minimum number of candidates. Alternatively, a scale of fees may apply. If you are interested in a certain language that has not been offered recently, please contact us by the end of February for the language to be included in the next year's session (e.g. by end of February 2014 for the language to be included in the 2015 CBS examination).


Portuguese Spelling Reform
Further to the postponement of the implementation of the Portuguese Spelling Agreement, for IoLET exam purposes both the old and the new spelling will be accepted provided there is consistency throughout the text. For more information, please see the links below: 

Examination Centres & Preparation Courses 

Examination Centres are those Centres which offer candidates the facility to sit an IoLET examination. An Examination Centre may also offer Preparation Courses which lead to an examination, in which case it would also be called a Course Provider.


A Course Provider is an individual or organisation offering Preparation Courses which lead to IoLET examinations. A Course Provider might not be an Examination Centre, i.e. they may not offer candidates the facility to sit the examination. In this case, you can take the preparation course offered but you will then need to find an Examination Centre to sit the examination.


Please be advised that there is an IoLET Open Centre which is able to take candidates who cannot find an Examination Centre or who would simply prefer to sit the examination in London.Candidates wishing to sit the examination at the IoLET Open Centre should contact the Central Registration Department to obtain an information pack containing the latest information.


Fees & Dates

View the fees and dates for the CBS examination.

Useful Links and Resources

Find further information and support materials from the selection of resources below:


Information Pack
  • CBS Handbook
    CBS Handbook includes detailed information about the examination format, criteria, topic areas, regulations and other.

  • Chief Moderator's Report
    CBS Chief Moderator's Report presents an overview of candidates' profiles and languages, examination results and other issues from past CBS examinations.

  • Written Markers' Reports
    CBS Written Markers' Reports provide feedback on candidates' performances and also recommendations based on past CBS examinations.

CBS French - May 2011 Sports and Leisure Pathway

  • Past Topics
    CBS Past Topics offer an overview of topics set in the past.

 Candidates can also order past examination papers using this form: Material and Publications Order Form


  • General Links & Resources
    Links and Resources recommended by translators, interpreters and examiners.  

Candidate Registration and Examination Process

The following explains how to enrol for an examination and what happens afterwards.The registration and examination process consists of the following simple steps:


1. Registration

Candidates can download an information sheet by clicking here and can register by completing an Entry Card available here . Candidates who wish to register for the examination should contact the Central Registration Department on 0207 940 3163. The registration period runs from 1 October - 31 January.


2. The Results

Your results will be announced to you and your Examination Centre in writing within twelve weeks after the last examination*.


3. Certificates

Certificates and Letters of Credit/Unit Certificates will be sent to your Examination Centre (apart from those for candidates at the IoLET Open Centre) within two months after the results have been issued.


Your certificate will then be sent and/or awarded to you from your Examination Centre.*


* For further information regarding the examination procedures and regulations please refer to the Candidate Regulations. These regulations are current and valid for all of our examinations.




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