Real Lives


Real Lives – an exciting new language challenge, now in its third year


The Real Lives exam series is a brand new format for testing practical, applied language skills in real life scenarios. Focused this year on listening skills, the series has the potential to be extended to all skills in future. It will be of interest to students who are cadets (ACF, SCC, ATC or CCF) or are completing awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh and St John's Ambulance.

Hear the latest #MFLTwitterati podcast that features Nick Mair talking about creating 'Real Lives'.


Service Lives

Service Lives is a real world multiple choice listening comprehension exam suitable for cadets, testing their language skills in adventure and leadership situations, linked to the services, in which emergencies require clear and accurate communication and understanding.

Saving Lives

Saving Lives is a real world multiple choice listening comprehension exam suitable for those taking a Duke of Edinburgh award or anyone with an interest in the outdoor world, helping others and the emergency services.


Why a new exam?

Real Lives is based on situations which have authenticity and urgency which will appeal to students who don’t always immediately recognise the usefulness and relevance of learning another language. The exam intends to boost the declining interest in language learning amongst students, motivating learners by presenting them with the challenge of real life scenarios where accurate communication is critical.

What is the difference between the two exams?

The exams have an initial scenario and questions in common, with the next two scenarios and questions pertaining to either Saving Lives or Service Lives. This means that the subject focus can be retained for each exam.

What level is tested?

The exams are set at A2 level (approx. Foundation GCSE) with the intention that students in year 10, or stronger students in year 9, will be able to sit the exam without extra teaching or revision

What do students achieve?

Students will be awarded a certificate from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Successful students will receive a pass, merit or distinction grade.

Which languages are available?

Both exams (Service Lives / Saving Lives) will be offered in French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, Welsh, ESOL (English) and new for 2020: Polish & Somali. As there are scenarios in common, students must choose one exam in one language only. 


The essentials

When does it take place?
2021 dates to be confirmed
How long is the exam?
Approx. 40 minutes
What is the format?  
3 listening scenarios with multiple choice questions & answers
What is the cost?
£18.00 (per candidate)
How are exams delivered?
Schools will receive digital papers to print locally and an mp3 file with the audio recording. Full instructions are provided to schools in advance of the exam date.
Are there past papers?


2019 papers
Click here for audio recordings and answer booklets for Saving Lives and Service Lives for download in the following languages:
Arabic                              Russian
French                             Spanish
German                           Welsh
Mandarin                         ESOL - English

2018 papers
Answer booklets only - audio recordings available on request from info.real-lives@ciol.org.uk
Saving Lives 2018 - French
Saving Lives 2018 - German 
Saving Lives 2018 - Spanish
Service Lives 2018 - French
Service Lives 2018 - German 
Service Lives 2018 - Spanish
 

Are there sample papers? 

Sample Audio Text - Arabic
Sample Answer Booklet - Arabic
Sample Audio Text - ESOL - English
Sample Answer Booklet - ESOL - English
Sample Audio Text - French
Sample Answer Booklet - French
Sample Audio Text - German
Sample Answer Booklet - German
Sample Audio Text - Mandarin
Sample Answer Booklet  - Mandarin
Sample Audio Text - Russian
Sample Answer Booklet -  Russian
Sample Audio Text - Spanish
Sample Answer Booklet - Spanish
Sample Audio Text - Welsh
Sample Answer Booklet  - Welsh

Please note that the learner questions and answers are always in English.

Further information
For further information, email info.real-lives@ciol.org.uk.
How do I register my students for the exam?
Please complete the registration form below and you will receive an invoice and further details when they are available.

Registration form

If you would like to register your candidates for the exam, please complete and submit this online form.
Registration closes on 30 September 2020.