A Cambridge english vocabulary says

The list covers vocabulary appropriate to the B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and includes receptive vocabulary (words that the candidate is expected to understand but which is not the focus of a question) and productive vocabulary (words that the candidate needs to know to answer a question).


Example phrases and sentences showing how words might be used are given only where words with different meanings need to be constrained. For example, heel is followed by 'I can't walk in high heels' - this shows that heel is limited to the idea of shoes: candidates are not expected to know other meanings, such as the part of the body.

it seems that the expression (expression_1)

candidates are not expected to know the meaning of "the part of the body" for this examination.

is equivalent to this expression (expression_2)

candidates does not need to know the meaning of "the part of the body" for this examination.

Is my understanding right?

How about the first paragraph?

  • You omitted an important verb... candidates are not expected to know the meaning of "the part of the body" for this examination. Your understanding is correct. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 10:40
  • @MichaelHarvey Thanks a lot. I've updated it.
    – user98358
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


"Be expected to" and "needed to" are not general synonyms.

Our guests are expected to arrive before two o'clock

does not at all imply that

Our guests need to arrive before two o'clock.

Nor do I believe that "need" is socially considered to be rude, at least not in the U.S.

However, in your specific context, you are practically correct to equate "are expected to" and "need to" even though the two expressions technically reflect different viewpoints. If the test makers expect test takers to know something, then the test takers need to know that something in order to get a good grade on the test.

EDIT: In response to a follow-up question, expectation and need very frequently apply to different persons, and need implies a purpose.

The test makers expect text takers to know X.

The test takers need to know X to be confident of doing well on the test.

When "are expected" is used, the passive voice means that who is doing the expecting is not explicitly specified.

  • Thanks a lot. What the different viewpoints are in the "arrive before two o'clock" example. The first one is a guess, prediction and the second one is sort of someone's demand?
    – user98358
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 11:43
  • In the case of "are expected to arrive" that may be a pure guess or an estimate based on certain information, for example the knowledge that the started traveling around noon and that the journey usually takes somewhat less two hours. it is what we expect. In the case of "need to" it is a requirement, for example to arrive before the guest of honor arrives. It is what they need to do to be polite. Expectation and requirement usually pertain to different people. See again my answer and note the difference between test makers and test takers. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 13:59

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