IELTS or Cambridge?

What is the difference between IELTS and Cambridge exams such as the FCE and CAE?
This is a question which is frequently asked by students. In this article you will find out about the differences and similarities between these exams. Both types of exam examine the student’s English skills and are designed by the University of Cambridge. They are both very popular and internationally recognized. So let’s look at the main differences!

Why is it a good idea to take the exam?
The main motivating factor is having more opportunities in the job market. These exams prove your English level and you can include the certificates in your CV when applying for a job. These certificates are proof to your employer that you are fully qualified at a certain level of English. Some universities may also require FCE or CAE instead of IELTS as evidence of your level of English.
IELTS – students usually choose this exam for immigration purposes, such as applying for a visa in the UK or Australia, or if they need a certain IELTS level for higher education, for example in the UK.

How long is the certificate valid for?
The Cambridge exams KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE don’t have any expiry date. They are valid forever.
The IELTS certificate is valid for two years. So if you need confirmation of your English level after these two years, you will need to take the exam all over again.

What types of exam can you take?
Cambridge exams include different types of exam for each level KET (A2 – elementary), PET (B1 – pre-intermediate / intermediate), FCE (B2 – upper-intermediate), CAE (C1 – advanced), CPE (C2 – proficiency)
Conversely, the IELTS is one exam for all levels. However, there are two versions, which are IELTS Academic for academic English and IELTS General Training for general English. This means that attending the exam at intermediate level for academic purposes is more difficult than for advanced level in general English.

How are the exams evaluated and what results can you get?
Cambridge exams are evaluated according to the Cambridge scale, which means that you receive results based on your performance. The grades are stated based on points obtained and they are A, B or C. If you don’t reach the required number of points you fail and obtain a certificate in a lower level.
With IELTS you receive points on a scale from 0 to 9, 9 being the highest. The immigration office usually states the minimum for successful visa application. The IELTS exams consist of these bands:
Category 9: Expert user
Category 8: Very good user
Category 7: Good user
Category 6: Competent user
Category 5: Modest user
Category 4: Limited user
Category 3: Extremely limited user
Category 2: Intermittent user
Category 1: Non-user
Category 0: Did not attempt the test

How many parts does each exam include?
All Cambridge exams have the same form which includes four papers. The first paper is reading and use of English, second paper consists of two writing tasks, third paper is listening and fourth paper represents the speaking part of the exam.
IELTS includes four parts as well, which are listening, reading, writing and speaking. However, it doesn’t include any use of English section. The speaking evaluation takes part on the same day as the other parts or a week before or after other parts.

How long do the exams take?
The FCE exam lasts for 3 hours and 29 minutes, while the CAE exam lasts for 3 hours and 55 minutes and the CPE is 3 hours and 55 minutes long.
The IELTS exam lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

What is the difference in the speaking parts of the exam?
The main difference is that the Cambridge speaking exam is taken with a partner. Participants have to discuss various topics with several parts. An interaction between the two partners is very important and therefore it is also evaluated. A student is on his own during the IELTS speaking exam. 

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