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A quick guide to English exams

Firstly, what's your English level?

Before you look at different types of tests, it is important to find out what level you are. This will help you choose the best exam to suit your abilities.

Here is an English test run by Cambridge English to check your current English level:

Your level will fit to what's called CEFR* scale, which I will refer to in this article.

*Common Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

Cambridge exams: KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE

KET Key (A2)

PET Preliminary English Test (B1)

FCE First Certificate in English (B2)

CAE Advanced (C1)

CPE Proficiency (C2)

What are they used for? Cambridge exams are used to recognise and prove your English level in a range of institutions, from education to employment all over the world.

Where are they accepted? These exams are accepted in around 25,000 universities globally.

How long are they? Between 3 and 4 hours depending on the exam.

Format: Format depends on the exam you are taking, normally divided into parts (reading, listening, writing and face to face speaking)

Scores / Bands: 80 - 220 ( 80 - pre A1; 80-120 - A1; 120-140 - A2; 140-160 - B1; 160-180 - B2; 180-200 - C1; 200 - 220 C2)

Price: ~$400 (AUD)

Expiry date: no expiry date

Why choose a Cambridge exam?

These exams are widely accepted around the world and have no expiration date as opposed to similar exams. There is a range of different levels to choose from and there are also exams for specific purposes such as business English.

IELTS - International English Language testing system

(Cambridge English test)

What is it used for? IELTS is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language.

Where is it accepted? It is accepted in around 140 countries worldwide.

How long is it? 2 hours 45 minutes

Format: The test is split in four different parts: reading (60 min.), writing (60 min.) , listening (30 min.) and speaking (~15 min.)

Scores / Bands: 0-9 bands (0-4 = A1/A2; 4.5 - 5 =B1; 5.5 - 6.5 =B2; 7-8-C1; 8-9 = C2)

Price: ~ $375 (AUD)

Expiry date: 2 years

Why choose IELTS?

It is worth noting IELTS is a one level test, this means the test doesn't adapt to your level, instead it will be the same for everybody. There are two different types of IELTS depending on the purpose, one is Academic (accepted at universities and other educational institutions) and the other, General (used for visa purposes, etc.). You can take the test both, on paper and on the computer.

More information:

PTE Pearson Test of English Academic

What is it used for? The test is used to determine your level mainly to get accepted at universities as well as for immigration purposes.

Where is it accepted? PTE is mainly accepted in the following countries Australia, USA, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand

How long is it? 3 hours

Format: The test is split into 3 parts; Part 1: Speaking & Listening, Part 2: Reading; Part 3: Writing ( you will be accessed on different skills in each of the parts)

Scores / Bands: 10-90: 10- 42 (A2); 43-59 (B1); 60 -75 (B2); 76-85 (C1); 86 -90 (C2)

Price: ~ $375 AUD

Expiry date: 2 years

Why choose PTE?

PTE is a completely computarised test, this means you will have no human contact, all your answers will be recorded via microphone and accessed by an automated scoring tool. This means you can obtain your test result within 5 working days.

More information:

TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language

What is it used for? It is mainly used to determine your level in order to enter university or a higher education institution.

Where is it accepted? TOEFL is mostly accepted in North American universities as well as globally, in around 10,000 universities.

How long is it? 3 hours

Format: TOEFL is conducted in four parts: reading, listening, speaking and writing

Scores / Bands: overall 0 -120 (0-30 in each section); Overall score 0-31 (A1); 30-40 (A2/B1); 41-64 (B1/B2); 65-78 (B2); 79-95 (C1); 96-120 (C2)

Price: ~ $240 AUD

Expiry date: 2 years

Why choose TOEFL?

There are different types of TOEFL, the most popular being TOEFL iBT which in 100% academic. You can choose the test which suits your needs best. The test is computer based and your results are usually available within 6 working days.

More information:

Find out how I can prepare you for the exams. Get in touch to book a free trial lesson.


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