There are lots of different English exams out there, with different purposes, benefits and drawbacks. Here we'll help you try to make sense of the main ones so you can decide which is best for you.
Run by Cambridge Assessment English (part of the prestigious University of Cambridge), these are a series of exams each aimed at a particular CEFR level. They're designed for general and academic purposes, and use real-life situations for their material. These are recognised worldwide as quality English exams.
General & academic English
Great for university applications/admissions, employers wanting proof of your general English ability or anyone wanting an official measure of their English ability.
Most UK universities (check with your individual institution).
According to Cambridge Assessment English, they are "accepted and trusted by thousands of leading higher education institutions, employers and governments worldwide".
Most of the exams are split into four papers: Reading/Reading & Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. The A2 Key exam only has three papers (Reading & Writing, Listening, and Speaking).
The time allowed for each paper varies depending on the level of the exam, with higher-level exams generally taking longer. Reading and Writing papers range from 45 minutes to 1h30m, Listening papers are 30-40 minutes, and Speaking papers are between 8 and 16 minutes.
Your receive a score for each paper and an overall score for the whole exam. You also receive a grade and CEFR level equivalent to your overall score on your statement of results.
The scores are on the Cambridge English Scale, which is standardised across exams so you can easily compare results.
Even though each exam is aimed at a particular level, the scoring and exam allows the possibility of being awarded either the level above or the level below the target level. For example, if you score a B1 in the B1 First exam, this is a Pass or Pass with Merit and you receive the Preliminary English Test certificate at Level B1. If you score a B2 in that exam, it's a Distinction and you are awarded the Preliminary English Test certificate at Level B2. If you score an A2 in that exam, you won't receive the Preliminary English Test certificate, but you will be awarded a Cambridge English certificate stating that you demonstrated ability at Level A2. You don't receive a certificate if you score below A2 in the B1 First exam.
IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System, and is another exam recognised by thousands of institutions worldwide. This exam is for all levels, so candidates sit the same exam and are awarded a language level based on their performance. There are two types of IELTS: IELTS Academic for higher education (eg university) purposes or professional registration purposes; and IELTS General Training for studying below degree level or for employment or migration to an English-speaking country.
IELTS General Training
IELTS Academic for academic English - great for university applications/admissions, or if you need proof of your English level to become a registered professional.
IELTS General Training for general English - great if you want to work in or migrate to an English-speaking country or for study below degree level.
Most UK universities (check with your individual institution). 11,000 institutions worldwide recognise IELTS.
Immigration authorities in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
Exams are split into four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking.
IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training have the same Listening and Speaking tests, but different Reading and Writing tests.
The total test time is 2h45m. Listening, Reading and Writing tests are taken on the same day and the Speaking test is taken up to a week before or afterwards.
You receive a score for each individual test (ie one each for the Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking tests) and an overall score averaged from those. Scores are given as a numerical grade from 1 to 9 specific to the IELTS.
There are many other English exams available, each with a particular purpose. If you don't see the exam you want to take on this page, or you don't think any of them suit your needs, then get in touch. Whether you need preparation for an English exam aimed at your job or there's a specific exam accepted by your university, we can usually help, just ask!
If you're still not sure which exam is the best for you, we're here to help! Just ask us during the booking process, or have an in-depth chat with your teacher when you've joined us. We'll look at the options with you, and help you decide which exam would be best for your goals and current level, based on our professional knowledge of the exams. We'll always give you honest advice; we want you to succeed and enjoy your course!
For specific exam preparation, you will need to take private lessons. This could be a course of only one-to-one lessons, such as our Xcel Online Tailored courses, or it could be one of our combined courses with morning group lessons and afternoon private lessons.
Different exams have different formats, different English requirements, and can require different strategies. Preparing for your exam in private lessons means your lessons can be tailored specifically to the exam you're taking, the strategies to succeed in that exam and the English you need to have to pass. It also means that your teacher can devote the entire lesson to your individual needs and work on the areas where you need to improve, without having to worry about other students' needs too. Having this kind of very focused exam preparation can really help candidates to succeed, giving you great value for money.
You can book some exams through EngXcel but others you'll have to book yourself - each one is different. Once you know which exam you would like to take, just contact us and we'll either book it for you or guide you to where to book yourself.
Please note that exam entrance fees aren't included in your course fees, so there will be a separate charge.
The 'CEFR' or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is a system used to describe language ability in a standardised way.
The levels (from lowest to highest) are: Pre-A1, A1, A2,B1,B2,C1,C2.
Each level is associated with a set of 'can do' statements - when you can do the skill in the statement, you are on your way to obtaining the associated level of proficiency.
You can see how some of the more common English exams map onto the CEFR in the Cambridge Assessment English PDF below, or for more information on the CEFR in general you can go to the Council of Europe website.
Copyright © 2022 EngXcel - All Rights Reserved.
EngXcel Ltd is registered in England No. 13642156.