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Learning English:  IELTS or Cambridge English First Certificate?

Our EFL tutors are often asked about the major differences between the IELTS and the Cambridge exams.  Our main piece of advice is to take both exams very seriously,  Get a tutor to help you with the preparation.  They will know the tips and tricks to get you a good mark.  Also take a look at some of the links on here to help you.  



These two exams are administered entirely by Cambridge University.  FCE tends to be aimed at students of an upper intermediate level and CAE is  for students who are at an advanced stage of English.


The tests can be taken regularly and are a good overall test of one's General English knowledge.  



IELTS is split into two tests:  Academic and General.  Most of our IELTS learners tend to be studying for the IELTS Academic test as they are seeking a place in a British university.  The General test should help you with your career and if you are looking to enter Australia, New Zealand or Canada.


It is also important to note that IELTS test results only remain on the IELTS database for two years.  However, the reality is that most employers will recognise a good IELTS score when they see one, no matter when the test was taken.


What are the main differences?

The differences between the tests are quite subtle, and relate mainly to the structure of the tests.  The most significant difference for us is the presence of a grammatical test in CAE/FCE.  Some learners find that the "Use of English" paper can be quite complicated, but obviously with the right tuition you will become more familiar with this part of the exam.  There is no specific grammar test in IELTS.  


With FCE and CAE, the subject matters that could come up are diverse.  If you look through one of the many books available on the tests, you will see that there are a huge range of subjects explored; from the environment to celebrity and many more.  With IELTS Academic in particular, you can be pretty confident that only a narrow range of academically-related topics will be covered such as literature or science.


There is a slight difference in the speaking tests of IELTS and the Cambridge Exams.  With IELTS Speaking, the test takes the form of a one-to-one interview, whereas with Cambridge there will be another student (maybe two) present as well as an additional examiner.  You will be marked on fluency, range of vocabulary, grammatical knowledge and pronunciation in both exams.  


Which one should I take?  

We would argue that IELTS is far less stressful because of the absence of the Use of English part of the test, and it will help you to get into a British university.  For a more rounded English course, one of the Cambridge tests will suit you well.



If you would like to take an IELTS preparation course or a course in Cambridge English First Certificate or the Certificate of Advanced English, please contact us on 020 3566 0145.  You can also e-mail us or fill in the form on this page.  




IELTS Preparation Classes First Certificate Classes Certificate of Advanced English Classes One to One English Guide to the IELTS Test IELTS Speaking Tips Online IELTS Preparation Course IELTS Preparation lessons in London