The term “Cambridge English Exams” actually covers a wide variety of different language proficiency tests that are developed and administered by Cambridge English Language Assessment. They’re a part of University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Assessment – an international exam group designing and delivering assessments worldwide. In addition to Cambridge exams, they’re also responsible for the IELTS and BULATS exams.
Cambridge exams are one of the most widely recognised English proficiency tests, accepted by over 20,000 universities, companies, and governments worldwide. One of the best aspects of the Cambridge exams is that you’re able to sign up and sit an exam that is the best fit for you. Next, we’re going to cover some of the different exams on offer.
Cambridge English Exams – What are they?
As we already mentioned, Cambridge English Language Assessment administers a wide variety of different English tests, but what is most often thought of as “Cambridge Exams” is a selection of general and business English exams. While they also offer tests for schools and young learners, today, we’re focusing on the most common exams for adults.
These exams are mostly known by their acronyms: KET, PET, FCE, CAE, and CPE. Business English is assessed by the BEC exams. The difference between these exams comes mostly down to the level of proficiency they cover.
PET, or Cambridge English: Preliminary, is one step up from KET, its aim is to demonstrate a basic level of English proficiency in everyday use. The exam corresponds to CEFR level B1.
FCE, or Cambridge English: First, proves that you have the ability to independently live and study in an English-speaking country. It corresponds to CEFR level B2.
CAE, or Cambridge English: Advanced, focuses on assessing advanced English language skills. This is the exam proves that you can successfully attend university and work professionally in an English-speaking environment. CAE corresponds to CEFR level C1.
CPE, or Cambridge English: Proficiency, is the highest level of exam offered. It demonstrates you’ve acquired English to an exceptional, near-native level. This is required to attend PhD programmes and work in highly specialised fields. The corresponding CEFR level is C2.
The BEC exams deal with testing the English skills required in everyday professional situations, and are subsequently divided into three levels:
BEC Preliminary, or Cambridge English: Business Preliminary, is the lowest level of business English exams, it demonstrates you have the ability to converse in an everyday office setting. Corresponding CEFR level is B1.
BEC Vantage, or Cambridge English: Business Vantage, demonstrates your ability to work successfully in an international company and can converse with ease on most business topics. The exam corresponds to CEFR level B2.
BEC Higher, or Cambridge English: Business Higher, is the highest level of exam offered in business English. It shows your advanced English skills and your ability to work at a senior position. Corresponds to CEFR level C1.
So, you can see how you have a wide selection available – you are able to choose the exam that corresponds closest to your needs and focus on developing the English skills required.
How to take Cambridge English Exams?
In order to sit a Cambridge English Exam, you have to find an authorised exam centre close to you, register for a suitable date, and pay the exam fee. There are over 2,800 centres in 130 countries, so you’ll mostly likely find something suitable for you. The exam fees are determined by each testing centre, so contact them directly to see how much you’re required to pay.
Do note that not all centres offer examinations for all of the Cambridge English Exams, so be sure to check you’re signing up for the right one. To find your closest testing centre, use this page that lists all of the accredited exam centres worldwide.
What do Cambridge English Exams look like?
Each of the Cambridge English Exams is divided into different parts that measure the four language skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. On the lower levels, KET and PET, reading and writing part have been combined into one exam paper. From FCE upwards, every language skill gets its own exam section.
You can take each of the exams in either a paper or computer-based format. The time required to sit the exams varies depending on the type you’re taking – the KET lasts for about 2 hours, while you can expect the CPE to take around 4 hours.
The grading of the exams uses the Cambridge English Scale which is designed to give you detailed information on your performance. The scale goes from 120 to 230, with different scores corresponding to different exams. So, to pass the KET, you need a score of 120, while 150 will earn you a distinction, while the CPE starts from 200 points and goes up to 230.
How to prepare for Cambridge English Exams?
Luckily for anyone preparing to take one of the exams, Cambridge English Language Assessment offers great free materials to help you.
They offer a very thorough overview of exam formats and free sample tests to practice with, so you can get familiar with what you’re going to be up against. To find out more about how to practice for your exam, first pick out the exam you need to take, then visit the specific page for your exam to find out more about the format and find preparation materials.
And don’t forget to sign up for a tutor to help you prepare – we have several with experience in helping students prepare for Cambridge English Exams.