IELTS or Cambridge FCE/CAE Exam?


So, you want to take an English Course. But which one?

Decision between IELTS and CAE/FCE exams.

Here we explore the key differences between the IELTS Academic Exam and a Cambridge Qualification such as Cambridge Advanced (CAE) or Cambridge First (FCE).

(Before we continue, please all note that there is also an IELTS General Exam, which is required for visa application purposes. We DO NOT teach the IELTS General at Richmond English School.)

Ok, back to where we were. IELTS Academic or Cambridge?

Well, there are actually a number of similarities between IELTS and Cambridge. How could it be otherwise? In essence, both tests evaluate your ability to understand and communicate in the English language. It’s as simple as that.

In reality, the key difference is more one of emphasis than a massive difference in content (although there are some differences, especially in the writing section).

IELTS is usually the test required by Institutes of Higher Education such as Universities or professions such as Law, Accounting, Medecine or Nursing, and so the contents of the IELTS tests reflect this by being more academic in nature, aiming to prepare you for a University course taught in English.

But Cambridge General English, as its name suggests, is more general in nature and aims to help you understand and use English in order to work or study and live in a country whose main language is English.

So, let’s think of an example as to what differences this leads to in the exam.

In both Cambridge (First and Advanced) and in IELTS you need to write a for and against essay, but when it comes to writing on more specific subjects, where the IELTS exam tends to have more analytical questions, asking you to describe something like a process or graph, the Cambridge FCE/CAE exam might ask you to write something like a film review or an informal email to a friend about holiday plans.

Can you start to see the difference? Good. OK, what else?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that there is no PASS or FAIL in IELTS. You get a grade according to how well you have done, which is known as your Band Score – and the Band score you need will depend on the University and course you’re applying for. If you want to know more about the IELTS Band score system, please click here.

The Cambridge Exams, on the other hand, are pass or fail. Click here to watch a video about the Cambridge FCE and CAE scale.

A final difference to note is that the IELTS score you get is only valid for 2 years. This is because the University needs to know how well you speak English today, not how well you used to speak it 10 years ago. A Cambridge Qualification, however, doesn’t expire.

If you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Richmond English School on or call us on 0208 878 80 80 and we’d be happy to have a chat. Or simply come along for a free trial class. We look forward to hearing from you. Call us today.

#Cambridge #IELTS

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