IELTS and Cambridge Exam comparison

Jan 30, 2012

IELTS vs Cambridge First Certificate and Advanced Exams

A question I often hear from students; "I want to take an English Language Exam but which one should I take? IELTS or Cambridge First Certificate (FCE)/ Advanced (CAE)?".  Well, there are many similarities and differences and I have put together what I think are the most important:


These are General English Exams. They not only test your General English, but a really good course should improve your all-round language skills.  They are a great way to develop your vocabulary, spoken fluency/ accuracy, writing and listening skills and your all-round confidence in English.  It's like taking a General English course with an aim to help you focus and get motivated.  Topics covered are very wide and can include The Environment, Love, Literature, Finding a job, Owning a pet, for example.  Marking is pass or fail with an added CEFR result (Common European Framework for Language Reference) such as B1 (Intermediate) if you don't get over 60% overall.  People consider the First Certificate as the level a student needs to function in an English speaking office environment.  First Certificate and Advanced Exams are valid for life and you can take an exam every 6 weeks.


Conversely, IELTS is officially valid for only 2 years.  However, as an employer, I am always very happy to see a good IELTS result on an applicant's CV, even if it is 10 years old.  It still demonstrates a the person's language ability or, at least, their realistic potential. Naturally, a student isn't IELTS 7.5 one day and then 5.0 in 5 years time, particularly if he or she has stayed in the UK.  On the other hand, most Universities tend to be stricter and only accept IELTS if it has been taken within the last 2 years.

IELTS is much more limited in subject matter.  Subjects are academic and can include Sociology, History, Literature, Sciences, Architecture etc.  In short, anything that you study at University.

IELTS is not pass or fail, it is a sliding scale of achievement from 0 to 9.  Most Universities want 6.0 or more for a course that is theoretical in nature and 5.0 for a very practical one.  Masters degrees generally require 7.0 or higher.

I only recommend taking IELTS if the student has a clear reason to take it such as:

1.  "My potential employer needs me to get a 6.0 to start work."

2.  "My University needs me to get 7.5 for my Masters degree."

..otherwise, my advice is, to improve your English in all areas, choose Cambridge First Certificate or Advanced.

Also note that IELTS exam courses tend to teach you how to get the best score possible in the exam, rather than making you a better English speaker, listener, reader or writer.

In summary:

First Certificate and Advanced Exams

    • General English Exams.
    • Better for your overall fluency and confidence in English.
    • Pass or fail with a grade from A to C.
    • Added CEFR level grade.
    • Valid for life.
    • Wider range of topics.
    • An exam every 6 weeks.

IELTS exams

    • Valid for 2 years for University but longer in reality for employers.
    • Lots of exam dates - every 2 weeks.
    • Academic language - the English you need for a University degree.
    • Courses are very, very exam focused.

ICE is enrolling now for IELTS Exam Courses, Cambridge First Certificate Courses and Cambridge Advanced Exam courses for day and evenings.

Best of luck with your English!


Category: news

Add Pingback

Please add a comment

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »

Category List

Tag List

free english grammar (2)
efl (4)
Learn english online (12)
FCE (4)
exams (1)
pronuciation (3)
English (1)
Shopping in London (4)
Cool as a cucumber (1)
Events in London (1)
Places to see in London (4)
London markets (4)
Covent Garden (1)
Historic moment (1)
past modal verbs (1)
Journalist Course London (1)
Vocabulary notebook (8)
the shard (1)
Social programme (1)
Peaceful London (2)
mini-saga (1)
english course london (12)
english school online (1)
English vocabulary (3)
Recording vocabulary (3)
Vocabulary (11)
Barney Ronay (1)
Basic English mistakes (1)
study english (1)
Improve your vocabulary (5)
Francais (2)
Attractions in London (1)
Field day (1)
ILEC (1)
english courses london (1)
future tenses english (1)
english grammar help (1)
making predictions (1)
English food (3)
Journalism Course London (1)
Learn English (15)
silent disco (1)
Beautiful London (8)
spelling (1)
Idiom (3)
london events (1)
music festivals uk (1)
London (5)
the people's tower (1)
Fun (1)
CAE (3)
Victoria park (1)
study tips (9)
Tourist tips (5)
future tenses efl (1)
Christmas in London (3)
World Naked Bike Ride (1)
Journalism evening course London (1)
music festival London (1)
writing a mini saga (1)
London Summer (7)
Reading in English (1)
Somewhere to visit London (1)
London Marathon (1)
Tweed (1)
Listening in English (2)
ICE (5)
grammar (1)
Cycling (1)
Islington Centre for English (6)
Relaxing London (4)
Things to see in London (4)
English tips (4)
Winter in London (6)
grammar tips (1)
Journalism Masterclass (1)
New language (7)
narrative voice (2)
New vocabulary (4)
Somewhere to visit (9)
Where to visit London (3)
study english onlline (1)
Adjective (2)
Halloween (2)
things to do london (1)
Polite questions (1)
Students (2)
english review (1)
Cambridge Exam Preparation (1)
english school (2)
reading tips (1)
Business English (1)
Learning tips (10)
Insider info London (14)
english grammar online (1)
Journalism classes London (1)
english study tips (1)
New blog (1)
english grammar tips (1)
english as a foreign language (3)
past modals (1)
Things to do in London (6)
student study tips (1)
writing a mini-saga (1)
english school london (12)
Sport Journalism Course (1)
Somewhere to go London (3)
Free english lessons (10)
English grammar (4)
Hello from Ally (1)
saga (1)
defining relative clauses (1)

Tag Cloud

english reviewSomewhere to visit Londonfuture tenses eflEnglish grammarILECThings to do in LondonThings to see in LondonCyclinggrammar tipsIdiomBasic English mistakespronuciationSport Journalism Coursepast modal verbsAttractions in Londonexamsenglish grammar helplondon eventsJournalism MasterclassRecording vocabularyNew vocabularyBarney RonayImprove your vocabularyWorld Naked Bike RideVocabularyCAEVocabulary notebookFunthe shardLondonmusic festival Londonenglish courses londonTweedenglish study tipsEnglish vocabularyLondon SummerVictoria parkenglish course londonEnglish foodfuture tenses englishLearn english onlineenglish grammar tipsenglish schoolgrammarwriting a mini sagafree english grammarCambridge Exam PreparationJournalism Course Londonenglish school londonstudy tipsSocial programmespellingIELTSAdjectivewriting a mini-sagaenglish as a foreign languageenglish grammar onlineFrancaissagaChristmas in Londonmini-sagastudy englishSomewhere to go LondonPeaceful LondonRelaxing Londonmaking predictionsPlaces to see in Londondefining relative clausesthings to do londonnarrative voiceHistoric momentHello from Allystudy english onllineFree english lessonsICEField dayCool as a cucumberNew blogCovent GardenJournalism evening course LondonEnglish tipsListening in Englishmusic festivals ukWinter in Londonthe people's towerLearn EnglishHalloweenFCEShopping in LondonPolite questionsLearning tipsstudent study tipsEnglishStudentsLondon marketsTourist tipsJournalism classes Londonenglish school onlineReading in EnglishSomewhere to visitBeautiful LondonWhere to visit LondonLondon Marathonreading tipsIslington Centre for Englishsilent discoeflBusiness EnglishJournalist Course LondonInsider info Londonpast modalsNew languageEvents in London