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

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

Tag Cloud

english schoolThings to do in Londonmini-sagaSomewhere to visitFCEmaking predictionsBusiness Englishenglish reviewILECLondonlondon eventsfuture tenses eflPeaceful LondonIdiomReading in EnglishTourist tipsCyclingEnglish foodenglish study tipsSomewhere to visit LondonEnglish vocabularyJournalist Course LondonWorld Naked Bike Ridethings to do londonJournalism Masterclasspast modalsEnglishNew blogVocabularyenglish grammar onlineSport Journalism CourseHello from Allystudy englishEvents in LondonNew vocabularypronuciationFunLondon MarathonLondon SummerWhere to visit LondonSomewhere to go LondonEnglish tipsJournalism evening course LondonJournalism Course LondonTweedShopping in Londonenglish as a foreign languagethe shardPlaces to see in LondonLearning tipsWinter in LondonHalloweennarrative voiceIslington Centre for Englishenglish course londonRelaxing LondonBasic English mistakesBeautiful LondonVocabulary notebookCambridge Exam Preparationfree english grammarRecording vocabularyChristmas in Londongrammar tipsImprove your vocabularyHistoric momentNew languageCAEenglish school onlineIELTSstudent study tipsexamsVictoria parkreading tipsLearn english onlineAttractions in LondonLearn Englishenglish courses londonwriting a mini-sagaCool as a cucumbermusic festivals ukInsider info LondonJournalism classes LondonEnglish grammardefining relative clausesgrammareflField dayFrancaisspellingAdjectiveBarney Ronaywriting a mini sagaListening in Englishstudy english onllinesagaICEfuture tenses englishenglish grammar helpPolite questionsenglish grammar tipsthe people's towerFree english lessonsmusic festival LondonSocial programmeCovent GardenThings to see in LondonStudentsLondon marketspast modal verbssilent discoenglish school londonstudy tips