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

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

Tag Cloud

London MarathongrammarSport Journalism Coursemusic festival Londonenglish study tipsThings to do in LondonBusiness EnglishSocial programmesagaexamsspellingNew blogenglish school londonEvents in LondonILECfree english grammarLondonenglish school onlineInsider info Londonpast modal verbsenglish grammar helpCAEenglish courses londonHello from AllyVocabulary notebookEnglish foodIslington Centre for EnglishBeautiful LondonSomewhere to go LondonJournalism classes LondonICEmaking predictionsJournalist Course LondonHalloweenJournalism MasterclassFrancaisreading tipsCambridge Exam PreparationTweedStudentswriting a mini-sagathe people's towerEnglish vocabularylondon eventsenglish grammar onlineLondon marketsgrammar tipsfuture tenses eflstudy tipsJournalism evening course LondonJournalism Course Londonfuture tenses englishdefining relative clausesenglish grammar tipsShopping in LondonHistoric momentField daystudy englishListening in Englishenglish as a foreign languageRelaxing LondonReading in EnglishLearning tipsstudent study tipsCyclingRecording vocabularyImprove your vocabularyEnglishPeaceful LondonBasic English mistakesIdiomVictoria parkPlaces to see in LondonCovent GardenEnglish grammarSomewhere to visit LondoneflWhere to visit Londonstudy english onllinewriting a mini sagaThings to see in LondonpronuciationPolite questionsFree english lessonsmusic festivals ukChristmas in Londonthe shardenglish course londonFunthings to do londonenglish schoolBarney RonayTourist tipsnarrative voiceenglish reviewNew vocabularyAttractions in Londonsilent discoLearn EnglishCool as a cucumberAdjectiveNew languagemini-sagaVocabularyLearn english onlineWorld Naked Bike Ridepast modalsIELTSLondon SummerSomewhere to visitWinter in LondonFCEEnglish tips


We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site and to collect data on how visitors interact with our site, products and services. By clicking accept, you agree to our use of these tools for advertising, analytics and support.