Cambridge Assessment English - Types of Exam, Which is Right for You?

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Aarushi Jain
Updated on Sep 01, 2022 10:06 AM IST

Ever heard about the Cambridge English exams or qualifications? Just like other English language proficiency exams such as IELTS or TOEFL, Cambridge Assessment English has different English exams for different sets of candidates. Let us know more! 

Cambridge Assessment English - Types of Exam, Which is Right for You?

Cambridge Assessment English: The Cambridge English qualifications or exams are designed for a wide range of consumers, with specifically defined levels/categories for a different set of candidates like school level, higher-education level, business level, multilevel and teaching exams as well.

Among the various exams provided by Cambridge Assessment English, the CAE and CPE are primarily used for foreign university admissions. A score of B or higher on the CAE is equivalent to the C1 English level, which roughly equates to a 7-8 band on the IELTS. Furthermore, the CPE is the most advanced English proficiency test available, and a result of A or B is equivalent to a C2 competence level.

In brief, each Cambridge Assessment English exam or qualification assesses a specific level of English, thus before taking the Cambridge exam, you must first decide which exam is right for your level. Here, we will discuss the different Cambridge Assessment English qualification levels and exams in much detail.

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What is Cambridge Assessment English?

Cambridge Assessment English, sometimes known as Cambridge English, is a global creator and provider of English language teaching, learning, and assessment services. Cambridge Assessment English is a division of Cambridge University Press & Assessment, the University of Cambridge's non-teaching division.

Cambridge English created a number of English proficiency programmes, including the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and other Cambridge English Qualification tests. Cambridge Assessment English also provides a large number of online Cambridge English courses, training, Cambridge certificate programmes, and free Cambridge Assessment English courses.

Current Cambridge Assessment English Qualifications/Exams

Each Cambridge English Qualification focuses on a different level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). There are many Cambridge Assessment English tests that are available. These are enlisted below:

Cambridge Assessment English: School Level Exams

These Cambridge Assessment English qualifications at the school level are intended to assist school-age children and young people in improving their English language skills. The exams under this category are as follows:

Levels/Qualification

Certificate Name

Pre A1 Starters

Young Learners English Tests (YLE) Starters

A1 Movers

Young Learners English Tests (YLE) Movers

A2 Flyers

Young Learners English Tests (YLE) Flyers

A2 Key for Schools

Key English Test (KET)

B1 Preliminary for Schools

Preliminary English Test (PET)

B2 First for Schools

First Certificate in English (FCE)

C1 Advanced

Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)

C2 Proficiency

Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

Cambridge Assessment English: General and Higher Education Level Exams

These Cambridge Assessment English qualifications are intended for adults. The exam format for A2 Key, B1 Preliminary and B2 First is the same as for the school-based versions of these qualifications (e.g. number of papers, number of questions, time allowance), but the topics and syllabus are tailored to adult learners. The exams under this category are as follows:

Levels/Qualification

Certificate Name

A2 Key

Key English Test (KET)

B1 Preliminary

Preliminary English Test (PET)

B2 First

First Certificate in English (FCE)

C1 Advanced

Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)

C2 Proficiency

Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

Cambridge A2 Key (KET)

The Cambridge Assessment English A2 Key exam is a pass/fail test, with those who succeed receiving a certificate that does not expire. It was formerly known as the KET exam (Cambridge Key English Test), which is intended for students with an elementary level of English. It is the lowest level of the Cambridge exam available to individuals outside of the United Kingdom. The Cambridge A2 Key exam is available in both paper and computer formats.

Exam Structure

The A2 Key exam assesses all four skills i,e., listening, reading, writing, and speaking - and is divided into three sections:

  • Part 1 (60 minutes): The first component of the KET Exam assesses both reading comprehension and writing abilities. It is broken into seven subsections and contains a total of 32 questions. The first component of the test contains multiple-choice questions, followed by fill-in-the-blank questions, and finally a brief writing assignment. The reading material and writing prompts are all written in basic English.

  • Part 2 (24 minutes of recording time + an additional 6 minutes to transmit answers to the answer sheet): The Cambridge A2 Key's second section assesses listening comprehension. There are a few brief recordings of common English being spoken slowly and clearly, as well as questions concerning the recordings. Each recording is listened to twice. Some of the questions are multiple-choice, while others need you to fill in the blanks. This section contains a total of 25 questions.

  • Part 3 (8 - 10 minutes): The final section of the KET Exam assesses English speaking ability. Students are divided into pairs and asked to converse with an examiner and then with one another. This group environment is intended to be more realistic than a one-on-one conversation. A second examiner observes and scores but does not talk. Depending on the exam centre's schedule, this speaking examination may be given on a different day than the first two sections of the A2 Key exam.

Cambridge B1 Preliminary (PET)

The Cambridge Assessment English B1 Preliminary exam, formerly known as the PET exam (Preliminary English Test), is intended for students with intermediate English skills. It is a pass/fail test, with those who pass receiving a certificate that does not expire. The B1 Preliminary exam can be completed on paper or a computer. The PET lasts 140 minutes in total in both formats.

Exam Structure

The B1 Preliminary exam assesses each of the four skills of the English language and the exam structure is organised as follows:

  • Part 1 (45 minutes): The PET Exam's first section assesses reading comprehension. It is broken into six subsections and contains a total of 32 questions. In addition to multiple-choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank questions, there are two writing prompts (a postcard and either a letter or a story).

  • Part 2 (45 minutes): The writing skill is tested in this area of the B1 Preliminary exam. It was previously part of the first section, but in 2020 it was divided into its own section. It consists of two writing assignments: an e-mail and either an article or a tale. Each writing sample should be no more than 100 words long.

  • Part 3 (24 minutes + 6 minutes for transferring answers to the answer sheet): The PET exam's third component assesses listening comprehension. You must listen to each recording twice and answer questions about it. This section contains 25 questions, each worth one point. Multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions are available.

  • Part 4 (12 to 17 minutes): The B1 Preliminary exam's final component assesses speaking abilities. Students are divided into pairs and asked to converse with an examiner and then with one another. A second examiner is present and listening. The examiner begins the speaking examination by asking questions about each student. The examiner next shows each student a picture, which they describe and discuss. The examiner then presents a situation to the students, who then discuss potential solutions. Depending on the testing centre's schedule, the speaking test may be offered on a different day than the previous three sections of the B1 Preliminary.

Cambridge B2 First Certificate (FCE)

The Cambridge Assessment English B2 First exam, formerly known as the FCE exam or the Cambridge First Certificate, is intended for students who have completed upper-intermediate English courses. Because B2 is frequently the minimal level required by degree programmes in English-speaking countries, it is the most popular of the Cambridge English exams.

The B2 First Certificate is a pass/fail test, with those who succeed receiving a certificate that does not expire. The FCE exam can be taken either on paper or on a computer.

Exam structure

The Cambridge B2 First Certificate examination covers all four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking and the structure is as follows:

  • Part 1 (75 minutes): The B2 First Certificate Exam's first section assesses reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. There are 52 multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions in this section. This section of the FCE requires you to read approximately 2,200 words.

  • Part 2 (80 minutes): The Cambridge First Certificate's second section assesses writing abilities. You will compose two texts of 140 to 190 words each. The first prompt requires you to write an essay. You have a choice of text formats for the second prompt: article, letter, review, and so on.

  • Part 3 (40 minutes): Listening comprehension is the third section of the B2 First Certificate. You listen to short speeches, discussions, or other sorts of authentic English speaking and respond to questions about it. Every recording is played twice. This section contains a total of 30 questions.

  • Part 4 (14 minutes): The FCE's final section assesses English speaking abilities. Students complete this section of the test in pairs, and depending on the test centre, they may have to take it on a separate day from the other three parts of the exam. The speaking test is divided into four brief sections, the first two of which you talk alone and the second two of which you speak with the other candidate.

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Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE)

The Cambridge Assessment English C1 Advanced Exam, formerly known as the CAE, is the exam that follows the Cambridge English exam suite. This exam is widely approved by UK universities for advanced study programmes. This exam is also a pass/fail test, with those who pass receiving a certificate that does not expire. The CAE exam can be taken either on paper or a computer. In either instance, it lasts a total of 235 minutes.

Exam Structure

The Cambridge C1 Advanced exam structure is as follows:

  • Part 1 (90 minutes): The C1 Advanced's first section assesses reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. This section contains 56 multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions organised into eight subsections. This section of the CAE requires you to read around 3,500 words from newspapers, magazines, textbooks, advertising, or other legitimate English writing.

  • Part 2 (90 minutes): The Cambridge C1 Advanced exam's second section assesses writing ability. There are two equal-length prompts (about 250 words to write). The first prompt is an essay presenting your perspective regarding something. The second prompt allows you to select one of the various responses to the information supplied.

  • Part 3 (40 minutes): Listening comprehension is the third element of the CAE test. You listen to the radio, television, or other forms of native English speech and respond to questions about it. Every recording is played twice. This section contains 30 questions separated into four subsections.

  • Part 4 (15 minutes): The C1 Advanced's final section assesses English speaking abilities. Students complete this section of the test in pairs, and depending on the test centre, they may be requested to return to the test centre on a different day for this section. The speaking examination is divided into four brief sections, the first two of which you speak alone and with the examiner, and the second two of which you speak with the other candidate. A second examiner is present in the room, taking notes but not taking part in the interview.

Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE)

The highest-level exam in the Cambridge Assessment English exam suite is the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam, formerly known as CPE. Obtaining the Cambridge C2 certificate of English competence demonstrates that a student has mastered English to a near-native level and is capable of studying or working in any English setting.

CPE is also a pass/fail test, with those who pass receiving a certificate that does not expire. The Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam is available in both paper and digital formats. Both the paper and online versions last a total of 236 minutes.

Exam Structure

Listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills are tested in the CPE exam and the exam structure is as follows:

  • Part 1 (90 minutes): The C2 Proficiency exam's first section assesses reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. This section contains seven subsections and 53 multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching questions. This section of the CPE requires you to read around 3,000 words. All of the text is original work from books, newspaper and magazine articles, and the internet.

  • Part 2 (90 minutes): The CPE exam's second component assesses writing competence. There are two parts. The student reads two short texts in the first portion and then writes an essay summarising the arguments of both texts and expressing their own perspectives on the same concepts. In the second prompt, the student is given five text alternatives to choose from, one of which is based on a book of English literature that students must have read before the test. The books accepted are altered from time to time.

  • Part 3 (40 minutes): The C2 Proficiency exam's third section assesses listening comprehension. The student listens to native English voice recordings and responds to questions about what he hears. Each recording is listened to twice. The recordings, which are mostly radio, television, and other actual speech at native speed, may contain a range of English accents. This section contains 30 questions separated into four subsections.

  • Part 4 (16 minutes): The CPE's final section assesses English conversational skills. Students take the C2 Proficiency speaking test in pairs and depending on the test centre's schedule, they may be asked to return on a different day. The speaking test is divided into three brief sections, one of which the student speaks alone with the examiner and the other two in which the student speaks with the other student being tested.

Cambridge Assessment English: Business Level Exams

These Cambridge Assessment English qualifications under this category are intended for adult learners learning English for business purposes. The exams under this category are as follows:

Exams

B1 Business Preliminary

B2 Business Vantage

C1 Business Higher

Cambridge Assessment English: Multilevel Tests

Multilevel examinations are used to determine which English learning programme or exam is most suited to a learner. These tests cover numerous CEFR levels in a single test.

Tests

CEFR level

Cambridge English Placement Test

A1-C2

Cambridge English Placement Test for Young Learners

Pre A1-A2

Linguaskill

A1-C2

IELTS

A1-C2

Note: Cambridge Exams Publishing, a collaboration with Cambridge University Press, creates Cambridge-branded IELTS resources and materials to assist students in preparing for and practising for their exams.

Cambridge Assessment English: Teaching Exams

Courses and qualifications for teachers of all levels of expertise can be undertaken with Cambridge Assessment English tests.

Qualification/Exams

Teaching level on the Cambridge Assessment English Teaching Framework

Course Delivery

CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Foundation/Developing

Face-to-face or online course with in-person teaching practice and is available as a full-time or part-time course.

CELT-P (Certificate in English Language Teaching Primary)

Foundation/Developing

A modular online course with optional face-to-face components. An exam and teaching practice are used to evaluate students.

CELT-S (Certificate in English Language Teaching Secondary)

Foundation/Developing

A modular online course with optional face-to-face components. An exam and teaching practice are used to evaluate students.

Language for Teaching

Foundation/Developing/Proficient

Online learning with optional in-person components.

TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test)

Foundation/Developing

Exams have a modular format that is adaptable.

ICELT (In-service Certificate in English Language Teaching)

Developing/Proficient

Part-time in-person course with teaching practiCe and distance learning assistance.

DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Proficient/Expert

Coursework and tests are combined in a flexible modular style. Distance learning assistance, local tutoring, and evaluated teaching practise

Certificate in EMI Skills (English as a medium of instruction in Higher Education)

Proficient/Expert

Online study with optional in-person sessions

Train the Trainer

Proficient/Expert

Part-time face-to-face course.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

The Council of Europe and Cambridge Assessment English played an early role in the establishment of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and all Cambridge English certifications and examinations are aligned with the CEFR levels.

CEFR describes language proficiency on a six-point scale, ranging from A1 for beginners to C2 for those who have mastered a language. This enables anyone involved in language instruction and testing, such as teachers and students, to examine the level of various certificates rapidly. Employers and educational institutions in their country would be able to easily compare our credentials to those gained through other assessments.

Each Cambridge English Qualification is designed to target certain CEFR levels, however, the exam also includes test material from neighbouring levels. B2 First, for example, is geared at B2, but there are also test items that cover B1 and C1. This enables conclusions about candidates' ability to be drawn if they are a level below or above the one targeted.

If you have any further questions related to Cambridge Assessment English tests and their uses, then feel free to contact our experts at abroad@collegedekho.com.

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FAQs

How many Cambridge English exams are there for adults?

For adults, there are a total of 5 Cambridge Assessment English exams for general and higher education levels. The Cambridge Assessment English exams for adults correspond to the CEFR (from A2 to C2). These exams are as follows: 

  1. A2 Key test 

  2. B1 Preliminary test

  3. B2 First test

  4. C1 Advanced test

  5. C2 Proficiency test

Is the Cambridge English exam hard?

Yes, the Cambridge Assessment English language exams and qualifications are comparatively harder than other English language proficiency exams like IELTS, TOEFL or PTE. The CPE is the most difficult English language exam in the Cambridge suite of exams, and holding it demonstrates that ‘you have mastered English to an extraordinary degree’,  according to Cambridge English.

What is the Cambridge English assessment test?

Cambridge English Qualifications, often known as Cambridge Assessment English examinations, are comprehensive assessments that make studying English fun, effective, and rewarding. The novel technique promotes continual advancement by providing a clear path for improving language abilities. Cambridge English offers certificates in schools, general and higher education, and business.

Is C2 the highest level of Cambridge English Assessment?

One of the Cambridge English Qualifications is C2 Proficiency, formerly known as Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE). It is our highest level qualification, demonstrating that you are a highly competent English speaker. A C2 Proficiency qualification demonstrates to the world that you have remarkable command of the English language.

Can I take the Cambridge exam online?

No, you can not take the Cambridge Assessment English exams online at home. Cambridge English credentials must be taken at an authorised exam centre under controlled exam settings. They are not available for purchase online. However, Cambridge English does provide computer-based versions of several of our exams, which are proctored and follow the same format as the paper-based exams. 

What is the validity or expiry date of the Cambridge Assessment English certificate?

All of the Cambridge Assessment English exams results/qualifications/certificates have no expiration date. It demonstrates that you displayed language abilities at a specific level on a specific date; nevertheless, language skills are known to deteriorate with time if not used and maintained.

Is B2 Cambridge English level fluent?

The Cambridge Assessment English test Level B2 refers to a more advanced, self-sufficient level than prior levels. A B2 level Cambridge user can communicate in a clear and detailed manner simply and spontaneously. Although this is not a native speaker, a B2 user can comprehend and be understood in most scenarios.

Is the C1 Cambridge exam tough?

The Cambridge Assessment English exams are gruelling, challenging, and truly put your English skills to the test. You will not pass if you are not a true C1 level Cambridge English learner with the proper strategies. As a result, avoid taking the test if you are unsure of your level or if your teacher advises against it. 

Can a native speaker be at the C1 level in the Cambridge Assessment English?

A Cambridge English C1 level speaker is also considered to be a fluent speaker of the language. They will have no difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the language, and they will not need to pause to ponder or think when speaking in the English language.

Is B2 Cambridge English level good?

Level B2 of the Cambridge Assessment English is a more sophisticated, self-sufficient level than the preceding levels. A B2 user can communicate clearly and concisely easily and spontaneously. Although this is not an experienced speaker, a B2 user can comprehend and be understood in most scenarios.

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