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

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

Tag Cloud

Journalism MasterclasseflJournalism evening course LondonCyclingBarney RonayRecording vocabularyenglish as a foreign languageThings to see in Londonstudy english onllinenarrative voiceenglish course londonCool as a cucumberVocabulary notebookmusic festival Londonthe people's towerLondonJournalist Course LondonReading in Englishsilent discowriting a mini-sagaTourist tipsEnglish vocabularyRelaxing Londonenglish courses londonLondon marketsSocial programmeInsider info LondonsagaBasic English mistakesIslington Centre for EnglishFCElondon eventsHello from Allyspellingenglish grammar tipsLearn english onlineenglish schoolBusiness EnglishAdjectivemini-sagaEnglish grammarSport Journalism CourseTweedstudy tipsCovent GardenChristmas in LondonLondon SummergrammarWhere to visit Londonpronuciationenglish school onlinegrammar tipsNew blogLearn Englishenglish study tipsEvents in LondonEnglishPlaces to see in LondonFrancaisPolite questionsenglish grammar onlinedefining relative clausesenglish reviewSomewhere to visit LondonImprove your vocabularyNew languageICECAEthe shardHistoric momentListening in EnglishEnglish tipsenglish school londonthings to do londonLondon MarathonexamsSomewhere to visitWorld Naked Bike Ridepast modal verbsFunCambridge Exam Preparationmusic festivals ukJournalism classes LondonField dayVictoria parkILECShopping in LondonAttractions in LondonStudentsJournalism Course LondonEnglish foodIELTSIdiomThings to do in LondonWinter in Londonwriting a mini sagaBeautiful Londonreading tipspast modalsfuture tenses eflfree english grammarmaking predictionsHalloweenVocabularystudy englishNew vocabularyfuture tenses englishSomewhere to go Londonstudent study tipsFree english lessonsenglish grammar helpLearning tipsPeaceful London


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.