Differences between Cambridge English exams and IELTS

The Cambridge and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exams are two benchmarks in terms of English certification. Many students or young professionals want to attempt to obtain a valuable certificate that will open doors to prestigious universities, schools and companies or allow them to obtain a visa to travel to an English-speaking country. But what to choose between the new name of Cambridge English Qualifications and IELTS? How do you know which one is right for you and your projects? To make it clearer, we explain below the main differences between the Cambridge English and IELTS exams.

Before talking about what makes them different, here are some similarities between the Cambridge exams and the IELTS test: they are both designed by the Cambridge Assessment English department of the English University of Cambridge, although IELTS is a collaboration between Cambridge, the British Council and IDP Australia.
Both assess the 4 main language skills, namely speaking, writing, listening and reading. They are of equivalent difficulty. Fees for the two schemes are equivalent, although they may vary slightly between exam centers. Both are recognized by most institutions of higher education at home and abroad. Both are accepted by immigration authorities in English-speaking countries as proof of a sufficient level of English for visa purposes.

Of course, Cambridge English Qualifications and IELTS are far from being the same exam.

Here are the main differences:

  • IELTS is a test, and Cambridge English Qualifications is an exam. In practical terms, this means that IELTS is used to determine a candidate’s level of English, while the Cambridge exams are used to validate a particular level.
  • Cambridge English Qualifications is a group of several exams depending on the level to be assessed, from A2 to C2. A candidate who takes the B2 First exam will obtain a C2 qualification, with or without an endorsement, or a lower (B1) or higher (C1) level qualification depending on his or her results. IELTS is a single test without distinction of level. It is the score obtained in the test that determines the candidate’s level. For example, a score between 5.5 and 6.0 is required to validate a B2 level.
  • Not all exam centers offer both certifications. In Switzerland, 14 exam centers offer Cambridge English Qualifications, and 20 centers are authorized to offer IELTS.
  • The validity of the two certificates is different. While IELTS is only valid for 2 years, the Cambridge exams do not have an expiration date. This is a significant advantage for professionals who wish to demonstrate their language skills during their careers.
  • The Cambridge exams are longer than the IELTS exams. IELTS takes 2 hours and 40 minutes, while Cambridge English qualifications take between 2 hours and 4 hours (approximately) depending on the level chosen. For example, the A2 Key exam, formerly Cambridge English Key (KET), takes about 2 hours, and the C2 Proficiency exam, formerly Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE), takes about 4 hours.

Do you want to prepare for one of these English exams? Check out our IELTS training or Cambridge English preparation program.

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