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Cambridge English Exams & How They Are Mapped to the CEFR

There are five main Cambridge English exams:

  1. Key English Test (KET),
  2. Preliminary English Test (PET),
  3. First Certificate in English (FCE),
  4. Certificate of Advanced English (CAE), and
  5. Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE).

They design these exams to assess competency in English for learners of English as a second or foreign language.

KET

It is the easiest of the Cambridge exams. It is for the elementary level. You can do this exam if you want to know that you have basic knowledge of reading, writing, speaking, and listening in English. The test has three sections:

  1. Reading & Writing – 70 minutes, 56 questions.
  2. Listening – 25 minutes.
  3. Speaking – 8:10 minutes.

PET

It is for the intermediate level. With this level of English, you will be able to enjoy holidays in English speaking countries. And once you have passed this exam, you should probably continue your studying in English. The test has three sections:

  1. Reading & Writing are taken together – 90 minutes.
  2. Listening – 30 minutes.
  3. Speaking – an interview, 10 minutes.

FCE

It is the most important of the Cambridge exams as it gives you the first certificate in English. It is for upper intermediate level. The test has four sections:

  1. Reading & Use of English – 75 minutes.
  2. Writing – 2 essays, 80 minutes.
  3. Listening – 40 minutes. 
  4. Speaking – interview, normally with another candidate, 14 minutes.

CAE

It is for you if you can communicate with confidence in English for work or study purposes. The test has four sections:

  1. Reading & Use of English – 90 minutes.
  2. Writing – 2 tasks, 90 minutes.
  3. Listening – 40 minutes, 30 questions.
  4. Speaking – interview, normally with another candidate, 15 minutes.

CPE

It is the hardest of the Cambridge exams. It is for super advanced level. If you pass this test, it means that your English is good enough to teach English to others and to study at any British university. The test has five sections:

1. Reading – 4 parts, 90 minutes.

  • part 1: 3 texts with 18 gaps.
  • part 2: 4 related texts with 2 questions each.
  • part 3: text with missing paragraphs.
  • part 4: text with multiple choice questions.

2. Composition – 2 tasks, 2 hours.

3. Use of English – 3 parts, 90 minutes

  • part 1: text with 15 gaps.
  • part 2: word formation.
  • part 3: gapped sentences.

4. Listening – 2 parts, 3 or 4 recordings, 40 minutes.

  • part 1: 4 passages with multiple choice questions.
  • part 2: 1 long passage with gapped text.

5. Interview – normally with another candidate, 15 minutes.

Cambridge English exams aim to provide information about the learners’ level in each individual language skill (reading, writing, speaking, and listening), to enable learners to act on problem areas and monitor their own progress. They design these exams to allow students to actively involve in their learning and gain self-confidence as they move to the next level.

Cambridge English exams are also mapped according to The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF or CEFR).

(CEF or CEFR) was put together by the Council of Europe as a way of standardizing the levels of language exams in different regions. It is very widely used internationally and all important exams are mapped to the CEFR.

CEFR has six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. Here is a short description for each level and the Cambridge English exam at it.

A1 level

They describe it as a basic ability to communicate and exchange information in a simple way.

A2 level

They describe it as an ability to deal with simple, straightforward information and begin to express oneself in familiar contexts. Cambridge Key English Test (KET) is at this level.

B1 level

They describe it as the ability to express oneself in a limited way in familiar situations and to deal in a general way with non-routine information. Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) is at this level.

B2 level

They describe it as the capacity to achieve most goals and express oneself on a range of topics. Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) is at this level.

C1 level

They describe it as the ability to communicate with the emphasis on how well it is done, in terms of appropriacy, sensitivity and the capacity to deal with unfamiliar topics. Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) is at this level.

C2 level

They describe it as the capacity to deal with material which is academic or cognitively demanding and to use language to good effect at a level of performance which may in certain aspects be more advanced than that of an average native speaker. Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) is at this level.

What is your level of English? Which exam should you study for?

If you want to check your level of English, visit Cambridge site, and test your English. At the end of the test, your level will be assessed at a CEF level (A2 to C2). Then, with the comparison mentioned above, you will be able to decide which exam you should study for. 

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4 thoughts on “Cambridge English Exams & How They Are Mapped to the CEFR

  1. Sailakshmi Chavan says:

    It is really interesting. Can working professionals with technical qualification like B.Tech / M.Tech take one of these exams and become ENGLISH teachers?

    1. Mohamed Ramadan says:

      Taking tkt, celta and then delta is needed to become an English teacher. We’re going to elaborate on these exams as soon as possible.

  2. Amira says:

    Dear Sir
    I want to take an English level test.

  3. Mohamed Ramadan says:

    Dear Amira,
    Here is the Cambridge English Placement Test. Try it to know your English level.
    https://goo.gl/AZjFpm
    Good Luck.

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