University of Cambridge ESOL examination

Cambridge English Language Assessment is a non-profit assessment organisation that provides examinations in English language ability for non-native speakers of English and English teaching qualifications.[1]


Cambridge English Language Assessment was formerly known as Cambridge ESOL. ESOL stands for "English for Speakers of Other Languages", see English language learning and teaching. Cambridge ESOL is part of Cambridge Assessment, formerly known as the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).

Cambridge English examinations are taken by over four million learners in more than 130 countries each year. The exams cover general English, business English, academic English and English for young learners. Cambridge English Language Assessment also offers teaching qualifications such as TKT, ICELT, CELTA and DELTA and is well known for its research and validation operations.

Individual exams

General English

  • Cambridge English: Key (KET): elementary (A2 in CEFR)
  • Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET): intermediate (B1 in CEFR)
  • Cambridge English: First (FCE): upper intermediate (B2 in CEFR)
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE): advanced (C1 in CEFR)
  • Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE): very advanced/proficient (C2 in CEFR)

English for School

  • Cambridge English: Key for Schools (KET for Schools)
  • Cambridge English: Preliminary for Schools (PET for Schools)
  • Cambridge English: First for Schools (FCE for Schools)

Business English

  • Cambridge English: Business Certificates (BEC): This exam in Business English can be taken at three levels (Preliminary, Vantage and Higher).
  • BULATS (Business Language Testing Service): This is an assessment service for companies, for showing language skills in English, French, German and Spanish. In Japan, the online versions of Reading & Listening, Speaking and Writing tests became open to individual test takers in September 2011.

Legal English

  • Cambridge English: Legal (ILEC): A high-level language qualification for lawyers set at levels B2 and C1 of the CEFR. ILEC is equivalent in level to the FCE and CAE, and assesses language skills in a legal context. Examinations at the C1 level may be used as proof of the level of language necessary to work in an international legal context or to follow a course of legal study at university level.

Academic English

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): IELTS is managed by an international partnership of not-for-profit organisations - the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP Education, and is administered through more than 400 test centres in 150 countries worldwide. More than one and a half million candidates sit the test each year, which is used by more than 1,000 universities and colleges in the Anglosphere, including more than 700 institutions in the USA, as a standard entrance requirement. Its main competitor is the US-based TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Both exams test not just general English but also English for academic purposes.

Young Learners' English

Skills for life

Most Cambridge exams are available around the world and suit anyone who wants to use English in their studies or work, in other words, English as a foreign language. These exams are tailored to the needs of those needing English as a second language.

  • Certificates in ESOL Skills for Life: These certificates also give separate marks for each type of ability. The exam is for ESOL learners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Scotland has its own education system.)

Discontinued exam

  • CELS (Certificates in English Language Skills): These exams (now discontinued) allowed students to prove what they could do in each skill (reading, writing, speaking, and listening); a separate mark was given for each section.


  • TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test): This exam is aimed at teaching English to speakers of other languages, aka TESOL. It is given in three modules, each consisting of eighty questions, that can be taken together or separately in any order. It tests candidates on their knowledge of concepts related to language, language use, and the background and practice of language teaching and learning.
  • There are four optional modules of TKT - these can be added to the three core modules above, or can each be taken completely independently: TKT: Practical, TKT: Content and Language Integrated Learning, TKT: Knowledge About Language, and TKT: YLE.

Link to Common European Framework

The Cambridge English exams are related to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This framework sets standards in foreign language teaching across Europe. It divides learners into six levels of ability, with descriptions of what a learner is able to do at each stage.

A1/0 is the level of the very beginners.[2] Some awards are mapped onto this level, including YLE Starters/Movers, and Entry 1 Certificate in ESOL Skills for Life. However, a candidate would receive 1.0 for IELTS, or 0 for BULATS, if he/she left the testing papers blank. Thus, 1.0 for IELTS, or 0 for BULATS, should not be treated as an "award".

CEFR Cambridge ESOL IELTS Exam Business Language Testing Service Business English Certificates Legal English Financial English
C2 CPE IELTS 8.5 - 9.0 BULATS >90
C1 CAE IELTS 7 - 8 BULATS 75-89 Business Higher ILEC ICFE
B2 FCE IELTS 5.5 - 6.5 BULATS 60-74 Business Vantage ILEC ICFE
B1 PET IELTS 4 - 5 BULATS 40-59 Business Preliminary
A2 KET IELTS 3 - 3.5 BULATS 20-39

Global partnership

University of Cambridge ESOL examinations and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the largest professional accountancy body that offers Chartered Certified Accountant qualification worldwide, have signed the global partnership agreement, which resulted in the launch of the International Certificate in Financial English (ICFE), a new financial English exam.

See also


External links

  • Cambridge English Language Assessment Website
  • University of Cambridge ESOL Candidate Support Site
  • University of Cambridge ESOL Teacher Support Site
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