What is the difference between IELTS and Cambridge certificates (FCE, CAE and CPE)?

Lately many foreigners do Cambridge English Certificates: PET, FCE, CAE and CPE, but not many people know what they are, how they differ among themselves and from IELTS.

IELTS and Cambridge certificate system was developed by the University of Cambridge to establish the level of proficiency in English as a foreign language. IELTS is focused on academic aspects, which means that IELTS certificate first of all confirms knowledge of academic English: ability to write a good essay, to read scientific texts and to discuss geopolitical topics. Despite the fact that worldwide each year 2 million people take IELTS, recently IELTS started actively to be displaced by Cambridge certificates. Primarily it's because Cambridge Certificates assess the level of English in General, not just on an academic level.

As a result, Cambridge certificates have become very popular among employers who are happy to accept certificates FCE and CAE, confirming knowledge of English at levels B2 and C1 respectively. 
An increasing number of students who prefer to obtain Cambridge certificates led to the fact that some international schools, for example CATS College, began to change their courses. Instead of IELTS preparation courses they prepare for CAE.  CATS College motivates its decision with the fact that their students prefer CAE training course to IELTS preparation saying it's more interesting and practical. 
It is important to understand that from 2016 all UK universities accept the results of Cambridge tests along with IELTS – even such universities as the Cambridge or Oxford.



  • IELTS test gives a unified score, which determines your level of English proficiency, while the Cambridge certificates confirm a certain level of English: PET confirms the knowledge of English at level B1, FCE – B2, CAE is equal to C1 APand CPE confirms the English proficiency level of native speakers - C2.
  • To be admitted to the University you need to get either CAE or IELTS with average score 6.5 – 7. 
  • Speaking of evaluations: Cambridge certificates are not evaluated to prove the level of language proficiency, so if you scored less than 60%  you wouldn't get a bad grade. You simply will not receive a certificate, which is different in IELTS. Cambridge certificates have no expiration date, unlike IELTS, the results of which are valid only for two years.


  • IELTS exam tests four areas of knowledge: writing, reading, listening, and speaking, while Cambridge certificates have fifth compound, which is called "use of English". This part connects different areas of knowledge together and shows your level of proficiency in English in General.
  • Testing of spoken language in Cambridge exams held in the form of a dialogue with another student, while two teachers listen and evaluate.
  • IELTS writing task written on a certain given topic, while in Cambridge certificates you are asked to complete two different writing tasks and offered a choice of several topics.
  • Testing listening skills in Cambridge system allows students to listen to the text twice while IELTS allows you to hear the text once. 
  • Considering the differences, it is not surprising that the IELTS exam last 3 hours, while the CAE exam takes about 5 hours.


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