Along with these questions, comes a long list of other uncertainties students tend to think about. It is quite a daunting aspect of gaining the required qualifications to continue your studies, especially when there seem to be 20,000 options to choose from, all with clauses and restrictions.
The main difference between these two exams is the validity of the certificate – IELTS (International English Language Testing System) expires after 2 years, whereas CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced) is a lifelong achievement. Students who need quick results for a short period of time tend to prefer the IELTS (IELTS results are published 13 days after test date, very different to the 6 weeks it takes CAE results to be published). However, if you are not sure whether you might need to present your ability in English, CAE is the obvious choice. Another pro when choosing IELTS is the frequency of the tests available. Indeed, they are held every few weeks. CAE, on the other hand are held 4 times a year, not very convenient if you need to sit for the exam quickly.
When preparing for these exams, the preparation courses are mostly the same. Both CAE and IELTS have speaking, reading, writing and listening components. However, CAE lasts a total of 5 hours and includes a grammar component labelled ‘Use of English’, different to the IELTS which lasts only 3. The CAE speaking component is done with a partner and the examiner, as opposed to the IELTS speaking which is between the student and examiner.
Exam content may differ between IELTS and CAE. IELTS offers two types of exams; General or Academic. The general exams focus on general English, whereas the academic exams focus on the use of academic English, mostly required by universities. CAE uses general English, throughout.
When it comes to scoring, IELTS do things rather differently. The scores are referred to as ‘band score’ and go from 4.0 to 8.9. There is no pass or fail in IELTS – Your certificate is simply printed with what you scored. Obviously, each band refers to a level of English and, if you need a particular level to get into a school, you would need a specific band. For example, if a university requires an advanced level of English, the IELTS band score would be between a 6.5 and 7.5, anything under 6.5 would not be accepted.
CAE, on the other hand, requires a 60% pass mark (between 180 and 200 points), granting the students a C1 level of English. If you do not manage to achieve the 60% you will still be awarded a certificate, however at B2 level. This would be equivalent to the FCE (First Certificate in English). Any student who get more than 200 points are then awarded a C2 level certificate, which becomes equivalent to the CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency).
When it comes to recognition, both exams are recognised worldwide. If you are applying for a visa to the UK, IELTS is the preferred exam to sit for. Students who need the exams for university purposes, most institutions recognise both. Most employers and businesses recognise both the IELTS and the CAE as reliable English level identification.
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