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Cambridge CELA (previous name is ECOL) — Cambridge English Language Assessment — a group of exams that assess knowledge of English as a foreign language. They vary in difficulty and professional focus: general exams, tests for children and teenagers, business English and exams for teachers.

Cambridge Exam Preparation Materials

ExamTraining aidsUseful websites and applications
  • Objective KET
  • KET Practice Tests Plus
  • Complete Key for Schools Class Audio CDs (2)
  • Cambridge Vocabulary for PET
  • Focus on PET: Preliminary English Test
  • PET Practice Tests Plus (Longman)
  • New Headway PET Practice Tests
  • Cambridge Grammar for PET
  • First Certificate Expert: Coursebook
  • Grammar and Vocabulary for FCE
  • Ready for First: Workbook
  • Gold Advanced Coursebook
  • Vocabulary and Grammar for CAE and Proficiency
  • Grammar + Vocabulary for CAE and CPE
  • CPE Use of English 1
  • Ready for Advanced: Workbook with Key (+ Audio CD Pack)
  • CPE Practice Tests 1
  • Expert Proficiency Students’ Resource Book
  • PASS Cambridge BEC Preliminary: Workbook
  • Cambridge BEC 4 Vantage: Practice Tests Students’ Book with Answers
  • Cambridge BEC Higher 5: Practice Tests Students Book with Answers
  • Examenglish — BEC Vantage exam online test
  • Cambridgeenglish — useful materials from the official website and BEC Preliminary trial tests
  • Cambridgeenglish — useful materials from the official website and BEC Vantage trial tests
  • Cambridgeenglish — useful materials from the official website and BEC Higher trial tests
  • Pearsonlongman — BEC levels online tests for all levels

Types of Cambridge exams

Cambridge exams can be divided into two groups:

  • Tests to confirm a certain level of language
  • Specialized exams for teachers and business English learners
Price~ 79 USD~ 81 USD~ 123 USD~ 129 USD~ 146 USD
Duration120 min.140 min.210 min.235 min.235 min.
Number of parts34444
Frequency1-2 per month1-2 per month1-2 per month1-3 per month4-5 per year
Check time5-9 weeks2-6 weeks2-6 weeks5-9 weeks5-9 weeks
Location130 countries130 countries130 countries130 countries130 countries
Admission to the UniversityNoNoYesYesYes
Min.-Max. score100-150120-170140-190160-210180-230
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
Official siteKeyPreliminaryFirstAdvancedProficiency
Year of foundation19941980193919911913

A2 Key — KET (Cambridge English: Key)

English proficiency exam at A2 Elementary level. The test consists of three parts:

  • Reading and Writing lasts 60 minutes. The part contains 32 tasks. This block tests your ability to understand the simple written language from newspapers and magazines and to compose short messages.
  • Listening lasts 30 minutes and consists of 25 questions. Instead of full-fledged texts there are announcements and small statements. The speech is slow and clear.
  • Speaking lasts 10 minutes at the end of the exam. This section consists of two parts. Each of them is a conversation with a teacher or other examinees on simple topics[1].

B1 Preliminary — PET (Cambridge English: Preliminary)

PTE tests English proficiency at level B1 Intermediate. The test consists of four parts:

  • Reading includes 32 comprehension questions from magazines, newspapers and advertisements. The duration of the block is 45 minutes.
  • Writing consists of 2 tasks that rate the candidate's ability to write short essays and compose messages. The section lasts 45 minutes.
  • Listening offers 25 questions on four texts. The run time is 30 minutes. The assignments contain excerpts from announcements and conversations.
  • Speaking consists of four parts and takes place in the format of a conversation. Speaking duration — 12-17 minutes[2].

B2 First — FCE (Cambridge English: First)

This exam is designed for candidates who speak English at B2 Upper-Intermediate level. The test consists of four sections:

  • Reading and Use of English lasts 75 minutes and consists of 52 questions. The section includes tasks for understanding texts, analyzing their content, knowledge of vocabulary and grammar of the English language.
  • Writing consists of 2 parts: an essay and a letter. You have 80 minutes to complete the tasks.
  • Listening includes 30 questions. You must listen to several passages (news programs, academic texts, etc.) and complete assignments. The duration of the section is 40 minutes.
  • Speaking takes only 14 minutes. You are talking on a given topic with another candidate[3].

C1 Advanced — CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced)

Examination for candidates who speak English at level C1 Advanced. The CAE certificate confirms that you can use English for work and study. The test is divided into four parts:

  • Reading and Use of English lasts 90 minutes. The block includes 56 questions. The level of complexity of the texts is higher than in previous exams. Texts are mostly scientific from magazines or newspapers.
  • Writing consists of two types of texts. It can be an essay, letter or review. You have 90 minutes to complete.
  • Listening takes 40 minutes from the test. Audio recordings include interviews, presentations, and everyday conversations.
  • Speaking tests your communication skills. The duration of the conversation is 15 minutes[4].

C2 Proficiency — CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency)

CPE confirms the C2 Proficient level of English. This certificate allows you to study at master's and doctoral programs abroad, participate in international conferences and seminars. CPE certificate holders can freely communicate with native speakers on any highly specialized topics. The exam consists of four parts:

  • Reading and Use of English includes 53 questions and tests your ability to work with different types of texts. This part takes 90 minutes.
  • Writing consists of two tasks of different types (essays, reviews, reports). You have 90 minutes to complete.
  • Listening lasts 40 minutes. There are four excerpts from interviews, scientific lectures and speeches. You need to answer 30 questions.
  • Speaking is a 16-minute interview with a native speaker[5].

BEC (Business English) — English for business

ExamBEC PreliminaryBEC VantageBEC Higher
Price80 USD128 USD147 USD
Duration140 min.160 min.180 min.
Number of parts344
Frequency6–8 per year6–7 per year2–4 per year
Check time5–9 weeks5–9 weeks5–9 weeks
Location130 countries130 countries130 countries
Admission to the UniversityNoNoNo
Min.–Max. score120–170140–190160–210
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
  • Paper-based
  • Computer-based
Official sitePreliminaryVantageHigher
Year of foundation199319931993

The BEC exams test knowledge of business English. This exam is suitable for those who work in the business sector, marketing and finance. You have three levels to choose from:

  • B1 Business Preliminary;
  • B2 Business Vantage;
  • C1 Business Higher.

Each of them tests the skills of writing, reading, listening and communication.

B1 Business Preliminary
BEC Preliminary corresponds to level B1 Intermediate. The exam includes:
  • Reading and Writing. The block lasts 90 minutes. In the written part, two tasks are given: a working note and an official report.
  • Listening. In this section, you are given 4 pieces to listen to, each 15-30 seconds long. The block lasts 40 minutes.
  • Speaking is a short interview or conversation between you and another candidate for 12 minutes[6].
B2 Business Vantage
BEC Vantage equal to level B2 Upper-Intermediate. This means that you are confident in using English to communicate even on specialized topics. The exam is divided into four parts:
  • At Reading, five texts on business topics are offered. Tasks can be different: choose the correct answer, insert a word, match the statements and so on. The duration of the section is 60 minutes.
  • Writing consists of two parts. You need to write a short message and a business letter. You have 45 minutes to complete the tasks.
  • Listening lasts 40 minutes. During this time, you need to listen to excerpts from interviews, presentations or discussions and answer 30 questions.
  • Speaking has three tasks. You will have 14 minutes to talk about business and finance with an examiner or another candidate[7].
C1 Business Higher
BEC Higher — level C1 Advanced. This is fluency in business English. The exam consists of four parts:
  • Reading lasts 60 minutes. You have to read several business-related texts and answer 52 questions.
  • Writing takes 70 minutes. The task is to write a short report and a business letter or memo.
  • In the Listening part you have 40 minutes to answer 30 questions.
  • Speaking lasts 16 minutes. You work together with another examinee — answer questions and talk on an economic topic[8].

Young Learners — Exams for Kids

Cambridge Young Learners exams are designed for young candidates from 7 to 12 years old. The exams test the following skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Testing takes place in a game form, so taking the exam is easy and entertaining.

Varieties of exams for children
Pre-level A1YLE Starters
A1YLE Movers
A2YLE Flyers
A2Key for Schools (KET)
B1Preliminary for Schools (PET)
B2First for Schools (FCE)

TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) — Exams for teachers

The Cambridge TKT exam checks theoretical knowledge of teachers and their ability to convey information. The test is aimed at teachers of elementary, middle and high schools. You must register for this exam with at least B1 Intermediate English proficiency. The TKT certificate confirms the qualifications of a teacher and allows you to work in almost any country in the world.

The exam consists of several modules. They can be taken all at once or separately:

  • 1st module — Teaching experience (Background to language teaching) lasts 80 minutes and consists of 80 questions. The block is divided into three parts:
    • Experience in learning English (15 questions)
    • Definition of language skills (40 questions)
    • Language teaching experience (25 questions)
  • 2nd module — Lesson planning (Planning for language teaching) also takes 80 minutes and includes 80 questions. The test consists of two sections:
    • Planning a lesson or several lessons (40 questions)
    • Choosing the right materials for the lesson and using them (40 questions)
  • 3rd module — The course of the lesson and the organization of educational activities (Classroom management): 80 minutes for 80 questions. The test includes two parts:
    • The language of the teacher and student in the classroom (40 questions)
    • Management of the learning process (40 questions)

In addition to the main modules, there are two additional ones:

  • TKT: Young Learners for teachers working with children aged 6 to 12.
  • TKT: CLIL — Content and Language Integrated Learning — subject-language integrated learning. The essence of this method is that students study standard subjects in a foreign language[9].

Why take the Cambridge exams

People take Cambridge Exams for various reasons. The most common are:

  • Getting an objective assessment of one's knowledge
  • Admission to foreign universities and colleges
  • Employment in international companies
  • Prospects for further career growth
  • High motivation for further study of English
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Cambridge exams scores

All Cambridge exams are graded according to a single scoring scale.

Cambridge exam certificates ratio
Cambridge exam certificates ratio
KET certificate
  • 140-150 points — Pass with Distinction
  • 133-139 points — Pass with Merit
  • 120-132 points — Pass
  • 100-119 points — level A1 certificate is issued
  • less than 100 points — candidate does not receive a certificate
PET certificate
  • 160-170 points — Pass with Distinction
  • 153-159 points — Pass with Merit
  • 140-152 points — Pass
  • less than 120 points — level A2
FCE certificate
  • 180-190 points — Pass with Distinction
  • 174-180 points — Pass with Merit
  • 160-173 points — Pass
  • 140-159 points — level B1
CAE Certificate
  • 200-210 points — Pass with Distinction
  • 193-199 points — Pass with Merit
  • 180-192 points — Pass
  • 160-179 points — level B2
CPE Certificate
  • 220-230 points — Pass with Distinction
  • 213-219 points — Pass with Merit
  • 200-212 points — Pass
  • 180-199 points — level C1
TKT certificate
For each module, the candidate receives a separate certificate. Knowledge is evaluated on a 4-point scale:
  • 4 indicates that you speak English at a high level and have extensive knowledge of teaching methods.
  • 3 indicates good knowledge in the field of a particular module.
  • 2 — basic knowledge.
  • 1 — limited knowledge on the topic of the module.
In any case the candidate receives a certificate of passing the exam. To get a 3, you must correctly answer at least 45 questions out of 80.

Registration for the Cambridge exam

To register for the Cambridge exam, you need to know your level of English. The certificate will only confirm it. Take a practice test first so you know which exam is right for you.

You can register for the test on the official website of Cambridge Exams or through special language course centers.

You can view the test results on the exam website in 2-3 weeks. But the certificate comes by mail 5-6 weeks after the test. The main advantage of the Cambridge exams is their perpetuity (unlike IELTS and TOEFL).

You can reschedule the exam date for another day, but no later than 5 weeks before the test. If you cancel your registration, you will be refunded part of its cost with a 25% deduction.

Cambridge CELA certificate sample
Образец сертификата Cambridge CELA
Образец сертификата Cambridge CELA

How to pass the Cambridge exam?

The key to any test is preparation. Cambridge exams have a general structure, a specific set of tasks and requirements. Familiarize yourself with the format of your exam beforehand. Solve as many trials as possible to get used to it, and devise a strategy for dealing with each part of the test.


  • Don't choose an answer just because it contains the same words as the question.
  • Carefully read the headings to the sections of the text: they contain important information.
  • Always indicate the answer only to the question posed. If a generally correct statement is given in the task, but it does not occur in the text, most likely it does not fit.


  • Plan your essay. It will help you put your thoughts in the right order.
  • Don't forget that brevity is the soul of wit.
  • Prepare templates and basic expressions for each type of task in advance.
  • Keep in mind the target audience for which you write the text. The style of the message and semantic accents depend on this.
  • Give examples from life, facts or figures.
  • Use introductory and closing phrases. They structure the text.
  • Remember paragraphs. Reading undivided text is inconvenient.
  • Add headings to your report and include the position and name of the author.


  • Do not leave questions unanswered — if you are not sure, choose at random. Points are not deducted for incorrect answers.
  • Don't dwell too long on one question.
  • Do the tasks in order as you listen to the audio.


  • The main advice is practice. Practice communicating on various topics (best with a native speaker).
  • Listen carefully to the other candidate or examiner to ask a question at the right moment.
  • Write down a couple of main points or keywords for yourself. It will help you not get lost while answering.
  • Learn a few introductory words and constructions — that's enough. It makes no sense to memorize large chunks of text on different topics.
  • Take the initiative in your own hands. Show that you are interested in the conversation and have something to say.
  • But do not interrupt another candidate or examiner's answer.
  • Avoid long pauses between sentences.
  • Don't worry if you get stopped. This means that you have already said enough.
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