Everything about English Tests – CAE, IELTS, TOEFL and their alternatives

Whether you’re considering applying to a university abroad or you want to increase your chances of being admitted to an international study programme, in this article you will find information about the most popular English language tests, recognized by all international universities: CAE, IELTS, TOEFL, and more.

Apart from comparing these three English language tests [CAE, IELTS, TOEFL], the information below will also provide details about their international recognition, structure, requirements, validity, price, and registration, as well as how to prepare yourself for each of these tests.

In addition, the article also discusses the various alternative English language qualifications accepted by universities instead of an international English test.

Here’s a summary of the article:

  1. CAE – Cambridge Advanced Exam
  2. IELTS – The International English Language Testing System
  3. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
  4. PASSWORD English Language Testing
  5. English as a subject in your final high school exam, accepted
  6. Alternative English qualifications accepted
  7. Deadlines for submitting the English test results

CAE – Cambridge Advanced Exam

  1. Recognition: This exam has global recognition. You can check here whether it is accepted by the university / institution you are interested in.
  2. Format / Duration / Structure: You can take the test on paper format or online on a computer. The approximate duration is 4 hours and it tests four skills you can see in the table below or, more specifically, here.
Skill Content Purpose
Reading and Use of English
(1 hour 30 minutes)
See sample paper
8 parts/
56 questions
Shows you can deal confidently with different types of text, such as fiction, newspapers and magazines. Tests your use of English with different types of exercise that show how well you can control your grammar and vocabulary.
Writing
(1 hour 30 minutes)
See sample paper
2 parts You create two different pieces of writing, such as essays, letters/emails, proposals, reports and reviews.
Listening
(about 40 minutes)
See sample paper
4 parts/
30 questions
Tests your ability to follow and understand a range of spoken materials, such as interviews, radio broadcasts, presentations, talks and everyday conversations.
Speaking
(15 minutes per pair of candidates)
See sample paper
4 parts Tests your ability to communicate effectively in face–to–face situations. You will take the Speaking test with another candidate.
  1. Score and requirements: The score (from 160 to 210) corresponds to a qualification from C to A (A is the maximum, equivalent to 200-210 points). All universities accept grade A, it being the maximum score. Most foreign universities require a CAE certificate with the minimum grade C or B (C1 level under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). **
Cambridge English Scale Score Grade/CEFR CEFR level
200-210 Grade A C2
193-199 Grade B C1
180-192 Grade C C1
160-179 Level B B2*

* Some universities also accept CAE with B2 (160-179 points) or even FCE (Cambridge First Certificate in English) with a certain score – check with your EDMUNDO Counsellor to see which they are.

** All institutions accept CPE (Cambridge Proficiency Exam), regardless of score.

  1. Validity: 2 years. The fact that it is valid for life is a myth, as institutions cannot verify if your level of English and your contact with the language is constant. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which must be verified with your EDMUNDO Counsellor.
  2. Price: €170
  3. Locations and dates: The test centers and the dates you can pass the exam can be found here for Romania and here for Greece, but do not forget to select C1 Advanced CAE from that list.
  4. Registration and results: sign up and pay online here for Romania and here for Greece.

Please note that registrations are made at least 3 weeks before the desired test date. The results are received online 2-3 weeks after taking the exam, and the certificate is released one month after the results are displayed.

  1. CAE Exercises and Tests – Here are some examples of tests that you can take in your preparation for this exam:

IELTS – The International English Language Testing System

  1. Recognition: global. You can check here if it is accepted by the university / institution of interest.
  2. Format / Duration / Structure: There are two versions of this test – Academic or General Training. Admission to the university requires IELTS Academic. The duration of an exam is 2h 45 minutes and has the following structure, detailed here or in the table below:
IELTS Academic
Listening* (30 minutes, plus 10 minutes extra to transfer your answer to your answer sheet)

Four recorded monologues and conversations.

Reading (60 minutes)

·   Three long reading passages with tasks
·   Texts range from descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical
·   Includes non-verbal material such as diagrams, graphs or illustrations
·   Texts are authentic (e.g. taken from books, journals and newspapers)

Writing (60 minutes)

·   Writing task of at least 150 words where the test taker must summarise, describe or explain a table, graph, chart or diagram
·   Short essay task of at least 250 words

Speaking* (11 to 14 minutes)

·   Face-to-face interview
·   Includes short questions, speaking at length about a familiar topic and a structured decision

  1. Score and Requirements: The score is expressed in Band 0 – 9 (Band 9 being the maximum). Generally, for Bachelor’s programmes, the minimum requirement is 6 or 6.5, and for Master, the requirement is generally 6.5 or 7.0.
  2. Validity: 2 years. The fact that it is valid for life is a myth, as institutions cannot verify if your level of English and your contact with the language is constant. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which must be verified with your EDMUNDO Counsellor.
  1. Price: €200
  2. Locations and dates: Click here to check available test dates and location for Romania and here for Greece.
  3. Registration and results: sign up and pay online here for Romania and here for Greece. We recommend that you register online at least five weeks before the test date. The results can be verified online 13 days after the date of your chosen period, and you will also be able to get the certificate, called the Test Report Form.
  4. IELTS Exercises and Tests – Here are four sources that you can use to prepare and familiarize yourself with this type of test:

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

  1. Recognition: Over 90% of UK universities accept TOEFL scores, but it is mostly preferred by US universities. Before you decide on this test, ask an EDMUNDO Counsellor if your university of interest accepts TOEFL.
  2. Format / Duration / Structure: The format can be Internet-based (iBT) or paper-delivered. IBT is the most common way to take this test, which lasts for 4 hours. The structure of this test is detailed here or in the table below:
Section Time Limit Questions Tasks
Reading 60–80 minutes 36–56 questions Read 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and answer questions.
Listening 60–90 minutes 34–51 questions Listen to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations, then answer questions.
Break 10 minutes
Speaking 20 minutes 6 tasks Express an opinion on a familiar topic; speak based on reading and listening tasks.
Writing 50 minutes 2 tasks Write essay responses based on reading and listening tasks; support an opinion in writing.
  1. Score and Requirements: TOEFL is scored on a scale from 0 to 120 points. Each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing) receives a score of 0 to 30. For Bachelor’s level, most international universities accept a minimum of 70-80 points (minimum between 17-20 points per component). For Master level, 90 points per total is the general requirement. Check with an EDMUNDO Counsellor for the exact requirements, depending on your chosen universities.
  2. Validity: All TOEFL test scores are valid for 2 years.
  3. Price: €216 (February 2019)
  4. Locations and dates: You must create an account here to see dates, locations and to sign up.
  5. Sign-up and results: It is the most flexible and fast test (of the ones presented so far) in terms of registration and receipt of results. Registration closes 7 days before the test date.

You will receive an e-mail informing you when your scores are available – about 10 days after the test date. You can connect to your TOEFL iBT account from the TOEFL registration site and click on “View Scores” on the home page to see the results. These are sent directly to the university: The test fee includes 4 official reports with the TOEFL® results that will be sent free of charge to TOEFL destinations if you opt for this option.

  1. TOEFL Exercises and Tests – Preparing for an Exam is crucial, so we strongly recommend you go through these exercises to familiarize yourself with their structure:

PASSWORD English Language Testing

  1. Recognition: A significant number of British universities accept this test as an alternative to the above-mentioned ones.
  2. Format / Duration / Structure: The test is taken online and takes 3h. The structure of this test is detailed here or below:
Skill Duration Description
Reading 1 hour and 15 minutes Password Reading: consists of five sections. In each section, there is one reading task to be completed. You have 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete all tasks (between 1 and 17 questions/section)
Listening 30 minutes Password Listening: consists of five sections. In each section, there are one or more listening tasks to be completed. Once you press the play button, it is not possible to pause or restart the recording. You will hear the recording twice. The second time you hear the recording the question(s) will appear. Notes can be made to help prepare answers.
Writing 1 hour Password Writing: assesses your ability to write an essay. You are presented with a choice of two essay titles to choose from and are given instructions regarding length and content.
Speaking 20 minutes Password Speaking: has five sections with one or more speaking tasks (questions) in each, simply answered by speaking into the microphone. There is about the same amount of time available to prepare answers as there is to speak. Notes can be made to help prepare answers

 

  1. Score and Requirements: Similar to IELTS – the score is expressed in Band 0 – 9 (Band 9 being the maximum). Generally, for Bachelor’s programmes, the minimum requirement is 6, and for Master programmes, the requirement is generally 6.5.
  2. Validity: 2 years.
  3. Price: 0 – 70 €, depending on the university for which the test is taken.
  4. Locations and dates: Depending on the university for which the test is taken, it can be taken online via Skype or at any of the EDMUNDO headquarters in Greece or Romania at a date set together with an EDMUNDO Counsellor.
  5. Enrollment and results: an EDMUNDO Counsellor will sign you up, but you must express your interest at least 3 working days in advance, and the results will arrive within 7 days of the test date or even sooner.
  6. Exercises and tests:

https://englishlanguagetesting.co.uk/test-takers/for-students/practice-tests/

http://practice-test.englishlanguagetesting.co.uk/

English as a subject in your final high school exam, accepted

If you do not have time to prepare for a language test listed above, you are lucky! Some foreign universities accept the English language subject from the high school graduation exam.

Ask your EDMUNDO Counsellor which they are.

Alternatives to English Tests

Some UK universities have their own English language test or accept qualifications other than Cambridge, IELTS and TOEFL.

We made a selection of universities from the EDMUNDO portfolio that offer financially advantageous alternatives to the English language test for those who want to apply for a Bachelor’s or a Master’s programme.

Ask your EDMUNDO Counsellor about the universities that run their own language test free of charge or for a fee, online or at any of the EDMUNDO offices in Greece or Romania.

Prepare in advance for English language tests

Although it is not always explicitly stated, the results of these English language tests are primarily used as a basic filtering criterion (scores above a minimum threshold) and secondly as an important element of the final assessment (up to 25-33% of the application score).

The good news is that the results of the language tests can be sent to your chosen university even after submitting an application and receiving the answer that you have been admitted. Here are the final dates by which you can submit the results, depending on the country you applied to study abroad:

Country Deadline
UK August 31st
Denmark February 1st – July 5th for undergraduate, depending on university

August 1st for postgraduate

The Netherlands July 1st – August 31st, depending on university

So now that you know the differences between these types of tests, how you can prepare for them, all you have to do is brush up your English and ask us if you still have any questions about these tests or about the universities where you want to apply.

Fingers crossed!

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