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Which English Exam Should I Take?

Taking an English Exam?

With so many English language tests to choose from, how do you know which is the best English exam for you to take?

Firstly, you need to think about why you are taking an English exam:Students sitting an English Exam
1. For a school, college or university application
2. For work purposes
3. For visa purposes
4. For yourself

1. For a school, college or university application

The first thing you need to do is check the entry requirements of the course you would like to apply for. Each educational establishment requires students to have a particular level of English depending on the type of course. For example, a university may say “to apply for this course you need to achieve 6.5 or above in the IELTS exam”. You can find out this information on the school/college/university’s website or by contacting them.

If you are applying to a course in the UK, IELTS is often the exam which most educational establishments require students to have. However, equivalent exams are usually accepted (for example, Cambridge CAE or TOEFL iBT 110). Please check with the school, college or university exactly which exams they accept for the course you would like to apply for.

2. For work purposes

There are a few reasons why you might need to take an English exam for work purposes. Perhaps your current employer has asked you to take a test or you have applied for a new job and having a particular level of English is required. Otherwise, you may wish to take an English test as a great addition to your CV which will enhance your future career opportunities.

Your employer or future employer may ask you to take a business-related exam, such as TOEIC which tests how well you can communicate in an international business environment. However, if you are planning to take an exam in order to look for a new job, it is best to check which exams are most widely recognised in the country you are applying for jobs in.

3. For visa purposes

If you need to take an English language exam in order to apply for a visa (for example, a Tier 4 student visa, a Tier 1/2 Work Permit or a Spouse/Partner Visa), you need to check which exams are accepted and which level you need to achieve (you may need to take a B1 English test or show that you have a B2 level of English etc.).

To see a table of which exams are accepted for visas in the UK, visit the UKBA website:

man staring at computer screen

4. For yourself

If you would like to take an English exam in order to improve your general level of English or as a goal that you set for yourself, a general English Cambridge exam might be the best option for you (for example, FCE or CAE). These exams test all aspects of English language in everyday situations and have no expiry date.

Below you will find more detailed information for each exam:


IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is recognised by over 8000 universities, schools, colleges, agencies, companies and employers in more than 135 countries.

IELTS is designed to measure your ability to use English language in an academic environment. It tests all four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and it is most commonly used for college, school or university applications.

Cambridge Exams

Cambridge English exams are recognised by more than 13,500 universities, colleges, employers, agencies and governments all around the world.

The general English language exams which Cambridge offer are:

Cambridge English: Key (KET) – A2 level CEFR
Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) – B1 level CEFR
Cambridge English: First (FCE) – B2 level CEFR
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) – C1 level CEFR
Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) – C2 level CEFR

Cambridge English exams are designed to assess your use of everyday spoken and written English for work or study purposes. The exams are run at various levels and test all English language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), as well as your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary.


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is one of the most widely respected English language tests in the world, recognised by more than 8,500 colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries.

TOEFL is designed to test the English skills required in an academic classroom. In the test, you may read a passage from a textbook and listen to a lecture and then speak or write in response, just like you would in a classroom.

Bloomsbury International runs preparation classes for all the above tests. You can find more information on our website at Please contact us for more information regarding the tests or for advice as to which test would be best for you to take.

Have fun with English

Word ladder

Move from the top word to the bottom word and add 3 English words in between. Every time you add a new word you need to change ONE LETTER from the previous word (for example, share – stare – store – storm). There is a clue in the middle to help you.


—    (if something is your ‘cup of tea’, you ____ it)


Answers for the idiom quiz:

  1.  “I don’t know why I’m in such a bad mood today. I must have got up on the wrong side of the bed.”
  2. “I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. If I stay in this job I will be really unhappy but if I quit my job I might not find a new one for months. I don’t know what to do.”
  3. “I can’t believe you let the cat out of the bag. You really ruined the surprise!”
  4. “Some people love listening to classical music but it’s not my cup of tea.”
  5. “I tried to convince John to buy a blue shirt but a leopard can’t change its spots. He only ever wears white shirts!”

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