Deccan Chronicle

Key Differences Between Cambridge Exams: PET, FCE, CAE, and CPE

Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent

Published on: July 3, 2023 | Updated on: July 3, 2023
PET (Preliminary English Test) is a lower intermediate level examination. It is aimed for learners who are required to prove a basic level of English proficiency.   Representational Image/DC

PET (Preliminary English Test) is a lower intermediate level examination. It is aimed for learners who are required to prove a basic level of English proficiency. Representational Image/DC

Most people look for a valid and recognized means to prove their English Language Proficiency. The University of Cambridge is one of the global leaders in providing Qualifications in English Language Proficiency. Their suite of assessments cover all language abilities from beginner to advanced.

PET (Preliminary English Test), FCE (First Certificate in English), CAE (Certificate in Advantage English), and CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) are a part of Cambridge’s offerings. Unlike traditional testing where marking is based on how candidates err, Cambridge assessments mark based on what candidates can do at various levels which are outlined in the  'Can Do' statements across the CEFR.

Mapping to the "Common European Framework of Reference" (CEFR):

PET, FCE, CAE, and CPE are Cambridge English Qualifications that can be used by people to prove their proficiency on the CEFR Level. I.e. PET: B1; FCE: B2; CAE:C1; CPE:C2. Cambridge has renamed these exams as B1 Preliminary, B2 First, C1 Advanced, and C2 Proficiency.

While all exams mentioned assess the four English Language Skills namely: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking, FCE, CAE and CPE also assesses the Use of English.

How is ‘Use of English’ or UoE different at the various levels?:

Higher the CEFR Level, closer one gets to Native-like proficiency. Words can be used in many different ways and forms with changes made to it with affixation. UoE assesses the ability of the candidates to use lexis in its myriad transformations. They also test in increasing levels of difficulty, the knowledge of collocations, phrasal verbs, fixed phrases, complementation, and idiomatic expressions.

What is PET (B1 Preliminary):

It is a lower intermediate level examination. It is aimed for learners who are required to prove a basic level of English proficiency. The assessment is based on the ability of the learner to use English skills in their daily contexts for simple communicative purposes. Learners who achieve proficiency are able to participate in simple conversations, write short messages, and comprehend straightforward texts.

What is FCE (B2 First):

It is an upper intermediate level examination. It is designed for learners who have a substantial grasp of English language skills. B2 level learners can use the language effectively for work or study purposes. They can understand a wide range of text types especially in their field of interest. Learners here, can express opinions, write clear and detailed compositions, and also hold conversations on different topics. Students seeking to study abroad for Pre-University or Undergraduate programmes, use this qualification as their proof of English.

What is CAE (C1 Advanced):

This is an advanced-level qualification which is suitable for learners who have a high level of English proficiency. They are expected to be able to use English language skills effectively in academic and professional settings. Learners are able to understand complex texts, express ideas fluently, write coherently and confidently participate in discussions. This assessment is most popular among students or skilled workers who are required to prove a high level of proficiency for either Graduate or Post-graduate studies or Immigration.

What is CPE (C2 Proficiency):

CPE is the highest-level English qualification that is available for learners. Students who would like to undertake Doctoral or Postdoctoral Studies in foreign universities take this assessment. Successful learners at CPE are adjudged to have near-Native command of the English Language. They can understand complex academic texts, produce clear and cohesive samples of writing, easily follow and contribute to abstract discussions of varied topics. They can fluently communicate with a very high level of accuracy in the language.

Adult learners may choose to take any exam based on the requirement of language proficiency. For teens and young adults it would be good to take the exams in progression as it will help them build their profile and show consistency in their pursuit of self-development. For candidates who want to prove proficiency at the workplace, they may either take the C1 Advanced or take a business English test like Linguaskills by Cambridge.

Cambridge English Qualifications therefore provide a comprehensive range of assessments that cater to learners at different levels. Whether learners aim to enhance their communication abilities, pursue higher education, or embark on professional endeavors, these qualifications serve as valuable credentials that open doors to opportunities and facilitate success in various domains.

— John D’Souza , Director, The English Advantage(T.E.A)

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