Cambridge General English Exams Explained

About the Cambridge General English Exams (YLE, KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE)

The Cambridge General English Exams (FCE, CAE and CPE) are a series world-wide respected exams designed to help you measure and prove your progress in English. They can be used to prove your level of English for college or university, or to demonstrate your ability to an employer.     You can search the Cambridge English recognition database at to find a current schools, universities or employer that recognises the Cambridge exams.

How to Learn English and prepare for Cambridge General English Exams

Decide how you want to learn! You may decide to take a course in a language school; you may study on your own ; or a combination of the two. The exams do change occasionally so ensure that any books or other materials you use are fully up-to-date with the latest syllabus.

Where to take Cambridge General English Exams?

Ideally speak to an EFL teacher at your local school or college – if you are in the UK you can find a list of many at the EnglishUK website ( – although organisations have to pay a registration fee so they are not all listed.   There are many schools and colleges and other organisations which are excellent at teaching English but which will send you to an examination centre to do your exam – there are approximately 2,000 across the world.  Go to to find your nearest centre.  Ideally your tutor will book the exam for you but you may need to book the exam at the exam centre yourself.   The FCE, CAE and CPE exams take place several times a year – see dates for 2016 on the Cambridge English website for 2016 dates.

After your exam

After your exam, results are sent out about 6 weeks after the exam has taken place – you will receive a certificate with a Statement of Results (how you performed in each paper) and your grade A, B or C.   They are sent to the examination centre who will then send them on to you or your college.  You can also register for the online results service at

YLE (CEFR level Pre-A1, A1, A2) – Young Learners

Cambridge describe YLE as ” a series of fun, motivating English language tests, aimed at children in primary and lower-secondary education. There are three activity-based tests – Starters, Movers and Flyers. This gives students a clear path to improve in English.”

KET (CEFR level A2) – Keycertificate

KET is designed to show that you can use everyday English at a very basic level.  There is a 70 minute Reading and Writing paper (50%), a 30 minute Listening Paper (25%) and a 8-10 minute Speaking test with a tutor (25%)

PET (CEFR level B1) – Preliminary

PET is designed to show that a you have mastered the basics of English.  There is a 90 minute Reading and Writing paper (50%), a 36 minute Listening Paper (25%) and a 10-12 minute Speaking test with a tutor (25%)

The FCE (CEFR level B2)

There are four separate papers: Reading and Use of English (40%), Writing (20%), Listening (20%) and Speaking (20%).  You need approximately (these do change slightly each exam, equivalent CEFR levels are given in brackets) 180-190 for a grade A (C1), 173-179 for a grade B (B2), 160-172 for a grade C (B2), and 140-159 is equivalent to B1.

The CAE (CEFR level C1)

There are four separate papers: Reading and Use of English (40%), Writing (20%), Listening (20%) and Speaking (20%).  You need approximately (these do change slightly each exam) 220-230 for a grade A (C2), 213-219 for a grade B (C2), 200-212 for a grade C (C2), and 180-199 is equivalent to C1.

The CPE (CEFR level C2)


The CPE is Cambridge’s highest level of English qualification which aims to prove that you are a highly competent speaker of English.  If for example you wish to apply to an English speaking university (applies to all UK universities) they will ask you for evidence of competence in English, in addition to their specific course requirements. Most accept CPE as this evidence including for example on a postgraduate or PhD programme and may ask for a B or even an A grade depending on the degree course.  It can also help you get a job in an English speaking country.  Proficiency demonstrates language proficiency at Level C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).  See for more information.

The CPE has set texts?  The set texts for January 2016 – December 2016 are Penelope Lively: Family Album and F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby.

Some Cambridge Links