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Which English Test Should I Prepare for to Get Admitted to University?

By Katrin Vares

As a student who prepares to study abroad, you’re probably looking for English-taught degrees. And certainly, you’ll find plenty, regardless of where you plan on studying. You’ll also notice you need a minimum English score to prove you have the right English knowledge. This is a mandatory requirement even if you may excel at your English skills.

English - language tests

Most international universities worldwide accept 3 of the following English language tests:

  1. IELTS
  2. TOEFL
  3. C1 Advanced (formerly known as CAE)
  4. B2 First (formerly known as FCE)

What if some universities accept all these tests and you have to choose one? How do you know which one fits you best or would bring you a better score, based on their format? All four language tests are more or less the same, with slight differences. If you’re not sure which one to choose, just get more information about each one and look for online platforms that simulate the exam. This might be the best and most useful way to figure out which one you like more and brings you more comfort.

Find English preparation courses

After that, you can register for the right English exam course at one of the many English language schools worldwide.

Top international places to learn English

Here are the most popular international destinations offering plenty of English exam preparation courses to help you get into university:

1. What is IELTS?

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an international standardised test of English language proficiency. No minimum score is required to pass the test - it is measuring the candidate’s level of English from A1-C2. IELTS consists of four parts:

  • Listening (40 min)
  • Reading (60 min)
  • Writing (60 min)
  • Speaking (11-14 min with an interviewer).

The total test duration is around 3 hours and it is a paper-based test. Keep in mind that the test certificate expires after two years!

Find out more about the experience of taking an IELTS test and check some online IELTS training platforms.

Schedule an IELTS test in your country!

IELTS scores range from 1 to 9, but only a score higher than 4 counts as having passed the exam as a basic/limited user. A  7.0 score is equivalent to a C1 Advanced  Cambridge Certificate. 

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Benefits of preparing for the IELTS exam:
  1. You will get an objective evaluation of your English language skills.
  2. You will become aware of your weak points so you’ll know on what you should focus on with your English training.
  3. You will gain a better understanding of the English knowledge required for academic level.

2. What is TOEFL?

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) was developed to address the problem of ensuring English language proficiency for non-native speakers wishing to study at U.S. universities. However, the TOEFL test is generally accepted around the world as a proof of language proficiency.

TOEFL consists of four parts:

  • Reading (60-100 min)
  • Listening (60-90 min)
  • Speaking (20 min with a computer)
  • Writing (50 min).

This is a computer-based test. Just like the IELTS test, the TOEFL certificate expires after two years!

Check out some useful tips on how to prepare for TOEFL.


Benefits of preparing for the TOEFL exam:
  • There are over 4,500 TOEFL test centres in more than 165 countries globally and you can take the test in just one day.
  • The TOEFL test measures your academic skills: you’ll have to prove English language skills that you learnt in classroom level.
  • You can find many online tutorials and study materials that cover the required test syllabus and real-test questions from previous exam sessions.

3. What is C1 Advanced?

C1 Advanced is the advanced general English examination provided by the Cambridge English Language Assessment centre in England. The examination comprises of five parts:

  • Reading (1 hour and 15 minutes)
  • Writing (1 hour and 30 minutes)
  • Use of English (1 hour)
  • Listening (40 minutes)
  • Speaking (20 minutes)

Each component carries 20% of the total grade. There are three pass grades (A, B and C) and certificates are awarded to candidates who achieve these grades. Candidates who achieve a grade D or E are judged not to have reached the required standard for C1 Advanced.

Check out details on the format of the Cambridge test.

Candidates who have obtained an A grade are awarded a C2 certificate, those obtaining grade B or C, are awarded a C1 certificate. Like all the other Cambridge exams, once the exam is passed, the qualification never expires (universities might not consider it though if it is older than 2 years).

In order to get a C1 Advanced certificate you need to pass the exam with a score between 180-199, which is equivalent to a C1 level according to CEFR.

Benefits of preparing for the C1 Advanced  exam
  • You can take the Cambridge exam at over 2,800 exam centres around the world.
  • The Cambridge English certificate equally opens doors to international travel, work and study opportunities.
study for english exam

4. What is B2 First?

B2 First is developed by Cambridge English (part of the University of Cambridge) and is the most in-depth and focused exam available at Level B2 of the CEFR.

B2 First certificate can be used to apply for foundation and higher education courses taught in English around the world. The B2 First is recognized as proof of English language proficiency by thousands of universities, pathway providers and institutions around the world.

In order to get a B2 First certificate, you need to pass the exam with a score between 160-179, which is equivalent to a B2 level according to CEFR.

Main benefits of the B2 First
  • You can choose whether you take your test on paper or on a computer.
  • Accepted for student visa applications by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.
  • You can register for the exam 1 week before you take the test
  • You get the test results in 2 weeks after taking the computer-based exam.

Cambridge English: First is made up of four sections:

  • Reading and Use of English (1 hour 15 minutes)
  • Writing (1 hour 20 minutes)
  • Listening (40 minutes)
  • Speaking (14 minutes)

Minimum required scores for English language exams

Most universities accept an IELTS result of 6.5, a TOEFL score of 92 or higher, and C1 Advanced, while B2 First results cover requirements for foundation, pathway or pre-sessional courses and some Bachelor's degrees. However, this can vary; sometimes the requirement is lower, sometimes higher. Always check your chosen university’s webpage for specific language requirements!

Check out pre-Bachelors and pre-Masters that will help you get into your dream international university.

Find English preparation courses

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