KET, PET, IELTS, TEFL, these names all sounds pretty similar and seeing one of them pop up in your session schedule for the first time can be at first a little alarming – just what is that exam?

To save you a lot of time and research, this week’s #TipforTuesday is a break-down of all the different exams, who they’re for, what they include, and at what stage Breadies take them. We’ll be looking at: PET, FCE, KET, CAE, CPE, IELTS, TOEFL.

A number of these exams are different levels of the same exam run by Cambridge. This include:

  • KET – Key English Test
  • PET – Preliminary English Test
  • FCE – First Cambridge English
  • CAE – Cambridge Advanced English
  • CPE – Cambridge Proficiency English

We’ll run through these first as they are quite common, and the names are reasonably similar so easily confused!

KET – Key English Test

The easiest Cambridge exam, the KET exam is an exam covering the basics of reading & writing, speaking and listening. It’s important to know that these exams aren’t for a specific age, the focus is more about the level of English – but most of our Breadies taking this exam will be children and teenagers. We have had some very young students take KET (a four year old!) and do well so you may well be surprised!

According to the Cambridge website, English speakers at this level should be able to:

  • understand and use basic phrases and expressions
  • understand simple written English
  • introduce yourself and answer basic questions about yourself
  • interact with English speakers at a basic level.

The test is broken down into three sections:

  • Reading & Writing – 70 minutes, 56 questions (50% of the overall mark)
  • Listening – 25 minutes (25%)
  • Speaking – 8-10 minute (25%)

You can find the exam format here:

The test is graded on a pass or fail basis where the full marks is out of 150 and 100 is a pass, or an A2 grade. Over 140 marks, the student will receive a B1 grade!

The best way to learn about what’s involved in the KET paper however, is to go through the texts and resources on the website a few days before your first session and really get to know the paper and how the grading works!

 Some topics in the KET exam include:

  • Using ‘some’ or ‘any’
  • Rearranging words to form a simple sentence
  • Comparatives and superlatives
  • Understanding the meaning of simple passages.

The next round of the exams are happening on the 13th of May, which is why we have quite a large volume of Breadies asking for exam help at the moment. To find out more about when the exams happen, you can find the schedule on the website here:


PET – Preliminary English Test

Pet is an exam for intermediate level speakers. This means that those speaking this level can get by on holiday or in informal situations, but they are not yet fluent and still have learning to do. You can take it independently, or at school, and it is the next stage up from the KET exams, meaning students can take them in order if they would like to see their progression.

The exam is taken, again, by any age but mainly by children to teenagers who have been studying English already for a little while.

Whilst this may seem a little more daunting to teach than the KET exam as it is a little more advanced, do not worry! The content isn’t that different, reading passages are longer and the content is more advanced.

The scale score for the PET is 140 – 159, so you can see the progression from KET into PET!

PET students can:

  • read simple textbooks and articles in English
  • write letters and emails on everyday subjects
  • understand factual information
  • show awareness of opinions and mood in spoken and written English.

Like the KET exam, PET is broken down into:

  • Reading & Writing – 90 minutes (50%)
  • Listening – 30 minutes (25%)
  • Speaking – an interview, 10 minutes (25%)

FCE – First Cambridge English

The FCE is where it gets a little more serious! At this level, students are expected to be able to live independently in an English-speaking country and study a course in English. This is for those who are looking to work in a company that communicates in English. This level is accepted by some universities but not from those within the UK. It is possible to be accepted into foundation courses and preliminary courses for studying in the UK at this level. It is the most popular Cambridge Exam!

FCE is getting into teenager to adult level, so whilst anyone can participate, it is far less likely to find children participating at this level.

As with all the exam resources, you can find the books, audio files and past papers in the resources section of the website to know what you’ll be teaching during the session.

The exam is broken down into:

  • Reading & Use of English -75 minutes
  • Writing – 2 essays, 80 minutes
  • Listening – 40 minutes
  • Speaking – interview, normally with another candidate, 14 minutes

This is the first of the exams to separate reading and writing into their own dedicated slots, with a focus on essay writing.

The scale score for FCE is 160 – 179 which is the equivalent to a B2 in the CEFR scale, although within the FCE there is the introduction of different scores within the exam, A, B, C (pass), D, E or U (fail).

At this level, students should be able to:

  • communicate effectively face-to-face, expressing opinions and presenting arguments
  • follow the news
  • write clear, detailed English, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different points of view
  • write letters, reports, stories and lots of other types of text.

So a lot of the practise within the resources will focus on this area.  

CAE – Cambridge Advanced English

One of the most popular Cambridge Exams is the CAE. This exam is for those who are looking to go into academia and managerial roles using English. All universities in the UK accept the CAE as a high level of English proficiency.

The scale score for this exam is 180 – 199, which as you can see is a big jump from the 100-150 marks you can gain in the KET exam!

This is an in depth exam that looks at understanding, subtle word use, deriving meaning from texts and being able to understand

CPE – Cambridge Proficiency English

The highest of the high! The CPE exam is the toughest exam on offer by Cambridge and is all about highlighting fluency in speaking English as a second language. Most people who take the CPE exam are looking to study at post graduate level or are wishing to apply in a senior management position where the use of excellent English is of fundamental importance.

At this level, Breadies should have a good understanding of idioms, colloquial language, attitude and tone within language.

There aren’t currently many people looking for CPE help on the platform, but as we continue to develop our adult and business courses, it may mean that in future more people look to us for help with preparing for the CPE exam. So what is it?

The CPE exam, much like earlier Cambridge exams, is broken down into four sections:

  • Reading – 4 parts, 90 minutes

part 1, 3 texts with 18 gaps

part 2, 4 related texts with 2 questions each

part 3, text with missing paragraphs

part 4, text with multiple choice questions

  • Composition – 2 tasks, 2 hours

Use of English – 90 minutes

part 1: text with 15 gaps

part 2: word formation

  • Listening – 3 or 4 recordings, 40 minutes

part 1: Four passages with multiple choice questions

part 2: One passage with gapped text

  • Interview – normally with another candidate, 15 minutes

The level of proficiency gained at the end of the exam is classed as C2 on the CEFR scale, or ‘super advanced’.

It is important that Buddies wishing to teach this level have an understanding of academic English and have prepared well in advance for students of this level.

Like the CAE exam, you can be awarded A, B, C (pass), D, E or U (fail)

Non-Cambridge Based Exams

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

The IELTS exam is one of the most commonly taken English Language Tests around the world as it is acknowledged – alongside TOESL – by universities in the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and many others.

IELTS is organised by the British Council so focuses on UK based English, this is different to TOEFL which focuses on North American spelling and pronunciation.

The test is broken down into four sections, these are:

  • Listening – 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes
  • Speaking – interview, 15 minutes
  • Reading – 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • Writing – 2 pieces of writing, 60 minutes

IELTS comes in both a general exam and an academic exam and this will affect the activities found in the reading and writing sections of the exam, so make sure you’re clear with your Bready which exam they are taking.

The scores for IELTS are between 1 – 9 with the ability to get .5 grades. Most universities look for a 6 or above for students to be accepted so often those coming to IQBar are bouncing around the 5/5.5 mark and are desperate to be pushed up.

You can watch Marc’s vlog with goes through the IELTS taster! The IELTS taster includes a lot of information surrounding the exam in general and what you can do to help your Bready through.

TOEFL. – Test of English as a Foreign Language

The TOEFL test is another of the most popular and we’re anticipating a number of students want to have sessions before their exams in September.

The scores for TOEFL go as follow:

  • Reading Section (Score of: 0–30)
  • Listening Section (Score of: 0–30)
  • Speaking Section (Score of: 0–30)
  • Writing Section (Score of: 0–30)
  • Total Score (0–120)

All institutions require different TOEFL scores, and your Bready should be able to tell you what they need to get, but the average TOEFL score for universities across the United States is 78 according to the website ‘’. It goes without saying that the more prestigious the institution, the higher the TOEFL requirement.

How best to prepare for exam based sessions?

Congratulations! By reading this post you’ve already made the first step in planning an excellent exam lesson for your Bready.

Start out by looking through the text books provided by IQBar and look at what you will be covering. Check the notes to see your Bready’s strengths and weaknesses and make sure to address these in the lesson, be that in the ice breaker, or continues corrections throughout the session.

If it is your Bready’s first session, amazing! Ask them about what they think their own personal strengths and weaknesses are within speaking English. Once these have been identified, make sure to continue addressing them through the session.

Don’t panic! The text books and course materials provided, as well as your expertise on all things English will help you through.

The most important thing is to be prepared! Know how the exam works, what’s in it, how the mark scheme works, and constantly refer to this throughout class and don’t lose sight of both yours and your Bready’s aims.

Good luck!