These days, English is an oft-desired skill amongst companies that are hiring. In an increasingly globalised economy, English has become the universal language.

English is the third most spoken language in the world, with 379 million speakers worldwide. This means that learning English or improving your English can be very important!

You may also want to study or work in an English-speaking country. Being able to communicate in the native language of the country has a wide range of benefits. It is essential for job opportunities and integration into the community.

However, you can’t simply state that you speak English on your CV, you have to prove it! But don’t worry, there are many certificates out there that can indicate a learner’s level. Unfortunately, with so many, it can be hard to choose which one you should obtain.

Superprof is here to help and explain the different English as a Second Language (ESL) exams available to test your English.

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Cambridge Assessment English

The University of Cambridge is one of the most renowned educational institutions in the world. Cambridge Assessment English has been providing English language assessments since 1913.

There are now more than 2,800 exam centres in 130 countries and over 25,000 organisations around the world that depend on their secure exams and tests as proof of English language ability.

Cambridge Assessment English offers internationally recognised exams and tests for both educational institutions and businesses or employers.

A2 Key

A2 Key is formerly known as Cambridge English: Key (KET). This basic-level qualification is a great exam to take if you're new to learning English

An A2 Key qualification proves your ability to communicate in English in simple situations. The exam tests all four language skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Where can I get do a Cambridge exam?
Prove your English ability with a Cambridge Exam. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A2 Key is equivalent to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) level A2. The CEFR is the international standard for describing language ability. The A2 Key certification should equip you go on and study for higher-level exams such as B1 Preliminary and B2 First.

There is also A2 Key for Schools, which is aimed at school-age learners rather than adults.

Check out English courses online.

B1 Preliminary

B1 Preliminary is formerly known as Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET).

B1 Preliminary is very similar to the A2 Key exam with a few differences. There are 4 papers to complete rather than 3, and there are more challenging questions. This exam is equivalent to the CEFR level B1, one above A2.

A B1 Preliminary qualification demonstrates that you have mastered the basics of English and have the practical language skills required for everyday use.

This exam is the logical next step in your language learning journey between A2 Key and B2 First. Like A2 Key, there is also B1 Preliminary for Schools.

Many multinational corporations necessitate that their staff have at a minimum this level of English and like all Cambridge exams, past papers can be downloaded.

B2 First

Let’s climb up another level! B2 First is formerly known as Cambridge English: First (FCE). It is their most popular exam, accepted by thousands of businesses and educational institutions around the world.

A B2 First qualification proves you have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study courses taught in the language.

B2 First is equivalent to the CEFR level B2. This exam is the next step in your English learning journey between B1 Preliminary and C1 Advanced. There is also B2 First for Schools.

Some top multinational companies will require candidates have this ability as a minimum.

Find the best English lessons near you.

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Richard
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5 (29 reviews)
Richard
$40
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Jaye
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Andrea
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5 (15 reviews)
Andrea
$24
/h
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Viral
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5 (39 reviews)
Viral
$30
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Maany
5
5 (22 reviews)
Maany
$40
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Linda
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5 (11 reviews)
Linda
$55
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Jacqueline
5
5 (10 reviews)
Jacqueline
$55
/h
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Jackson
5
5 (12 reviews)
Jackson
$45
/h
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1st lesson free!
Richard
5
5 (29 reviews)
Richard
$40
/h
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1st lesson free!
Jaye
5
5 (11 reviews)
Jaye
$50
/h
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1st lesson free!
Andrea
5
5 (15 reviews)
Andrea
$24
/h
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1st lesson free!
Viral
5
5 (39 reviews)
Viral
$30
/h
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1st lesson free!
Maany
5
5 (22 reviews)
Maany
$40
/h
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Linda
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5 (11 reviews)
Linda
$55
/h
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1st lesson free!
Jacqueline
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5 (10 reviews)
Jacqueline
$55
/h
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1st lesson free!
Jackson
5
5 (12 reviews)
Jackson
$45
/h
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Let's go

C1 Advanced

Another rung up the ladder is C1 Advanced.

C1 Advanced is formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE). It is the in-depth, high-level qualification that demonstrates you have the required language skills that employers and universities seek. 

Over 9,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments worldwide accept C1 Advanced as proof of high-level achievement in learning English.

Where can I get an English certificate?
Certify your language ability so you can study at certain universities. (Source: StockSnap)

A C1 Advanced qualification means learners have the skills to study, work and live in native English countries. If you have this certification it means you are gaining fluency and becoming bilingual.

C1 Advanced is the equivalent to the CEFR level C1 and is the next step between B2 First and C2 Proficiency.

If you would like to obtain a student visa in Australia and the UK, this level may be required. 

C2 Proficiency

Do you speak just like native English speakers? Then C2 Proficiency is the exam for you!

C2 Proficiency is formerly known as Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE). It is the highest-level qualification, equivalent to the CEFR level C2, and proof that you are a highly competent speaker of English.

A C2 Proficiency qualification demonstrates to the world that you have mastered the language to an exceptional degree.

It proves you are able to communicate with the fluency of a highly competent English speaker.

Passing the exam means you have the ability that’s required to study or work in a very senior professional or academic environment, for example on a postgraduate or PhD programme.

This certification will open the door to almost any company looking for bilingual candidates.

Linguaskill Business

Linguaskill Business has replaced BULATS, which was discontinued at the end of 2019.

Linguaskill is a quick and convenient online test to help organisations check the English levels of individuals and groups of candidates, powered by Artificial Intelligence technology. It tests all four language skills - speaking, writing, reading and listening - in modules.

It provides accurate results within 48 hours and you can take the test at any time or place, even at home. Results are aligned to the CEFR.

IELTS

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) helps you work or study in, or migrate to, a country where English is the native language.

For example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

If you would like to work, study or live in an English-speaking country, then you must be able to show a high level of English language ability.

IELTS is the most popular test for those who want to migrate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It is globally recognised by over 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies, including 3,400 institutions in the USA.

The test assesses your ability to listen, read, write and speak. You do not pass or fail the exam, rather your IELTS results will be graded on a scale between 1-9.

IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English.

ETS

Let’s travel across the Atlantic…

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) was founded in 1947 by the American Council on Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the College Entrance Examination Board.

It is the world's biggest private educational testing and measurement organisation.

ETS' English language assessments include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

TOEFL

The TOEFL is a popular choice for young candidates. It opens the door to studying at universities in English-speaking countries.

Similarly to the IELTS, you do not pass or fail, rather you receive an overall score that indicates your level.

How can I prepare for the TOEFL?
Organise a study group to prepare for your English exam. (Source: UIC)

The test is multiple choice and there are two different versions:

  • TOEFL Essentials: measures about 50% academic English and 50% general English. Takes about 1 1/2 hours.
  • TOEFL iBT (internet): measures 100% academic English. Takes about 3 hours.

There’s also the TOEFL Primary for learners aged 8 years and above, TOEFL Junior for learners aged 11 years and above, and TOEFL ITP for learners aged 16 years and above. The TOEFL is recognised worldwide and is valid for two years.

TOEIC

This is another exam by ETS. As opposed to the TOEFL, which is for students, the TOEIC is targeted at those in business.

Launched in 1979, there are two tests: the TOEIC Listening and Reading Test and the TOEIC Speaking and Writing Tests.

The Listening and Reading test is multiple choice with two parts:

  • Listening (100 questions). This part lasts 45 minutes.
  • Reading (100 questions). This part lasts 1 hour 15 minutes.

The Speaking and Writing test involves 20 minutes of speaking and one hour of writing.

You can take The TOEIC Official Learning and Preparation Course to help you get ready for the exam. You can also get Tactics for the TOEIC Listening and Reading Test and Tactics for the TOEIC® Speaking and Writing Tests, which are test preparation books, as well as free sample tests and examinee handbooks.

The TOEIC Bridge is for beginning to lower-intermediate level learners.

Nationally Accepted Exams for English Proficiency

There are various English language exams across the world that you could sit. However, the availability of these might be limited depending on which country you live in.

These are not recommended for those wanting to study or work in native English countries.

However, if you would like to teach English in your country, they might be a requirement. 

With Superprof, you can learn English online.

Where can I get free English tutorials?
Learn English online with Superprof. (Source: Unsplash)

Unless completely necessary, it is not advised to take one of these exams instead of the many internationally recognised versions for which there'll often be preparation materials, English practice and sample tests available created for students sitting them.

Before you make a decision, ensure you think carefully about which is the best exam for you.

You now have all the information you need to get started. What are you waiting for?

Discover what you require to take the GMAT exam for business school.

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Alison

Ali is an Australian writer, community manager and art curator living in Paris.