English Language Certificates – Conclusion and Comparison chart

English Language Certificates – Conclusion and Comparison chart

Choosing between all these tests and certificates

We hope that all the details we gave you about these certificates and standardized tests helped you understand them better and will help you make a choice. There are so many parameters to take into account before taking your decision. Do I want a real certificate or a standardized test? what level do I need?  TOEIC or IELTS or Cambridge?

You can find below a chart of comparison between the different tests based on levels.

If you had to compare the ETS tests to the Cambridge tests  we might add that the Cambridge are better suited if you are planning to join a British school and The ETS ones if you are going to the US. Although it is not definitive. You can indeed study with a TOEFL in the UK and about everywhere. Conversely your IELTS or CAE will be recognized about everywhere. In the end it is just about what certificate or test the school you have set your mind upon will accept.


TOEFL / IELTS / CECR Levels comparison chart

English certificates comparison chart

More certificates and tests we did not mention :

The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE academic) by  by Pearson Language Tests is an Australian test  to assess non-native English speakers’ readiness to follow university-level studies. It is recognized in the UK, the US and many other countries like France, Spain, China, Italy Malaysia… in prestigious universities like Harvard, Yale, business schools like London business school, HEC and also a number of art and music schools.

Test scores range from 10 to 90, using the GSE (Global Scale of English) .

ECL English language test by the  ECL – European Consortium for the Certificate of Attainment in Modern Languages.

The ECL provides a standardised test system customised to the languages of the EU member states. The test system is based on the recommendations of the CEFR.

The ECL language exam can be taken on four levels based on CEFR levels:

  • A2 – Waystage
  • B1 – Threshold
  • B2 – Vantage
  • C1 – Effective Operational Proficiency

The exam consists of four parts: oral communication, listening, written communication and reading comprehension. The test does not grammar tests and translation tasks.

The exam can be taken in 15 languages.

Other european test systems are available in multiple languages like the TELC managed by a German organisation and the DCL run by the French ministry of National Education

Let’s mention the GMAT or Graduate Management Admission Test before we finish. It is a test in English language partially managed by Pearson that can but the test assesses more than just English proficiency.

Indeed it measures several skills considered essential for students who pursuing admission in a graduate management program, such as an MBA so it assesses certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for that purpose. We have included this one to be complete but this one is borderline. It is a language test but not entirely a language test.

Talking about completeness, there are more than 50 different English language tests on the market and we did not include every one of them. Chance is you can take one of those we mention near your place because we have tackled the most renowned tests and certificates in the world today. They are recognized for their quality and so you know what you are getting and chances will be greater than your school recognizes it.  Whatever your decision regarding which examination you should take, we have to insist that it is better to contact the school first and read their requirements for admission. They usually list a batch of tests or certificates they accept for admission and we obviously advise you choose one of them. If you think we have missed a major actor on the market or you have in mind one you would like us to mention, please leave a comment below.


English Language certificates – IELTS and the Cambridge exams


The IELTS or International English Language Testing system is conjointly managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP Education Australia.

The IELTS is accepted by a majority of higher education establishments in the English-speaking world and schools offering international studies.

It is the main competitor to the TOEFL in many  aspects insofar as the difficulty level is comparable, and both vie for the first place in popularity,  and they both serve the same purpose: Testing students ability to study in English.

One particularity of the IELTS is that speaking exams take place during an interview in front of the examiner, whereas the TOEFL spoken English test is recorded and assessed later.

Every candidate must choose between the General Training module and the Academic module. You will most likely choose the later as it will give you access to higher education in English. The General Training will be of interest for those seeking to gain work experience or for immigration purposes.

  • The IELTS costs $190 and is considered valid two years unless the students prove that they have worked to maintain their level.
  • Four communication (skills, speaking, writing, listening and reading) are assessed and given a score from 1: “non-user” to 9: “expert”.
  • Like the TOEFL, no minimum score is required to pass the IELTS
  • All in all, the test takes about 3 hours.

The Cambridge English examinations (CAE)

Cambridge English Language Assessment is part of the university of Cambridge. They have been providing English language tests and qualifications for more than a hundred years.

They were involved in  the creation of the Common European Framework of reference for languages (CEFR) and its examinations are aligned on it.

As stated above, the institution manages the IELTS conjointly with the British Council and  IDP Education Australia.

Besides this very popular test, Cambridge provides several high ranking diplomas that benefit from the aura of the university.  They are called the Cambridge English examinations or sometimes just the Cambridge, which might lead one to think that there is only one diploma.

However the Cambridge English examinations provide several certificates, and this time we are not talking about mere standardized tests. This has several consequences for the exam:

  • Those tests procures a qualification. Consequently, they do not have a validity time and do not get obsolete.
  • Diploma means it is possible to fail the examination. Candidates will have a grade from A to E. They will pass if they get a grade between A and C and fail if they get a D or a E. However, all candidates receive a Cambridge Statement of Results with their results and their CEFR level.
  • Each certificate corresponds to a CEFR level:  However, if you get an average grade it is possible to get the CEFR below the level of the certificate. On the other hand, it is possible to get the level above if you do extremely well.

The Certificates provided by Cambridge have changed over time but nowadays they include:

  • the First Certificate in English (FCE) : Corresponds to CEFR level B1/B2,  IELTS 5.5 / 6.5
  • The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) :

Corresponds to CEFR level C1 / C2, IELTS 6.5 / 8

  • The Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) :

Corresponds to CEFR level C2,  IELTS 8, is the most advanced level

Keep in mind that, as mentioned above, an excellent or an average mark can modulate your level. An excellent score at the CPE might be equivalent to IELTS 8. 5 or 9

  • The Cambridge is divided in four parts: writing, reading and language use (grammar, vocabulary and collocations), listening and speaking.
  • The speaking is taken face-to-face with two candidates and two assessors. Only one of the assessors ask questions and interacts with the candidates.  Their speaking skills are both evaluated in interaction and in monologue.
  • The pricing is around 220 euros but diplomas do not expire.

The Cambridge English Business Certificates (BEC)

Cambridge also provides the Business English Certificates (BEC) that aims to assess the students’ skills in professional context and may be required by some MBA.

You can take the  Preliminary (B1), Vantage (B2), or Higher (C1)


If you want to read more about some of the tests or certificates we left out, or you are interested in our test and certificate level comparison chart, or maybe you are up for a couple more words of advice,


Studying abroad in English :   TOEFL and TOEIC

Studying abroad in English : TOEFL and TOEIC


The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL is a standardized test to assess the ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking schools or universities to follow courses in English. The Us-based nonprofit organization ETS has been administering the test since 1964, date of its creation.

it is considered the most popular English test in the world, along with the IELTS.

It is recognized by more than 9,000 higher education institutions around the world. It is present in more than 130 countries.

  • It costs $250 and is considered valid for two years.
  • It lasts four hours and students are assessed in four skills: reading, writing, listening, speaking.
  • Student is recorded and assessed later, unlike the IELTS which places the candidate in front of an examiner.

It exists in different forms :

  • PBT: Paper based test
  • IBT : Internet-based test
  • iBT: Scores range from 0 to 120.  A score of 79 / 90 is required to pass
  • PBT :  final scores range from 310 to 677 and does not include written exam score.


Since the ETS introduced the TOEFL internet-based Test  in 2005, it has progressively replaced the paper-based Test (PBT) and the computer-based test (CBT). The CBT was discontinued in September 2006 whereas it is still possible to pass paper-based test in limiteds areas.

Minimum scores for admission in colleges and universities

Each university or college sets a minimum score for admission into the school or into a programme. It is not possible to state a minimum score here as each establishment is free to set a different minimum accepted score. To illustrate this, minimum scores for admission can range as low as 61. On the other hand, a university like Oxford requires a score as high as 111 out of 120 for admission.



The TOEIC is the second standardized test here is managed by the US-based ETS. They have been administering it since its creation in 1979 by a Japanese team backed by the Japanese Ministry of Economy.

It is a bit different from most other “certificates” here because it is an enterprise oriented.. As such, it was not originally designed to measure English skills to follow courses in English. It was originally created in 1979.

Quoting the ETS, the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC for short, is “an English language test designed specifically to measure the everyday English skills of people working in an international environment.”

However, some schools accept if for admission, for instance in the United States.

The TOEIC listening and reading test

When people refer to the TOEIC, they usually refer to the TOEIC listening and reading test.  As you probably guessed, it only assesses your English comprehension skills.

The TOEIC gives you a score from 10 to 990 (Basic Proficiency to International Professional Proficiency).

The scale corresponds to CEFR levels A1 to C1, which is fairly lower than the level of the TOEFL and the IELTS.  Like those two,  s it is a test – and not a diploma –  so it is not possible to fail it.  However, universities and colleges require a minimum level for admission.

On top of that, schools will often encourage students to take it for recognition of their proficiency after their studies. But most of the time, some schools require it for graduation. For instance, in France, scoring a TOEIC with 785+ is required to validate an engineer’s degree. Some diplomas require 750+. You will need to consult your school’s admission requirements for up-to-date details.

If your school requires it for graduation rather than for admission, you should not take it in advance before the TOEIC scores are supposedly valid for only two years. It means the test centers do not have to retain your data longer than this period of time. However, schools usually accept TOEICs passed one year before admission.

The TOEIC speaking and writing test

Complementary to the listening and reading test, you can also take the TOEIC speaking and writing test, which assesses expression skills. This complementary test is graded from 0 to 400. This one is rarely required by businesses or universities so our advice is to only take it if it is specifically required by your school.  The writing and speaking tests can be taken separately and are graded from 0 to 200.


Of course, the ETS is not alone on the market. The IELTS is the TOEFL’s toughest competitor and there are plenty of other solutions on the market.

English language certificates – introduction

English language certificates – introduction

So do you want to study in the United States? or do you want to study in the United Kingdom? Maybe you have a prestigious school or university in mind? Harvard? Yale? Berkeley? the MIT? Oxford? Cambridge? Of course your university of choice may not be as famous as one of those I have just mentioned but you will do just as good. Or maybe just want to study in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Wait, you do not need to study in an English-speaking country but you just want to study abroad? And this international programme you are interested in just so happens to be in English because yes, English is the language of international studies.

Whatever your choice is, the universities will require to prove your proficiency in English. This is why you need to get a language certificate.

A university may require a specific language certificate or give you a choice between a selection of certificates and will also specify the expected level. If you remember the previous article, this level will be either expressed by a grade or by a specific certificate.

Here we are using the word “certificate” liberally. Indeed, you will notice that most of what we call certificates here are technically  just standardized tests and do not lead to a diploma. Rest reassured, we will detail the differences between tests and certificates in this article.

English is an extremely popular study language – it sits at the top of the list of the most studied foreign languages in the world. As a result, there are more than 50 different English certificates on the market today and it would not be possible to list them all here. The aim of the article is not to detail each of them, we will focus on the most prominent certificates and help you make out the differences.


TOEFL and TOEIC and :  the American references

ETS, an American nonprofit organization whose goal is “to help advance quality and equity in education”, manages these two very popular language “certificates”:  the TOEFL and the TOEIC.

It might be abusive to call them certificates though. Technically they are standardized language tests. That means you cannot fail them and the score is interpreted as your level in English language. In practise, schools use your score to accept you or to refuse you. If you do not meet their requirement, you are not going to get admission. The ETS is thus just a service provider that give standardized tests that is recognized everywhere. So the tests do not entitle you to a certificate or a diploma.

But as those tests have become globally recognized, they have become references and people often write them in their resumes and it’s still relevant even though they are past their validity time. And as such it is no surprise that people have started calling them certificates abusively.

Different tests will test different English. English for studies, English for work, etc. This is why your test will have a limited time of validity, unlike a diploma  that you keep for life, like a bachelor in English for instance.


The eSports a future brand new job, how can you study it?

The eSports a future brand new job, how can you study it?

Hello everyone, I’m Aimen, an intern at HigherEdMe. One of my hobbies is eSports. I’m going to tell you about its development and more specifically about its presence in High Schools and Universities. 

What are eSports ?

eSports, also called electronic sports, were born in the United States. This discipline can be played alone or in a team, allowing players to compete on online games for a place at the top of rankings (best teams by region, continent, country or even the world ). eSports have been around for 15 years, even if it has only been professionalized for some time in France.

How have eSports developed ?

The first professional events have remarkably developed since the first tournaments in 1997. The same year, the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), founded by Angel Munoz, hosted a competition which brought together about 300 participants around a single game, Quake (first person shooter video game). In early 2003, the Lanagame Nantes tournament reached 820 players over 3 days, becoming the first provincial Lan-party. In January 2007, eSport landed on television with the Championship Gaming Series on DirecTV.

The beginning of year 2010 is marked by the release of Starcraft 2, Street fighter or Counter Strike Global Offensive and the explosion of MOBA, mainly with League of Legends by RIOT. In 2016, the audience exploded with more than 2,750,000 spectators and over 500,000,000 dollars worldwide.

eSports in schools

There are schools that have embarked on the eSport, including the University of California, in Irvine in the western United States, and Robert Morris University, the first in the United States to Offer an eSports program.

Robert Morris University (RMU) is a private university based in Chicago. RMU offers great scholarships for students involved in competitive gaming, especially in League of Legends, where they can learn the different trades that can be found in this environment:

  • professional player
  • Animator / streamer
  • Journalist / blogger
  • Network technician
  • E-sport event organizer


It should be noted that this area is not only populated by players, there are also qualified people who make the world of eSports.

For my part, I have been a Counter strike player for 2 years with the G2 Esports team. From my point of view, eSports are developing positively and are beginning to reach more and more people, including schools that are beginning to integrate it into their courses and in the future, eSports will keep on growing.


Picking a language certificate

Picking a language certificate

News from the dev team

Hi, I am Bruno, from the development team at HigherEdMe. For this series of articles I am stealing Emilie’s seat to share with you some bits of information I have gathered about language certificates.
We had a lot of feedback from schools who want to know if students are fluent enough to follow studies in a foreign language.
As a result, I have been working on a new implementation of languages in the application. The goal is to make it easier for you to communicate your information to the schools.

Studying language certificates

One of the leads we have been investigating is language certificates. Indeed, those are often required by schools as a proof of proficiency. After doing some research on the subject for internal documentation, we thought it might be of interest to students seeking to take a certificate and we decided to share that info as a series of articles.

Before discussing the certificates, I will first tell you about language levels. You will discover how the Council of Europe contributed to standardize language levels around the world with the creation of the Common European framework of reference for languages in 2001.

The most relevant languages on our platform

We will then focus on languages that are the most relevant for our platform.
On the one hand, we have to take into account the most studied languages in the world. And according to an Italian study of 2014, the most studied foreign languages are:

1. English
2. French
3. Spanish
4. Italian
5. Chinese
6. Japanese
7. German

For comparison, here is the ranking of the most studied languages in American schools and universities:

Spanish       50%
French        12%
American Sign Language 7%
German        5%
Italian           4%
Chinese     3.9%
Arabic        2.1%
Latin,         1.7%
Russian     1.4%
Ancient Greek, 1%

On the other hand, French is the most sought-after language on the platform.

As you may have guessed, we will first discuss English and French certificates.

Follow the link at the end of each part to read the next article in the list:


photo by Bites85 CC BY-SA 4.0