What is the difference between a Cambridge ESOL exam and IELTS?

Students are always asking me which exam course they should take. IELTS or Cambridge Mainsuite exams; (KET, PET, FEC, CAE AND CPE). In fact both are Cambridge developed exams although IELTS was developed jointly with the British Council and IDP.

The IELTS exam awards a grade according to your level, whereas Cambridge Mainsuite have exams at each level and awards a certificate if you pass.

The IELTS grade is only valid for two years whereas the Mainsuite exams have no expiry date.

IELTS is used as for immigration purposes and for entrance to higher education such as TAFE colleges and Universities in Australia and overseas. Mainsuite exams are widely used for employment overseas and also for college and university entrance.

The IELTS exam consists of 4 papers; listening, speaking, reading and writing. For immigration the reading and writing has a general English focus. For higher education students take an academic focused reading and writing exam.

Mainsuite exams have 5 papers; listening, speaking, reading, writing and use of English. (PET only has four papers as Listening, speaking and reading/writing.

At GV Sunshine Coast, we run IELTS option classes in which, students from Intermediate and Upper Intermediate classes may participate. There is a pre test for entry in IELTS classes and students are expected to be at a minimum 4.5 IELTS equivalent level. Exams are held every month in all the major cities. Brisbane is the nearest centre for GV Sunshine Coast students.

We offer Cambridge PET, FCE, and CAE exams.  These are run three times a year in line with the exams which are held simultaneously around the world in March, June and December. 

Which exam is best for you?  If you want to enter a TAFE college course in Australia, then IELTS is the best option. If you wish to enter an undergraduate course at university, you can consider IELTS or CAE.

Becky Cantor: Director of Studies GV Noosa – Sunshine Coast

3 thoughts on “What is the difference between a Cambridge ESOL exam and IELTS?

  1. I’m a qualified nurse in the Philippines, can I also take ESOL examination aside from IELTS if I want to pursue my Profession here in United Kingdom. What king of ESOL exam do I need to take?

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