5. Popular EFL Exams

In order to understand the different English as a Foreign Language/EFL Exams, let’s take a look at the CEFR Levels, the levels established by the Common European Framework of Reference.

Popular EFL Exams

In this unit, we will start to familiarise ourselves with the common EFL exams (English as a Foreign Language) taught and recognised internationally, their exam structure and mark scheme:

  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System
  • TOEFL iBT: Test Of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-Based Test – American English test
  • PET: Preliminary English Test – by Cambridge
  • FCE: First Certificate in English – by Cambridge
  • CAE: Certificate in Advanced English – by Cambridge
  • CPE: Certificate of Proficiency in English – by Cambridge
  • ISE: Integrated Skills in English – by Trinity (these exams cover all 4 language skills)
  • GESE: Graded Examinations in Spoken English – by Trinity (these exams cover Speaking and Listening skills)


Cambridge and Other EFL Exams
A1 BREAKTHROUGH 1 – 2 0 – 29
A2 LEVEL 1 KET 3 30 – 40 246 – 380
B1 LEVEL 2 PET 3.5 – 4.5 41 – 60 381 – 540
B2 LEVEL 3 FCE 5 – 6 61 – 78 541 – 700
C1 LEVEL 4 CAE 6.5 – 7 79 – 95 701 – 910
C2 LEVEL 5 CPE 7.5 – 9 96 – 120 910 – 990

Lately Trinity exams have become increasingly popular too. Here are the different exams and their levels:

Trinity College London English Language Exams
 CEFR LEVEL  (right)

EXAM (below)

Pre A1 A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2
GESE Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3, Grade 4 Grade 5, Grade 6 Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9 Grade 10, Grade 11 Grade 12

In order to understand the levels these different exams equate to, here is a breakdown of the CEFR, defined by Wikipedia as follows: “The Common European Framework divides learners into three broad divisions that can be divided into six levels; for each level, it describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing. These levels are”:

  • A1 called Breakthrough, Starter Level or Beginner Level
  • A2 called Way Stage or Elementary Level
  • B1 called Threshold or Intermediate Level
  • B2 called Vantage or Upper Intermediate Level
  • C1 called Effective Operational Proficiency or Advanced Level
  • C2 called Mastery or Proficiency Level

Here is a quiz for you to complete:

CEFR levels

Match the following levels established in the CEFR, with their equivalent names:

These levels are based on the ability of the learner to read, write, speak and listen in English. Therefore the various exams above-mentioned tend to be divided into the 4 language skills:

  • reading: the learner will be tested with a series of reading passages and comprehension questions.
  • writing: the learner will have to produce one or several pieces of formal writing (an essay, letter, report, review, etc.).
  • speaking: the learner will have to express his/her opinion, describe a picture or graph, and/or follow a guided conversation with an examiner or whilst being recorded by a computer.
  • listening: the learner will be tested with a series of listening passages and information-based/comprehension questions.

Here is a quiz for you to complete:

Testing language skills Quiz

In the context of an exam of English as a foreign language, match the following language skills with the relevant testing method.

As teachers of English, we will help the learners improve their language skills by teaching them vocabulary, grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and more.



Lesson Topics


  • Chloé Auffray Posted September 22, 2021 5:06 pm

    About my last commentary, sorry it’s me who was wrong, I made mistakes because I read the exercise too fast.

  • Chloé Auffray Posted September 22, 2021 4:43 pm

    Hello, I had all my answers correct in this quiz but the results say I have 0 points, I don’t understand why. Thank you

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