A number of English language learners always want to work towards a qualification. It's good for students as it gives them tangible proof of their skills; it's good for companies because they can see that their training budget has been well invested. The most sought-after certificates are those that bear the name Cambridge ESOL (= English for Speakers of Other Languages). Cambridge ESOL, which is a department of the University of Cambridge, is certified to the international quality management standard ISO 9001, and is part of Cambridge Assessment, which in turn is Europe's biggest language test provider, and the world's leading educational assessment organisation.

Cambridge ESOL examinations are intended for candidates who are not native speakers of English and who wish to achieve a high-quality, internationally recognised English-language qualification. As many as two million candidates in 135 countries take Cambridge ESOL examinations every year. The official website is and its German representative is Each examination is made up of papers that test all four skills of the candidate: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Cambridge exams are offered in two main categories: general English and professional English. All the exams are aligned with the levels of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR for short). [ See CEFR descriptors in ENGLISH or in DEUTSCH ]

General English exams are:

  • KET (Key English Test, A2 ),
  • PET (Preliminary English Test, B1 ),
  • FCE (First Certificate in English, B2 ),
  • CAE (Certificate in Advanced English, C1 ), and
  • CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English, C2 ).

FCE, CAE, and CPE are also referred to as the Upper Main Suite . The CPE is the most prestigious of them all and the last two are required by British universities (and not only) as the suitable level for study and for admission purposes.

The Business English Certificates ( BEC ), on the other hand, are offered at three levels:

  • BEC Preliminary ( B1 ),
  • BEC Vantage ( B2 ), and
  • BEC Higher ( C1 ).

They reflect authentic work tasks and, like the general English exams, test all four language skills: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. These exams are most prestigious in the world of business and are officially recognised by both the public sector (ministries, government bodies, universities) and the private sector with its many companies as well as educational organizations.

Cambridge ESOL also offers more specific business examinations:

  • ICFE (International Certificate in Financial English, B2/C1 ), offered to finance professionals, and
  • ILEC (International Legal English Certificate, B2/C1 ), available for legal practitioners.

Both examinations are internationally recognised qualifications. Today all the exams relate candidates' scores to the CEFR emphasizing not so much what a candidate knows but more what they ‘can do' linguistically, which better suits the world of business and its stakeholders.

If you are interested in a stress-free exam preparation course leading to one of the above-mentioned examinations, I will be happy to help you prepare to sit your chosen exam and receive the required certificate. Those of you thinking of ICFE or ILEC, please remember that the international language of finance and accountancy is English and your knowledge of the English financial skills may give you an opportunity to work abroad or in your own country with an international organization. If you are after ILEC, it's worth mentioning that in future, in Germany, international business cases are likely to be held also in English, including court hearings. Experience shows that too many nuances and details are lost in translation into German. A pilot project is already under way. So, wouldn't you want to add a certified language ability, recognised internationally to your CV? If so, please CONTACT me for further details. I have been a Cambridge examiner for over ten years. I am a trained Cambridge ESOL oral examiner for the following examinations: PET, the Upper Main Suite (FCE, CAE, CPE), BEC Preliminary, Vantage, Higher, ICFE, and ILEC. So far I have prepared over 250 students and examined well over 700 candidates sitting various Cambridge exams.

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