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What are the CAE and FCE?

Simply put, they are tests that are administered by Cambridge Assessment, University of Cambridge. FCE stands for First Certificate in English and CAE stands for Cambridge English: Advanced. The CAE is also known as the C1 Advanced. Another version of the FCE is available : the FCE For Schools.

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The First Certificate in English (FCE) or B2 First is a test administered by Cambridge Assessment. The FCE is meant to assess at the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). A good score on the FCE shows that you possess the language skills that are needed to communicate confidently in an English-speaking setting.


The CAE or C1 Advanced is intended to assess people at the C1 level of the CEFR; this test is also an effective assessment tool for the B2 and C2 levels of the CEFR. Scoring well on the FCE indicates that a person is able to function at a high level in an English speaking environment.

What are the differences between the FCE and CAE?

As mentioned above, the FCE primarily assesses test takers in the CEFR B2 range; whereas, the CAE primarily assesses test takers in the CEFR C1 range. The FCE is an upper intermediate level English assessment, while the CAE is an advanced level English assessment. Basically, the CAE is the more difficult of the two tests.

What is on each test?

First of all, let’s take a look at the FCE. The FCE tests all areas of language ability:

  • Reading and Use of English -75 minutes
  • Writing – 2 essays, 80 minutes
  • Listening – 40 minutes
  • Speaking – interview, normally with another candidate, 14 minutes

Now, let’s take a look at the CAE. The CAE also tests all areas of language ability:

  • Reading and Use of English: 90 minutes
  • Writing: 90 minutes
  • Listening: 40 minutes
  • Speaking: 15 minutes

The total length and format of the exam’s speaking section are the same as the FCE, but questions are more demanding.

Notebook on a table with pencils.

The tests share the same format and length; however, the differences are in the level of difficulty of questions, length of articles to be read and the length of the required writing tasks. For example, in the CAE writing section, a test taker has to write two texts of about 220-260 words in length. Part 1 of the writing section is an essay. In part 2 of the writing section, you have a choice of 3 tasks (letter/email, proposal, report, or a review).

For the writing section of the FCE, a test taker also writes an essay, but the essay is based on prompts and the required word count is shorter (140-190 words). In Part 2 of the writing section, there is a choice of questions: an article, an essay, a letter, a report, a review, a story. The test taker has to write 140-190 words.

The scoring of the FCE compared to CAE scoring

FCE Scale Scores

ScoreGradeCEFR level
180–190 AC1
173–179 BB2
160–172 CB2
140–159 B1

CAE Scale Scores

ScoreGradeCEFR Level

Receiving Scores

The procedure for receiving your scores is the same for both tests.

Several white and yellow envelopes on a table.

You receive a separate score for each of the four skills on the FCE/CAE: reading, writing, listening and speaking and use of English. This provides test candidates with a clear understanding of their performance. The five scores are then averaged, and the average is your overall result for the exam. Every test candidate receives a grade and CEFR level. Statement of Results are released online about 4-6 weeks after the exam for paper-based exams, and 2-3 weeks after the exam for computer-based exams.

Do you have any test tips to practice for the FCE and CAE?

Yes, practice a lot. Take a test preparation course that will guide you through example questions and answers so that you will become familiar and comfortable with the test format and expectations. Also, find yourself an official book of sample tests and preparation materials. Alternatively, you could utilize the assortment of online practice materials.

On GlobalExam, you will have access to several exercises and FCE mock exams with question types, in order to train in real exam conditions. You will get a correction and a score each time, to follow your progress! Register now for free and try out the platform!