The difference between IELTS and CAE

Which exam is better for me?

The difference between IELTS & CAE which exam is better for me?

Why is it important to know which exam to choose?

In all my exam classes there is at least 1 student who does not belong there. Therefore, I always have a chat with them on why they are doing the exam, as students are not always fully informed. Then based on their needs I might change them to a different class, which has happened multiple times.

Knowing why you are doing the exam is the first step to success
Kristof Abrath

So, have a look at the difference between the IELTS and the CAE exam and if you’re still not sure just ask by contacting me or in the comments below.






  • Visa
  • Immigration
  • University
  • Work
  • Visa
  • Immigration
  • University
  • Work


  • Computer based
  • Paper based
  • General
  • Academic
  • UKVI
  • Computer based
  • Paper based


0 to 9

160 – 210


  • General/Academic/UKVI:
  • No pass or fail
  • Pass or fail
  • Fail, Pass Grade A,B,C
  • at least 60% overall


A letter 

A nice certificate 

Wait time results

  • 14 days
  • LIFESKILLS 7 days
  • Paper based: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Computer based: 2 to 3 weeks


2 years

For life 



Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking


Speaking and listening

Reading, use of English, Listening, Writing, Speaking


  • General/ Academic
  • Around 225
  • UKVI around 220
  • LIFESKILLS: around 175
  • Around 200

Length exam

  • Academic IELTS: 2h45 min
  • General IELTS: 2h45 min
  • UKVI: 2h45
  • Life Skills A1 16 –18 min
  • Life Skills A2 20 min
  • Life Skills B1 22 min.
  • About 4 hours 


Cambridge, The British Council, IDP 


Official Website:

Where are IELTS and CAE accepted?

Both IELTS and CAE are used for studying abroad (Academic IELTS) and immigrating (GENERAL IELTS/ UKVI/ LIFE SKILLS) to an English speaking country. It all depends which country you immigrate to and which University you will be studying. The best thing you can do is first contact your local immigration service or the University you want to study. They will also tell you which IELTS score (band) you will need or which kind of CAE pass(A/B/C) you will need. You can also have a look at IELTS for immigration or Accepting Cambridge English Exams

For work it depends on your employer, but generally CAE will be more accepted as this is a nice certificate, so something wonderful to add to your CV. This has also to do with the fact that IELTS is only valid for 2 years and CAE is valid for life.

Which versions of the IELTS and CAE exam are there?

Both exams have a paper based and a computer based version, still speaking is always done live with a real person unlike the TOEFL.

For the IELTS you have an Academic version which will be necessary for University or College or the General/ UKVI/ Lifeskills which is needed for immigration.

How is the IELTS and CAE scored?

For the IELTS you get a band score between 0 and 9 which correspond to your English level. These scores also are connected to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). So depending on your level of English you will get a certain score. Most universities will need you to get a 6.5 which is about CAE grade C.

For CAE you get a score between 160 and 210.

  • Pass
    • 200–210 Grade A C2
    • 193–199 Grade B C1
    • 180–192 Grade C C1
  • Fail
    • 160–179 Level B2 B2

Both exams will have a breakdown of the different scores according to the skills tested on the exam.



What do I need to do to Pass the IELTS or CAE exam?

Technically there is no fail for the IELTS exam, what happens is that you do not get the score you need, for example, you need a 7 and you only get a 6.5. For the CAE exam you need 60% of the total score otherwise you won’t pass.

Both exams you need to have a good enough level of English to pass or get the score you need. This means, both exams give you a score of your English level, so if you don’t get the score you need you will have to improve your English and study some more.

Apart from that you will need to do some exam classes or figure out by yourself how it all works. Both exams expect you to tick certain boxes, if you know which to tick you will get a better score. If you have no idea what the examiners are looking for even when you are a native speaker you have a big chance of failing the exam.

For the IELTS listening you only get to listen once, for the CAE you get to tries to listen. The IELTS writing tasks are fixed you either need to deal with a graph, map or process for Task 1 and an essay for task 2. For the CAE Task 1 you need to write an essay, for Task 2 you need to pick 1 of 3 choices (process, review, letter, proposal). The IELTS speaking you do alone and with the CAE in Part 3 and 4 you talk with a partner and try to have some natural conversation. For the CAE you also have the use of English part which really focuses on your grammar and vocabulary knowledge at C1 Advanced level.

What do the results of the IELTS or CAE look like?

IELTS score letter
CAE Cambridge advanced certificate

How long do I need to wait for my IELTS CAE results?

Depending on the exam you will have to wait more or less. The IELTS lifeskills will take 7 days to know your score, the other IELTS exams will take about 14 days. The CAE is the longest waiting time. The computer based takes 2 to 3 weeks the paper one 4 to 6 weeks of waiting time. Both exams will let you check your score online, before you receive your letter or certificate. 

How long is the IELTS or CAE valid?

IELTS is only valid for 2 years since your English level can go up or down in the next few years by using it less or more. This means, you only need to do the IELTS in the timeframe when it is really needed. If you are not immigrating or studying abroad in the next 2 years wait. 

CAE is valid for life as it is like any other exam, they reason you passed it you earned it. So, you can get it whenever you are really ready for the exam and then use it for the next 40 years or more.


What is tested on the IELTS or CAE?

IELTS and CAE Both exams test the 4 skills (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking), except the LIFESKILLS which is only speaking and listening. For the CAE you get a little bit of extra the Use of English which really focuses on advanced grammar and vocabulary. 

How much does the IELTS or CAE cost?

It all depends on where in the world you are and which exam centre they go to. They all have slightly different prices. So the best is to check your local IELTS or CAE test centre. 

How long does the IELTS or CAE take?

The IELTS is the shortest test with 2h45 min:

  • Reading: 1 hour
  • Listening 30 minutes
  • Writing 1 hour
  • Speaking about 15 minutes

The CAE exam lasts about 4 hours

  • Reading and Use of English: 1h30min
  • Listening: 40 minutes
  • Writing: 1h30 minutes
  • Speaking about 14 minutes

Life Skills A1 16 –18 min
Life Skills A2 20 min
Life Skills B1 22 min

Who owns the IELTS or CAE?

IELTS is owed by 3 partners Cambridge, The British Council, IDP it is their product and they each have 33% stake in it. CAE is a 100% Cambridge product as they own it all.

Which are the official websites of the IELTS & CAE?

For more information on IELTS you can have a look at
For more information on the CAE exam:

If you have any other questions about these exams or any other English exam don’t hesitate to contact me. I have multiple years of experience preparing many students for IELTS, FCE and CAE.

More Information on IELTS & CAE?

If you have any other questions about these exams or any other English exam don’t hesitate to contact me. I have multiple years of experience preparing many students for IELTS, FCE and CAE.

Spread the word

Kristof Abrath
Teacher, Trainer, Course Designer
Teaching in English on 4 different continents since 2006.

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