|EE-011| Getting to know the Cambridge English Exams – Cambridge Main Suite A2-C2

Hello Exam Seekers,

I’ve been talking about the importance of teacher’s development for a while now, and whenever I mention that anyone – especially teachers – should look for English certificates, people tend to look for the Cambridge English Exams. This happens because the Cambridge English Qualifications are the most famous English certificates in the English language.

The quality of Cambridge English exams and the positive impact they have depend on the work of thousands of professionals. They include 2,800 authorized examination centers, over 50,000 registered preparation centers, and tens of thousands of examiners, teachers, and publishers. Their global network is active in 130 countries and includes 27 offices in locations around the world.

And I belive that’s why Cambridge English is very well known around the globe.

Even though people look for Cambridge Qualifications to assess their English knowledge, some people don’t really know exactly which exam they should take. So today, I’m going to explain the different exams from Cambridge English Main Suite, so that you will find the best exam for you.


If you are reading these texts – without a translator, of course – your level of English is probably around B1-B2 or above, which means that you are able to sit for the B1: Preliminary or B2: First.

B1-B2? What is this?!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you probably have come across some posts with these numbers and letters. I have been sharing lots of texts about the Cambridge examinations and they all follow the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

The CEFR is an international standard for describing language ability. It describes language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. This makes it easy for anyone involved in language teaching and testing, such as teachers or learners, to see the level of different qualifications. It also means that employers and educational institutions can easily compare Cambridge’s qualifications to other exams in their country.

All Cambridge exams and tests follow the CEFR. It is so clear, that all the names of the Cambridge English exams changed, and now, they are known for their scale name:

There are many other Cambridge English Proficiency Exams, but today, let’s focus on the Cambridge English Main Suite.

Cambridge English Main Suite
Cambridge English Main Suite

Cambridge offers English exams from the Pre A1 CEFR level to the C2 CEFR level, but they divided them into two categories:

So, today, I’m going to focus on the exams from the A2 CEFR level to the C2 CEFR level.

As you can see on the table above, the Main Suite ranges from 120-230 points on the Cambridge English Scale. That means, that you need a minimum of 120 points to be considered a basic user of English and be granted an A2 certificate.

The A2 Key qualification is proof of the person’s ability to use English to communicate in simple situations. An A2 Key certificate shows that candidates can:

  • understand and use basic phrases and expressions;
  • understand simple written English;
  • introduce yourself and answer basic questions about yourself;
  • interact with English speakers at a basic level.

There are two Cambridge exams for an A2 CEFR level: A2 Key and A2 Key for schools, which offers specific vocabulary for teens.

A B1 Preliminary qualification shows that English users have mastered the basics of English and now have practical language skills for everyday use. This exam is the logical step in the language learning journey between A2 Key and B2 First. A B1 Preliminary qualification shows that candidates can:

  • read simple textbooks and articles in English;
  • write letters and emails on everyday subjects;
  • take meeting notes;
  • show awareness of opinions and mood in spoken and written English.

There are two Cambridge exams for a B1 CEFR level: B1 Preliminary and B1 Preliminary for schools, which offers a specific vocabulary for teens.

A B2 First qualification proves that English users have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study on courses taught in English. This exam is the logical step in learners’ language learning journey between B1 Preliminary and C1 Advanced. A B2 First qualification shows that candidates can:

  • communicate effectively face-to-face, expressing opinions and presenting arguments;
  • follow the news;
  • write clear, detailed English, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different points of view;
  • write letters, reports, stories, and lots of other types of text.

There are two Cambridge exams for a B2 CEFR level: B2 First and B2 First for schools, which offers a specific vocabulary for teens.

A C1 Advanced certificate is proof of high-level achievement in learning English. This exam is the logical step in the language learning journey between B2 First and C2 Proficiency. A C1 Advanced qualification shows that learners can:

  • follow an academic course at the university level;
  • communicate effectively at a managerial and professional level;
  • participate with confidence in workplace meetings or academic tutorials and seminars;
  • express yourself with a high level of fluency.

There is no C1 Advanced for schools.

A C2 Proficiency qualification shows the world that English speakers have mastered English to an exceptional level. It proves that users of English at this level can communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker. Preparing for and passing the exam means candidates have the level of English that’s needed to study or work in a very senior professional or academic environment, for example on a postgraduate or Ph.D. program. A C2 Proficiency qualification shows that learners can:

  • study demanding subjects at the highest level, including postgraduate and Ph.D. programs;
  • negotiate and persuade effectively at senior management level in international business settings;
  • understand the main ideas of complex pieces of writing;
  • talk about complex or sensitive issues and deal confidently with difficult questions.

There is no C2 Proficiency for schools.

As you can see above, the Main Suite exams are not divided by age. Basically, anyone can take them, depending on the English level of each person. However, some exams – A2, B1, and B2 – have a “for schools” version, which means that they are usually taken by teens. While C1 and C2 are taken by adults only. They show a great level of knowledge, so if you plan on taking either of them, be sure you study before, they are difficult!

Between the exams there is always a knowledge gap, therefore, you should study a lot to get them. Also, try taking an exam a level below yours to gain confidence.

Well, this is a very short text just explaining the Cambridge English Main Suite exams. If you want to know your English level, however, before sitting for a specific exam, try taking a Placement Test like Linguaskill or a TOEFL, which are exams that show at which level you are.

There are many exams out there, make sure you choose the best one for you and tell me in the comments, which exam are you looking for now!

English Exams
English Exams


That’s it for today! Please like the post and follow the blog on:

You can also listen to this post at Anchor!!!

Have a great week,
Patricia Moura


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