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Which English Exam is Right For Me? Cambridge, IELTS, SAT, ACT or TOEFL

There is no one English exam that can be considered the best, however there may be one English exam which is best for you. The right English exam depends on your objectives and which one suits you and your learning style.

Firstly, which country, Institution, or job do you need it for? When do you need certification?

Your age, learning style or English learning habits are also well worth considering. You may have a better chance in one English exam rather than another simply because you have always learnt English with this specific exam format or because your learning style is a better fit for that particular exam. This alone can influence your results.

All exam results are based on the European framework, from A1 to C2:

English exams per level by PEP English

The Cambridge exams: KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE & BEC.

Who are the Cambridge English exams for?

Students who need to certify their level for work, academic or other purposes. These are general exams that could cover a huge variety of topics. This is why going through Cambridge English exam preparation provides a solid backbone of English knowledge and usage. It is important to prepare and practise properly.

We prepare for Cambridge English Qualifications

How are the Cambridge English exams structured?

There are 5 different parts: reading, writing, speaking, listening and use of English.

How are the Cambridge English exams marked?

You do not merely pass or fail Cambridge English exams, if you do extremely well , you can get a level higher than the English exam you sat or the opposite, you can get the lower option if you were not successful enough. In other words, if you sit the FCE, which is a B2 exam and you excel, you will be awarded a C1. Alternatively, should you not fulfill the B2 requirements, you will get a B1. Thus, you will always come away certified. Results arrive about two months after you sit the exam so check when you need your certificate.

Cambridge English exams are valid for life. Having said that, many institutions will require English exam results within two years of your application. This is to ensure that your English has not gone rusty or been forgotten.

Age can be an important consideration because the KET, PET and FCE English exams exist For Schools, aimed at a younger public, and the general exams are designed for adults. The difference between the two is mainly to do with the subjects. The For Schools exams are more accessible for younger learners because they can relate to the subject matter. The subjects broached in the general English exams can be of no interest to younger people or not part of their reality so they could lose time or marks which could influence the English exam outcome owing to the subjects & not the actual level of English .

The English exam takes place over a full day, sometimes the speaking is held on a different date to the other tasks.

When do the Cambridge English exams take place?

Usually at the end of each school term, although there are other options for the most popular, FCE and CAE throughout the whole year.

BEC (Business English Certificate)

BEC English exams are purely for people with business objectives in English. They are designed for professionals who need to be able to work in English. The English exam format is roughly the same as the other Cambridge exams but the topics apply to business English . There are three levels to choose from: BEC Preliminary, Vantage & Higher .

Cambridge announced that due to lower demand, BEC exam sessions will only be held until 2023. All BEC certificates obtained until then will be valid for life as usual.

How long are the Cambridge exams valid for?

All Cambridge exams are valid for life.

IELTS (English Language Testing System)

Who are the IELTS English exams for?

If you plan to work or attend University in the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland or Europe, you will most likely have to pass IELTS.

IELTS registration centre
PEP English prepares students for IELTS

The IELTS results come in two and a half weeks so if you need the exam quickly, this can be reassuring.

How are the IELTS English exams structured?

IELTS exists in two forms: General and academic. The general is more similar to the Cambridge exams because they could cover a wide range of topics.

IELTS academic is for university admission & is a good exam for more structured brain types, particularly in the writing part 1, where you have to describe a pie chart, sequence or graph.

IELTS comprises reading, listening, two writing tasks and one speaking task. Each one assesses specific abilities, so it is very important to prepare accordingly. Many students come to us when their exam is near, sometimes after failing and need to make sure they pass the next time. If you already know that you are going to sit the IELTS, as experts in English IELTS preparation,

We strongly advise you to join our yearly classes to avoid the stress of a last minute crash course. IELTS is an English exam that requires fine-tuned language and argumentative skills, so preparation can be really fun when done with proper time.

How are the IELTS exams marked?

Regardless of your level, everyone takes the same exam. The grades are awarded using a sliding scale system, called bands. The grade required varies from one university or job to another, but it is usually 6.5 (B2) or 7 (C1).

When do the IELTS exams take place?

Our partner The British Council offers many dates throughout the year. If you are a student with Pep English, we can take care of your registration for you. There are dates every weekend in Bern and about once per month in Geneva or Lausanne. You can retake the exam with no problem if you do not get the mark you need the first time round.

How long are the IELTS exams valid for?

The exam is valid for two years.


Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn - Benjamin Franklin

Who are the SAT and ACT English exams for?

SAT & ACT are generally for Candidates applying to Universities and Colleges in the United States mainly, but also Europe, Asia and Australia. Many students are English mother-tongue or at that level of English & actually prepare and take both exams.

It is important to try a mock test in each to see where you gain higher scores. There is no one test which is easier.

ACT can be a good choice for more linguistic people because there emphasis on verbal skills while SAT generally suits people who are good at mathematical subjects.

How are the SAT and ACT English the exam structured?

The idea behind both exams is similar: to demonstrate college readiness. But despite similar aims, the tests vary in structure and timing as well as the content matter and scoring.

SAT has three sections: reading, writing and language and mathematics. The reading and writing and language are made of multiple-choice questions.

ACT is similar in its format and generally covers the same topics as SAT.

The main differences between SAT and ACT are:

  • ACT includes a Science section which is more about testing critical thinking than specific scientific topics.

  • SAT includes one SAT Math Section on which you may not use a calculator, in ACT, a calculator can be used all the way through.

  • SAT stopped the optional writing part in 2121 while ACT still has an optional writing part that can be requested or not depending on the university of your choice.

At PEP English, we prepare for the English part. It is important to prepare well ahead of time as these tests are very hard and there is a great deal of critical thinking and strategy involved.

When do the SAT & ACT exams take place?

Exams take place in March, May, August, October and December online. Results come back in roughly ten days.

How long are the SAT and ACT English exams valid for?

The SAT and ACT exams are valid for three years.


Who is the TOEFL English exam for?

If you are not a native speaker and plan to study in the United States, you are probably going to sit the TOEFL. Along with IELTS, this is the main certifying exam for non-native English speakers.

How is the TOEFL English exam structured?

There are reading, listening, writing and speaking parts.

When does the TOEFL English exam take place?

There are monthly exams that can be taken online or at a centre depending on where you live. Results come back in 6 working days

How long is the TOEFL English exam valid for?

This exam is valid for 2 years

How to prepare for your English exam?

At PEP English, we offer yearly preparation classes with specialised, qualified teachers for Cambridge, IELTS, SAT, ACT and TOEFL exams.

What is your learning style?

The first step is a needs analysis interview with our founder and director Ruth Avison. This enables us to learn not only about your level and the specific points that you need to work on, but also about your way of learning (you can read our article about the different learning styles here). Thanks to this analysis, we can advise on which exam would suit your needs and objectives & personalise your lessons to help you reach the best possible results.

To schedule your needs analysis, contact us.

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