Qualifications for EFL/ESOL Students

Qualifications for Students indicate how well a person knows English.

NB For qualifications in order to teach, see Essential Qualifications to Teach English.

There is no single, standardized qualification system showing how well a person can use English, however over the years a number of qualifications have risen in popularity and have become de facto standards in this area. Whilst by no means universal, these are the main qualifications and awarding bodies:

  • Cambridge Assessment (UCLES) – run by Cambridge in the UK, it offers a number of English examinations, the most popular of which are the FCE‎ and then the CPE.
  • Michigan – this is a US based system which is comparable to the Cambridge exams above. Again, they offer a range of exams for different levels of students.
  • TOEFL– an American range of exams as above.
  • IELTS – a UK range of exams as above.

There are of course a great number of other exams. To see how they compare, see Learner Levels for English Language Students. Here the different exams are matched against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages which is a classification for how well a person can speak English designed by the European Community.


Although the tests are run in different ways, they generally test a student on

  • speaking
  • listening
  • writing
  • reading comprehension‏‎

Thus they are divided into different papers. Some exams are a simple pass/fail whilst others offer grades (e.g. A – E). Others still give a final mark.


Exams are held at authorized centers in different countries. Usually a student will need to take the exam after having completed training at a local language school who will also organize the application for taking the exam, etc.

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Posted in How To Teach English, Qualifications for Students.

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