DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TOEFL VS CAMBRIDGE EXAMS

Getting a high score on an English validation test can be the key that opens doors to many academic opportunities. So, the question is not whether you should have an English certification, but which of these certifications is right for you? In this article we will explain the main similarities and differences between the TOEFL vs Cambridge exams. We hope this information will be useful for you to make the decision that best suits you. Let’s get started!

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Are TOEFL and Cambridge Tests the Same?

Both the TOEFL and the Cambridge Tests were created to evaluate the English level of non-English speakers who wanted to study in an English-speaking country. First, in 1913, Cambridge Assessment English was created in England. And a few decades later, on the other side of the Atlantic, the TOEFL was introduced for the first time in 1964. Does this mean that one test evaluates how much you know of British English and the other of American English? The answer is NO. This point is important for you to know, because unfortunately, too many people still believe in the myth that there are different types of English, and each test evaluates a different one.

Both exams test the four official language skills (writing, speaking, listening, and reading). Differences in accent or grammar from one country to another will not impact your score. If you have studied British grammar (for example, you say “shall”, not “should”), you can take the TOEFL. The same is true in the reverse situation, if you have familiarized yourself with American grammar (“color” vs. “colour”), you can take the Cambridge exams, without it affecting your score.

So, what are the differences between the two exams? There are at least three main differences. Let’s look at them one by one. 

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One TOEFL vs Five Cambridge Exams

The TOEFL iBT (that’s what the current online version is known as) is an exam that anyone can take regardless of their level of English. The scoring system is similar to most of the tests we have taken in our lives. The more answers you get right, the higher your score, indicating that you have a more advanced level of English. In this way, you will ALWAYS get a TOEFL certification. You do not pass or fail the TOEFL, you only accumulate points. The same is not true for the Cambridge exams.

If you have noticed, when we talk about the Cambridge modality, we have been talking about “exams”, in plural. The reason is that there are at least five different exams, each designed to certify a specific level of English (A2 Key, B1 Preliminary, B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency). This system has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, unlike the TOEFL iBT, where you are asked questions at different levels of difficulty, the Cambridge exam you choose will have questions only at that specific level. This can make the test seem easier. For example, if you take the B2 First exam, you will not be asked questions from the advanced C1 level. But if you fail the Cambridge B2 First exam, you will not be certified at that level, nor at lower levels. In that case, you will have to re-enroll to take the exam.

Examination Format

Regardless of which Cambridge exam you take, you should always look for the authorized center in your area to register for the exam and evaluate the available dates. As we will explain later, the Speaking section is face-to-face, and you will not necessarily take it on the same day as the rest of the exam. Both factors (the fact that you must take the test at an authorized center and the Speaking section) make the time it takes to complete the test significantly longer, thus delaying the time it takes to receive your scores!

What about TOEFL? In Spain, as in most European and Latin American countries, the current version is the TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based). The entire TOEFL test is online and is completed on the same day. Depending on the version you choose (iBT or Home Edition), you can complete the test from an authorized center or even from the comfort of your own home.

Speaking: In-Person or Online?

The Speaking section is one of the biggest differences between the TOEFL and Cambridge exams. All Cambridge exams choose to do the Speaking section separately from the rest of the exam, meaning that Cambridge exams are done on 2 dates. In contrast, the TOEFL is taken all on the same day. This difference has a very significant impact on the timing of the exam. That is, since the Cambridge exam operations are designed in this way, the turnaround times for receiving scores are much longer for the Cambridge exams than for the TOEFL.

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International Acceptance

Although both exams are widely recognized internationally, if you intend to study, live, or work anywhere in the world, the TOEFL has already extended its reach to 160 countries and regions of the world (including the UK), with more than 11,500 centers. Whereas Cambridge exams are in the same number of countries, but with 2,800 centers, many of them located in Europe. Therefore, there is a significant difference in acceptance in favor of TOEFL in terms of number of institutions.

Conclusions

To finish the article and help you sort out the information we have given you, these are the conclusions:

  1. The association of doing the TOEFL to study or work in the U.S. and to do the Cambridge to study and work in Europe is a false myth that does not correspond to reality.
  2. For every center that accepts the Cambridge exams as validation of English, the TOEFL is accepted in 3.
  3. The TOEFL test is neither pass nor fail. A bad TOEFL day will still allow you to obtain a score and enter universities (based on your score). A bad day on a Cambridge exam implies a failure and does not give you access to any institution.
  4. The Cambridge exams can only be taken on specific dates while the TOEFL iBT allows you to take the exam almost every day.
  5. The Cambridge exams are taken in 2 sessions that occur on 2 different days. The 4 sections of the TOEFL are taken back-to-back on the same day.
  6. Points 4 and 5 make the Cambridge exams timeframes noticeably longer than the TOEFL. If you need to obtain your English validation quickly, the Cambridge exams are not a good option for you.

Hopefully this blog post has resolved all your doubts. However, if you have questions in regards to your TOEFL preparation, get in touch and we will let you know how EPIC PREP can help you achieve your goals. Differently, if you preffer to continue reading here is the link to our TOEFL courses page.

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