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What certificates exist

Having an official English certificate is almost mandatory for any selection process: Studying a university degree, doing an internship or finding a job are some examples of selection processes where you are required to have an official English certificate. In the case of college admissions, the problem is to know what certificate I need for each university or country. All official qualifications certify your level of speaking, listening, writing and reading in English, but not all of them are valid in all universities around the world. Therefore, before investing money and time in obtaining any of these certificates, we must know why we need them. There are many English certificates, some of which are better known than others depending on the country in which we reside. Some of these certificates are:

In addition to these official certificates, universities often accept other means of proving your level of English:

  • If your native language is English
  • If you have studied the last 3-4 years entirely in English or in a school in an English-speaking country.
  • IB English B(International Baccalaureate)
  • GCSE or IGCSE English Language or English Literature
  • AS Level English Language or English Literature
  • SAT Evidence based Reading and Writing
  • ACT Evidence based Reading and Writing
  • University’s own English test

As you can see, there are many ways to test your English level and the difficulty lies in choosing one of them before you know which universities you are going to apply for. It is usual to be trained in the English language during all the school stages and many times it is the school itself who proposes which test to take. The most common certificate is Cambridge in all its forms (FCE, CAE and CPE), however this certificate is not the most recognized in the world as there are many universities (especially in the United States) that do not accept it. If the destination is a university in Europe or the United Kingdom, the Cambridge is the best option, however, if we intend to apply for admission in the United States it is very possible that they will not accept it and we will have to certify our level of English in another way.

Another certificate that is becoming more and more popular among universities is the Duolingo English Test. This is an online test, somewhat simpler than the rest, quicker to obtain the results and much cheaper. It is a test accepted mainly in the United States, but it is advisable to check beforehand whether or not the specific university you are applying to accepts it. In Europe it is not a standard accepted test like Cambridge, so if you plan to apply to European or British universities only, we do not recommend it.

The most widely recognized certificates worldwide are the IELTS and TOEFL. If you obtain any of these two certificates, you can rest assured that no matter which university you apply to, they will accept it. There are only a few exceptions with those universities that require their own English test. The problem with these certificates is that unlike the rest, they expire in two years, so it is suggested to take them no more than two years before submitting applications for admission.

Another alternative you have is to use the Reading & Writing part of the SAT as an English test, which is perfectly valid but only in the United States and if you take the SAT, since in many universities it is still optional since COVID in 2019. Also in the case of students taking the International Baccalaureate or IGCSEs, the English for native speakers course may be accepted if a certain score is achieved.

Strategy for selecting an English certificate

At Five Lands we follow a strategy with all our students to optimize time, resources and select the best certificate in each case. Remember that it is always mandatory to check the admission requirements of each university before applying for admission. The basic rules are as follows:

1.- If you are only applying for admission to Europe and/or the United Kingdom, the Cambridge is sufficient if you reach the required level.

2.- If you are only applying for admission to the United States or Canada, it is very likely that the Cambridge will not work for you and therefore we suggest you take the TOEFL, IELTS or DET.

3.- If you are applying to the United States, Canada, Europe and/or the United Kingdom together, we suggest you take the TOEFL or IELTS.

4.- In the case of taking the TOEFL or IELTS, take it within two years before applying for admission due to the expiration date.

5.- If you decide to take the DET, check beforehand on the Duolingo English Test website to see if the universities you are applying to accept it and up to what year of entry.

6.- Remember that beoing proficiency in Engligh does not mean to pass the test and obtain the official certificate. They are different things that should not be confused. If you are applying to top-ranked universities, we suggest that you prepare for the exam ahead of time. visit our TOEFL Test Preparation page.

At Five Lands International Education we advise you on the training and English certificate you need in each case to maximize your chances of success. Visit our Early Preparation or Full Academic Advising programs or contact us through this contact form or by phone at +34 689 027 598.