General English


General English means any study of English which is not limited to a specialized subject such as business studies, medicine, travel etc., although it can contain course content from all or any of these groups. Cambridge ESOL, part of the well-known University of Cambridge , is the institution in charge of assessing different levels of command of English for this type of English.

The Cambridge ESOL General English suite of exams has a wide choice of certificates reflecting the very different needs and abilities of people. Their certificates cover basic exams for those beginning to learn English, through to advanced certificates for those who have attained a high level of fluency.

These exams are recognised around the world by thousands of employers, universities and government ministries as proof of ability to use English.

These certificates never expire, and will not need to be renewed — they are an achievement for life.

All of these exams are aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) — an internationally recognised framework which Cambridge ESOL helped to develop.

The framework uses six levels to describe language ability from A1 to C2. Once you have passed one of our exams, there is a clear pathway ahead for you as your abilities and confidence improve.


The Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) has devised 'Can Do'statements to describe the framework levels in terms of practical skills, such as writing a letter or understanding an announcement. These tests are based around these real language skills which will give you confidence to use English in real situations.

General English exams

KET (Key English Test)
KET is the Cambridge ESOL exam which recognises the ability to deal with everyday written and spoken English at a basic level.

PET (Preliminary English Test)
PET is a certificate for people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an intermediate level.

FCE (First Certificate in English)
FCE is aimed at people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an upper-intermediate level. It is an ideal exam for people who want to use English for work or study purposes.

CAE (Certificate in Advanced English)
CAE is an exam for advanced users of English. This exam is aimed at people who can use written and spoken English for most professional and social purposes. It is widely recognised for work or study purposes.

CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English)
CPE is Cambridge ESOL's most advanced exam. It is aimed at people who can use English for professional or study purposes.

Certificates in ESOL Skills for Life
These certificates provide flexible assessment of ESOL learners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and are fully based on the Adult ESOL Core Curriculum.