Intermediate Exam Guides


"Intermediate" is one of the broadest levels in English. It covers such a wide variety of abilities that it is often sub-divided (low intermediate, mid-intermediate and upper intermediate) but for the purposes of simplicity we have left it as one, broad level here.

At intermediate level there is one exam which is more famous than all the rest put together – the Cambridge First Certificate Exam. However, it is not the only option and it may not be the best option for you. Please read through each of the following headings to help find the right exam for you:


  • Cambridge First Certificate (FCE)

    The Cambridge First Certificate is probably the best known of all English language exams. Over 250,000 learners take the exam every year, and it is widely recognised by employers as evidence of English ability at intermediate level. The exam has been around for a long time, but was extensivelyrevised in 1996 to give a greater focus on the ability to use language in realistic and practical ways.

    There are 5 papers in the exam (which takes place in March – August and October – December). These are: Reading, Writing, Use of English, Speaking and Listening. Each paper carries 20% of the total marks. Like all the Cambridge exams, this means you need to be confident in all the major skills areas (speaking, listening, reading and writing).

    If you are thinking of taking First Certificate, you are strongly advised to follow an exam preparation course first as you will need to be strong in each of the areas to pass the test.

    For more information about the FCE exam please visit:

  • Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET)

    The Preliminary English Test is another exam from the University of Cambridge. It is similar in some ways to the First Certificate but is at a lower level ("low" intermediate compared to FCE's "upper" intermediate). PET is therefore a good choice if you want to take an easier exam as part of your preparation for FCE. A pass at PET level is evidence of your ability to survive using English in social and work situations.

    There are 3 parts of the test – Reading and Writing, Listening and Speaking. The reading and writing paper is worth 50% of the total marks and each of the other papers is worth 25%.

    PET takes place throughout the year - usually in March, May, June, November and December.

    Visit the following website for more information about the PET exam:

  • The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Exam

    At a good intermediate level you could begin to consider taking an IELTS exam. This is not a pass or fail exam so it is a good test for students who want to assess their current level of progress. Some students who are thinking of applying for a British University course at some point in their future may like to take this test at intermediate level to work out how far along this road they are, or as a practice exam for a more serious attempt at a higher level. This is very widely recognised by universities in Britain and many other English-speaking countries. It is definitely the first test to think about if you want to study at a British university.

    At Churchill House we run IELTS classes all year and have very experienced teachers that can help students achieve their best possible grades. The IELTS exam is different from most of the other tests on offer. It is not an exam that you pass or fail; it is a test of your current level of English and your result will be expressed as a score of between 1 (very elementary) and 9 (for the highest, very expert users) It is also an exam that you can take at any time - most centres offer the test regularly throughout the year. Universities would usually ask for an entry level of 6 or 6.5 (depending on the university and the course you want to take) some universities may allow entry at only 5.5 for special cases or foundation courses.

    IELTS tests your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. The listening and speaking modules are the same for all candidates. However you can choose which reading and writing modules to take - the Academic modules are best if you are thinking of taking a university course. The General modules are suitable if you are going for secondary education in an English-speaking country, for work experience or immigration purposes.

    For more information on IELTS please visit the following website:

  • The TOEIC® Listening and reading Test

    The Test of English for International Communication assesses the English of non-native speakers who use the language in their jobs. It is designed as a global tool that can be applied to any work environment where English is used. As a result, the exam is widely accepted by corporate human resource directors worldwide.

    The TOEIC® Test is very different from exams such as FCE, CAE or LCCI exams in that you do not pass or fail it. Instead you get a score which reflects your overall ability in English. The higher your score, the better your level. An employer may, for example, insist on a minimum score before confirmingyour appointment to a job.

    Churchill House is an officially Approved Test Centre (by ETS) TOEIC® exam centre. The test itself is a two-hour multiple-choice test that consists of 200 questions divided into two sections - Listening and Reading. Each section is in multiple-choice format - you select the correct answer from a list of four possibilities.

    The test measures listening and reading directly and is also promoted as an indirect measure of speaking and writing. Studies with large samples of non-native speakers of English from around the world have confirmed a strong link between The TOEIC® Test results and an oral interview.

    There is also a TOEIC Speaking and Writing test. For more information on both The TOEIC® Tests please visit: