B2 First vs C1 Advanced

Updated on May 31st, 2024
written by Gregory
Gregory is a digital marketing entrepreneur as well as a fully qualified ESL teacher who has been helping students prepare for the Cambridge B2 First exam for over 10 years.

Choosing the right English exam is crucial for achieving your academic and professional goals. Cambridge offers two popular exams: B2 First and C1 Advanced. Understanding the differences between these exams can help you decide which one suits your needs best.

Overview of B2 First

B2 First, also known as the First Certificate in English (FCE), is designed for intermediate English learners. It is at the B2 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This exam tests reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills and is ideal for those who want to study or work in an English-speaking environment.

Key Facts about B2 First

  • CEFR Level: B2
  • Scale Score: 160-179
  • Test Format: Computer or paper-based
  • Number of Papers: 4 (Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, Speaking)
  • Exam Length: About 3.5 hours

B2 First is widely accepted by universities and employers. For more details, visit the B2 First page or the Cambridge English website.

Overview of C1 Advanced

C1 Advanced, also known as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), is aimed at advanced English learners. It is at the C1 level on the CEFR. This exam also tests reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills but at a higher level, suitable for those aiming for higher education or professional careers where advanced English is essential.

Key Facts about C1 Advanced

  • CEFR Level: C1
  • Scale Score: 180-199
  • Test Format: Computer or paper-based
  • Number of Papers: 4 (Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, Speaking)
  • Exam Length: About 4 hours

C1 Advanced is recognized by thousands of institutions and employers worldwide. For more details, visit the C1 Advanced page of the Cambridge English Website.

Key Differences Between B2 First and C1 Advanced

The B2 First and C1 Advanced exams differ significantly in difficulty, format, and focus.

B2 First is easier and focuses on practical English for everyday situations, while C1 Advanced is harder and covers more complex language, including academic and professional English.

FeatureB2 FirstC1 Advanced
CEFR LevelB2C1
Scale Score160-179180-199
Test FormatComputer or paper-basedComputer or paper-based
Number of Papers44
Exam LengthAbout 3.5 hoursAbout 4 hours
FocusEveryday EnglishAcademic and professional English

Deciding Which Exam is Right for You

Deciding whether to take the B2 First or C1 Advanced exam involves evaluating your current English proficiency, understanding the preparation required, and aligning the exam with your goals. Here’s how to assess your readiness:

  1. Take Practice Tests: Begin by taking practice tests for both B2 First and C1 Advanced. These tests will give you a clear idea of where you stand. Cambridge English offers sample papers and online practice tests. These will help you familiarise yourself with the format and types of questions you will encounter in each exam.
  2. Evaluate Your Performance: After taking the practice tests, carefully evaluate your performance. Look at your scores and identify areas where you excel and areas that need improvement. For B2 First, you should be able to handle practical, everyday English tasks comfortably. For C1 Advanced, you should demonstrate a strong command of complex and varied language tasks.
  3. Seek Feedback: Get feedback from teachers or tutors who can provide an objective assessment of your skills. They can help you understand whether you are ready for B2 First or if you should aim for C1 Advanced. They can also provide personalised advice on how to improve specific areas.
  4. Use Online Resources: There are many online resources, including official Cambridge materials, that offer guidance on preparing for these exams. Utilise these resources to benchmark your skills and understand the requirements of each level.
  5. Consider Your Preparation Time: Reflect on how much time you can dedicate to preparing for the exam. If you are closer to the intermediate level, preparing for B2 First might take a few months of consistent study, focusing on vocabulary, grammar, and practical usage. For C1 Advanced, especially if moving from an intermediate level, you might need several months to a year of intensive study, focusing on complex reading and writing tasks, advanced listening exercises, and speaking practice.
  6. Align with Your Goals: Think about why you are taking the exam. If you need certification for a specific purpose, such as university admission or a job, check the requirements of the institution or employer. Some might specify whether they require B2 First or C1 Advanced, which can help guide your decision.


Understanding the differences between B2 First and C1 Advanced is essential for making the right choice. Both exams offer valuable certifications but cater to different needs and proficiency levels. Choose the one that aligns best with your goals and current abilities. For more information and to register for the exams, visit the Cambridge English website.

By selecting the right exam, you can enhance your learning journey and achieve your academic and professional aspirations.