Blog entry by Semantus Languages
To compare TOEFL to FCE you need to understanding what each one is like.
Both are designed to establish whether the candidate's level of English corresponds to the CEFR B2 classification. B2 is normally the minimum standard required by universities and multinational companies.
TOEFL iBT, as the acronym suggests, is an internet based test. So you have to sit in front of a computer for about 4 hours (with a short refreshment break) answering questions.
Cambridge First aka The First Certificate (FCE) is a paper based exam. So, sharpen your pencil to use it for about 4 hours, answering questions.
Both challenges have advantages and disadvantages:
The cost of taking the TOEFL test can range from $160 to $250 and varies in different parts of the world. The downside is it is only valid for 2 years, so you have resit it after 2 years.
The FCE exam costs about €160, which also varies between countries. The benefit is, FCE Certificate stays valid forever.
If the final mark in the TOEFL exam is lower than 90, you'll be rated B1 and still get your coveted Certificate.
That is not the case with FCE. If you fail, you fail, and you only get a Statement of Results but you are not awarded the Certificate.
It's up to you to decide which route offers better value for your money.
The TOEFL exam has 4 sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. The Use Of English is gauged indirectly within the questions of the four parts.
The updated FCE exam has 4 papers: Reading and Use Of English, Writing, Listening and Speaking.
As such it covers more material than the TOEFL exam.
A fundamental disadvantage of TOEFL is that the same exam is used to judge whether your level corresponds to B1, C1 or C2. The test contains easier questions for B1 candidates, harder questions for C1 candidates and still harder questions for C2 candidates.
The candidate has no way of knowing which questions correspond to which level. The maximum overall grade is 120 points. A grade between 90 and 120 means that the candidate is B2. A grade between 110 and 120 means the candidate is C1. And a grade of 120 means the candidate is C2.
TOEFL operates on a higher level of English than FCE, because of its focus on advanced students. Whereas FCE is designed specifically for B2 candidates.
Many would agree that some of the material in TOEFL's Reading is too difficult for the average B2 candidate. So, FCE appears to be the fairer of the two.
BrE vs AmE vs AuE trap
The problem of British English, American English or Australian English is a potential trap for so many candidates.
The TOEFL mark is affected by the candidate’s use of American English. Whereas, the FCE mark is affected if the candidate approaches the exam with British English.
Bear this in mind when deciding which exam to take. Unfortunately, often candidates do not have the choice because the university or the employer only accepts either TOEFL or FCE.