B1 Preliminary

  • Is an intermediate level exam
  • The second level of the University of Cambridge exams in general English.
  • This exam is set at Level B1 of the CEFR for modern languages.


A B1 Preliminary certificate has no expiration date. However, some institutions have their own language requirements or policies on how recent they require exam results to be. They may ask you for evidence that you have maintained or improved your level of English since you took your exam. Speak to the institution you are applying to and confirm their individual requirements.

B1 Preliminary is a truly international certificate, recognised around the world for business and study purposes. Thousands of employers, universities and government departments officially recognise B1 Preliminary as an intermediate qualification in English.

Who is the B1 Preliminary exam for and why should I take it?

The B1 Preliminary exam is suitable for:

  • Learners with an intermediate level of English
  • With wider grasp of vocabulary
  • Candidates should be able to cope in situations such as reading simple textbooks, articles, write simple letters and detect opinions, attitudes and moods in spoken and written English.
  • B1 Preliminary is helpful for anyone who wishes to take B2 First (FCE) at a later stage.

What is the format of the exam?

B1 Preliminary has 3 papers:

Reading and Writing: 1 hour, 30 minutes

You need to be able to read texts from signs, journals, newspapers and magazines and understand the main points. You will need to show you can use vocabulary and structure by completing tasks such as writing a short message, and a story or letter of around 100 words. You will also need to complete an exercise involving changing the meaning of sentences.

Listening: 30 minutes (approx)

You will need to show you can understand the meaning of a range of recorded spoken material, including announcements and discussions about everyday life. You need to be able to follow the attitudes and intentions of the speakers.

Speaking: up to 10 minutes

Candidates take the Speaking test in pairs. You have to show your spoken English by taking part in conversation, asking and answering questions, and talking freely about your likes and dislikes.


  • Reading and Writing carries 50% of the total marks for B1 Preliminary, while Listening and Speaking each carry 25% of the marks.
  • Candidates can access their results through the University of Cambridge results website.
  • For paper-based exams, these will be available after 4 to 6 weeks.
  • For computer-based exams, they will be available after 2 to 3 weeks.
  • From 2016, results will be reported on the new Cambridge English Scale (replacing the candidate profile and standardised scores).
  • You will receive a separate score for each of the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking).
  • These scores are averaged to give you an overall result for the exam.

There are three Pass grades:

  • Pass with Distinction (score between 160 and 170)
  • Pass with Merit (score between 153 and 159)
  • Pass (score between 140 and 152)

Two Fail grades:

  • Council of Europe Level A2 (score between 120 and 139)
  • Not Reported (119 and below)


There is no minimum pass mark for individual papers.

The grade is based on the total score of all 4 papers.

Certificates are awarded to candidates who score 120 and above and are despatched approximately 10 days after the results release window has ended.

B1 Preliminary is an intermediate qualification that shows students have mastered the basics on English. It’s the next logical step in the language learning journey after A2 Key.

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