CEFR Language Exam Resource Centre

Trinity vs Cambridge – Is ISE Trinity easier than Cambridge?

ISE Trinity vs Cambridge Exams - is Trinity easier than cambridge is cambridge more difficult than Trinity 2-02-02

By Richard McCulloch

  • Is the ISE Trinity exam easier than Cambridge?

  • Is the ISE Trinity listening / reading / writing / speaking exam easier than Cambridge?

  • Does it take longer to prepare for the ISE Trinity exam than for the Cambridge exam?

*All research within this article was conducted independently of Trinity College London and Cambridge. The author does not represent either institution and is working independently

These are the most common types of questions I am asked by my students. A cursory internet search would suggest that many other students, teachers and ESL professionals have been wondering the same questions.

Who cares?

A desperate student: Why is it important if Trinity ISE is easier than Cambridge?

Many universities throughout Europe require their students to have a minimum B1 level of English in order to graduate. For many jobs, such as teachers or those working in the public sector, a B2 qualification is the minimum requirement. This level is likely to increase to C1 in the near future.

With so many people’s careers at stake, there’s no wonder the ESL exam market has seen such a boom in recent years.

Both Trinity and Cambridge claim to follow the CEFR, so the difficulty level should be the same, right?

The Criteria

The following criteria will be measured to determine which exam is the easiest:

  1. Reading
    • Sentence complexity
    • CEFR Vocabulary profile
    • Speed
  2. Listening
    • Speed
    • CEFR Vocabulary profile
    • Sentence complexity
  3. Speaking
    • Lexical requirements (grammar and vocabulary)
    • Marking scales
    • Format
  4. Writing
    • Lexical requirements (grammar and vocabulary)
    • Marking scales
    • Format
  5. Final Verdict

The Source Material: 

  1. All exam samples are from official sources such as the handbooks or sample exams from the official websites
  2. All exam samples have been printed in the last two year
  3. Seeing as they are the most popular, the following levels will be analysed
    • B1. ISE I vs PET
    • B2: ISE II vs FCE
    • C1: ISE III vs CAE


For ISE Trinity training resources: https://fingertipsenglish.com/trinity/
For Cambridge training resources: https://cefrexambot.com

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