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HomeCambridge TestsWhat is STARTERS? STARTERS test format & study materials

What is STARTERS? STARTERS test format & study materials

What is the Starters certificate? What materials does a child need to prepare for the Starters exam? Is there an effective way to prepare a child for Starters at home? If you’re looking for a way to prepare your 6-8-year-old child for Starters at home and have these questions, check out FLYER’s informative article below

1. What is the Starters certificate?

The Starters certificate is the first level in the three-part examination system of the Cambridge Young Learners English (YLE) English language certificate. It is specifically designed for students aged 6 – 11. This certificate assesses a child’s English language proficiency comprehensively across all four skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing).

The three levels include Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers, and A2 Flyers. The exams focus on familiar topics and essential language skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing), enabling children to communicate effectively in English.

The exams’ placements within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which has six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2), are indicated by the titles Pre-A1, A1, and A2. Starters is a level “before” A1, as denoted by the “Pre” in Pre-A1. The first test in the YLE English curriculum is the Pre A1 Starters certificate.

Both the Starters certificate and all YLE certificates have validity. Once candidates achieve their desired results there is no need to retake the exam as they can progress to levels.

2. When to begin studying Cambridge Starters?

Starters is designed for students who have never studied English before or have just started learning it. If your child has never learned English before, you can start with the Pre A1 Starters level to introduce them to simple vocabulary and English structures.

If your child is between 6 – 8 years old but already has some experience in learning English you can assess their proficiency through a test. As soon as your child submits the exam, the results will be visible, and the website will suggest the right level (Starters, Movers, or Flyers).

Typically, young students can take this certificate exam after approximately 90 hours of guided English instruction.

FLYER Virtual English Testing Platform
FLYER Virtual English Testing Platform

3. Cambridge Starters exam format

The Starters Cambridge exam lasts about 45 minutes and consists of three sections: Listening, Reading & Writing, and Speaking. The followings are the number of questions and the amount of time allocated for each section:

Cambridge Starters exam format
Cambridge Starters exam format

Listening Test

1Look at a picture and listen to a conversation. Match the provided names to the corresponding individuals in the picture.
3Listen to a dialogue. Choose the image that corresponds to what you hear. This section comprises 5 questions, each containing a short dialogue and 3 pictures.
4Listen to a dialogue and color in a picture according to the instructions in the dialogue.
Cambridge Starters Listening test
In the FLYER virtual English Testing Platform, children will drag and drop names to the corresponding characters.

Reading and Writing Test

1Examine an image and read a phrase that explains what’s seen in it. If the sentence is correct, mark a check; if it’s incorrect, mark an X.
2Look at a picture with 5 provided sentences. If the sentences accurately describe details in the picture, write “Yes”; if the sentences are incorrect, write “No”.
3Sort the available letters into the appropriate words that describe the items in the side-by-side picture.
4Read a text with 5 blanks, choose the appropriate words from the given options, and fill them in the blanks.
5Look at 3 pictures, each with 1-2 questions. Based on the details in the pictures, use one word to answer the questions.
Cambridge Starters
Cambridge Starters

Speaking Test

1Look at a large picture and point to the objects in the picture as directed by the examiner. Then, look at 8 small pictures and place 2 small pictures in the large picture at the location specified by the examiner.
2The examiner asks the candidate questions about the large picture, and the candidate answers with one word or a simple sentence
3The examiner shows the candidate 4 small pictures and asks questions. The candidate answers with one word.
Example: The examiner points to a picture of a crocodile and asks, “What’s this?”-> The candidate answers: Crocodile
4The examiner asks some questions about topics related to the candidate’s life, such as school, family, and friends.
Example: What’s your friend’s name?/ Is your house/apartment big or small?
This section also assesses the candidate’s ability to understand and answer personal information questions.

Check out FLYER’s 5-episode series of sample Speaking Flyers Cambridge exam videos to understand how a speaking test will take place:

4. Why should your child prepare for Starters?

Elementary school pupils are not required to prepare for Starters. On the other hand, parents should take into account the many advantages this certificate offers when organizing their child’s long-term educational development.

4.1. Global recognition of Cambridge Starters certificate

Cambridge English certificates, including Starters, are established by the University of Cambridge renowned globally as one of the prestigious universities. The tests are organized according to proficiency levels within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, reflecting the progression from basic language users to proficient users.

Cambridge has created specified progression levels that correspond to the cognitive and psychological maturation of different age groups. Cambridge Starters English certifications are internationally recognized, much as other English language credentials like IELTS or TOEFL.

Elementary school English certificates
Elementary school English certificates

4.2. Pre A1 Starters: A comprehensive assessment of 4 language skills

Pre A1 Starters comprehensively evaluate a child’s English language proficiency across all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Starters is an introductory level that provides children with basic vocabulary and grammar structures relating to everyday and familiar topics like school supplies, colors, family, friends, animals, etc., making it easier for them to communicate in English regularly.


4.3. Pre A1 Starters help children establish a fundamental English foundation

Upon completing the Pre A1 Starters level, children will have acquired approximately 300 vocabulary words and become familiar with common grammatical concepts (nouns, adjectives, verbs, determiners, present simple tense, present continuous tense, invitations, agreements, and refusals, etc.). This equips them to communicate in most everyday situations.

4.4. Starters exam results enable children to set study goals and monitor progress

The YLE exam series includes three levels: Pre A1 (Starters), A1 (Movers), and A2 (Flyers). With this level-based system, parents and children can easily set their English learning objectives and monitor their progress, making it easier to adjust their goals and learning trajectories.

5. Starters exam results and how to convert Starters scores into shields

Pre A1 Starters comprises three test sections, each of which can earn a maximum of 5 shields (Cambridge’s logo) illustrated on the certificate. Shields are emblematic of the royal knights and later became Cambridge’s logo, symbolizing victory. The maximum number of shields a candidate can achieve for each skill (Listening, Speaking, Reading & Writing) is 5 shields. The total number of shields a candidate can receive for one certificate is 15 shields.

Cambridge Starters

Starters exam results do not distinguish between pass or fail. Each child who takes the test receives a certificate. This helps children have a more positive outlook on exams.

In addition to the certificate, children also receive a Statement of Results, which provides a detailed description of their English language proficiency corresponding to the number of shields they achieved.

6. Effective tips for preparing for the 2023 Cambridge Starters exam

6.1. 200+ Cambridge Starters practice tests on the virtual testing platform

Access over 200+ Starters practice tests on the FLYER Virtual English Testing Platform to provide your child with preparation for the Cambridge Starters exam.

Cambridge Flyers
  • These exams have been carefully compiled to match the format (up to 90%) following Cambridge’s latest standards. 
  • The automatic scoring system and answer key will help students review and study effectively at home.
  • Interactive exercises and game simulations stimulate children’s brain activity and interest in learning.
  • It offers various fun learning features such as challenges with friends, short practice exercises, and vocabulary reviews.

Moreover, a helpful feature for parents is the Learning Report, which makes it easy to track the progress of their children’s studies. The system automatically stores all test results and uses them to provide feedback on the student’s current proficiency level, strengths, and areas that require improvement. 

More significantly, parents who use FLYER’s virtual testing platform can save up to 80% on their kids’ exam preparation expenses!

6.2. Other resources

Here are some Pre A1 Starters exam preparation books recommended by Cambridge:

  • Fun for Starters
  • Story fun 1
  • Story fun 2
  • Kid’s Box
  • Power Up 
  • Pre A1 Starters Mini Trainer


Now parents are aware of the advantages this exam provides for primary school pupils and have comprehensive answers to the question “What is the Cambridge Starters certificate?”.

Following the Cambridge curriculum is a decision that takes work, but it pays off in the long run by giving kids a strong foundation in the language that will enable them to seek higher levels of English proficiency

Linh Nguyen
Linh Nguyen
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step


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