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What is the CAE Exam, who should take it, and what do you have to do in the exam?

What is the CAE Exam?

CAE or Cambridge Advanced is the C1 exam from Cambridge. It is one level up from FCE and one level below CPE.

Who is the exam for?

The exam is for both students and professionals. The exam is accepted by many educational institutions as well as being a way to prove that you have a high level of English. CAE is taken by over 60,000 people each year in over 60 different countries.

What do you have to do?

The test is divided into 4 parts and these are:

Reading and Use of English (eight parts - 90 minutes)

Part 1 (Multiple-choice cloze) A text in which there are some numbered gaps, each of which represents a word or phrase. After the text there are four possible answers for each gap and you have to choose the correct answer (A, B, C or D).

Part 2 (open cloze) A text in which there are some gaps, each of which represents one missing word. You have to find the correct word for each gap.

Part 3 (Word formation) A text containing eight gaps. Each gap represents a word. At the end of the line is a ‘prompt’ word which you have to change in some way to complete the sentence correctly.

Part 4 (Key word transformations) Each question consists of a sentence followed by a ‘key’ word and a second sentence with a gap in the middle. You have to use this key word to complete the second sentence, in three to six words, so that it means the same as the first sentence.

Part 5 (Multiple choice) A text with some multiple-choice questions. For each question, there are four options and you have to choose A, B, C or D.

Part 6 (Cross-text multiple matching) Four short texts with multiple-matching questions. You must read across all of the texts to match a prompt to elements in the texts.

Part 7 (Gapped text) A single page of text with some numbered gaps which represent missing paragraphs. After the text there are some paragraphs which are not in the right order. You have to read the text and the paragraphs and decide which paragraph best fits each gap.

Part 8 (Multiple matching) A series of multiple-matching questions followed by a text or several short texts. You have to match a prompt to elements in the text.

Writing (two parts- 90 minutes)

The Writing section of the exam has 2 parts.

The first part is a 220-260 word essay. The structure of the essay is key in passing this section of the exam.

In the second part, you have 3 options from either: a letter-email, a report, a proposal or a review. Again, you have to write 220-260 words.

Listening (four parts- 40 minutes)

The Listening section consists of 4 parts. Some test your general understanding of conversations, speeches, presentations etc. while others test your ability to find specific information.

Part 1 (Multiple choice) Three short extracts from conversations between interacting speakers. There are two multiple-choice questions for each extract and you have to choose A, B or C.

Part 2 (Sentence completion) A monologue lasting approximately 3 minutes. You have to complete the sentences on the question paper with the missing information which you hear on the recording.

Part 3 (Multiple choice) A conversation between two or more speakers of approximately 4 minutes. You have to answer some multiple-choice questions by choosing the correct answer from four options (A, B C or D).

Part 4 (Multiple matching) A series of five themed monologues of approximately 30 seconds each. On the question paper, there are two tasks and for each task you have to match each of the five speakers to one of eight possible answers.


The Speaking section has 4 parts.

Part 1 (Interview) Conversation between the candidates and the interlocutor. The examiner asks questions and you may have to give information about your interests, studies, careers, etc.

Part 2 (Long turn) The interlocutor gives you three pictures and asks you to talk about two of them. You have to speak for 1 minute without interruption and the interlocutor then asks the other candidate to comment on what you have said for about 30 seconds. The other candidate receives a different set of photographs and you have to listen and comment when they have finished speaking. The questions you have to answer about your photographs are written at the top of the page to remind you what you should talk about.

Part 3 (Collaborative task) Conversation with the other candidate. The examiner gives you spoken instructions with written prompts which are used in a discussion. You have to talk with the other candidate for about 2 minutes (3 minutes for groups of three) about the written prompts. After the discussion time, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have 1 minute to talk together and make the decision (2 minutes for groups of three).

Part 4 (Discussion) Further discussion with the other candidate based on the topics or issues raised in the task in Part 3. The interlocutor asks each of you some questions and you discuss them with the other candidate.

What are some problems in preparing for CAE?

Every student is different so students will have different issues. A common question is which CAE book should I buy? While some good general books are available, they are general so lack the detail the many students need. Common problems are with structuring writing, working well in pairs to succeed in the speaking exam and struggling with the Use of English section of the paper. If you are struggling with any part of the CAE exam and would like full, guided support, email to organise a consultation and set up your study program.

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