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The Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) Examination

Information for Examinations from December 2008

  • The overall length of CAE is reduced by approximately 1 hour
  • New and improved task types introduced
  • Greater standardization of content
  • To get good marks in the CAE exam, you need to show that you can handle a range of structures in English. This is particularly important in writing although you will also gain extra marks when speaking if you use a variety of structures. This does not only mean a range of tenses but also the use of the passive form, modal verbs, gerund and infinitive and complex sentences.
  • Reading and listening to short stories or other fiction will help you to increase your own vocabulary and gain a feeling for correct grammar, and does so in an enjoyable way. This is one of the best ways to prepare for the Reading and Listening tests, although you will not be asked to read or listen to a short story in the exam.
  • The exam requires you to be able to handle register, making language more formal or more informal as is appropriate. Using complex sentences both in your writing and speaking is a sign that you are working at an advanced level.

Paper 1 Reading: 75 minutes

There is no change in timing, however, the number of questions is reduced from 45 questions to 34 questions.

Part 1 Multiple choice

  • In Part 1 there are three themed texts. Each is followed up by 2 questions and you have to choose the best reply. There are two basic reading skills: scanning and skimming. Scanning means reading for specific information while skimming means reading quickly through a text to get a general impression of the content. You will need to make use of both these skills in these two parts of the reading test.
  • Read the subtitle to get a general idea of what the text is about. Read the questions before you scan for the information/opinions needed.
  • Read the whole of each question carefully.
  • Skim the whole of the text before you scan for the information/opinions needed.
  • Don’t rely on matching up individual words or phrases in the question and the text just because they are the same or similar.
  • Don’t rely on finding all the information you need for a question in just one part of the text.

Part 2 Gapped text

  • In Part 2 and 3, two marks are given for each correct answer, so it is important to do as well as you can. Read the whole of the text first.
  • Read through all the paragraphs and notice the difference between them.
  • Pay careful attention to linking devices throughout the text and paragraphs as well as at the beginnings and endings of paragraphs.
  • Read the whole of the text again when you have completed the task.
  • Don’t rely on matching up names, dates or numbers in the text and paragraphs just because they are the same or similar.
  • Don’t rely on matching up individual words or phrases in the text and paragraphs just because they are the same or similar.

Part 3 Multiple choice

  • You will need to be able to identify the writer’s personal views when reading a newspaper or magazine article.
  • Questions concerning the texts will test your ability to distinguish between fact and opinion.
  • Read the whole text very carefully before you begin to answer the questions.
  • Read the whole of the question and all the options carefully.
  • Read the text for inference as well as fact.
  • Remember that the questions follow the order of the text.
  • Remember that the final question may ask about the text as a whole.
  • Don’t rely on matching individual words or phrases in the options just because they are the same or similar.

Part 4 Multiple matching

  • A text or a several short texts are preceded by multiple-matching questions. You must match a prompt to elements in the text.

Paper 2 Writing: 90 minutes

  • formerly 120 mins, the word length in Part 1 is reduced to 180 – 220 words (the lenght is now between FCE and CPE)
  • You are told how many words to use. Express yourself briefly, clearly and precisely.
  • Think about who you are writing for and why you are writing.
  • Think carefully about how to paragraph your work in an appropriate way. Too many paragraphs may be just as unssatisfactory as too few.
  • Allow time to check what you have written – and check not only the language but also that you have dealt with all the necessary parts of the question.
  • Write legibly and make corrections as tidily as possible.
  • Put a line through any work that you do not want the examiner to read.
  • Don’t copy language directly from the question paper – try to reword it in your own way, if possible.
  • Don’t attempt the work-oriented question unless you have the knowledge and the experience, as well as the language, to deal with it effectively.
  • When you check through your writing use this checklist: errors, natural use of language, good range of vocabulary, spelling, good range of structures, full completion of task, use of linkers, appropriate and consistent style, content – nothing relevant should be left out.
  • It will create a good impression in your answers if you occasionally make use of appropriate participle clauses.

Part 1 Article, leaflet, brochure, notice, announcement, note, message, formal or informal letter, report, proposal, review, instructions, directions, competition entry, information sheet, memo

  • In Part 1, you may need to select points to be mentioned; there may be some information in the “input” that you do not need to use. You have to choose the information which is appropriate to the question. Spend plenty of time reading the question carefully and highlighting the points which you need to include in your answer. Don’t repeat yourself if there are two parts in Part 1 – each part require something different in terms of content and register.
  • Note. The note must be precise and all points must be covered. The register (formal, neutral or informal) should suit the situation. Check whether the layout of the note makes it easy to read. Informal letters. You may be asked to write an informal letter either in Part 1 or Part 2. Read the situation carefully and decide who you are writing to and why before you start the letter. Make sure you are consistent in your style of writing and that your purpose is clear. The letter should have a positive effect on the reader. This is what the examiners are looking for.
  • Formal letters. You do not need to write any addresses in the exam. Remember to follow the conventions of formal letters. Use formal vocabulary and no contractions. The letter should be clearly organized. Consider the effect the letter will have on the reader.
  • Reports and proposals. They are similar in many ways. They both aim to set out information in a formal and clear way, often so that someone else can make a decision based on the information provided. However, there are also differences between reports and proposals. A report looks backwards while a proposal looks forward. A proposal always presents the writer’s viewpoint whereas a report focuses more on facts; although a report may have a persuasive element to it, this is not always the case.
  • Articles. Give the article an attention-grabbing headline. Make sure the first paragraph interests the reader and keeps their attention. Involve the reader by asking questions. Including some narrative or direct speech/quotations, where appropriate, will make your work more lively and interesting. Be emphatic in your opinion. Vary the length of the sentences. Use a variety of grammatical structures. Use parallel expressions to avoid repeating the same words or expressions. Round off the article with a thought-provoking statement or question.
  • Competition entry. This means that you have to try to write in a particularly interesting and effective way (in order to win a prize, i.e. a good grade). Competition entries often involve an element of hypothesising. This language (e.g. conditional sentences) is, of course, also useful in a range of other situations.
  • Leaflet. Brochure. Think about who the leaflet/brochure is for, the nature of your contribution and what you are required to include. Use special techniques/features to attract the reader.
  • Part 2 Choice of topics which you have to respond in the way specified; writing text types as for Part 1 You are given a choice of topics which you have to respond to in the way specified.

Paper 3 English in Use: 60 minutes

  • - formerly 90 mins

Part 1 Multiple choice cloze

  • In this part, there is an emphasis on vocabulary and grammar. Read the title, it will help you predict the main topic of the text. Always read the whole text first to understand the gist of it.
  • Read carefully not only the sentence where the gap is but also the sentence before and after the gap. Make sure that the word you write makes sense in the context of the text as a whole.
  • Consider each alternative carefully, dismissing those which do not fit.
  • Read through what you have written and see if it sounds right.

Part 2 Open gap-fill mainly testing grammar

  • Remember that you must write only one word. You are never required to write a contraction. If you think that the answer is a contraction, it must be wrong, so think again.
  • Decide what sort of word fits the gap. Try to justify your answer grammatically and with regard to the meaning by referring to the text.
  • Check the spelling, it must be correct to get a mark in the exam.
  • Try to read the sentence out to yourself to see if it sounds right.
  • Always write something. You never know, you might be lucky even if you are not sure of the answer.

Part 3 Word formation

  • You have to fill in the gaps with the correct form of the prompt word given. This often means that you have to add a prefix or suffix to the word given.
  • In this exercise it is important to understand what the missing word is likely to mean as this will help you to put the word in the right form.

Part 4 Gapped sentence – NEW!

  • You are given sets of three sentences, each of which has a one-word gap. For each set you have to think of one word which can be used appropriately in all three sentences. Don’t spend too long puzzling over the first gap. Read all the sentences as the last one may make the answer suddenly obvious.
  • Check that he word that you have thought of for one gap fits the other two sentences as well.

Part 5 Key word transformations – NEW!

  • You read a given sentence, and then complete a second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first one. You can use between three and six words, including one word which is given.
  • The knowledge of fixed phrases and preposition patterns is of particular importance at this task.

Paper 4 Listening: 40 minutes

  • NEW - formerly 45 minutes, the number of questions is reduced from 30-40 questions to just 30 questions all texts to be heard twice

Part 1 Multiple choice (instead of sentence/ note completion)

  • You hear three short extracts and have to answer two multiple-choice questions on each. Each question has three options.
  • Read the title to find out what the context is.
  • Read the questions carefully before you listen.
  • Try to predict what sort of word(s) is/ are needed in the gap.
  • Try to predict the answer using your knowledge of the context and your logic.
  • Remember that the answers are short – one to three words – and very often concrete nouns. Check your spelling.
  • Always try to write something, even if you’re not 100% sure.

Part 2 Sentence completion

  • You hear a text and have to write a word or short phrase to complete sentences. The information you need for your answers is usually repeated within the recording. You will either have to complete sentences.
  • Don’t worry about missing a question in this part. At the end, you will have time to think about a question you have missed and then be able to attempt an answer. Don’t waste your time rubbing out your answers on the question paper.

Part 3 Multiple choice

  • This part is a multiple-choice task with four options. You hear a conversation between five speakers twice. You must listen to specific information, general meaning or attitude.
  • You have to read the first part of the sentence and all the options carefully. Then choose the answer which best completes the sentence or answers the question.
  • When completing sentences do not forget to check your grammar and spelling. Don’t write overlong answers. Try to use language which you are familiar with and know how to use accurately. Don’t repeat information in your answer which is already included in the question.

Part 4 Multiple matching

  • This part is a multiple-matching task with three options.
  • In the multiple-matching task you will listen to five short extracts focusing on the gist and the main points of the what is said, the attitude of the speakers, and the context in which they are speaking.
  • In both Parts 3 and 4, use the listening preparation time to think about the kind of information you can expect to hear and the likely language structure you will need to complete a question.
  • In both Part 3 and 4 use the first listening to lightly mark the answers you think are correct. Listen to the second playing and confirm your answers.

Paper 5 Speaking: about 15 minutes

  • New: Part 1 – candidates do not ask each other questions
  • Part 2 and 3 – questions will be included in the visuals to support the candidate
  • If you want to get more practice in spoken English, you should take every opportunity to speak to other people in English and to watch films and TV in English whenever you have the chance. You might even try talking to yourself in English!
  • Smile at the examiners as you greet them – it will relax you and create a pleasant first impression. Try to relax – imagine that you are talking to a new friend.
  • Listen carefully to the instructions and what you are asked. If you did not understand, ask the examiner to clarify or repeat something.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough for both examiners to hear you. Give your partner a chance to speak too. Talk to your partner, you get marks for interacting, so ask each other questions, and react to what your partner says, but try to do so without interrupting.
  • When asking a question, try not to use an intonation which rises too much as this can sound aggressive. Do not repeat what you or your partner has already said – add something new.
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes – you will get marks for communicating your ideas, not just for accuracy. This test is quite short and so it is important not to waste time with unnecessary silence.
  • You don’t have to tell the truth in the exam. You can recount other people’s experiences just as if they were your own and can express opinions and ideas that you do not really hold yourself. Little white lies may help you to find more to say or may allow you to show off your English in a more effective way.

Part 1 Three-way conversation between two students and one examiner

  • Answer the examiner’s questions fully, not just with one-word answers.
  • You and your partner will have only about 3 minutes to talk about yourselves, e.g. about where you come from, your leisure activities, your hopes for the future etc. in an interesting way.
  • Make sure you use a good range of grammar and vocabulary as well as clear pronunciation.
  • Remember to develop your ideas by giving extra information.
  • You may lose marks simply because you do not speak clearly enough for the examiner to hear you. While practicing role plays in the classroom, make sure all other students can hear you loud and clear.
  • You will be also given a mark for pronunciation, so try to work on any aspects of your English pronunciation that needs improving.

Part 2 Two-way interaction between students

  • You should simply listen to other and not speak until the examiner asks you to.
  • You will be given the opportunity to speak for about one minute without interruption. You are usually asked to comment on or react to a set of photographs or pictures. After you have finished speaking, your partner will be asked to comment briefly and visa versa.
  • When someone is speaking to you, you need to show that you are listening and appreciating what is being said. In other words, you need to have a range of exclamations and fillers to use in different circumstances.
  • Fillers such as “right”, “yes” and “mm” are also useful to indicate that you are listening attentively as someone else is telling you something. They can be said with different intonation in order to convey reactions.

Part 3 Two-way interaction between students

  • - You are given a visual or written prompt for a problem-solving activity. You have to work with your partner and you may be asked to sequence, rank, compare and select, for example. During this task you are expected to invite the opinions of your partner and express your own.
  • You will have more to say if you do not simply agree with your partner but react either by taking their ideas a step further or by disagreeing – remember you don’t have to tell the truth in the exam, so you may find more to say if you deliberately disagree a bit.

4. Three-way conversation between students and examiner

  • You talk about the topic area in Part 3, developing wider issues.
  • As with all the other parts, it is above all important to listen carefully to what the examiner asks you to do.

GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR EXAM!

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