How to Prepare and Pass a CAE

THE CAE is a Cambridge Advanced level exam. Passing this exam will help confirm the level of language for the university or career. Advanced is a high level, which is often necessary for studying abroad or working in international companies. This exam is also often taken by those whose work is directly related to foreign languages. Today we will talk about how to prepare and pass the CAE.

What does the exam consist of?

C1 Advanced consists of four parts: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening and Sepaking. In total, it takes about four hours to pass the CAE. Here’s just a few of what the exam will check:

  • knowledge of idioms and phrases;
  • ability to write texts of different genres: essays, reviews, letters, reports;
  • the ability to understand by ear both small dialogues and long interviews;
  • text skills;
  • the ability to talk on topics from personal to socially significant;
  • the ability to conduct an active dialogue and listen to the interlocutor;
  • time management.

Download the trial test and learn more about what each part consists of on the official website of Cambridge Assessment English.

How to prepare

First, determine your current level of language. This will determine how much it will take to prepare for Advanced. You can determine the level together with the teacher or by taking a test, for example, on the Cambridge website. If you now have a B2 – Upper-Intermediate – with intensive preparation, you can come to THE CAE in 6-9 months. If you are already at level C1 – Advanced – you need to first understand the format of the exam. And if you are at the Intermediate level, then first come to our challenge marathon “From Intermediate to Advanced” to make the preparation not only fast, but also as effective as possible.

When the issue with the level is resolved, proceed directly to the preparation. Below you will find tips on how to prepare for each of the parts.

Reading and Use of English

What to advise when preparing for reading? Of course, read more. This will help to get used to the format and increase vocabulary. At high levels, there are usually no problems with the general understanding of texts. However, the questions in CAE are structured in such a way that they can confuse the “advanced user”. Another common problem is the lack of time on the exam. Here’s what might help:

  • train speed reading. Try to read the texts for a while. For example, set the task to read and understand the text in 5 minutes. Then reduce the time to 4 minutes, then to 3. If you are just starting to train, you can read the same text. When it starts to work, set a timer and read different texts.
  • learn to highlight the main thing. Read the text with the text highlighter and highlight the key points. What is the main idea of the paragraph? What problem is the author writing about? What examples does he give? This approach will teach you to quickly focus on the most important aspects to understand.
  • notice synonyms. Very often, the question in the task and part of the text do not contain repeated words, but paraphrase or synonyms. Pay attention to this when preparing. So you will not only begin to notice the correct answers faster, but also pump up your knowledge of vocabulary.

The Use of English part will test your knowledge of phrases, common idioms, grammatical connections and rules of word formation. To complete tasks easily, do training exercises from test collections. The good news: after 10 tests done, you will notice that words and phrases are repeated. The probability that on the exam you will see a lot of familiarity in the tasks of this part is very high. So take notes.


In this part you will have to write 2 texts of 220-260 words each. The first task is an essay on the proposed topic. In the second part, you can choose a task from the following genres: letters/emails, proposals, reports and reviews. You’ll have 90 minutes to complete both tasks, so don’t waste time on the draft on the exam. At most, a small plan to structure the answer. And don’t waste time counting words. If you write a little more or a little less and at the same time complete all the points of the task, there will be no penalties.

When preparing, practice writing quickly and regularly. If you plan to pass paper-based, write by hand, and if computer-based, then train on the computer, disabling hints and spell checking. When you have written, check yourself on the checklist created by Cambridge. Texts must be read by someone else, so you can notice mistakes and achieve better results. If you are preparing for the exam yourself, take a few consultations from a teacher who specializes in preparing for exams. He will check your texts and tell you what to look for. By the way, the same can be done to prepare for the oral part.

Not enough ideas? Background reading will help. Before you start writing a text, read what they write on this topic on the Internet. Try to look not for exam essays, but for articles or forums, because you need ideas, not a ready-made text. Pay attention to interesting vocabulary on the topic – it can be used when you write your text.


If you pass the paper version of the exam, tune in to the fact that you will not have headphones on the exam. Someone in the audience may cough or rustle paper. During the preparation, also listen to the recordings without headphones and try to make sure that there is at least some background noise in the room. So you will feel much calmer on the exam.

Listen to all the tasks twice, even if everything is clear after the first audition. When listening seems complicated, work with the script after you’re done. Write out new vocabulary from there and find those parts that contain answers to the questions of the task. An option for extreme sportsmen is when you feel confident enough, try the tasks from the next level of tests, CPE. After them, a lot of advanced tasks will seem easy and understandable.


Start preparing for the oral part by watching the video. In it, 2 candidates perform test tasks, talking with the examiner and with each other. Below the video there is a link to the examiner’s comments, where you can see the candidates’ grades and the criteria by which these grades were given.

Figure out what is required of you in each of the parts. So, the first part includes 2-3 personal questions. In the second, you need to compare 2 pictures, answering 2 questions to them and having time to keep within 1 minute. In the third part, you talk to the second candidate. You will have to discuss the topic and come to a common opinion. In the last part, the questions will no longer be personal, but more global. Here you will have to answer a few “Why do you think…?” and speculate on topics such as, for example, ecology, education, business or health.

When preparing, do not memorize phrases or sophisticated phrases. This will sound unnatural, and the examiner will surely pay attention to it. Formal introductory constructions like “If you ask for my honest opinion…” will also not sound very appropriate in speech. Try to speak fluently and be able to replace forgotten words with synonyms or descriptive constructions.

Train this part with a teacher, with an expert at point consultations, or at least with another of the same level as you.

Good luck in preparing, everything will definitely work out!

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