What Is the Cambridge English: Advanced Test?

Instructor: Bill Sands
The Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) gauges candidates' command of the English language. Keep reading for more information on the format and structure of this assessment.

What is the Cambridge English: Advanced?

The Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) examination is an international English language test designed by Cambridge English Language Assessment. The test offers candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their command of the English language and can be used for work, study, and immigration reasons.

In addition to being a respected exam in its own right, the CAE is part of the Cambridge English assessment progression and occurs between the Cambridge English: First (FCE) and Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE).

CAE Test Format

The CAE is divided into four sections, which are referred to as 'papers.' Each paper focuses on a specific branch of the English language.

1. Reading and Use of English

The Reading and Use of English paper consists of 56 questions spread across eight parts. Candidates will be expected to read between 3,000 to 3,500 words from sources such as newspapers, magazines, and short stories. Candidates will have one hour and 30 minutes to complete this section.

Parts 1-3 focus primarily on vocabulary, with candidates being asked multiple-choice questions and fill-in-the-blank problems. Part 4 also incorporates vocabulary, but also tests a candidate's knowledge of grammatical concepts and collocation.

Parts 5-8 all measure a candidate's reading comprehension skills and contain a variety of question types, from matching to ordering. These sections require a candidate to read for detail, pay attention to structure, and identify development in a text.

2. Writing

The Writing paper contains two separate tasks. The first part (the compulsory task) requires candidates to read a text, and then compose an essay in response to the content of the text. The second part allows candidates to select one of three writing tasks. Tasks range from composing a letter to developing a proposal.

For each section, candidates must write between 220 and 260 words. The total length of this section is one hour and 30 minutes.

3. Listening

The Listening paper tests a candidate's skills when it comes to listening in real-world situations. Candidates will need to listen to a series of audio recordings and then respond to 30 multiple-choice, matching, and sentence completion questions. Potential recordings include monologues, interviews, or discussions. Candidates will be graded on their ability to pick up on the general sense of an extract and understand specific information concerning the opinion and overall attitude of the speaker(s).

This paper lasts 40 minutes.

4. Speaking

The Speaking test is the shortest paper, clocking in at only 15 minutes. This part of the CAE is conducted face-to-face with an examiner (even with the computer-based version of the exam). Normally, there are two candidates and two examiners present during this section. One examiner acts as an interlocutor and directly speaks with the candidates, while the other merely observes and assess the conversations.

Candidates will be asked to speak in a number of different formats. The first part of the paper is conducted as an exchange between candidate and examiner, while the second requires both candidates to describe a series of pictures. The third and fourth parts take on the tone of a dialogue, with interaction occurring between candidates and the examiner.

Studying for the CAE

If you're planning on sitting for this exam, has a number of resources that can be very useful as you prepare.

This Cambridge English: Advanced Test Prep & Study Guide course offers an extensive review of all the major themes and topics found on the test.

Proper grammar is an essential part of the English language, and these English Grammar Rules and Grammar Resources for ELL Students courses will help you brush up on fundamental skills and improve your test scores.

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