Tips for Passing the C1 Advanced (CAE)

The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest and most distinguished universities in the world. They provide the world’s leading range of English language qualifications. The Cambridge C1 Advanced (formerly CAE) is a highly regarded exam accredited by Cambridge English. Every year more than 60,000 people take it all over the world but, unfortunately, many people have trouble passing due to a lack of preparation. That's why we've created this helpful list of C1 Advanced (CAE) tips to help you pass the exam first time.

About the exam

Why take the C1 Advanced (CAE)?

  • Cambridge exams are accepted by over 9,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments.
  • If you pass the Cambridge Advanced Exam, it shows you have an excellent knowledge of the English language, which opens doors to international travel, work and study around the world.
  • Cambridge has monthly test dates available at 2,800 exam centres around the world.
  • During the process of studying for the CAE you improve your real-life English skills.
  • Once you pass the CAE, it lasts you for life as the exam doesn't have an expiration date.

When do you know that you’re ready for the exam?

The best indicator to know once you’re ready for the CAE is taking mock exams every week to check the progress and your level. If your score is around 70% in the mock exam, that should tell you, that you’re ready for the exam. Cambridge even offers a placement test on their website, which students can do. Also it’s recommended to have a speaking mock exam with a person that can give you feedback for the different parts.

Benefits of passing the CAE

Passing the CAE will give you the confidence to express yourself with a high level of fluency and participate in workplace meetings or academic tutorials and seminars. It also shows that you can follow an academic course at university level. To communicate and understand effectively in the environment mentioned is a great achievement.

Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) Tips

How is the CAE structured?

The Cambridge Advanced Exam consists of all five language skills: Use of English, reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is structured as follows:

  • Part 1 (90 minutes) ­ The first section of the CAE tests your knowledge of grammar and your reading comprehension. Both parts have each four different exercises.
  • Part 2 (90 minutes) ­ The second part of the CAE tests your writing ability. There are two papers you need to write (each around 250 words). The first paper is an essay stating your opinion about something. The second one you have the option to choose between a letter, proposal, essay etc.
  • Part 3 (40 minutes) ­ The third section is listening comprehension. You listen to radio television or other types of native English speakers and answer what you heard.
  • Part 4 (15 minutes) ­ Lastly the exam tests your speaking ability. Students take this exam in pairs and have to be able to speak about topics prepared from the examiner.

Tips to help you prepare for the CAE

Give yourself enough time to prepare

One of the most important things is to calculate enough time to prepare for the CAE. It’s an exam, where you will have to study intensely.

Get familiar with the style of the exam

Even if your level of English is quite good, you need to get familiar with the style of the exam. Every exam has its own certain style and that is no different from the CAE. You can also use that to your advantage because the style always remains the same.

Use mock exams to practise

There are lots of mock exams you can find on the internet to practise. I highly recommend looking at them at first to get used to the style of the exam and then later on take them in order to find out your level.

C1 (CAE) Exam Tips

Grammar and reading tips

1. Make use of grammar apps

Correct spelling is very important for the use of English part of the exam. The best way to prepare for this part is to make use of grammar and English language apps. You can do exercises on the app whenever you have a bit of time on your hands, for example in the bus or train.

2. Avoid distractors

One of the most important things to keep in mind when tackling any of the reading paper is that the texts will contain distractors. These are words or phrases that you will find in the text that can also appear in the questions which might lead you to choose the wrong answer. Make sure you highlight important words or phrases during the reading.

3. Don't waste time

And don’t waste time, if you’re getting stuck, because time for the reading is super short. A good way to prepare for the reading is to each day read the newspaper and to start to read a book.

Listening tips

1. Familiarise yourself with different accents

The recordings you will hear in the CAE might be interviews on the radio, monologues, speeches, general conversations and so on. You can expect to hear a wide range of accents, so prepare by familiarising yourself by watching a variety of English films and series, listening to the radio and watching YouTube.

2. Read the questions and highlight keywords

Before the recording of the exam starts you will have some time for reading the questions. There it’s very important to underline keywords and phrases.

3. Avoid distractors

Distractors are as important to be aware of in the listening tasks as they are in the reading paper.

Speaking tips

1. Speak in English as much as possible

Here it’s important that you feel comfortable while speaking the English language. This comes with a lot of practice. If you’re in an English speaking country, then try to speak to lots of different people in different kinds of places or attend language exchanges. This will result in you talking about many different subjects as well as making you comfortable to speak.

2. Record yourself speaking

You can also record yourself speaking and then later listen back to it to find errors. This can be very helpful and you don’t even need another person to do it.

Writing tips

1. Think of your target reader

In order to write well, you need to think about the target reader. Who are you writing to? A colleague, a magazine, a company or your teacher? This will depend on whether the style of your writing has to be formal or informal.

2. Plan your structure

You need to also think about the aim of text and the typical organisation of the text. Do you need a title? How many paragraphs do you need and how should they be ordered? For the essay, for example, you need a heading, introduction, main body and conclusion. Take some time to brainstorm before you start writing and make sure you will include all the points in the instructions. Watch out that you don’t repeat the input language and obey the given word limit.

What to do moments before the CAE

Make sure that you’ve studied all you can and then just give it your all at the exam. There is no more that you can do. If you’re aware of that, it allows you to actually be calm in the process. You can also plan something fun to do after the exam for you to look forward to. It’s important that you get enough sleep and have a good breakfast. And lastly, be on time in order to avoid stress.

Want help preparing for your exam and more CAE tips from expert teachers? Find out more about our online Cambridge exam preparation courses.

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