What is the CAE?
The CAE is a Cambridge exam aimed at C1 level speakers. The CAE is also known as C1 Advanced exam and used to be known as Cambridge English: Advanced and Certificate in Advanced English (this is where the abbreviation comes from). It is preceded by the FCE (B1 level) and followed by the CPE (C2 level). It is supposed to be a thorough test of your English language skills across a variety of areas and topics.
The CAE exam consists of four papers: Reading and Use of English (sometimes referred to as grammar), Writing, Listening, and Speaking.
The exam takes about 4 hours and the speaking part may or may not be on the same day as the other three papers.
The timings of each section are:
- Reading and Use of English (8 parts) – 90 minutes
- Writing (2 tasks) – 90 minutes
- Listening (4 parts) – approximately 40 minutes
- Speaking (4 parts) – approximately 15 minutes, may be on a different day, done with another candidate
In this post we’ll look at some of the similarities and differences with other English exams to help you determine whether the CAE is the right exam for you.
1- Prove to yourself (and everyone else) what you can do
Maybe you’ve been studying English for the last 20 years. Maybe you went to study for a year in America during high school. Maybe you just want proof that you have a great grasp of English.
While many people decide to take a language exam for a specific purpose, whether it’s a promotion or applying to universities, many others just want to take the exam for their own peace of mind. You may choose to take the CAE just to have an official document confirming your level. It’s a great addition to a CV and it can help you stand out from the crowd even when it’s not a requirement. Having proof that you have passed this advanced exam can show initiative, motivation, and of course good language skills.
The CAE exam is perfect for this as it’s a widely recognised certificate in English from one of the most prestigious English exam boards. Furthermore, it is an advanced certificate which means you don’t just have the English skills to get by in an English-speaking country; you have the ability to communicate with ease and confidence on a range of subjects. It’s becoming more common for English learners to take the FCE exam, so why not go one step further and take the CAE?
2- Improve your language skills in the process
As I mentioned before, the CAE is a C1 exam. You can get a B2 level certificate if you don’t quite reach the C1 scores, but you can also fail the exam completely. The exam fees are not cheap so this can often give students extra motivation. While it can be nice to have the certainty of passing the IELTS, the TOEIC, or the TOEFL, no matter what, it can lead to complacency. Students sometimes get comfortable and stop working hard, thinking they will manage to get a score that’s good enough.
Make sure all your skills (listening, reading, speaking, writing) are at a sufficient level before you register for your exam. If you’re not sure what level you are, take our free Level Assessment Test and book a lesson to discuss your level with your teacher.
Please note that the Level Assessment Test is not a comprehensive analysis of your abilities and so it won’t reflect your level perfectly. When reading English, some students can passively understand a C1-level text but struggle with speaking about even basic topics. It is always important to look at the whole picture and practise all the skills.
Like all the other English exams, the CAE follows a specific format so knowing as much as possible about the exam itself can help you achieve the score you want. This should be a part of your exam preparation.
3- Get an internationally recognised certificate
The CAE certificate is an internationally recognised certificate that most companies and institutions accept as proof of a good level of general English. Before registering for any exam, double check that it’s the exam you need. If the institution doesn’t specify an exam, try asking them for a recommendation. While some institutions may accept all exams, they may prefer one over another. Don’t take an exam you don’t need. If you have a choice of different exams, then look at their specifics and pick the one that seems the best fit for you. You can also ask your teacher for advice.
4- The CAE never expires
Unlike many other exams, the Cambridge exams do not expire. The IELTS and TOEIC go out of date after two years. This is because their scores are on a continuous scale with room for improvement. You can still include your scores in your CV and applications, but the institutions you apply to don’t have to accept it. The TOEFL sends your results directly to universities and companies that you elect. It also expires after two years but additionally, you can’t get or use the results after this time.
The Cambridge exams certify that you have achieved a specific level. You may decide to take a higher-level exam later, but your certificate is always valid.
5- Universities and employers around the globe accept it
This is the most versatile exam on the market.
If applying to universities, the IELTS for Academic Purposes may be a better choice as the reading and writing sections prepare you for the kind of work you will have to do at university. CAE, on the other hand, is a lot more general.
The TOEFL tests general English but is mostly used for entrance to US universities, and this influences the content. The TOEIC is used in professional settings to prove a candidate’s ability to communicate well within the workplace and deal with day-to-day situations in English. Many Asian and European countries ask for the TOEIC rather than the CAE or IELTS. There are other, more specialised exams for business English or for example the OET for healthcare specialists.
There are no easy exams, they’re just slightly different from one another. Some people find the fact that they can’t fail the IELTS less stressful. Others prefer the motivation of knowing that they could fail the CAE if they do not prepare thoroughly enough.
Do you think the CAE exam is for you? Then you should have a look at the CAE Exam Preparation Course from the Intrepid English Academy. This course focuses on each part of the exam in detail. We look at useful exam-taking techniques and ways to practise. It also includes a variety of useful resources for improving your general language skills.
This content was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Lida.
You can find out more about Lida on her Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.
Book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly native English teacher.
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