How to pass the C1 Advanced (CAE) Exam

Are you wondering how to pass your CAE exam? I know that preparing for an English exam can be stressful. But don’t worry, in this post I will give you some top CAE tips for your exam.

My name is Kathrin and I’m studying English at the Alba English School in Edinburgh. For 9 years, Alba English has helped students pass their language exams. 

I’ve talked to a student, who recently passed his exam, and a teacher to find out all about the format of the CAE exam and their top tips on how to pass the CAE exam.

Contents
1. CAE Exam Format
2. CAE Tips from a Teacher
3. CAE Tips from a Student
4. FAQ – How to pass the CAE
5. About the CAE Exam
6. CAE Exam Day
7. CAE Results

CAE Exam Format

What is the CAE exam? 

First things first, before explaining the CAE tips, let’s have a closer look what the CAE exam is. The C1 Advanced exam or formerly “Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)” is one of Cambridge’s English qualifications. You might need it as proof of your English language skills for work, visa requirements or to enter university in an English-speaking country.

This test is for English language learners with a C1 CEFR level. If your level is lower taking the FCE exam will be a better option for you.  

The CAE exam evaluates your English level in five different areas: writing, reading, ‘use of English’, listening and speaking. In the exam, ‘Reading’ and ‘Use of English’ are in the same paper.

I created five easy-to-understand infographics. There is one graphic for each part of the exam which explains the tasks, the assessment and gives you some more helpful information.

Reading and Use of English CAE Exam Format
Listening CAE Exam Format
Writing CAE Exam Format
Speaking CAE Exam Format

CAE Tips from a Teacher: How to pass the CAE exam

Now that you know how the test is structured, let’s hear some helpful tips for the CAE exam. I asked Chris, one of the teachers at Alba English School, for his five top tips how to pass the CAE exam. Here is his advice for you.

Tip 1: Make a study plan

Chris’s first tip is to make a study plan, which will help you to stay more organized and focused. In your study plan write down how many hours a week, when and what you want to study.

You can also take notes on the progress you are making. For example, write down the results you get every time you do a listening exam. Seeing your improvement will motivate you because you can see that you’re getting closer to being ready for the exam!

Tip 2: Find good language chunks to ‘steal’

Remember that for the writing exam you don’t have to be original. All you need to do is show good English writing skills. Therefore, the second tip is to find good language examples and then “steal” chunks of it.

You can have a look at your textbook or the Internet to find good language. For example, if in a text a paragraph starts with “In terms of…” and you like that expression, you can “steal” it. Every time you write a text, you can start one of your paragraphs with “In terms of…”. Don’t try to be original, just use good language.

Tip 3: Make a plan to manage your time

Chris’s next tip is to make a plan how to manage your time, especially during the ‘Reading and Use of English’ paper. It is really important to roughly know how many minutes you want to spend on each part of the exam. You will lose a lot of points if you don’t finish the whole exam.

Therefore, decide how many minutes you want to spend on each question and once that time is up, move on to the next question. You can always come back to the unfinished questions if you still have time at the end of the exam.

Tip 4: Be ambitious with your language in speaking and writing

The fourth tip is that you need to be ambitious with your language in the speaking and writing exam. During the exam you have to use language of the level of the exam (B2). If you only use language that you are comfortable with but that is not of the right level, you won’t pass the exam.

As long as the examiners can understand you, it is okay to make a few mistakes. It is more important that you show the examiners that you are able to use language of the tested level. So be ambitious!

Tip 5: Work out why you made your mistakes

The last tip is that you have to understand why you made a mistake. After you finish a practice exam don’t only check your overall marks. It is important to have a closer look at your mistakes.

Go back to the questions you got wrong and figure out why you made that mistake. For example, did you not understand a word or expression? Make sure you learn that new vocabulary. Maybe there was a distractor you fell for, then try to understand why. A distractor is when there is a word/expression in the reading or listening exam that is included in the text but is actually not the correct answer.

If you understand why you made a mistake and learn from it, then you will improve every time you are practicing!

CAE Tips from a Student: How to pass the CAE exam

It was definitely very helpful to hear the tips from a teacher. However, I was also interested to hear what Alba English’s students had to say. I spoke to Javier, who passed his exam a few months ago. These are his tips for you to pass your CAE exam.

CAE Tip 1: Make sure you’re ready for the CAE exam

The first tip is that before you book your exam, you should make sure that you are ready to take it. If you know that you don’t have a C1 level, it doesn’t make sense to register for the CAE exam. You should improve your English first. To check if you have the right level you could get feedback from a teacher or have a look at your results from reading and listening practice exams.

Another option, if you don’t have a C1 level, is to consider taking an exam appropriate for your language level.

CAE Tip 2: You can invent an opinion

In the speaking exam it is really important to show that you have advanced spoken language skills, this includes for example using advanced vocabulary and grammar.

Imagine this situation, the examiner asks you a question and you either don’t have an opinion on the topic or you know a good word or expression for an opinion that is not your own.

Javier’s second tip is to just invent an opinion and use the advanced word or expression. The most important part is that you show your language skills and your examiners won’t know or care if you are telling the truth.

CAE Tip 3: Start with the writing as soon as possible

Practicing for the writing part of the exam is often the most time consuming one. Usually, it takes a lot of practice to improve your writing skills and to learn from your mistakes.

Therefore, the third tip to start working on your writing skills as soon as possible. This is important because you’ll have to prepare to write different types of texts (like reports, essays and articles), each with their own requirements.

CAE Tip 4: Learn from your mistakes

Make sure that when you finish a practice test, you don’t only check if you passed the test.  Have a look at the mistakes you made and try to find the correct answers. You should try to understand why you made the mistakes because otherwise you will just repeat them in the exam.  If you understand what to do differently next time you can learn from your mistakes and improve your score.  

CAE Tip 5: Find a good teacher, especially for the writing and the speaking part

While you can get feedback on your reading and listening skills by doing practice exams, you can’t do the same for your writing and speaking skills. Therefore, it is important that you find a teacher who can help you improve in those two areas. Your teacher will be able to give you feedback and helpful tips for the CAE exam. You could also ask a friend to help you practice.

FAQ – How to pass the CAE

I hope all the information and tips gave you a better understanding of how to pass your CAE exam. However, there are so many more questions to be answered. That’s why I included this small FAQ at the end of this post. Hopefully it can answer any additional questions you might have.

Otherwise, you can just contact us or leave a comment under one of the YouTube videos.  

Alba English Instagram, Alba English facebook

How to pass the CAE Exam, Cambridge Exam Tips from a Teacher 

About the CAE exam

When can I take the CAE exam?

Usually, you can take the paper-based test in March, May, June, August and December and the computer-based test in February, April, July, August and November. However, not all centres offer both exam types, check your centre for more information. 

Where can I take the test?

Test centres can be found all over the world! Check the Cambridge website.

For students in Edinburgh, you should know that there are two centres in the city, Basil Paterson College and Edinburgh College, and one in Glasgow, Live Language.

Is the CAE exam easier in my home country?

It doesn’t matter if you take the exam in your home country or in an English-speaking country because the exam will be exactly the same and will be marked by the same people. You might feel more relaxed when you take it in your home country but it’s exactly the same exam all over the world. 

How much does the CAE exam cost?

It’s approximately around £150. Check the website of your exam centre for more current prices.

What is the difference between the paper-based exam and the computer-based one?

You can do your reading, writing and listening exam either on paper or at a computer.

What is the difference between FCE, CAE and IELTS?

FCECAEIELTS
Level of English NeededB2

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C1 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B1
C1

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C2 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B2
There is one test for all levels and you get a score from 1 to 9.
Versions of the exam‘Normal’ B2 First and B2 First for SchoolsOnly one versionIELTS General and IELTS Academic
ValidityLife (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)Life (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)2 years
AssessmentYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partBand score ranging from 1 to 9 (9 is the highest score)
Parts of the Exam– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading
 – Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
Approximate Length of the Exam3 h 30 min3 h 55 min2 h 45 min
Differences between FCE, CAE and IELTS

For more information check out the blog posts How to pass the B2 First Exam and Complete Guide to IELTS.

CAE Exam Day

What happens on your CAE exam day?

  • When you arrive at your centre, they will tell you where you can put your personal belongings.
  • The centre will take a photo of you and might note your passport/ID number.
  • The exam instructions will be read out. Listen carefully and follow the instructions (on your screen). 
  • Raise your hand for help, questions and if you want to leave the room. 
  • Pay attention to the exam rules. Don’t talk to other people or look at their papers. 

What happens after the CAE exam?

  • Stop writing when your instructor tells you to do so. 
  • Leave any papers you used for notes on the desk.
  • Stay at your desk until you’re asked to leave the room

Also check the links for more information about the exam day for your paper-based or computer-based exam. 

What do I need to bring on exam day?

  • Your ID: valid, original passport or national ID card
  • For the paper-based exam: pens (black or blue), pencils (B or HB), eraser 

Note: You are not allowed to have your personal belongings at your desk, except for a clear bottle of water.

CAE Results

How many marks do I need to pass the CAE exam?

You will receive the C1 Advanced certificate if you score between 180 – 210 marks. If your score is lower you will still get the Statement of Results showing your English level. 

Cambridge English Scale ScoreGradeCEFR Level
200–210Grade AC2
193–199Grade BC1
180–192Grade CC1
160–179Level B2B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Exam

Note that you don’t have to pass each part of the exam to still pass the overall test. Your result will be the average of all five parts (reading, use of English, writing, listening and speaking). Furthermore, you will receive a Statement of Results that shows your performance for each part of the exam.

How many marks do I need to pass each part of the CAE exam?

Reading

Reading and Use of English Parts 1,5,6,7 and 8
Total Marks Available: 50

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
43200C2
32180 C1
23160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Reading Exam

Use of English

Reading and Use of English Parts 2,3,4
Total Marks Available: 28

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
23200C2
16180C1
11160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Use of English Exam

Writing

Total Marks Available: 40

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
34200C2
24180C1
16160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Writing Exam

Listening

Total Marks Available: 30

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
26200C2
18180C1
13160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Listening Exam

Speaking

Total Marks Available: 75

Practice Test Score Cambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
66200C2
45180C1
30160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Speaking Exam

When will I get my CAE results?

If you take the paper-based exam you will get your results after four to six weeks. It will take about two to three weeks until you get your results if you take the computer-based exam.

Your results will be available online first, all you need is your candidate ID number, which you’ll receive at the exam centre. 

Links for CAE practice tests and book recommendations:

Cambridge Practice Tests 

Book recommendations: 

The best book to buy depends on how you are preparing.
If you are studying in a class, you’ll probably use a book like ‘Advanced First’ or ‘Complete Advanced’. Your teacher will tell you which book to buy. These books are great for studying with a teacher, but they aren’t well-suited to self-study.

For self-study, we recommend ‘Advanced Trainer’. It has complete exam papers, with strategies and tips for each part. There are also books like ‘Advanced 1’ and ‘Advanced 2’, which just contain model exams (without any strategy or tips) that you may find useful.

To prepare for the FCE exam, you could also book a C1 Advanced Exam course with one of the qualified teachers at Alba English! We have intensive and part-time group classes, and can arrange private classes (including on Zoom).

Related Posts

How to pass the C1 Advanced (CAE) Exam

Are you wondering how to pass your CAE exam? I know that preparing for an English exam can be stressful. But don’t worry, in this post I will give you some top CAE tips for your exam.

My name is Kathrin and I’m studying English at the Alba English School in Edinburgh. For 9 years, Alba English has helped students pass their language exams. 

I’ve talked to a student, who recently passed his exam, and a teacher to find out all about the format of the CAE exam and their top tips on how to pass the CAE exam.

Contents
1. CAE Exam Format
2. CAE Tips from a Teacher
3. CAE Tips from a Student
4. FAQ – How to pass the CAE
5. About the CAE Exam
6. CAE Exam Day
7. CAE Results

CAE Exam Format

What is the CAE exam? 

First things first, before explaining the CAE tips, let’s have a closer look what the CAE exam is. The C1 Advanced exam or formerly “Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)” is one of Cambridge’s English qualifications. You might need it as proof of your English language skills for work, visa requirements or to enter university in an English-speaking country.

This test is for English language learners with a C1 CEFR level. If your level is lower taking the FCE exam will be a better option for you.  

The CAE exam evaluates your English level in five different areas: writing, reading, ‘use of English’, listening and speaking. In the exam, ‘Reading’ and ‘Use of English’ are in the same paper.

I created five easy-to-understand infographics. There is one graphic for each part of the exam which explains the tasks, the assessment and gives you some more helpful information.

Reading and Use of English CAE Exam Format
Listening CAE Exam Format
Writing CAE Exam Format
Speaking CAE Exam Format

CAE Tips from a Teacher: How to pass the CAE exam

Now that you know how the test is structured, let’s hear some helpful tips for the CAE exam. I asked Chris, one of the teachers at Alba English School, for his five top tips how to pass the CAE exam. Here is his advice for you.

Tip 1: Make a study plan

Chris’s first tip is to make a study plan, which will help you to stay more organized and focused. In your study plan write down how many hours a week, when and what you want to study.

You can also take notes on the progress you are making. For example, write down the results you get every time you do a listening exam. Seeing your improvement will motivate you because you can see that you’re getting closer to being ready for the exam!

Tip 2: Find good language chunks to ‘steal’

Remember that for the writing exam you don’t have to be original. All you need to do is show good English writing skills. Therefore, the second tip is to find good language examples and then “steal” chunks of it.

You can have a look at your textbook or the Internet to find good language. For example, if in a text a paragraph starts with “In terms of…” and you like that expression, you can “steal” it. Every time you write a text, you can start one of your paragraphs with “In terms of…”. Don’t try to be original, just use good language.

Tip 3: Make a plan to manage your time

Chris’s next tip is to make a plan how to manage your time, especially during the ‘Reading and Use of English’ paper. It is really important to roughly know how many minutes you want to spend on each part of the exam. You will lose a lot of points if you don’t finish the whole exam.

Therefore, decide how many minutes you want to spend on each question and once that time is up, move on to the next question. You can always come back to the unfinished questions if you still have time at the end of the exam.

Tip 4: Be ambitious with your language in speaking and writing

The fourth tip is that you need to be ambitious with your language in the speaking and writing exam. During the exam you have to use language of the level of the exam (B2). If you only use language that you are comfortable with but that is not of the right level, you won’t pass the exam.

As long as the examiners can understand you, it is okay to make a few mistakes. It is more important that you show the examiners that you are able to use language of the tested level. So be ambitious!

Tip 5: Work out why you made your mistakes

The last tip is that you have to understand why you made a mistake. After you finish a practice exam don’t only check your overall marks. It is important to have a closer look at your mistakes.

Go back to the questions you got wrong and figure out why you made that mistake. For example, did you not understand a word or expression? Make sure you learn that new vocabulary. Maybe there was a distractor you fell for, then try to understand why. A distractor is when there is a word/expression in the reading or listening exam that is included in the text but is actually not the correct answer.

If you understand why you made a mistake and learn from it, then you will improve every time you are practicing!

CAE Tips from a Student: How to pass the CAE exam

It was definitely very helpful to hear the tips from a teacher. However, I was also interested to hear what Alba English’s students had to say. I spoke to Javier, who passed his exam a few months ago. These are his tips for you to pass your CAE exam.

CAE Tip 1: Make sure you’re ready for the CAE exam

The first tip is that before you book your exam, you should make sure that you are ready to take it. If you know that you don’t have a C1 level, it doesn’t make sense to register for the CAE exam. You should improve your English first. To check if you have the right level you could get feedback from a teacher or have a look at your results from reading and listening practice exams.

Another option, if you don’t have a C1 level, is to consider taking an exam appropriate for your language level.

CAE Tip 2: You can invent an opinion

In the speaking exam it is really important to show that you have advanced spoken language skills, this includes for example using advanced vocabulary and grammar.

Imagine this situation, the examiner asks you a question and you either don’t have an opinion on the topic or you know a good word or expression for an opinion that is not your own.

Javier’s second tip is to just invent an opinion and use the advanced word or expression. The most important part is that you show your language skills and your examiners won’t know or care if you are telling the truth.

CAE Tip 3: Start with the writing as soon as possible

Practicing for the writing part of the exam is often the most time consuming one. Usually, it takes a lot of practice to improve your writing skills and to learn from your mistakes.

Therefore, the third tip to start working on your writing skills as soon as possible. This is important because you’ll have to prepare to write different types of texts (like reports, essays and articles), each with their own requirements.

CAE Tip 4: Learn from your mistakes

Make sure that when you finish a practice test, you don’t only check if you passed the test.  Have a look at the mistakes you made and try to find the correct answers. You should try to understand why you made the mistakes because otherwise you will just repeat them in the exam.  If you understand what to do differently next time you can learn from your mistakes and improve your score.  

CAE Tip 5: Find a good teacher, especially for the writing and the speaking part

While you can get feedback on your reading and listening skills by doing practice exams, you can’t do the same for your writing and speaking skills. Therefore, it is important that you find a teacher who can help you improve in those two areas. Your teacher will be able to give you feedback and helpful tips for the CAE exam. You could also ask a friend to help you practice.

FAQ – How to pass the CAE

I hope all the information and tips gave you a better understanding of how to pass your CAE exam. However, there are so many more questions to be answered. That’s why I included this small FAQ at the end of this post. Hopefully it can answer any additional questions you might have.

Otherwise, you can just contact us or leave a comment under one of the YouTube videos.  

Alba English Instagram, Alba English facebook

How to pass the CAE Exam, Cambridge Exam Tips from a Teacher 

About the CAE exam

When can I take the CAE exam?

Usually, you can take the paper-based test in March, May, June, August and December and the computer-based test in February, April, July, August and November. However, not all centres offer both exam types, check your centre for more information. 

Where can I take the test?

Test centres can be found all over the world! Check the Cambridge website.

For students in Edinburgh, you should know that there are two centres in the city, Basil Paterson College and Edinburgh College, and one in Glasgow, Live Language.

Is the CAE exam easier in my home country?

It doesn’t matter if you take the exam in your home country or in an English-speaking country because the exam will be exactly the same and will be marked by the same people. You might feel more relaxed when you take it in your home country but it’s exactly the same exam all over the world. 

How much does the CAE exam cost?

It’s approximately around £150. Check the website of your exam centre for more current prices.

What is the difference between the paper-based exam and the computer-based one?

You can do your reading, writing and listening exam either on paper or at a computer.

What is the difference between FCE, CAE and IELTS?

FCECAEIELTS
Level of English NeededB2

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C1 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B1
C1

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C2 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B2
There is one test for all levels and you get a score from 1 to 9.
Versions of the exam‘Normal’ B2 First and B2 First for SchoolsOnly one versionIELTS General and IELTS Academic
ValidityLife (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)Life (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)2 years
AssessmentYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partBand score ranging from 1 to 9 (9 is the highest score)
Parts of the Exam– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading
 – Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
Approximate Length of the Exam3 h 30 min3 h 55 min2 h 45 min
Differences between FCE, CAE and IELTS

For more information check out the blog posts How to pass the B2 First Exam and Complete Guide to IELTS.

CAE Exam Day

What happens on your CAE exam day?

  • When you arrive at your centre, they will tell you where you can put your personal belongings.
  • The centre will take a photo of you and might note your passport/ID number.
  • The exam instructions will be read out. Listen carefully and follow the instructions (on your screen). 
  • Raise your hand for help, questions and if you want to leave the room. 
  • Pay attention to the exam rules. Don’t talk to other people or look at their papers. 

What happens after the CAE exam?

  • Stop writing when your instructor tells you to do so. 
  • Leave any papers you used for notes on the desk.
  • Stay at your desk until you’re asked to leave the room

Also check the links for more information about the exam day for your paper-based or computer-based exam. 

What do I need to bring on exam day?

  • Your ID: valid, original passport or national ID card
  • For the paper-based exam: pens (black or blue), pencils (B or HB), eraser 

Note: You are not allowed to have your personal belongings at your desk, except for a clear bottle of water.

CAE Results

How many marks do I need to pass the CAE exam?

You will receive the C1 Advanced certificate if you score between 180 – 210 marks. If your score is lower you will still get the Statement of Results showing your English level. 

Cambridge English Scale ScoreGradeCEFR Level
200–210Grade AC2
193–199Grade BC1
180–192Grade CC1
160–179Level B2B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Exam

Note that you don’t have to pass each part of the exam to still pass the overall test. Your result will be the average of all five parts (reading, use of English, writing, listening and speaking). Furthermore, you will receive a Statement of Results that shows your performance for each part of the exam.

How many marks do I need to pass each part of the CAE exam?

Reading

Reading and Use of English Parts 1,5,6,7 and 8
Total Marks Available: 50

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
43200C2
32180 C1
23160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Reading Exam

Use of English

Reading and Use of English Parts 2,3,4
Total Marks Available: 28

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
23200C2
16180C1
11160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Use of English Exam

Writing

Total Marks Available: 40

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
34200C2
24180C1
16160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Writing Exam

Listening

Total Marks Available: 30

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
26200C2
18180C1
13160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Listening Exam

Speaking

Total Marks Available: 75

Practice Test Score Cambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
66200C2
45180C1
30160B2
Cambridge English Scale Score for CAE Speaking Exam

When will I get my CAE results?

If you take the paper-based exam you will get your results after four to six weeks. It will take about two to three weeks until you get your results if you take the computer-based exam.

Your results will be available online first, all you need is your candidate ID number, which you’ll receive at the exam centre. 

Links for CAE practice tests and book recommendations:

Cambridge Practice Tests 

Book recommendations: 

The best book to buy depends on how you are preparing.
If you are studying in a class, you’ll probably use a book like ‘Advanced First’ or ‘Complete Advanced’. Your teacher will tell you which book to buy. These books are great for studying with a teacher, but they aren’t well-suited to self-study.

For self-study, we recommend ‘Advanced Trainer’. It has complete exam papers, with strategies and tips for each part. There are also books like ‘Advanced 1’ and ‘Advanced 2’, which just contain model exams (without any strategy or tips) that you may find useful.

To prepare for the FCE exam, you could also book a C1 Advanced Exam course with one of the qualified teachers at Alba English! We have intensive and part-time group classes, and can arrange private classes (including on Zoom).

Related Posts