Certificate in Advanced English

So your English is at a proficient level where you can communicate fluently and spontaneously? If your English is at a level where you can communicate in a social, academic and professional level, then the Certificate in Advanced English may be the test for you!

The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) Test is the second highest exam administered by the Cambridge ESOL. This exam tests at a C1 level , which will provide you with certification that you have mastered an advanced level of competence. The CAE exam is widely accepted by British universities, including learning institutions worldwide. The Certificate in Advanced English is also widely recognized in business in commerce and industry.

The 5 W’s of the Certificate in Advanced English Test


Who takes the CAE exam?

This CAE exam is taken by those individuals looking to present a high English level to an employer, governmental organization, or educational institutions. Most British universities, as well as other entrance requirements for schools around the world, accept credentials from the CAE exam. For many companies requiring a high level of English, the CAE exam will authorize your level of English. By presenting the Certificate in Advanced English, this will tell the company that you are able to communicate on a managerial and professional level.

Why should you take the Certificate in Advanced English Test?

Most of us can agree that taking an exam is no fun – that is unless you properly prepare and are determine that taking the time to properly prepare will open doors to your future. And, this is exactly what the Certificate in Advanced English has been designed to do. The CAE will allow you to present a high level of English fluency in either in a business or academic setting. By mastering this exam, you will communicate that you are able to speak English fluently and comfortably. You are able to communicate effectively and spontaneously, whether you are in a social, academic or professional level. After scoring well on the exam, you will be able to complete an academic course in a University, communicate at a professional/managerial level, and participate in meetings or seminars. You can also view the University of Cambridge list of organizations that recognize the CAE. The Key English Test is also accepted internationally by schools, governmental organizations, and employers to show your level of mastery.

What can I expect to see on the CAE?

Understanding the Format

Before sitting for the Certificate in Advanced English test, you will have the option to take a paper or computer based exam called the CB-KET. You will need to contact the Cambridge ESOL Exam centre to see what time is best for you and to confirm what format will be available to properly prepare. The CAE exam is four hours and 40 minutes long. The test has 5 papers including testing reading, writing, listening, speaking, and your use of English all worth 20% of your total score.

The Reading paper of the Certificate in Advance English will have 34 questions divided into four parts. You will have 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete texts ranging from 550-850 words long; texts are typically from articles, newspapers, novels, journals, books, manuals, etc. Part 1 will provide three texts followed by 2 multiple choice questions for each text. Each question will have four options to choose from. This part will test your understanding of main idea, tone, purpose, detail, attitude, content and organization, which will also test your ability to use context clues to infer meanings of the text. Part 2 gives you another text with paragraphs removed. You will have to decide where in the article these paragraphs belong. Part 3 is similar to Part 1 as it also multiple-choice based on your readings. The last part, Part 4, will give you a page of texts with two sets of questions. You will have 15 questions related to the texts; however you will notice that more than one may be correct (if this is the case, it will be specified in your instructions). This section is 3,000 words long in the text.

The CAE writing section will be one hour and 30 minutes which will require you to write essays, proposals, reports and reviews. This writing section will begin with Part 1 that has a required question that will require a persuasive response of about 180-220 words long. The instructions may ask for you to write an article, letter, proposal or report. Part 2 will give you questions 2-5 which you will just choose one to answer. You will be required to write an article, competition entry, essay, information sheet, letter, proposal, report, or review. Question 5 will have two parts. On Part 2, your instructions will be about 80 words which will require a 220-260 word response. You will be evaluated based on your tone and style and ability to describe, evaluate, persuade, express options, compare, give advice, justify, hypothesize, and judge priorities. Here is the general grading scheme:

  • range of structure, vocabulary, and expression
  • ability to organize content
  • ability to write accurately and effectively, addressing all aspects of the task
  • use of format effectiveness to address audience and purpose

Use of English
You will have one hour to complete 50 questions of the Use of English section of the CAE. Of the 5 parts of this section, the first three are text based. Part 1 gives you a text with 12 gaps. You will have four options to choose which answer best completes the gap. This part will test phrases, meaning, and which word best completes the sentence. Part 2 has a text with 15 gaps which you will need to complete with the correct grammar or phrasal verbs, linkers, and words completing a phrase. Part 3 is similar in format with a text and 10 questions. You will need to form an appropriate word from a root word – you will need to know prefixes, suffixes, internal changes, and compound words. Part 4 has 5 questions with three different sentences. Each sentence will have a gap and you will need to choose the word common to all three sentences. Lastly, Part 5 has 8 questions with two sentences each. The second sentence will be missing the middle section of the sentence where you will need to use 3-6 words to complete the sentence with the same meaning.

The listening section of the CAE is divided into 4 parts, 30 questions total. All audio is listened to twice and lasts about 40 minutes with 5 minutes time to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Part 1 has three unrelated short texts that are about one minute long. These audio clips are about real life situations and typically include multiple voices. Each audio clip will have two questions with 3 multiple choice options. You will be asked to focus on feelings, attitudes, and opinions of the speaker. Part 2 is usually three minutes long with one person doing a talk, lecture, broadcast in a neutral or semi-formal style. Part 3 also has a four minute conversation typically an interview or discussion with multiple speakers. You will then have 6 questions with 4 possible choices. Questions will focus on detailed or broad understanding of views, feelings and points raised. The last part has 5 monologues, each 30 seconds long. Each monologue represents spontaneous speech informally. After, you will have multiple matching tasks from a series of 8 options.

The Certificate in Advanced English is usually held with two candidates and two examiners. If there is an uneven number, the last group will be a group of three candidates. One of the examiners will interact with the candidates, while the other examiner will evaluate and not engage with candidates. There are four parts that will last 15 minutes. There will be a three minute interview discussing work, leisure and future plans so that your tenses can be evaluated. After, Part 2 will be 4 minutes long where each candidate will be given one minute to talk about two pictures with spoken and written questions. Each candidate will have 30 seconds to respond on their partner’s turn. On Part 3 you will speak with the other candidates about visual or written information. Lastly, on Part 4 will last 4 minutes and engage candidates in a more in-depth discussion about opinions, agreements and disagreements.

Understanding your score

Once you take this exam you will be able to chart your progress and language level. The grade ranges from A to E – A indicates that your English level is at the highest C2 level. If you score a B or C, you will receive a C1 certificate. These grades are based off a point system out of 100 with the following grade:

100-80 Grade A Certificate at level C2, equivalent to CPE
79-75 Grade B Certificate at level C1
74-60 Grade C Certificate at level C1
59-55 Grade D No Certificate
54-0 Grade E No Certificate

In order to pass you would need to receive a 60 or higher. You will be scored on each individual Paper, as described above, however your overall score will determine whether you pass – you do not need to pass every paper to pass the exam. In each section, you will receive a classification on your performance from exceptional, good, borderline to weak. This evaluation is to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. You will receive a certificate if you receive an A, B, or C grade.

Where and When can you take the Certificate in Advanced English Test?

You can take the Certificate in Advanced English in either a computer or paper format. The CAE is administered 11 times each year from February to December. Exams schedules will depend on the format of exam you will take. You will take all four papers together, except for the Writing Paper 5 which will be held by separate arrangements. Typically, there is a specified week allotment in which you can schedule the written section which will be coordinated through your testing center. To register for your date, be sure to do this early as testing sites can fill up. If there is still availability you can register in many locations with as little as one weeks’ notice! The exams costs are going to vary by test center, but the typical price is about $350USD.

>> Learn more about other English language exams