Cambridge English: Advanced, C1 Advanced, and the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) all refer to the same thing – an English Language exam specially designed to test the English proficiency of learners who are preparing to advance into the university or lead a professional career. The CAE is a standard language certificate that also helps prove your abilities and skills in English.

Compared to other English tests, CAE is not accepted for study purposes only. Apart from using this test to apply to foreign universities, multinational companies and organizations generally select candidates who can demonstrate their advanced level of English with a Cambridge certificate.

If you are preparing to be admitted to an international university, it is best to be duly informed about their exact requirements as regards the English language. Usually, most universities accept the Cambridge exam and other English tests. So, it is up to you to make your choice based on the format and structure that appeals to you most. A feature that makes Cambridge English Advanced stand out is that it focuses more on the candidate’s general and broad knowledge of English applied in our daily interactions and business environment than on academic skills.

The Cambridge certificate has no expiration date, and this gives it extra points when compared to other English tests. However, if it was written as much as two years before the time of your application, universities may not consider it valid. The CAE is not a difficult test, as it has a set format, and when you take note of their method of questioning, you will find it easy to ace the test. So, here is the test format for the Certificate in Advanced English exams.

C1 Advanced (CAE) Test Format

The test format for the Certificate in Advanced English from Cambridge is relatively straightforward. The CAE is divided into four exam papers, which cut across all the essential language skills. These sections are Writing, Reading, and Use of Language, Speaking, and Listening. While the speaking exam is strictly oral, the other parts can be computer-based or paper-based, depending on your preference. However, for both options, a predetermined venue is made available by the testing center with which you have previously registered. As expected for computer-based exams, there should be a ready environment with access to a computer system with an excellent internet connection. As such, computer-based exams usually occur in language schools and colleges verified by your testing center. On the other hand, paper-based exams are known to occur in conference rooms.

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Parts of the C1 Advanced (CAE)

Part 1. Reading and Use of Language

This paper typically lasts for 90 minutes. It is divided into eight parts, with a total of fifty-six questions. These reading texts are basically to test your comprehension level as they are taken from newspapers, short stories, magazines, novels, promotional materials, and internet articles. In parts 1 to 3, you are expected to fill in the gaps with the correct word. This is designed to test your knowledge of basic grammar and everyday vocabulary. In part 4, you are given two sentences to complete the second sentence with a keyword that will give it a similar meaning to the first sentence. This also tests your grammar and use of vocabulary. Parts 5, 6, and 7 focus on multiple-choice questions, comparing attitudes across a range of short texts and sentence structures, respectively. The final part tests your ability to demonstrate the extraction of specific information and opinions from a series of multiple-matching questions.

Part 2. Writing

The Writing section of CAE is for 90 minutes. Here, you are assessed based on Communication, Content, Language, and Organization. It is divided into two parts. In the first part, you are to give a concise summary of a text provided while the second part gives you the option of writing a proposal, letter, information sheet, or report. This subdivision aims to gauge your accuracy of the English Language and understanding of registers.

Part 3. Listening

This part which lasts for 40 minutes, evaluates your listening skills and how well you can recall the right answers to questions based on the audio. This paper is based on two audio extracts: speeches, radio broadcasts, or anecdotes lasting about three minutes. You are allowed to listen to one of them just once while the other can be played twice. Your memory skills will come into play here as they are looking to test your reasoning capacity and short-term memory.

Part 4. Speaking

This is the only oral aspect of the CAE test. For 15 minutes, you will be tested face-to-face alongside another candidate and two examiners. While one of the examiners acts as an interlocutor, the other acts as the assessor and only serves as a silent observer. This section consists of four parts where you first interact briefly with the interlocutor and then discuss a set of pictures. The third part focuses on your ideas on a specific task, and the final part involves the interlocutor. The essence of this section is to test your speaking skills, which include your intonation, how well you organize your thoughts, pronunciation, and use of appropriate vocabulary.


The Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English is accepted for English Master’s degrees in the UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia. Preparing for the Cambridge Advanced English exam certainly requires proper preparation and months of study. There are lots of practice questions online. So, be sure to use them as they are very helpful in preparing for your CAE. Most importantly, ensure you proofread your work for grammatical blunders or easy-to-miss mistakes that could cost you. Ensure you understand a question fully before attempting, and don’t forget to read through the instructions carefully before starting. Avoid copying and pasting; instead, rephrase your ideas in your own words when answering the exam questions. With these tips, you will be ready to ace that test. This is something to be very proud of.


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About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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