CAE (the Certificate in Advanced English) — is  an examination at Cambridge set at C1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference scale.

There are 4  papers, each representing 25% of the total mark.
  • Paper 1 Reading   and Use of English (8 parts, 56 questions, 1 hour 30 minutes)
  • Paper 2 Writing (2 tasks, 1 hour 30 minutes)
  • Paper 3 Listening (4 tasks, 40 minutes)
  • Paper 4 Speaking (4 parts, 15 minutes)


Books for preparation can be found here.

Sample papers can be downloaded here.

Official Cambridge exam site.


How is writing marked? –

Marks are awarded for appropriate

  • content (Is it relevant? Is the topic fully covered?)
  • vocabulary (Is a vide range of vocabulary used? Is it used appropriately?)
  • grammar (Is a wide range of structures used? Are grammar structures used accurately?)
  • register (Is the register (formal, neutral, informal) chosen appropriately?)
  • coherence and cohesion (Are ideas linked logically? Are linking words used appropriately?)
  • general impression (Does the candidate’s writing have a positive effect on the target reader?)

Sample writing papers

Proposal 1

The purpose of this proposal is to offer some ideas regarding a careers day for students, with the goal being to organize it in ways which improve the event, in order to not repeat  the negative experience many students had last year.

Two-day event

It would be advisable to hold the event in two days for the following reasons: Firstly, it might be tiring for participants to absorb all of the new information in a short period of time. Secondly, not all the students would be able to attend the event in the morning because of their lectures, so it would be reasonable to start in the afternoon, and continue on the afternoon of the next day.

What to include

Judging by what students say about the previous careers day, most of them were not particularly interested in the information provided.  Therefore, it would be desirable to inspire them and encourage them to try something new. With this aim in mind, I suggest inviting people who have achieved a high level of success in their careers, so that they may give aspeech about their profession, and answer students’ questions. Also, these speakers might be willing to help students to develop professional contacts.

It would also be useful to organize hands-on workshops, which would enable the students to have a closer look at a prospective career. During these workshops students might be given some practical advice on how to present themselves at the job interview.


I am convinced that if these recommendationswere put into practice, the careers day would attract many participants, and it would be more useful to them than last year’s event.

Proposal 2
Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing regarding the campaign on how to tackle crimes in our neighbourhood. I have carried out a survey among the local citizens asking them how they feel about the criminal situation in our area and what measures are necessary for crime reduction. Here is the information which I would like to present for your consideration.

It appears that the majority of people feel insecure because there is no visible police presence. Dark desolate streets provide offenders with a perfect crime opportunity.The main priority would be to assign police officers to patrol the streets day and night. It would not only dramatically reduce such minor offences as vandalism and petty thefts, but also prevent serious crimes, for example, assault. Moreover, a police presence would improve the atmosphere of our area as the locals would feel protected and safer.

Most people agree that they themselves contribute to the crime rate by being indifferent and socially inactive. It would be advisable to set up a group of volunteers who will form a neighbourhood watch group so as to assist the police in protecting the streets. This group could also hold meetings for all residents with the aim of giving people advice on safe behavior. The local residents should also be encouraged to exchange their mobile phone numbers for ease of contact in the case of an emergency.

In conclusion, I wish to highlight that a large majority of residents are unhappy with the current situation, and urgent measures need to be implemented immediately . I feel that the recommendations above would definitely help the situation tremendously.


Getting Ready for the Interview

 Do you have butterflies in your stomach because of an upcoming  job interview? If you are not sure of yourself, remember that you are not alone. A good many young men experience difficulty while getting ready for their first job interview. Here are some tips how to land your dream job.

First, it’s a good idea to practice what you are going to say, especially if you feel that you are not good at thinking on your feet. You could even ask a friend of yours to assist you and play the role of a potential employer. If you rehearse your speech several times, you are likely to feel much more confident when the day of the interview comes along.

Not only that, but it’s essential to learn some information about the company you are hoping to work for.  If you do this, it won’t be a problem for you to explain why you are determined to work exactly for their firm.

Now, some advice on how to behave on the day of the interview:  Remember that it’s essential that you make a good impression. “Clothes maketh the man”, as the saying goes, so make sure that you look neat and tidy. For men, it’s better to be clean-shaven, and women should be moderate in their use of make-up.

Keep constant eye contact with your interviewer and try not to fidget, as it could betray your nervousness.  Potential employers are looking for someone they can rely on.

Bear in mind that honesty is the best policy, so don’t try to bend the truth by saying that you have some skills if you don’t.  However, it might be worth mentioning that you are a quick student and eager to learn.

Finally, if your first attempt fails, don’t let this experience get you down.  You might be lucky next time. And how will you know if you don’t try?

So go for it, with confidence!

Informal letter
Dear Mary,

I was tickled pink when I got your letter. It’s wonderful that you are coming to our town!

I am sorry that I haven’t replied to you at once, but it took me some time to think over your questions, as I don’t want to let you down and give inaccurate information.

First of all, accommodation – hopefully, it won’t be a problem to rent a flat, though it will require some efforts to find a good value for money. I recommend choosing a flat on the outskirts of the town, otherwise you would have to pay through the nose.

The second option for you is to stay in a student hostel, which is by far more economical. However, there is a downside to it as you would have to put up with lots of noise.

Anyway, don’t you worry about it, I would gladly put you up for a week or so until you make up your mind what is more convenient for you.

Answering your second question, I want to ensure you that in our town there is every possibility to do sport. For example, you could join any of the numerous sports clubs or dancing studios. If you buy a season ticket, it will be dirt cheap.

As for a part-time job, it depends on what exactly you keep in mind. It is quite easy to find employment in a cafe or a club, but I have some doubt whether it would be beneficial for your language practice. Surely, you could give lessons of your native language, couldn’t you? English native-speakers are in great demand in our town, so you will probably find pupils in a split second.

Fill me in on what you are planning to do

Take care


Formal letter
Dear sir or madam,

I am writing regarding the article entitled «Everyone is happy, thanks”which appeared in the yesterday’s issue of your magazine. I would like to take to take issue with several statements, expressed in the article.

Firstly, it seems to me that the data regarding the education are not accurate. According to numerous surveys carried out in our country, more than 70% are discontented with the level of education due to lack of qualified teachers. What’s more, more than 50% of respondents complain about the high cost of education.

Secondly, very few people in big cities are completely satisfied with their life for several reasons, such as traffic congestion, high level of pollution, overpopulation and feeling of insecurity. Furthermore, more and more people leave cities as soon as they are able to afford a house in the countryside. Therefore, I believe that you have bended the truth saying that the vast majority enjoy living in the city.

Another important point to make is that the information about people being satisfied with their income is obviously misleading. According to many sources, most people in our country feel discontented with amount of money they earn, while about 45% claim that they live on the breadline.

However, the most misleading information concerns transport. It is well-known the problem of public transport is one of the hot issues nowadays, as transport system cannot satisfy the numerous requirements of urban mobility.

In conclusion, I believe that the information contained in your article is unfounded. Since your magazine claims to represent students from all over the world , we look forward to reading more objective reporting in future issues.

Your faithfully

It really had an impact on me!

Last Sunday I visited the annual festival  Zolotaya Cherepaha (The Golden Tortoise), which has been held in Moscow for about seven years, and it impressed me deeply. It is much more than an ordinary exhibition of photographs displaying nature, it is an event that will make you laugh and cry at the same time, and, what is more important, it carries a clear message for every person: Take care of our wonderful planet!

At the festival you will see hundreds of photos of wildlife, in different styles and using various techniques: funny, even comical, and wistful; displaying everyday scenes  and spectacular views; with clear images or splashes of colours; each photo drawing your attention, making you see the world from a different angle, even feel some special bond with the photographer.

I, personally, was mostly  touched by the portrayal of wild animals: a skinny sad fox, feeding her five plump cubs; two little bears, hugging each other gently, in search of their mother; a tiny penguin, looking so lonely against the background of endless icy blocks…All those images made my heart ache.

For others it will be exciting to see amazingly weird insects in close-up photos, so that an insect looks like a magical dragon. Others will admire the picturesque views of fields, streams and valleys of their homeland, or stare in disbelief at a picture of an erupting volcano complete with lava streams, wondering how courageous the photographer must have been to approach it so closely.

While contemplating the images, one can’t help thinking how fragile nature is, how  powerful, and at the same time vulnerable it is. For people of all  ages attendance at the festival will not only be a most entertaining event, but the best possible lesson in ecology which will enrich them enormously.

I recently watched two films, one of which I would certainly recommend to students as well as to people of any age, while the other isn’t worth a minute of your precious time.

“When Harry Met Sally” is both hilarious and thought-provoking. Can a man and a woman be friends? What if you fall in love with your friend? – sometimes we rack our brains trying to figure out the answer to these questions. Charming Meg Ryan and Bill Crystal starring the main roles offer us their vision of the situation. Their portrayal of two soulmates in pursuit of happiness and understanding is totally convincing and is bound to make you sympathise with the young people. Thanks to the witty disputes and warm sparkling humour the film stands out among conventional melodramas. Besides, it conveys a clear message for young people: relationship is not a gift, it requires effort and patience.

Conversely, the melodrama “The Notebook’’ is nothing to write home about. Despite the attempts to portray touching and weepy story of eternal love, the film fails to provoke any strong emotions. The plot is far-fetched, and may only impress naïve little girls. The sufferings of parted lovers seem to be feigned, while obstacles which they were not able to overcome don’t actually impress. On top of that, the message of the film appears to convey the idea that if two people are destined to be together they may just swim with the current waiting for a happy end, an idea which I, personally, find ridiculous.

To sum it up, I would strongly advise you to watch “When Harry Met Sally”, it will certainly entertain you and provide some food for thought.



Part 1 (3 minutes)

The interlocutor asks candidates questions in turn.

For example:

  • Where are you from?
  • How long have you been studying English?
  • Apart from English, what other languages have you studied?
  • What is your happiest memory of childhood?
  • Do you prefer going out with friends or family?


Part 2 (4 minutes)

Candidates compare and contrast pictures for 1 minute.

Sample answer

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I’m going to give each of you three pictures. I’d like you to talk about two of them on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question briefly about your partner’s pictures. (to Student A) It’s your turn first. Here are your pictures. They show people achieving something. I’d like you to compare two of the pictures, and say what kind of success is portrayed and who might be feeling the happiest.

Student A: I’ll choose pictures A and C. The main similarity between these pictures is that the  people in them have achieved something. They all must be feeling very happy. There’re several differences between the pictures. Firstly, in picture A there’re several people sharing the achievement, whereas in picture B the man is on his own. Secondly, the achievements are all very different: in picture A the achievement is financial, while in picture C the man’s achievement is probably connected with his work. It’s difficult to say who might be feeling the happiest. But if I had to choose, I’d choose picture C because of the man’s body language”

Interlocutor: (to Student B) Who do you think might have worked harder to achieve success?

Student B: They’ve all worked hard to achieve success, but I’d say it’s the little girl. She must have fallen off the bike many times, but she’s had the courage to get back on it again.

(Adapted from Upstream Advanced)

Part 3 (4 minutes)

Candidates talk about several pictures for 4 minutes

  • Why do people need special qualities to do these different jobs?
  • Which job would be the most rewarding?

Part 4 (4 minutes)

Candidates answer questions related to the visuals used in Part 3

For example:

  • Which is more important in any job: qualifications, personality or practical experience?
  • What type of jobs should be most highly-valued? Why?
  • Should there be a compulsory retirement age or should people be allowed to work as long as they like? Why?
  • Do you think that people can be taught to be good leaders? Why/why not?
  • Some people say it doesn’t matter what job you do – the most important thing is to enjoy doing it. What do you think?


<strong>Speaking test tips</strong>

  • Try to speak clearly so that the examiners understand you.
  • Don’t give yes-no answers.
  • Give your reasons and examples.
  • Don’t make prepared speeches at home.
  • Remember that the examiner is only interested in your language, not your opinion.

How to compare and contrast the pictures?

Remember that you shouldn’t describe the pictures.  You can use such expressions like:

In both pictures we see…
Both pictures show…
The main similarity between these pictures is that…
The main difference between the two pictures is that…
These people might be feeling….
They seem/appear to be…
…while/whereas in the second picture…

How to interact with your partner?

  • listen to your partner and respond to what he/she says
  • be polite
  • don’t try to dominate
  • don’t worry if you disagree with you partner, but try to reach some conclusion
  • if your partner speaks all the time, interrupt him or her politely
  • if your partner doesn’t express their opinion, ask questions
  • show interest in things your partner says

Useful vocabulary:

I’m not sure about that because…
That’s true, and also…
Yes, but on the other hand…
Ok, let’s move on to…
I don’t really agree…
Well, that might be true, but…
Yes, definitely, because…
But wouldn’t you say…
Yes, and on top of that…
What do you think?
So let’s sum up…