Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

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Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), also known as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), is an international English language examination developed by Cambridge English Language Assessment (previously known as University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations). It is targeted at Level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)[1] and can be used for study, work and immigration purposes.[2]


Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) was first developed in 1991 in response to feedback received from language centres that there was too great a gap between Cambridge English: First (FCE) and Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE).

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) was designed to allow learners to gain certification for advanced levels of English suitable for use in academic and professional life and was developed using a socio-cognitive approach, i.e. it encourages languages skills for use in real-life situations. Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is focused on Level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).[3]

Following the launch of the exam in 1991, the qualification was updated in 1999 and 2008 to reflect changes in language teaching and assessment. Further changes are planned for January 2015.[4]


Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is made up of five exam papers, each worth 20% of the total marks. There are papers for each of the four language skills (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) and a Use of English paper, which tests knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Candidates have the choice of taking Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) on either a computer or on paper.

1. Reading (1 hour 15 minutes)

The Reading paper has 34 questions with various types of texts and comprehension tasks. Candidates are expected to be able to read and understand texts taken from a range of sources such as magazines, newspapers and leaflets, and complete task types like multiple choice, gapped text and multiple matching. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a variety of reading skills including skimming, scanning, deduction of meaning from context and selection of relevant information.

2. Writing (1 hour 30 minutes)

The Writing paper has two parts. The first part is compulsory and involves writing an article, report, proposal or letter in response to an input text. The input texts might include articles, leaflets, notices and formal or informal letters. In the second part, candidates must choose one of five writing tasks, two of which relate to two set texts. The other Writing tasks might include writing letters, articles, instructions, messages, reports, etc. Candidates are assessed using the following criteria: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language.

3. Use of English (1 hour)

The Use of English paper tests the candidate’s underlying knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. It has 50 questions and is structured into five parts. Parts 1 to 3 are text-based and involve supplying a missing word, or forming a new word. Parts 4 and 5 are sentence-based and involve supplying a missing word to complete sentences and writing a sentence in a different way. Parts 1, 3, and 4 are mainly lexical, Part 2 is mainly grammatical and Part 5 involves both grammatical and lexical knowledge.

4. Listening (approximately 40 minutes)

The Listening paper has 30 questions, which include listening to short extracts, a long monologue, an interview or discussion, and short monologues on a particular theme. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a wide range of listening skills needed for real-life purposes, such as understanding the gist of an extract, understanding specific information or the speakers’ opinion, attitude or feeling. Recordings take the form of announcements, speeches and radio broadcasts.

5. Speaking (15 minutes)

The Speaking test is taken face-to-face (including in the computer-based version of the exam) and the standard format is two candidates and two examiners. One examiner acts as interlocutor and assessor, interacting with the candidates and managing the test. The other acts as assessor and does not join in the conversation. Candidates speak alone (monologue), with the interlocutor, and with the other candidate.

The Speaking paper is conducted in four parts. The first part involves a brief exchange between each candidate and the interlocutor. The second part involves each candidate talking in turn, on their own, about a set of pictures. In the third part the candidates are given some pictures and a task; they are expected to discuss the task, exchange ideas and reach a decision through negotiation. In the fourth part of the test the candidates and the examiner discuss topics related to the task in Part 3. The examiner directs the interaction by asking questions which encourage the candidates to discuss issues in more depth than in earlier parts of the test. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a range of speaking skills such as pronunciation, intonation, speed of delivery, initiation and maintaining of a discussion, ability to organise thoughts and use of appropriate grammar and vocabulary.[5]


The Statement of Results has three elements: a grade (A–C), a score (out of 100) and the CEFR level. The Statement of Results reflects the total combined score from all five papers.[6]

Grade Score (out of 100) CEFR Level
A 80-100 C2
B 75-79 C1
C 60-74 C1
CEFR Level B2 45-59 B2

The Statement of Results also features a Candidate Profile, which shows the candidate’s performance on each of the individual papers (Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening and Speaking) against the following scale:

  • Exceptional
  • Good
  • Borderline
  • Weak

Candidates who achieve a score of 45 or more (out of 100) receive a certificate, which states the grade and the CEFR level that has been achieved. Although the exam is focused on Level C1, it also certificates reliably at the lower B2 level. The achievement of candidates who do not demonstrate ability at C1, but do show ability at B2, is recognised with a Cambridge English certificate at that level. The exam also certificates at the higher C2 level, for those exceptional candidates who show ability beyond C1 level.

The certificates awarded at each score/grade are outlined below:

Cambridge English Level B2 certificate

  • For candidates scoring between 45 and 59.

Certificate in Advanced English – CEFR Level C1

  • Grades B and C
  • For candidates scoring between 60 and 79.

Certificate in Advanced English – CEFR Level C2

  • Grade A
  • For candidates scoring between 80 and 100
  • Awarded to exceptional candidates who show ability beyond C1 level.[7]

Timing and results[edit]

Candidates take the Reading, Writing, Use of English and Listening papers on the same day. The Speaking paper may be taken a few days before or after the exam, or on the same day.

The exam is available in paper-based and computer-based formats. Registration for the computer-based exam is possible as little as one week before sitting the exam. Both versions of the exam lead to the same form of internationally accepted certificate. The Speaking test is only available to be taken face-to-face with an examiner.[8]

Dates to take the exam are available every month.[9] There are 1,300 exam centres in 113 countries where candidates can sit the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) exam.[10] A directory of all global exam centres and their contact details can be accessed on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website.

Successful candidates receive two documents: a Statement of Results and a certificate. Universities, employers and other organisations may require either of these documents as proof of English language skills.

An online Statement of Results is available to candidates who have sat the computer-based exam two weeks after the exam and to candidates of the paper-based exam approximately four weeks after the exam. Successful candidates (those scoring above 45) will receive a hard copy certificate within three months of the exam.

Holders of a Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) certificate display similar language ability to candidates who have an IELTS score of 6.5 to 8.0. The following table demonstrates a comparison of Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grades and scores with IELTS band scores.[11]


The following table shows how the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) candidate profile descriptors for each individual paper (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Use of English) compare to IELTS band scores.

IELTS band scores Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) candidate profile
8.0 and higher Exceptional
7.5 Good
7.0 Good
6.5 Borderline
6.0 Borderline


Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is used for study, work and immigration purposes. It is designed to demonstrate that a candidate has achieved a high level of English ability which can be used in academic and professional contexts.[12] Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is accepted globally by over 4,000 institutions.[13] A list of organisations accepting Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) can be accessed on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website.

Many higher education institutions accept Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) for admission purposes.[14] These include universities based in:

  • Australia (e.g. Monash University)
  • Canada (e.g. University of Toronto)
  • France (e.g. ICN Business School)
  • Germany (e.g. Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat Munchen)
  • Hong Kong (e.g. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
  • Italy (e.g. Università Roma Tre)
  • Japan (e.g. University of Tokyo)
  • Spain (e.g. Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)
  • Switzerland (e.g. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich/ETH Zürich)
  • UK (e.g. University of Oxford)
  • USA (e.g. University of Virginia)[15]

In the UK, UCAS awards 70 tariff points towards UK university and college applications for a score of 80 or above (Grade A).

Students with a Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) certificate gain exemption from the English components of school-leaving exams in some countries such as Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.[16]

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) can be used for visa purposes, with recognition by the UK Home Office (formerly UK Border Agency) for all four categories of visa for immigration to the UK.[17] Since November 2011, the exam has also been recognised in Australia for student visas by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP, formerly DIAC).[18]

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is also recognised by global employers, such as Accenture, Adecco, Airbus, American Express, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bosch, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Dell, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, DHL, Ericsson, Ernst & Young, Estée Lauder, HSBC, IBM, KPMG, Lufthansa, Manpower, McKinsey & Company, Merrill Lynch, Motorola, Nestlé, Nokia, OMEGA, Orange, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Reckitt Benckiser, Reuters, Saint-Gobain and Sony.[19]

Many institutions accept more than one English language exam, e.g. Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) and IELTS. However, there are some subtle differences between these two exams. For example, Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) certifies at B2, C1 and C2 levels – the language levels needed for study and work. IELTS is designed to test a much broader range of language levels, from CEFR Level A1 up to C2.[20]


A comprehensive list of authorised exam centres can be found on the Cambridge English Language Assessment website. Preparation materials, such as free sample papers, are also available from the official website.


Changes to Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) are scheduled to be introduced in January 2015.

The updated exam will have four papers instead of five. Reading and Use of English are to be combined into a single paper, which will assess language knowledge and reading skills. Tasks in the current Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) papers will be retained in the new Reading and Use of English paper, albeit with modified formats. The revised Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) exam will be approximately 45 minutes shorter than the current examination.

Additionally, the revised Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) exam is to feature some new testing focuses and task types in the Reading and Use of English, Writing and Speaking papers.[21] Further information can be found in the Revised Exam Specification.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  2. ^ Hawkey, R, Milanovic, M, (2013) Cambridge English Exams – The First Hundred Years: A history of English language assessment from the University of Cambridge 1913–2013, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 110–113.
  3. ^ [2] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  4. ^ [3] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  5. ^ [4] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  6. ^ [5] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  7. ^ [6] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  8. ^ [7] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  9. ^ [8] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  10. ^ [9] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  11. ^ [10] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  12. ^ [11] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  13. ^ [12] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  14. ^ [13] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  15. ^ [14] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  16. ^ [15] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  17. ^ [16] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  18. ^ [17] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  19. ^ [18] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  20. ^ [19] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  21. ^ [20] Retrieved 7 February 2014