Cambridge English: Advanced

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Comparison between the exam Cambridge English: Advanced and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

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 developed 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) (C1). 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 – that is, 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, the qualification has been continuously updated in order to reflect changes in language teaching and assessment. [4]

Over the years, another set of revisions were introduced. The main changes are: the overall exam is now 45 minutes shorter; there are four exam papers, instead of five; the Reading and Use of English papers have been combined into a single paper; and there are some new testing focuses and task types. Further information can be found in the revised Exam Specification.

In addition, a new way of reporting results has been introduced with Cambridge English Scale scores replacing the standardised score and candidate profile used for exams taken in the past. The Cambridge English Scale was developed to provide exam users with more detailed information about their exam performance than was previously available.[5]


Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is made up of four exam papers, designed to test the key language skills. The four papers are: Reading and Use of English; Writing; Listening; and Speaking. Candidates have the choice of taking Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) on either a computer or on paper. The Speaking test is taken face-to-face with two examiners and two candidates, as this provides a more realistic and reliable measure of ability.[6]

1. Reading and Use of English (1 hour 30 minutes)

The Reading and Use of English paper has eight parts and 56 questions. The paper contains texts totalling approximately 3,000 to 3,500 words and candidates are expected to be able to understand texts taken from a range of sources such as short stories, novels, magazines, newspapers and internet articles.

Parts 1 to 3 involve completing gaps in a text (i.e. choosing/forming the correct word for each gap). These questions test knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.

Each question in Part 4 has a sentence and a ‘key’ word, which must be used to complete a second sentence so that it has the same meaning as the first sentence. These key word transformations test grammar, vocabulary and collocation.

Part 5 involves answering multiple-choice questions about a text, with candidates expected to be able to read a text for detail, opinion, tone, purpose, main idea, implication and attitude.

Part 6 has four short texts and cross-text multiple-matching questions, with candidates expected to understand and compare opinions and attitudes across texts.

Part 7 involves choosing paragraphs to fill the gaps in a text, with candidates expected to demonstrate understanding of the structure and development of a text.

Part 8 has a text or several short texts and a series of multiple-matching questions, with candidates expected to demonstrate reading for specific information, detail, opinion and attitude.

2. Writing (1 hour 30 minutes)

The Writing paper has two parts. The first part is compulsory and involves writing an essay 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 three writing tasks. These might include writing a letter, proposal, report or review. Candidates are assessed using the following criteria: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language.

3. 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 lectures, talks, interviews, speeches and radio broadcasts.

4. 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 interlocutor discuss topics related to the task in Part 3. The interlocutor 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, initiation and maintaining of a discussion, ability to organise thoughts and use of appropriate grammar and vocabulary.[7]


All candidates receive a Cambridge Statement of Results, with those scoring high enough also receiving a certificate.[8] Cambridge English Scale scores replaced the candidate profile and standardised scores used for past results. Candidates continue to receive a CEFR level and a grade, in addition to their Cambridge English Scale scores.

Scoring Revisions:

After the University of Cambridge applied reformations to the CAE, the Statement of Results and the Certificate have the following information about the candidate’s performance:

  • A score on the Cambridge English Scale for each skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) and for Use of English
  • A score on the Cambridge English Scale for the overall exam
  • A grade for the overall exam
  • A CEFR level for the overall exam.

The certificate also contains the UK National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level.[9]

The candidate’s overall score is averaged from the individual scores for each skill (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) and for Use of English.

Cambridge English: Advanced is targeted at CEFR Level C1, which is equivalent to a Cambridge English Scale score of 180–199. The following scores are used to report results:

Grade Cambridge English Scale Score (160–210) CEFR Level
A 200–210 C2
B 193–199 C1
C 180–192 C1
CEFR Level B2 160–179 B2

Scores are also reported between 142 and 159. Candidates who achieve a score in this range will not receive a certificate, but their score will be shown on their Statement of Results.[10]

Scoring in the past:

Before the scoring reformations, the Statement of Results had the following information, reflecting the total combined score from all four papers:

  • A grade (A–C) for the overall exam
  • A score (out of 100) for the overall exam
  • A CEFR level for the overall exam.
Grade Score (total mark 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 used to have a Candidate Profile, which showed the candidate’s performance on each of the individual papers against the following scale: exceptional, good, borderline and weak.

In addition, candidates who achieved a score of 45 or more (out of 100) received a certificate. 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 Level C1.[11]

Timing and results[edit]

Candidates take the Reading and Use of English, Writing and Listening papers on the same day. The Speaking paper may be taken a few days before or after, 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 paper is only available to be taken face-to-face with an examiner.[12]

Dates to take the exam are available every month.[13] There are 1,400 exam centres in 117 countries where candidates can sit the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) exam.[14] 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 160 on the Cambridge English Scale) 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.[15]


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.[16] Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) is accepted globally by over 4,000 institutions.[17] 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.[18] 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-Universität München)
  • Hong Kong (e.g. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
  • Italy (e.g. Politecnico di Milano)
  • 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).[19]

In the UK, UCAS awards 70 tariff points towards UK university and college applications for a score of 80 or above (Grade A). Cambridge English: Advanced and Cambridge English: Proficiency can be used to apply for degree courses (or higher) at almost all UK universities. This is because candidates who need to apply for a visa to study at degree level or above at a Tier 4 Sponsor only need to meet the English language requirements set by the university; they don’t need to take a test from the UKVI list of Secure English Language Tests (SELT tests).

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.[20]

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) can be used for visa purposes, with recognition by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP, formerly DIAC) for student visas. DIBP has extended the recognition of Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) and they will now accept scores in the exam for Temporary Graduate, Skilled, Former Resident, and Work and Holiday visa programmes.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23]


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.


Cambridge English Language Assessment introduced an updated version of the exam and a new way of reporting results: the Cambridge English Scale. There are no further plans to revise the exam in the immediate future.

See also[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. ^ Accessed 18 January 2015
  6. ^ [4] Accessed 18 January 2015
  7. ^ [5] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  8. ^ Cambridge English (2014) The Cambridge English Scale explained: the methodology behind the Cambridge English Scale, [6]
  9. ^ Cambridge English (2014) Cambridge English Scale Factsheet, [7]
  10. ^ Cambridge English (2014) Exams for Higher Education Guide, [8]
  11. ^ [9] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  12. ^ [10] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  13. ^ [11] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  14. ^ [12] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  15. ^ [13] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  16. ^ [14] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  17. ^ [15] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  18. ^ [16] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  19. ^ [17] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  20. ^ [18] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  21. ^ [19] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  22. ^ [20] Retrieved 7 February 2014
  23. ^ [21] Retrieved 7 February 2014

External links[edit]