How To Prepare for C1 Advanced (CAE) Exam Successfully

Are you interested in knowing how to prepare for C1 Advanced Cambridge exam? In this article, we will provide you with all the necessary information about this qualification. Join us and make a go of your preparation, since C1 Advanced is going to open the door to a lifetime of opportunities for you.

Which are the key preparation steps to obtain the C1 Advanced certification?

Contents

Contents

What is C1 Advanced (CAE)?

The Common European Framework of Reference shows that C1 Advanced is targeted at CEFR C1 level. Candidates must reach a score of 180 to 200 on the Cambridge English scale. This is around a 6.5 to 8 on the IELTS scale.

C1 Advanced is proof of high-level achievement in English and shows that learners have a proficient control of the language. Read below what language skills are required from the candidate at this stage.

Candidates have got the ability to:

  • Show a high fluency level in spoken English,
  • Confidently take part in meetings at work, debates and/or academic seminars and tutorials, and
  • Easily follow academic courses.

The C1 Advanced certificate is accepted by more than 10,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments around the world. Among the leading ones are educational organizations and world leading brands like:

  • Australian National University,
  • University of Oxford,
  • Trinity College Dublin,
  • The University of Auckland,
  • The University of Toronto,
  • Dell,
  • Sony,
  • Airbus,
  • Rolls-Royce International Ltd,
  • Calvin Klein, and many more renowned institutions.

Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK, the USA and New Zealand are just a few of the world destinations who accept this certificate for undergraduate and graduate educational prospects as well as recruitment purposes. See who else accepts the C1 Advanced certification here: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/why-choose-us/global-recognition/

To prepare for C1 Advanced Exam is indeed a challenging journey. Nonetheless, it is definitely worth taking.

Education and employment opportunities

What is the structure of the C1 Advanced exam?

The exam lasts about 4 hours. It has got 4 papers. Its total score is 208 marks.

A minimum of 135 test score out of 208 total mark is required to pass C1 Advanced. This represents 60% (about 64.9%).

Reading and Use of English paper

  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Content: 8 parts. 56 questions:
    1. Reading section: Parts 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8
    2. Use of English section: Parts 2, 3 and 4
  • Marks: 78 marks for 56 questions:
    1. Reading section: 50 possible marks for 34 questions:
      • Part 1: 8 questions, 8 marks
      • Part 5: 6 questions, 12 marks
      • Part 6: 4 questions, 8 marks
      • Part 7: 6 questions, 12 marks
      • Part 8: 10 questions, 10 marks
    2. Use of English section: 28 possible marks for 22 questions:
      • Part 2: 8 questions, 8 marks
      • Part 3: 8 questions, 8 marks
      • Part 4: 6 questions, 12 marks

The reading and Use of English section represents 40% of the total score.

Writing paper

  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Content: 2 parts:
    1. Part 1: An essay. It is a compulsory question.
    2. Part 2: 3 questions from the four text types. You must choose only one:
      •  an email/a letter (formal and informal),
      • a proposal,
      • a report and
      • a review.
  • How much you must write: 220-260 words
  • Marks: A total of 40 marks. 20 marks for each part.

The writing section represents 20% of the total score.

Listening paper

  • Time: around 40 minutes
  • Content: 4 parts. 30 questions
  • Marks: 30 marks. Each correct answer is worth 1 mark.

The listening section represents 20% of the total score.

Speaking paper

  • Time: 15 minutes for a pair of candidates.

Note: If there is an odd, not even, number of candidates, at the end of the speaking session, the last three candidates do the speaking together. The test lasts longer, so each candidate gets the same amount of time to speak.

  • Content: 4 parts:
    1. Part 1: Conversation with the examiner
    2. Part 2: Long turn
    3. Part 3: Discussion and decision-making task
    4. Part 4: Discussion
  •  
  • Marks: 75 marks
    • Grammatical Resource: 5 marks
    • Lexical Resource: 5 marks
    • Discourse Management: 5 marks
    • Pronunciation: 5 marks
    • Interactive Communication: 5 marks
    • Global Achievement: 5 marks

How is this calculated? Candidate speaking performances are assessed using scales which are linked to the CEFR.

The assessor gives 0–5 marks for each of the first five criteria. Marks for each of these criteria are doubled. The interlocutor gives a mark of 0–5 for Global Achievement. This mark is then multiplied by five. Examiners may award half marks.

Marks for all criteria are then combined. It means that there are 75 marks available in the Speaking test. 

The speaking section represents 20% of the total score.

Identify your level

What level have you got?

Before you start to prepare for the C1 Advanced exam, first and foremost, you must see what level of English you’ve got and whether your English language proficiency reaches B2 and above. To find out which your level is, there are three options:

  1. Take a level test in a language school that is officially recognized as a Cambridge preparation centre. You shouldn’t worry. There is normally  no commitment with the language centre. Make sure you call beforehand and arrange a time and day convenient for both of you.
  2. Take the free online placement test  or
  3. Register and pay for an online placement test

Which of the three above-mentioned placements tests is best is a personal matter. As a teacher, I strongly recommend you sit this test either in a language school or by doing the latest of the online placement tests.

Depending on where you live, how far from an authorized Cambridge centre you are, or whether you can afford to pay for the latest or not, you will choose the best that suits you. But remember, always opt for the most effective one, the test that will clearly determine which level you are ready to study for, and that will give you a quick and detailed report of your English language proficiency.

One thing is certain, you cannot start to prepare for C1 Advanced unless you have shown a high B2 proficiency level in English.

Language school vs prepare by yourself

What is the difference between joining a C1 Advanced course offered by a language school and preparing for C1 all by yourself?

Let’s analyse each of the two scenarios in turn. In the end, you will make up your mind.

Attending a C1 Advanced course

  1. With whom will you study? In groups of 4-9 students
  2. How often do you attend classes? 2 days a week
  3. Which study material do you need to buy? Two course books: a Student Book and a Workbook. Most of them have the digital version these days. The books are chosen by the centre and are bought on registration.
  4. How long will the preparation last? Around 2 years. Each class lasts between 1h 15 min. to 1h 30 min. 
  5. How much does the course cost? Around €70 per month. It varies from country to country.
  6. When will you sit the official exam? In about two years, after having taken the mock/trial exam successfully, which is organized by the language school. If you only rely on the course preparation hours, it will take you more than 2 years and a half. At this level, students must work independently on their English a lot more, so, the English Outside The Classroom time increases significantly.
  7. What learner traits are required throughout the preparation period? You need to have:
    • Love for English,
    • Interest and motivation,
    • Learning attitude:
      • Actively participate in class,
      • Properly do the homework assigned by the teacher,
      • Embrace mistakes and work on them by always asking your teacher for clarification and analysis,
      • Surround yourself with English outside the classroom: read newspapers, magazines and fiction, and watch podcasts.
    • Determination and goal setting

Self-learning to prepare for C1 Advanced exam

  1. With whom will you study? Alone, or with a buddy who has set himself/herself the same goal as you, to obtain the C1 Advanced certificate.
  2. How often will you have to study? Every day, 2 hours each day
  3. Which study material do you need to buy? More than three books. All must have the answers provided. These include the two course books, a C1 grammar book and two or three practice test(s) book(s).
  4. How long will the preparation last? From 3 to 6 months, a minimum of 2 hours each day.
  5. How much does the course cost? It costs nothing but the cost for the study material, your time and efforts.
  6. When will you sit the official exam? In less than half a year. “As soon as possible. Once I reach an average of 70 in the practice tests.”
  7. What learner traits are required throughout the preparation period? You need to show:
    • Unconditional love for English, no matter the hurdles on the way,
    • Interest, thirst for knowledge and high motivation,
    • Learning attitude ×2. You are both the teacher and the know-it-all classmate.
    • A down-to-earth attitude. Every English-language source should be a chest of knowledge for you. Immerse yourself in an Only English Zone: read newspapers, magazines and fiction, and watch podcasts and almost everything on TV in English. Note down new expressions, translate, investigate and use them.
    • Personal commitment and consistency,
    • Organization. You must stick to a well-established learning routine.
    • High determination and goal-setting.

No matter which of the two ways to prepare for the C1 Advanced examination you will go for, you will need to make time for REFLECTION. Keep track of your mistakes by noting them down in the following way:

      1. My Mistake(s)
      2. It Must Be
      3. In Use (Context)
Study material

What is the study material?

There are a lot of English language learning publishing companies. The pioneering ones are the following:

Cambridge University

Macmillan Education

National Geographic Learning

Pearson

The publishing companies I am most familiar with are the Cambridge University Press books, which come with an amazingly rich digital library, the National Geographic Society Close-up book and its splendid Companion Booklet where all the C1 vocabulary and grammar is fully explained, as well as the Macmillan Education Ready for Advanced 3rd edition, book I’ve found very good for C1 learners since it’s got an e-book as well.

The links above will take you to the preparation material, where, by clicking on View components and View product, you will find how much they cost. The most expensive ones, I think, are the Cambridge University Press course books; however, the Cambridge University Press books are worth the price.

Important: View components for each of the above study materials attentively and choose those components that have got Answers and Audio CDs.

On Amazon, you can find the books you select to prepare for C1 Advanced at a more affordable price.

Find below a perfect example of a study pack for anyone who wants to start to prepare for C1 Advanced. 

C1 Advanced Self-Study Pack

Coursebook:

Grammar and Vocabulary

Complete Practice tests:

Online Resources: flo-joe.co.uk and Cambridge Assessment English C1 Advanced Preparation. In these two websites, you can download the tests in PDF format.

The following books and online learning tools will help you get better in specific parts of the C1 Advanced exam:

Reading and Use of English paper practice tests (paper books):

    • Reading CAE: Eight practice tests for the Cambridge C1 Advanced
    • Use of English: Ten practice tests for the Cambridge C1 Advanced
    • English Master: C1 Key Word Transformation: 20 practice tests for the Cambridge C1 Advanced: 200 test questions with answer keys
    • Improve Your Skills series (Macmillan Education):
      • Use of English for Advanced
      • Reading for Advanced

Listening and Speaking paper practice tests 

    • Improve Your Skills series (Macmillan Education): Listening & Speaking For Advanced (paper book)

Writing paper practice tests (online)

most dificult part

Which are the most difficult parts in the exam?

Although there is no specific part that could outweigh the rest in difficulty, since it’s all a matter of each learner’s strengths and weaknesses, as a teacher, I could point out the Reading and Use of English paper, whose parts are still the most challenging. What makes it so difficult?

There are two main reasons. First, it is the limited time candidates are given, 1h 30 minutes to complete the 8 parts. This means that you must be prepared to quickly read long texts, in Parts 5, 6, 7 and 8, and be able to identify the answers to their questions. So, you must be fast at reading for details and gist, after having identified the keywords in both questions and text. The texts vary from fictional to scientific ones. So, dealing with such texts with confidence is a must.

Here is how, more or less, you should manage the time. Remember, all this is personal. Do not fully stick to it. 

  1. Parts 1-3: 5-6 minutes each
  2. Part 4: 7-8 minutes
  3. Parts 5-8: 12-13 minutes each

Although there is no time limit for each task, the reading ones will take you longer. You should be aware of how long you need for different tasks. Time yourself at each part every time you do the preparation tests. Remember that you will need from 6 to 8 minutes to copy your answers on the answer sheet. All lasts 1h 30 minutes.

Secondly, your success in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 depends on how well you control the C1 Advanced vocabulary and grammar. Check out these related articles, where you will find insights into the most difficult parts of the exam with practice:

Last but not least, what marks the main difference between the B2 First and the C1 Advanced levels is the vocabulary first and foremost. Be ready to learn academic and sophisticated language (set-phrases, expressions, collocations, etc). You must show a good control of such vocabulary in all the four papers of the C1 Advanced. Besides, the rich topic range of such language is required in the Writing and Speaking papers.

This is the main reason I have decided to create the  Say It Better! Series for learners preparing for the above-mentioned levels. Say It better! Series, C1 Advanced Season has already got four episodes:

  1. Let’s Talk About Food
  2. Let’s Talk About Work 
  3. Health And Illnesses 
  4. Cinema and Theatre 

Prepare for C1 Advanced exam and boost your English skills by juggling with C1 vocabulary.

Study schedule

What is the weekly study schedule for a self-learner?

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 1 hour with the Coursebook (Student Book (SB) and Work Book (WB))
  2. 45 minutes with Practice tests: 3 use of English tasks, 1 listening task and 1 reading task
  3. 5 minutes: Online quiz (check below)
  4. Reflection time

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 1 hour with the Coursebook (SB and WB)
  2. 45 minutes with Practice tests: 3 use of English tasks and 2 reading tasks
  3. 5 minutes: Online quiz (check below)
  4. Reflection time

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 45 minutes with the Coursebook (SB and WB)
  2. 1 hour with Practice tests: 1 writing task and 1 listening task
  3. 5 minutes: Online quiz (check below)
  4. Reflection time

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 1 hour with the Coursebook (SB and WB)
  2. 45 minutes with Practice tests: 3 use of English task, 1 listening task and 1 reading task
  3. 5 minutes: Online quiz (check below)
  4. Reflection time

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 1 hour with the Coursebook (SB and WB)
  2. 45 minutes with Practice tests: 3 use of English tasks and 2 reading tasks 
  3. 5 minutes: Online quiz (check below)
  4. Reflection time

Duration: 2 hours

Components:

  1. 35 minutes: Watch a podcast of your interest from Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading. Write a summary using the key language from the transcript (about 220 words)
  2. 30 minutes: Extensive reading with Graded Readers (check below)
  3. 45 minutes: Watch an episode from a series in English
  4. 10 minutes: Online quiz (check below)

Watch and listen, or read in English for pleasure.

Graded Readers For English Learners To Prepare For C1 Advanced

Read for pleasure! This is key if you want to scale up your reading comprehension skill in the long run. Here are some publishing houses and their graded readers that might be of interest to you:

C1 Advanced Online Preparation Daily Practice

Little and often! This is paramount if you want to obtain the C1 Advanced certificate quickly and with flying colours. To prepare for the C1 Advanced exam, check out these learning resources:

  1. Cambridge free online activities, proficient level 
  2. Learn English with Cambridge YouTube channel

Depending on your needs, you might also look for ways to improve your general comprehension skills. Check out this article: Useful Online English Language Resources. You will find two main categories of such:

  1. Websites which provide you with exam-like tasks, and
  2. Webs which are skill-oriented, like reading or listening comprehension.

Advice from a candidate who has successfully taken the C1 Advanced exam

  1. To better your Speaking skills, you need a C1 Advanced buddy or actively participate in class and take on board all the tips your teacher gives.
  2. To upgrade your Writing skills, besides your weekly practice with exam tasks, listen to Ted Talks and write summaries of about 220 words using the key language from the transcript.
  3. Keep track of your progress in the practice tests for each of the exam parts, e.g. how long it took you to do the task and what score you’ve got in each task. Try to excel!
  4. Be open to learning by making mistakes. They are your best allies until the day you take the exam.

How to register for C1 Advanced exam?

Once you see that your level of preparation reaches around 70% in the last practice test you’ve done, or your result in the mock/trial exam in all the 4 papers is above  65%, you must consider registering for the official exam. If you have been attending a language course, trust your teacher’s opinion. But remember that your confidence and how you feel about it means everything.  In the end, you are the one to take the exam. So, take all the time you need to be fully prepared. 

Once you’ve made up your mind and want to register, follow the steps and register for the C1 Advanced exam. In case you have attended the C1 Advanced course in a language school, they will make the registration for you.

How are the results for C1 Advanced exam reported?

Candidates receive an individual score for each of the four skills – readingwritinglistening, speaking and Use of English. As you have seen in the first part, What is the structure of the C1 Advanced exam?, each of the skill and Use of English are equally weighted, which is 20%. The candidate’s overall score is calculated by adding all the individual scores together and dividing by five. The result is then rounded to the nearest whole number. 

There is nothing more to this, but GOOD LUCK with your preparation and successful exam session afterwards.

The educational and employment opportunities C1 Advanced  qualification gives you are enormous. It is the ideal tool for your successful university and professional life. So, take the level test to find out whether you are ready to start preparing for the C1 Advanced exam. Embark on this learning journey. Take this exam and stand out from other candidates to consequently have more job prospects wherever your mind and heart desire. 

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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