Life After CAE - Should I Take Proficiency?


Hi guys,

I got an email from a student who recently passed Cambridge English: Advanced.

Hello,
I am a Frenchman exiled in London, and I passed the CAE (grade B) in December last year. Thanks to your website, the tips and advice provided were very useful. I like very much your site because it is short, sharp, and it goes straight to the essential. It sort of aims at efficiency actually, which is good as I am pretty lazy and only did one week revision before the tests.
I would like to know if you plan to make an entry in the blog or beside the tips about what to do after the CAE, giving few options, like the CPE, and maybe pointing to some resources as good as yours but targeted to CPE candidates.

Let's deal with this in a question and answer session.


Once one has passed the CAE (C1), shall one (necessarily) take the CPE (C2)? Is it really worth taking the exam?

Depends on your goals. CAE is enough for most situations. It'll allow you to get a job in most companies in Europe (it's less well-known in the US). Cambridge say it's accepted by 6,000 government departments, businesses, and academic institutions around the world.

Proficiency might be needed for some jobs, or to do a PhD programme. (Some jobs might ask for BEC Higher, but that's the same level as CAE so to pass you'll just need to learn loads of business English vocab.)

So while for some people it's essential, for most CPE isn't really needed.

However, most of my CPE students didn't need the CERTIFICATE, but they did need the EXAM PRESSURE to force them to study hard! They thought, and I agree with them, that they'd learn faster with that extra motivation. So it's worth it from that point of view.

If so, what CAE score would be realistic to consider the CPE favorably?

Getting an A in CAE makes me think a student is ready to start a CPE course. Get a B and I'd probably suggest you spend a bit more time reviewing the grammar etc from your CAE preparations. Maybe a month or three just generally brushing up.

But it depends where you live, how much exposure to English you have in your life, how much homework you're going to do etc etc.

The person who wrote the letter lives in London (good), studies English 5 hours a week (very good) but is lazy (bad). On the whole I'd say there's every chance he could pass CPE but if he consolidates what he's already studied, passing will be more certain.

Is there a really big gap in terms of difficulty between CAE and CPE?

Yes, there is. In a typical CPE coursebook you won't get lots of grammar - you're expected to know that by now. In terms of grammar, CPE is more about exceptions and really high-level stuff, so you need a solid base of grammar before you start a CPE course.

Then there's endless bits of vocabulary - phrasal verbs, collocations, idioms, that you're expected to be familiar with.

The listening tracks are faster and more dense - I've had some superb students who struggled with CPE listening tasks.

The marking system is complicated: if you have scored 205 (therefore C2, the CPE level) at the CAE, how will you get the same score at the CPE granted that the CPE exam is more difficult?

In theory, a student should be able to walk out of a CAE exam, take the CPE exam, and end up at the same point on Cambridge Scale. I imagine that is true (although in reality if an exam is too hard a student will get stressed and discouraged). Cambridge are pretty good at setting these exams and getting the results to be reliable.

Any constructive advice on how to prepare the CPE? What to add to the tips provided by your website to access to next level?

The main thing I'd say is to allow a long enough time to study. Finishing your Advanced in December and taking CPE in summer IS possible (especially since you live in London) but I would try to persuade my students to be more realistic. A year - with a CPE course and you doing all the homework - would be my suggested minimum.

For websites with useful resources, you could start with Flo Joe. Of course I think my site is better for CAE... but honestly they've been going for a long time and there's some good stuff there. What's on that page is free, but to get more from them you have to pay. I have no idea if it's worth it or not. Flo Joe link.

You might try this out - I just found it and have no idea if it's worthwhile - English Writing Skills free online course. (If anyone tries this, please let me know if it's useful or not.) Here's another resource about writing for the CPE exam.

Here's the coursebook I use (disable your adblock and refresh the page - the link will take you to your local Amazon store).

Anything I missed out? Ask below in the comments and I'll either answer there or add my reply to the main article.

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