Part 5 is a long text with six comprehension questions. Each correct answer is worth 2 points. The text is loooong, the answers all seem to be the same.... it's a test of concentration, understanding, and of your patience. Remember that time you saved in parts 1 to 4? You might burn some of it here... [Note - there's a lot of text in this section - studying this page on a desktop will be much better than on your smartphone.)

1. The basics

  • Read everything: It's not enough to read the text carefully. You have to read the questions and answers carefully too!
  • The answers are sequential. The answer to question 5 comes after the answer to question 4 in the text.
  • The only exception might be the 6th question - sometimes it asks you a question about the whole text. Another reason to read the questions carefully!
  • Leave your own ideas and biases at the door. You might be an expert in the topic - if anything, this is a disadvantage! You have to read the text for what the writer says, not what you assume he says.
  • Always question your answers - overconfidence is especially dangerous in this part of the exam.

2. How to get better

The surest way to improve on this part of the exam is to read a lot in English. My students who read 'for fun' do this part much more quickly, much more accurately, than the students who hate reading. So... read! (There are a lot of things you can read - romantic novels, crime fiction, Game of Thrones. Don't feel you have to read something super boring.)

3. Look out for traps

Everything here is a trap. (Well, 75%.) Why do all the answers seem plausible? Because if you just read the text quickly every answer seems possible. But before you write your answer, remember what Admiral Ackbar says in Star Wars.

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Common Traps 1 - Who?

Imagine a text that describes how George Lucas irritated his fans by changing Star Wars.

Then there's a question:

How did George Lucas feel about the new version of Star Wars?
A - irritated.

The answer can't be A because it was the FANS who were irritated.

Common Traps 2 - The Most

Questions like this are common: What was his main field of interest? / What was his most valuable painting? / Which subject did he specialise in?

The text might mention several interests, multiple paintings, many subjects. But only one is the main; only one is the most valuable; only one is his specialty.

Common Traps 3 - Suspiciously Obvious Connections

The text says 'The writer canceled his projected holiday.' One of the questions asks, 'What was the writer's attitude to the holiday?' And option A is 'He had foreseen the need to take out travel insurance.' It's a trap! A good student understands that 'projected' and 'foreseen' are similar sorts of word, but this part of the test is about understanding the text, not just individual words. So be suspicious if it is this easy. Reading again, more slowly, leads us to see that the two sentences have nothing to do with each other.

4. A quick case study

Let's take a look at a paragraph and question from the Cambridge CAE handbook. Take a couple of minutes to read the text, the question, and the answers.

This book examines how the ever-changing role of colour in society has been reflected in manuscripts, stained glass, clothing, painting and popular culture. Colour is a natural phenomenon, of course, but it is also a complex cultural construct that resists generalization and, indeed, analysis itself. No doubt this is why serious works devoted to colour are rare, and rarer still are those that aim to study it in historical context. Many authors search for the universal or archetypal truths they imagine reside in colour, but for the historian, such truths do not exist. Colour is first and foremost a social phenomenon. There is no transcultural truth to colour perception, despite what many books based on poorly grasped neurobiology or – even worse – on pseudoesoteric pop psychology would have us believe. Such books unfortunately clutter the bibliography on the subject, and even do it harm.

Q - What problem regarding colour does the writer explain in the first paragraph?

A -  Our view of colour is strongly affected by changing fashion.

B - Analysis is complicated by the bewildering number of natural colours.

C - Colours can have different associations in different parts of the world.

D - Certain popular books have dismissed colour as insignificant.


Whoo! That's a lot of text to read and understand in two minutes. And this is just one question. Now you see why you have to hurry through parts 1-4...

The first thing to look at is answer B, because there doesn't seem to be anything in the text about a 'bewildering number of natural colours'. Scan through the text again looking for words that mean 'a large number' or 'bewildering'. There is 'complex' which some students might connect with bewildering, but nothing about numbers. We can rule B out.

A seems to be possible because of the sentence 'colour is first and foremost a social phenomenon.' Doesn't that mean fashion? Well, no. Fashion is one small component of society. So, no, it's not A.

D also seems plausible, until we read it more carefully. It says 'certain popular books' which means best-selling books, but the text says 'pop psychology'. Pop psychology means 'popular psychology' - which is psychology made simple for the general public to understand. It doesn't mean popular as in best-selling. Furthermore, the pop psychology books say there is a 'transcultural truth to colour perception' - they don't say that colour is insignificant. So we have two reasons to cross out answer D.

So what does 'There is no transcultural truth to colour perception' MEAN, anyway? Transcultural means 'across cultures'. Association can mean perception. So another way to write the sentence would be 'Colour can have different associations in different parts of the world.' Ding ding ding!

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NOT EASY. Make sure you give yourself enough time in the exam to go through this process, and make it easier for yourself by reading as much as you can between now and the exam.

5. Do the homework I set my students

6. Watch me do part 5 on the CAE Exam Tips YouTube channel

I made a video of me trying to do part 5. It was very late when I did the recording and I was very tired. I made some mistakes and didn't follow my own advice, or even the plan I made at the start of the video! It's a bit of a mess, but I think watching me make mistakes might be more useful than watching me be perfect all the time! 


In part 6 you read 4 short texts from different writers. You have to answer 4 questions, each worth 2 points. You have to understand each writer's opinion on various topics and compare them with the opinions of the others. You might have to read each text several times, so it could use up a lot of your precious exam minutes.

1. What to expect

There will be a common theme to the 4 articles. Let's take the example of 'food'. Here's a very, very simplified version of what you get. Four texts:

I like wine. Pizza is the best Italian food.
— Writer A
I like wine. Pasta is the best Italian food.
— Writer B
I hate wine, but pizza is the best Italian food.
— Writer C
I hate wine but pizza is much nicer than pasta.
— Writer D

And then 4 questions like this:

Which writer:

[1] - has a different opinion on pizza to all the others?

[2]- says the same thing about wine as writer C?

2. How not to do it

Even in the simple example above it's easy to get things wrong if you go too quickly and don't double-check your answers. For example, for question [1] a lot of students would choose D because it seems to be the most different. But the correct answer is, of course, B - he's the only one who says pasta is the best food. If you only skim read, it's possible to mistake 'pizza' and 'pasta' - we often only see the first and last letters of words.

But there's no possibility of making a mistake on question [2], surely? Well, I'm ashamed to admit that even an exam genius like me made this very stupid mistake the first time I tried one of these 'cross-text multiple matching' activities. I gave the answer 'C' if you can believe it! Of course, C is the one answer it can't possibly be! Embarrassing. But that's what happens when you don't read the questions.

3. It's not that simple

Let's increase the level of difficulty a bit.

Pizza seems to be an omnipresent force in our culture - every romantic movie features a gorgeous young couple laughing and joking over a pizza and glass of rioja. Pizzerias are so ubiquitous that one could well be forgiven for assuming that the cuisine is universally loved. Nothing could be further from the truth; if heaven is a pizza, give me hell any day. It has one redeeming quality - you get a lot of calories for your money.
— Writer A
When American culinary scientists perfected a method of forcing cheese into the crust of a pizza, they achieved the seemingly impossible. They took an already heavenly creation and gave it wings. Italian purists, descendants of the meal’s inventors, may sneer and call it vandalism, but they must count themselves in the minority. The popularity of stuffed-crust pizzas is no flash in the pan. They are here to stay, and rightly so.
— Writer B
The humble pizza - surely the most overrated and overpriced foodstuff on the planet, since it is just some dough, tomatoes, and cheese - has its roots in southern Italy, but has become a worldwide property. It is a dish that belongs to us all, and few, if any, modern tweaks to the recipe come from the land of its birth. The most recent upgrades - thick crusts, stuffed crusts, an almost infinite range of toppings - have all come from the United States in general and New York in particular.
— Writer C

Which writer - 

[1] - expresses a different view to the others about pizza?

[2] - agrees with writer B about the origins of pizza?

[3] - disagrees with writer A about the cost of pizza?

Oooh, that's a lot of text! So let's get straight to the point and start working on those questions. First, we need to work out everyone's opinions on pizza. Read through the texts carefully and you'll see that A would rather go to hell than eat it, B says it is heavenly, and C says it's overrated. (Reminder - in the exam there will be 4 texts, not three.) Which one is different? That's the answer.

For question 2 we have to re-read B and get his opinion about the origins of pizza. What does he say about it? He says Italian purists are the descendants of its inventors. Text A doesn't say anything about where pizza comes from. Text C says it has roots in Southern Italy. B and C say the same thing, which means C is the answer.

And what about the cost? A says pizza is good value for money. B doesn't say anything about the cost of pizza. C says pizzas are overpriced. C is the opposite of A, so there's the answer.

4. More Help

If it isn't completely clear what to do and how to do it, don't panic! I'll be making videos about this part of the exam. Oh! I've done one already. Take a look!