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The CAE is an examination at an advanced level which was introduced in 1991 and is suitable for people who require English for professional or study purposes. There is an emphasis on real-world tasks. It is also recognised by the majority of British universities as fulfilling English Language entrance requirements. Test dates are in June and December.
The CAE has five components: reading, writing, English in use, listening and speaking.
Candidates are assessed as to their ability to read and understand texts taken from magazines, newspapers, leaflets, etc. They should demonstrate a variety of reading skills including skimming, scanning, deduction of meaning from context and selection of relevant information to complete the given task.
There are four texts and forty to fifty questions. The three main task types are: multiple matching, multiple choice and gap filling (at paragraph level).
Candidates are expected to complete non-specialist writing tasks in response to the stimuli provided (input text and task descriptions). The input texts are taken from articles, leaflets, notices, formal and informal letters, etc. Both audience and purpose are made clear in the task descriptions.
The first part is compulsory and candidates must complete one or more tasks in response to a reading input which is usually made up of several short texts. The second part involves choosing one of four tasks from a range of writing activities (letters, articles, instructions, messages, etc.). Responses should be about 250 words in length.
English in Use:
Candidates are expected to demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge of the language system by completing tasks based on authentic passages. They must complete six tasks with a total of approximately seventy items. The tasks are of the following types: gap filling, proof-reading exercises, text completion, text expansion (of notes etc.).
Candidates are expected to understand each text as a whole, gain detailed understanding and appreciate gist and the attitude of the speaker. They must also be able to identify and interpret the context. Texts take the form of announcements, speeches, radio broadcasts, etc.
There are four sections lasting approximately 45 minutes in all, with a total of thirty to forty questions. The first two sections consist of two short monologues, the third of a longer dialogue/interview and the fourth of conversational extracts. The tasks candidates are asked to perform include the following: information transfer, various types of matching, note completion and multiple choice. Sections A, C and D are repeated; Section B is played once only.
The Speaking Test is conducted by two examiners with a pair of candidates. They must be able to demonstrate a range of speaking skills: interactional, social, transactional, negotiation and collaboration. The test lasts for fifteen minutes.
The candidates first introduce themselves and respond to questions about their interests, careers, etc. Each candidate is then given a set of visual stimuli which serve to encourage a ‘long turn’ from each candidate. The final two parts are linked. The candidates first complete a collaborative task. This is followed by further discussion between the candidates and both examiners on points which have arisen from the collaborative task.