Changes to the Cambridge CAE Exam in 2015

CISL has been offering Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) and First Certificate in English (FCE) courses for years, and has seen countless students pass the exam through the guidance of our competent staff. After years of the same testing format for the CAE exam, we are excited to see some changes to the test in 2015. Are you aware of the changes? We have a breakdown of the most important changes to the CAE Exam in 2015.


Major changes to the Cambridge CAE Exam in 2015

1. The test is now four parts, and shorter in length

Reading and Use of English will be combined into one section that is 1 1/2 hours long. The test will keep the same question types: 4 of the parts will be question types used in the previous Use of English exam; and 4 parts will be old Reading Module questions. Students can expect the following:

  • Part 1: Multiple Choice Vocabulary. A reading has words missing, and you choose A, B, C, or D as the correct word to complete the sentence.
  • Part 2: Open Cloze. Similar to Part 1, but you are not given A-D. You must choose the word from your own knowledge of the language.
  • Part 3: Word Formation. Students have a paragraph with missing words, and are given a stem word. Students must make the appropriate word using this stem word: for example, the stem word could be “length” and perhaps the answer could be “lengthening.”
  • Part 4: Key Word Transformation. Students are given one sentence, another sentence with parts missing, and one word. Students must incorporate the word into the second sentence, adding anywhere from three to six words, to complete the sentence.
  • Part 5: Multiple Choice. Students read a long text and answer questions, choosing from the multiple choice answers.
  • Part 6: Cross-text Multiple Matching. Students read four short texts and then answer questions about them.
  • Part 7: Gapped text. One long text has six paragraphs missing, and students must place the missing paragraphs into the text.
  • Part 8: Multiple Matching. Students must read the text(s) and then answer questions, identifying key ideas or details in the text(s).

As you can see, some of the parts of the old Use of English and Reading Modules no longer exist. This test is now 1 1/2 hours, which is much shorter than the two modules were when they were separate.

2. Part 1 of the Writing Test will now be an essay

In the old test, the writing exam had two parts, and Part 1 required a smaller word-count and was worth less points than Part 2. In the new exam, Part 1 and Part 2 will be the same length (222-260 words) and will be worth the same amount of points. In addition, Part 1 will now always be an essay; Part 2 can be a report, review, letter/email, or proposal.

In the past, students could also choose to read one of the two set texts: books in English that were chosen by Cambridge. For Part 2, students could choose to write an essay about the book they read. This has been omitted.

3. The Listening section might have questions that ask you to infer a bit more

Previous Listening Module questions were typically on the information heard in the recording. In the new test, questions can also focus on the emotion of the speakers, and ask candidates questions about the speaker’s feelings, implied opinions, etc. As a student, you will be required to understanding more of the subtle workings of language: how things like hesitation, excitement, or worry are expressed through spoken language.

4. Part 1 of the Speaking Section is shorter; Part 4 is longer

The introductory part of the speaking test is now 2 minutes, not 3; this is one less minute of awkward get-to-kn0w-you conversation! This minute has been moved to the last section of the test, Part 4, where you participate in a discussion with the interlocutor and your partner and answer questions on a topic which extends from the topic of Part 3.

5. Part 3 of the Speaking Section now uses written prompts, not photos

Before, you and a partner had to look at several photos, discuss them, and then make a decision about the photos. This section no longer uses photos: instead, the interlocutor asks you and your partner to discuss a topic, and provides you with written prompts to help you in this section. You and a partner speak for two minutes. The interlocutor then asks you to make a decision, and you have one minute to do so.

What do YOU think of the changes to the CAE exam? Do you think that these changes are for the better? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page!

For more information, consult your CISL CAE teacher, or refer to the Cambridge website.