More information on the Cambridge Proficiency Exam (CPE)

More information on the Cambridge Proficiency Exam (CPE)

Who chooses to study CPE?

The Cambridge Proficiency Exam is the most advanced Cambridge exam available, it is proof of 'exceptional English ability', corresponding with level C2, the highest level, in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is an internationally recognised qualification.

What does the CPE test?

The Proficiency exam has four components:

Reading and Use of English 1 hour 30 minutes, 40% of total marks.

Use of English, parts 1 – 4, test your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. You need to paraphrase, work out meaning from context, control affixation.

Reading, parts 5 – 7, includes reading for detail, following an argument, looking for specific information and skim reading.

Writing 1 hour 30 minutes, 20% of total marks.

You will need to write an essay and then make a choice between various other tasks, such as an article, letter, report or review.

Your writing is assessed on:

Content – how well you have fulfilled the task.

Communicative Achievement – how appropriate the writing is for the task.

Organisation – how ordered and logical the writing is.

Language – the range and accuracy of your vocabulary and grammar.

Listening 40 minutes, 20% of total marks.

This includes listening to a speech or lecture and a discussion. You will have to cope with language you might meet in a work situation, at university or in the street. You will need to listen for gist, detail and attitude.

Speaking 16 minutes, 2 -3 candidates together, 20% of total marks.

This includes giving brief answers, speaking for 2 minutes on a topic with prompts and a discussion.

Your speaking is assessed on:

Grammatical Resource – the ability to use a range of grammatical constructions with fluency and accuracy.

Lexical Resource – the use of a wide range of vocabulary and expression.

Discourse Management – the ability to make your speech ordered and logical.

Pronunciation – including word stress and intonation to make your speech intelligible.

Interactive Communication – taking turns with other candidates, asking questions and responding.

What do you cover in a CPE course?

Your course is tailored to you. Before you start your course you will be asked to complete a sample test which will be used to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to indicate the areas we need to work on.  In the first session I will record you completing a speaking task so I can analyse your speech and identify the pronunciation, intonation, lexical and grammatical areas we need to focus on.

CPE students tend to have been learning English for a long time but we will also look at learner training in line with the latest research to ensure you are using your time out of class in the most effective way possible.

We use text books recommended by Cambridge: the Objective Proficiency course books, the Speaking Test Preparation Pack, Practice tests, all updated for the revised exam, as well as Pronunciation textbooks, Academic and Advanced vocabulary and grammar texts and materials relating to current affairs.

Is CPE right for me?

If you haven't taken the Cambridge Advanced Exam (CAE), or you did so a while ago, Cambridge offers a free test to assess your suitability for the CPE here. If you are still unsure, you can arrange a meeting to discuss the course with me.

There are a number of things I recommend you do to prepare for the CPE: 

  • Although the CPE is not an intelligence test, Cambridge do expect you to be reasonably aware of current affairs. The Guardian newspaper (politically Liberal Left) is free online: http://www.theguardian.com/uk as is the Daily Mail (politically right wing): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html. The Daily Mail is an easier read, although their editing can be quite awful. It can be useful though to read related articles in both papers to compare and contrast views.
  • BBC i player is free to access: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/radio#. You can listen to radio programmes on a range of subjects or watch TV programmes from the last 7 days, often with subtitles.
  • TED talks, short videoed lectures on a range of subjects, are often interesting and informative, some also have tapescripts. A directory of topics is available here: http://www.ted.com/topics.
  • It is important that you keep a vocabulary notebook for new words and phrases. You should by now be recording words in context, making a note of pronunciation, collocation, word families and register e.g. formality of new words.