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Preparing for the CAE exam

posted on Tuesday 8th January

Categories: Features
Article tags: CAE, Cambridge, exam, preparation, Test, university

The CAE exam is internationally recognised by over 8000 academic, professional and government institutions. If you’re looking to take the CAE exam, follow these tips to get the most out of your revision time.

Seek out real-life examples of writing in English – Many of the exercises you’ll come across in your reading paper come from real sources, such as articles, novels and newspapers. You’ll be expected to understand what is being talked about and how the author conveys their message. In your Composition and Text Analysis classes, your tutor also uses authentic material to show you how this is done, working from not only text but audio and video. You can improve even further by looking up newspaper articles and journal entries online in your free time. Note down what you think they are saying, what the points of their argument are, and how you feel while you read it, then go over it with your tutor. The more you practise, the more comfortable you’ll become with looking at a text you’ve never seen before.

Practising your verbal presentation will also help with your writing – Writing exams often ask students to prepare a piece designed to convince a reader – an advert, a letter to the council, an argument in a debate and so on. For your piece to be persuasive and compelling, you need to be able to structure an argument well. Practising debates and presentations in front of an audience in your Spoken Performance Workshop helps you develop confidence in forming arguments and responses, which are also very useful skills to have for your written exam. The individual voice you nurture in the classroom will come through in your writing.

Think about structure – It’s one thing to know the words that make up a piece of writing. It’s another to know how those pieces fit together to make a story or an argument flow. When reading a story or an article, don’t just think about translating the words. Think about the tone and how/why it changes, how the author uses information to link one paragraph to another. The end of each paragraph should be a jumping-off point to the next destination in the narrative – consider what the author has done to get there. Have they repeated a similar idea? Have they continued with the same tone? Have they provided information the previous paragraph built up to? Understanding this will make your reading useful for more than translation.

If in doubt, ask – Everyone has bumps and stumbles when preparing for an exam. It can be hard to admit that you don’t understand something, but you are not alone. If you feel like there’s an area you’re struggling with, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your tutor will be glad to go over any specific areas you want to improve, and you can use your Mentored Dissertation session to practise the tasks you feel require the most attention.

Take care of yourself – Working hard is important, but so is feeling good. While it’s very useful to study in your free time, don’t let studying take over your whole day. Try using your English in recreational settings – cafes, shops and museums. Give yourself little breaks to relax, breathe and do the things you enjoy – a comfortable environment will lessen any exam stress and help you to see using English as a part of everyday life, not a piece of homework.