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To help you feel really prepared for Cambridge English: Proficiency, there is a huge range of exam preparation resources and services.
What kind of tasks are there in the Reading and Use of English paper?
The paper includes the following task types: multiple-choice cloze, open cloze, word-formation, key word transformation, multiple choice, gapped paragraph, and matching.
What kind of texts appear in the Reading and Use of English paper?
The texts come from a range of different sources and are written for different purposes. They are mainly contemporary and include non-specialist material from fiction and non-fiction books and journalism (a wide range of newspapers, magazines and journals).
What aspects of reading are being tested in the Reading and Use of English paper?
The paper tests comprehension at word, phrase, sentence, paragraph and whole text level. Each part tests different aspects of reading, including the use of vocabulary in context, such as idioms and collocations, understanding detail, opinion and attitude, text organisation and structure, global meaning and main idea, and cohesion and coherence.
How can I best prepare myself for the Reading and Use of English paper?
It is essential for you to engage with a substantial and varied range of written English and to read extensively (preferably for pleasure, not simply for the purposes of studying) as well as intensively. This enables you to become familiar with a wide range of language and text types, and is also helpful when you are working on the longer texts in Parts 5 and 6. You should also be familiar with the technique of indicating your answers on the separate answer sheet so that you can do this quickly and accurately.
How many marks is the Reading and Use of English paper worth?
The paper is worth 80 marks (after weighting) out of a total of 200 marks for the four Cambridge English: Proficiency papers. However, your overall grade is based on the total score gained in all four papers. It is not necessary to achieve a satisfactory level in all four papers in order to pass the examination.
What if I make a mistake on the answer sheet?
If more than one lozenge has been completed for one question, the computer rejects the answer sheet, which is then dealt with on an individual basis. Checks are in place to identify incomplete answer sheets, which are also then checked.
Cases where all the answers have been entered incorrectly, e.g. by putting Answer 1 to Question 2, Answer 2 to Question 3, etc., cannot be identified. You should be careful when filling in your answer sheet.
How long is each part of the Cambridge English: Proficiency Reading and Use of English paper?
There is no fixed answer to this question. The overall time allowed for the Reading and Use of English paper is 90 minutes. Candidates in a class preparing for the exam will almost certainly find that, as each part is a different task and tests different skills, they do not all spend the same amount of time on each part. This is normal and you should practise extensively before the exam to see how you need to distribute your time. The paper has a standard structure and format so that you will know what to expect in each part of the paper. You should be aware that answers must be marked on the answer sheet within the time allowed. Some students prefer to transfer their answers at the end of each task rather than wait until they have completed the whole paper.
Are marks deducted for incorrect answers?
No, they are not. All marking is positive in the sense that you will get marks for your correct answers and nothing if the answer is incorrect.
If I write two possible answers to a question, how are they marked?
You must write one answer for each question. If you write more than one answer, you will not be given any marks.
How important is spelling in the Reading and Use of English paper?
In Parts 2, 3 and 4, all spelling must be correct.
Do contractions count as one word or two?
Contracted words count as the number of words they would be if they were not contracted. For example, isn’t, didn’t, I’m, I’ll are counted as two words (replacing is not, did not, I am, I will). Where the contraction replaces one word (e.g. can’t for cannot), it is counted as one word.
What happens if I miss a negative in the transformations, thereby giving the opposite meaning to the original?
The instructions state that the second sentence must have a similar meaning to the first. However, in the mark scheme the answer is divided into two parts (see below). The two parts of the sentence (either side of the dividing line) are always treated separately, so you will receive one mark for correctly completing one part of the sentence, even if a negative has been omitted from the other part.
E.g. I've never thought of asking the hotel staff for advice about restaurants.
It has ............. the hotel staff for advice about restaurants.
Answer: never occurred to me (1) | to ask (1)
There are some similarities between the writing tasks in Cambridge English: Advanced, also known as Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), and Cambridge English: Proficiency. What is different?
Cambridge English: Proficiency questions are designed to generate language that requires you to use more abstract functions such as hypothesising, interpreting and evaluating and to move away from just factually based responses. This raises the expected language level not only in terms of structure but also range of vocabulary and appropriacy of style and register.
Are there any differences in the way the Part 1 and Part 2 questions are assessed?
Part 1 and Part 2 questions carry equal marks, and Writing Examiners apply the same assessment scales to them (Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language). Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task; Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the candidate's writing is for the task; Organisation focuses on the way the candidate puts together the piece of writing; and Language focuses on the range and accuracy of the candidate's vocabulary and grammar.
How are extended responses in the Writing paper assessed?
Examiners mark tasks using assessment scales developed with explicit reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The scales, which are used across the Cambridge English General and Business English Writing tests, are made up from four subscales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language:
Each response is marked from 0 to 5 on each of the four subscales and these scores are combined to give a final mark for the Writing test.
The text type is a very important aspect of the Cambridge English: Proficiency Writing paper as it is a major factor in the choice of style and register for the piece of writing. For example, if you write an essay when the question has asked for an article, the register will not be totally appropriate for an article. This will have a negative effect on the target reader and will be penalised.
You will not be penalised just because the text is over the word limit. However, over-length writing may lead to irrelevance, repetition and poor organisation. These factors have a negative effect on the target reader and will be penalised.
Examiners will only assess what is on the page and will not make assumptions about what you might have written. For example, if the conclusion is missing, this will affect the organisation and coherence and will be penalised.
How severely are poor spelling and punctuation penalised?
Spelling is one factor considered under the assessment scale for Language, and punctuation is one factor considered under Organisation. You do not lose a mark every time you make a spelling or punctuation mistake, so it is still possible to get a high band score with occasional native-speaker type lapses. However, spelling and punctuation are an important aspect of accuracy, and frequent errors may have a negative effect on the target reader, which is one factor considered under Communicative Achievement.
Do I have to study all the set texts?
The set text questions are optional. If you decide to answer on a set text, it is only necessary to study one of the texts as there is always a question on each of them. Information on what the set texts are for this year can be found above.
Can any edition of the set texts be used for study?
Any full-length edition can be used for study. At Cambridge English: Proficiency level, you should not be reading simplified editions.
Will there always be a narrative question?
There will sometimes be the opportunity to write a narrative, but it will be embedded in a letter or article, as in the sample papers. Such a question will not necessarily be on every paper.
Are addresses to be omitted ONLY when stated in the task?
As a matter of policy, where the genre is given as a letter, 'You do not need to include postal addresses' is added to the instructions. Where other genres are given (e.g. a report, an article), you could choose to use a letter format to answer the question, if appropriate to the task. In no case will the address, if you include it, be subject to assessment, either negative or positive.
Is a report format obligatory for such questions in the Writing paper?
Reports should be clearly organised and may contain headings. The report format is not obligatory, but will make a good impression on the target reader if used appropriately. The mark awarded for the report will, however, depend on how the writing meets the requirements.
What aspects of listening are tested in the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper?
The range of texts and task types reflects the variety of listening situations which you need to be able to cope with at this level.
Variety of accents:
Recordings will contain a variety of accents corresponding to standard variants of native-speaker accent.
Texts vary in terms of length and interaction. Text types used include: interviews, discussions, conversations, talks, speeches, lectures, documentaries, instructions.
A variety of task types is used. These reflect the different reasons for, and focuses of, listening: understanding opinion, attitude, gist, detail, main idea, speaker's purpose; inferring meaning, agreement and opinion. Three- and four-option multiple-choice exercises, sentence completion and multiple matching are used.
Will I have enough time to complete the paper?
All Cambridge English Listening tests are trialled on students to see that they have enough time to answer and complete the answer sheet. The test is designed to be as user-friendly as possible but it is useful to remind yourself of the following points:
The instructions for each task are heard in the recording and are followed by a pause for you to study the task for that section. You can and should use this time to study the questions printed on the page for this task to help you predict both what you will hear and what kind of information you will be required to identify and understand in order to be able to answer.
The questions in the Listening paper follow the order of the information in the recording, and you should not waste time on a question you are having difficulty with as you might miss the answer to the following question. Each recording is heard twice.
Five minutes are provided at the end of the recording for you to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.
How do I record my answers?
You must write all your answers on a separate answer sheet. You may write on the question paper as you listen, but you must transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Five minutes are allocated at the end of the test for you to do this.
Is spelling important?
Part 2 is the only part of the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper where you have to write words for your answers (in the other parts, you indicate your choice of answer by writing a letter). Answers for Part 2 (which are generally short) must be spelled correctly and must fit into the grammatical structure of the sentence. Both British English and American English spellings are accepted. Spelling must be correct for a mark to be given.
How many marks are given in the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper?
There are 30 questions in this paper. The total score is adjusted once the paper has been marked to give a mark out of 40.
Am I supposed to write the words I hear in the recording in answers to Part 2, or do I get more marks if I use my own words?
You should try to use the actual words you hear in the recording. You do not get more marks for using your own words.
Can I wear headphones for the Listening paper?
Ask your centre whether you can use headphones or not – it depends how they choose to run the exam.
Why can't I do the test alone?
Research studies have shown that in order to test a wide range of language and interactive ability with different people (here the examiner and the candidate's partner), and where the test targets a particular level of ability (e.g. Cambridge English: Proficiency as opposed to IELTS), it is better to have pairs. Thus, the standard format is two candidates and two examiners. If there is an uneven number of candidates at the end of the session, the candidates will be asked to take the test in a group of three, never alone.
Can I choose who will examine me?
No. The centre decides which candidates will be assessed by which examiners. Examiners are specially recruited and trained to assess impartially and to the same standard, so it doesn't matter which examiner you have. Also, examiners are never allowed to assess their own students or anybody they know socially. And do remember there are always two examiners, both of whom make an assessment.
Do I have to prepare a talk on a topic in advance?
No. Just follow the instructions from the examiner. During your long turn, the examiner will give you a card with a question on it for you to talk about.
Can I choose which topics to talk about?
No. You will have to discuss several topics during the Speaking test and these will be ones which you should have covered when preparing for the exam. None of the topics require specialised knowledge – they will all be accessible.
What should I do if I don't understand the examiner?
You can always ask the examiner to repeat the question or the instructions. However, you should listen carefully and try to understand the first time.
Download sample papers for Cambridge English: Proficiency
This computer-based sample test allows you to see what a full test will be like, and shows the types of questions that will appear in the new live exam.
You will need to use the Firefox browser, which you can download Firefox for free here. Once downloaded, open Firefox and use the links below to view the three tests.
Watch this tutorial before you try the practice test below, this will help you understand what you need to do.
Reading and Use of English
Check your answers as you do the test – once the test has finished you will not be able to check them.
Use the answer keys below.
Listening Answer Key
Reading and Use of English Answer Key
There is no answer key for the Writing Paper, but there are sample answers and examiner comments in the Cambridge English: Proficiency Handbook.
Examiner's comments on a Speaking test
A document containing detailed comments on the student performances, seen in this video. It also includes information on the format of the Speaking test and how it is assessed.
Download examiner's comments
Information for Candidates
A guide to the exam, with an overview of what’s involved, advice on preparing for the exam, tips for exam day and useful links.
Download Information for Candidates
Summary regulations for candidates
All the important information you need to know when taking the exam.
Download Summary regulations for candidates.
You can find a wide range of official Cambridge English support materials from Cambridge English Language Assessment and Cambridge University Press. Support materials include coursebooks and practice tests and include materials in both print and digital formats.
Find preparation materials for Cambridge English: Proficiency
Find out exactly what to expect on the day you take your exam.
Exam day tips – paper-based exams
Exam day tips – computer-based exams