CAE, CPE and FCE exams
taking an exam
Hípias Lemos from Brazil asks:

I am writing in order to ask you about Cambridge Examinations, since I will be doing CAE (Cambridge Advanced Exam) next week. I have been preparing myself for this exam for about four months after applying for FCE (First Certificate Exam). To sum up, I would like you to help me, if possible, as an experienced teacher of English you are, pointing out the main differences between the two exams as well as the last of them, CPE (Cambridge Proficiency Exam), which I have interest in trying in twelve months time. Thanks in advance.
Roger replies:
I hope you have done really well in CAE, Hípias, and that you will be in a position to take CPE in twelve months' time.

As you probably know, the two exams are broadly similar in format in so far as they both comprise Reading, Writing, Use of English, Listening and Speaking Tests. However, there are often important differences.

In CAE Writing, for instance, at Level Four, you were expected to complete writing tasks in response to input texts taken from articles, leaflets, notices, letters, etc. In CPE, however, at Level Five, you will be asked to write much more freely on different topics requiring narrative, descriptive or discursive language.

I suppose the main difference is that whereas at CAE you are expected to use language with a good degree of accuracy and fluency, in CPE you will be approaching the linguistic competence of an educated native speaker. Inter alia, the Speaking Test requires:
- an ability to handle communication in most situations, including unfamiliar or unexpected ones
- an ability to use accurate and appropriate linguistic resources to express complex ideas and concepts and produce extended discourse that is coherent and always easy to understand.

For more information, consult the CAE, CPE and FCE Handbooks available from UCLES, 1 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB1 2EU.