A new exam? What’s changed?

Starting in January 2015, there will be a new version of the Cambridge English: Advanced exam (previously known as the CAE). This post will explain the major changes in the new exam so you know what to expect.

Big changes to Reading and Use of English papers

First the good news: starting in January the exam will be 45 minutes shorter! There will be 4 papers instead of 5, which means there will be one fewer break as well—saving you even more time.

The new exam combines the Reading and Use of English papers and here is where the time is saved. Previously there were 84 questions in these 2 sections, now there will be 56. Two sections from the old exam have been removed and one new section has been created. The details can be seen in the table below, the colours indicate where the sections of the old exam have moved in the 2015 exam. With the help of this table, you can use materials from the old exams to prepare for the new ones. Click on the image for a larger version.

First of all, you can see that Reading part 1 and Use of English part 4 have been discontinued in 2015. The combined section begins with the Use of English tasks followed by the Reading tasks. Part 6 of the 2015 Reading and Use of English paper is a new task type. In this new part 6, you will have 4 paragraphs on the same topic by different authors and you will have to answer questions which ask you to compare the texts with each other: “Which author shares the opinion of author C?” “Which writer expresses an opinion different from the others?”

Small changes to Writing and Speaking papers

There are minor changes to the Writing paper and I think they are all good. First of all, you are allowed to write more! You may now write between 220 and 260 words for each piece of writing. Part 1 is now always an essay. This will make it easier to prepare as you will know what to expect. In part 2, there is a choice of three tasks, which will be either a review, a letter/email, a report or a proposal. There will not be any more questions about set texts (in the current exam there are questions about Lord of the Flies or The Lighthouse which you may or may not have read).

There are no changes to the Listening paper.

There are some small changes to the timing of the Speaking paper. Part 1 is one minute shorter and part 4 is one minute longer. In part 3, the activity will be the same but the prompts will be in the form of text, as opposed to images.

For more information about the changes, you can watch a webinar by Cambridge English Language Assessment on the topic (probably only interesting for teachers):