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Cambridge Main Suite of Examinations

Cambridge produce a large range of examinations including IELTs and exams for a number of varieties of English learners. Including general English exams, business English exams, Young Learners, IELTs, English for teachers and legal English.

The best known of these exams are the Cambridge Main Suite, which consist of:

  • First Certificate In English (FCE)
  • Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
  • Certificate of Proficiency

The big advantage of these exams is that nearly everybody on the planet has heard of Cambridge University and a certificate from the university is bound to impress. They also have no expiry date, which is great for younger learners who may not be going to University immediately. These exams are well recognised in Europe by both universities and employers. Although if your aim is purely examination entry then IELTs or TOEFL´┐Ż maybe a better choice. (See our exams compared page)

Each of these exams consists of five elements:

  • Writing
  • Use Of English (A thinly disguised grammar paper)
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading

You can expect material to be taken from a wide range of sources, although there is a tendancy for the material to be quite academic in nature and the text books also require a lot of work by teachers to make them interesting to students.

Reading Material for exam practice

At this level students need to be able to read real journals and magazines and given Cambridge's fondness for geography, I always encourage my students to read National Geographic and the simpler science journals are also useful. Broadsheet newspapers are also a good source of material.

FCE Set Texts (2010)

It would be very useful if you read X-Treme Factual Writing Chapter 8 before attempting the exam.

The Woman in White
Book: The Woman in White (Penguin Popular Classics)  
summary: Wikipedia

Jurassic Park
Book: Jurassic Park: Intermediate (Macmillan Readers)
DVD version: Jurassic Park [DVD] [1993]
summary: Wikipedia

(Please note that the book and film are a little different from each other and the exam is based on the BOOK!)

CAE Set Texts (2010)

It would be very useful if you read X-Treme Factual Writing Chapter 8 before attempting the exam.

Of Mice and Men
Book: Of Mice and Men (Pocket Penguin Classics)
DVD version: Of Mice And Men [DVD] [1992]
Summary: Wikipedia / BBC Bitesize revision
(Please note that the BBC revision notes are for the GCSE exam rather than CAE and as such advice on timings is not correct for this exam.)

Through a Glass, Darkly
Book: Through a Glass Darkly
Blurb: It is a luminous spring day in Venice, as Commissario Brunetti and Ispettore Vianello take a break from the Questura to come to the rescue of Vianello's friend Marco Ribetti, who has been arrested while protesting against chemical pollution of the Venetian lagoon. But it is not Marco who has uncovered the guilty secret of the polluting glass foundries of the island of Murano, nor he whose body is found dead in front of the furnaces which burn at 1,400 degrees, night and day. The victim has left clues in a copy of Dante, and Brunetti must descend into an inferno to discover who is fouling the waters of the lagoon.

Resources on this Website


  • CAE Part 2 practice (373KB PDF)
    This is a set of full-colour practice exercises for part 2 of the exam.


  • CAE - Writing Proposals Guide (191KB PDF)
    We provide the guide that's been forgotten by the textbooks. This guide includes a detailed guide on how to write Proposals, a guided writing exercise, 2 sample answers and 8 further Proposal questions.

  • CAE Writing Guide (195KB PDF)
    This guide includes a detailed guide to questions, what examiners are looking for, common mistakes, past paper questions, exercises and teacher tips. Now includes the June 2006 exams!

  • How to Write An Introduction (107KB PDF)
    This guide shows you how to write introductions when in an exam such as IELTs and when doing an assignment.

  • CAE Exam hints (97KB PDF)
    General hints and tips for the exam.

  • CAE Writing assignments (116KB PDF)
    A summarised version of the CAE Examiner reports.

Listening Resources

Other Useful Pages




Related Websites

Cambridge ESOL
The main Cambridge ESOL Website with details of all their exams.

Some materials for FCE exams.

National Geographic
A great source of reading material with similar subjects to Cambridge exams.

The Guardian
Broadsheet newspaper, which is free online.