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What’s the CAE level? How is it graded?

The Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English (CAE) is an exam meant to assess a person’s capacity for communicating in English in an English speaking business or undergraduate university environment. The CAE corresponds to the Common European Framework of Reference for Language C1 level. The exam requires advanced-level English skills.

With over 8,000 businesses, educational institutions, and government departments recognizing and accepting the CAE globally, it is well-regarded and widely recognized. The CAE comes in a paper-based and computer-based format. Not every test center offers each format, so it is necessary to check your chosen test center for details. Check out our article to get more details on the C1 Advanced prices.

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The scoring system is as follows: A, B, C (pass), D, E or U (fail). The FCE uses the following scores to report results from the exam.

ScoreGradeCEFR Level
200-210Grade AC2
193–199Grade BC1
180–192Grade CC1

The exam is intended for assessing test candidates at Level C1 of the CEFR. The exam, however, provides a reliable assessment at the level above C1 (C2 level), and the level below (B2). If you do not pass, but still do reasonably well on the CAE, then you are presented with a B2 level certificate.

Get the Cambridge CAE certificate.

You will receive a separate score for each of the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and use of English; this provides a test taker with a clear and comprehensive performance profile. These five scores are then averaged to give each test taker an overall result for the CAE. Additionally, each test taker will be given a grade and CEFR level that corresponds to the given CAE score. All test candidates will receive a Statement of Results; if you are successful in the exam, you will also receive a certificate. The Statement of Results is available online about four to six weeks after the exam for paper-based exams, and two to three weeks after the exam for computer-based exams.

So, what does a B2 or C1 CEFR level mean?

The B2 level

If you attain a score from 160 up to179 on the CAE, you are considered to have a B2 CEFR level (upper intermediate). This means that you can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, which includes technical discussions of specialization. Also, it indicates that you can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without much effort. A B2 level person is able to produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue.

The C1 level

If you attain a score from 180 up to 199 you are considered to be at the C1 CEFR level. 180-192 is at the lower end of the C1 level and 193-199 is the upper end of the C1 level. This means that you are able to understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. A C1 level person can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much having to search for expressions. Additionally, a C1 level indicates that you use English flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Your grammar usage demonstrates clarity, control and detail along with being well-structured on a variety of complex subjects.

Getting ready for the CAE

You will need to practice often and effectively. To do so, time management skills along with good test preparation materials are crucial. There are numerous books and online materials that will be of benefit. Below are some suggestions on what to do.

Speaking preparation

Taking a course at a language school is a good start, but closer to your test date, hire a tutor for more intensive practice and feedback.

Listening preparation

Listen a lot and listen often, but make sure that you listen to materials that are at your level. There are abundant materials on news sites such as the BBC Learning English website.

Reading preparation

Read widely and read often. Read newspapers online, advertisements, reviews, letters, etc. to get used to the variety of readings that you may encounter.

Use of English

A good grammar book or website with exercises helps a lot. A class at a language school is beneficial, too. Keep notes of problem areas that you have and review these areas.

Writing preparation

Practice writing at a language school or with a tutor. Read over model answers and see how the writers have dealt with the topics and formats. You will need to get used to writing within a limited time frame. Remember some keys points when writing:

  • Level of formality of the text (formal, informal, mixed)
  • Aim of the text
  • Pattern of organization of the text
  • Watch your word limit

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