Languages, Posts in English

How To Prepare For Cambridge Proficiency

The Basics

The Cambridge Assessment English Proficiency exam is targeted at Level C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Considered the fact that it assesses a very advanced knowledge of the English language, a proper preparation is extremely important. Also known as Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency, the exam consists of four papers:

  • Reading and Use of English (90 minutes);
  • Writing (90 minutes);
  • Listening (40 minutes);
  • Speaking (16 minutes per pair of candidates).

You can find further information on the exam format on the Cambridge English Assessment website.

The minimum score to pass the exam and, therefore, obtain a C2-level qualification, is 200 out of 230. Depending on your score, you get Grade A (220-230 points), B (213-219 points) or C (200-212 points). However, if your overall score is between 180 and 199, you will receive a C1-level certificate.

Are you ready?

Unsure about your current English proficiency level? You can take a free online test to find out which exam would be most suitable for you. As far as C2 Proficiency is concerned, Cambridge English Assessment recommends it to adult learners who have reached Level C1, no matter whether you took C1 Advanced (or a similar exam) or not.

Preparation materials

A good starting point is definitely a book with exam-like exercises. For example, I’ve been using Objective Proficiency, but there are also similar books, like Proficiency Masterclass and Expert Proficiency.

However, you won’t find much grammar in those books, because you’re supposed to have mastered basic grammar rules when you reach Level C1. Therefore, as far as advanced English grammar is concerned, you can use specific books, such as Advanced Grammar in Use and Destination C1 & C2.

Familiarsing with the exam format is of fundamental importance. In order to achieve this goal, you can use practice test books (like this one), or download free practice tests from the Cambridge English Assessment website.

Another useful book is Common Mistakes at Proficiency, which is about grammar rules or aspects that Proficiency candidates might find tricky.

In addition, preparation for this high-level exam also includes studying collocations, idioms, phrasal verbs, and expanding your range of vocabulary. The “In Use” series by Cambridge University Press can serve this purpose: Collocations / Phrasal Verbs / Idioms / Vocabulary.

Now you’re probably asking yourself this question: “Shall I buy all these books?” Not necessarily.

No matter how many books you’re using, don’t forget to practise in other ways (i.e. talking to native speakers, watching TV shows and films in English, reading magazines and novels in English, etc.) as much as possible. Practice makes perfect.

Useful online resources