The longest established and highest language qualification in this series. It indicates a level of competence and is recognised by institutions of higher education in many countries, including almost all universities in the United Kingdom. Employers throughout the world also recognise CPE.
Please note that from 2013, Cambridge English: Proficiency will move from the current five paper format to a new four paper format, with papers for Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Candidates can still enter the current exam until December 2012.
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Reading (1 hour and 30 minutes)
This component has 4 parts with different types of texts and questions, with about 350-750 words per text.Tasks include multiple-choice lexical cloze, gapped text, multiple choice. Candidates should show their knowledge of collocations, idioms, fixed phrases, be able to identify detail, opinion, attitude, tone, purpose etc., understand the structure, organisation, development and the global meaning of a text. Reading carries 20% of the total marks.
Writing (1 hour and 30 minutes)
This component consists of 2 parts, both carry equal marks. Each task has a given purpose and a target reader.
- Compulsory task – using information from a given text, you may have to write an article, an essay, a letter or a proposal; length: 300-350 words.
- Choice from 4 questions. Length: 300-350 words. Based upon a given text describing a situation, you will be asked to write an article, a letter, a proposal, a report or a review.
Last question of the four is a task based on one of the two prescribed reading texts. You have a choice of three tasks 5 (a), 5 (b) or 5 (c) for this question. You may have to write an article, an essay, a letter, a report or a review; the CPE set texts for 2012 and 2013 are the following:
Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees (2002); film directed by Gina Prince-Byrewood (2008)
Teachers may choose to prepare candidates for questions on this set text by studying the film as well as, or instead of, the novel.
Harold Pinter: The Birthday Party (1958)
Writing carries 20% of the total marks.
Use of English (1 hour and 30 minutes)
This component consists of 5 parts with total of 44 questions. Candidates are expected to show their knowledge of lexis, grammar and vocabulary (phrases and collocations, shades of meaning, phrasal verbs etc.) by completing a number of tasks including gapped sentences, open cloze, word formation, key word transformations, comprehension questions and summary writing task. Use of English carries 20% of the total marks.
Listening (40 minutes)
This component consists of 4 parts. Candidates have to listen for gist, detail, feeling, opinion, purpose, specific information, main ideas, attitude, etc. Tasks include multiple choice, sentence completion, multiple matching. Listening carries 20% of the total marks.
Speaking (19 minutes per pair of candidates)
This component consists of 3 parts. It includes speaking on your own as well as conversation with the examiner and discussion with the other candidate in a pair. You should be able to express and justify your opinion on various topics, talk on your own, exchange ideas, take part in a discussion (suggesting, speculating, agreeing/disagreeing), compare, evaluate, make a decision, develop a topic. Speaking carries 20% of the total marks.
What grades can I receive?
Candidates receive a standardised score for the whole exam on a fixed scale out of 100. It is not necessary to achieve a satisfactory level in all five papers in order to pass the examination. There are fixed values for each CPE grade:
Grade A = 80-100
Grade B = 75-79
Grade C = 60-74
Level C1 = 45-59
Fail = 0-44
The minimum score you need to achieve a passing grade is 60. If you have achieved grade A, B or C in your exam, you will receive the Certificate of Proficiency in English at Level C2. If your performance is below Level C2, but falls within Level C1, you will receive a Cambridge English certificate stating that you demonstrated ability at C1 level.
Textbooks for exam preparation:
- Objective Proficiency (CUP)
- New Progress to Proficiency (CUP)
- Common Mistakes at Proficiency (CUP)
- Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English 1-5 (Past Papers) (CUP)
- Proficiency Masterclass (OUP)
- Towards Proficiency (OUP)
- CPE Practice Tests (OUP)
- New Proficiency Gold (Pearson Longman)
- New Proficiency Passkey (Macmillan)
- New Proficiency Testbuilder (Macmillan)