Certificate of Proficiency in English

Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) Changes 2013

The CPE or Cambridge Proficiency in English exam, the most advanced test from Cambridge ESOL is changing from March 2013 so, if you are preparing for the test, be careful when choosing study materials or preparation courses. While the difficulty level of the exam remains the same as before (i.e. level C2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language), the structure of the exam is quite different, particularly with regard to the Reading and Use of English Papers, which are now to be combined.

In this post, we will detail the changes which take effect from this year, and explain what you can now expect when taking the exam.

CPE Changes 2013

The CPE exam has always been a test of mental stamina as much as a test of English. The old format of the exam, which survived unaltered for the best part of 14 years, was 6 hours long. 5 hours of that was spent in complete silence completing the Reading, Writing and Use of English papers with durations of 90, 120 and 90 minutes respectively. This always favoured certain type of student with a particularly academic approach to working. The new exam, combining the Reading and Use of English papers into one, 90 minute paper, as well as reducing the duration of the writing paper to 90 minutes from its previous 180, has cut the entire exam duration to a little under 4 hours. The speaking exam has also been cut by 3 minutes making the actual exam duration 3 hours and 56 minutes.

Reading and Use of English Changes

All parts of the old Reading Paper have survived the changes to some extent, although some parts now contain fewer texts and questions. For example, the old part one, which consisted of 3 short texts and 18 questions, now consists of just one text with 10 questions.

The Use of English test, in being combined with the Reading paper has lost the old parts 3 and 5, while the number of questions in the other parts has increased slightly. The new test features are as follows:

Timing: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Number of Questions: 53
Length of Texts: 2,900 – 3,400 in total

CPE Writing Changes

The main changes to the Writing Paper come in Part 1, which remains compulsory, where candidates are now required to read two approximately 100-word texts and then write an essay summarising and evaluating the key ideas of the texts. The focus of the task is discursive and the word count required is 240-280, compared with 300-350 in the old CPE Writing paper Part 1.

In Part 2, the only changes are the omission of the possibility of a “Proposal” being one of the optional tasks, and a reduction of the word count to 280-320 (from a previous 300-350). The test features are as follows:

Timing: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Number of Questions: Candidates complete 2 questions, part 1 being compulsory while choosing one from a choice of 4 in Part 2.
Total Word Count: 520-600
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CPE Listening Changes

The listening exam remains 40 minutes long but now contains 2 extra questions with the total number of questions now being 30.

Part 1 is slightly reduced with only 3 short extracts with 2 comprehension questions each, rather than the old 4 extracts. Therefore, part 1 is now 6 questions long as opposed to 8 as before.

Parts 2 and 3 of the CPE listening remain the same as before but part 4 has changed completely. Part 4 now consists of a multiple matching task with a structure precisely the same as the final part of the CAE listening exam. There are 5 short monologues and 10 querstions. This is the task where candidates must do two things simultaneously For example, they may have to deduce the profession of each speaker based on what they say while at the same time identifying which option, from a list, best reflects one of the points expressed in the given monologue. As mentioned, the task is precisely the same format as the final task in the Cambridge Advanced Exam so take a look at an advanced paper to understand what exactly is required here.

Timing: 40 minutes
Number of Questions: 30

Speaking Paper Changes

The speaking paper remains fundamentally the same. Part 1 is now slightly shorter with the introductory conversation reducing in length to 2 minutes meaning that candidates will likely be asked one fewer question.

Part 3 (the individual long turn and joint discussion) is also shorter, having been reduced to 10 minutes from the previous 12. Partly responsible for this reduction in duration is the omission of the open question previously addressed to each candidate in response to the other student’s answer. Previously, after candidate 1 had finished their long turn, candidate 2 was asked “What do you think?”

Now, candidate 2 will be asked to answer a question related to the topic that candidate 1 has been giving their opinion about but the question will be less vague. For example, if candidate 1 has been giving their opinion about the usefulness of certain scientific discoveries, candidate 2 may be asked to opine about which discovery has most affected the way we now live. This brings the CPE exam slightly more in line with the other Cambridge exams such as FCE and CPE, although the CPE continues to use photographic stimuli for the collaborative task rather than the long turn.

Timing: 16 minutes
Task types: Introductory conversation, collaborative picture task and Individual long turn followed by discussion.
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The CPE exam remains as complex as ever and the level of English required to be successful has not changed. However, the significant reduction in length makes ther exam more accessible and less demanding in terms of the mental stamina required.

Remember, Desktop English are specialists in Cambridge Exam preparation. Our record of helping students to pass FCE, CAE and CPE is second to none. If you need advice on any matter relating to Cambridge exams, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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