As spring arrives so does the home-run towards your CAE and PCE English exam. It can be hard to identify the best way to study for these high-level English exams, so we’ve outlined some helpful tips to ensure you show up prepared and confident!

  1. Studying is holistic

At this level, the best way to study is to understand how everything feeds into one-another. You need to study grammar, but you need to be able to identify how to use it in the exam. You need advanced knowledge of fixed expressions, collocations and every-day English, so reading is going to be essential. Reading, in turn, will help you form opinions to use in your speaking exam and identify different tones and formats for your writing exam. See? It’s all connected.

  1. Grammar Study

It’s boring, we know, but you need to double-down on your advanced grammar. The examiner is going to want to see that you can demonstrate your knowledge in some particularly difficult concepts such as: inversion, passive voice, compound adjectives – the list goes on, you can see it here:

As each week goes by, take one subject and do some practice so it’s fresh in your mind come exam time.

  1. Transformations

Transformations can be the most difficult aspect of the exam, so we’ve dedicated an entire point to it. Grammar is very important here, and if you study your advanced grammar you will be half-way there. What you really need to study are fixed expressions, idioms, relative clauses and the passive. This should be within your grammar study but also, use your readings to learn them in a natural way.

  1. Topics

We don’t know what will be in the exam, but we can hazard some common topics or themes. At this level you’re expected to have a firm understanding of the world and be able to analyse and form opinions about important topics. The best way to do that is to prepare yourself and start studying what’s out there. Topics worth looking into are the future, technology, education, culture, creativity, travel and tourism, science, town planning and the changing world.

  1. Authentic readings

How are you going to learn about these topics thoroughly? Use authentic resources – articles and columns. Stay up to date with the news and try to read at least one “long read” per week. You can then use this article to identify your grammar focus of the week and learn any pertinent language associated with the topic.

Here are some of our favourite resources:

  1. Listening

Now that you’ve read up on the topic, why not dive deeper and find a listening on the same topic? You can easily find a thought-provoking piece by just typing the topic and podcast into Google:

“Future cities, podcast”.

You can then practice by writing down new language and the main points of the podcast. If you do this, the listening of the exam will be a piece of cake.

  1. Speaking

This is the main reason authentic resources are so important. You will need to access information and opinions quickly in the speaking exam! In the PCE you must speak for 2 minutes about a topic given to you, and in CAE you will be asked some thought provoking questions. The best way to do this? Already have some thoughts on the topic. The best way to do that? Listen and read authentic resources and know what’s happening in the world around you.

PCE tip: you will have to speak for two minutes, so we suggest practicing at home with a timer, that way you will know how long 2-minute feels and you won’t be caught short or interrupted by the interlocuter.

  1. Literature Study

Finally, a fun way to absorb advanced English without too much effort is through reading and analysing for pleasure. Choose some of the classics and read the first chapter then try to understand what the author is truly trying to say. What is important to the author? What are the characters doing? What is the setting, time and plot? In the exam you may be given a fictional piece of writing and you’ll be glad you practiced beforehand.

  1. Practice

That’s a lot to think about. The perfect study plan? Here’s our recommendation:

Study Week (3.5 hours)

Day 1:  Select a grammar rule to focus on and do practice exercises (1 hour)

Day 2: Find an authentic reading based on one topic and analyse it. See if you can identify the use of your grammar rule within. Highlight new fixed expressions, collocations and idioms and write them down. (30 mins)

Day 3: Now it’s listening time! Find a listening for the same topic and analyse that. Write down new words and the main points the speakers are trying to make. See if you can identify the same expressions from the reading (30 mins).

Day 4: Speak up! Find some test questions (great if they relate to your topic) and try speaking and timing yourself. Can you incorporate some of your new language? (10 mins)

Day 5: Write it down. Now it’s time for all of your hard work to come together in an article, letter or other format for the exam. Use your grammar and any new language you’ve learnt (1 hour).



Reading before bed is proven to be one of the best ways to get a good kip, so why not read a classic English novel?

Test exams

Pepper this study plan with test exams and you will be right as rain in time for the exam! (20 mins)


Do you want some help? Contact us today!