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Preparing the Certificate of Proficiency in English - any recommandations?
Thread poster: Christine Schmit
Christine Schmit  Identity Verified
German to French
+ ...
Feb 26, 2007

Dear colleagues,

I am thinking of sitting the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English in a few months and I am looking for some advice.
Can anyone recommand a good self-study book to prepare for the exam?
What are the things one should most focus on? Grammar, vocabulary or other?
Any advice from people who have passed the exam is appreciated.
Thanks in advance!


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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Member (2004)
German to English
Your average native speaker would fail Proficiency! Feb 26, 2007

Get hold of past papers and practice like crazy. It's a complicated exam and nothing beats past papers. I wish you every success!

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Cristina Popescu  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
English to Romanian
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Try books published by consacrated publishers Feb 26, 2007

There are lots of books that could help you prepare for Proficiency and there would never be enough time to work through all of them, so you could just choose two or three sets. Make sure that they tackle all the papers of the exam and also that they are published by major publishers in this field, such as Longman or Macmillan.
Best of luck.

[Editat la 2007-02-26 17:07]

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Local time: 21:16
English to German
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Progress to Proficiency Feb 26, 2007

by Leo Jones.

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Gisela Herrera  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:16
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Some books Feb 26, 2007

Hi Christine!
I am also preparing to sit for Cambridge CPE. I am attending a weekly English course in which we mainly focus on grammar and writing as well as on some specific listening and speaking exercises for the exam. But as you may know, self-study is extremely important for achieving success.

CPE Use of English by Virginia Evans, Express Publishing is a highly recommended book for improving your grammar skills. It includes a theoretical presentation of the topics (e.g. verb tenses, phrasal verbs, idioms, modal verbs, etc.), related exercises and a consolidation part which is very similar to the exam paper. It can be used as a self study book because it comes with the key and all the theory you need to do the exercises is there.

I also use "Listening and Speaking Skills for the Revised CPE Exam", by Virginia Evans and Sally Scott, Express Publishing. It features Listening Tests of increasing difficulty and exam-oriented speaking practice (with audio tapes).

Although I haven't used this book yet, some classmates recommended me the "New proficiency Gold Exam Maximizer", by Richard Mann, Longman Editions. I don't know if it is intended for self study, because I found that the theory is not fully developed as in the CPE use of English, but it has the advantage that it contains practice on all the exam papers, including Listening and Speaking, and everything comes with the key.

Don't forget to focus on the writing paper, in the exam you might be asked to write descriptions, essays, reports, formal letters, etc. and there are specific skills you have to develop. I don't know about a book specially intended for CPE writing paper, but "Successful Writing" is an intermediate level book which can be useful in case you need something to begin with, and then you can move on to further practice for advanced students.

Hope you find these tips useful for you self-study plans and all the best for the exam!



[Editado a las 2007-02-26 23:42]

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Local time: 14:16
English to Spanish
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Books are not enough Feb 27, 2007

From my experience, books are not enough. I sat for the exam last December after ten months of weekly private lessons with my mother who (luckily for me) is British, an English teacher, and specializes in the CPE. We did use books all throughout the course (mainly the ones that have already been suggested in this thread), but had I depended only on them, I don't think I would have done as well as I did.

I think a teacher or private tutor is essential because although most books include answer keys, nothing can replace one-to-one feedback.

I know courses can be expensive, and private tutors even more so (I was lucky to get them for free!), but even finding someone to have a look at you writing papers and help you practise the speaking part can be very helpful.

As Gillian said, even a native speaker can fail it. The CPE will not only prove you're bilingual, it will prove you're educated (can write formal letters, reviews, etc.).

A useful tip: don't understate the speaking part. The examiner will not only expect you to be fluent and have a good pronunciation: you must prove that you have prepared for it and that you know how it works (what type of questions they're going to ask you, etc.).

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Olga Watkin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
English to Russian
Past papers is a must! Feb 27, 2007


I would also recommend to get and go through as many past papers as you can possibly do! This really helps a lot!

I actually attended a 3-month full-time course in one of the language schools in London which was very helpful. As far as I remember we used a book called something like "Proficiency Gold".

I also found "CAE Writing Skills" by Felicity O'Dell extremely useful for preparing for the writing paper (despite the fact that it is intended for a CAE exam).

Another advice: for an oral paper I would suggest choosing a book from the list (usually available on CPE website) and prepare it for the exam - this is much easier than talking about some abstract pictures they give you.

And learn as many idioms and phrasal verbs as you can - one of the papers is full of questions related to them, and this paper is the most difficult one to pass!

Good luck!

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Christine Schmit  Identity Verified
German to French
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Thank you Feb 27, 2007

Thanks a lot to all of you for your advice! I will definitely have a look at some of the books you mentioned and start practising with past papers.


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Cristina Santos  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
English to Portuguese
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Past papers Feb 27, 2007

I sat the Proficiency exam a few years ago and even though I passed I think it’s really difficult.
You can buy the past papers:

Certificate of Proficiency in English Past Papers (with answers)
Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations

Practice as much as you can and time yourself.
It’s difficult but not impossible!
Good luck

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passed it twice Feb 28, 2007

I passed Proficiency for the first time when I was 17 but I only got a C and wasn’t really happy, but I went on to do other things and ten years later decided to do it again. I passed with a B but I am still not happy (A is what I want!!), so I am planning to take it again in a couple of years.
I have used the past papers books to prepare and I find they are very useful and extremely similar to the “real papers”.
This might be useful:
CPE resources list:

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Preparing for the CPE test Jul 28

Cpe is a money making scheme. I got an A but not enough to find a good job.

I would not recommend it as it costs too much time and effort for a useless piece of paper... I showed it to my employer but my employer was not impressed! Hi said ' i see, are you still struglling with english then? ' !!!
My A grade cpe is been left to gather dust for the last 12 years!
And, by the way dont waste money on past papers as i never bothered to buy them but had no problems with test. Just concentrate on the listening bit.

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