CAE: READING – TIPS (5)

Part 8 (the last one) of the Reading and Use of English paper looks like a mess – 10 statements that you need to match to several short texts. Believe me, no matter how good your English is, you must know exactly what to do and in what order. With so little time on your hands (especially as it’s the last task) it’s easy to get lost in your own notes, frustrated and panicky.

For example, if you read the 10 statements first, there is no way you are going to remember them while reading the first text.

This is what I recommend:

  1. Read the first text.
  2. Start reading the statements.
  3. If you see a match, underline the fragment of the text that matches the statement.
  4. Put the number of the statement next to it.
  5. Then, of course, put the letter assigned to the text next to the statement.
  6. Finally, cross out the statement, not to read it (involuntarily at least) again.
  7. Go on reading the text and looking for matches.
  8. Each text is usually related to 2-4 statements.

This is the strategy. As to the vocabulary involved or your reading skills as such, as I said before, take notice of what kinds of texts actually appear in the exam (quite serious, aren’t they?), then read A LOT.

You don’t need to study vocabulary while reading – you’ll probably just get frustrated by seeing so many new words or having to stop so often to look something up. What you can do (if you are reading for fun and not working on your exam strategies or reading speed for the exam) is focus on the expressions that you understand but you wouldn’t use them yourself. The “oh, so this is how you say this” expressions. You can underline them and collect in a separate section of your notebook. Then you can study them – and by study I don;t mean reading them again and again. My favourite method, Cinderella, (little pieces of paper) is described here, but Cinderella on voice recorder or quizlet.com are good, too:

https://lacurban.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/how-to-study-vocabulary-1-cinderella/

CAE: READING – TIPS (4)

The third reading task in the exam is Task 7 in the Reading and Use of English Paper: a single long text from which six fragments have been removed so that you must match each gap with one of the seven fragments provided (yes, one is fake!).
In my opinion, this is the most difficult part of the whole exam – if I ever make any mistakes myself in the exam, it’s here. I suppose it’s because sometimes (although it usually happens in course books and not in the exam as such) the task writer got too subjective while removing a fragment and it is only him or her that can see the match.
Don’t worry. however. As I said, it usually happens with course book materials, and although it’s frustrating to have absolutely no idea why the answer to the question is D and not G, there are plenty of other tasks in the exam for which you can get really well prepared.  Also, remember, that you don’t need to pass each paper to pass the whole exam and that you only need 60% to pass.
My procedure for Task 7 is the following:
1. Read the text until the first gap. Have a look at a sentence or two that follow the gap. What information is missing? Maybe there is a “he” or an “it” right after the gap and you don’t know who or what that is?
2. Read the fragments provided, trying to find the right one.
3. In theory there is something just before or just after each gap that matches something in the fragment that fits in.
4. If you think you have a match, mark the gap with a correct letter, then cross out the fragment you have used, and finally, highlight or underline the adequate fragments in the text and in the fragment.
5. If you are not sure, move on to the next gap immediately. Don’t waste your time on thinking at this point. Come back to the gap at the end of the task or the whole paper.
6. If you still have no idea and the time is running out, just choose any letter from the ones left – you might be lucky. Just remember to do this on the answering sheet and not in the text!

 

CAE: READING – TIPS (3)

The second reading task in the exam is Task 6 in the Reading and Use of English Paper: four short texts about a similar topic, followed by four questions which focus on the opinions presented in the texts.

First, read the first question.

If the question says something like “which author shares author N’s opinion on x”, you need to go to text N, find the opinion on x, highlight or underline it, then find the opinion on x in the other three texts and compare the attitudes.

If the question says something like “which author has a different opinion on x than the others”, you need to find the opinion on x in all four texts, highlight or underline it, then compare the attitudes.

As you can see, you only read all texts in a normal way if have some extra time at the end of the Reading and Use of English Paper.

CAE: READING – TIPS (2)

The first reading task in the exam is Task 5 in the Reading and Use of English Paper: six questions about a text, each question followed by four answers to choose from.

My tips for task 5 are:

  1. Usually there is one question per paragraph, so read the first question (but not the answers) and then start reading the text until you find a passage that looks like a possible answer. Compare the passage with the four options you’ve got and make a choice. Underline or highlight the passage that helped you for further reference. Then read question 2 and keep on reading.
  2. If you’ve finished reading without answering all the questions, move to Task 6 anyway. It will save you time. Go back to problematic questions after finishing the whole paper.
  3. Don’t choose one of the answers just because it contains some words or information from the text – it’s usually a trap! You need to really understand the text.
  4. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the words in the text. This is not a vocabulary exercise and difficult vocabulary is rarely tested in the questions.

 

How to get prepared for Task 5? (apart from studying English in general)

  1. Read a lot, in any language, especially if you are a slow reader.
  2. Do examples of Task 5, giving yourself around 10 minutes. If it’s impossible, start with 20 or 15 minutes, then slowly reduce that time.

Personally, I don’t like doing Reading tasks online. The following books are a good source of sample exams. If you can’t afford new books, don’t worry – most Reading and Use of English tasks didn’t change their format in the 2015 revisions, so you can buy old, cheaper editions of the books, maybe even second-hand ones:

https://www.bookdepository.com/Ready-for-Advanced-3rd-Edition-Students-Book-with-Key-Pack–Audio—MPO-Amand-French-Roy-Norris/9780230463677?ref=grid-view&qid=1491832319038&sr=1-1

https://www.bookdepository.com/Advanced-Trainer-Six-Practice-Tests-with-answers-and-downloadable-audio-Felicity-ODell-Michael-Black/9783125329317?ref=grid-view&qid=1491832355070&sr=1-4

https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=cambridge+advanced+practice+tests&search=Find+book

CAE: READING – TIPS (1)

What you read in English could be roughly divided into six categories:

  1. What you read at/for work
  2. What you read for fun
  3. What you read to prepare for the exam writing paper
  4. The exam reading tasks you do at home/school under exam conditions (=fast!)
  5. The exam reading tasks you do at home/school but more slowly than during the exam, analysing things
  6. What you read to prepare for the exam but usually doesn’t belong to numbers 1-5

Now, let me explain the points above.

Some think that everything we read in English prepares us for the Advanced exam, but it’s not really the case.

If at work you only read informal emails OR formal emails written by foreigners making mistakes OR very technical texts full of specilised vocabulary – it’s not really exam preparation.

If for fun you only read celebrity gossip OR blogs about cycling OR (sadly and surprisingly) novels – it’s not really exam preparation.

Also, if to prepare for the exam you only do reading tasks SLOWLY – it’s not really exam preparation.

Ideally, you should do point 5 and then, after a few weeks/months, point 4. Additionally, (if you are lucky, you do it at work or for fun) you should read real texts similar to those found in the exam, but not exam tasks. Little by little, this should become part of your everyday life – in a way, Cambridge wants you to act like an educated British person and start reading intelligent articles on everyday basis. Same goes for listening.

Here’s were you can find your reading matter. Don’t focus on the news! Read the lifestyle, culture, science and tech sections, too (but skip sports and celebrity gossip).

https://www.theguardian.com/international

http://www.bbc.com/news

http://www.economist.com/

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/

Of course you can also follow all of the above on Facebook.

Remember to read – and do nothing else. You can’t study every text you read. And if you really must – focus on the vocabulary you know but in full expressions. Translating every word will only tire you out and frustrate you – and some of them are going to be too difficult for the advanced level anyway.

 

EXTRACTING EXPRESSIONS FROM EXAM TASKS

The advantage of extracting expressions (to study) from a real exam task (rather then a random article) is that it is going to have more expressions that are adequate for the CAE exam level.

Here is a task from a very useful website http://www.flo-joe.co.uk/ It’s a Use of English Part 2 task.

Stress (0) is often called a 21st century illness but it has always been with us if perhaps with different names. These days we regard stress (1) as a necessary evil of modern living. Yet stress is not negative and without (2) it we would not enjoy some of the high points in life (3) such as the anticipation before a date or the tension leading up to an important match. All these situations produce stress but (4) provided/if you can control it and not the other way around, you will feel stimulated, not worn out. However, unlike these situations, (5) which are generally positive and easier to deal with, sitting in a train that is running late, (6) being stuck in a traffic jam or working to a tight deadline are much harder to manage and control and can be a significant cause of stress.
Stre
ss is now recognised as a medical problem and as a significant factor (7) in causing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and a high cholesterol count. Patients are often unwilling to admit to stress problems since they feel they are a form of social failure and it is important that symptoms (8) are/get identified in order to avoid unnecessary suffering.

 

My initial notes (that I should later copy into different sections of my notebook):

0. to be called sth

1 to regard sth as sth

2 Remember that sometimes we need an “it” in English where we don’t need it in other languages e.g. “I like it when you hug me”.

3 such as = for example = like (informal!)

4 provided = if

5 comma + “which” (an additional comment about something).

6 to be stuck in a traffic jam – I hate being stuck in a traffic jam (stick-stack-stuck)

7 a (significant) factor in sth/ing

8 easy

EXTRACTING EXPRESSIONS FROM TEXTS

Whenever you want to study the material from a given Use of English exercise, it’s a good idea to write down the full expressions that are being tested or take note of the grammar rules involved. By “full expressions” I mean the sort of expressions that appear in dictionaries.

You can also try to start noticing these expressions while reading for fun (you won’t have time for that if you are reading an exam Reading exercise). A word of caution though – you still need to read the types of texts that appear in the exam, i.e. mainly serious newspaper articles. A great source is The Guardian online.

First, let’s see how it is done with a normal text. At some later point, I’ll post about how to do it with Use of English exercises.

Here’s an article from The Guardian followed by my notes:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/04/spotify-universal-albums-premium-subscribers-only

“New albums from some Universal Music artists will be available only to premium Spotify subscribers for the first two weeks of release, the two companies have announced. The deal means that for the first time ever, users of Spotify’s ad-supported free tier will not have access to the full catalogue of music on the streaming service. Instead, they will have to choose between paying up – the paid-for tier begins at £9.99 a month – or waiting another two weeks. Universal Music artists include Beck, Lorde, Katy Perry and Kanye West, as well as thousands of others. The streaming service says that artists can choose whether or not windowing applies to their work. The move, first rumoured in March, sees Spotify abandon its long-held stance that all music should be available to free subscribers, to encourage more people to sign up and then potentially convert them to a paid subscription down the line. Daniel Ek, chairman and chief executive of Spotify, said: “This partnership is built on a mutual love of music, creating value for artists and delivering for fans. We will be working together to help break new artists and connect new and established artists with a broadening universe of fans in ways that will wow them both.” Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group, said: “Today, streaming represents the majority of the business. Our challenge is transforming that upturn into sustainable growth. In a market this dynamic, one evolving more rapidly than ever before, success requires creative and continual re-evaluation of how best to bring artists’ music to fans.” Spotify’s largest competitors, including Apple Music and Tidal, do not have free tiers though both services allow time-limited free trials.”

1. release and rumour (noun = verb)

2. bla bla bla, someone have announced.

3. something happens for the first time ever

4. at £9.99 (the preposition used with prices is “at”)

5. x, y, z, as well as bla bla bla. (list-making)

6. to be able to choose whether or not + a sentence/ infinitive

7. broaden (verb), broad (adjective)

8. growth (noun), grow (verb)

9. competitor, competition, to compete

10.  though = although (but can be used at the end of sentences, too)

Now, if you have a well-organised notebook, you can copy the above expressions and structures into different sections:

word building: 1, 7, 8, 9

linking or writing: 5, 6, 10

tenses (Present Perfect): 2

time expressions: 3

prepositional phrases: 4