Did you know that you can google CAE answer sheets using Google Images? These are the sheets where you mark the correct answers. Have a look at them, read the instruction – it will save you time and nerves during the real exam.

Remember that the sheets are later read by a machine. It’s important to shade the lozanges well, use capital letters if necessary, not to write outside of the box etc.

The lozanges are the little boxes. You don’t just tick them – they need to be completely filled with one colour.

If in doubt, ask an invigilator during the exam – they are there to help.



Since I’ve been bombarding you with vocabulary lists lately, I think it’s time to show you yet another method of studying vocabulary – and, as what I’m covering now is CAE Writing, here is a worksheet I use to revise essay vocabulary by means of synonyms and little Post-its.

Prepare some post-its (little reusable sticky pieces of paper) with the vocabulary you wish to study. Here you can see that grouped into: verbs (with prepositions, if necessary), noun phrases (so much better than single nouns), adjectives/adverbs and linking. i suppose it’s nicer to study if you use different colours and arrangements.

Write the synonym of each word/expression directly under each piece of paper, on the large sheet. (Another way of doing this is using your language on the pieces of paper and English on the large sheet. However, personally I don’t recommend translation at the advanced level if synonyms can be used instead.)

To study, remove all pieces of paper, then stick them in the correct places. A more difficult option is to guess what’s under each piece of paper.

If you need a hint, just move the piece of paper a little bit to reveal the first letters.


If you’d like to recreate this particular worksheet, the pairs were as follows:

to lead to sth – to result in sth

to point sth out – to claim

to decline – to plummet

to grow – to soar

to distinguish – to draw a distinction

a serious disadvantage – a major drawback

important implications for sth – profound impact on sth

latest research – recent findings

the rapid growth -the significant rise

a source of sth – a trigger for sth

due to sth – owing to sth

whereas – while

mainly – largely

essential – vital

general – widespread

On the whole, … – By and large, …

It should be noted that… – It is worth bearing in mind that…

This means that… – …, which means that…

As to… – With regard to…

The main dangers are x of y, as well as nn and mm. = Apart from x of y, the main dangers are nn and mm.



As I’ve mentioned while describing Task 3 in the Reading and Use of English Paper, English word building could be roughly divided into four different kinds:

Here are some words which you should know, divided according to their word building category:

LATIN/FRENCH – advantageous, advisable, advisory, affectionate, appalling, appealing, avoidance, climatic, coherence, commemorate, completion, conceitedness, courteous, diagnosis, division, endangered, enlargement, enriched, expiry, feminine, iilliterate, immunity, indistinguishable, literacy, numerous, posthumous, rewarding

GERMANIC – acknowledge, baggy, blissfully, broaden, challenging, cookery, costly, depth, earnings, firmly, flavoured, genuinely, golden, gripping, heights, loathing, noiseless, packed, poorly, revolting, sadden, strengthen, tighten, width

COMPOUNDS – bookmark, breathtaking, broad-minded, ceasefire, deadline, footprint, freelance, get-together, half-board, highbrow, lifelong, loophole, mankind, paperwork, pig-headed, screensaver, sitcom, smart-casual, state-of-the-art, teamwork

PREPOSITIONS – backlog, downpour, feedback, off-putting, outbreak, outstanding, outlook, overcome, overrated, undercover, undermine, upgrade, withdraw, workout, worn-out


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 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.
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


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:

“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


Part 4 in Paper 1 (Reading and Use of English) of the exam are the dreaded transformations. The best tip here is simply: practice makes perfect. Transformations are a bit like maths or puzzles, so just knowing English is not enough – many English people would also have problems with them! But that’s actually good news because, once you know what forms are expected, you will do it almost automatically.

  • remember that you can’t change the word given or put more than six words in the gap
  • do as many transformation exercises as you can
  • write down the full expressions that are being tested or take note of the grammar rules involved
  • put those expressions and rules into different groups such as “phrasal verbs” or “modals”
  • with time, you will notice how they keep reappearing in various books
  • do old transformations again and again using self-made paper cards or


Some examples from Quizlet. com (if necessary, change the options of the flashcards to see the sentences first, not the answer):


In Vince you will find transformations sorted according to their grammatical theme:


This is the last list before moving on to more Use of English and Reading paper strategies. It’s aimed at everybody, not just Spanish speakers.

As I’ve mentioned before, the problem with word building is that sometimes we can make more than one noun or adjective out of the same root, for example “industrial” and “industrious”.

What’s the best method of studying those pairs? In my opinion it’s making your own noun^adj pairs dominoes. What we match (instead of sides with the same number of dots) are the pairs. In a more difficult version you not only have to match two words with the same root, but also need to explain the difference between them. For the game to make sense you need between 20 and 30 pairs.

So, what’s the difference between:

a cook – a cooker

destiny – destination

economy – economics

the end – the ending

an entry – en entrance

expectations – expectancy

base – basis

inheritance – heritage

specialty – specialization

advertising – advertisement

relationship – relation

an act – an action – an activity

scene – scenery

admission – admittance

adulthood – adultery

appliance – application

consciousness – conscience

box – boxing

camp – camping – campsite

class – classroom

closure – closeness

competition – competence

complexion – complexity

concept – conception

condition – conditions – conditioner

content – contents



childish – childlike

tasty – tasteful

funny – fun

live – alive

Arab – Arabic – Arabian

classic – classical

magic – magical

politic – political

comic – comical

historic – historical

economic – economical

deceptive – deceitful

electric – electrical (same meaning, different collocations!)

If you need more example sentences than your dictionary offers, simply take out the expression from the dictionary (e.g. “a fun way to” or “childish behaviour”) and google it in inverted commas adding if you are interested in British English only.

“a fun way to”