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.



Another way of dealing with CAE writing vocabulary, apart from mastering the synonyms from my previous post, is simply learning the following list. It comprises mainly formal words, which come up again and again in essays, reports, proposals and formal letters  Three or four of them in your piece of writing and your examiner is going to be quite impressed!

I recommend browsing three different online dictionaries to get 3-4 sentences with each of the words. It helps understanding them better. The worst thing you can do is translate each of them into your own language without any examples!

ADVERBS – strongly, fairly, quite, apparently, clearly, considerably, increasingly, pretty (as an adverb!!!), right, hopefully

ADJECTIVES – afraid (to introduce bad news), valuable, endless, likely, further, thorough, universal, ever-increasing, crucial, broad, unattainable, incapable, hazardous, cautious, commonplace, risky, challenging

VERBS – believe, fear, implement, succeed, determine, object, urge, gather, handle, aid, struggle, trigger, lead to, vary, snowball, account for

NOUNS – plenty, sample, rating, origins, issue, pace, visitor, outset, loss, means, view

LINKING – meanwhile, as well as, yet=still, since=as, needless to say, besides, while, worse still, even, even if, even though, unlike, which (especially the one preceded by a comma)

PREPOSITIONS – among, towards, within





It’s really easy. Forget about bombastic adverbs. Forget about using (yes, it is useful at times, but you need to look up each synonym in a dictionary anyway as their meanings and uses might be slightly different). You can even forget about locating the key words in your writing instructions and coming up with their synonyms so that you don’t repeat anything from the instructions in your writing (well, it would be great, but it might be tricky).

Just avoid the following general words and use their equivalents that fit the context and register (formal/informal):

  • happy – pleased, glad, delighted
  • important – crucial, vital, of utmost importance, worthwhile
  • difficult – challenging, tough, tricky, a hurdle, a struggle
  • great – superb, outstanding, amazing, brilliant
  • bad – terrible, horrible, awful, a nightmare, quite bad, not up to the standard, disappointing, non-existent, unsatisfactory
  • interesting – fascinating, memorable, fun, mind-blowing, enriching
  • dangerous – risky, hazardous, be in danger of, run the risk of
  • excited – thrilled, ecstatic, over the moon, extremely pleased
  • angry – mad, furious, not particularly impressed by, I’m afraid to inform you


  • think – suppose, guess, reckon, feel, believe, assume, hope
  • like – enjoy, to be a keen x, to have a great time doing something
  • hate – loathe, detest, avoid, try not to
  • recommend – suggest, (strongly) advise, my tip would be to, you had better
  • show, explain – present, highlight, outline
  • going to do something – thinking of doing something, planning to, intent to, look forward to doing something
  • meet – get to know somebody, arrange a meeting, make an appointment, meet up, catch up


  • people – visitors, foreigners, holidaymakers, local inhabitants, the public, the audience, hotel guests, hordes, fellow students, commuters, citizens, peers
  • problem – difficulties, struggle, hurdle, setback, issue


On the day of taking your CAE exam, you write the Reading and Use of English Paper first and then, after a short break, it’s time for the Writing paper: an essay and another piece of writing (a report, a proposal, a review or some kind of letter – you get three options to choose from) in 90 minutes.

90 minutes! When many of you need something like two hours to prepare, write and correct ONE piece of writing at home! Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies to help you. Frankly, writing is the easiest, most controllable part of the exam – if you prepare well – and if you know HOW to prepare.

My strategies for how to prepare in general are as follows:

  1. Study a lot (see my future posts) remembering that this is the only paper for which you can actually learn (almost) EVERYTHING.
  2. Not only write, but also read CAE writings.
  3. Ask your teacher to correct only the most difficult mistakes in your writing. The rest he or she should just underline and say whether it’s a grammar/ register/ punctuation/ etc. mistake. Your teacher should teach you how to correct your mistake, where to look for the answers – not just to write something wrong and then throw it away without even trying to understand his/her corrections.
  4. Study the vocabulary you need for CAE writing, collecting words and expressions from various examples of CAE writing.
  5. Once you’ve written a few examples of each genre, start writing with a time limit.
  6. If you don’t usually write in hand, start doing it on everyday basis to get faster and avoid muscle pain in your hand.
  7. Don’t try to be creative – it’s better to stick to fixed expressions and it’s OBLIGATORY to stick to the expected form of each genre. CAE writing is about practice, not talent.


In the exam:

  1. As I said, don’t try to be creative – just follow the form of each genre using the expressions and adverbs you have learned (more on those in my future posts).
  2. Don’t write a draft to be copied at the end of the exam – you might run out of time! It’s better to write clearly and in relatively small letters, so that, when you cross things out, you have space to insert your corrections. Don’t use erasable pens – they are forbidden. Also, don’t write on the margins – all writings get scanned and the margins might not be visible on the scan.


My rules for the content of your writing are (I’m going to explain them in detail in future posts):

  1. Follow the form expected of each writing genre (like the number and content of the paragraphs).
  2. Use linking words (but only one or two per sentence – English formal sentences are not as long as, say, Spanish ones).
  3. Use fixed expressions, adequate for a given genre.
  4. Use adverbs (but not too many, usually 4-7 are enough).
  5. Use synonyms instead of the most common words (nice, people, many, like…).
  6. Avoid informal vocabulary in a formal piece of writing (“a lot of”, for example, is informal, as well as all contractions such as “don’t”). Using passive voice is a great way of making your writing more formal.
  7. Proofread.

This is exactly how you go about it: read the instructions; decide how many paragraphs you will need; decide how to start and link the paragraphs; find some key words in the instructions and prepare a couple of synonyms for each; write the piece; sprinkle it with adverbs; finally, proofread trying to watch out for repetitions and informal vocabulary. You have 45 minutes!


Some years ago in Poland I wrote and ran two courses for real estate agents, which were certified by Polish Ministry of Infrastructure. Since I’m not going to do that ever again, I’ve decided to make the materials public.

The following downloads are: a set of intermediate exercises in English for Polish real estate agents, a Polish-English real estate dictionary and a set of advanced texts on real estate topics followed by exercises and a revision of the first set.

Angielski dla posrednikow – cwiczenia

Angielski dla posrednikow – slownik

Angielski dla posrednikow – cwiczenia cz. 2


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


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 are good, too: