CAE Mon/Weds and Tues/Thurs – Summer Study Ideas

Hi to all CAE-ers studying @ IHSC,

If I haven’t seen you for a while, I hope the college exams went well and that the summer has got off to a good start.

I promised those of you who I saw during the last weeks of term that I’d post some tips and ideas for continuing your CAE preparation during the summer.  If you’re hoping to do the exam this year or at some point in 2013, it’s well worth using a bit of your free time this summer to revise things we’ve looked at during the year and try out a few new things too.  Hopefully a few of the ideas here will appeal.

Don’t be daunted or put off by the number of options here.  I’m not expecting you to do all or even half of them!  Just scan through the page and pick a handful that appeal to you.

If you have any other ideas, share them with your classmates on this page in the comments box.

Using your course book

Why not take some time to do a few of the activities we didn’t get round to doing in class (or any that may have been set for homework that slipped off your radar)?

The review sections at the end of each unit would be a good place to start.  If you want to check any answers before courses resume in September, feel free to pop into the school where you can borrow the answer key.

School resources

As students of the school you are most welcome to come in during the summer and make use of any materials we can make available.  We’re open throughout July and September.

Course book resources online

If you have Internet access, it’s well worth taking a look at the online activities that accompany our course book CAE Result by Oxford University Press.  There are vocabulary record and practice pdfs, grammar practice worksheets, exam practice activities and links to other sites on the web.  The main menu page has links to all these:  CAE Result Online  You can also revisit texts we worked on during the year and use them for building up exam skills by using this textbuilder tool.

Oxford University Press/Oxford English Testing also has some free sample CAE practice.  You can do a Paper 3, Use of English test by clicking the CAE Sample on the left of this link.

Here’s a Cambridge University Press/Cambridge Exams online practice test sample.

Reading – Literature / Film

If you enjoy literature, think about reading one or both of the set texts for the CAE exam in 2012 and 2013.

This would give you an extra option in the writing paper where questions are asked about these books.

The two texts are:

William Golding: Lord of the Flies 


P D James: The Lighthouse

Try before you read.

You can read the opening pages of The Lighthouse here on Amazon by clicking the “Look inside” link on the cover image.

While you read these opening pages, think about how the writer tries to build up the readers’ interest in the mystery.  Also, compare the two worlds that are described – London and Combe Island – how do they compare?  How do you imagine Combe would look?  If you were looking for a location for a film version of the book what kind of place would you need?  What about the main character, Dalgleish?  What do we learn about him in the opening pages?

As far as Lord of the Flies is concerned, you might want to get hold of a film version.  There might be one on You Tube.

If you do choose to study Lord of the Flies, you might want to take a look at this BBC Education page which has some activities designed for teenagers reading this text as part of the UK National Curriculum in preparation for GCSE (national exams for 16 year-olds).

If you decide to read one of these books, let me know and I’ll put together a new post with some CAE-type questions for the set texts.  There’s also some advice for working on these type of questions in the course book (use the contents page writing column and look for “set texts.”)

Exam skills online – Use of English

Try this word formation activity on suffixes from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English site.

Various activities for CAE preparation from Flo-Joe.

Exam English Use of English Part 1 activity.  There are more activities available on this site.

My Place for language learning is a blog with free CAE-style Use of English practice activities.

My colleague over at teflgeek, provided this excellent resource page for CAE teachers but you’ll also find some links to exam practice material you could use there.


There are writing activities in the course book that we either haven’t used during the course to date because we used alternatives from different sources or because you didn’t have time to do them!  Have a look through your book and try out some of those.

For advice on writing letters, take a look at this page, CAE Exam – Writing Letters

It’s also worth reading, analyzing the writing style and noting down useful phrases from) the type of texts you may need to write in the CAE exam.  For analyzing the writing style, think about the intended audience for the text – who is written for?  What’s the balance between writing to inform, entertain, put forward an opinion, writing to persuade etc.

Although these don’t cover all the text types, here are a few ideas you could explore:


  • A BBC review of a concert by The Stone Roses and A Guardian review of the same concert
  • Album reviews by readers of The Guardian newspaper.  You can even submit your own reviews for publication online here.
  • Anthony Lane is a respected and entertaining film critic with The New Yorker.  His film reviews menu page is here.  Mark Kermode, UK Film critic’s BBC Blog.  There are lots of other film reviews available online.  Next time you watch a movie, search for reviews about it in English online and read two or three of them.  Did you have any opinions about the film in common with what the critics wrote about the movie?  What did you agree or disagree with?
  • 100 word reviews are condensed, easy-to-read film, event, restaurant etc. reviews.  What a great place to pick up phrases used for reviewing a variety of things.
  • These days travel sites, commercial or non-commercial, are full of guest reviews of hotels. You could visit sites like Tripadvisor, search for hotels in Coimbra and note down any useful phrases used in the reviews for hotels in the area.
  • Look for customer reviews in English of tourist attractions in Portugal that you have visited.  Do the customers share any similar opinions to you?  What phrases / structures do they use to do this?  Do these make the review formal, informal or somewhere in between?


  • If you’re in the Tues/Thurs group you will remember using pictures from a review into the state of zoos in Portugal by an animal welfare NGO, Born Free.  This link takes you to the report they produced.  The complete text is very long but taking a look at a few pages will give you a taste for the style of writing used in reports.  Notice the range of structures used for making recommendations, justifying reasons for these, stating facts and giving opinions.
  • Surfers against sewage is a campaigning organisation which is trying to protect coastal and sea areas from pollution.  It has produced reports such as this Sustainable Guide to Surfing  which is written in a fairly direct tone to an audience of surf enthusiasts.  It might be interesting to skim through the text looking at how the information is ordered in preparation for the conclusions at the end.
  • Remember the UK Riots last summer?  Here’s a summary of the report presented to the UK government:  After the riots – The final report of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel.  Skim through this text and look at how they present their findings and recommendations.  Do you think any of the problems/solutions they talk about here are also relevant to Portuguese society?
  •  Portuguese government tourism proposal – National Strategic Plan for Tourism.  The summary of the proposals on this page seems to have been written for tourist industry experts and is pretty difficult for me to get my head round.  Either that or it’s not to clearest of translations.  Can you make out the main points of each section?  Find the Portuguese version of the same text.  Is it any clearer to you?  What about trying to rewrite the proposals in more conventional language?  e.g.
3.  Development of distinctive and innovative content: requires the development of Portuguese traditional content, associated to the History of Portugal, literature or music, together with ensuring suitable conditions for enjoyment of the Portuguese cultural and gastronomic offer, making it possible to offer distinctive and innovative experiences to tourists who select Portugal as a holiday destination.  (
My version…
It is recommended that Portuguese tourism reflects the country’s rich history, culture and gastronomy.  By offering these elements to our visitors we will offer them a distinctive and innovative experience that will not only be fondly remembered but also repeated again in the future.
  • An economic proposal.  I wish I could fully follow all the arguments put forward but the introduction to this proposal by two economists (with links to the University of Coimbra) is clear and concise in setting out the problem the proposal seeks to address.  A Modest Proposal for Resolving the Eurozone Crisis, Version 3.0.
Information sheets/contributions to longer pieces
  • Not so much an information sheet but a brochure.  This is a survival guide for Erasmus students coming to Coimbra.  Notice the tone and style of the text and try to extend one of the sections with more information or write an extra section for the piece on something you think visitors should know about.
  • Travel guide texts.  You have written these during the course but it might be worth searching out some travel guides on the web about Coimbra.  You can find some links on this blog at this post and some links to travel videos here.
  • Planning a gap year.  This page from the BBC is a bit like an information sheet.  It gives advice to parents whose sons and daughters want to take a year off from studying between school/college and university (a gap year).  You could try to replicate features of this text by writing a guide to a different audience, e.g. young people about gap year options.
  • Take a look at any of the sites below which aim to curate a collection of links to well-written quality articles.  The opening lines to the articles are given on the pages.  Without clicking through.  Find a selection that you would be interesting in reading more about.  Then, consider why?  Was it just the topic or was it something to do with the opening lines?  Did the writer manage to grab your attention in the first few words?  What techniques did the writers use to do this?  Make a list of such techniques and experiment with them by writing the opening lines to a few articles on topics of your choice.  Which do you think were most successful?  Of course, if your interest in the article was sufficiently aroused, click-through the link and read more!
  • Nearly 100 pieces of fantastic journalism – best non-fiction of 2010 chosen by The Atlantic
  • Longform – best of 2011 (Slate magazine)
  • Most shared articles on Facebook in 2011 – this doesn’t give you any opening lines but you can repeat the above activity focusing on the titles alone.
  • Give me something to read – best of 2010
  • Give me something to read – best of 2011
  • Some advice on essay writing for UK GCSE (16 years, national exams) students from the BBC:  Discursive writing
  • The next two are links to free sample chapters from Academic English course material by Cambridge University Press, The Essay and DELTA publishing, Academic Objectives Writing Skills.  They are very detailed and designed for students studying at university in English, but the tips and language points might help you get to grips with this kind of writing.
 All this reading is fine but nothing helps you get better at writing than actually writing and getting feedback on your writing!  So, let me know what kind of texts you’d like to practice if the options in the course book don’t inspire you and I’ll post some up on the blog.  If you’d like me to read through your texts, send me a copy and I’ll try to get some brief feedback back to you.

Online dictations / listening

Dictations Archive (Macmillan)  The audio files on this site from Macmillan English Dictionaries can be opened by left clicking the file.  You could try using them in various ways:

  • complete dictations – try to transcribe everything you hear
  • note taking – listen and note down the key points made about the topic
  • summarizing – listen as many times as necessary without taking any notes and then write down a summary of what you think the key points are
  • for building word maps – listen and note down words/phrases related to the topic
After listening, you can open a copy of the transcript and compare/modify what you wrote down with the original.  Don’t be put off by the fact that the activities are labelled Upper-Intermediate, the activities above should still present enough of a challenge and the language used is very relevant for C1/Advanced learners.


Word combinations/collocations game from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Spelling and pronunciation game from Macmillan

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Filed under C1 / CAE Writing, C1+ Vocabulary, C1/CAE - Use of English

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