Category Archives: C1/CAE – Use of English

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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CAE Mon/Weds, Tues/Thus – Vocabulary revision – 6 phrasal verbs

Some revision of 6 phrasal verbs we have come across in class recently…

Can you remember which particles are needed to complete the phrasal verbs in the table?



Cut _____ Interrupt It’s rude to cut _____ when other people are having a private conversation. Set _____ (on a journey) Depart, leave Although we set _____  early, we still arrived extremely late.
Give _____ Admit defeat, surrender I couldn’t work out how to solve the puzzle so eventually I had to give _____ and look at the solution. Cut _____ (by bad conditions) Isolate, leave isolated / make separate The floods have cut _____ several mountain villages.
Drop _____ (on someone) Visit unexpectedly We were in the area so we thought we’d just drop _____ to see you. Drop _____ Fall asleep I’ve been so tired lately that I nearly dropped _____ right in the middle of an important meeting.

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C1+/CAE Vocabulary Expander – Homework 2nd May 2012

CAE Mon/Weds homework (2nd May 2012)
Brrrr!  Is this normal May weather in Coimbra?  Sitting at home on a damp, cold holiday morning the other day, I thought we could try out a slightly different homework activity this week.
In class today we looked at Part 4 of the CAE Use of English exam in which you are asked to think of one word which could be used appropriately to complete three sentences.  Thinking about how best to prepare for this part of the test, I would suggest:
  • getting familiar with expressions containing fairly high-frequency words and jotting examples of these down in your vocabulary notebook.
  • checking examples of the second, third, fourth etc. meanings of common words.
  • noting down words which collocate with high-frequency English words.
For example, with the word “cold,” we get the collocation…
 bitter(ly) cold (intensely cold weather)  “Let’s quickly look at the weather forecast for the next few days, the temperature will remain bitterly cold throughout the country over the weekend but is expected to warm up on Tuesday morning.”
…as well as the expressions…
to give someone the cold shoulder (to deliberately ignore someone)  “When their son was accused of stealing the money, many people in the village gave his parents the cold shoulder.”
in cold blood (acting in a deliberately cruel way) to kill somebody in cold blood
get cold feet (feel anxious about)  He was starting to get cold feet about the wedding.  Similar to “have second thoughts about doing something.”
Familiarity with one or two of these expressions might help you in the exam if the 3 sentences needed the word “cold”  to complete them.  So, for homework, I’m setting you a collocation and expression finding mission.  Here’s an example of how it works…
The words bittershoulderfeet, and blood appear in the four collocation/expression examples above.  Here are some examples of how they appear in other collocations/expressions…
a bitter disagreement / argument / dispute:  (unpleasant)  Their divorce was very bitter and they haven’t spoken to each other in years.
a bitter disappointment Losing the match in a penalty shoot out was a bitter disappointment to the England team.
To feel bitter about something to feel angry and unhappy about something…(similar to resentful) She feels bitter about not being promoted / losing her job etc.
To fight until the bitter end – to continue until you have done everything you can before accepting defeat… (not give up).
Hillary Clinton will ‘fight until the bitter end’ after landslide win in West Virginia… Hillary Clinton last night defied renewed calls to abandon her White House campaign and declared: “The race isn’t over yet.” …At a victory rally in Charleston, she said her win made her “more determined than ever” to fight the five remaining primaries in Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota.  Daily Mail 15th May 2008

Verb + shoulder collocations (shoulder = part of the body between the top of your arms and neck)  To shrug your shoulders (to show you don’t know),  To look back over your shoulder  (,  To tap someone on the shoulder (to get their attention)

A shoulder to cry on – someone who listens to you and gives you emotional support… (

If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, i am here for you, if you ever need someone to laugh, and share memories with, i am here for you, if you ever just want someone there without ever saying a word, i am here for you, because in the truth of it all, i will one day need you for those very same things, and you know why it would be easy, because dear sister of mine, we’re family, and i love you.  Angelica Brogan

to shoulder the blame for something – accept some/all of the responsibility for something that went wrong

 John Terry:  Chelsea players must take some blame for AVB axe

Chelsea captain John Terry concedes that he and his team-mates are partly responsible for André Villas-Boas’s sacking.  John Terry admits the Chelsea players must shoulder some of the blame for André Villas-Boas’s dismissal – because performances were not up to par.  The young Portuguese coach was given his marching orders following the Premier League defeat at West Bromwich after less than eight months in charge at Stamford Bridge with the Blues fifth in the Premier League.

The Sport Review, 13th March 2012

to be rushed / run off your feet…to be really busy:  “With three colleagues on holiday at the moment, I’m rushed off my feet at work.”

To have / keep your feet on the ground…be realistic and sensible about how you approach life…

From an online advice column:

Dear Abby: Girl chasing fame should keep her feet on the ground

(Question)  Dear Abby: I am a 16-year-old girl and I want to become famous. My mom says that’s not a real job. I was in magazines when I was little, but now that I’m older, I want to be a singer or actress. What should I do? — Heading for Fame in Ohio

(Reply)  Dear Heading: Listen to your mother. Fame, if one can achieve it, is usually accomplished after years of planning and hard work. If there is community theater in your area, volunteer and become involved. Plan to study music, drama and speech — as well as another subject so you can support yourself if it takes awhile for you to become famous. (This is called “Plan B.”)

Record online (Times Herald-Record)

 to put you foot down…to be strict – especially in opposition to something someone wants to do / is doing…
My Dad put his foot down and said “enough” about my fighting in school.  Either I had to stop hanging out with that group or he was going to take me out of school.  Dr.  Lisa Mefoff, Stressed out students’ guide to handling peer pressure (Kaplan, 2008)
blood is thicker than water…family relationships are very strong…your parents and family are more likely to stick by you (support) you in times of trouble than friends.
…makes my blood boil…to make someone very angry…”It makes my blood boil when I read about companies exploiting children as a cheap labour force.”

to have blood on your hands…to be responsible for somebody’s death…“Critics of the war say the President has blood on his hands.”

like getting blood from a stone…almost possible to obtain…often associated with making someone tell you something…“Getting him to tell me what happened was like getting blood from a stone – he hardly said anything about it.”

The examples here show how a little research into one key word can lead you to lots of examples of collocations and expressions.  So, here’s the homework mission…

The mission

The 9 words below were used in the expressions given above.  In class, you were given one of these words to research and investigate.

  • end
  • cry
  • blame
  • run
  • ground
  • water
  • boil
  • hand(s)
  • stone

If everyone completes their mission to find 3 expressions or collocations with their key word, as a class you will have a new collection of 27 examples.


Online dictionaries are the perfect research source for this.  Here are some you can use:







  • Find examples of expressions and collocations with your key word.
  • Select 3 that you think would be most useful for you and your classmates to know about.
  • Report back with your findings by writing messages in the comments box on this page (you don’t need to register to leave a comment and your information will not be public – you can use an invented name to post under).
  • If you want, you can link to stories or songs containing examples of your expressions online.  A good way to find these is to put the whole expression into google with speech marks around them in the search box to ensure you get exact hits.
  • I don’t think it should take too long to do and by sharing the results will mean that your classmates will benefit from your research and you from theirs.

Extra challenge:  If you are the first to post or you post an expression which includes your key word and the word “cold” (where we started off, remember?), there may be an exclusive prize heading your way in class next Monday!

Good luck!


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C1 – CAE (Tues/Thurs) – Vocabulary 2nd February

Expressions with heart…

  • Give your heart to someone…(Last Christmas…)
  • At the heart of the matter…(The difference between right and wrong is at the heart of all moral debates)
  • Set your heart on something…(She has set her heart on having a pet dog but her parents are worried about who will take care of it!)
  • In the heart of the city / the country…(The hotel is located in the…)
  • Throw / put your heart and soul into something  (She put her heart and soul into her work and was rewarded with a promotion.)



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Holiday homework – Freerice: Test your vocabulary, learn new words and help others

In this series of posts you’ll find a few things to keep you busy over the Christmas break…

Online English vocabulary practice which helps the UN World Food programme.

For every answer you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to help end hunger.  The more people who click, the more rice gets donated.

Find the English Vocabulary section.  Homework + helping!


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C1 Vocabulary / CAE Use of English Part 4 – More expressions with “head”

An earlier post included a look at the expression ‘off the top of my head‘ to talk about an idea or answer that you think of spontaneously or cannot give because you need to investigate the information.  Here are some examples:

  • How many times has Mourinho won a national league title?  I’m not sure, I’d have to check but off the top of my head I’d say at least 5.
  • I don’t know the total population of Portugal off the top of my head, I’ll have to look it up.
  • Off the top of my head I couldn’t tell you which athlete holds the most Olympic gold medals, I’ll take a guess and say Carl Lewis?
  • I haven’t thought about this too much, but off the top of my head, here are my top 5 music videos of all time…
  • My Five Favorite Songs about Los Angeles (off the top of my head.)
Each of the examples suggest this idea of spontaneity and because we might feel we are exposed to making a mistake, there is an idea of concession in this expression.  It’s like saying…”I’m not 100% sure.”  “Off the top of my head” is often used as a kind of protection mechanism against the idea that our answer might be wrong or that our memory might have let us down and failed to remember an important point.
So, there is a logical link here between “head” in the expression and the mind and the memory.  Here are some more expressions with “head.”  Which seem to suggest some idea of the mind/memory/brain/mental ability?  Check your ideas with my thoughts below.
  1. She’s fallen head over heels in love.
  2. We need to put our heads together and find a solution to this problem.
  3. She has a good head for business.
  4. I can’t work it out in my head – I need a calculator.
  5. Who has been putting such strange ideas into your head?
  6. Try to get some sleep and put the exams out of your head for a few hours.
  7. I could not make head nor tail of what she was saying.
  8. There was no way I could make him see my point of view.  It was like banging my head against a brick wall.
  9. Don’t worry so much about him, I’m sure he’ll do the right thing.  He has a good head on his shoulders.
I would suggest that examples 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 have a direct link to the idea of brains, minds, memories and mental capacity.  Do you agree with my conclusions?
  • Example 2 suggests that getting together as a group to discuss something would be a good idea.  Not only is “heads” a reference to the people being in the same space to discuss something but it is also communicates an idea of thinking about an issue together.
  • Example 3 communicates an idea of mental ability or talent for something.  You might have a good head for business or numbers.
  • Example 4 also links the idea of “head” with the brain power and is most often used to talk about mental arithmetic.  If you can do maths “in your head,” you don’t need the help of a calculator.
  •  “Head” in example 5 is similar to “mind.”  Who has been suggesting ideas to you that make you think this way?  Who has been “putting these ideas into your head?”
  • In example 6, “head” is more like “memory” or “thoughts” – if you can “put something out of your head,” you can forget about it for a while.
  • Finally, for example 7, “head” is part of an expression which means “understand” and can therefore be linked to the idea of a brain trying to interpret information.
Identifying the whole expression
  • Put something out of your head
  • Put an idea/thought into someone’s head
Can you identify the words around “head” in the examples above that make the complete expression?  Put the grammatical words in brackets ( ) in the correct place to make full expressions and then compare your answers to the examples.
  1. To fall head heels love (over/in)
  2. To put heads (our (or their, or your etc.)/together
  3. head business/numbers etc.  (have/a/good/for)
  4. To work something head (out/in/your)
  5. To make head tail something (not/nor/of)
Expressions 1, 8 and 9
(1)  To fall head over heels in love (8)  to bang your head against a brick wall  (9)  to have a good head on your shoulders
Match the meaning and context of the above expressions in the original list with the words below?
(a)  “frustrating.”
(b)  “sensible.”
(c)  “madly, passionately.”
(d)  “infuriating”
(e)  “besotted”
(f)  “without success”
Can you add any other words to this list?
Can you think of ways to paraphrase the expressions in this post?  e.g.  “put the exams out of your head” – “stop stressing out about the exams.”
Leave comments below!

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