CAMBRIDGE CAE Mission: Ace Your Reading Test (Parts 1 and 2)

Welcome back! As promised, I am revisiting the CAE exam and taking each Paper one by one for you to have a better grasp of what it is all about, what is required of you and, most importantly, which are THE STRATEGIES you should have up your sleeve in times of need. Let’s make passing an exam fun, not pure torture!

This week’s focus is on the Reading Paper! Take a deep breath, and here we go! Do bundle up, it will seem awfully stormy at times… hopefully, we’ll be able to turn it into “brainstormy”, for a change!

So, you’re trying to prepare your Reading Paper. What exactly are you looking at here?

Well, you’re looking at 4 parts, all to be solved in 1h 15′. Consider it done! Which are the parts in question?, I hear you wondering. One step at a time. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day… Let’s take a closer look at Parts 1 and 2, for starters, shall we?

Part 1 – This is a multiple choice task. You have to choose one answer out of 4 options. Piece of cake, you might say, but mind you:

  • Out of the four, two will for certain seem just perfect to suit your question. Keep in mind, one of those two is the most vicious distractor. It’s all a process of narrowing it down to what’s true for the text, by using arguments given inside the text!
  • Take things slowly and logically! The first step is to read the question and identify a clue in the text that points towards one of the 4 options. Underline it. Then, make sure you actually got it right and you didn’t get distracted: eliminate the other 3 potential answers. It’s not enough to think of arguments that point towards an option, before choosing one of the four, find counter-arguments sustained by the text that eliminate the other 3 “suspects”.
  • Pay attention! Some of the questions may not even be well-rounded ones. Some of them are merely statements that could be continued by any of the 4 options below them. Confer with the text at all times! Whatever you need is in the text or underlying it! Make sure you can sail through it, but also dive into it if you are looking for more in depth clues!
  • Think of a text as a 3D entity! It’s got several layers. You know what they say, don’t judge a book just by looking at its cover! Be ready to find clues as to what opinion, tone, purpose and attitude are concerned. Don’t match words in the text to those in the options, match the ideas!

Part 2 – This is a gapped text. There are 6 gaps in a text and you are given 7 paragraphs. Tricky, right? You can’t choose simply by means of exclusion. There will always be the odd one out!

  • First, read the text as a whole, get in touch with its development. Go with the flow, so to speak.
  • Then, read the fragments. Your mind will have already started to raise its suspicions as to which goes where. It’s time to stop going with the flow. Stand your ground! Whatever you suspect should come between two sections of the text needs to have a good coherence and a solid cohesion to the larger image. Coherence means that you don’t interrupt ideas, and cohesion makes sure that you identify the written proof, the linkers (a.k.a linking devices).
  • Once you’re done, read the whole text again. See the bigger picture! If nothing seems fishy, you probably got it right. And, yes, I know it sounds like it’s going to take forever, but do not worry! You will get better and faster as you practise.
  • In addition, no matter which part you are solving never lose sight of this: Do not panic if you find some words difficult or unknown. Try to deduce as much as you can from context, read sentences, not isolated words!
  • Also, keep in mind: Practice makes perfect! Don’t throw yourself into the CAE arena without proper gear (strategy and experience). Without it, you are merely a baby in front of a book… written in Ancient Greek! What chance do you stand?

Ladies and gentlemen, with this being said, my work is done for now. Hit the libraries for practice test books and fire up those keyboards with questions you might have for me. I’ll be more than happy to answer them. Stay tuned for the next CAMBRIDGE CAE Mission article, on Reading Parts 3 and 4 ! Cheers!

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