CPE Exam

The highest language qualification – proves that you have the level of English needed to study or work in a very senior professional or academic environment, for example on a postgraduate or PhD programme

Level: C2

Pass score: 200 points (roughly 60%)

Candidates receive a score for each tested skill: reading, writing, speaking, listening and use of English, as well as an overall score that is an average of all 5. There is also information as to which level on the CEFR the score corresponds to. Notice that reading and use of English are marked separately even though they are tested as one component. 

The candidates who score below 200 points (between 180 and 199) receive a certificate stating that their level is C1.

The format is set – the question types don’t change. It means that the kinds of exercises you see in the past papers or practice test are the same (type) that you will see in the exam.

Total test time: about 4 hours

Never expires – valid for life


1. Reading and Use of English

7 tasks, some testing your ability to understand a written text, others a mix of reading and language test, and one part that tests how well you can paraphrase, using a given structure.

At this level, the Use of English is much more vocabulary-oriented than grammar. A lot of what is tested is vocabulary – collocations, fixed expressions, synonyms, antonyms, and idioms.

2. Listening

4 parts – a total of 2 longer tracks and 8 short ones. You hear each recording twice, even if you got your answers after the first listening. Admittedly, it is also a test of concentrating for a longer period of time on sometimes tedious tasks. Some of the recordings can be a on a fast side, there can also be a few different accents present, but not the ones that cause difficulties.

3. Writing

You write 2 texts, one is compulsory – an essay based on 2 short text provided; and the other you choose out of 6 given options – question 5 has options a) and b). Each text is marked separately, and your score is a total for both.

4. Speaking

This exam is taken in pairs, sometimes in a group of three. There are 4 tasks, some of them you do individually, others with the partner. The test starts with a couple of questions about you and your life that will help you warm up, then you have a task to discuss a couple of questions related to the visual material with the partner, after that you (and then your partner) talk on your own about a topic given by the examiner, and at the end you discuss a question (or a few) related to the topic of your monologues.

The exam can be either paper-based, or computer based. As not every centre provides both options, ask which ones they have available.

Who marks it?

Most of the test is scanned and marked by computers – that is why it is so important to fill in the answer sheet correctly. This is also the reason for the requirement to complete most of the answers in pencil.

However, both writing tasks and part 4 of Reading and Use of English are marked by humans.

The speaking component is marked by the one of the examiners you meet – the one who does NOT speak to you or ask you any questions.

You can see a sample test here:

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