Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE)

The Cambridge English Proficiency examination is part of a suite of general English examinations produced by Cambridge English Language Assessment. Within the five levels, Cambridge English Proficiency is at level C2 in the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The Cambridge English Proficiency examination is widely recognised by universities, employers, governments and other organisations around the world as proof of the ability to use English to function at the highest levels of academic and professional life.

The structure of CPE: an overview

The CPE examination consists of four papers:

Reading and Use of English (1 hour 30 minutes)

This paper consists of seven parts with 53 questions. For Parts 1 to 4, the test contains texts with accompanying grammar and vocabulary tasks, and discrete items with a grammar and vocabulary focus. For Parts 5 to 7, the test contains texts and accompanying reading comprehension tasks.

Writing (1 hour 30 minutes)

This paper consists of two parts which carry equal marks. In Part 1, which is compulsory, candidates must write an essay with a discursive focus of between 240 and 280 words. The task requires candidates to summarise and evaluate the key ideas contained in two texts of approximately 100 words each. In Part 2, there are five questions from which candidates must choose one to write about. The range of tasks from which questions may be drawn includes an article, a letter, a report, a review, and an essay (set text questions only). The last question (Question 5) is based on the set texts. These set texts remain on the list for two years. Look on the website, or contact the Cambridge ESOL Centre Exams Manager in your area for the up-to-date list of set texts. Question 5 has two options from which candidates choose one to write about. In this part, candidates write between 280 and 320 words. Assessment is based on the Assessment Scales, comprising four subscales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language.

Listening (approximately 40 minutes)

This paper consists of four parts with 30 questions. Each part contains a recorded text or texts and corresponding comprehension tasks. Each part is heard twice.

Speaking (16 minutes)

The Speaking test consists of three parts. The standard test format is two candidates and two examiners. One examiner acts as interlocutor and manages the interaction either by asking questions or providing cues for the candidates. The other acts as assessor and does not join in the conversation. The test consists of short exchanges with the interlocutor, a collaborative task involving both candidates and an individual long turn followed by a three-way discussion.


The overall CPE grade is based on the total score gained in all four papers. All candidates receive a Statement of Results which includes a graphical profile of their performance in all four skills and Use of English. Certificates are given to candidates who pass the examination with grade A, B or C. Candidates whose performance is below C2 level, but falls within Level C1, receive a Cambridge English certificate stating they have demonstrated ability at C1 level. Candidates whose performance falls below Level C1 do not receive a certificate.