One Step Up: Graduating From Teaching FCE to CAE

By Neil Root
Neil Root is a writer and London based English Language teacher with 10 years experience.

One Step Up: Graduating From Teaching FCE to CAE

The Cambridge Suite of exams is mainly geared towards getting a job, and give students of English a mark of proficiency to present to prospective employers. FCE (First Certificate Examination) and CAE (Cambridge Advanced Examination) are widely accepted as important credentials for employers evaluating non-fluent candidates. For the teacher, the jump from FCE to CAE can be daunting, but most of this is fear of the unknown.

CAE is more difficult than FCE

CAE is more difficult than FCE, and a quick browse through recent exam papers confirms this. The vocabulary is more specific, abstract and sometimes colloquial, the reading texts more sly, listening parts faster with more hidden meaning. In fact, if you equate FCE and CAE to icebergs, FCE has 50% showing, while with CAE just 30% can be seen above the surface. The hidden meanings are what are important in these exams, and CAE takes more lateral thinking and ‘thinking outside the box’ than FCE. Deeper intellectual and verbal reasoning, along with a good grasp grammar and a wider and more flexible range of vocabulary are needed in CAE. This also applies to the teacher, and you need to be on top of these intricacies to teach this more advanced level effectively. As with all exam preparation classes, this understanding comes from preparation before classes- once you are in the classroom, you are on the spot and could be asked any question. Be ready and your job is far easier.

Don’t be worried!

But don’t be worried – if you have mastered the skills needed to teach FCE well – and you must have done to have been given a CAE class, as nobody teaches CAE first (or at least shouldn’t!) you have the skills and techniques necessary to impart to students of the advanced version. There are many good textbooks for CAE and teaching resources, so use what is at your disposal, and speak to the CAE teacher you take over from, or whoever else is qualified in the staffroom or management. A good school will always help you, and the first time I taught CAE a seasoned teacher showed me more tips in a thirty minute workshop than I could have learnt in five years of teaching the exam.

So prepare, ask advice, use your resources and work out answers to exam questions yourself before you use them in class under test conditions – if you don’t, that answer and feedback session after break could be really difficult. Good luck!

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