Tips on preparing for C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency. Webinar by Claire Barnes

Pave the way for success for your students — use the advice of Claire Barnes, a Cambridge Assessment and CELTA certified specialist. This article is a compilation of useful tips on preparing for C1 Advanced from her recent webinar “How to prepare for C1, C2 exams”.

Reading

The main reading skills at the C1 level are the following:

  • skimming — reading a text to decide whether it’s interesting and relevant
  • scanning — reading a text to understand it in detail, for example, for information to support research
  • quickly locating information in a longer text
  • following instructions.

The C2 level demands even higher expertise. Learners need to show precise and wide vocabulary, the ability to recognise an opinion, attitude, and tone.

At this level, they should understand:

  • the gist, function, and message of a text
  • the line of argument
  • the lexical meaning
  • the organisation of a text
  • specific information
  • an underlying meaning.

The reading part is considered easier than others, but it has some pitfalls.

Part 5. Multiple choice

If your students get scared of long texts, show the options for each question one by one in an animated presentation or on the blackboard. Explain that questions follow the order of the text. One paragraph contains one answer.

Tips on preparing for C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency

In big classes, divide students into groups of four and give each of them one statement (option) to find the proof in the text.

Useful tips for Part 5

  • Read the text quickly to get a general idea.
  • Read the questions and check your understanding, but don’t choose the options yet, not until you read the text again. Can you find the answers?
  • Remember that the answers follow the order of the questions and are usually spread throughout the text.

Part 6. Cross-text multiple matching

This task consists of four short extracts from academic texts on the same subject and four questions which come after the texts. Each correct answer gives two marks.

This task tests the ability to identify similarities, differences, and connectors between options and attitudes.

Useful tips for Part 6

  • Read the four texts and make sure you understand what they are about.
  • Pay particular attention to any opinions and attitudes expressed.
  • Identify any similarities or differences of opinion which are immediately obvious.
  • Read the questions one at a time and identify the aspect of the topic they are focused on.
  • To answer the questions, you will need to keep this topic in mind and then scan the texts as often as necessary looking for similarities or differences of opinion.
  • You will always have to compare all the texts with each other to find the correct answer.
  • Look through the question prompts and underline the keywords.
  • Read the texts quickly to identify the parts which directly refer to the opinions and points of view of each writer.
  • Study these sections again very carefully to make sure you fully understand them.
  • Read all the texts again to find where the other writers talk about the same issues. Which of the other three sections is the question referring to? This will require careful reading as the opinions will be expressed in different ways.
  • Some questions may ask you to identify the writer whose opinion is different from the other three. To do this, go through the teхts and underline the sections where the issue is discussed. Then read the texts again to see who has a different opinion.
  • Mark your answers and read one more time to check.

Part 8. Multiple matching

This part is present both in C1 and C2 exams. Start from Part 8 as it is easier to get more points for it. It involves one or two sets of questions — ten in total. A single page of text may be continuous or divided into sections. The emphasis in the task is on locating specific information: a detail, opinion, and an attitude. Questions are printed before the text. Each correct answer will bring you one mark.

Useful tips for Part 8

  • Read the questions first and underline the main ideas.
  • Read the first text section.
  • Identify which question it answers.
  • Deal with each section in the same way.

Part 7. Gapped text

Students will get an extract from an article with six paragraphs removed from it. The task is to choose the paragraphs which fit the gaps. There is one extra paragraph which they do not need to use.

To practise Part 7 with a class, you can cut a text and ask students to put the parts in the right order.

Useful tips for Part 7

  • Read the title.
  • Skim the text to understand the general idea.
  • Underline any reference words or phrases in the text which refer to the previous or the following missing paragraph.
  • Read the missing paragraphs and look for the subject matter and language links.
  • Match any gaps and missing paragraphs that seem relevant.

Look for words and phrases in the text indicating:

  • time
  • cause and effect
  • contrasting arguments
  • paraphrasing of vocabulary
  • use of pronouns and proper nouns
  • repetition of words and ideas
  • use of verb tenses.

Learning training

Guide learners towards textual clues:

DevicesExamples from the text
names and pronouns London, it
contrast wordshowever, although
direct speech and quotation marks
sequencing words (chronology markers)first, then, finally
verb tensesPast Simple, Past Perfect
repetition of ideas
cause and effectas a result

Listening

At both the C1 and C2 levels, candidates have to show they can:

  • engage with a range of recorded texts of different lengths
  • understand a variety of contexts (for example, interviews, lectures, talks, radio broadcasts, conversations).

To successfully pass this part of the exam, students need to be able to:

  • deal with a variety of accents, speeds, styles of delivery
  • recognise paraphrase and its functions
  • distinguish main information from detail or subsidiary point and follow the line of argument
  • follow connections between ideas and spot answers even if the evidence comes later
  • stay calm and do the second listening for missed answers
  • use silent times to predict and prepare for the task, check and confirm the answers
  • spell correctly.

Preparation tips: Listening

TipsDetails
Use the scriptIntegrate reading skills to work on paraphrase and clues
Use real-life listening (the internet)A variety of programmes, reports, speakers YouTube interviews  BBC World Service Outlook podcasts BBC 6-minute English Classroom discussion activities
Encourage students to create listening tasksMultiple choice, gapped texts, using the script
Practise in a variety of tasks, not just exam-relatedFree response, lead-in to discussion.
Establish prediction as a routineCreate a habit of getting in focus and activating cognitive resources
Ask students to summarise what the speaker has saidThis helps linguistically (paraphrases) and cognitively (alertness)

People from different countries have different accents and speech peculiarities, so let your students listen to non-native speakers.

A useful website to practise listening is Elllo.com The website offers:

  • audio and scripts
  • vocabulary development
  • post-listening quizzes
  • speakers from around the world.

Part 2. Sentence completion

The task is to listen to a short monologue and complete the sentences with a word or short phrase.

Tips on preparing for C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency

Useful tips for Part 2

  • Read the text for detail.
  • Look at the grammar on the left and right of each gap.
  • Try to figure out what type of words could work, e.g. a verb, noun, preposition, or an adverb.
  • Make predictions.
  • Listen and check your understanding.
  • Check if the answers make sense, mind the meaning and grammar.

Part 4. Multiple matching 

This part is quite hard as it has two parallel tasks, for example: listen to five speakers and define the reasons for their decisions (1) and emotions (2). Be prepared: the answer to a Task 2 question can come before the answer to a Task 1 question. For young learners, it can be hard to predict the answers as they have less life experience and do not know about some attitudes and opinions.

Tips on preparing for C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency

Useful tips for Part 4

  • Listen to the instructions and check your understanding.
  • Think about the topic, the speaker, and the context as you read the questions.
  • Use the pause to read the questions and try to predict the answers.
  • Remember that in Parts 1–3 the order of information on the recording corresponds to the order of information or questions on the page, but this is not always the
    case in Part 4

Tips for teachers

  • Brainstorm adjectives you might expect to see in Part 4.
  • Compare your adjectives with the questions.
  • Discuss with a partner the differences in meaning of the adjectives.
  • What follow-up activities could be done to build on the language? 
  • Remind learners that the monologues have a thematic link.
  • Encourage learners to think about the theme of the texts and the kinds of attitudes and opinions they expect to hear on the topic.
  • As in Part 3, a sound knowledge of the type of words used to report attitudes and feelings (in the questions) will help learners.
  • Learners need practice in completing their answers: it is very easy to put answers in the wrong box, as they need to catch and record ten answers.

These tips on Reading and Listening parts in C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency will help you prepare your students or pass the exams yourself. Follow the advice and practise until you can’t get it wrong!

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