UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Content of Cambridge ESOL General English examinations (FCE, CAE and CPE)
Cambridge ESOL examinations reflect a view of language in terms of a language user's overall communicative ability; at the same time, for the purposes of practical language assessment, the notion of overall ability is subdivided into different skills and sub skills. This 'skills and components' view is well established in the language research and teaching literature.
Four main skills of Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking are recognised, and each of these is assessed in a test component of the same name. Reading and Listening are multi-dimensional skills involving the interaction of the reader/listener's mental processing capacities with their language and content knowledge; further interaction takes place between the reader/listener and the external features of the text and task. Purpose and context for reading/listening shape these interactions and this is reflected in the CAE Reading and Listening components through the use of different text and task types which link to a relevant target language use context beyond the test.
Writing ability is also regarded as a linguistic, cognitive, social and cultural phenomenon that takes place in a specific context and for a particular purpose. Like Reading and Listening, CAE Writing involves a series of complex interactions between the task and the writers, who are required to draw on different aspects of their knowledge and experience to produce a written performance for evaluation.
Like Writing, Speaking involves multiple competences including vocabulary and grammatical knowledge, phonological control, knowledge of discourse, and pragmatic awareness, which are partially distinct from their equivalents in the written language. Since speaking generally involves reciprocal oral interaction with others, Speaking in CAE is assessed directly, through a face-to-face encounter between candidates and examiners.
A test component in CAE (Use of English) focuses on the language knowledge structures or systems) that underpin a user's communicative language ability :n the written medium; these are sometimes referred to as 'enabling' (sub)skills and include knowledge of vocabulary, morphology, syntax, punctuation, and discourse structure.
Each of these five test components in CAE provides a unique contribution to a profuse of overall communicative language ability that defines what a candidate can do at this level!