Last minute tips for the C1 Advanced exam

C1 Advanced exam

As the C1 Advanced exam draws nearer, there’s a good chance your students will be feeling quite nervous. After working hard for months and months, it all comes down to a 3 hour 40 minute written exam and a 15 minute oral test.

We recently looked at strategies to help learners remain calm during the speaking exam, so today we’d like to share with you some last minute tips for the written test to help your students get top marks in the Reading and Use of English, Writing and Listening papers.

Reading and Use of English

Students have 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete eight sections in this part of the exam. The first four sections test their use of lexico-grammatical usage and the final four test their reading comprehension.

Students should plan carefully as it is easy to run out of time in this paper. With 90 minutes total, it’s a good idea to spend about 10 minutes on each section. That will leave them with 10 minutes at the end, which can be used to check answers, fill in any blanks and make sure they’ve completed the answer sheet correctly.

Many students start with Part 1, which is multiple choice. However, those worried about not finishing on time should consider starting with sections 2, 3 or 4, which may take more time as they require students to come up with their own answers.

For those doing the paper-based exam rather than the computer-based exam, another thing to consider is that – unlike in the listening section – there is no time extra time given at the end to transfer answers from the test paper to the answer sheet. The safest thing to do is to complete the answers directly on the answer sheet during the exam. However, students should take extreme care to make sure they are filling in the correct box as getting the order wrong could result in them failing the exam.

In class, practice the exam under timed conditions so students get used to how long they have to complete all eight sections and what it is like filling in the answer sheets under pressure.

Bonus tip: be strict with correct spelling in class. In this part of the exam, if students spell a word incorrectly they won’t receive a point.

Download sample answer sheets to use in class from the C1 Advanced Handbook for Teachers.


Students have to write two texts in 1 hour 30 minutes. They must answer the essay question in Part 1 and then choose one of the options in Part 2, which will be a letter/email, a report, a proposal or a review.

Students are assessed on the following four criteria:

  • Content – have they included everything from the task?
  • Communicative achievement – have they used the right tone and register? Does the text sound like it is supposed to?
  • Organization – have they organised the text appropriately with clearly defined paragraphs that link together?  
  • Language – have they used a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures?

Each text is worth the same amount of points, so students should spend approximately the same amount of time on each piece. Although they have to use a pen, it isn’t a huge problem if they make mistakes. They should simply put a line through the error and continue.

Discourage students from writing a draft and a final version. They do not have time to do this. Instead they should spend the first 10 minutes planning what they want to say. This will save them time when it comes to writing the text.

When planning they should think about:

  • Who their audience is and the register they should use
  • How many paragraphs they need and what content should go in each one
  • How they’ll link the paragraphs to each other
  • Examples of C1 level grammar and vocabulary they want to try and include

As with the other parts of the exam, students should spend the last five to ten minutes checking what they’ve written. If they want to add something and there isn’t space, they can use an asterix (*) and then add whatever they want at the bottom.

Bonus tip: when practicing the writing paper it’s a good idea to give students a model answer for each task type. These can usually be found at the back of coursebooks and will help the students learn how the texts should be structured and provide them with specific language they can include, no matter the context.

Use this Writing Checklist to help your students improve their writing skills before the exam.


The final part of the written exam is the listening paper. It consists of four parts and takes approximately 40 minutes.

In the listening paper students are given five minutes at the end of the test to transfer their answers from the question paper to the answer sheet, so this isn’t something they need to do while the recording is playing.

In each part they are given time to read through the questions before they start. Students should use this time wisely to think about what they are about to hear, underline any keywords and start predicting the types of answers they need to give.

Part 2 of this paper requires them to complete the gaps with a word or short phrase. Although the exact words might be difficult to guess, they should be able to work out whether it’s a verb, noun, adjective etc. from the words before or after the gap. This is something you can train them to do in class.

Unlike the Use of English section, they will not lose marks for incorrect spelling. If they are unsure how to spell a word they should just write what they think and then move on. Although the answers will follow the sequence of the questions, it can be easy to miss one and get lost.

Bonus tip: during class introduce your students to a variety of accents from around the world. In the exam they are likely to hear people from different English speaking countries such as England, Scotland, Ireland, the United States and Australia as well as non-native speakers. Your course materials should help, but it’s always good to play them different authentic audio samples from YouTube, TED Talks, Netflix or other sources you have available.

Familiarize learners with all parts of the exam with these practice tests.

Final reminders

  • Students should save time at the end of each paper to check for silly mistakes and make sure they’ve completed the answer sheets correctly.
  • They shouldn’t go back and change answers unless they’re absolutely sure. Quite often students will change the correct answer to a wrong one.
  • If they don’t know an answer, they should move on and then go back at the end if they have time.
  • They should answer all the questions, even if they have to guess. They don’t lose points for getting a question incorrect so there’s a good chance they’ll pick up some extra marks, especially in the multiple choice sections, as long as they have a go.

Materials to help your students succeed

C1 advanced Gold Experience






Gold Experience 2nd Edition

Those teaching teenagers can benefit from the new levels of Gold Experience 2nd edition. With B2+ and C1 now available, the assessment pack, grammar file, wordlists and tips and strategies throughout will help your students get ready for their C1 Advanced exam in no time at all. There’s even a full practice test in Unit 10 of the Workbook, so you can organize your own mock exam in class.

Download a sample now.

If you are teaching adults, Gold Advanced is a popular choice which offers a lot of support for both teachers and students preparing for Cambridge English qualifications.

Check the website for more information about the new edition of Gold C1 Advanced coming at the end of 2018.

In this article