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10 Tips for Taking the CAEL Exam

Wednesday | June 13, 2018 | by Chris Koelbleitner

Student studying in a library

The Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) assessment is a test designed to measure the English language proficiency of students planning to study in Canadian post-secondary institutions. The exam is an important part of your journey to study in Canada because it measures your ability to use and understand English at an academic level.

CAEL is the only test that provides a truly authentic representation of language use in a Canadian academic context. It evaluates how well you combine your speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills to perform academic tasks that you would encounter in your first year at a Canadian university or college.

In June 2015, Paragon Testing Enterprises, a subsidiary of The University of British Columbia (UBC), acquired CAEL from Carleton University. Since then, Paragon has reviewed and computerized the test so it can be delivered securely both in Canada and internationally. This version of the test is called CAEL CE, where CE stands for Computer Edition. CAEL CE was first launched in September 2017 and is now available at test centres across Canada. Paragon will begin offering CAEL CE at test centres internationally in 2018.

CAEL CE is accepted by universities and colleges across Canada: Over 180 Canadian institutions accept CAEL CE for admission to their academic programs. Visit the CAEL site to see a complete list of institutions.

Preparing for CAEL

For individuals preparing to take CAEL, there are many free and purchasable study materials, including:

  • Sample tests: Available on the CAEL website, the free sample test includes sample test questions and answers to help test takers understand what to expect on each component of the CAEL Test.
  • Practice tests: For a limited time, use the exclusive discount codes to access two free Online Practice Tests for CAEL.
  • Webinars, workshops, and courses: Available online, the free CAEL webinars, workshops, and online courses provide in-depth preparation, and are taught by CAEL experts. Recorded webinars and workshops are also available on the CAEL YouTube page.
  • CAEL CE pretest: The CAEL CE pretest is an opportunity for CAEL test-takers to practice taking academic English test questions in a real test environment, and to gain experience and confidence in taking a computer-delivered test. Test takers that complete the CAEL CE pretest will also be eligible for a 50 per cent discount on an upcoming CAEL test sitting.
  • CAEL CE overview: This free PDF explains what to expect on the test, including a discussion of the five test parts, their format, scoring methods, study tips and strategies, and more.

Purchasable study materials for CAEL include:

  • Practice tests: Available in the CAEL online store, online practice tests and study programs are available to help test takers prepare for CAEL. Each practice test includes a complete answer key as well as sample responses taken from actual CAEL test takers.

Top 10 Strategies for Success

  1. Practice using a computer. CAEL CE is fully computer delivered, so ensure that you are comfortable with a mouse and keyboard. Practicing with CAEL CE’s free sample test is a good way to familiarize yourself with this format.
  2. Remember that CAEL CE is a test of academic English proficiency. CAEL CE assesses your ability to use English in an academic context. One of the best ways to prepare is to immerse yourself in as much academic English as you can. Read news and journal articles; listen to podcasts and audiobooks on academic subject material; and practice writing via a blog, journal, emails, etc., even for just a few minutes a day.
  3. Use a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures. Try to show the range of your vocabulary in your writing and speaking. Avoid using the same words over and over again. Remember to use varied grammatical structures and construct sentences that differ in length and complexity. During your preparation for CAEL CE, you may even want to have a system for keeping track of new academic terms, such as using index cards, a notebook, or a chart on your computer.
  4. Manage your time. Many test takers find it challenging to keep track of the time while writing a test. CAEL CE is fully computer delivered, and you will see a timer on each screen, telling you how much time you’ve got left for that section. Keeping an eye on these timers can help you gauge how to pace yourself throughout the test.
  5. Check your work. If you have any time left over while completing the reading, listening, or writing sections of the test, read over your answers and make sure that you have attempted to answer all questions as well as you can. In particular, try to spend a few minutes reviewing your writing, ensuring that you have fully answered the question in an organized manner, and that you have no typos that could impact the clarity of your response.
  6. Speak clearly and at a natural pace. Speak clearly into the microphone, which should be close to your lips but without touching them. It’s natural to speak quickly when you’re nervous—try to slow down and speak at a normal pace.
  7. Do not worry about your accent. Our raters are trained to disregard accents. Unless your accent prevents you from being understood, do not focus on it. Instead, concentrate on using good grammar, accurate and varied vocabulary, and providing complete answers.
  8. Take notes. While taking CAEL CE, you will be provided with notepaper and a pen. You may use these to take notes during any point in the test, though you may find it especially useful to outline some ideas for your speaking or writing responses.
  9. Focus on what you know. You may come across some difficult words in a reading or listening passage. Don’t get stuck worrying about words you don’t understand. Focus on general meaning and the parts of the passage that you do understand. Sometimes it is possible to understand a new word based on your knowledge of the words that are around it.
  10. Use a variety of reading strategies. You don’t have to read every single word in a passage to successfully answer questions in the Reading sections; instead, use reading strategies, such as skimming and scanning. These may help you with some of the simpler questions, leaving more time to spend with the more difficult questions.

Chris Koelbleitner

Chris Koelbleitner is a Manager of Instructional Products and Programs at Paragon Testing Enterprises.