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10 Tips for Taking the CAEL Exam

Wednesday | June 13, 2018 | by Chris Koelbleitner

Student studying for the CAEL

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 that you can take it securely from anywhere in the world. This version of the test is called CAEL CE (where CE stands for Computer Edition). CAEL CE was first launched in September 2017. Now, it’s 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. In fact, over 180 Canadian institutions use it as a basis for admission to their academic programs. You can find a complete list of institutions here.

Preparing for CAEL

There are many free and discounted study materials available online, including:

  • Sample tests: Free sample tests provide both questions and answers to help test-takers understand what to expect for each section of the test.
  • Practice tests: Look for discount codes that will allow you to take complete practice tests online for free.
  • Webinars, workshops, and courses: Free webinars, workshops, and online courses can also help you prepare. The CAEL YouTube page, for example, offers webinars and workshops.
  • CAEL CE pretest: The CAEL CE pretest will let you practice in a real test environment. This way, you can gain experience and confidence. Test-takers that complete the CAEL CE pretest can also take advantage of a 50 percent discount when they sit for the CAEL.
  • CAEL CE overview: This free PDF explains what to expect on the test. It discusses the five test parts, their format, scoring methods, study tips, and more.

You can also buy practice tests:

  • Practice tests: 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 from actual test-takers.

Top 10 Strategies for Success

  1. Practice using a computer. You will take the CAEL CE on your computer. Therefore, ensure that you are comfortable with a mouse and keyboard. Practicing with CAEL CE’s free sample test is a good way to familiarize with this format.
  2. Remember that CAEL CE is a test of academic English. 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 journals and emails to proficient English-speakers.
  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 use sentences that differ in length and complexity. During your preparation, 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. However, you will see a timer on each screen during the test, 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. Don’t focus on your accent unless it dramatically limits your communication. Instead, concentrate on using good grammar, with accurate and varied vocabulary. Make sure you provide 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.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).