CAMBRIDGE CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English)

The CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency) is a language certificate for non-native English speakers. The CPE exam is developed and conducted by Cambridge English Language Assessment, part of the UK University of Cambridge. The CPE is the highest possible qualification within the Cambridge English system as proof of academic English skills. It corresponds to C2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and is very close to the native speaker level. For this reason, most universities in England and many other English-speaking countries accept the Cambridge CPE as proof of language proficiency.

Test contents and test structure of the CPE

The CPE exam covers four areas of competence:

  • Reading and Use of English (Reading and Use of English)
  • Writing (Writing)
  • Listening comprehension (Listening)
  • Speaking (Speaking).

All in all, the CPE exam takes about four hours.

Reading and Use of English

The examination unit Reading and Use of English takes 90 minutes. Here the examiners answer multiple-choice questions on different texts, complete gap texts and assign information. The texts come from different areas:

  • literature
  • factual text
  • newspaper and magazine articles
  • operating instructions

In addition to the masterly handling of these text types, the use of grammar and vocabulary is also tested.


The writing session also takes 90 minutes. Here we have to write two different texts. The first text is an essay, the second may also be an essay or an article, a letter, a report or a review.


The Listening section takes about 40 minutes. Participants listen to different voice recordings, for example from lectures, speeches or interviews. They then edit different types of questions, such as multiple choice or sentence completion.


The Speaking part of the test lasts 16 minutes and is taken together with another test participant. First, the examiners answer general questions about their own person. They then briefly report on one or more images before making a decision together with the other test participant. Finally, they have to talk about a specific question and come up with ideas.

The first three units of the Cambridge CPE are completed in one day. Depending on the test centre, they may have to complete the oral part (speaking) not on the same day, but a few days before or after the actual examination date.

Rating scale of the CPE

Each of the Cambridge CPE’s four examination areas is rated on a scale from 0 (low) to 20 (high) points. The total score is the sum of the four individual scores, with the Reading and Use of English area being given double weighting. This is due to the fact that these are actually two different examination units which are combined at the CPE.

The scores are divided into different sections. The CPE is considered to have been passed in the following sections

  • Grade A (80 to 100 points)
  • Grade B (75 to 79 points) and
  • Grade C (60 to 74 points).

All three evaluations correspond to the C2 language level, and those who achieve a score between 45 and 59 have not passed the CPE. However, he receives a certificate that his language competence is at least level C1.

Under 45 points, the CPE is considered not to have passed at all. It is possible to repeat the CPE to improve the score achieved. Apart from the availability of the test on time, there is no limitation with regard to the tests and frequency of repetitions.

The Cambridge CPE is basically valid for life. However, many universities, like the validity of other tests such as TOEFL or IELTS, often only accept test results obtained over the last two years.

Preparation for CPE

The Cambridge English Language Assessment offers various learning aids to prepare for the CPE. For example, some practice tests are available free of charge. In addition, there are more detailed learning materials with costs. More information and tips on how to prepare for the event can be found on the official CPE website.

Test centres and examination dates for the Cambridge CPE

There are numerous test centres around the world where you can take the CPE exam at different times of the year. There are several places to choose from in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. An overview of test centres and dates can be found on the CPE website.

The CPE exam is available in both computer and paper versions. However, not every exam date and version is available in all test centers. Further information can be obtained from the respective test centre. Registration for the CPE exam is also possible via the test centre. The deadlines and modalities may vary. It is always advisable to register early. Particularly popular examination dates or test centres can be booked up quickly.

The test result is available about four weeks after the paper-based version and about two weeks after the test date for computer-based tests. You should take this into account when planning the examination date. This is the only way you can be sure that you can send the test results to the university on time.

Costs and payment options for the CPE

The cost of the CPE exam varies depending on the test centre where you take it. More detailed information on the costs and payment options can be obtained from the respective test centre.