I've been studying for CPE (Cambridge Proficiency) for an year and a half in a row, I don't think I'm prepare, I've done lots of mocks and just got Cs and Ds... I was wondering if you could give some tips...

On the other hand, is it that important? Sometimes I wonder what it really proves...
I'm from Brasil and I don't have access to english speaking people, of course, just through internet...
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Get a private teacher!
Barring that fantastic tip, what do you really need help in?

I bet the following are a problem:
Writing - because you have no input on your correction issues. Speaking - same reason
Use of English, Gapped Sentences and (horrors!) Summary Reading, Gapped Text
Listening, Part 4 (He Said, She Said)
Have I missed anything?
Definitely: Reading, Gapped Text and Use of English, Gapped Sentences...
The other topics I do fine... but on these ones I can't get even the half of them...
On Reading, (Gaped text) very often the words I'm supposed to choose are completelly unknown to me, and when I know the words they seem too familiar and I don't know which one to choose...
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
We'll take this in order, Gapped Text, and then Gapped Sentences. This will be a rather long post. We'll do this in parts, because if I write the whole thing in one night, I'll get bored, toss it, and you'll never see it.
Here goes.
Gapped Text, as many experts freely admit, is difficult for anyone, even a native speaker. There is a bit of controversy on the best way to have students approach this part of the test, but after working it for years, this is what I have come up with.
We need to teach students WHAT TO LOOK FOR (that is to say, to find the kinds of clues that Cambridge leaves behind).
We need to teach students HOW TO LOOK FOR THEM (that is to say, a standard strategy to use over and over again when we do Gapped Text. With practice, the strategy becomes second nature and the student's accuracy soars.

There are three different basic sets of principles that you need to keep in mind as you do Gapped Text.

Whenever you do Gapped Text, you ought to have a pencil in your hand. That pencil should be used to circle clues you find in the text. Cambridge leaves many of them in the text in order to make your life easier. What are they? Well, obvious ones are pronouns that must be linked to antecedents mentioned earlier. Conjunctions are used to suggest contrast, add emphasis, provide more proof...and then there are clues that just have to do with common sense.
Here's an excellent example, taken from Cambridge ESOL 3 Past Papers (C.U.P.). You probably own this book and if you don't, you should but it. The fourth one has come out, but I haven't looked at it yet.

I'm looking at pages 10 and 11
29 (the gap)

I had little to impress him with in return, other than instant praside for his music...
STOP!!! Who is "him"? "In return" for WHAT??? These ar obvious textual clues. Circle these statements and make notes in the gaps between the paragraphs. Those notes are to aid your memory as you go through the text.
Let's try this with another gap...
But in the meantime, I felt I had nothing to lose by seeing Andrew again.
WHOA!!! In the meantime...of what??? What was happening?

I set to work with enormous enthusiasm...
SET TO WORK ON WHAT??? This question should be written on the box above.
You can also find such clues in gapped paragraphs (A-H).

And even if the two of us failed to challenge the top musical composers successfully...
(This implies that, in one way or another, they would challenge SOME composers, at least.)
On the other hand...
(What's the contrast.?)
Occasionally, a clue like this comes at the ends of the gapped text and the gapped paragraphs.
28 Gap, paragraph...I could tell that he was good. Very good.
(Usually, after something like this, a general statement, we have an example.)

There are three, count them, three ways that written texts on CPE are structured. More than one way may appear in each gapped text.

The first is NARRATI VE, which is by far the most common. The structure of narrative has been set in stone since at least Aristotle, who identified that stories typically begin with a problem, which develops into a series of complications, which crescendos to a climax, and finally, we have some sort of aftermath, where the writer lets us down.

Look for this structure. If you have to deal with an extract of a novel, and one of the gapped paragraphs mentions something like "she screamed" then that will normally go in somewhere around Gap 31,
32...that sort of thing...not the immediate beginning and end.

The second is ARGUMENT, by far the most difficult text type. Arguements depend on two things, linking words/discourse markers (On the other hand, If this were really true, However,) and contrasting logic. You must become sensitive to these, as Cambridge absolutely loves to stick an argument halfway through a narrative.
The last kind of writing you will have to deal with in a Cambridge Gapped Text is NEWS. When information is provided to you, the reader. Typically speaking, when a writers wants to give you information, they go from the more general items in that information to more specific. In journalistic writing, the structure of a news article looks like an inverted pyramid...there is a lot of information in the first sentence, and that gradually tapers off into more specific bits.

Here's an example from the front page of the EL Gazette, March 2005.

Title: Greek police to take exam paper trail
The Public prosecutor in Greece is investigating a security breach doring the December session of the Cambridge Esol (sic) examinations in the country.
(That's you first paragraph, and it tell you everything. Now, the story segues into a brief narrative.)
At 9.20 a.m. on 5 December Antenna (sic), a major national Greek television channel, broadcast that it has been faxed pages from the CPE question papers. The questions were receuved 14 minutes after the candidates had entered the exam room that morning. Photocopies of the same pages had been posted by express delivery to several news sources on 3 December.
(That gives you the explanation of what the security breach was. And now, the official response from Cambridge ESOL.)
According to a press statement from University of Cambridge Esol (sic) Examinations, 'There is no reason to believe that the theft of this material a consequence of the expanstion of the network of authorised centres in Greece.'
(That was rather important information. The article goes on from there...I'll quote more of it in my next series of clues.)

The main thing to remember is that information goes from GENERAL to SPECIFIC when it is provided in newspaper in order to inform you. News texts are not structured like this example:
(Paragraph 1)
Farmer Tom had this to say about the missing pigs, "It ain't right. Them darned rascals done took all the pigs. Sweet Jesus, couldn't they have left me just one?" His neighbor and minority shareholder of their common sty, Farmer Doug, was standing right next to the victim as he said this and grunted in agreement. This reporter watched as the two men, shattered under the economic burden of coping with the loss of their livestock, walked heavily to the coop to take stock of their chickens.
(Paragraph 2)
An increase in incidents of livestock-snatching has been reported in Chemung County during the last financial quarter. Small farmers on Old Ithaca Road have been reporting wholesale thefts of their barnyard animals in increasing numbers during the last three months. Authorities suspect that a professional gang is operating in the area and urges all concerned citizens with information on the group, which has been , this reporter has learned, dubbed the "Meat-Grabbers" by the police.

Paragraph 2 MUST come before Paragraph 1 in such a gapped text.

Let's go back to our EL Gazette example:
Greek police to take exam paper trail
The Public prosecutor in Greece is investigating a security breach doring the December session of the Cambridge Esol (sic) examinations in the country.
At 9.20 a.m. on 5 December Antenna (sic), a major national Greek television channel, broadcast that it has been faxed pages from the CPE question papers. The questions were receuved 14 minutes after the candidates had entered the exam room that morning. Photocopies of the same pages had been posted by express delivery to several news sources on 3 December.
According to a press statement from University of Cambridge Esol (sic) Examinations, 'There is no reason to believe that the theft of this material a consequence of the expanstion of the network of authorised centres in Greece.'
(And now, here's the next paragraph.)
Cambridge Esol (sic) have been operating in Greece for over half a century, and play a significant role in both private and public ELT sectors. The British Council previously acted as the sole examination administrator, but last June Cambridge piloted a new internal examination centre. In December fourteen internal centres plus an additional open centre tested students across the country. Additional checks will take place during the CPE marking process, including additional statistical analysis across the exam papers to study the performance of candidates from individual schools.

(This last paragraph has nothing, really, to do with the story. It is there to give you BACKGROUND information to the narrative.)

The way I always teach this is to turn off the lights and say, in a low voice:
"The lion crept in the darkness that overlay the floor of the jungle, a coiled spring of power and grace in the shadows. Suddenly, it tensed, then silently sprang at the object hanging from the tree. A flashbulb exploded, causing the lion to look up and hiss its hatred!

(Turn the light on.)
The photo safari had been organized in Cambridge three weeks previously by Dr. Hector E. Bananaman, noted South African anthropologist. In taking pictures of lions springing after prey, Dr. Banaman hopes to uncover in human psychology exactly what, in early human history, caused us to learn to think of the lion as the "king of beasts." His theory is that we learned to mimic lions in their instinctively organized hunting patterns, and thus, as organization is the primary source of our claim to being the most developed species on the planet, our attitude toward the lion reflects in us a very basic understanding that the species, in truth, taught us to be human.

(Turn the light off.)
Little of this mattered to Leo. As soon as the flashbulb's glare died away, he turned back to the joint of meat lying on the ground. Once, twice, thee times he ripped into it, the jaws chewing and salivating as they sampled the fresh beef on offer. Then, in a whirl of fur and with a savage hiss, he disappeared into the gloom, taking the savaged meat with him to feed his hungry mate and cubs.
The second paragraph is filled with BACKGROUND information, interspersed in the narrative. Generally speaking, if you see a gap in a part of the text that you have identified as narrative and you can read the text from one paragraph to the next with a minimal break of cohesion, you can expect to find background information filling that hap.
I'll pick up next time where I left off here. Once again, this was WHAT TO LOOK FOR. Next time, I'll give you the strategy I teach all my students.
Thanks a million!!
I'm looking forward to seeing the next part of your teaching...
Thanks a million!! I'm looking forward to seeing the next part of your teaching...

Gapped Text, Part 2 - HOW TO DO IT!
So now that we know what to look for to link paragraphs together, we have our strategy for gapped text. Before we get into it, we need to look at some of the basic problems that have to do with this part of the test.
Students, according to Cambridge ESOL, tend to get either all or none of the marks available in this section. Consequently, the candidate needs to avoid, at all costs, an all-or-nothing mentality. What exactly does this mean?
All-or-nothing-thinking, as the term implies, leads YOU, the test-taker to believing that it is indeed possible to get ALL of the answers right. The two main symptoms of this kind of thinking are: changing your answers once you choose them, and spending too much time on this part of Reading.
Think about it! There are four parts to Reading that have to get done in exactly 90 minutes. Pt1, 18 marks, Pt2, 16 marks (2 for each question), Pt3, 14 marks, and Pt4, 14 marks.14 marks out of 76 means that Part 3 is worth about 18% of the marksavailable on the Reading Paper. That means that logically, Part 3 is worth 18% of your time, which is about 16 minutes. Because Pt1 (Lexical Close) finishes quickly, Pt2 (Short Texts) looks deceptively simple, and most students learn how to do Pt4 (Long Text) in one pass, many students do not understand that they cannot afford to spend upwards of sixty minutes on Pt3! Consistently, in doing Past Papers, I have seen my weaker students desperately strive to get all they can out of Gapped Text because the vocabulary is supposed to be pitched at a lower level, which gives weaker students a false sense of confidence in their ability to grasp the meaning of the text in a fuller way than what they can do on the other Parts.
My logic goes like this: you WILL finish Pt1 faster than you will the other parts of the test, so you CAN take time away from that Part and give it to Part 3 without losing marks. You can also, if you're careful, take time away from Part 2 without losing marks. You should not, not, not take away time from Part 4. All in all, however, if you have done your work, you need a strategy that will get you through Gapped Text in about 30 minutes.
Second, a very stupid mistake that students make when studying along for the test is to time themselves immediately from the start. With Gapped Text, technique comes first, and then speed. Allow yourself as much time as necessary the first few times you do this following the right technique, and gradually, you will find yourself picking up speed automatically. Only at the end of your preparation should you actually begin pushing for 30 minutes.
Next, fake tests, when it comes to examinations assembled in as complex a way as the Cambridge examinations, are usually worthless. Tests prepared by experts who have participated in the revision process are likewise garbage, however, which many students don't realize. Cambridge 3 and 4 are the only two books of Past Papers that have come out of CUP that reflect what has really been on the test, because they ARE what was really on the test, If you need more materials, you can buy Past Paper Packs at www.cambridgesol.com. Do not trust your preparations to poorly written fake tests.
You can give yourself a running start! The CAE also incorporates a gapped text, and while many of the topics on the CAE and CPE are not the same, many of the same kinds of texts appear in both tests. Refine your technique on the CAE gapped texts before you go hunting for big game.
What seems to be the most obvious strategy to get through Gapped Text is one which, on examination, ranks among the worst. Students read the text on the left and then read the first answer choice. Then, they ask themselves where it goes. After making their choice, on they go to answer choice 2, and so on. Some books written by people who have no business writing test-prep books actually encourage students to do this. Most native-speaker teachers without significant experience in test prep also advocate this approach in Part 3. If you ever have a teacher who tells you that this is how to do Gapped Text and that he has significant experience helping students pass the test, well, YOUR TEACHER IS A LIAR AND A FOOL, as are, unfortunately, most ELTs.

This approach is STUPID, it is RIDICULOUS, and you should NOT DO THIS.

Gapped Text takes more out of you than any other part: students universally find this to be the most stressful part of Reading and many feel it is more difficult than Summary (which I feel is more difficult than Gapped Text). I think it is because you have to work without a net, as it were, through seven gaps and fourteen marks, knowing that one answer depends on all the others. This kind of mental exercise tires you out more than when you know the probability that you will get each question right...25% in a four-option multiple choice question, for example.
And finally, the biggest problem that faces students who do the test is an inability to take clear notes. From what I understand, no country in the world systematically attempts to teach its students to be good note-takers, but Greeks are notoriously poor at the exercise, and so lose even more parks needlessly in the section of the test. I cannot count the Gapped Texts I've looked at that had not a word circled on them or a penciled remark written in. You can lead a horse to water, as it is said, but you can't make him drink. You have been warned.

The strategy I force my students to use is remarkably effective. It goes like this.
Read the instruction! Read the title! Then, read the left page of the gapped text, the part with the gaps in it. Stop there!

As you read the page CAREFULLY, circle clues in the text and take notes in the margins and in the gaps. For instance, if you see that the first word of a new paragraph after a blank is "He," you should circle that word and write "Who is HE?" in the gap above. The notes may seem simple but they work remarkably well in directing your eyes toward the more important information in the text as the clock winds down. When you don't circle, when you don't write, you lose valuable time rereading for clues that you know are there but were too stupid to highlight or otherwise mark the first time you went through the text. You will pay for your stupidity on CPE day.
Having carefully read the text on the left, PICK THE GAP THAT YOU BELIEVE IS EASIET. Perhaps you feel that one is easy because there are a number of clues in the paragraph immediately after it, or there is an particularly easy clue, like a result clause with a pronoun in it.

For instance... (Gap) "So he said that we should not do that..."

"So..." indicates a reason was stated earlier. Who is "he?" What is "that?" That's a strong series of clues.
Example 2: (Gap) "An action more fraught with peril was difficult to imagine! James shivered at the thought."
Clearly, what was discussed in the previous paragraph was "an action fraught with peril."
Either way, pick the easiest gap and then GO AFTER YOUR ANSWER!!! Start reading the eight paragraphs (A-H).
As you read each paragraph, ask yourself if it is what you are looking for. If the answer is NO, move on to the next one. If the answer is YES, finish reading all of them. By using this strategy, you'll read all the answer choices in an active manner, which will guarantee that you will stay focused.
You will be tempted to stop and grab at a paragraph that fits into another gap perfectly. DO NOT DO THIS, no matter how tempting it seems! You are looking for YOUR answer to YOUR gap. Do not be distracted by an answer you are absolutely sure is right for another gap. One gap at a time, sweet Jesus!
Let's say you find your answer. You're positive. Before you pencil it in, write a "1" next to the blank. Think hard about what you're doing. Would you be willing to bet your Proficiency on that answer?
For many students, that's exactly what putting down this first answer means...that's how important those 14 marks in Reading might be. If the answer is "yes" mark it down, cross out the answer choice on the right, and move on to another blank.
If the answer is "no," abandon that blank. Find the one that you believed was the next easiest one and go after your answer.

Points to keep in mind: If you screw up on that first gap, my experience tells me that you will not, almost unfailingly, be able to get more than two of the seven gaps. If you get sidetracked on the first gap and go hunting after another answer, well, you might as well lie down with your butt invitingly high in the air, waiting for a proper Cambridge...spanking.
Remember, you are playing BET YOUR PROFICIENCY. Follow the same strategy for the next three gaps.
If one of the paragraphs (A-H) SCREAMS for a gap after you put down your first answer, if you can indeed BET YOUR PROFICIENCY on it, OK, put down "2" next to that gap and answer it. Then go back to choosing your next easiest gap.
After your first four gaps are in, or occasionally, after your first 3, you might feel that Bet Your Proficiency will not get you any more marks. It's time to switch games.
Search and Destroy involves looking at a gap and eliminating possible answer choices (A-H) for it. If you look at a gap and realize that there is no way (because of clues in the A-H answer choice) that three of the four remaining answer choices could fit that gap, write it in and go on. As always, mark the number in sequence that you did the gaps. Continue until you finish the test.
JUSTIFY EACH ANSWER. Students often fall into a paranoid relationship with the Item Writer who created the test. Just as people, when they communicate, tend to characterize the nature of a special bond in terms of "being on the same wavelength," students working through an anonymously written test under enormous time pressure occasionally make incredibly stupid mistakes because they mistake something the writer has put in as a simple trap as some grand test of their intuitive ability.

From the start of Gapped Text, firmly tell yourself that YOU ARE NOT ON THE SAME WAVELENGTH AS THE WRITER. Look for simple clues such as the ones I've outlined. This is not mind-melding, it's all about pounds and pence. To quote a damned good test-prep writer: "The right answers to standardized tests are always like the girl your mother wants you to bring home, not the one that gets your blood boiling." Look for obvious traps in questions that seem to call for extraordinary mental gymnastics beyond the mental flexibility of ordinary mortals.
DO NOT CHANGE YOUR ANSWERS. Once an answer's down, it's down. Occasionally, you will realize that you make a stupid mistake and change an answer. Never change an answer because you "feel" it isn't right. Research has consistently shown that your "feeling" probably isn't worth a tinker's damn.
Keep writing down the sequence as you do your practice tests. This will give you the opportunity to see where you went wrong when you review your answers. As you realize how valuable those first few answers are, and that the technique outlined above works EVERY SINGLE TIME, your confidence will soar. Rein it back every once in awhile.
4 out of 7 answers is a fine performance. 57% is nothing to scoff at.What will give you angina is if you score 5 out 7 on one test and 2 out of 7 on another test and go into the exam room on the big day with little more in the way of test strategy than a few prayers to a God who consistently, in my experience, only helps those who help themselves. AVOID ALL OR NOTHING THINKING AND REMEMBER THAT HAY-SOOS WILL ALMOST ALWAYS SIT THE GAPPED TEXT OUT.
Do not practice on fake tests. They are not made in the same way and subject to the same criteria that Cambridge uses to make up the real ones. Practice on real Cambridge materials, preferable CPE Past Papers and you won't go wrong. Practice on other materials is worth nothing, and may even hurt your performance in the real test.

Go slow and first, and then pick up speed. Forcing yourself to follow the right technique at first is worth every drop of nerve-racking sweat it takes.
Plan to do more Gapped Texts than other parts of the test in your test training. There are two reasons for this. Obviously, the technique necessary to do them well is difficult to master, but also, the psychological price of knowing that you did poorly on Gapped Text will hurt you a great deal in the other papers that come after it, namely, Use of English and Listening. Stick with it until you consistently score 5 out of 7.
The names of the games are, once again:
Bet Your Proficiency (first four gaps)
Search and Destroy (last three gaps)
Next time...shivers...Use of English, Gapped Sentences!
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Hey, does this newsgroup have an 'upload file' facility like You-know-hoo? credo's hints and tips could be useful to many people; why bury them in the postings?
I don't know, but I made my own English file with the tips I've been collecting through these teaching groups... very very useful...
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