Cambridge Advanced C1 (CAE) Speaking Scores


Examiners discussing speaking scores

 The Cambridge Advanced or CAE speaking exam is evaluated under a number of categories. Here we’ll take a look at what these categories are and how to explain the speaking scores for each of the categories.

Speaking Scoring Categories

The first thing to point out about all of the Cambridge exams is that the scores go from 0-5  and from a score of 1 they increase in 0.5 marks.  For example 0, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, …

A pass mark is an overall score of 3.

The categories that examiners use for Advanced scores are as follows

  • Grammatical Resource
  • Lexical Resource
  • Discourse Management
  • Pronunciation
  • Interactive Communication

There is also one extra final global score which comes from the interlocutor or the person who is asking the questions.

So how do the examiners look at the individual scores for each category?

Grammatical Resource

Grammatical resource is where the examiner looks at the range of grammar that a candidate has. For a pass at Cambridge Advanced a candidate should be able to use simple tenses very well, without errors and also to try to use more complex structures.
More complex forms could be the use of conditionals, gerund forms or a variety of passive structures. The important thing here however is to be as accurate as you can be because the examiner will also look at the level of errors.

Lexical Resource

Lexical resource is where the examiner looks at the vocabulary range. As with grammar you need to have basic vocabulary for any topic. The examiner is also looking at what vocabulary you might have for topics you know less about.

  • Is it simple familiar vocabulary or is the candidate using less common words?
  • Is it  used appropriately and naturally?

The wider the range of vocabulary you can show the higher your score will be.

Discourse Management

The examiner looks at two things here; whether you can offer an extended opinion on a topic and how you organize your ideas while you are speaking. So, the key here is to keep talking and to make sure that any ideas you include are linked together well. If you can speak for longer periods and join ideas well you will get a higher speaking score.


The examiner here looks at how the candidate pronounces words and English sounds and also how they express their ideas across sentences.  For Cambridge Advanced you need to make sure you do not have any individual problem sounds. You also need to be natural in using stress in sentences and in expressing longer ideas.  Having an accent is generally not a problem as long as what you say is clear.

Interactive Communication

Interactive communication looks at a number of things. The first thing it looks at is whether you are interacting with your partner. That includes responding to what they say but also allowing them to give their own opinion. The second element the examiner looks at is how you respond. So, for example, can you respond appropriately to what your exam partner has said and can you also start a discussion by responding to a question from the examiner?

Global Score

This global score comes from the interlocutor or the person who asks questions.  What it refers to is their overall opinion of how a candidate has performed a test. So, for a score of 3 for example, they consider that the candidate has been able to communicate their ideas fairly well and that is the language is reasonably accurate.

One thing to remind yourself is that it’s not a score on one individual part. The examiner is constantly evaluating how candidates perform during the whole 15 minutes of their speaking test. That said, there are probably better opportunities for candidates to show a better range of language in part 3 and particularly in part 4. So, be sure you take advantage of this!

Take a look at our review of a Cambridge Advanced Speaking Test and think about how the candidates perform for each of these categories.

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