Cambridge Advanced – The Words we Use!



The Cambridge exams are a test of what you know, what you can write and what you can say. Here we’ll take a “fun” look at a few ways candidates can often try to show that knowledge. Some are great – some maybe not so much!


Like – The word “like” is a perfectly normal word but here we are thinking of when it is added in front of other words by some native speakers. It is also very common in US TV shows. It is a habit some people develop but it can make it more difficult for an examiner to identify any other language you are using if you use it too much. So pay attention to what you are saying.

Here’s a video of “like” in action!

In my opinion, I think  – both are very useful but they mean the same thing so one is enough!

I concur   – this is a very formal way of agreeing and it is really not common.

I (would) tend (not) to agree/partially agree – very complex and we often use them more often in some form of formal negotiations.

Idioms  -Idioms can be hard to use and are often very specific to people and contexts. Often candidates feel they can impress the examiner by using them. If you can do it naturally in the right context they will but repeating a learnt expression probably will not.

Some you probably should avoid

Let’s get the ball rolling – For native speakers this is more likely at the beginning of a meeting, not an interview.

Not my cup of tea  –  it’s not a commonly used phrase and usually you use it to say you don’t like something, in a less direct way.

I take your point but  – Great expression but put some feeling into it! The biggest challenge for students is using this is getting the intonation right, with a strong stress on but.

I take your point BUT 

We see eye to eye – This is one that sounds very good but it is usually more of an idea of how well people get on with each other in general but it’s not really a typical way of saying you agree.

Hustle and bustle  – great expression but it is more likely to appear in a reading text or a song!


And some writing favourites!

Nowadays – Popular with 99% of candidates in Cambridge First and Advanced exam essays! But there are many, many other words in English!

Day to Day life – It is a very general description of what people do, it’s usually not used to talk about what you do.

On the one/other hand  – Also very good and very popular phrases to use but don’t forget to consider other ways of introducing point that have opposite opinions.

Regarding  – Also a common phrase but more often the phrases with regard to , as regards are correct.

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