The Cambridge C1 Advanced exam (CAE) is a high-level qualification, designed to show that candidates are confident and flexible language users who have the linguistic skills to live, work and study in English-speaking environments. But like any exam, achieving a good mark isn’t necessarily just to do with your subject knowledge – exam technique is important too.

This series of blog posts is designed to help you achieve the best mark possible. Each article will show you what you can expect from the various parts of the exam, give you a number of tips and tell you how to make the most of the time available.

In today’s article, we’ll look at what’s required in C1 Advanced: Part 3 Reading and Use of English . Many students feel this part of the exam is quite easy, especially compared to Part 2, but it’s still crucial to take your time, and stay focused on the task at hand.

What is in Part 3?


As in Parts 1 and 2, there is a short text with 8 gaps in it, and one example labelled (0).

On the right-hand side, next to the text, are 8 stem words. These words are all related to the missing ones, and are on the same lines as the gaps you need them for.

You need to change these stem words to ones which are related to them, for example turning an adjective into a noun, and put them in the gaps. You must change these words – they cannot be used as they are. Don’t attempt to move the words to a different line or gap – they are already where they are supposed to be.


What are they testing me on in Part 3?


Part 3 focuses on three different areas, so let’s start with the most important:

1. Vocabulary

Above all, this section is a vocabulary test. Do you know all the different words related to the stem word? This sounds overwhelming, but to make this easier, we only need to think about doing this in three different ways.

Affixation: This is where you add to the beginning or end of a word. For example fortune can change to misfortune (adding to the beginning of the word), fortunate (adding to the end of the word) or unfortunately (both).

Changing the middle of the word: Here, the beginning of the word stays the same, but then there is a radical change from the middle onwards. For example deep can change to depth.

Compounding: This is where two words are combined. You’ll be given one word which you then have to combine with another word, such as count changing to countdown.

2. Word relationships

Along with the vocabulary test, you need to think about the technical side of the English language. This can range from the relationships between nouns and adjectives, to how you identify the need for adverbs.

If you look at this example from the Cambridge English website, can you recognise what type of word we need here?

…this means that pasta is more (20) …….. than eggs or meat.                                   BENEFIT

Before the gap we have a noun (pasta), followed by the verb to be (is), and then finally the adverb (more). After the gap we have the conjunction (than) and more nouns (eggs or meat). If we examine this then we can recognise that we’re making a comparison between the nouns, and work out what part of speech is missing. If you guessed that we’re looking for an adjective, then you’re right!

Now we’ve identified the need for an adjective, we need to work out how to change the stem noun Benefit into its adjective. There are many common adjective suffixes such as -ful, -able, -ic, -ial and -ive, so you need to choose wisely. The correct answer in this context is BENEFICIAL. In this example the T changes to a C, so be careful of potential spelling changes in this section.

3. Overall comprehension

Finally, Part 3 is also a test on how well you can follow the overall meaning of the text. This is usually done by using affixation to create negative meanings of the stem words. Let’s have a look at an example:

Failure to follow a sensible diet can result in the (21) …….. to maintain stamina.                                ABLE

With this sentence, we can immediately see we need a noun because it follows the definite article (the) and comes before a preposition (to). So, if we change able to its noun, we get ABILITY.

However, if we fill the gap with ABILITY, the sentence doesn’t make any sense. We need to look closely at the meaning of the sentence: it’s not about the ability to maintain stamina, but the failure to maintain stamina.

So, what’s the negative prefix for the noun ability? Common negative prefixes include un-, dis-, in-, non-, ir- and many more. But if you chose INABILITY, congratulations! We have a noun, and it works in the context!


How should I answer the questions?


You need to aim to complete Part 3 in about 7 minutes, which is possible if you follow these five simple steps:

1. Focus on the global meaning of the text, as it lays the groundwork for the rest of the exercise. Read the text the whole way through and underline the sections where you think you’ll need a negative prefix. At this stage you don’t need to worry about the stem words.

2. Think about what type of word goes in each space? Do you think it’ll be an adjective, noun, adverb or verb? Make a quick note in each gap now, and keep an eye out for possible negative words.

3. Fill the gaps. First, complete the gaps with the answers that you’re confident about. Then, for the remaining gaps, try to list all the words you can make from the stem word. Hopefully this quick exercise will help remind you of the one you need for your answer.

4. Read through the text again, making sure that it all makes sense. If you’re not convinced, then change the word and read the sentence again. Is it any better? Changing your mind at this stage is not uncommon, or a bad thing!

5. Check your spelling. Both British and American spelling options are fine, but consistency is important.


Tips for Studying and Resources


We’ve previously mentioned the importance of reading authentic texts in our Passing C1 Advanced series. By spending a little time each day flicking through an English magazine you’re interested in, or by scrolling up and down on Instagram, you’ll find some really useful language.

However, Part 3 is a little different to the other sections of the Reading and Use of English paper. It requires a technical understanding of English, which means you’ll need to approach your reading in a couple of different ways.

  • English may look like it has very few rules, however the more you read the more you’ll begin to notice some common patterns. This is really apparent with different prefixes and suffixes. For example, how many different prefixes do you know for different adjectives? To give you a clue, look out for words beginning dis-, im-, in-, re-, anti-, super-…..
  • Becoming curious about word connections is key. When you discover a new word, don’t just stop there. Ask yourself, how can I change it into a noun, adjective, adverb or verb? Make a note of these in your notebooks.
  • Are you struggling to get back into studying? Our 5 ways to become a better learner post has some really good advice on how to keep motivated. Take a look, and start putting the advice into practice!
  • For exam practice and information about the exam format, take a look at the Cambridge English website. Try sticking to the 7 minute time limit when you’re doing a practice exam, and let us know how you get on in the comments!


At Oxford House we want you to do your absolute best in the C1 Advanced exam. Stay tuned for the next part of the series. Our experienced teachers can also teach you what to expect in each part of the exam, and make sure you feel prepared on the day. We offer extensive and intensive courses, as well as one-to-one private classes.

Check out our Cambridge Exam Courses on our website for more information on how to register.

Related articles


Take a look at our other blog posts for more information about the C1 Advanced exam:

Passing C1 Advanced: A Guide to Reading and Use of English Part 1

Passing C1 Advanced: A Guide to Reading and Use of English Part 2

A Guide To The Cambridge English Computer-Based Exams

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Stem (n): the main part of a word

To turn into (pv):  to change into something else

Radical (adj): extreme

Suffix (n): what you add to the end of a word to alter its significance

Prefix (n): the same as suffix, however you add to the beginning of the word

To flick through (pv): to look at or read casually and quickly

To scroll (up/down) (v): to move up or down a screen

Curious (adj): to be interested in how something works

To stick to (pv): to keep to a limit


pv = phrasal verb

n = noun

adj = adjective

v = verb

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