You’ve done the hard part and finally registered for your Cambridge C1 Advanced exam, congratulations! Now all you need to do is pass it!

However, this exam is the longest of all the Cambridge tests. That means you’re going to need some practice managing your time, developing a strategy, and building your confidence.

To help you out, we’ve put together this guide – and it will help you get off to a flying start with Part 1. We’ll take a look at what it’s going to test you on. Then we’ll look at exam strategy and offer some useful tips for your revision.


What’s in Part 1?


You are probably no stranger to the tasks in the Reading and Use of English Part 1 – especially if you’ve done the Cambridge B2 First exam.

First, you have a short text with eight gaps. For each gap you need to choose the correct missing word or phrase, from a choice of four options.

There is also an example of what you need to do labelled (0) – but remember not to complete this one yourself!

What are they testing me on in Part 1?

Part 1 may look like a quick-fire vocabulary test, but at C1 Advanced level, it’s a little more complicated.

Each gap can test you on a different element of the language. This may be in the form of words in isolation such as phrasal verbs, collocations, fixed expressions. Or it can be about how words combine with prepositions, gerunds or infinitives in the text.

The missing word may also depend on the overall meaning of a sentence – or whole paragraph – such as a contrast expression like nevertheless linking two themes together.

Let’s take a look at an example:

What is the answer to this question, and what do you think it is testing you on?

Passing Cambridge C1 Advanced - Part 1 Reading and Use of English - What are they testing me on in Part 1? | Oxford House Barcelona

(Question taken from Cambridge C1 Advanced sample paper on their website)

If you said C. illusion well done!

Even though B. doubt collocates with the words no (doubt) about, this question is an example of how the missing word links with the longer common expression under no illusion about…. It also fits with the context of the sentence as a whole.


How should I answer the questions?

There’s no doubt about it, you have a lot to do in the C1 Advanced Reading and Use of English paper – 8 parts in total!

To make sure you use your time as efficiently as possible, here’s our step by step strategy to help you fill those pesky gaps!

1. Read the whole text first, along with the title, before reading the four options.

This will give you a good idea of the content, as sometimes the right answer is related to the context of whole paragraphs, not just the words surrounding it.

2. Do you think you know some of the missing words before you’ve even read the options? Write them in!

Sometimes you may be able to work out the answers by recognising a common phrasal verb or fixed expression. You can then check these against the options afterwards and see if your ideas were right.

3. Collocations are key.

Look again for prepositions or key words close to the gaps which you think might collocate with the missing word, and circle them. Now check the four options and see if you can connect them with what you’ve found in the text.

4. Use a process of elimination.

Do you know which of the options are definitely wrong? Well, this can help you to narrow down your choice from four to two, and improve your chances of choosing the correct one.

5. Don’t overthink it, and trust your instincts.

If you dither too much you will probably end up deciding that all of the options look good, especially because they are usually in the same word group and tense. There are a lot of marks still available in other parts, and a lot of texts to read in Parts 5 to 8, so don’t worry if you’re stuck between choices.

6. Guess!

You don’t lose any marks for incorrect answers, so never leave a choice empty, just make your best guess if you’re not sure.

7. Read the whole text through one more time, including your eight choices.

Does it seem to make sense grammatically, and does the context seem right? Don’t be afraid to change one of your answers if not before you move on to Part 2.


Tips for Studying and Resources


Even though Part 1 appears at the beginning of the Use of English sections on the C1 Advanced paper, it’s actually a part of your Reading result, along with Parts 5,6,7 and 8. This gives you a big clue about how best to prepare for it: by reading!


  • Spend a little bit of time each day reading things that you like, such as magazine articles, blogs, or newspapers. Look out for common expressions which occur every now and then and make a note of them. What prepositions or collocations can you find around different verbs or adjectives? Are there any linking expressions which frequently start sentences? Can you find any phrasal verbs? Learning to identify these will really help. When you have time, write your own sentences using the new collocations, expressions and phrasal verbs. This will really help you understand and remember them better in the exam.
  • Take some practice tests, and focus on the time limit. Being able to complete our seven steps in about seven minutes will take the pressure off the rest of the exam paper. You can find some online on the Cambridge English website.

  • Register for one of our specific C1 Advanced exam preparation courses. Oxford House’s experienced teachers can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and being able to share ideas with other students will really help your language skills and motivation.

You can find out more information about our Intensive courses which start every trimester, along with our year-long Extensive courses on our website. Or come and speak to one of our team members at our school in Barcelona if you’re passing by.

We hope this has helped you feel a little more prepared to answer Part 1 Reading and Use of English. Check back in again soon for the next part of our Passing C1 Advanced Guide.

Glossary for Language Learners


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

To get off to a flying start (exp):: to start an activity very quickly and confidently.

Quick-fire (adj): in quick succession.

To collocate (v): to occur next to another word quite frequently.

Pesky (adj): causing trouble, or annoying.

Collocation (n): two or more words which are frequently found together.

To narrow down (pv): to make a list of things smaller by taking away some options.

To dither (v): to be indecisive.

Every now and then (exp): : happening occasionally, or once in a while.


exp = expression

adj = adjective

v = verb

n = noun

pv = phrasal verb

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