When English academies prepare our students for Cambridge English exams like First – FCE (B2), Advanced – CAE (C1) and Proficiency – CPE (C2), we are aware that there are three parts which can be particularly tricky for most English learners: Listening, Speaking and Use of English, the latter being the purpose of today’s post. For this reason, today I’m going to tell you about CAE Academy and FCE Academy, two apps which can come in very handy.
The Use of English paper can be slightly complicated, especially for people who face it for the first time, as it is basically a mixture of grammar and vocabulary, and the ability to apply grammatical and lexical knowledge. Therefore, besides knowing all the rules and structures, it is absolutely necessary to practise as much as possible. And that’s why in this post I will be reviewing these two apps, because they provide tons of exercises for the Use of English paper for Advanced (CAE) and First (FCE).
CAE Academy & FCE Academy Apps
CAE Academy and FCE Academy are almost identical apps, yet adapted to different levels, that is C1 and B2, respectively. They have been created by Prosperity Education, a company founded by 3 experts in Cambridge English exams.
For this review, I will use CAE Academy, but bear in mind that both apps are almost the same, except for the level, the colours and the name, as you can see in the picture below.
How does CAE Academy work?
CAE Academy, which focuses on Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), is really easy to use. When you open the app, the main menu comes up, where you can choose the part of the Use of English you want to practise:
- Part 1: Multiple choice cloze
- Part 2: Open cloze
- Part 3: Word transformation
- Part 4: Key word transformation
Simply choose one and you’ll access the list of exercises available to do. For parts 1, 2 and 3, each exercise has a title, as they are chunks of text, while for part 4 the exercises are numbered.
When we access one of the exercises, the way the app works is extremely simple:
- To answer each item, simply tap the gap you want to complete. In Use of English Part 1, a menu with 4 options comes up from the lower part of the screen so you can choose the best answer. As for the rest of the parts, a text field becomes available for you to type in your answer. Check out the pictures below to get a better idea.
- In the top right corner there are 3 icons with different functionalities. The first one, the clock, will time us while doing each exercise, starting as soon as we open the task. If we turn on the second button, tick and cross, this will mean that each time you provide an answer it will be corrected straightaway. If we don’t turn this option on, you will have to use the “Finish test” button at the bottom of the screen, below the text. Finally, there’s the information button, which displays the instructions for each exercise when tapped. However, if you want to abandon the task without finishing, you can use the “Quit test” button, below the text.
- Once we have completed one or more exercises, the main screen will display the average score for each part. This is really useful to get an idea of how well or badly we would do in the actual exam and to see which parts we should be paying more or less attention to. Remember that, in order to pass First (FCE) and Advanced (CAE), you need an average score of 60%.
- When you have done all the exercises, if you want, you can start over from scratch by uninstalling and downloading the app again.
By using this app, you can practise a lot and find out how you’re doing exactly, getting a good idea of the score you would get in the actual exam.
What I like about CAE Academy & FCE Academy
These apps are extremely useful for various reasons:
- Both apps are extremely easy to use.
- I love that you can time youself doing every exercise.
- The best thing about them is seeing how your average score evolves, as it’s extremely useful in order to know if you should take the exam or not.
- You can try the Lite version of both apps, which is completely free, before deciding to purchase the full version.
- They both have quite a few exercises for each part: 37 examples of parts 1, 2 and 3, and 12 exercises for part 4 (Key word transformation). If we bear in mind that each of Cambridge English Past Papers book contains only 4 examples of each part, and that its price is around 50€ with key and audio, this app offers something quite valuable at a reasonably low price.
- According to the authors, the exercises have been revised by specialists in Cambridge English exams, that is, English teachers mostly. By doing so, they have made sure that the level of each exercise is adequate.
- You can use the app offline, wherever you are.
What I don’t like so much
Although most of it is very good, there are a few things I feel I should point out:
- I don’t understand why there are 37 examples of parts 1, 2 and 3, but “only” 12 examples of part 4, especially given how difficult most candidates find this part.
- The design is useful and it works out, but I feel a little more could have been done to make it look better, more inspired.
- Something which I really think this app lacks is an explanation of the answers. While adding this feature must be tedious and far from easy, I believe users would really appreciate knowing why some of their answers where right or wrong. This is something I always look for in textbooks and I honestly hope this app includes it in future instalments.
- Despite the fact that I think it is totally worth paying 9,99€ for this app, I think many people will find it expensive. Not because of the app itself, but because many mobile users don’t enjoy paying for a mobile app, let alone 9,99€. This is actually a problem of the users rather than the app itself, but I thought I’d mention it. Again, I think the price is more than fair.
- Exercises are limited, meaning that once you’ve done them… that’s it! It’s like using an exams book. It would be wonderful if more exercises were added regularly. Maybe, instead of a one-time payment, a monthly subscription plan could be offered (something like 4,99€/month), adding a few exercises every week or month.
Both CAE Academy and FCE Academy are really useful apps to improve your Use of English towards your First (FCE) or Advanced (CAE) exam. While some things may be improved, I completely recommend purchasing the full version for 9,99€. Here are my thoughts expressed as numbers:
- Features: 8/10
- Design: 6/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Final score: 8/10
How about you, which apps do you use to learn English? Do you already use one to improve your Use of English? Let me know in the comments and tell me what you think of CAE Academy and FCE Academy.
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Also published on Medium.