Updated guide to Cambridge Proficiency books

I’ve recently been researching the next book for my Cambridge CPE class and found that all the info online is out of date, so thought I’d summarise my findings here.

The only CPE textbooks which are updated for the post-2013 exam and are available new are, in order of personal preference:

Objective Proficiency

textbook with key, textbook without key, workbook with key, workbook without key, and teacher’s book

Proficiency Masterclass

textbook and teacher’s book

There is no physical workbook, but the student’s book comes with online practice.

Proficiency Expert

textbook and workbook

The Proficiency Expert teacher’s book is no longer being sold, but your local Pearson rep will give you PDF copies of that, the answer keys and the transcripts for free if you ask.

And that’s it! Other old CPE textbooks such as Proficiency Gold are no longer being sold, and other exam series from the big publishers such as Compact don’t have CPE level books.

You’ll also need a practice exam book or two. The only three ones for the updated exam are:



Cambridge English: Proficiency Practice Tests with Key by Mark Harrison (OUP)

There are also two full tests available online for free, one as an online test and in the CPE teacher’s handbook, and the other as a downloadable PDF paper-based practice test.

The best other CPE book available is Advanced Language Practice, a grammar and vocabulary book designed for both CAE and CPE (although no longer marketed as such) and which I liked a lot when I used it for homework with my Proficiency classes many many years ago. As the language content of the test hasn’t changed much, it should still be useful.

On a related note, students can now get exactly the same level (C2) from getting an A in CAE as from passing CPE, so another possibility is just to put all your higher-level students in a CAE class, for which many more materials are available. However, you’d have to stop students going straight from passing FCE into a CAE class and put an Advanced-level general English class between the two, as otherwise you’d have a huge range of levels and needs in one class.

Another possibility is to use a very high-level Advanced textbook between CPE textbooks with supplements such as the exam practice books and/ or Advanced Language Practice above, something which I did many years ago and went okay. Headway Advanced is too high-level and too heavy in topics for most standard Advanced classes, so would probably be suitable for this.

I don’t particularly recommend Common Mistakes in Proficiency, which doesn’t actually cover the things that my students find tricky, but it’s worth looking at for teachers.

If you want to supplement or avoid the books above, it might also be worth looking at my own rapidly growing page of CPE materials:

CPE games and worksheets

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7 Responses to Updated guide to Cambridge Proficiency books

  1. lexicojules says:

    Good to see that my Common Mistakes book at least merits a mention – although sorry it doesn’t quite hit the spot with your learners. It’s pretty old now and was always written for a very broad audience. I’d love to do an update and even L1-specific editions, but I doubt the publisher will go for it. Maybe I’ll try giving them another nudge though …

  2. alexcase says:

    As you say, L1 is very important, and I’m teaching the tiny market of Japanese people taking Cambridge exams, so not expecting any books especially for me in the near future…

  3. Sandy Millin says:

    Really useful list. Thanks Alex! I’ve been teaching a non-exam Proficiency class this year, and have found Outcomes Advanced and Keynote Proficient to be useful books too. There’s also Speakout Advanced Plus, though I haven’t seen a copy of that yet, just the contents page.

  4. alexcase says:

    Thanks Sandy. Will check those out.

  5. This is really useful, thanks!

  6. S. Berkel says:

    Hi Alex,
    So I didn’t buy any book of yours by buying the idiom book, lol. Anyways, I’d be highly interested in a booklet of some sorts in which you basically combine parts of your website materials into one. I’m also interested in your CAE-CPE activities. Basically, I’d be interested in a lot of your other materials which we so rudely download for free from your site but sadly not particularly interested in teaching Useful Telephone phrases perse.

  7. S. Berkel says:

    After having read your previous comment on your teaching the tiny market of Japanese people taking the CPE, why are the numbers so tiny? I literally have had all my schools (employers) and universities (for students) only ask for my CPE certificate and literally NONE, ZERO interest in my TOEFL certification.

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