Tips to ace the CPE

If you are preparing for a proficiency test, you might have encountered a number of gap-fill exercises along the way. Here you’ll see how to tackle the Cambridge English Reading and Use of English task.


For questions 1-6, read the text below and decide which answer (A, B, C or D) best fits each gap.


In the last ten years or so, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have 1 ______ up residence in Vancouver, in western Canada. To relax in the evening, residents 2 ______ down the city streets and, if you join them, you are likely to overhear a different language at almost every other step. People come to Vancouver for its mild climate, its wonderful setting between the ocean and the mountains, its clean and safe environment and its educational and job opportunities. And 3 ______ some may grumble about the speed at which new buildings have 4 ______, there’s no doubt that the new arrivals and 5 _____ tourism industry have helped fuel an urban renaissance. Locals once referred to Vancouver as ‘Terminal City’ because of the city’s role as a terminus or gateway to all other places. Though the name has fallen slightly out of 6 _____, Vancouver is more a gateway than ever.

(Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English 1, 2002)

How to tackle this exercise

Gap-fill exercises, in general, rely not only on the information before and after the gap (coherence), but also on how the words connect grammatically (cohesion).

Let’s identify the ‘clues’ in the text:

For # 1, the clues are: the particle ‘up’, which indicates it’s a phrasal verb, and the word ‘residence’, which suggests the idea of ‘living, inhabiting’.

The same rationale works for the other gaps. Looking at #2, we know it might be a phrasal verb as well, as indicated by the particle ‘down’. The idea is something that residents do in the streets, perhaps ‘walking’, as the phrase ‘every other step’ indicates. Therefore, the phrasal verb we are looking for is likely a synonym of ‘walk’.

Finding the right answers

After having identified the ‘clues’ in the text, the next step is to identify the wrong or impossible answers. This might happen in two ways: first, cross out obviously wrong answers based on meaning or form. Second, cross out answers that are exactly the same. Remember, there is ONLY ONE correct option, thus, if two answers seem equally good, both are equally wrong.

Let’s check our alternatives:

Looking back at #1, we know the idea is connected to ‘inhabiting’. Let’s check out our options:

A ‘take up’ = occupy time, space, attention → occupy space ≈ inhabit

B ‘put up’ = stay temporarily in accommodation other than home ≠ inhabit

C ‘make up’ = invent, create, prepare → no connection with ‘inhabiting’

D ‘ build up’ = make or become stronger, establish or develop → could be connected to housing but not necessarily to ‘inhabiting’

Based on  this analysis, the correct answer is A.

Now, as we analyse #2, we should keep in mind the idea of ‘walking in the city to relax’:

A ‘prowl down’ = ‘prowl’ means to move in search of prey (animal being hunted) → surely not what residents of Vancouver do to relax in the city

B ‘stumble down’ = ‘Stumble’ means to trip, almost fall. Again, it is not something most people would do to relax in the city

C ‘trudge down’ = ‘trudge’ means to walk slowly and with heavy steps, almost like it is hard or a burden. Therefore, it is not a relaxing activity

D ‘stroll down’ = by elimination, this is likely the correct answer, but let’s take a closer look anyway. ‘Stroll down’ means to walk in a leisurely way. If ‘leisure’ means to use free time with enjoyment, it seems like the perfect match to ‘walking in the city to relax’

Based on this analysis, the correct answer is D.

Now it is your turn

Click on the button below, ‘Vancouver’, to access the complete exercise and the answer key.

Let us know in the comments how you like this approach and if it works out for you.

Stay tuned for more test prep tips: Cambridge English Qualifications, IELTS and CELPIP.

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