Story and tips for passing Portuguese Exam CAPLE C1 level

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Each learning has its own story.

Although people find it hard to understand why I learned Spanish in USA and started French in Chile, each language story makes sense to me. Here is my story on learning Portuguese, as well as some learning from the process of passing Portuguese Exam CAPLE C1 level.

My story of Portuguese learning

How I ignored and finally met Portuguese 

10 years ago, I went to Brazil as a tourist. Although I spoke Spanish (sister language to Portuguese), I couldn’t communicate in Portuguese.

4 years ago, I went to Portugal, and it was even more difficult to understand so I kept speaking English.

3 years ago, I was working at UNICEF regional office covering 21 African countries including 2 Portuguese speaking countries ー Angola and Mozambique. Since I decided to move on from my French journey after living in Mauritania, I thought it can be a good motivation to learn Portuguese, so that one day I could go either country for a mission. When my colleague told me that Mozambique had good food, it boosted my motivation.

Among 21 countries we were supporting, I asked my boss to assign me as a focal point of Mozambique, which was rejected. But when my boss resigned, I started supporting the country virtually to cover the gap. I tried my best to achieve my objectiveーmission to Mozambique. When the mission was finally about to happen, it was cancelled by COVID-19. Then I got a new job and left the region and Africa, and somehow lost my motivation and shifted my learning focus to other language such as Chinese.

In 2021, when I found a job post in Mozambique, my hidden motivation to learn the language and eat their food popped up again as if that was the my call. Then I resumed my self study.

Last June (2022), I went to Brazil, and this time I could have basic conversation, which sparked my motivation even more (for more detail, please see Achieving a Ten-Year-long Dream and Language Learning at Lençóis in Brazil)

A month later, I came to live in Mozambique, the first Portuguese speaking country in my life. I did not know that it was called “Lusophone” (Portuguese speaking) country as opposed to anglophone (English speaking) and francophone (French speaking).

Different Portuguese

When I started studying Portuguese in Kenya, I used resource of Brazilian Portuguese due to the wider availability (looking at the population of Brazil 210+ million as opposed to Portugual 10 million, it makes sense).

I didn’t know that Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil were so different (and Mozambique Portuguese is similar to the former). For example, the bathroom is banheiro (Brazil) vs casa de banho (Portugual), and breakfast is café da manhãa (Brazil) vs pequeno-almoço. To make it more complicated, the pronunciation is quite different for the same spelling.

My Spanish and French skill (both Latin origin and so is Portuguese) helped to use Portuguese, especially conversation level. Although Spanish is especially close to Portuguese, some words are completely different, such as “forget” as in olvidar (Spanish) vs esquecer (Portuguese), “pregnant” as in embrazada (Spanish) vs grávida (Portuguese), and Portuguese has more accent form than Spanish.

When 2 months have passed after my arrival to Mozambique, I wanted to improve my Portuguese skill, and started to look for any exam. Although I don’t believe exam assess the true language level, it is still good way to push yourself, as I wrote in previous post “How to Keep Motivating Yourself“).

Since I prefered Brazilian Portuguese, I looked for Celpe-bra, which was no longer available for 2022. So the only choice was CAPLE for European Portuguese.

Characteristic and tips of CAPLE

Decision on the exam level

Due to a lack of available resource, it was hard to know which level I was suitable. Therefore, before deciding the exam level to sign up for, I did a mock test for B1, B2 and C1 and my level was somewhere between B1 and B2. Until the exam, I had only 1 month, or I still had 1 month (half full or half empty in a glass!). Even if I fail, I won’t lose anything. So instead of aiming for closer goal (B2), I aimed more difficult one to push myself (C1)

The structure of CAPLE

CAPLE has 6 different levels  (you can see the description for each in the above image). Each level consists of the 4 following parts:

(1) Reading: Compreensão da Leitura
(2) Writing: Produção e Interação Escritas
(3) Listening:Compreensão do Oral
(4) Speaking: Produção e Interação Orais

In fact, there are similar exams for other languages such as TOEFL (English), DELE (Spanish), DELF (French), HSK (Chinese), and JLPT (Japanese).

Practical Preparation

In my case, given that there was only 1 month of preparation, I focused more on what I could improve in a short term. I spent more time on writing and speaking while being exposed to listening and reading via daily routine. Below are some tips on each section.

(1) Reading: Compreensão da Leitura (90min)

For this part, I tried to read more consciously at work and home, and started reading newspaper in Portuguese.

(2) Writing: Produção e Interação Escritas (90min)

For this part, I just wrote as much as possible asked the native to proof read. DAPLE (C1 level) has 3 written exercise: (a), mostly letter, (b) free essay and (c) rephrasing sentences (grammar). Each section needs to be between 200-230 words. In the end, I wrote more than 3,000 words on very different topics.

For (a) the letter, I  made some template so that I can just put any idea into this format:

  • Head: para (for whom), de (from whom), assunto (subject), data (date)
  • Beginning: Exmo/a. Senhor/a
  • Objective: Je venho por este meio solicitar XXX
  • The part 1: Primeiro que tudo, por exemplo,
  • The part 2: En segundo lugar / Também …… Por exemplo,
  • The part 3: En terceiro lugar, ……Por exemplo, …..
  • Conclusion: En conclusção, …..
  • To finish: Agradeço antecipadamente a sua atenção sobre o assunto. Atenciosamente, XXX

For (b) the essay, it is quite similar to the above:

  • Beginning: State clear opinion
  • The part 1: Primeiro que tudo, por exemplo,
  • The part 2: En segundo lugar / Também …… Por exemplo,
  • The part 3: En terceiro lugar, ……Por exemplo, …..
  • Conclusion: En conclusção, …..

For (c) grammar, you can practice and see the trend. It asks your capacity to use subjunctive and other forms of framing sentences.

(3) Listening:Compreensão do Oral (40min)

First of all, I actively listened to the podcast in European Portuguese, NHK World in Portuguese (Brazilian Portuguese) and audiobook in Portuguese (but everything I bought was Brazilian audiobook). I also watched some web news from Portugal to get used to its accents. Since I realized that I couldn’t improve this part in a short term, I decided not to focus much.

(4) Speaking: Produção e Interação Orais (25min)

Unlike other European language exam, CAPLE speaking part has a wide range of topics without specific structure, so it was quite difficult to prepare. I also found a tutor to practice with me. In general, I tried to speak as much as possible with colleagues and friends.

Focused effort

For the exam date, it is important to make focused effort, so that you can switch on for the specific objective.

Mental Preparation

As a person who started living in Mozambique a few months ago, I needed to prepare and kept telling myself is this: the test is made for non-perfectionalist! If you get 55 out of 100 points, so 55 and 100 are certificate-wise same thing.

A classificação de Muito Bom é atribuída aos candidatos que obtiverem entre 85% e 100%.
A classificação de Bom é atribuída aos candidatos que obtiverem entre 70% e 84%.
A classificação de Suficiente é atribuída aos candidatos que obtiverem entre 55% e 69%.

Time management

During the exam, you have fixed time for each section. Depending on your current skill and allocated time, you could prepare how long you spend on which area. For listening and speaking, you have little control. For reading, it depends on the difficulty of each part, but make sure to allocate time for all instead of getting stuck in the first part.
For writing, I decided to use the writing section for the following.

  • 20min: grammar section (last part) to tackle first, so that I can spend my brain for actual writing
  • 30min: letter
  • 30min: essay
  • 10min: review

Accident in Listening part – the most difficult part

Another mental exercise was required during the exam. During the listening test (the hardest part), I thought I failed because of the difficult to understand. To make it even worse, the examiner (Mozambican) went out of the room and left his phone, which started to ring really loud. It was when I meditate a bit and calmed myself. Daily meditation paid off.

What’s next

To be completely honest, I thought I didn’t pass, and when the positive result showed up on the screen, it lit my mood. It was minimum passing line (sufficient), which is totally fine. Even if the result was failure I learned many things anyway.

I now have certificates of C1 French, C1 Portuguese, C2 Spanish and C1 (equivalent) English. Although language laerning has no end-point, I will move on to the next language learning journey and setting new objectives. Study for language exam is short term, but learning itself can be lifelong process. The most important thing is enjoy using and learning, instead of caring too much about the language level.

The learning of this time 

Although the process is more important than the result for learning, it is good to get some result (passing Portuguese exam CAPLE C1) to motivate and advance in the lifelong learning journey.

Thank you for reading this article. Have a great learning!


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