50 Phrasal Verbs Commonly Used in the CAE Exam

Below is a list of 50 phrasal verbs which I have often seen used in Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) exams. I would recommend that you go through the list and try to learn the meaning(s) of each.

Because to pass the CAE exam, you need to have a broad/wide knowledge of English vocabulary, the majority of the below phrasal verbs are advanced (you wouldn't be expected to know what they mean or be taught them when studying lower levels of English (e.g. the Cambridge FIrst Certificate of English (FCE) exam)).

However, in addition to using advanced phrasal verbs, in the CAE exam you will also find used many phrasal verbs which are less advanced (those which would be used in FCE exam). So, I would strongly recommend that you also see the list we have created for Phrasal Verbs Commonly Used in the FCE Exam and learn these as well.


To learn some advanced synonyms for common words which you can use in the exam, read our article called 'Vocabulary to Improve your Writing and Speaking in the CAE Exam'.


Learn the different meanings

Some of these phrasal verbs only have one meaning, but the majority have multiple ones. You probably already know the most commonly used meaning for many of the below phrasal verbs (and also those which are in the FCE exam list), however, in the CAE exam they often use meanings of phrasal verbs which are less commonly used.

So what you need to do is to learn what the main three or four meanings of a phrasal verb are and in what situations they are used in. In order to find out what these are, I would recommend that you learn their meanings through an online dictionary (the Macmillan Dictionary is very good for this) and learn the first three or four meanings which are listed for it.

Remembering these meanings

When you learn each of the top three or four meanings that a phrasal verb has, make sure that you use them. I would recommend that you create one or two sentences in your own words that uses the meaning of the phrasal verb you have just learnt. You can either write this down or say it out loud (it's your choice). Doing this will help you to remember this meaning in the future.

A list of 50 commonly used CAE phrasal verbs

  1. Account for

  2. Back out

  3. Based on

  4. Be apt to

  5. Be drawn to

  6. Be bent on

  7. Blow away

  8. Bring on by

  9. Build on

  10. Carry out

  11. Come across

  12. Dawn on

  13. Draw on

  14. Drop out

  15. Fall back on

  16. Get on

  17. Get rid of

  18. Get through

  19. Go along

  20. Go on

  21. Iron out

  22. Lead to

  23. Lie in

  24. Make out

  25. Mess with

  26. Opt for

  27. Pay off

  28. Phase out

  29. Pick out

  30. Plague by

  31. Put down to

  32. Put forward

  33. Rely on

  34. Set about

  35. Set apart

  36. Set aside

  37. Set out

  38. Settle down

  39. Show off

  40. Sort out

  41. Stem from

  42. Take away

  43. Take on

  44. Take to

  45. Taps into

  46. Torn between

  47. Turn into

  48. Turn to

  49. Wind up

  50. Wipe out

There will be other phrasal verbs used

Unfortunately, you are going to find other phrasal verbs being used in the exam. It is impossible for me to tell you what these will be. The best way to be prepared for this is through regularly reading texts in English which are at the level of the CAE exam. By doing this, you see phrasal verbs which you may find used in the exam.

When you see a phrasal verb which you don't know or are unsure what it means, guess its meaning from the context it is in, check you are right in a dictionary and then create a sentence in your own words using with meaning.


To learn some advanced synonyms for common words which you can use in the exam, read our article called 'Vocabulary to Improve your Writing and Speaking in the CAE Exam'.