CEPA: Common Educational Proficiency Assessment

Common Educational Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) is a standardized test produced by the Ministry of higher education and scientific research as a part of NAPO (National Admissions and Placement Office), and  used by three federal higher education institutions in UAE- Zayed University, the Higher Colleges of Technology, and UAEU, for admissions and placement. 

CEPA exam has exam in the following two subjects:
  • CEPA-English
  • CEPA-Math


CEPA-English was developed in 2002 to put pupils into English classes in the first year of preparatory/foundation programme, higher diploma and bachelor degree programmes, at the three federal higher education institutions in UAE- United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), Zayed University (ZU), and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), all of which are English-medium.  

The general cut-off for CEPA-English is 150 for all the institutions. Students who achieve a high score on CEPA-English are eligible to go into the academic programme directly without studying in the first year preparatory programme.  

CEPA-English is for NAPO applicants only. CEPA-English can be taken twice in a year. It assesses the basic English language skills. 


This exam evaluates the basic math skills covering geometry and measurement, number sense, algebra, and basic data analysis. CEPA-Math can be taken only once in an academic year and is mandatory for all NAPO applicants. 

Both the exams have two formats- paper-based and computer-based. Students are assigned to one of the two formats.


CEPA-English is one of the important requisite for admission to the federal institutions-UAEU, HCT, ZU, Institute of Applied Technology (IAT), Abu Dhabi Vocational Education & Training Institute (ADVETI), Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE) or study abroad under the sponsorship of Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR).  

Eligibility Criteria

All Emirati and mother national grade 12 students are required to take CEPA-English exam in order to study at the federal institutions of higher learning in the UAE or study abroad under the financial support of the MOHESR.



CEPA-English has 3 parts: 
  • Grammar and Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Writing
Total duration: 2 hours 
Total no. of questions: 110 multiple choice questions and 1 essay

Grammar and Vocabulary

This section consists of multiple-choice sentence completion questions.  The grammar part includes a wide range of basic English structures and tests the grammatical structures. The vocabulary part assesses the knowledge of common English lexicon of the applicants.
  •  No. of grammar questions: 45
  • No. of vocabulary questions: 40 


The Reading part consists of one visual, non-linear text, such as an advertisement, brochure or webpage, and 2 descriptive or narrative texts of approximately 400 words each. The lexicon of 2000 words is required. This part assesses the students’ ability to find out the central aim of the text and identify simple factual details. Students must also draw conclusions about the text and find out the pronoun references. 
  • No.of questions: 25
  • Type of question: Multiple-choice


A prompt in English or Arabic is given. The topic can be general or local issue. Applicants have to put their viewpoint given on paper. It should be of 150-200 words. This part tests the writing skills of the applicant in terms of the content, grammar, lexicon, and spelling. 
  • No. of task: 1
  • Duration: 30 minutes
** Instructions are in English and Arabic. 


This exam assesses the math knowledge in the 4 areas: Data analysis and probability; Number sense, patterns and relationships; Algebra; and Geometry and measurement
  • Duration: 90 minutes 
  • No.of questions: 50 multiple-choice questions 
** Questions are in both English and Arabic. 


Applicants must first register at the NAPO student portal managed by the MOHESR.  You need to fill an online application and submit the required documents before the deadline. The applicants who finish the application process on time are automatically registered for CEPA-English. 

Scoring and Results

The scores of the CEPA-English exam are uploaded under the ‘Report’ section of your student page. Log-in to your page and access your scores.  Scores are also sent by SMS to each student. 

CEPA-English Scoring

The CEPA-English multiple-choice part is scored using Item Response Theory (IRT) three parameter modeling. Each test version is linked to previous versions, and new parameters are accumulated. The raw responses are scored using these parameters and are then converted into CEPA scores ranging from 90 to 210 using a formula. The writing part of the CEPA is double-blind marked by local English teachers from the three federal higher education institutions. The bands range from 0 to 6, wherein 0 refers to blank or no attempt. 

Score Descriptors

CEPA-English gives the following descriptors in its documentation:

 CEPA MCQ Range  Average Writing  Descriptors CEFR Range 
 90-139  0.62  Random   Less than equal to A1
 140-149  1.48  Extreme low English ability-Beginner  A1
 150-159  2.38  Low, at risk  A1-A2
 160-169  3.11  Emerging Proficiency  A2-B1
 170-179  3.73  Intermediate  B1-B2
 180-210  4.48  Ready for direct entry to English-medium tertiary study  B2-C1+

Cut-Off Scores

The cut-off and placement scores are decided by the 3 federal higher education institutions and CEPA staff together. 

Accepted scores-

As per the official website of Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the higher education institutions’, CEPA cut-off scores are as follows:

 Institution  CEPA-English  CEPA-Math
 United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)  Entry to First year Preparatory programme/Foundations: ≥150
Direct Entry to Programme: ≥180 

Direct Entry to Programme: ≥170 
 Zayed University (ZU)  Entry to First year Preparatory programme/Foundations: ≥150
Direct Entry to Programme: ≥185 
 No Minimum
 Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT)  Entry to First year Preparatory programme/Foundations: ≥150
Direct Entry to Programme: ≥185 
 No Minimum

Test Day Essentials

Applicants must log-in to their page on student portal and print out a CEPA ticket. The CEPA ticket includes the exam time, date and test center. It should be shown at the test venue.  

After being admitted, pupils at the relevant institutions are notified of the exam date and centre by their colleges. 

To know more about the CEPA exam, visit MOHESR-CEPA 
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