FCE – Part 3: Use of EnglishThe Use of English Part of the FCE is forty-five minutes in duration and consists of four parts:o Part 1: a text with 12 gaps followed by 4-option multiple choice items. In this part, you are testedon your vocabulary knowledge and understanding of the text. You may also be tested on yourunderstanding of grammar. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 2: a text with 12 gaps where you will have to think of the missing word and fill the gap. Youwill be tested on language structure and understanding of the text as well as your knowledge ofgrammar. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 3: a text containing 10 gaps where you will have to fill in the missing word based on a givenbase word. In this part, you are tested on your vocabulary knowledge, especially word formations.You will get 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 4: a lead-in sentence followed by a key word and a gapped second sentence. You will haveto complete the second sentence in two to five words, one of which is the given key word. Thesecond sentence must be similar in meaning to the first sentence. There are in total eightseparate items that needs to be completed. In this part, you are tested on your vocabulary andgrammar knowledge as well as your ability to express a message in different ways. You will getup to 2 marks per correct answer.The FCE Use of English Paper counts for 20% of the overall mark.
FCE Use of English Paper: The Key toSuccess (1)Part 1 – Too Many Options! With so many options to choose from in this part of theFCE Use ofEnglish paper, you need to have our wits about you. As you can be tested on both yourknowledge of grammar as well as vocabulary, you need to do this exercise with great care.Here are some tips on how you could approach this type of exercise:1. Skim quickly through the text to get the gist of it.2. Read the text again but stop after the first question.3. Think of what kind of word is required.4. Look at the options – where you right?5. If not, eliminate answers that you are sure are wrong.6. Look at the words before and after the question and ask yourself:a) Do I need to use a set phrase?b) Is it a phrasal verb?c) What is the meaning of the sentence?d) Etc. etc.7. If you are still not sure, look at the next sentence, is there a clue there?8. Continue like this until you have completed all the questions.9. Read through the whole text to make sure that the word you choose makes sense in thesentence.10. You should always try to answer and not leave any questions unanswered.Here are some more Top Tips:Read the InstructionsMake sure you know what to do – always start by reading the instructions first!Don’t Get Bogged DownIf you are struggling to find an answer, move on to the next question and go back to the questionlater.Keep an Eye on the ClockDon’t run out of time! If you have developed your final FCE exam strategy, you will know howmuch time you have allocated to this part of the test. Stick to your timetable. Remember, eachpart of the FCE Use of English Paper carry approximately the same amount of marks.If you do one of the other three parts quicker, you can always go back and finish this part – it is allabout maximising your chances to pass your FCE exam!.Avoid missing any of our tips and advice on how to pass the FCE exam and subscribe to ourfree email notification service.
FCE Use of English Paper: The Key toSuccess (2)Part 2: The Tricky One! The second part of the FCE Use of English paper can be really difficultto complete as you can be tested on a number of different grammar and vocabulary points, forexample:o articleso auxiliary verbso comparisonso conjunctionso phrasal verbso prepositions and set phraseso pronouns and relative pronounso etc., etc.Here are some tips on how you could approach this type of exercise:1. Skim quickly through the text to get the gist of it.2. Read the text again but stop after the first gap.3. Think of what kind of word is required:a) Is the missing word part of a set phrase?b) Is the missing word part of a phrasal verb?c) Is the missing word a conjunction?d) Etc. etc.4. Check for clues earlier in the sentence.5. If you are still not sure, check for clues in the next sentence.6. Continue like this until you have completed all the questions.7. Read through the whole text to make sure that the word you write makes sense in the sentence.8. Make sure that you double-check your spelling!9. You should always try to answer and not leave any gaps empty.Here are some more Top Tips:Read the InstructionsMake sure you know what to do – always start by reading the instructions first!Don’t Get Bogged DownIf you are struggling to find an answer, move on to the next question and go back to the questionlater.Keep an Eye on the ClockDon’t run out of time! If you have developed your final FCE exam strategy, you will know howmuch time you have allocated to this part of the test. Stick to your timetable. Remember, eachpart of the FCE Use of English Paper carry approximately the same amount of marks.
If you do one of the other three parts quicker, you can always go back and finish this part – it is allabout maximising your chances to pass your FCE exam!
FCE Use of English Paper: The Key toSuccess (3)Part 3: The Creative One! On the third part of the FCE Use of English paper you have use yourknowledge of grammar and vocabulary to create new words.Here are some tips on how you could approach this type of exercise:1. Skim quickly through the text to get the gist of it.2. Read the text again but stop after the first gap.3. Analyse the sentence and decide what kind of word is required:a) Is the missing word a noun?b) Is the missing word a verb?c) Is the missing word an adjective?d) Is the missing word an adverb?4. Check for clues both before and after the gap.5. Make sure you read the whole sentence!6. Remember, you may need to:a) use a negative formb) use a pluralc) use a prefixd) use a suffixe) make changes in the middle of the wordf) make more than one change to a word7. Continue like this until you have completed all the questions.8. Read through the text and make sure that the word you write makes sense in the sentence.9. Make sure that you double-check your spelling!10. You should always try to answer and not leave any gaps empty.Here are some more Top Tips:Read the InstructionsMake sure you know what to do – always start by reading the instructions first!Don’t Get Bogged DownIf you are struggling to find an answer, move on to the next question and go back to the questionlater.Keep an Eye on the ClockDon’t run out of time! If you have developed your final FCE exam strategy, you will know howmuch time you have allocated to this part of the test. Stick to your timetable. Remember, eachpart of the FCE Use of English Paper carry approximately the same amount of marks.If you do one of the other three parts quicker, you can always go back and finish this part – it is allabout maximising your chances to pass your FCE exam!
FCE Use of English Paper: The Key toSuccess (4)Part 4: The Last One! In the fourth and last part of the FCE Use of English paper you have useyour knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to rewrite sentences.Here are some tips on how you could approach this type of exercise:1. There is no need to read through the whole text first.2. Read carefully through the first sentence.3. Think of a structure where you can use the key word without changing it.4. Remember there will always be two things that you have to do in your answer,for example, you may need to use:a) since + change of tenseb) negative + comparisonc) paraphrase + ‘to’ and gerundd) negative + phrasal verbe) etc, etc.5. Never write more than five words.6. Remember that both sentences have to have the same or similar meaning.7. Contractions count as two words except for ‘can’t’ which can be written as oneword (cannot).8. Read through both sentences to make sure that the words you write make sensein the second sentence and that the meaning remains the same or similar.9. Make sure that you double-check your spelling!10. You should always try to answer and not leave any gaps empty.Here are some more Top Tips:Read the InstructionsMake sure you know what to do – always start by reading the instructions first!Don’t Get Bogged DownIf you are struggling to find an answer, move on to the next question and go back to the questionlater.Keep an Eye on the ClockDon’t run out of time! If you have developed your final FCE exam strategy, you will know howmuch time you have allocated to this part of the test. Stick to your timetable. Remember, eachpart of the FCE Use of English Paper carry approximately the same amount of marks.If you do one of the other three parts quicker, you can always go back and finish this part – it is allabout maximising your chances to pass your FCE exam!
FCE – Part 4: ListeningThe Listening Part of the FCE is approx. forty minutes in duration and consists of four parts:o Part 1: a series of short, unrelated 30-seconds recordings. Each recording can be either amonologue or an exchange between interacting speakers. You have to listen to the recordingsand answer a multiple-choice question for each. There are in total eight extracts, each with aquestion with three options. You will be tested in your ability to listen for things such as gist,details, opinion, attitude, etc. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 2: a 3-minute long monologue or recording with two or more speakers. There are 10questions consisting of incomplete (gapped) sentences. You will have to listen and complete thesentences using no more than three words. Your ability to listen for details, specific informationand stated opinion is being tested in this part. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 3: a series of statements and short related monologues, each approx.30 seconds. There arefive multiple-matching questions and you will have to choose the correct option from a list of six.Your ability to listen for general gist, detail, function, purpose, etc. is tested in this part. You willget 1 mark per correct answer.o Part 4: a 3-minute long monologue or recording with two or more speakers. You have to listen tothe recordings and answer a multiple-choice question for each. There are in total sevenquestions, each with three options. In this part you will be tested on your ability to listen foropinion, attitude, gist, main idea and specific information. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.The FCE Listening Paper counts for 20% of the overall mark.FCE Listening Paper: The Key to Success(Step 1)Good listening skills are an essential learning tool. Listening for specific information as youneed to do for the FCE Listening paper, can be difficult. It is a skill that can only be built up overtime and requires a lot of practice.If you are not living in an English speaking country and are exposed to the language daily, it canbe difficult to improve your listening skills. It is therefore important to that you try and listen asmuch as possible to English speaking programmes on the radio or TV.Another good alternative is listening to graded audio books. These can not only help youimprove your listening skills but also help you improve your reading skills. We will look into audiobooks in more detail in a future post.Having good notetaking skills will complement your listening skills. They will not only help youto prepare for the FCE exam but good notetaking skills will also help you whether you arestudying in general or working.
Good notetaking skills will help you ensure you get the most out of your lectures, or assist you inwriting great minutes of meetings that will impress both your colleagues or boss.To help you develop good notetaking skills, we have included a tutorial we hope you will enjoy.
FCE – Part 2: WritingThe Writing Part of the FCE is one hour and twenty minutes in duration and consists of two parts:o Part 1: a compulsory question based on an input text of approx. 160 words. You will need to writea letter or an email of 120 -150 words in response. This part carries equal marks to Part 2.o Part 2: one task from a choice of five (including a set text). You will be asked to write one of thefollowing: an article, an essay, a letter, a report, a review, a story. You can also choose to baseyour writing on a set reading text. You will need to write between 120 and 180 words. This partcarries equal marks to Part 1.The FCE Writing Paper counts for 20% of the overall mark.
FCE Writing Paper: Part 1 – TheCompulsory One!There is no getting away from this one – you will have to write either a letter or an email which isbetween 120 and 150 words. Based on your input information (about 160 words) you will have toproduce your written piece.Many students dread this FCE writing task as they have no choices. However, by learning how toproperly structure a letter or an email, you can actually turn the lack of choice to your advantage.To be successful on the FCE Writing Part 1, you will need to ensure that you include all of thecontent points. Wherever you can, you should expand on relevant ideas and information. Makesure that you don’t leave out any important information by developing a writing task plan beforeyou actually start writing.Paragraphing and the use of linkers will greatly enhance your writing and is a technique that canbe easily applied to any type of writing. However, if you want to improve your writing for the FCEexam, there is unfortunately nothing else for it: you need to practise, practise, practise …With practice you may even be able to shave some time of the timetable that forms part ofyour exam strategy plan. This in turn will free up time which you can use to good effectwhencompleting Paper 2 of your FCE Writing exam.
FCE Writing Paper: The Key to Success(Step 1)Want to become a good writer for the FCE Writing Paper? Yes? Unfortunately, there is only onething for it – keep writing. Like with so many other things in life, the more you practise, the betteryou become.As writing is a means of communication and self-expression, learning to write well is not only askill needed for passing your FCE Writing Paper but a skill you will need to make use ofthroughout your life.Every Word CountsThe number of words you have to write on the two tasks is roughly the same, between 120 and150 words on the first task and between 120 and 180 words on the second one.As each tasks carry equal marks, it is important that you make every word count. Too manystudents only count the number of words they write and forget to look ato how the text flows,o how they use the vocabulary, ando the spelling of words.The word count is important – your text should not be too short or too long. However, what ismore important is your content. The more writing practice you put in, the more successful you willbe in writing within the word limit without constantly counting your words. Word counting duringthe exam often leads to poorly structured writing pieces with many alterations.So, how can you make every word count? Follow this series of FCE Writing: The Key toSuccess and start producing well written pieces and start on your road to success on the FCEWriting paper.
FCE Writing Paper: The Key to Success(Step 2)Be clever about which task you choose on the FCE exam! Effective writing is best achieved bychoosing tasks and topics that suits your interests and experience.The Devil Is in the DetailsThe FCE Writing paper is full of details that you have to pay careful attention to. Forexample, many students miss out on important details on the first paper because the inputmaterial is about 160 words and they don’t read through it properly. By missing information,students often fail to complete the task adequately and get a reduced mark, or even worse, failthe FCE Writing paper.The input material is made up of a text and notes and it can also be supported by:o pictureso timetableso advertisementso etc.So, how do you avoid missing out on the details? Systematically work your way through all theinput material and make a writing plan.Plan for SuccessThe FCE Writing paper requires you to have two different types of writing plans:o a FCE writing strategy plano a FCE writing task plan for each of the two tasksThe writing strategy plan will help you manage your time and could look something like this:1. Pick the task you want to start with.2. Spend max. 10 minutes on making a detailed, structured writing task plan.3. Spend max. 25 minutes on writing.4. Start on the second task.5. Spend max. 10 minutes on making a detailed, structured writing task plan.6. Spend max. 25 minutes on writing.7. Spend the last 10 minutes going over your two writings and make corrections if necessary.It is easy to “go blind” when you read your own work straight after writing it. You often read whatyou expect to be on the page, not what is actually there! By leaving your writing piece to one sideand coming back to it later, it will be much easier to spot any potential mistakes.How to make a writing task plan will be covered in one of the future posts in our FCE Writing:Key to Success series.
FCE Writing Paper: The Key to Success(Step 3)Even though you will have different strategy plans for each for the two FCE Writing papers,there are a few things that remain the same for both tasks.Before you start planning any of your FCE writing tasks, you should always read the instructionscarefully. Careful analysis of the instructions will tell you how to target your writing task correctly.FCE Writing Paper: The Key to Success(Step 4)On the FCE Writing paper, deciding on your writing styles is only the first step tosuccessfully complete the paper.Next, you need to start planning your writing tasks. Even though you will have different writingtask plans for each for the two FCE Writing papers, there are a few things that remain the samefor both tasks.
FCE – Part 1: ReadingThe Reading Part of the FCE is one hour in duration and consists of three parts:o Part 1: a text followed by 4-option multiple-choice questions, in total eight questions. In this part,you are tested on your understanding of content and text organisation and you will get 2 marksper correct answer.o Part 2: a text from which seven sentences have been removed and jumbled up. The jumbledsentences have been placed with one extra sentence and you will need to decide from where inthe text the sentences have been removed. In this part, you are tested on your ability to follow thedevelopment of ideas, opinions and events through a text. You will get 2 marks per correctanswer.o Part 3: a text or several short texts preceded by 15 questions. In this part, you are tested on yourability to understand detail, attitude and opinion in the questions as well as your ability to locatingwhere the idea has been expressed, discounting ideas that may seem similar but which are notaccurate. You will get 1 mark per correct answer.The FCE Reading Paper counts for 20% of the overall mark.
FCE Reading Paper: The Key to Success(Step 1)The key to success on the FCE Reading Paper is reading …The more you read, the better you will do not only in the Reading Part but also on the entire FCEexam as extensive reading:o helps you acquire grammaro helps you acquire vocabularyo improves your writing abilityo improves your reading skillso improves your other language skills such as speakingIt can be hard to find time for reading, so get into the habit of reading when you are travelling toand from work or school. Why not start by reading a book that you will enjoy?Picking the Right BookBut before you can start reading, you need to pick the correct book. First of all, make sure thatyour book is at the right level of difficulty for you (Upper Intermediate/B2). A number of publisherspublish an extensive selection of graded readers (books adapted to various levels of English):o Macmillan Readerso Penguin Graded Readerso Oxford BookwormsThe books on offer range from modern, contemporary books to your favourite classics. Or maybeyou prefer a more factual book? It is all there. Some of the books are also offered in an eBookformat.You should try and read as many books as you can, in as many different genres as possible.Start with the topics that interest you the most, and move on from there.Form a Reading CircleWhy don’t you team up with other FCE students and form your own reading circle? You can eachbuy a different graded reader and when you have finished reading it, swap it with one of the othermembers in the circle.If you don’t know anyone else doing the FCE, log on to Amazon.co.uk (they deliver all over theWorld). Here you can buy new and second-hand books as well as sell your own books – just type“graded reader in English” into the search field.Improve Your Other SkillsDo you want to improve your listening and speaking skills as well? Why not invest in a gradedaudio book? Graded audio books not only improve your reading and listening skills, it will alsoimprove your pronunciation.
Want to improve your Writing exam? Choose one of the FCE set books. Students going for thisoption on Part 2 of the Writing Paper tend to get a slightly higher mark. How to explore a set bookquestion to your advantage will be covered in future posts.
FCE Reading Paper: The Key to Success(Step 2)Too many students read with the dictionary. While vocabulary building is important for the FCEexam, don’t look up every word you don’t understand in the dictionary! Not only will this methodmake the reading less pleasurable, it will also stop you from comprehending the text.However, without understanding each of the texts in the Reading paper, you will not be able toanswer the questions correctly. Also, the various parts of the FCE Reading paper require you tonot only be able to understand the texts but also to be able to follow the development of a text aswell as locating specific information in the text. So, what can you do to improve your readingskills?Reading for GistLack of text comprehension is one of the main reasons for students getting answers wrong. Thequestion is: how can you improve your comprehension of the text? Instead of looking up theunknown words as you come across them, it is far better to highlight the word and continuereading till the end.Once you have completed the whole text, write down your highlighted words and see if you canguess their meaning from the text. Check in a dictionary to see if you were right!As you develop this method, you will see that not only will your reading comprehension improvebut also your reading speed.Vary Your ReadingGraded Readers are a great source of good extensive reading material. However, it is importantthat you read different types of text. Other sources of interesting reading material can be:o unabridged short-storieso non-fictiono newspaper or magazine articlesIf you cannot find English newspapers, magazines or journals in your country, the internet can bea great source of good reading material.Future posts will cover how you can make the most of your graded reader and graded audiobook in your preparations for the FCE exam.Would you like to test your FCE exam skills? Sign up for our FCE Practice Tests and getstarted straight away!Avoid missing any of our tips and advice and sign up for our free subscription service andstart on your road to success on the FCE exam.
FCE Reading: The Key to Success (Step 3)One of the main reasons for students failing the FCE Reading paper is that theyrun out of time.To avoid this happening to you, the next step you should take is to familiarise yourself with theformat of the FCE Reading paper and develop a reading strategy.Do a FCE Practice TestSo that you know what is expected of you, you should start by doing the Reading paper of a FCEPractice Test.As you work through each part of your FCE practice test, you should:1. Always read the instructions carefully before you start.2. Time each part of the test separately and note down the time.3. Check your answers.Doing FCE practice tests alone will not make you pass the FCE exam. You should use practicetests as a tool and include them in your overall study plan.Develop a StrategyGoing into the FCE exam, you should have an exam strategy ready. This takes time to developand will only “come together” in the last few weeks before your FCE exam.Once you have completed the Reading Part of your free FCE practice test, it is time to analysehow you did:1. Add up the time you spend on each part – did you run out of time?2. Did you not answer a question because you didn’t understand it?3. Why did you not understand the question? Was it lack of vocabulary?4. Why were your answers incorrect?Write down the result of your analysis and keep the information so that as you progress towardsthe FCE exam, you can track your improvement and develop your final reading strategy for theFCE exam.As you work your way through the various parts of the FCE practice test, you will not only get anoverall picture of your weaknesses and strengths, you will also be able to use the resultstodevelop your FCE study plan. Avoid missing any of our tips and advice
FCE Reading Paper: Running Out of Time?Bad reading techniques are one of the main reasons for running out of time on theReadingpaper on the FCE exam. Not only do you have to read about 2,000 words, you will also need toanswer in total 30 questions in the space of one hour.Good reading techniques are vital and can only be built up over time. The two most used speed-reading techniques are skimming and scanning.SkimmingYou use this technique when you want to roughly know what a text is about. Move your eyesrapidly across the text to get its gist – that is, so that you get the general meaning of the textwithout any of the details.Effective skimming can be difficult if you are not familiar with the vocabulary as the eye tends tostop when it comes across an unfamiliar word. The trick is for you to train yourself to avoid thisproblem. Why not try out the “Reading for Gist” method described in the FCE Reading Paper:The Key to Success (Step 2) blog post?ScanningYou use this technique when you need to find answers to specific questions. The answers youwill be looking for are often short and factual and may be numbers or names.The most effective way to scan a text is to first read the question and then let your eye run overthe text until you find the relevant section. To find the answer, concentrate on this section only.This technique allows you to answer the questions without having to read the whole text.Something that will save you time on the FCE exam.Unfortunately, to become a rapid reader there is only one thing for it: practice, practice, practiceusing FCE practice tests and other English reading material.Want to try out these FCE Reading strategies? Sign up for our FCE Practice Tests and getstarted!If you are not happy with the scores you get on the FCE Practice Test, our Knowledge Checkswill help you in focusing in on the vocabulary and grammar you will need to study
FCE – Part 5: SpeakingYou will take your FCE Speaking exam in front of two examiners. There will be another FCEstudent taking the Speaking exam together with you.The Speaking Part of the FCE is fourteen minutes in duration and consists of four parts:o Part 1: you will have a 3-minute conversation with the examiner. You may have to giveinformation about yourself, talk about past experiences, present circumstances and future plans.o Part 2: an individual “long turn”. You will be given a pair of photographs and you will need to talkabout them for approx. one minute without interruption. Once you have finished speaking, yourpartner will answer a short question from the examiner about your photographs. Your partner willthen do the same, before you both move onto the next part of the Speaking exam.o Part 3: a two-way conversation between you and the FCE student taking the test with you. Theexaminer will give you some pictures and a decision-making task to do. You will need to have a3-minute discussion with the other FCE student and make a decision.o Part 4: a further discussion on topics related to Part 3. The examiner will ask questions which willbroaden the discussion in Part 3 so that you can demonstrate that you are capable of discussingissues in more depth.There are no marks per speaking part as your performance will be assessed throughout thewhole exam.The FCE Speaking Paper counts for 20% of the overall mark.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 1)On the first part of the FCE Speaking Paper, you will need to speak about yourself for up to oneminute. However, this is not as easy as it may sound!Try and speak for one minute while recording yourself and then listen back. How does it sound?Is it fluent with no pauses? Do you repeat yourself? Are you managing to talk about yourself in aninteresting way?Part 1 on the FCE Speaking paper is where you have a chance to “sell yourself” and make agood first impression on the examiner. It is therefore vital that you prepare as best you can.Write It DownIt may sound strange, but the best way to improve your speaking is to write down all theinformation that you want to include. At this point, don’t worry if what you have written takes morethan one minute to read back. What is important is that you include everything about yourself:o your family backgroundo your educationo your hobbieso your holidayso your work experienceo your future planso etc., etc., etc.Once you have finished writing, read through your text and look at how you can improve it.Analyse your text in detail: can you add adjectives; can you “lift” the language by using moreadvanced vocabulary; can you make more complex sentence structures; etc.? Here are someexamples on improvements that can be made:Before:“My name is Pilar and I’m from Spain.”After:“My name is Pilar and I was born in Barcelona but I’m currently living in Madrid.”Before:“I’m 20 years old and I study at the university.”After:“I have just turned 20 and I’m currently studying English Literature and Art History at UniversidadCarlos III de Madrid.”Once you are fairly happy with your text, record yourself again and listen back. Does it soundbetter than the first recording? Can you improve it further?
This “speaking document” should be a “live” document and as you progress in your FCE studies,you should constantly update it until you are satisfied with it.Once the first introductions have been made, the examiner will ask you further questions aboutyourself and you should be able to use the information that you have prepared and answer thequestions fluently.Remember, the better you prepare, the more likely you are to be successful on the FCESpeaking paper.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 2)On the second part of the FCE Speaking Paper, you are given two pictures that you will need tocompare while speaking uninterrupted for one minute. The comparison should be based on thequestion that is printed above the pictures.As with part 1 on the FCE Speaking Paper, try and speak for one minute about two pictures thathave a similar topic while recording yourself and then listen back:o How does it sound?o Is it fluent with no pauses?o Do you repeat yourself?o Are you managing to talk about the pictures in an interesting way?Write It DownOnce again, it may sound strange, but the best way to improve your speaking is to write down atemplate that you follow when doing this particular type of task.You need to start with a standard opening phrase that you can use irrespective of the topic, e.g.:o It seems to me what these two pictures have in common is (topic). However, they do differ insome ways.You then need to compare and contrast the two pictures. To do this, you need to make sure thatyou are confident in the use of different types of linkers.In your template you should start by dealing with the first picture, then move on to the secondpicture. You should finish by summing up your comparison.Try and include a wide range of phrases and vocabulary in your template, i.e:o The first picture depicts ….o First of all, I would like to point out that …o On the other hand, picture two portrays ….o From my point of view, the situation depicted in the picture is …o Furthermore, I believe that this ….o In addition, this picture also shows …o To sum up, while the pictures are quite different, they also have a number of similarities …Once you are fairly happy with your template, record yourself again and listen back. Does itsound better than the first recording? Can you improve it further?
This “speaking template” should be a “live” document and as you progress in your FCE studies,you should constantly update it until you are satisfied with it. Only then should you decide on yourfinal template, and focus on delivering it in one minute without it sounding “rehearsed”.Remember, the better you prepare, the more likely you are to be successful on the FCE Speakingpaper.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 3)In this week’s tips for the FCE Speaking paper, we will continue to look at Paper 2. Last week’sspeaking tips talked about how to make a speaking template. We are now going to show youhow such a template can be used.You should note how we try to “recycle” the words in the question and use them in our template.The words in italic are the words that will need to change for each picture set.Which factors may influence people’s holiday choice?It seems to me what these two pictures have in common is holiday destinations. However, theydo differ in some ways.The first picture depicts a lovely, unpopulated beach. In my opinion, this would be a typicalholiday choice for couple’s who are on their honeymoon. However, it may also be a typical choicefor more wealthy people.In contrast, the second picture shows a much more crowded beach. From my point of view, thiswould be a typical holiday choice for people who would like a holiday, but cannot afford to gosomewhere expensive.To sum up, there may be many factors that influence people’s holiday choice, but in myopinion, the main factor is probably their financial situation.Now it is your turn – try to first make a template and then apply it to the pictures. Once you arefairly happy with your template, record yourself and listen back:o How does it sound?o Is it fluent with no pauses?o Do you repeat yourself?o Can you improve it further?This “speaking template” should be a “live” document and as you progress in your FCE studies,you should constantly update it until you are satisfied with it. Only then should you decide onyour final template, and focus on delivering it in one minute without it sounding “rehearsed”.One danger of preparing a template like this is that you may get pictures that don’t exactly fit intoyour template. However, remember, the better you prepare, the more likely you are to be able toadapt your template “on the spot” and be successful on the FCE Speaking paper.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 4)We are going to continue to look at Paper 2 on the FCE Speaking exam. Once the othercandidate has completed the long turn, you will be asked a question which you are expected toanswer in about 20 seconds.It is more difficult to make a template for this task on Part 2 of the FCE speaking test. However,you know that you will be asked for your opinion on the topic, so you can prepare some goodphrases that you slot into your answer.For example, in last week’s post we looked at how to make a speaking template and we usedan example where we asked:o “Which factors may influence people’s holiday choice?”The examiner may follow this up by asking you:o What influences your holiday choice?A good opening phrase would be:o Personally, I would probably …o It would depend on many factors, however, personally I would …o Oh, that is a hard question to answer but I would probably…You then need to continue your answer by using a linking phrase:o The main reason for my choice/opinion would probably be …o Furthermore, I feel/believe that …o I would like to add that I would probably …Normally, two good sentences will be enough to fill the 20 seconds. So, here is how you use your“mini speaking template”:1. When the examiner instructs the other candidate, listen carefully for the topic.2. While the other candidate answers, listen but at the same time quickly run through in yourmind the main vocabulary you know on the topic.3. When the examiner asks you the question, listen very carefully.4. Ask the examiner to repeat the question (you won’t lose any points for doing so), while theexaminer repeats the question, in your head, you match your “mini template” with yourvocabulary.5. Deliver your answer.When answering, you should try to avoid “I think …” as this is a very basic phrase. It is muchbetter to say “I feel …” or “I believe…”.
Remember, this “mini speaking template” should be a “live” document and as you progress inyour FCE studies, you should constantly update it until you are satisfied with it. Try yourtemplate out on several picture sets you find in magazines etc.:o Does your template work?o Do you need to adjust it?o Can you adapt it quickly enough?o Can you deliver it without it sounding “rehearsed”?
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 5)On the third part of the FCE Speaking paper, you will have a two-way conversationwith another candidate. The examiner will give you spoken instructions withwritten and visualstimuli which you will use in a decision-making task.Remember, there are two parts to this task:o you have to have a discussion with the other candidateo you have to make a decision together with the other candidateThe first thing you need to focus on is the examiner’s instructions. Make sure that youunderstand what you are asked to do. Don’t be afraid to ask the examiner to clarify if you are notsure – you will not lose marks because of it!Above the visuals you have been given, you will find the questions that you will need to answerduring the task. Make sure that you answer all of them and don’t discuss the first question toolong, not leaving enough time to complete the task.You do not have to talk about the images in the order they appear, you can jump back and forthas long as all the images have been discussed.It is very hard to make a template for this part of the exam as how you progress through the taskis dependent on the other candidate as well, not just you. However, you can prepare and makesure that you are familiar with a number of phrases and sentence structures which you canadapt to any visuals and discussions.First of all, never use I THINK … This is a very basic phrase and at this stage you are expectedto have a wider range of vocabulary. Use expressions like:o I believe … . In addition, I feel that … .o I feel … . On the other hand, I believe … .o From my point of view … . Furthermore, I feel that … .o In my opinion … . I also believe that … .If you are a bit more confident in your English, you could use phrases like:o It seems to me that … . However, having said that, I feel that …o First of all, from my point of view … . Leading on from that … .o To start with, I feel that … . Moreover, I believe that by choosing to …. .As you can see, you need to know your linkers and how to express your opinions!
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 6)We are going to continue to look at the third part of the FCE Speaking paper. As mentioned inour previous post in this series, you will have a two-way conversation with an other candidatefor about three minutes.Most likely you have never met the other candidate before, so you don’t know how he or she willperform. One of the worst things for you would be if the other candidateo never stops talking oro doesn’t talk at all.So, what do you do? The whole point of this part of the exam is that you can show the examinerthat you can “sustain an interaction”. This means that you have to be able to show that knowhow to interact with someone else in any situation. Therefore, you need to have a couple ofstrategies ready.The One That Never Stops TalkingYou need to take control of the situation. Don’t let the other person keep talking, interrupt him orher. However, you MUST be polite when doing so. You could for instance say:o Sorry to interrupt you, but I don’t agree with what you are saying …o Could I just interrupt you for a minute? I do agree with you to a point, however …o Sorry to butt in, but even though I agree with you, I also feel that …Even though the other person may not give you much time to say what you want, what isimportant is that you show the examiner that you know how to interact with someone else.The One That Never TalksAgain, you need to take control of the situation. However, in this situation you need to try andhelp the other candidate. You can do this by asking him or her questions:o What is your opinion?o Would you agree with me on this?o How do you feel about my suggestion?Hopefully, this will encourage the other candidate to talk. If not, keep trying. Once again, by tryingthese techniques you are showing the examiner that you know how to interact with someoneelse.As you can see, you need to know a number of phrases that you can use in many differentsituations.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 7)This week we are going to revisit the second part of the FCE Speaking paper. If you haven’talready made your “speaking template” for this part of the speaking exam, you should read thesethree previous posts first:FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success (Step 3)FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success (Step 4)FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success (Step 5)So how are you getting on with your template? Are you able to adapt it to suit different pictures?Or do you need to do some work on it? Let’s put your template to the test.Here are two more pictures and a question:Why is the road important to us?Before you use your own template to answer the question, we would like you to use our templatewhich you can find in Step 5.1. Write down our template.2. Answer the question: Why is the road important to us?3. Write down your answers using our template.4. Compare your answer to ours:suggested answer: FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success (Step 7)Suggested answer using the template in FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 5):Why is the road important to us?It seems to me what these two pictures have in common is roads. However, they do differin some ways.The first picture depicts an empty country road. In my opinion, this would be a road thatwould be very important to people in rural areas so that they can access different services.However, it may also be an important road for transporting agricultural products to markettowns.In contrast, the second picture shows a traffic jam caused by road works. From my point ofview, this would be a typical problem when living in urban areas as good roads are
important for commuters living in the suburbs.To sum up, there may be many reasons why roads are important to us, but in my opinion,the main reasons are probably that roads make it easy for us to commute to and fromwork, and they also give us access to services and goodsHow did you do? How does your answer compare to ours? Now it is your turn:1. If you haven’t already made a template (Steps 3, 4 and 5), do that now.2. Apply your template to the pictures in Step 5.3. Apply your template to the pictures in this step.How did you do? How does your template work? Can it be used for both sets of pictures or doesit need a bit more work? Remember, your template is a “live” document and you need toconstantly refine it until you are confident that you have a template that works for you.
FCE Speaking Paper: The Key to Success(Step 8)We are going to continue to look at the fourth and final part of the FCE Speaking paper. In thispart, the examiner will be asking you questions based on the topic discussed in Part 3.If you found that the discussion in Part 3 didn’t go very well, this is the time to make up for it.Make sure that you have a number of good opinion phrases ready:o From my point of view, …o In my opinion, …o I believe that …When answering, you should try to avoid “I think …” as this is a very basic phrase, use one of thesuggested phrases instead. Also, make sure that you have a number of good linkers that you arecomfortable using. For instance:o Furthermore, I feel…o In addition, I also believe …You could also show that you can see the “other side” of an argument:o However, having said that, I feel that maybe …o On the other hand, it may not be …If you are not sure what to answer, you can “buy” yourself some time by asking the examiner torepeat the question (you won’t lose any points for doing so). While the examiner repeats thequestion, in your head, make the answer.You can also use the question the examiner asks and repeat it back to give yourself more time.Say the examiner asks: “Would you like to work in a place like this?” You can thenanswer:“Yes, personally, I would like to work in a place like this.”You can then continue by saying: “In my opinion, it seems like a very nice place to work.However, having said that, I feel that maybe it is not a place that everybody would like towork in.”Remember that the answers you give don’t necessarily have to be what your opinions are, theyare just phrases you use to show that you know how to give good answers.
How to pass the Cambridge First CertificateexamWhat is the Cambridge First Certificate exam?The Cambridge First Certificate Exam (FCE) is a certificate organised by the University of Cambridge.It is aimed at upper-intermediate English learners who would like to prove their English proficiency.The certificate can be an excellent qualification to have, since it is recognised by thousands ofuniversities, employers and governments worldwide.Attaining an FCE pass can open the door to better education or employment opportunities, as well asincreasing the chance of you being allowed to live and work in English-speaking countries.The FCE consists of 5 papers:1. Reading2. Writing3. Use of English4. Listening5. Speaking.Papers 1, 2, 3 and 4 are taken on the same day. Paper 5 is taken on a specified day, either on, orclose to, the main exam day. The five papers are each worth 20 per cent of your overall mark.Before you take the examThe FCE is a serious challenge of English ability. To be able to pass the test, you will need to beconfident in all skills of English – reading, writing, listening, speaking, sentence formation, grammar,vocabulary and so on. Typically an English learner will need to have been studying English part timefor at least two years before he or she is able to pass the exam. Learners from non-Europeanlanguage speaking countries (such as Middle East and Far East countries) may need even longer.The main reason to only take the test once you are ready is an issue of confidence. If you take theexam before you are ready, you may fail and lose confidence in your ability to become a good speakerof English. If this happens you may be discouraged from studying further. Furthermore, it can be awaste of time, money and effort to take an exam you are not ready to pass.On the other hand, having an exam date to look forward to can be an excellent motivator to study hardand make the most of your time. Some students study harder than ever and see a large increase intheir ability in the months leading up to an exam.How to pass the Cambridge First Certificate examLet’s take a look at each paper of the exam. We will see how to prepare for and pass each paper.Paper 1: ReadingHow to prepare: Get used to reading English fast. Don’t spend too long staring at words you don’t know. You canusually guess the meaning by reading the other words in the sentence. Practise reading for more time each day. You need to be comfortable reading for a full hour as thereading paper will be that long. Read practice paper questions as much as you can. If you run out of practice papers, try readingnewspaper or magazine articles. 550-700 words is the best length, to match the exam questions.
How to pass: The natural instinct is to spend time reading the text and trying to understand it, followed byanswering the questions. But don’t do this! You don’t have much time. It is better to read eachquestion, then look at the text. Scan read the text to find the answer you need. Usually thequestion order is similar to the text order. So the answer to question 1 will be close to the beginningof the text, and the last question will be close to the end. Don’t spend long on each question. If you don’t know the answer, go to the next question. If youhave time, you can come back and try the question again.Paper 2: WritingHow to prepare: Get used to writing English by hand quickly. Typing on the computer is not enough as the exam ishandwritten. For part 1, you will need to write a letter or email. Therefore, learn the usual English expressionslike “Dear ___”, “Yours faithfully / sincerely” (letter) and “Best regards” (email). You can also learn standard English expressions usually found in emails and letters. Examples: “Iam writing to inform you”; “I am writing to request”; “Please do not hesitate to contact me” and “Ilook forward to hearing from you”. For part 2, you can choose to write about a set text. From 2012 to the end of 2013, theseare Vanity Fair by William Thackery and This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart. If you would like towrite about the set text, choose just one book and read it a few times. Do practice papers. If you don’t have an English speaker to give you feedback, try a website likeLang-8, where there are native speakers who can check your work.How to pass: Part 1 and Part 2 are worth the same number of marks. So spend 40 minutes on each. Start by reading the question and spending a minute thinking about a good answer. Write a short plan for your answer. This will mean you can write a better-structured answer and notmiss anything you want to say. Write about what you can explain, even if you have to give an opinion you don’t agree with. Justshow your writing ability. Part 1 should be 120-150 words, and Part 2 120-180 words. Make sure you write enough to showyour ability. On the other hand, don’t ‘waffle’. Saying unimportant things to increase your wordcount won’t help.Paper 3: Use of EnglishHow to prepare: Do a lot of practice papers. Each year similar questions appear. In this way, you can find yourstrengths and weaknesses. When you fail a question, learn the meaning of the words or grammar points in that question. Thiswill help you improve. Common errors are in the use of similar words like but, yet,however or could, would, should.How to pass: Keep a clear head. If you have done your preparation, these questions are quite simple and can bedone quickly. If you don’t know an answer, leave it and come back later.
Paper 4: ListeningHow to prepare: Listen to as many different English sources as you can find. TV, films and radio can help you getused to understanding naturally spoken English. Remember you should be comfortable with different accents. Don’t focus only on American orBritish English. Listen to a variety. Do past exam papers. You need to be comfortable reading questions quickly and listening toEnglish recordings at the same time.How to pass: The biggest mistake people make is trying to remember the meaning of a word they have heard,and consequently missing the rest of the recording. Don’t do this! Another common error is trying to concentrate on reading the questions and as a result missing therecording. If you can’t concentrate on both, just listen to the recording. You can look at thequestions afterwards. It can be good to write a few key words while you listen. For example, expensive car, accident,police station. This can help you remember what you have just heard when you answer thequestions.Paper 5: SpeakingHow to prepare: Even if you are confident with your English studies, you must remember to practise speaking! Speaking English with other English learners is a good idea. If you know any native speakers or English teachers, try to chat with them in English. This caneven be someone in another country, through Skype, for instance. Make YouTube videos of yourself speaking English. Don’t be shy! These can help you improvequickly, and get you useful feedback. Talking to yourself in English is very helpful. Talk about what you are doing and how you arefeeling. For example “I have to go to the bank. I love the weather today. I forgot to close thewindow.”How to pass: Speak clearly and calmly. Don’t rush. You have to talk for a few minutes, so you should not finishtoo quickly. Take your time, breathe deeply and relax. Talk about what you are confident saying. If you don’t know the words, describe it in a different wayor even say something different. The exam is to test your English, not to learn your real opinion.You will have another candidate with you in the speaking exam. Don’t just repeat what theysay. Show what YOU know.
(Effective) reading to increase your EnglishvocabularyReading in English is a great way for learners to improve their vocabulary. By reading we can: learn new words immediately see these new words in their correct context consolidate vocabulary that we have learned in the past.Many learners, though, approach reading in English in the wrong way. If your method is bad, readingin a foreign language can be hard and boring. And if a subject doesn’t interest you, you will learn verylittle.Here are six simple tips to help make your reading both enjoyable and effective.1. Choose interesting material / be hungryAlways read something that interests you. ”How do we know something is interesting?” you may ask.Easy. This is the rule:”Read material that you would also read in your native language.If you don’t normally read it in your own language, don’t read it in English.”Following this rule will ensure that you have an interest in the material. Being interested in what youare reading will make you hungry to read more and hungry to understand the new words that youmeet.2. Read material that is the right level for youThe material you choose to read should not be too easy for you. Neither should it be too hard.If the text is too easy you will meet very few new words and so will not learn much new vocabulary. Ifthe text is too difficult there will be too many unknown words. This means that you will not understandenough to be able to guess the meaning of new words from the context in which you have read them.You may also fall into the trap of spending more time looking in your dictionary than reading yourbook. The result is that you will be demotivated.One way of ensuring that you have a suitable level is to choose ‘easy reader’ books, which areavailable in different levels. These are often classic novels adapted and shortened for learners ofEnglish.3. Be realistic – keep it shortIf you decide to read a book, choose a thin one. If you read an article on the internet or in a magazine,make sure it is not too long. Be realistic about the lengths of texts you read: it will keep you motivatedand give you a sense of achievement when you have finished.So, now you have interesting material and the correct reading level. What next?4. Pay attention to every wordPay attention to every word in a sentence, especially the words which are new to you. You won’t learna word if you skip it.When you see a word you don’t know, it is a good idea to take a pencil and underline it – we will seewhy in the next point.5. Guess meaning firstIf you see a new word in a text that you are reading, don’t go immediately to your dictionary. First try to guess the meaning by re-reading that section of the text.
Now use your dictionary to see if you guessed correctly. Underline the word. This is useful for later on – after you have finished reading your text, you maywant to copy all new words into your vocab book for revising another day.6. Use a good dictionaryAnother thing to remember is that your dictionary should be good. A quality English-English (advancedlearner’s) dictionary is essential for people at intermediate level or above. I have seen too manystudents using poor quality dictionaries. They are just making their learning more difficult than it shouldbe.Those are my six tips. If you follow them when you read, you will learn more vocabulary, more easily.And you will enjoy learning.Happy reading!