HOW TO PASS THE FCE EXAM
The Cambridge First Certificate In English (FCE) is an examination specifically for upper-intermediate students of English. It is an internationally accredited qualification recognized by thousands of educational establishments and companies worldwide. Therefore, it’s a respected prerequisite for anyone wanting to advance their studies as well as their career.
Here are our top tips for passing the FCE:
1. READ INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY
I don’t want to sound like I’m teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (a prosaic expression, meaning to give advice about something you already know how to do and is, well, quite frankly obvious), but I feel justified in making this number one on the list. Many students fail to read instructions carefully and thereby either misread or misinterpret what to do, which of course results in errors and loss of valuable points.
2. HIGHLIGHT KEYWORDS IN THE QUESTION
This leads us to our next top tip. A key strategy in the reading and writing component is to highlight keywords in the question. This enables pupils to both identify the relevant part of the text or to ensure all points are covered in the writing element.
3. UNDERSTAND THE TRAPS
Cambridge does set traps – and these traps are more likely to mislead weaker learners of English. For instance, if a word appears in an answer and also appears in the text, it’s probably NOT the solution to the exercise. Watch out for this in the listening and reading sections.
4. KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES
It’s a good idea to get to know your own strengths and weaknesses, whether you have an actual teacher to give you feedback or if you have to rely on on-line tests to provide you with an overview. A lot of learners have other commitments, or a short timescale to work to, which prevents them from improving all aspects of their language ability. Targeted learning is often a best-case scenario for such students – particularly if you are restricted to more independent study.
5. LEARN COLLOCATIONS
This includes phrasal verbs, compounds and idioms. Learning chunks of language not only helps to improve your general English comprehension for the Use Of English paper, but it can additionally enhance vocabulary for the listening, speaking and writing elements.
6. THE IMPORTANCE OF SKIMMING & SCANNING SKILLS
Knowing how to do these two things well means you won’t have to read an entire document from beginning to end, or even understand every single word that’s written down. The aim of the game is to answer the questions correctly – no more, no less.
7. THE ART OF PARAPHRASING
Paraphrasing is a skill and it takes time and practice. However, once you master it, it’ll make a big difference – particularly to your speaking and writing. Having alternative ways to say the same thing is something Cambridge expects to see in stronger candidates.
8. MAKE A PLAN
Some students don’t see the point in making a plan when they do the writing paper. It’s really a matter of perspective. The more you practice making a plan, the easier it becomes. You remember to think about register, including a range of grammar structures (for example, like inversions, inverted conditionals, participle clauses and double comparatives), as well as the vocabulary you could use. Practice makes perfect!
9. TIME MANAGEMENT
One of the greatest challenges students face, is applying all these skills under time pressure. It’s all about strategy again and what works best for you. I often advise and encourage my pupils to try out different approaches to papers. With the Use Of English paper, perhaps don’t start with Part 1, but with Part 4, because it’ll be immediately apparent if you’ll know the answer or not. Don’t waste time on answers you simply don’t know!
10. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Of course, like anything, you only get better with practice. You can incorporate English into your everyday life without much effort, but it could make all the difference in the exam. Spend 30 minutes reading a magazine article on the train ride to work, or listen to an English radio station or Podcast if you drive. Whatever you decide to do, it’s worth the investment should it deliver the FCE pass you require.