FCE Exam Advice

First Use of English & Reading – Pass FCE (B2)

First Use of English And Reading Page Introduction

This page is designed to give you tips and tricks for the the Use of English and Reading papers of the B2 First Certificate (FCE) exam. There are four sections in the FCE exam: Reading and Use of English. Listening. Writing. Speaking. You should use the tips, technique and examples on this page to help you prepare for the B2 First Use of English and Reading paper. If you want to find out more about exam format, how to book the exam and the best resources to use to prepare for the exam etc. check out this page.

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First Use of English & Reading Paper Introduction

There are 7 parts in the 'Reading and Use of English' paper. Parts 1-4 are 'Use of English' and parts 5-7 are 'Reading'.

You have 1 hour and 15 minutes or 75 minutes to complete this paper.

First Use of English & Reading Paper General Advice

When practising for this paper, you should try to identify which parts you find easier. I would focus on these parts of the paper first. Then try to complete the more difficult exercises. You will probably complete the exam parts you find easier in less time. However, you should still time yourself when doing FCE exam practice exercises. See how long it takes for you to complete each section. Do this a few times so you have an average time. You can then plan your time in the exam according to how easy and how long each section takes. Do the sections which take less time, or which you find easier first. This is the best use of your time.

It is better to write an answer than write nothing at all. Try to save yourself a few minutes at the end of the paper to go back through each part and make sure you have written an answer.

First Use of English - Advice

Parts 1-4 of the Reading and Use of English paper are 'Use of English'.

The Use of English paper tests your knowledge of how the English language works, the grammar, word formations, sentence formations etc. Here are some tips for each part of the Use of English paper.

First Use of English - Advice

Parts 1-4 of the Reading and Use of English paper are 'Use of English'.

The Use of English paper tests your knowledge of how the English language works, the grammar, word formations, sentence formations etc. Here are some tips for each part of the Use of English paper.

First Use of English - Part 1

In part 1 of the 'Use of English' paper, you must fill in 8 gaps from a written passage. You have to choose one word to fill in the gap from four options (A,B,C,D).

Tips And Technique

Read the whole passage quickly. It will be easier to find the answers if you understand the topic and the overall idea.

Read the whole sentence, ignoring the gap which you have to fill. Read the sentence again and look at the four options. This part often tests your knowledge of collocations. Collocations are two or three words in English that go next to each other in a sentence. For example: 'want to'. In English we say “I want to go....” rather than “I want going....”. 'Want' is followed by 'to' in English, not 'verbing'. So, read the whole sentence then think about the words which are before and after the gap. Look at the four (A,B,C,D) options and decide which fits best with the words before and after.

Think about the meaning of the sentence. After completing points 1 and 2 above, check to make sure your word fits with the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes the words will have similar, but not exactly the same meanings.

First Use of English - Part 2

In part 2 of the 'Use of English' paper, you must fill in 8 gaps from a written passage. You have to think which word might fill the gap. You do not have any options to choose from.

Tips And Technique

Read the whole passage quickly to get an idea of the topic.

Read the whole sentence. Try to think what word goes in the gap based on the meaning of the sentence.

Have a look at the words before and after the gap. This will give you an idea what type of word you need to use, adjective, verb, noun, pronoun etc. English sentences often follow a structure....you can find more details about this here. It is often possible to know if a word is a noun, adjective etc. based on the ending of the word. For example, if a word ends: -ment, -ion, -ance, -ence – it will probably be a noun. If you can recognise word endings and understand sentence structures, you will do much better in many sections of this exam.

The words you need are usually short words, auxiliary verbs, prepositions and relative pronouns are very common.

First Use of English - Part 3

In part 3 of the 'Use of English' paper, you must fill in 8 gaps from a written passage. You are given a word to use to fill in the gap, but you have to modify the word. The word they give you might be a noun, e.g. product. However, in the sentence you may need to use this word as an adjective, e.g. productive. So, you need to know what type of word you need and how to spell this word.

Tips And Technique

Read the whole passage quickly to understand the general topic.

Read the whole sentence with the gap. Think what the missing word is. Check the words before and after the gap to help you decide the type of word you need. This article will be useful for this.

When practising for this exam, become aware of different word endings (see part 2 tip 3 above).

Read the whole sentence again. Make sure the word you have selected matches the meaning of the sentence. In this part of the exam they often want you to use negative words, e.g. unproductive. Decide whether you need a negative word depending on the overall meaning of the sentence/paragraph. If you need a negative, think what is the appropriate prefix for this word (-un, -dis, -im) etc.

Check your spelling! In all parts of the 'Use of English' paper, you lose marks if words are not spelt correctly.

FCE Use of English - B2 First Certificate

First Use of English - Part 4

In part 4 of the 'Use of English' paper, you must complete 6 sentences. You are given a sentence with a few words missing and you have to decide what words complete the sentence. To help you decide, they give you an example sentence above, with the same meaning. They also give you one of the missing words which you need to use. This word is very important and often dictates which other words you need to use with it.

Tips And Technique

Students often find this part of the exam difficult. Practising these exercises before the exam is key. As we say 'practise makes perfect'.

Read the example sentence. Look at the word they give you. Think if you know what the missing words are. If you do, make sure all the words stay congruent, e.g. if you use a singular countable noun, make sure you use an article: 'a', 'an', 'the' before it.

Is the word they give you used in any common English expressions?

This exercise tests your knowledge of common English expressions as well as your knowledge of grammatical structures, e.g. reported speech. You should read my Prepare First Certificate online page, specifically the 'Before The Exam' section. Here I show you a strategy to follow to prepare for the exam and I suggest you buy an FCE practice book. The book I often use in my lessons is 'Ready for FCE'. Most FCE practice books should cover the grammatical structures, expressions etc. that you need to use. The problem is, you never know which expression they may ask for.


First Reading Advice

Parts 5-7 of the Reading and Use of English paper are 'Reading'.

The Reading paper tests your understanding of different types of texts and written structures. The questions are designed to test your overall comprehension of texts as well as more specific details. Here are some of my tips to help you improve in each part of the Reading paper.

Part 5

In part 5 you have to complete 6 multiple choice questions. You have to read a text, from a novel, article etc. and you have to choose which answer (a-d) is correct for each. Many parts of this exam are not as simple as they seem. Often there are two or more answers which you think may be possible...but for a small detail, one will be (more) correct.

When preparing for this exam you should try a couple of different techniques and see which works best for you.

Tips And Technique

Some questions refer to specific details and some refer to the overall meaning of the text. Read the whole passage quickly (1-2 minutes) to get the context. This is good practice and will help you answer the non-specific questions.

Try reading the questions (ignoring the a-d options) then try to find the answer in the text. Then look at options a-d and see if one answer is more obvious. I have found this technique to be very useful with my students.

As I mention above, you may think two or more answers are possible, but one answer will always be (more) correct. Let's say both option 'a' and option 'b' seem possible. Often there will be a small detail or piece of information in 'b' which is actually not mentioned in the text. This is why you must read options a-d carefully and make sure the overall meaning and every detail of the option you choose, is found in the text.

Part 6

In part 6 (questions 37-42) you have a text with 6 sentences missing. You are given 7 sentences separately and you have to choose the 6 sentences you need and decide where they go in the text.

Tips And Technique

Read the whole text to get an overall understanding of the context.

Read the 7 sentences (a-g) below the text. Write one or two words about the overall topic next to each sentence.

You cannot just read the sentence before and after the missing sentence. You normally need to read the few sentences before and after the gap in order to understand the context. Sometimes you may even need to know what was written in the paragraph before.

Write the possible answers on the side of your sheet next to the gapped sentences. You may have more than one. When you have done this for all the gaps, look back at your possible answers and decide which is correct. Maybe you have written 'A/C' next to question 37 and just 'A' next to gap 40. If this is the case, it would make sense to choose 'C' for question 37.

Part 7

In part 7 you have a reading text which is divided into 4 or 5 sections (A,B,C,D/E). You have 10 questions and you must say which section (A,B,C,D/E) contains the information for each question.

Tips And Technique

Quickly read the questions. Underline the most important words in the question.

Read the whole text in a couple of minutes to have an idea what information each section contains. Write one or two words about the information contained next to each section if you find this useful.

Read the section A in more detail. Read through all the questions again. Write 'A' next to each question you think section 'A' has the answer to. Do this for each section.

If there are some questions with more than one letter, read through the relevant sections again and make a decision.

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If you prefer to get paid help to prepare for the Cambridge English: First (FCE) exam or other parts of the exam, we have a variety of options available to you. I will list them below starting with the cheapest.

Send me an FCE writing task and I will correct it and give you feedback...if I have time. Find out more details and check out some past FCE writing examples.

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