FCE Exam Introduction

The FCE exam used to be called the Cambridge English: First exam. It is now called the B2 First exam. Nevertheless, many people and materials still refer to it as the FCE exam.

The FCE exam is an English language exam that was created by Cambridge English.

There are many different types of English language exams. I don't really know why this is, but I guess different exams developed in different countries and then some spread internationally. The FCE: B2 First has now become popular in several countries around the world, including the country where you are reading this article right now!

Why Take The FCE Exam?

If you want to get into an English speaking university or get a better job, the FCE exam can help! If you pass this exam, you get a B2 level Cambridge English certificate. You can see a list of all the universities and institutions around the world which accept this certificate here. This certificate is proof of your language level and can really help you in life. See some of our success stories.

I compare some different English exams and I go into a lot more detail about why you should take this exam in my free e-book.


On this website you will learn strategies that you can use to prepare yourself effectively for the FCE exam. I believe that students spend too much money and time going to language schools and I want that to change. But I'll talk more about that later....first let's look at the format of the FCE exam.

FCE Exam Format

There are 4 main papers in the B2 First: FCE Exam. These are Reading and Use of EnglishSpeaking, Listening and Writing.

You might have noticed that I wrote 5 different parts of the exam above after having stated that there are only 4 exam papers.

If you noticed this, you are very observant!

In the exam, the 'Reading' and 'Use of English' sections are combined into 1 exam paper....don't ask my why :/ It's important to note that the 'Use of English' section mainly comprises grammar and vocabulary related questions and is less about reading comprehension. It is also important to note that the 'Reading' and 'Use of English' sections are marked separately. This probably sounds very complicated, (it is) so I will break it down for you and try to make it easier to understand.

FCE Exam Tip: Notice I used the phrasal verb 'break it down' in the last sentence. This is a good phrasal verb to learn for the exam. 'To break something down' means 'to simplify something'.

Reading & Use of English

The total Reading and Use of English paper lasts 75 minutes.

There are 7 parts in this exam paper. Parts 1, 5, 6 and 7 are 'Reading' and parts 2, 3 and 4 are 'Use of English.

In my FCE: B2 First courses I recommend you find out 3 things:

  1. Which sections are most difficult for you.
  2. Which sections you can complete in the quickest time.
  3. In which sections you get 2 marks per question.

You should then use these 3 points to decide which sections to complete first.

FCE Exam tip: Did you notice I used the phrasal verb 'find out' earlier? 'To find out' means 'to discover'. You might be tested on this in the exam! 

Let's have a look at how many questions and marks are awarded for each part of the Reading and Use of English paper.

Parts 1 & 5-7 – Reading

Part 1 – 8 questions - 8 marks

Part 5 – 6 questions - 12 marks

Part 6 – 6 questions - 12 marks 

Part 7 – 10 questions - 10 marks

Total: 30 questions - 42 marks.

Parts 2-4 - Use of English

Part 2 – 8 questions - 8 marks

Part 3 – 8 questions - 8 marks

Part 4 – 6 questions - 12 marks 

Total: 20 questions - 28 marks.

So, to summarise, the 'Reading and Use of English' paper consists of 7 parts. Parts 2-4 are 'Use of English' and these focus on grammar and vocabulary. These parts test your knowledge of common collocations, different word types and understanding sentence structures. Part 1 will also test your vocabulary and grammatical knowledge, but it joins parts 5-7 as part of the 'Reading' section. Parts 5-7 focus on reading and test your comprehension and understanding of how sentences fit within larger pieces of writing.

If you want to learn some great tips and techniques for passing this exam paper for free, my First Use of English and Reading web pages are full of advice or at the moment I have a 90% discount on my Reading and Use of English video courses. Here is an example lesson...

Speaking

14 minutes.

4 parts.

The Speaking section has 4 parts. The first part is a general chat between yourself and the examiner - they typically ask questions about your family, your hobbies etc. In the second part you have to talk for one minute about the similarities and differences between two photos while answering a question about them. In the third part you have to discuss a topic with your partner(s) for 2/3 minutes and then answer a more specific question related to that topic for 1 minute (again with your partner). In the fourth part the examiner asks you and your partner more questions....generally related to the topic in part 3. To get the best tips and techniques for passing the Speaking paper buy my B2 First Speaking video course for 90% off or see my B2 First Speaking webpage.

Listening

40 minutes.

4 parts.

Part 1 – 8 questions - 8 marks

Part 2 – 10 questions - 10 marks

Part 3 – 5 questions - 5 marks

Part 4 – 7 questions - 7 marks

The Listening section consists of 4 parts. Some test your general understanding of conversations, speeches, presentations etc. while others test your ability to find specific information. To learn more about this section of the exam and for tips and techniques for passing the Listening paper, see my Listening FCE webpage or check out my B2 First Listening video course currently at 90% off.

Writing

80 minutes.

2 parts.

The Writing section of the exam has 2 parts. The first part is a 140-190 word essay. The structure of the essay is key in passing this section of the exam. In the second part, you have 3 options from either: an article, a review, a report, an email, and you have to write 140-190 words about one of these. The writing marks are awarded on 4 criteria for both parts. It is very important to understand how examiners mark your writings, so check out this video to understand these criteria better:

Check out my FCE writing examples page for more advice or send a writing to: [email protected] and we will mark it and give feedback.

You need to show competence in every different writing style in order to pass the exam. We offer a 12 lesson B2 First (FCE) Writing video course currently at a 90% discount to help you with tips and techniques for every section of the writing paper.

How To Pass The FCE Exam

This is a good question and if you are reading this page, then you are like me, you want to make your dreams a reality!

Luckily for you, the information and materials you will find on this website are all designed to show you how to prepare for and pass the FCE exam by yourself. The first place I recommend you visit now is this prepare first certificate online page. On that page you will find my ultimate FCE guide. It tells you what to do before, during and after the exam and much more!

FCE Exam