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Seven ways to prepare for your FCE

24th January 2018 Posted by: Mike Robertson

THE First Certificate in English is probably the most respected English language certification outside the United States.

Students from far and wide understand that possessing it can open up a variety of doors, both professional and personal, in their immediate future. There are countless exam preparation sites out there, each offering a unique perspective on how to best tackle the test. 

Listening exercises

Preparing for the listening section of the exam can often be hard when studying solo.

Examenglish.com, Virtuaule.com, Englishaula.com and many other websites offer practice samples, but it is also advisable to head over to the audio section at the BBC. Considering that the exam is in British English, listening to real programmes on a wide variety of topics will provide you with invaluable comprehension practice.

If you are living in an English-speaking country, remember to make the most of this time and speak with as many natives as possible. In all instances, it is important to begin learning how to listen for paraphrased language, as this will help you on exam day.

Common phrases and key vocabulary

Whilst memorising key phrases is not an advisable way to approach all of your language learning, in the FCE it can be useful. Through preparation classes and completing practice exams, you should be able to discern key phrases and vocabulary that pop up in the tests.

Websites like Goconqr.com offer a free platform to create organised mind maps and other memorisation strategies that you can share with your peers.

Speak from experience

The speaking component of the FCE wants to test your understanding and analysis of ‘real life’ situations, so speaking from experience is paramount in gaining top marks. FCEexamtips.com offers a detailed look at how the speaking test is organised and how you should approach it.

Do not ignore any conversation area, no matter how simple it appears. A topic like cinema can be used to open up discussions about social trends, technology or even politics.

Be prepared to answer questions as personally as possible and also be critical about them.

Use of English involves using English

The biggest tip for Part 1 of the exam is to completely immerse yourself in English writing. Reading national newspapers can be a good start, but completing practice exams will help you understand some particular components of the language that will be tested.

A comprehensive understanding of prepositions, phrasal verbs and collocations is essential. 

On exam day, question whether you want to start with Part 1 or come back to it later. This section requires a great deal of concentration, so some students like to tackle it when their brain has warmed up.

Remember to read the title and the whole text (in as much detail as it takes to understand it). If you discover two answers that have the same meaning it means that neither can be right. Overall, preparation is key here.

Learn how to write essays

Essays are all about providing information, analysing, comparing and contrasting ideas. You can read an informative article here that will outline how to best prepare, but overall you should present balanced writing that answers the question within the required words.

With 80 minutes to complete two questions, students should dedicate time to planning their answer and how they will use key linking vocabulary and descriptive text.

Know your errors and rewrite them

With each practice test, you complete there should be a correction process taking place. The first steps to not making errors are to know where you go wrong and the reason behind it.

It is advisable that you seek out a tutor for at least a portion of your FCE preparation, as they will be able to provide you with useful feedback on the content of your answers and any grammar mistakes you have made.

Choose your materials

There are thousands of books available surrounding FCE preparation so make sure you select one that works for you.

‘Ready For First’ and ‘Objective First’ by Cambridge are reputable options, but there is an abundance of material online that shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re looking to save money, scan the web for free sample papers and practice sheets.



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