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Tutorial: FCE Key Word Transformations

19th March 2018 Posted by: Mike Robertson

IN this part of the FCE’s Reading & Use of English section students are given a series of short sentences. It is their task to rewrite each sentence so that it carries the same meaning as the one given, using between 2 - 5 words and a key word that is provided.

Students cannot change the key word in any way but can include any grammatical structure they wish, providing that it doesn’t contain any incorrections. Contractions will also count as two words.

Whilst it is impossible to predict exactly what will be tested in this part of the exam, there are common areas of language that will be tested. The information below will focus on which ones appear most often; more specific lessons regarding each area will be included in a future article. 

Phrasal verbs:

It is not essential that students commit all phrasal verbs in the English language to memory, but it is imperative that they learn at least a few dozen and have an understanding of how they are put together. At least 1 of the 6 sentences presented will require the use of one, often using its literal translation in the first sentence and then including its verb component as the key word.

  • “You should start a new hobby, Mr. Jenkins,” the doctor said.
  • “The doctor advised Mr. Jenkins to take up a new hobby.”

In this example, ‘take’ was included as the key word and the 5 underlined words were used to complete the sentence. 

A fantastically comprehensive list of essential phrasal verbs can be found here

Direct & indirect speech:

Also known as reported speech, a sentence may be written as a quotation (direct speech) that needs to be translated into one that indicates what the person is saying, but without them actually saying it (indirect speech).

  • “Why don’t you come over this evening?” Angela asked.
  • "Angela suggested that they come over this evening."

Imagine that you are writing a story but don’t wish to actually quote anyone’s speech.

Passive & active voice:

Active voice denotes a subject performing an action; the passive voice indicates when the subject of the sentence has an action done to it by someone or something else.

  • The police have cancelled the demonstration (A.V.)
  • The demonstration has been cancelled by the police (P.V.)

Prepositions like ‘by’ can often indicate the use of the passive voice and can be used as a clue to help students understand the sentence structure. The key word ‘has’ indicates the need to use present perfect.

Unreal past tenses / conditionals:

Sentences using modal verbs can be translated into conditional statements using ‘if’, ‘wish’, ‘as’ and ‘only’ (or visa versa). Similarly, words like ‘regret’, ‘prefer’ or ‘rather’ can also indicate the need to use a conditional clause.

  • I’d prefer you to get home early tonight.
  • I’d rather you get home early tonight.

Verb patterns:

A concrete knowledge of gerunds and infinitives is integral here. This means knowing what words are following by an +ing or infinitive verb, and also understanding when to use +ed.

  • I’ll help you with your homework.
  • I don’t mind helping you with your homework.

The verb ‘to mind’ can actually be followed by both a gerund and infinitive verb, but it sounds more fluent to use +ing.

Comparatives & superlatives:

Structures like so/such, as...as, too/enough may be tested in this section of the exam, as well as basic comparative and superlative structures. Students will be expected to be able to confidently translate sentences that include these grammatical structures.

  • The food was so good we had to leave a tip.
  • It was such good food that we had to leave a tip.





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