“WHAT WE LEARN WITH PLEASURE WE NEVER FORGET” Alfred Mercer
At My Cup of Tea Language School, we not only teach you the language whether it is Catalan, English, French, Italian or Spanish for your personal and professional reasons but we also teach and prepare for the Cambridge First Certificate FCE (B2).
The cambridge first certificate (fce) – hints and tips
What is the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE)? Well, it’s one of the official Cambridge exams, which demonstrates your ability in English. The FCE is a qualification at upper-intermediate level that is officially recognised by universities, employers and governments around the world. Basically, it’s the minimum of level of English you need to start working or study in an English-speaking environment. Also, if you’re studying in Spain, it’s a requirement to have this level of English to pass your degree – no matter what subject you study!
So, what’s it like?
Well, the FCE is set at the CEFR (Cambridge European Framework of Reference) level B2. This is the level of language that you should have by the end of Bachillerato (A Levels) – so if you’re doing well at English in school then getting your FCE should be a walk in the park. And if you’re finding it more difficult then not to worry – that’s what we’re here for!
The exam consists of 4 parts:
- Reading and Use of English (worth 40%) – This shows you can deal confidently with different types of text, such as fiction, newspapers and magazines. It also tests your use of English with tasks that show how well you can control your grammar and vocabulary.
- Writing (worth 20%) – This part requires you to be able to produce two different pieces of writing, such as letters, reports, reviews and essays.
- Listening (20%) – In this part you must be able to follow and understand a range of spoken materials, such as news programmes, presentations and everyday conversations.
- Speaking (worth 20%) – This test your ability to communicate effectively in face-to-face situations. You will take the Speaking test with one or two other candidates.
The exam is quite long and takes part usually over two days – the speaking part is usually done a couple of days before the other parts, which are done all on the same day.
What do students who have studied for the FCE think about it?
- Most students find the Reading and Use of English part to be the hardest because it involves a lot of grammar practise and understanding nuance in the vocabulary, which means a lot of practise and deeper study.
- The Writing tends to be the part where students see most improvement when they do lots of practise and is the area that allows them to show off all the grammatical structures, useful expressions and key vocabulary they’ve learned. It’s the most creative part of the exam and many students enjoy this aspect.
- The Listening is generally the part that most people do well on so it’s a good point booster. Most people find listening easier than the other aspects of learning a language and that really shows in this section, in our experience.
- Finally, the Speaking. This is the part that all students think will be a breeze (probably because it’s the shortest) but it usually turns out to be the most stressful. This section lasts only 15 minutes, which is a really short time to pack in all of your language skills and interesting ideas. The good thing is that you do this part with a partner, so that takes the pressure off a little!
What are some of our hints and tips?
- For the Reading and Use of English many people believe the best way to prepare is to do practise paper after practise paper. While this is important, it is still crucial to keep developing your understanding of grammar and practise using it in context as this will allow you to tackle each question with more confidence. Having a good grasp of how the language works and recognising its patterns is the key to this part of the exam as it provides you with a logical approach to answering the questions, rather than basing your answer solely on intuition.
- As we said before, the writing is generally where people see most improvement when they practise. This is true for two reasons: firstly, half of the mark for writing is based on whether the student can write in the right style and use the right structure, meaning it’s quite formulaic. All you need to do is remember the layout of each type of writing and nail a few key phrases to show you can write in the correct style and you’re sorted! Secondly, because the rest of the mark is made up of your own ideas and creativity (so, whatever you like as long as it answers the question!) and your ability to write with good grammar and spelling, which you’ll be practising for the Reading and Use of English part anyway, so it all ties together nicely.
- Now, listening. The way the people speak (their pace, intonation, tone etc) in the FCE listening is always the same. They have been produced for language learners, so they don’t exactly sound like natural conversations as they’ve been slowed down, and everyone speaks very clearly (unlike in real life). So, while it will of course help to do some extra listening practise by watching a series or putting the radio on in English, we believe that the best way to prepare for the listening part of the exam is to do as many practise papers as you can to get used to the voices and the types of expressions they use.
- The speaking is the part of the exam that students need most practise for. It often takes them a while to realise how challenging it can be to organise your thoughts and express yourself effectively in such a short space of time. The key here is to use specific vocabulary and speak precisely. So, learn some key phrases for discussions and debates, ones that you like and feel confident using, and try to put them in at the right moments. It’s important to remember that a big part of what the examiners are looking for in this section of the exam is how you interact with your partner, so lots of eye contact and engaging questions are essential. The main thing is to try to slow down, think about what you’re saying and speak concisely, rather than speaking for the sake of it and rambling on about something irrelevant (it happens a lot without us realising we’re doing it!).
We know it seems like a lot to take into consideration but here at My Cup of Tea we have years of practise successfully preparing students for exams. If you’d like to know more about the exam, need help preparing or anything else language-related please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!
We run B2 courses on the following days:
· Monday – 09:30-11h & 16-17:30h
· Tuesday – 09:30-11h & 16-17:30h
· Wednesday – 09:30-11h & 16-17:30h & 19:30-21h (ONLINE ONLY)
· Thursday – 09:30-11h & 16-17:30h