How to Prepare for the FCE

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The Cambridge ESOL department of the renowned University of Cambridge offers the First Certificate in English (FCE). Also known as the Cambridge English: First exam, this test is intended for people who speak and write English for study or work purposes. The FCE is an internationally recognized certification in upper-intermediate English. Preparing for the FCE and gaining certification enables you to use English with fluency and also paves the way for higher qualifications such as the Certificate of Proficiency in English and the Certificate in Advanced English.

  • Browse the Cambridge University ESOL website and download the FCE Handbook. Read this thoroughly to understand areas the test covers, which include English reading, writing, and usage, listening and speaking skills.

  • Get information about the passing marks. Each of the five sections on the test is worth 40 marks, adding up to a total of 200. To clear the FCE, you need to score at least 60 percent; that is, 120 marks out of 200. Each paper is given a percentage and the final total score decides if you pass the exam or not.

  • Read regularly from newspapers, magazines, subject-specific journals, and fiction and non-fiction books. This is helpful in preparing for the Reading section of the FCE.

  • Hone your writing skills by choosing a sample topic from your local newspaper or textbook. Write a summary of the topic, an article, an article review, and a letter to a friend discussing the sample topic. Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence construction, as well as a logical flow of thoughts. Read English grammar textbooks such as "Cambridge Grammar of English" by Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy to brush up on the rules of grammar.

  • Browse the BBC website and listen to the programs available to prepare for the Listening section of the FCE. Considering the fact that the exam tests your knowledge of British English, the BBC is the best choice. Watch British English movies with subtitles. Make use of the sound files available on the Cambridge University ESOL website to hone your listening skills.

  • Join an English-speaking class for practice with actual speaking. Make it a point to converse with your instructor and fellow students in English without feeling shy about making mistakes. This spoken English practice is important to clear the Speaking section of the FCE.

  • Solve the sample exam papers available on the Cambridge University EFL website. Find out areas where you need more effort, and concentrate on these during the week preceding your test date.

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