Tips for getting top marks in the Cambridge First (FCE) Exam

Tips for getting top marks in the Cambridge First (FCE) Exam

Are you planning on taking the Cambridge First (FCE) exam?   It’s important that you have a good B2 level of English but it’s also important to prepare carefully for the exam to make sure you get the best possible result.  Hundreds of students take the FCE exam with CEC every year and our expert teachers prepare students to get top marks.

Here are our top tips for passing the FCE exam

  1. Familiarise yourself with the different parts of each paper

Make sure you are familiar with the structure and timing of all parts of the exam.  From doing practice exams, you will become familiar with how long it takes you to do the various parts of the exam. Read the instructions and questions on each paper carefully on the exam day.  Even the best candidates make unnecessary mistakes because they are rushing.

You can find practice tests in the Exam section of CEC online.

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  1. Improve your range of vocabulary and language

Keep a well organised record of language and revise from it often.  A good language notebook is more than just a record of new words, it’s a way for you to organise and categorise language so you can revise easily and quickly.  Record as much detail as possible and don’t rely on simply translating words and expressions.

Review and test yourself regularly. There are lots of useful websites where you can find and create flashcards and quizzes for reviewing language

GoConqr is one of our favourites. .   You can create mind maps, flash cards and quizzes and find resources created by teachers and students.  You can also create a class study group where you can create quizzes and flashcards for each other.


FCE Tips



Quizlet is another really useful tool for making flashcards and quizzes for revising your language.


  1. Read as much as possible


Reading is an excellent way to build a wide vocabulary and also to become familiar with the variety of structures used in different texts. In the beginning use a dictionary and grammar reference to help you.

Read a lot and read a wide variety of text types.  Start by reading short blog entries and short articles and increase your reading to longer articles and texts. As the exam approaches, you need to read more independently and rely less on the dictionary and your notes.   Read for general information and meaning and try not to get stuck on words you don’t know.  In the exam you have to read quite quickly to complete the tasks, you don’t have time to focus on the meaning of every word.

Sources of reading material


  • Re-read texts from class. Your course book and other coursebooks at B2 level are a very useful source of texts at the correct level.


  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and use error correction to help you improve


Try to use the new lexis and grammar you learn in class.  Don’t worry about making mistakes. When you receive feedback, you can focus on correcting the errors.  It is particularly important to pay attention to the errors you make frequently and concentrate on eliminating these.


One good way of doing this is to start an ‘error log’ for your written work  When you get feedback from your teacher on a piece of writing, choose three language errors that you would like to eliminate from your writing in the future.  Focus on errors that are likely to occur regularly for example errors with prepositions, verb patterns and chunks of language.  These are the errors that will have the greatest impact on your overall accuracy.


Make a note of these errors and how to correct them in your language notebook.


Error and teacher’s code Correction  
I decided walking (vf) because  the bus didn’t arrive I decided to walk Decide to do something (verb form)
I was interested for (prep) seeing the exhibition I was interested in seeing To be interested in  (preposition)
It depends of (prep) the situation It depends on To depend on (preposition)


The next time you submit a piece of writing check it to make sure you have not repeated these errors.  If you repeat an error, enter it into your log again and highlight it.  Do this with every piece of written feedback and you will build an error log and you might start to see some repeated errors!

There are also some nice websites which correct your writing for you:


Cambridge ‘Write and improve’ gives free correction for written work. It identifies simple errors and offer suggestions for correcting them


Grammarly is also an excellent tool for proofreading your writing.


  1. Practise writing quickly by hand

There are a lot of useful websites with online practice tests. However, if you are taking the paper version of the exam, you will need to be able to write clearly and quickly. This takes some practice if you don’t write very often by hand.  You won’t have time in the exam to write a rough answer and then rewrite it neatly.  By doing as many practice papers as possible, you will get an idea of how long it takes you to write an answer.  Writing clearly is also important in the Reading and Use of English Paper and the Listening Paper.


CEC Students


  1. Speak as much as possible and give full answers to questions in class.


All speaking activities in class are an opportunity to practice using the language you know and the new language you have learned. When you are checking homework with a partner or discussing a picture before doing a listening task or the introduction to a reading give full answers and speak as much as possible.   Take every opportunity to give an opinion and participate in discussions in class and outside of class.


Practice speaking around a variety of topics – one way of doing this is to create prompts based on various topics. For each topic, make a list of the key areas and vocabulary you can talk about and write out some questions to discuss. You can work on your own or with a classmate.

  Work and jobs


·         Qualifications

·         Employers/employees

·         Job satisfaction

·         Job security

·         Career opportunities

·         To retire

·         Be fired

What is your ideal job? (Why?)


What personal qualities are important for these jobs?



How rewarding do you think these jobs would be?



How important are career opportunities to you?



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