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As you can see with this sample answer, all points are covered.

The examiner will be


checking that all the points are answered in a logical and accurate manner. Marks are
awarded between 0-5. Zero being the lowest mark and five being the highest mark in the
FCE. Examiners will be checking for the range of vocabulary used, accuracy of
grammar/lexis, as well as the suitability of language used. Students should be aware how
to write in a semi-formal way for the first part of the FCE Examination. For example,
lexical and grammatical areas that should be understood by the student could include the
following:
1. Writing a letter or email: provide students with sample letters or emails (with
mistakes) and have a grammar auction or self-correction lesson. It is important
for students to learn how to start a letter/email as well as how to finish it. I came
across many scripts from students who were unable to correctly start and finish
the email.
2. Topical areas: students should be aware of the lexical connections for explaining
their hobbies, interests and leisure activities at a confident level. Teachers should
try to provide lessons based around these areas. Further topics are suggested
below.
3. Usage of polite questions: students should be able to transpose direct questions to
polite indirect questions when writing for the first part of the test. For example;
"How long is the factory visit" to "I would like to know how long the factory visit
will take?" and "Is parking available for the school coach?" to "Could you (also)
please let me know if there is parking available for our school coach?"
4. Typical errors: the most typical error (particularly from one geographical area)
was the use of idiomatic language, such as; "One the one hand ...."/"On the other
hand ....", "It's high time that ...." (one unsuitable method of starting a sentence in
an email/letter). I would urge students to start sentences in a simple and natural
manner. If students try too hard to use language/sentence forms that have been
memorised, it looks out of place and completely unnatural.
Areas of topics that teachers could cover, for both Part 1 and Part 2 of the FCE
Examination, could include the following:
Personal information
The family
Daily activities
Home
Town and country
Travel and tourism
Food and drink
Describing people
Describing things
Friends and relationships
Health and fitness
Leisure time
Education
The world of work
Money
Past experience and stories
Science and technology

Social and environmental issues

I hope the above helps teachers advising students, as well as those studying for the FCE.
Remember the acronym; KISS (Keep It Simple Silly). If students keep their answers
simple, they should find the test easier. Finally, best of luck for the examination. I shall
be blogging on Part 2 of the FCE Writing element soon so please keep an eye out.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to comment or contact me.
As noted above, the essay is split up into several parts and the ideas suggested above are
included. Within the conclusion of the essay, the question is then answered but is linked
to the other sections of the essay. With this type of question, it is important for the
student to plan their answer and use the following to improve the readability of the
answer:
Linking one sentence to another - Unmotivation of language learning related to
a real life experience (French language learning).
Usage of discourse markers - It is important for students to learn how to use
discourse markers (however, nevertheless, nonetheless, also, in addition, etc)
effectively in written English. Discourse markers are important as they are to
illustrate logical relationships and sequence within writing.
Number of words - Don't write too much. It is simple and expected, but students
do make this mistake by writing too much. Remember, the KISS statement from
my previous blog post - Keep It Simple Silly.
The third question offers students to write about their home country. It is simple enough
and most students (given the chance), would be more than happy to talk/write about their
own country - I know I would. Students should follow a similar style to Question 2 when
writing this question and they should also try to keep the report on topic. What topics
would you write about if you were given the opportunity to write about your country?
The topics that you may have thought up of could have included places to visit as well as
where to eat. For students, it makes sense for them to make a quick note of famous
places to visit as well as places to eat. Once there are some ideas noted down, students
should try to put things into order (as illustrated with the above example), and then write
in
a
suitable
and
effective
manner.
The fourth question is based upon a story for students to write. The only prompt in the
example examination, only provides students with a sentence to continue. This sentence
provides students the opportunity to write creatively. Students should only attempt to
answer this question, should they feel confident about answering it. Normally, from a
marking perspective, most students attempt question two and three. Question four is only
attempted in rare occassions. When attempted, it is either very good or the candidate has
made a pig's ear of it. As with Question 4, Question 5 should only be attempted if the
student is feeling confident about answering it. This question is aimed at the book and
movie of two popular titles, in this case Jurassic Park and The Woman in White.
Students should feel comfortable when answering these questions and confident when
using comparitive/superlative language. Again, as a marker, not many students attempt
this question.

Top Ten Mistakes in the FCE Writing Paper


(And How to Avoid Them)
By Neil Harris

Top Ten Mistakes in the FCE Writing Paper (And How to Avoid
Them)
If youre reading this article, youre probably taking the FCE exam. Well
done youve come to the right place! FCE isnt an easy exam, but there are
many things you can do to get the score you deserve. Youve already done
something really positive to make sure you get the best score you can by
reading this article and seeing the other exam tips on the Flo-Joe website so
youve made a great start. By the time youve finished this article about the FCE
Writing Paper (Paper 2) youll be in a great position to go into the exam, knowing
what to do and what not to do. So, heres the Flo-Joe countdown of the top ten
mistakes in the FCE Writing Paper and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Not answering the question completely
I remember reading recently an apparently fantastic answer to a Part One
question.
One of my students, Daniela, had written a letter of complaint under timed
conditions. (Like Daniela, you too can practise doing a past FCE test under exam
conditions so you know what to expect in the real exam.) Anyway, Daniela
thought shed done everything wed discussed in class. For example, she had
organised her ideas into paragraphs, she had identified the person who was
going to read the letter (known as the target reader) and she had used the
correct register. So far so good! We were both really pleased with her letter until
we checked the question again. It said that she should ask for a refund. Oh no!
she moaned, Ive forgotten to ask for the refund. But does it matter? Surely the
target reader will know Im unhappy so I guess hell send me some money back
anyway. Unfortunately for Daniela it did matter because she lost marks for
leaving out one of the questions content points.

Content Points are really important for Part One questions so lets look at
this in more detail. (You will know that the FCE Writing Paper is divided into two
parts - Part One and Part Two - but whats the difference? Well, Part One is
compulsory so you have to answer that question. Part Two gives you a choice of
four questions and you have to answer one of them.)
Part One is what we call a transactional letter, which means that you are
writing to get a response from the target reader. If you were writing to
complain about something, lets say a faulty computer, and you forgot to ask for a
refund, as Daniela did, you probably wouldnt get the response you wanted (in
this case, your money back!). In an FCE Part One question, that means you lose
marks. Only Cambridge examiners know how many marks you lose for omitting
one or more content points, but dont worry, as in a moment Ill tell you an easy
way to check if you have included them all.
.
A great way to make sure you have answered the question (and this is true
for Part One and Part Two) is to get into the habit of using a highlighter pen
and highlighting all the key words in the question you are answering. Think
about the content points as well as identifying the person you are writing to and
the type of text you are being asked to write.
Try this: have a look at an example of a recent FCE Part One question and
youll notice the handwritten notes around the edge of the page. How
many points are there? Count them now. The magic number is FIVE and as long
as you remember to cover each of these FIVE points, you wont make the same
mistake as Daniela did. FIVE. Yes, thats FIVE content points. One for each of
the fingers and thumb of the hand you write with. Remember to look at your hand
when you are writing, and youll remember the five points you need to cover.
Easy!
By the way, Part Two questions are slightly different as you wont lose
marks in the same way if you leave out a content point. (In Part One the
focus is on Task Achievement, which means answering the question.) In Part Two

the focus is much more on language. However, the advice from examiners is to
make sure you always deal with each part of any question. For example, look out
for:

bullet points and text in bold

in Part Two to help you and you should be OK.


Mistake 2: Forgetting to plan
Youre in the exam room, youve read the questions and used my advice
about checking the content points. Your pens ready and youre about to start
writing your first answer. STOP! Have you written a plan? No? Then write one
right now! There are many different ways of planning mind maps or lists are
very popular but the important thing is to know what you are going to write and
how to order it before you start writing the actual answer! (When you have
finished your answer, simply cross through your plan so the examiner knows not
to read it.)
Mistake 3: Taking too much time to answer one question
Its really tempting, isnt it, to spend an extra five minutes on one of the
questions to make your answer even better? Unfortunately, the small
difference this might make to that answer will have a much bigger, and negative
effect, on your mark for the other question. If you do Part One first, make sure
you have included all the content points and then move on to Part Two after fortyfive minutes. An extra five minutes wont make a big difference to your score in
Part One! Indeed for examiners, theres nothing more disappointing than reading
an excellent Part One answer by a candidate and then finding a really short Part
Two answer. (Remember, if you write much fewer than 120 words in Part Two,
youre going to lose marks, so get lots of practice at writing to the time limit.
Theres nothing worse than having to write to a time limit for the first time if its
during the exam itself!)

Mistake 4: Not allowing time to check your answer


Its really important that you use your time well in the exam. Remember you
only have ninety minutes for both questions! Good candidates leave time to

proofread (check) their answers so this is something you should do, too. As you
have forty-five minutes for each question, try to leave at least five minutes to
check.
I remember a few years ago an FCE candidate asking me how he could check
his answer for mistakes. Youre the teacher, not me, so how can I find the
mistakes Ive made? The solution is easy: start making a frequent error
checklist. This is a list of the mistakes you make most or every time you write. It
might be a spelling mistake (accomodation instead of accommodation) or
overuse of the present continuous when you need a present perfect continuous.
(*Im working in Hamburg since five years instead of Ive been working in
Hamburg for five years is a mistake I often see). When you know your frequent
mistakes, make a mental list of them and check for these in the exam.

Are you worried that if you make corrections then your exam paper will
look a mess? Heres another tip: If you write your answer on alternate lines, you
can cross out the mistakes and have room for the corrections when you are
checking. This is a really quick and simple way to avoid losing marks for
accuracy!
Mistake 5: Using too much of the input material (otherwise known as
lifting)
What do we mean by input material? Simply this - the input material is the
language that is used to write the question. If you use the same language in your
answer without trying to rephrase it, it creates an impression of weakness in the
mind of the examiner. In Part One, the handwritten notes which you can see
around the edge (how many? If you forget, go back to Not answering the
question and check!) should be used to stimulate your own ideas and language!
You can be sure that the people who write the exam questions already know
English really well, so its YOUR English the examiners want to read! Try not to
repeat the exact words and phrases from the question. and remember to develop
the points with your own ideas.

Mistake 6: Not knowing the text types


Can you list the main text types which you are expected to know for the
FCE exam? If not, go and check as this will help you to know what you are
expected to write in the exam.
Part One is a transactional letter (either formal or informal). In Part Two,
theres a wider choice of text types, but the common ones are articles, nontransactional letters, reports, discursive compositions (a discussion essay) and
short stories. You therefore need to know the features of each text type.
Letters have opening and closing formulae (Dear Mrs. SmithYours
sincerely for a formal letter and Dear John Best wishes for an informal letter,
are two examples) and you need to use them. Remember also that addresses
are not required in the exam, so you can save time by not writing them. By the
way, you wont lose marks if you DO write addresses but every second is
precious so dont waste them unnecessarily.
Reports should have a title and sub-headings and good candidates who
remember to use these tend to score well. However, remember that you need
to use appropriate headings which fit the question!
Its also important when writing a story that you remember to read the
question carefully; for example, does it ask you to begin or end with the
sentence youre given?
Mistake 7: Choosing the wrong question
When you get into the exam room, spend a few minutes carefully reading
each question in Part Two to help you choose the best one. If you like writing
reports, for example, and you see one in Part Two, make sure that the topic is
something you can write about and that you have sufficient vocabulary. If you
dont, leave it and choose a different question. Believe me, its really difficult to
get a good mark if you dont have enough vocabulary or sufficient ideas.

Sometimes you see a question which is quite close to one youve already
written in class and you might be tempted to rewrite that answer in the
exam. Dont! This is a great way to lose marks - possibly lots of them! And
please remember that you should only answer Question 5 if you have read and
studied the books on the list. If you havent studied the books as part of an FCE
preparation course, its best to ignore Question 5 (and you can save time by not
even reading this question!). Remember: if you write about a different book from
the set texts, its an automatic Zero!
Candidates sometimes ask me if it matters whether they answer Part One
or Part Two first it doesnt matter at all, so do what youre comfortable with on
the exam day. Just remember our advice about timing.
Mistake 8: Not thinking like an examiner
If you can start thinking like an examiner, itll be easier for you to do well in
the exam. This means knowing what examiners look for and how they mark.
When examiners mark the FCE Writing Paper, they use two mark schemes, the
General Mark Scheme and the Task Specific Mark Scheme. (You can see the
former in the FCE Handbook which you can download for free on the Cambridge
ESOL

website

from

the

following

link:

http://www.cambridgeesol.org/support/handbooks.htm)
The Task Specific Mark Scheme, on the other hand, changes for each exam
and this is confidential. This Handbook also allows you to see examiner
feedback on candidates answers and what mark each question was awarded.
Each time the FCE exam takes place (in March, June and December), a report is
also written and this is published free on the website as well from this link:
http://www.cambridgeesol.org/support/reports.htm
Use the handbook and the reports to get a feeling for what good candidates
do and what mistakes are often made. This will give you a really good chance
of making sure you do what is expected on exam day.

Mistake 9: Forgetting to improve your English


So youve read this article, maybe studied the handbook and exam reports,
and certainly done some timed practice. Well done - youre on the way to
being an FCE Paper Two champion! Remember, however, that good exam
strategies are not enough on their own you really need to keep working on your
language skills to get the best possible score in the exam. Until your grammar
and vocabulary are at the right level, passing FCE is going to be difficult no
matter how much you have studied the different text types and how carefully you
have read the questions. Please, please keep making the effort to learn and
practise right up until the big day.
And finally
Some of you may be wondering why we promised to help you with ten
mistakes and we have only discussed nine. Well done if you noticed! The
tenth mistake would be to ignore all this advice. So here is our tenth and final tip
for exam success. If you remember nothing else then just remember this the
advice we have given you here really does work, so if you remember some of the
points (or even better all of them!), you are much more likely to get the score in
writing that you want and deserve. Good luck!

Exam format

Reading

Whats in the Reading paper?


The Cambridge English: First Reading paper has different types of text and questions. In one part, you
may have to read one long text or two or more shorter, related texts.
Summary
Time allowed:

1 hour

Number of parts:

Number of questions:

30

Marks:

20% of total

Lengths of texts:

550700 words per text: about 2,000 words to read in total

Texts may be from:

newspaper and magazine articles, reports, fiction, advertisements, letters, messages,


informational material (e.g. brochures, guides, manuals, etc.)

Parts 13
Part 1 (Multiple choice)
A text with some multiple-choice questions. Each question has
What's in Part 1?

four options (A, B, C or D) and you have to decide which is the


correct answer.

What do I have to practise?

How to understand the details of a text, including opinions and


attitudes.

How many questions are there?

How many marks do I get?

Two marks for each correct answer.

Part 2 (Gapped text)


A text with some empty spaces (gaps). After the text there are
What's in Part 2?

some sentences taken from the text. You have to choose the
correct sentence for each gap.

What do I have to practise?

How to understand the structure and follow the development


of a text.

How many questions are there?

How many marks do I get?

Two marks for each correct answer.

Part 3 (Multiple matching)


A series of questions and a long text or several short texts to
What's in Part 3?

read. For each question, you have to decide which text or part
of the text mentions some specific information.

What do I have to practise?

How to find specific information in a text or texts.

How many questions are there?

15

How many marks do I get?

One mark for each correct answer.

DOs and DONTs


DOs
1.

Read the sources, titles and subtitles of the texts where given; they are there to help
you.

2.

Read each text carefully before you answer the questions to get an overall
impression and understanding of it. This includes Part 3, the multiple matching task.

3.

Remember, the missing word(s) may be forming part of an idiom, fixed phrase or
collocation, so always check the words around the gap carefully. (Part 2)

4.

Remember, the missing sentence must fit the context of the passage, so always
check that the completed paragraph makes sense in the passage as a whole. (Part 2)

5.

Keep an overall idea of the development of the text. You will need to check that the
sentences chosen to fit the gaps in the base text fit the progression of the argument or narrative as a
whole. (Part 2)

6.

Read the questions carefully and check each option against the text before rejecting
it. (Part 2)

DON'Ts
7.

Don't try to answer any questions without referring carefully to the text.

8.

Don't spend too much time on any one part of the paper.

9.

Don't forget to record your answers on the separate answer sheet.

10.

Don't assume that if the same word appears in the text as well as in an option, this
means you have located the answer.

Whats in the Use of English paper?


The Cambridge English: First Use of English paper has four parts with different types of tasks which
test grammar and vocabulary.
Summary
Time allowed:

45 minutes

Number of parts:

Number of questions:

42

Marks:

20% of total

Parts 14
Part 1 (Multiple-choice cloze)
A text in which there are some missing words or phrases
What's in Part 1?

(gaps). After the text there are four possible answers for each
gap and you have to choose the correct answer (A, B, C or D).

What do I have to practise?

Vocabulary words with similar meanings, collocations,


linking phrases, phrasal verbs, etc.

How many questions are there?

12

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 2 (Open cloze)


A text in which there are some missing words (gaps). You
What's in Part 2?

have to find the correct word for each gap.

What do I have to practise?

Grammar and vocabulary.

How many questions are there?

12

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 3 (Word formation)


A text containing ten gaps. Each gap represents a word. At the
What's in Part 3?

end of the line is a prompt word which you have to change in


some way to make the correct missing word and complete the
sentence correctly.

What do I have to practise?

Vocabulary word building: the different words which you can


make from a base word, e.g. compete becomes
competition, competitor, competitive, competitively or
uncompetitive.

How many questions are there?

10

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 4 (Key word transformations)


A sentence followed by a key word and a second sentence
What's in Part 4?

which has a gap in it. You have to use the key word to
complete the second sentence so that it means the same as
the first sentence.

What do I have to practise?

Grammar and vocabulary rewriting sentences with different


words so that they mean the same thing.

How many questions are there?

How many marks are there?

Up to two marks for each correct answer.

DOs and DONTs


DOs
1.

Read the words following the gaps in Parts 1 and 2 as they may have an effect on the
answer.

2.

Make sure that any verb you write in a gap in Part 2 agrees with its subject.

3.

Write the prompt word in your answer in Part 3 without changing it in any way.

4.

Write between two and five words as your answer in Part 4.

5.

Remember that the words you need to write in Part 3 might have to change into a
negative or a plural.

6.

Check your spelling in all parts of the test

7.

Make sure that you transfer your answers to the answer sheet accurately.
DON'Ts

8.

Don't write the answers to any of the examples on your answer sheets.

9.

Don't choose your answer in Part 1 before you have read all the options.

10.

Don't write out the full sentence when answering the questions in Part 4.

11.

Don't leave the base word in Part 3 unchanged.

12.

Dont decide on your answer before reading the whole of a sentence in all parts.

13.

Don't give alternative answers for any questions.

Whats in the Listening paper?

The Cambridge English: First Listening paper has four parts. For each part you have to listen to a
recorded text or texts and answer some questions. You hear each recording twice.
Summary
Time allowed:

about 40 minutes

Number of parts:

Number of questions:

30

Marks:

20% of total

Parts 14
Part 1 (Multiple choice)
A series of short, unrelated recordings of approximately 30
What's in Part 1?

seconds each. You have to listen to the recordings and


answer one multiple-choice question for each. Each question
has three options (A, B or C).

What do I have to practise?

Listening for general meaning (gist), detail, function, purpose,


attitude, opinion, relationship, topic, place, situation, genre,
agreement, etc.

How many questions are there?

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 2 (Sentence completion)


A monologue (one person speaking), or a recording with two
What's in Part 2?

or more speakers lasting approximately 3 minutes. To answer


the questions, you have to complete the sentences on the
question paper with information you hear on the recording.

What do I have to practise?

Listening for detail, specific information, stated opinion.

How many questions are there?

10

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 3 (Multiple matching)


A series of statements and short related monologues of
What's in Part 3?

approximately 30 seconds each. You listen to the recordings


and choose which statement best matches what each speaker
says.

What do I have to practise?

Listening for general gist, detail, function, purpose, attitude,


opinion, relationship, topic, place, situation, genre, agreement,
etc.

How many questions are there?

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

Part 4 (Multiple choice)


A monologue or recording with two or more speakers which
What's in Part 4?

lasts approximately 3 minutes. You have to listen to the


recording and answer seven multiple-choice questions. Each
question has three options (A, B or C).

What do I have to practise?

Listening for opinion, attitude, gist, main idea, specific


information.

How many questions are there?

How many marks are there?

One mark for each correct answer.

DOs and DONTs


DOs
1.

Listen to and read the instructions throughout the test. Make sure you understand
what you are listening for and what you have to do.

2.

Use the preparation time before each recording is played to read through the
question and think about the context.

3.

Use the information on the page to help you follow the text.

4.

Look carefully at what is printed before and after the gap in Part 2 and think about the
kind of information that you are listening for.

5.

Write only the missing information on the answer sheet. (Part 2)

6.

Write your answers as clearly as possible.

7.

If you have an idea of the correct answer the first time you hear a recording, check
that this is correct the second time.

8.

Answer all the questions even if you're not sure.

9.

Make sure you have transferred your answers accurately to the answer sheet.

DON'Ts
10. Don't rephrase what you hear in Part 2; write down the exact word(s) or figure(s) that
you hear on the recording.
11. Don't complicate your answer by writing extra, irrelevant information. (Part 2)
12. Don't spend too much time on a question you are having difficulty with as you may
miss the next question.
13. Don't rush to choose an answer just because you hear one word or phrase
concentrate on the overall meaning. (Parts 1, 3 and 4)

Whats in the Speaking paper?

The Cambridge English: First Speaking test has four parts and you take it together with another
candidate. There are two examiners. One of the examiners conducts the test (asks you questions,
gives you paper with things to talk about, and so on). The other examiner listens to what you say and
takes notes.
Summary
Time allowed:

14 minutes per pair of candidates

Number of parts:

Marks:

20% of total

You have to talk:

with the examiner


with the other candidate
on your own

Parts 14
Part 1 (Interview)
Conversation with the examiner. The examiner asks questions
What's in Part 1?

and you may have to give information about yourself, talk


about past experiences, present circumstances and future
plans.

What do I have to practise?

Giving information about yourself and expressing your opinion


about various topics.

How long do I have to speak?

3 minutes

Part 2 (Long turn)


The examiner gives you a pair of photographs to talk about
What's in Part 2?

and you have to speak for 1 minute without interruption. The


questions you have to answer about your photographs are
written at the top of the page to remind you what you should
talk about. When you have finished speaking, your partner
then has to answer a short question from the examiner about
your photographs.

What do I have to practise?

Talking on your own about something: comparing, describing,


expressing opinions.

How long do I have to speak?

1 minute per candidate

Part 3 (Collaborative task)


Conversation with the other candidate. The examiner gives
What's in Part 3?

you some pictures and a decision-making task to do. You


have to talk with the other candidate and make a decision.

What do I have to practise?

Exchanging ideas, expressing and justifying opinions,


agreeing and/or disagreeing, suggesting, speculating,
evaluating, reaching a decision through negotiation, etc.

How long do we have to speak?

3 minutes

Part 4 (Discussion)
Further discussion with the other candidate about the same
What's in Part 4?

topic as the task in Part 3.

What do I have to practise?

Expressing and justifying opinions, agreeing and/or


disagreeing.

How long do I have to speak?

4 minutes

DOs and DONTs


DOs
1.

Make sure you are familiar with what happens, and what skills you need to show, in
each part of the test.

2.

Practise speaking English as much as possible in groups and in pairs, both inside
and outside the classroom.

3.

Listen carefully to the instructions and questions during the test and respond
appropriately.

4.

Speak clearly, so that both the interlocutor and assessor can hear you.

5.

Use all the opportunities you're given in the test to speak, and extend your responses
whenever possible.

6.

Ask for clarification of instructions or a question if you're not sure.

7.

Be prepared to initiate discussion as well as responding to what your partner says.

8.

Make full use of the time so that the examiner who is listening hears plenty of your
English.

DON'Ts
9.

Don't prepare long answers in advance, or learn and practise speeches.

10. Don't try to dominate your partner or interrupt them abruptly during the Speaking test.
11. Don't leave long or frequent pauses.
12. Don't worry about being interrupted by the examiner. This shows you have spoken
enough. The tests have to keep to the time limit for administrative reasons.