Prepare FCE online

Prepare FCE online

In this article I will look at the format of the FCE exam. I will then give you some tips and techniques for the 'Listening' section of the exam.

To see what FCE courses and individual lessons I offer, click here.


 FCE Format

There are 4 main sections of First Certificate Examination: Reading and Use of English, Speaking, Listening and Writing. Our online lessons are filled with advice and practice to help you prepare for all of these aspects of the exam.

The Reading and Use of English section consists of 7 parts. The first 4 parts focus on grammar and vocabulary, testing your knowledge of common collocations, different word types and understanding sentence structures. While the final 3 parts focus on reading and test your comprehension and understanding of how sentences fit within larger pieces of writing.

The Speaking section has 4 parts. The first part is a general chat between yourself and the examiner - they typically ask questions about your family, your hobbies etc. In the second part you have to talk for one minute about the similarities and differences between two photos while answering a question about them. The third part is a topic to discuss with your partner(s) for 2/3 minutes and then answer a more specific question related to that topic for 1 minute (again with your partner). In the fourth part the examiner asks you and your partner more questions....generally related to the topic in part 3.

The Listening section consists of 4 parts. Some test your general understanding of conversations/speeches/presentations etc. while others test your ability to find specific information.

The Writing section of the exam has 2 parts and the first part is a 140-190 word essay. The structure of the essay is key in passing this section of the exam. In the second part, you have 3 options from either: an article, a review, a report, an email, and you have to write 140-190 words about one of these.

You need to show competence in all of these areas in order to pass the exam.


Prepare FCE online

 Listening Test Tips And Technique

There are 4 parts in the Listening section. The section takes approximately 40 minutes.

This section tests your understanding of different conversations in different contexts. You hear each part of the listening section twice.

For this section of the exam, it is important to understand the purpose or overall idea of what each speaker says. This is because this section of the exam contains 'distractors'. 'Distractors' are words used to distract your attention from the real answer. For example, in part 1 (multiple choice a,b,c) there may be a word in the listening which also appears in option 'b'. However, this may be deliberate and the real answer may actually be 'a' or 'c'.

Part 1

In part 1 of the Listening section you hear 8 different people talking in different situations. There are 8 multiple choice (a,b,c) questions, one question for each different person.

Tips And Technique

  1. Before the recording starts you have time to quickly read through all the questions. Use this time to read through the question, but ignore the a,b,c options.

  2. Underline the key words in the question. Ignore the a,b,c options still. Then you know the information to listen for.

  3. To avoid 'distractors' (see above), I suggest covering at the a,b,c options until you have listened to the passage. Then, after listening and still not looking at the options, decide what you think might be the answer to the question. Then look at the a,b,c options and see if one option is similar to what you thought.

Part 2

In part 2 of the Listening section you hear one person talking. There is a long passage with some gaps in which you need to fill. You will not need more than 3 words to complete the gap.

Tips And Technique

  1. You should read through the passage quickly before the recording starts. Think what type of information is needed to fill the gap. Also, think what type of words you need. If the word before the gap is an adjective, you might need to write a noun. This article will be useful for deciding what type of word you need.

  2. You might be able to make a more specific guess what words you need to write. For example, you might need a number, e.g. 1000.

  3. Write the same words that you hear in the recording.

  4. When you have filled in a gap, read the whole sentence again to make sure what you have written answers the question.

Part 3

In part 3 of the Listening section you hear five different people speaking. You have 8 sentences (A-H) and you have to decide which sentence best fits what each speaker says. There are 3 extra sentences which you do not need to use.

Tips and Technique

  1. You have 30 seconds to read through sentences (A-H) before the listening begins. Underline the most important words.

  2. When you are practising this part of the Listening section, think about the main idea of each sentence (A-H). Then think about words and vocabulary that relate to this idea. Try to do this in the exam before the listening starts.

  3. The first time you listen write every letter you think might be correct for the speaker. You can check the second time you listen. After the second time you listen, you might realise you have written 'A/C' next to speaker 1 and just 'A' next to speaker 2. If you have not written 'C' next to any other speaker, it would make sense to choose 'C' for speaker 1.

Part 4

In part 4 you hear one or more people speaking. You have 7 multiple choice questions (A-C) to answer.

Tips and Technique

  1. Look at Part 1 above and follow the same tips and techniques.
  2. Make sure you answer the question. It may be that all the answers are correct, but only one answer actually matches the meaning of the question.
Perhaps the most important tip to help you pass this section of the exam is to join my lessons to practise 😉 Click here to see what courses and individual lessons I offer.

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