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First Certificate in English – questions & answers | B2 First (FCE)

Level: B2
Exam:
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What is the First Certificate in English?
FCE Paper 1: Reading and Use of English
FCE Paper 2: Writing
FCE Paper 3: Listening
FCE Paper 4: Speaking
Questions & answers
Is the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) a hard exam?
Is there an age limit?
Can I take FCE online?
Can I get C1 with FCE?
How long does a B2 test last?
How much does the FCE exam cost?
What are the FCE exam dates in 2024?
Which is harder FCE or IELTS?
Do I need to pass all four papers?
Do I need to bring anything with me on exam day?
What happens if I don’t pass one of the papers?
What’s the difference between taking the exam on paper or on a computer?
Top tips for the exam day!
↓ CLICK TO SHOW ALL ↓

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What is the First Certificate in English?

FCE – it is basically the old name of an English language exam provided by Cambridge FCE (First Certificate in English)

Currently known as B2 First.

first certificate in english logo

First Certificate in English proves that you can speak and write English at the upper-intermediate level. The exam:

  • tests your knowledge and ability in English at Level B2
  • thousands of institutions and employers worldwide have accepted it as proof that you can utilize spoken and written English for study, work, and life.
  • to ensure fair and accurate exam results, it is based on extensive research to ensure that each paper is the correct length and level.
  • is intended to show that you are able to use English in a variety of ways.
  • can be taken on paper or on a computer.

The exam has four papers and each one is equally important.

FCE Paper 1: Reading and Use of English

This paper in B2 First tests your reading skills, such as reading for detail or understanding how a text is organised, and your knowledge and use of a range of vocabulary and grammar.

Duration is  1 hour 15 minutes and it consist of 7 parts

PaperDescription
Parts 1–3Three short texts (one text for each part), with different tasks. You must complete the gaps with different kinds of words.

See example tests: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Part 4Part 4 No text. You must rewrite sentences in a different way.

See example test: Part 4

Part 5Part 5 One long text with six multiple-choice questions.

See example test: Part 5

Part 6One text with six gaps. You must choose the correct sentence for each gap

See example test: Part 6

Part 7One text or several short texts, with 10 questions. You must match each question to something in the text(s).

See example test: Part 7

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What is recommended?

  • ok in fce Read the sources, titles and subtitles of the texts. These will help you choose the best answers
  • In Parts 1 and 2, read the words which come after the gaps. These words might affect the answer.
  • In Part 3, remember to change the words that you write. They might have to change into a negative or a plural, so look carefully at the text to decide which form is best.
  • In Part 4, only write between two and five words. Don’t write out the full sentence!
  • In Part 5, read the questions carefully and check each option with the text before rejecting it.
  • In Part 6, check the words around the gap carefully, because the missing word(s) may be part of an idiom, fixed phrase or collocation.
  • In Part 7, check that the completed paragraph makes sense in the text as a whole, because the missing sentence must fit the overall context.
  • Ensure that your spelling is correct in all sections of the test. (American spelling is OK – but don’t mix American and British.)
  • Make sure that you transfer your answers to the answer sheet accurately and clearly, because it will be scanned into a computer.

What is not recommended?

  • bad in fceDon’t use a pen on the answer sheet. Use a pencil. Rub out any answers you want to change using an eraser.
  • Don’t spend too much time on any one part of the paper. All seven parts are equally important, and you only have 75 minutes to write this paper – including copying your answers to the answer sheet.
  • Don’t try to answer any questions before reading the whole text first. It’s important to understand the whole context.
  • Don’t write the answers to any of the examples on your answer sheets.
  • Don’t assume that you have found the right answer if the same word appears in the text and in an option.You might need to look for a synonym or related word instead.
  • Don’t write more than one answer for any question, even if you think there are two possible answers

  How to prepare?

tips for first certificateTo improve your reading skills for FCE certificate, it’s really important to read many different types of text which you really enjoy. If you have a particular interest or hobby, make an effort to read about it in English as much as possible.

Also, for this paper you need to study things like collocations (words which often go together), phrasal verbs, linking words and to understand how writers use different words to express similar meanings.

When you’re preparing for the Cambridge FCE exam, keep a notebook and write down vocabulary which you see often. .You could use this to test yourself later.

  Common questions

Two words. To count the number of words, use the full form, e.g. didn’t = did not = two words.

The sentence has two parts, so you will receive 1 mark for correctly completing one part of the sentence, even if a small mistake means that you get no points for the other part.

Just continue reading and try to understand as much as possible. In the exam, you can’t use a dictionary, so it’s important to be able to read without stopping to look up all the words.

No. A correct answer gets 1 or 2 marks, an incorrect answer gets 0 marks and no answer gets 0 marks. So if you’re not sure about an answer, it is best to guess something

Two. Your Reading score is based on Parts 1, 5, 6 and 7, and your Use of English score is based on Parts 2, 3 and 4. Your Statement of Results will show both scores, plus three more: one score for Writing, one for Listening and one for Speaking. 

FCE Paper 2: Writing

The writing paper of the first certificate exam consists of two parts. The first is compulsory and here you will have to write an essay, while in the second you have several formats to choose from.

Duration is  1 hour 20 minutes and it consist of 2 parts.

PaperDescription
Part 1Writing 140–190 words. There is only one question.
You must write an essay which shows your opinion about the topic, using the ideas which are given in the question and one extra idea of your own.See example test: Part 1
Part 2Writing 140–190 words. There are four questions and you must choose only one. You could write an article, email, essay, letter, review or story.

See example test: Part 2

hand writing an fce examThere are four assessment criteria for the tasks in the Writing paper:

  • Content
    Have you done what you were asked to do? How well have you completed the task?
  • Communicative Achievement
    Is the writing appropriate for the task? Have you used the right register, for example formal or informal? For example, is the style right for a magazine article?
  • Organisation
    How is the piece of writing put together? Is it logical and ordered?
  • Language
    Do you use a good
    range of vocabulary and grammar? Are there any errors that might make it difficult for the reader to understand?

You receive marks from 0 to 5 for each of the four criteria. 

What is recommended?

  • Take the time to read every part of the question carefully and underline important parts.
  • It’s OK if you need to make corrections – just make sure they are clear to help the reviewer understand what you wrote!
  • Add detail to the points in Part 1 if you can, using relevant ideas and information.
  • Use a range of vocabulary, even if you’re not 100% certain about the correct spelling.
  • Check your grammar, especially the ends of verbs, irregular past tenses, plural forms, question forms and word order.
  • Use formal or informal language in the right way – you should know which is most appropriate for the task.
  • Choose a Part 2 question that you feel confident you can write about.
  • Write clearly so your answers are clear and easy to read. However, it is not important if you write in CAPITALS in lower case, or if your writing is joined up or not

What is not recommended?

  • Don’t use the exact words from the question paper too much.
  • Don’t mix formal and informal language. For example, don’t use formal linking words in an informal letter.
  • Don’t write addresses for a letter. They are not required, so writing these will waste time.

  How to prepare?

tips for fce examTo prepare for First Certificate in English you can learn a lot from reading other people’s essays, articles or reviews! Try the following:

  1. Find a model answers and see how others wrote their essays, articles or reviews.
  2. Look at how the writer answers the different parts of the question.
  3. Choose one of the assessment criteria which you find more difficult and look at what the writer does well. Take some notes and compare this to your own writing.

You can also have your essays, articles or reports reviewed for a small fee using our platform below:

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Practice, Write & Improve

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  Common questions

The questions on the test paper will tell you how much to write. You can use this information to help you plan your answer. Only if you write too much will you lose marks if you include details that are not important or that confuse the reader. If you write a shorter answer which includes all the required information, this is OK.

Both parts are worth the same number of marks and you can decide how much time to spend on each part. Just make sure you spend some time planning before you start writing each answer and checking your work after you have finished.

In the candidate answer booklet. Your test centre will also provide paper for your plan, notes, etc.

Don’t worry – raise your hand and indicate that you need more paper. Just remember at the end of the exam to submit all the paper you used. This includes your final answer sheet, the question paper and any notes which you made to plan or prepare your answer.

FCE Paper 3: Listening

This paper of fce exam tests different real-life skills, including listening for information, opinion or detail, and listening for the general meaning of the whole text.

The duration is 40 minutes and it consists of 4 parts.

PaperDescription
Part 1Listen to several recordings about different topics. For each recording, answer a multiple-choice question. Each recording is about 30 seconds long and there could be one or more people speaking.

See example test: Part 1

Part 2Listen to one person speaking for 3–4 minutes and complete 10 sentences with information that you hear.

See example test: Part 2

Part 3Listen to five short recordings about the same topic. For each recording, choose the right answer from a list of eight options. Each recording is about 30 seconds long and has only one person speaking.

See example test: Part 3

Part 4Listen to two people speaking together for 3–4 minutes and answer seven multiple-choice questions.

See example test: Part 4

What is recommended?

  • Listen to all the instructions in the test – and read them too! It is extremely important to understand what you are listening to and what you need to do.
  • Use the time before each recording to prepare to listen: Examine the question and analyze the context.
  • While you listen, use the information on the page to help you follow the recording.
  • In Part 2, look carefully at what is printed before and after the gap and think about the kind of information that you are listening for. Then write only the missing information on the answer sheet.
  • Try to answer the questions when the recording is played the first time. Then you can check these answers when you hear the recording for the second time.
  • Answer all the questions, even if you’re not sure.

What is not recommended?

  • Don’t use a pen on the answer sheet. Use a pencil.  Rub out any answers you want to change using an eraser.
  • Don’t use different words in Part 2. You should write the exact word(s) or number(s) that you hear in the recording.
  • Don’t spend too much time thinking about a difficult question. You might miss the next one!
  • Don’t rush to write an answer for Parts 1, 3 and 4 just because you heard one word or phrase. You need to concentrate on the overall meaning..

  How to prepare?

tips for b2 examTo practise, find an interesting video or audio clip online and share it with another English speaker, such as a friend or colleague. Select something that you know you won’t agree with! After listening, have a discussion about it together.

To improve your listening skills, it’s important to listen to many different things in your free time that you really enjoy. You can find lots of videos and audio material online related to your interests and hobbies, like podcasts, talks, radio stations, audiobooks and so on.

The important thing is just to listen to English as much as possible and to enjoy it!

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  Common questions

You will hear each recording two times.

You must write all your answers on a separate answer sheet. While you’re listening, you can write on the question paper, but you must transfer your answers to the answer sheet. You will have 5 minutes at the end of the test to do this.

It’s OK to make some small spelling mistakes in the Listening paper of this exam, but it must be clear what you were trying to write.

Ask your exam centre. Different exam centres have different rules about using headphones for the Listening test

FCE Paper 4: Speaking

This paper tests your ability to interact with other speakers, how you organise your ideas, your pronunciation and your use of grammar and vocabulary.

The duration is 14 minutes and it consists of 4 parts.

PaperDescription
Part 1Each candidate has a brief general conversation (about 2 minutes) with the examiner.

See example test: Part 1

Part 2You and the other candidate(s) each speak for 1 minute about two photographs. After the other candidate has spoken, you also have 30 seconds to respond to what they said.

See example test: Part 2

Part 3Part 3 You and the other candidate(s) discuss and complete a decision-making task.

See example test: Part 3

Part 4The candidates and the examiner all speak together about topics related to the task in Part 3.

See example test: Part 4

Candidates are tested together in pairs or groups of three. The test will be longer if there are three candidates together so that each candidate has enough time to speak.

What is recommended?

  • Listen carefully to the instructions and questions during the test, so you can respond appropriately.
  • Speak clearly so that both the interlocutor and assessor can hear you.
  • Use all the opportunities that you are given to speak in the test, and extend your responses whenever possible.
  • Listen to your partner when it is their turn to speak.
  • Ask the examiner to repeat the question or instructions if you don’t understand.

What is not recommended?

  • Don’t prepare long answers in advance, and don’t simply learn and practise a speech. You must answer the question which the examiner asks you in the test.
  • Don’t talk at the same time as your partner or interrupt them suddenly when they are speaking.
  • Try not to leave long or frequent pauses, try to speak as naturally as you can.
  • Don’t worry if the examiner interrupts you when you are still speaking. This shows that you have spoken enough. Part of the examiner’s job is to control the time limits of the test.

  How to prepare?

It might help you to practise some strategies in advance, such as:

  • how to explain that you don’t know a lot about a topic
  • how to connect this topic logically to something you are more familiar with, so that you still answer the examiner’s question.
  • describing what a friend or family member might say about the topic instead.

Like all language skills, your speaking will improve if you practise more. Speak to different people, in different situations about different topics. You can also practise for Part 2 of the Speaking test by using podcasting or video websites to record yourself, then you can listen back to see what you could improve to get fce certificate.

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Speaking Practice (On-line)

Find your speaking partner, practice and prepare for exams together.
Use our base of questions/topics to prepare for your speaking exam

  Common questions

Ask your Cambridge exam centre. Different Cambridge exam centres have different rules about this. But there is no evidence that candidates perform better or worse in the Speaking test if they know their partner. Some people might feel more relaxed and confident, but other candidates may find this situation difficult or unnatural.

Examiners are specially trained for situations where one candidate is stronger or weaker, or if one person talks too much or not enough. Don’t worry – they will make sure you get a fair opportunity to show your speaking skills in the test.

The two fce examiners are doing different jobs.

One person is an interlocutor, which means they speak to you and manage the test. The other person is an assessor, who only listens and does not participate in the test. Together, the interlocutor and the assessor decide how well you performed.

The interlocutor gives you a general mark for how well you did in the whole test, and the assessor specifically considers four criteria: Grammar and Vocabulary, Discourse Management, Pronunciation and Interactive Communication.

Questions & answers

Is the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) a hard exam?

Yes, the FCE exam isn’t easy.

This level proves that you can speak and write English well enough to work or study in an English-speaking environment.

man scared by hard fce exam

To pass the test, you must be confident in your English skills – reading, writing, listening, speaking, sentence formation, grammar, and vocabulary. Typically, an English language learner should have studied English for at least two years before they are able to pass the exam.

The Cambridge Certificate B2 First is difficult to pass without proper preparation. Even if you think you have decent language skills it will test your grammar thoroughly and you may have difficulties on many levels.

If you would like to see a sample FCE  exam test and check if you would be able to handle it, visit our platform that reflects a B2 First level exams

Is there an age limit?

No. There is no such limit 🙂 – Cambridge accepts candidates of all ages.

no age limit at fce examSome exams are specifically designed with candidates of a certain age in mind, however, candidates of any age are welcome to take any exam.

Exams with a suggested age range are:

  • B1 Preliminary for Schools – secondary school
  • B2 First for Schools – secondary school
  • International English Testing System (IELTS) – recommended for candidates aged 16+
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Can I take FCE online?

Unfortunately not.

Although you can choose the computer version of the test, you cannot take it online, it must be taken at an authorized cambridge examination centre.

But the positive news is that you can prepare for the exam online, see our app

Can I get C1 with FCE?

Yes, definitely.

Although the aim of the FCE exam is to obtain a B2 First certificate, when you get more points, you have a chance to get a C1 grade.

If you get 180–190 points – will receive a Cambridge English certificate at Level C1.

How long does a B2 test last?

The exam is about 3 and a half hours long.

Yes, it is a lot of time and although the Speaking part can be done on another day, it only takes 14 minutes so you will still spend at least 3 hours and 15 minutes in the exam room.

PartTime
Speaking14 minutes per pair of candidates
Reading and Use of English1 hour 15 minutes
Writing 1 hour 20 minutes
Listening About 40 minutes

Want to see what a sample test looks like?  Check our app.

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How much does the FCE exam cost?

Prices for B2 First Certificate exams can vary as the test centres in each country decide on the final price of the test.

Example prices (2024):

CountryPrice
France 212 EUR
Poland665 PLN
Netherlands280 EUR
Czech Republic5,150 Kc
Spain202 EUR
Bulgaria
420 лв
Italy250 EUR

In most centres, you can pay by bank transfer or in person with a debit or credit card (VISA / Master Card).

What are the FCE exam dates in 2024?

calendar presenting first certificate in english datesThe following tables contain available dates defined by Cambridge, but please contact your local examination centre to find out about dates in your area.

Find out when you can take your Cambridge English: First (FCE) exam.

2023Sat 4 Mar , Thu 27 Jul, Fri 10 Mar, Thu 24 Aug, Sat 22 Apr, Sat 7 Oct, Sat 13 May, Sat 4 Nov, Sat 3 Jun, Tue 28 Nov, Tue 6 June, Sat 9 Dec, Sat 17 June
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Practice, Write & Improve

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Which is harder FCE or IELTS?

woman thinking which is harder IELTS easier first certificate in english

In general, the FCE is a more demanding exam.

If you have studied the traditional way and used textbooks we recommend it, as it has a stronger emphasis on grammar.  On the other hand, if you didn’t learn English at school but rather as a result of living or working in a certain country, it should be easier for you to pass IELTS.

Do I need to pass all four papers?

No, it’s possible to pass the exam if you do well in some papers but not in every paper. For example, if you do very well in Reading and Use of English, Writing and Listening, but you don’t do very well in Speaking, it’s still possible to pass the exam.

Do I need to bring anything with me on exam day?

Yes, you should bring:

  1.  Identification (for example, your passport or national ID card). It must be the original document with your photo and it must be valid on the day of your exam.
  2.  Pens (black or dark blue).
  3.  Pencils (B or HB) and an eraser.
  4.  A clear plastic bottle of water.

Your exam centre will have extra pens and pencils if you need them. You cannot bring your mobile phone or other electronic items inside the exam room. Your exam centre can tell you if you should leave these at home or if they can keep them somewhere safe during the exam.

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What happens if I don’t pass one of the papers?

You can’t fail a paper. Your ‘overall score’ is based on the whole exam, so it’s possible to pass the exam even if you don’t do very well in one paper. Your Statement of Results will show your overall score and your scores for the different parts of the exam.

What’s the difference between taking the exam on paper or on a computer?

The content of the exams is the same, the scoring is the same and the final certificate is the same. Cambridge English offers two versions of the exam (paper-based and computer-based) just so you have more choice and flexibility in how you take it.

Top tips for the exam day!

  • In the Reading and Use of English and Writing papers, you can do the tasks in any order, so you might want to start with the questions which you find easier. Just make sure that you write your answers in the correct order on the answer sheet!
  • It’s important to have enough energy when you’re taking an exam! Before exam day, check with your exam centre if it’s possible to buy food and drink there. If not, you might want to bring something to eat. You can’t bring food to your desk, but you can eat it during breaks.
  • Check you know what you can and can’t do in the exam room. For example, you can’t bring food to your desk with you but you can bring a clear plastic bottle of water. Your exam centre will provide a copy of these rules.
  • There will be a clock or timer in the exam room (or on your screen if you’re taking the computerbased test). Remember to use the time well. Try not to panic by looking at the clock every few minutes!
  • Follow all instructions carefully. In the computer-based exam, the instructions will be on your screen. In the paper-based exam, they will be on the exam paper. If you have any questions, if you need help or if you want to leave the room, raise your hand to ask the invigilator (the person who helps manage the exams).
  • Your exam centre will take your photo. They might also make a note of your passport or ID number. These steps are very important if you want to use your exam result in future for immigration or higher education.
  • Finally … try to sleep well the night before your exam!

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