Structure of the FCE Reading and Use of English section

The Reading and Use of English paper is about grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. There are 7 sections to do in 75 minutes, basically 10 minutes per section.

2015 CHANGES

If you get hold of an old FCE coursebook or test book, be aware that Cambridge changed the exam in 2015. The old books are still useful – they will help you learn the grammar and vocabulary you need – but they have some parts that aren’t in the post-2015 exam.

The key changes that took place were the following:

  • Overall, the exam is 30 minutes shorter and about 20 questions fewer.
  • The Reading section and the Use of English (grammar) sections have been merged

ORDER WHEN ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS

Most students start with part 1 and finish with part 7. That’s OK, of course, but isn’t really the most efficient way. And many students leave part 4 to the end because they hate it. I think that’s a mistake. If you look at an FCE answer sheet you’ll see that some of the answers are multiple-choice and some require you to write words. 

My piece of advice is to begin with the sections that ask you to write words and leave the multiple-choice until later. That’s because if you run out of time at the end of the exam you can quickly choose some multiple choice answers and maybe get a lucky point. But you can’t just write words at random – you have no chance of getting it right.

So, do the tasks in this order:

4, 3, 2, 1, 5 ,6, 7

or

2, 3, 4, 5 ,6, 7, 1

Or you might start with part 1 because it’s one you can do very quickly but DO NOT leave parts 2-4 to the end.

SPELLING

In this part of the exam, spelling is super important. All the words you have to write are FCE level words – you won’t be asked to spell words such as ‘abnegation’ or ‘obsequious’. Cambridge does expect you to be able to spell words like ‘variety’, ‘objective’, ‘fashionable’. (Those are actual answers to recent FCE exam questions.)

READING

In part 1 you have a short text with 8 words missing. You must choose from 4 options the best word for each space. I think part 1 is an easy start, well, it’s easy in the sense that it doesn’t take much brain energy. You either know the answers or you don’t.

I think most students should read the whole text quickly to get an idea of what the writer really wants to say about the topic, before reading it a second time with more detail. That will make it easier to choose the answers.

FINAL TIPS READING SECTION

  • The best way to prepare for the Reading test is to READ A LOT.
  • If you know that two of the options have the same meaning, neither can be the answer.
  • Remember to read the title. It’s there to help you.
  • Never lose time trying to think of the answer to the example.
  • Prepositions!

HOW THIS SECTION OF THE EXAM IS ORGANISED

Summary

  • Time allowed:1 hour 15 minutes
  • Number of parts:7
  • Number of questions:52
  • Marks:40% of total
  • Length of texts: About 2,200 words to read in total.
  • Texts may be from: Newspapers and magazines, journals, books (fiction and non-fiction), promotional and informational material.

Part 1 (Multiple-choice cloze)

  • What’s in Part 1? A text with some multiple-choice questions. Each question has four options (A, B, C, or D) – you have to decide which is the correct answer.
  • What do I have to practice? Vocabulary – idioms, collocations, shades of meaning, phrasal verbs, fixed phrases, etc.
  • How many questions are there?8
  • How many marks are there?1 mark for each correct answer.

Part 2 (Open cloze)

  • What’s in Part 2? A text in which there are some gaps, each of which represents one missing word. You have to think of the correct word for each gap.
  • What do I have to practice? Grammar and vocabulary.
  • How many questions are there?8
  • How many marks are there?1 mark for each correct answer.

Part 3 (Word formation)

  • What’s in Part 3? A text containing eight gaps. Each gap represents a word. At the end of the line is a ‘prompt’ word which you have to change in some way to complete the sentence correctly.
  • What do I have to practice? Vocabulary.
  • How many questions are there?8
  • How many marks are there?1 mark for each correct answer.

Part 4 (Key word transformations)

  • What’s in Part 4? Each question consists of a sentence followed by a ‘key’ word and a second sentence with a gap in the middle. You have to use this keyword to complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence.
  • What do I have to practice? Grammar and vocabulary.
  • How many questions are there?6
  • How many marks are there? Up to 2 marks for each correct answer.

Part 5 (Multiple choice)

  • What’s in Part 5? A text with some multiple-choice questions. For each question, there are four options and you have to choose A, B, C, or D.
  • What do I have to practice? Reading for detail, opinion, tone, purpose, main idea, implication, attitude.
  • How many questions are there?6
  • How many marks are there?2 marks for each correct answer.

Part 6 (Gapped text)

  • What’s in Part 6? A single page of text with some numbered gaps represent missing sentences. After the text, there are some sentences that are not in the right order. You have to read the text and the sentences and decide which sentence best fits each gap.
  • What do I have to practice? How to understand the structure and development of a text.
  • How many questions are there?6
  • How many marks are there?2 marks for each correct answer.

Part 7 (Multiple matching)

  • What’s in Part 7? A series of statements followed by a text divided into sections or several short texts. You have to match each statement to the section or text in which you can find the information.
  • What do I have to practice? Reading for specific information, detail, opinion, and attitude.
  • How many questions are there?10
  • How many marks are there?1 mark for each correct answer.

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