First Certificate in English – the First first!
Stand out from the crowd with certified English skills: The Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) is one of the most commonly attained language certificates worldwide; it enjoys an excellent reputation among many universities and companies. If successfully passed, an FCE exam is a major asset for any CV and proves your language skills at B2 level as set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It confirms that you can use the language independently, both in daily life and in a professional or academic context.
Who should consider taking the FCE?
- Language students (secondary school) who are already at B1 level or higher
- Language students (secondary school) who have been learning English for at least six years
- University students who would like to study abroad
- Job applicants who would like to improve their chances with potential employers
- Employees of international companies
Are you already proficient in English (ie B2 or higher)? Then why not aim for the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)? This exam is intended for language students (secondary school) with a profound knowledge of English; it demonstrates a high level of competency in the language. If you don’t feel quite ready for the FCE, you can also sit the Preliminary English Test (PET) first. This test requires (and affirms) your practical knowledge of the language for work, study or travel.
What are the benefits of the FCE?
- An authoritative international standard for grading language skills in English
- Recognised by more than 12,000 universities, companies and institutions all over the world
- Provides a solid basis for advanced study in the English language
- Prepares you for handling everyday situations in English
Exam format and content of the FCE
Achieving the language certificate, step by step: The Cambridge First is divided into several sections. Each part of the exam tests a different aspect of your proficiency in English. Examiners appraise candidates’ abilities through various tasks that assess reading, listening, written and spoken communication, and knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. The test takes around 3.5 hours altogether.
Reading & Use of English
The first section of the Cambridge First evaluates two skills: The tasks initially focus on reading comprehension. You’ll be faced with texts from English-language books, newspapers or magazines. Your understanding of the text should cover both explicit and implicit content. ‘Explicit’ refers to detailed information and overarching themes; ‘implicit’ means the tone and any allusions or connotations in the text. Next, you’ll fill in the blanks, correct mistakes, answer multiple-choice questions about word choice and rephrase sentences to make them grammatically correct. This demonstrates your familiarity with English syntax and provides insight into your vocabulary. You have 75 minutes to finish the Reading & Use of English section of the test.
Following the first part, two exercises will let you demonstrate your ability to express yourself in writing. In the first exercise, you’ll compose a paragraph in response to a given question. This is your chance to show you can generate an argumentative text on the topic. The second task involves choosing to compose one type of text from three options. The options are usually an article, a letter or email, and a review. You have a total of 80 minutes to complete the entire Writing segment of the exam. How you divide up the time you spend on the individual texts is up to you.
The Cambridge First Certificate examiners test your listening comprehension in this section. You’ll hear some audio recordings of everyday spoken language and answer various questions on their content. During this part of the exam, you should be able to understand not only the general topic and gist of what is said, but details as well. The material used in the test comes from real situations, such as monologues or dialogues from the news, talk radio and everyday conversations.
The voices in the recordings belong to native English speakers from various places around the world. This means that you also have to prove your comprehension of the major variants of English – British versus American English, for example. The Listening section takes around 40 minutes.
SpeakingThe best way to assess someone’s speaking skills is through interacting with them. That’s why the free-speaking test takes place face to face (with one examiner and one other candidate). You’ll first be asked to introduce yourself. The examiner will ask some follow-up questions on your career or interests. Next, you and your fellow test-taker will each give a short monologue about the two images or photographs you are shown. Each exam participant briefly comments on the monologue of the other.
The next phase involves a conversation with the other candidate using an image relating to a specific topic. During the conversation, the examiners often ask the two of you to reach a consensus on a question. You may discuss suitable hobbies for children or compare different sports, for instance. Once you and the other participant have come to an agreement, the examiner will give you a new prompt. By asking concrete follow-up questions and providing new ideas, they will give you the chance to expand the scope of the conversation and show off your skills.
All in all, passing the speaking test depends on your ability to have a conversation in English without struggling. Good grammar, an appropriate choice of words and correct pronunciation while placing word stress on the right syllables – all of these factors come into play. The Speaking portion of the test will take around 15 minutes and finishes off the Cambridge First exam.
Exam preparation at Eurocentres
Study hard: Even if you’ve been learning English for a few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for the FCE. The special format of the test and the time pressure during the exercises require a certain kind of preparation. That’s why Eurocentres offers courses in exam preparation at language schools all around the world.
The courses range from eight to twelve weeks. Each week, you’ll have twenty classes on general language skills and five lessons for focused exam preparation. Five additional sessions will familiarise you with test-taking methods; together, we’ll develop a strategy that will help you pass the exam with flying colours. During the course, you’ll gain all the advantages of having excellent teachers and modern teaching materials. The latter are oriented around the Cambridge First and include English-language literature, newspapers and magazines, as well as various audio recordings. You can even take practice exams using original test materials at the Eurocentres language schools.
After the course is finished, you’ll tackle the actual exam at the language school, too. You’ll be relaxed because you’re in a familiar environment; this will give you the tools to excel.
Language travel through Eurocentres as preparation for the FCE
It’s easiest to learn a language if you’re constantly surrounded by it. When you travel to an English-speaking country to study the language, you’ll be immersed in English-language media, come into contact with native speakers every day and enrich your language skills in professional courses. Because you’re constantly being confronted with the media of the country, your preparation for the Reading, Listening and Writing sections of the exam will be very well supported. What’s more, the conversations you have during your language stay will give you important insights into pronunciation and emphasis, broaden your vocabulary and build the foundation for achieving top marks in the Speaking test.
At the Eurocentres language school, you’ll also focus on preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate. Not only will your language skills improve dramatically – you can also count on unforgettable experiences during your time studying abroad. Vibrant cities, breathtaking landscapes and authentic local culture – it’s all just waiting to be discovered by you.
Cambridge FCE is offered at numerous of Eurocentres destinations. For example, find out what selected language schools have in store for you!!
Eurocentres Cambridge Language School
Being in the birthplace of the Cambridge Certificate is excellent motivation for your studies! Located in the county of Cambridgeshire in England, the city has been shaped by centuries of learning and teaching – after all, this is the home of the prestigious University of Cambridge. The Eurocentres Language School in Cambridge is located in the same neighbourhood as that institution of higher learning. Against a backdrop of beautiful colleges and the stunning university library, we’ll help you prepare for the FCE. It’s the perfect atmosphere in which to score top marks!
Miami Language School
In addition to familiarity with British English, the American variant of the language is also relevant to the FCE. And what could be more perfect for that than language study in the USA? So you might as well treat yourself and enjoy all the benefits of the Sunshine State at the Miami Language School in Florida: Learn vocabulary in Miami Beach, relax at cafés and bars – or forget about studying for a while and dive into the city’s boisterous nightlife. Of course, you’ll return to the sun-drenched classrooms the next day to continue preparing for the Cambridge First exam. Welcome to Miami!
Assessing & Scoring the Cambridge First Certificate
In the FCE, points are awarded as follows: The Cambridge First is assessed by the staff of Cambridge English Language Assessment. This is a department of the University of Cambridge. The maximum possible score you can achieve on the Cambridge English Scale is 190 in total. If you score between 160 and 190 points, you pass the test.
If you get 160 to 170 points, your grade is C. Grade B ranges between 170 and 180 points. Both grades are something to be proud of and demonstrate English language skills at B2 level. If you achieve Grade A – between 180 and 190 points – you’ll even achieve the coveted C1 level. This indicates that your knowledge of the English language is highly proficient and you can apply it effectively and flexibly in both professional and social settings.
If your score falls below these ranges, you did not pass the FCE. However, if you achieve between 140 and 160 points, you will at least receive a certificate demonstrating B1-level English skills. Unlike other language certificates like IELTS or TOEIC, the Cambridge First certificate does not expire or need to be retaken. It will remain valid for several years.
Get in touch with us if you have more questions about the FCE. We’re happy to advise you on choosing the right exam and corresponding language study abroad. You can find more information on the Cambridge First and other language certificates offered by the University of Cambridge at the Cambridge English Language Assessment website. Whip your English skills into shape and pass the FCE with flying colours at a Eurocentres language school!!