How to pass the B2 First (FCE) Exam

Are you wondering how to pass your FCE exam? I know that preparing for an English exam can be stressful. But don’t worry, in this post I will give you some top FCE tips for your exam.

My name is Kathrin and I’m studying English at Alba English School in Edinburgh. For 9 years, Alba English has helped students pass their language exams. 

I’ve talked to a student, who recently passed her exam, and a teacher to find out all about the format of the FCE exam and their top tips on how to pass the FCE exam.

Contents

1. FCE Exam Format
2. FCE Tips from a Teacher
3. FCE Tips from a Student
4. FAQ – How to pass the FCE
5. About the FCE Exam
6. FCE Exam Day
7. FCE Results

FCE Exam Format

What is the FCE exam? 

First things first, before explaining the FCE tips, let’s have a closer look what the FCE exam is. The B2 First exam or formerly “Cambridge English: First (FCE)” is one of Cambridge’s English qualifications. You might need it as proof of your English language skills for work, visa requirements or to enter an English undergraduate program in a non-English-speaking country. 

This test is for English language learners with a B2 CEFR level. If your level is higher you should consider taking the CAE exam

The FCE exam evaluates your English level in five different areas: writing, reading, ‘use of English’, listening and speaking. In the exam, ‘Reading’ and ‘Use of English’ are in the same paper.

I created five easy-to-understand infographics. There is one graphic for each part of the exam which explains the tasks, the assessment and gives you some more helpful information.

Reading and Use of English FCE Exam Format
Reading and Use of English FCE Exam Format
Listening FCE Exam Format
Writing FCE Exam Format
Speaking FCE Exam Format

FCE Tips from a Teacher: How to pass the FCE exam

Now that you know how the test is structured, let’s hear some helpful tips for the FCE exam. I asked Chris, one of the teachers at Alba English School, for his five top tips how to pass the FCE exam. Here is his advice for you.

Tip 1: Make a study plan

Chris’s first tip is to make a study plan, which will help you to stay more organized and focused. In your study plan write down how many hours a week, when and what you want to study.

You can also take notes on the progress you are making. For example, write down the results you get every time you do a listening exam. Seeing your improvement will motivate you because you can see that you’re getting closer to being ready for the exam!

Tip 2: Find good language chunks to ‘steal’

Remember that for the writing exam you don’t have to be original. All you need to do is show good English writing skills. Therefore, the second tip is to find good language examples and then “steal” chunks of it.

You can have a look at your textbook or the Internet to find good language. For example, if in a text a paragraph starts with “In terms of…” and you like that expression, you can “steal” it. Every time you write a text, you can start one of your paragraphs with “In terms of…”. Don’t try to be original, just use good language.

Tip 3: Make a plan to manage your time

Chris’s next tip is to make a plan how to manage your time, especially during the ‘Reading and Use of English’ paper. It is really important to roughly know how many minutes you want to spend on each part of the exam. You will lose a lot of points if you don’t finish the whole exam.

Therefore, decide how many minutes you want to spend on each question and once that time is up, move on to the next question. You can always come back to the unfinished questions if you still have time at the end of the exam.

Tip 4: Be ambitious with your language in speaking and writing

The fourth tip is that you need to be ambitious with your language in the speaking and writing exam. During the exam you have to use language of the level of the exam (B2). If you only use language that you are comfortable with but that is not of the right level, you won’t pass the exam.

As long as the examiners can understand you, it is okay to make a few mistakes. It is more important that you show the examiners that you are able to use language of the tested level. So be ambitious!

Tip 5: Work out why you made your mistakes

The last tip is that you have to understand why you made a mistake. After you finish a practice exam don’t only check your overall marks. It is important to have a closer look at your mistakes.

Go back to the questions you got wrong and figure out why you made that mistake. For example, did you not understand a word or expression? Make sure you learn that new vocabulary. Maybe there was a distractor you fell for, then try to understand why. A distractor is when there is a word/expression in the reading or listening exam that is included in the text but is actually not the correct answer.

If you understand why you made a mistake and learn from it, then you will improve every time you are practicing!

FCE Tips from a Student: How to pass the FCE exam

It was definitely very helpful to hear the tips from a teacher. However, I was also interested to hear what Alba English’s students had to say. I spoke to Yuko, who passed her exam a few months ago. These are her tips for you to pass your FCE exam.

FCE Tip 1: Know the FCE exam structure, especially for the writing and speaking exam

Yuko’s first tip is to make sure that you know the structure of the FCE exam. This is especially important for the writing and speaking exam.

Understanding the structure will save you time on the day of your exam because you are better prepared for the questions and tasks. Moreover, you won’t be taken by surprise by any of the tasks and you can be a bit more relaxed.

FCE Tip 2: When you practice, use questions from the FCE exam

The second tip is to use questions from the exam when you practice. This will help you to improve your English and also to get familiar with the exam structure.

You can practice by using exam preparation textbooks and doing practice exams. Yuko also explains that it is important to learn new vocabulary and collocations for the FCE exam.

FCE Tip 3: Do timed practice

It’s important to keep the time in mind when you practice. Therefore, the third tip is to do timed practice. That way you get used to exam conditions and can learn how to best manage your time during your FCE exam.

Of course, sometimes when you practice, you should take your time to really understand the questions and also to learn from your mistakes.

FCE Tip 4: Prepare for several types of speaking partners

In the speaking exam, you have to interact with another candidate. Beforehand you don’t know who this other candidate is. Therefore, it is good to be prepared for different types of speaking partners. You might have to ask your partner a few questions if they are a bit more reserved. In case your speaking partner talks quite a lot, make sure that you know how to politely interrupt them to also get a chance to talk.

It will help you to practice the speaking exam with a teacher or your friends.

FCE Tip 5: Get feedback on your writing from a teacher or someone else

If you do reading and listening practice tests, you will get immediate feedback on how you performed. This way, you can see which marks you would have reached in the exam, you can see the mistakes you made and what the correct answer would have been. However, you cannot get a result for a writing practice test.

Therefore, the final tip is to get feedback on your writing. When you practice your writing, it makes sense to get feedback from a teacher or a friend who has good English writing skills. Your teacher can point out mistakes and give you helpful tips how to improve your writing.

FAQ – How to pass the FCE

I hope all the information and tips gave you a better understanding of how to pass your FCE exam. However, there are so many more questions to be answered. That’s why I included this small FAQ at the end of this post. Hopefully it can answer any additional questions you might have.

Otherwise, you can just contact us or leave a comment under one of the YouTube videos. 

Alba English Instagram, Alba English Facebook

How to pass the FCE Exam, Cambridge Exam Tips from a Teacher 

About the FCE exam

When can I take the FCE exam?

Usually, you can take the paper-based test in March, May, June, August and December and the computer-based test in February, April, July, August and November. However, not all centres offer both exam types, check your centre for more information. 

Where can I take the test?

Test centres can be found all over the world! Check the Cambridge website.

For students in Edinburgh, you should know that there are two centres in the city, Basil Paterson College and Edinburgh College, and one in Glasgow, Live Language.

Is the FCE exam easier in my home country?

It doesn’t matter if you take the exam in your home country or in an English-speaking country because the exam will be exactly the same and will be marked by the same people. You might feel more relaxed when you take it in your home country but it’s exactly the same exam all over the world. 

How much does the FCE exam cost?

It’s approximately around £150. Check the website of your exam centre for more current prices.

What is the difference between the paper-based FCE exam and the computer-based one?

You can do your reading, writing and listening exam either on paper or at a computer.

What is the difference between FCE, CAE and IELTS?

FCECAEIELTS
Level of English NeededB2.

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C1 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B1
C1

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C2 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B2
There is one test for all levels and you get a score from 1 to 9.
Versions of the exam‘Normal’ B2 First and B2 First for SchoolsOnly one versionIELTS General and IELTS Academic
ValidityLife (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)Life (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)2 years
AssessmentYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partBand score ranging from 1 to 9 (9 is the highest score)
Parts of the Exam– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading
 – Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
Approximate Length of the Exam3 h 30 min3 h 55 min2 h 45 min
Differences between FCE, CAE and IELTS

For more information check out the blog posts How to pass the C1 Advanced Exam and Complete Guide to IELTS.

FCE Exam day

What happens on your FCE exam day?

  • When you arrive at your centre, they will tell you where you can put your personal belongings.
  • The centre will take a photo of you and might note your passport/ID number.
  • The exam instructions will be read out. Listen carefully and follow the instructions (on your screen). 
  • Raise your hand for help, questions and if you want to leave the room. 
  • Pay attention to the exam rules. Don’t talk to other people or look at their papers. 

What happens after the FCE exam?

  • Stop writing when your instructor tells you to do so. 
  • Leave any papers you used for notes on the desk.
  • Stay at your desk until you’re asked to leave the room

Also check the links for more information about the exam day for your paper-based or computer-based exam. 

What do I need to bring on exam day?

  • Your ID: valid, original passport or national ID card
  • For the paper-based exam: pens (black or blue), pencils (B or HB), eraser 

Note: You are not allowed to have your personal belongings at your desk, except for a clear bottle of water.

FCE Results

How many marks do I need to pass the FCE exam?

You will receive the B2 First certificate if you score between 160 – 180 marks. If your score is lower you will still get the Statement of Results showing your English level. 

Cambridge English Scale ScoreGradeCEFR Level
180–190Grade AC1
173–179Grade BB2
160–172Grade CB2
140–159Level B1B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Exam

Note that you don’t have to pass each part of the exam to still pass the overall test. Your result will be the average of all five parts (reading, use of English, writing, listening and speaking). Furthermore, you will receive a Statement of Results that shows your performance for each part of the exam.

How many marks do I need to pass each part of the FCE exam?

Reading

Reading and Use of English Parts 1, 5, 6, 7
Total Marks Available: 42

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
37180C1
24160 B2
16140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Reading Exam

Use of English

Reading and Use of English Parts 2, 3, 4
Total Marks Available: 28

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
24180C1
18160 B2
11140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Use of English Exam

Writing

Total Marks Available: 40

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
34180C1
24160 B2
16140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Writing Exam

Listening

Total Marks Available: 30

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
27180C1
18160 B2
12140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Listening Exam

Speaking

Total Marks Available: 60

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
54180C1
36160 B2
24140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Speaking Exam

When will I get my FCE results?

If you take the paper-based exam you will get your results after four to six weeks. It will take about two to three weeks until you get your results if you take the computer-based exam.

Your results will be available online first, all you need is your candidate ID number, which you’ll receive at the exam centre. 

Links for FCE practice tests and book recommendations:

Cambridge Practice Tests 

Book recommendations: 

The best book to buy depends on how you are preparing.
If you are studying in a class, you’ll probably use a book like ‘Objective First’ or ‘Complete First’. Your teacher will tell you which book to buy. These books are great for studying with a teacher, but they aren’t well-suited to self-study.

For self-study, we recommend ‘First Trainer’. It has complete exam papers, with strategies and tips for each part. There are also books like ‘First 1’ and ‘First 2’, which just contain model exams (without any strategy or tips) that you may find useful.

To prepare for the FCE exam, you could also book a B2 First Exam course with one of the qualified teachers at Alba English! We have intensive and part-time group classes, and can arrange private classes (including on Zoom).

Related Posts

How to pass the B2 First (FCE) Exam

Are you wondering how to pass your FCE exam? I know that preparing for an English exam can be stressful. But don’t worry, in this post I will give you some top FCE tips for your exam.

My name is Kathrin and I’m studying English at Alba English School in Edinburgh. For 9 years, Alba English has helped students pass their language exams. 

I’ve talked to a student, who recently passed her exam, and a teacher to find out all about the format of the FCE exam and their top tips on how to pass the FCE exam.

Contents

1. FCE Exam Format
2. FCE Tips from a Teacher
3. FCE Tips from a Student
4. FAQ – How to pass the FCE
5. About the FCE Exam
6. FCE Exam Day
7. FCE Results

FCE Exam Format

What is the FCE exam? 

First things first, before explaining the FCE tips, let’s have a closer look what the FCE exam is. The B2 First exam or formerly “Cambridge English: First (FCE)” is one of Cambridge’s English qualifications. You might need it as proof of your English language skills for work, visa requirements or to enter an English undergraduate program in a non-English-speaking country. 

This test is for English language learners with a B2 CEFR level. If your level is higher you should consider taking the CAE exam

The FCE exam evaluates your English level in five different areas: writing, reading, ‘use of English’, listening and speaking. In the exam, ‘Reading’ and ‘Use of English’ are in the same paper.

I created five easy-to-understand infographics. There is one graphic for each part of the exam which explains the tasks, the assessment and gives you some more helpful information.

Reading and Use of English FCE Exam Format
Reading and Use of English FCE Exam Format
Listening FCE Exam Format
Writing FCE Exam Format
Speaking FCE Exam Format

FCE Tips from a Teacher: How to pass the FCE exam

Now that you know how the test is structured, let’s hear some helpful tips for the FCE exam. I asked Chris, one of the teachers at Alba English School, for his five top tips how to pass the FCE exam. Here is his advice for you.

Tip 1: Make a study plan

Chris’s first tip is to make a study plan, which will help you to stay more organized and focused. In your study plan write down how many hours a week, when and what you want to study.

You can also take notes on the progress you are making. For example, write down the results you get every time you do a listening exam. Seeing your improvement will motivate you because you can see that you’re getting closer to being ready for the exam!

Tip 2: Find good language chunks to ‘steal’

Remember that for the writing exam you don’t have to be original. All you need to do is show good English writing skills. Therefore, the second tip is to find good language examples and then “steal” chunks of it.

You can have a look at your textbook or the Internet to find good language. For example, if in a text a paragraph starts with “In terms of…” and you like that expression, you can “steal” it. Every time you write a text, you can start one of your paragraphs with “In terms of…”. Don’t try to be original, just use good language.

Tip 3: Make a plan to manage your time

Chris’s next tip is to make a plan how to manage your time, especially during the ‘Reading and Use of English’ paper. It is really important to roughly know how many minutes you want to spend on each part of the exam. You will lose a lot of points if you don’t finish the whole exam.

Therefore, decide how many minutes you want to spend on each question and once that time is up, move on to the next question. You can always come back to the unfinished questions if you still have time at the end of the exam.

Tip 4: Be ambitious with your language in speaking and writing

The fourth tip is that you need to be ambitious with your language in the speaking and writing exam. During the exam you have to use language of the level of the exam (B2). If you only use language that you are comfortable with but that is not of the right level, you won’t pass the exam.

As long as the examiners can understand you, it is okay to make a few mistakes. It is more important that you show the examiners that you are able to use language of the tested level. So be ambitious!

Tip 5: Work out why you made your mistakes

The last tip is that you have to understand why you made a mistake. After you finish a practice exam don’t only check your overall marks. It is important to have a closer look at your mistakes.

Go back to the questions you got wrong and figure out why you made that mistake. For example, did you not understand a word or expression? Make sure you learn that new vocabulary. Maybe there was a distractor you fell for, then try to understand why. A distractor is when there is a word/expression in the reading or listening exam that is included in the text but is actually not the correct answer.

If you understand why you made a mistake and learn from it, then you will improve every time you are practicing!

FCE Tips from a Student: How to pass the FCE exam

It was definitely very helpful to hear the tips from a teacher. However, I was also interested to hear what Alba English’s students had to say. I spoke to Yuko, who passed her exam a few months ago. These are her tips for you to pass your FCE exam.

FCE Tip 1: Know the FCE exam structure, especially for the writing and speaking exam

Yuko’s first tip is to make sure that you know the structure of the FCE exam. This is especially important for the writing and speaking exam.

Understanding the structure will save you time on the day of your exam because you are better prepared for the questions and tasks. Moreover, you won’t be taken by surprise by any of the tasks and you can be a bit more relaxed.

FCE Tip 2: When you practice, use questions from the FCE exam

The second tip is to use questions from the exam when you practice. This will help you to improve your English and also to get familiar with the exam structure.

You can practice by using exam preparation textbooks and doing practice exams. Yuko also explains that it is important to learn new vocabulary and collocations for the FCE exam.

FCE Tip 3: Do timed practice

It’s important to keep the time in mind when you practice. Therefore, the third tip is to do timed practice. That way you get used to exam conditions and can learn how to best manage your time during your FCE exam.

Of course, sometimes when you practice, you should take your time to really understand the questions and also to learn from your mistakes.

FCE Tip 4: Prepare for several types of speaking partners

In the speaking exam, you have to interact with another candidate. Beforehand you don’t know who this other candidate is. Therefore, it is good to be prepared for different types of speaking partners. You might have to ask your partner a few questions if they are a bit more reserved. In case your speaking partner talks quite a lot, make sure that you know how to politely interrupt them to also get a chance to talk.

It will help you to practice the speaking exam with a teacher or your friends.

FCE Tip 5: Get feedback on your writing from a teacher or someone else

If you do reading and listening practice tests, you will get immediate feedback on how you performed. This way, you can see which marks you would have reached in the exam, you can see the mistakes you made and what the correct answer would have been. However, you cannot get a result for a writing practice test.

Therefore, the final tip is to get feedback on your writing. When you practice your writing, it makes sense to get feedback from a teacher or a friend who has good English writing skills. Your teacher can point out mistakes and give you helpful tips how to improve your writing.

FAQ – How to pass the FCE

I hope all the information and tips gave you a better understanding of how to pass your FCE exam. However, there are so many more questions to be answered. That’s why I included this small FAQ at the end of this post. Hopefully it can answer any additional questions you might have.

Otherwise, you can just contact us or leave a comment under one of the YouTube videos. 

Alba English Instagram, Alba English Facebook

How to pass the FCE Exam, Cambridge Exam Tips from a Teacher 

About the FCE exam

When can I take the FCE exam?

Usually, you can take the paper-based test in March, May, June, August and December and the computer-based test in February, April, July, August and November. However, not all centres offer both exam types, check your centre for more information. 

Where can I take the test?

Test centres can be found all over the world! Check the Cambridge website.

For students in Edinburgh, you should know that there are two centres in the city, Basil Paterson College and Edinburgh College, and one in Glasgow, Live Language.

Is the FCE exam easier in my home country?

It doesn’t matter if you take the exam in your home country or in an English-speaking country because the exam will be exactly the same and will be marked by the same people. You might feel more relaxed when you take it in your home country but it’s exactly the same exam all over the world. 

How much does the FCE exam cost?

It’s approximately around £150. Check the website of your exam centre for more current prices.

What is the difference between the paper-based FCE exam and the computer-based one?

You can do your reading, writing and listening exam either on paper or at a computer.

What is the difference between FCE, CAE and IELTS?

FCECAEIELTS
Level of English NeededB2.

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C1 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B1
C1

If you score very highly you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at C2 or if you fail by only a little, you can get a ‘certificate of achievement’ at B2
There is one test for all levels and you get a score from 1 to 9.
Versions of the exam‘Normal’ B2 First and B2 First for SchoolsOnly one versionIELTS General and IELTS Academic
ValidityLife (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)Life (although some institutions such as universities may ask for it to be within the last 2-3 years)2 years
AssessmentYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partYou pass or fail the exam, and also get a score on the ‘Cambridge English Scale’ showing your level for each partBand score ranging from 1 to 9 (9 is the highest score)
Parts of the Exam– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading 
– Use of English
– Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
– Reading
 – Writing
– Listening
– Speaking
Approximate Length of the Exam3 h 30 min3 h 55 min2 h 45 min
Differences between FCE, CAE and IELTS

For more information check out the blog posts How to pass the C1 Advanced Exam and Complete Guide to IELTS.

FCE Exam day

What happens on your FCE exam day?

  • When you arrive at your centre, they will tell you where you can put your personal belongings.
  • The centre will take a photo of you and might note your passport/ID number.
  • The exam instructions will be read out. Listen carefully and follow the instructions (on your screen). 
  • Raise your hand for help, questions and if you want to leave the room. 
  • Pay attention to the exam rules. Don’t talk to other people or look at their papers. 

What happens after the FCE exam?

  • Stop writing when your instructor tells you to do so. 
  • Leave any papers you used for notes on the desk.
  • Stay at your desk until you’re asked to leave the room

Also check the links for more information about the exam day for your paper-based or computer-based exam. 

What do I need to bring on exam day?

  • Your ID: valid, original passport or national ID card
  • For the paper-based exam: pens (black or blue), pencils (B or HB), eraser 

Note: You are not allowed to have your personal belongings at your desk, except for a clear bottle of water.

FCE Results

How many marks do I need to pass the FCE exam?

You will receive the B2 First certificate if you score between 160 – 180 marks. If your score is lower you will still get the Statement of Results showing your English level. 

Cambridge English Scale ScoreGradeCEFR Level
180–190Grade AC1
173–179Grade BB2
160–172Grade CB2
140–159Level B1B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Exam

Note that you don’t have to pass each part of the exam to still pass the overall test. Your result will be the average of all five parts (reading, use of English, writing, listening and speaking). Furthermore, you will receive a Statement of Results that shows your performance for each part of the exam.

How many marks do I need to pass each part of the FCE exam?

Reading

Reading and Use of English Parts 1, 5, 6, 7
Total Marks Available: 42

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
37180C1
24160 B2
16140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Reading Exam

Use of English

Reading and Use of English Parts 2, 3, 4
Total Marks Available: 28

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
24180C1
18160 B2
11140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Use of English Exam

Writing

Total Marks Available: 40

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
34180C1
24160 B2
16140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Writing Exam

Listening

Total Marks Available: 30

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
27180C1
18160 B2
12140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Listening Exam

Speaking

Total Marks Available: 60

Practice Test ScoreCambridge English Scale ScoreCEFR Level
54180C1
36160 B2
24140B1
Cambridge English Scale Score for FCE Speaking Exam

When will I get my FCE results?

If you take the paper-based exam you will get your results after four to six weeks. It will take about two to three weeks until you get your results if you take the computer-based exam.

Your results will be available online first, all you need is your candidate ID number, which you’ll receive at the exam centre. 

Links for FCE practice tests and book recommendations:

Cambridge Practice Tests 

Book recommendations: 

The best book to buy depends on how you are preparing.
If you are studying in a class, you’ll probably use a book like ‘Objective First’ or ‘Complete First’. Your teacher will tell you which book to buy. These books are great for studying with a teacher, but they aren’t well-suited to self-study.

For self-study, we recommend ‘First Trainer’. It has complete exam papers, with strategies and tips for each part. There are also books like ‘First 1’ and ‘First 2’, which just contain model exams (without any strategy or tips) that you may find useful.

To prepare for the FCE exam, you could also book a B2 First Exam course with one of the qualified teachers at Alba English! We have intensive and part-time group classes, and can arrange private classes (including on Zoom).

Related Posts