GENERAL STRUCTURE OF THE FCE CAMBRIDGE EXAM

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As mentioned from previous articles published, the component examination of FCE Cambridge certificate is technically made up into five different papers separately. Thus, I suppose it would be well-advised for you to look at and study how this exam is generally structured in a chronological order so that you will have a clear picture in your mind, especially by the time when you are ready to sit for the test.

1. READING PART (PAPER 1)
- During the first stage of your FCE Cambridge examination, you will be assessed on the ability of your reading comprehension skills. So, in this section of your reading test, there will be three parts divided where each part contains a reading passage and some answers. As for the part 3 which is the last one, it may contain two or more shorter related texts. After all, there are 30 questions given approximately in total which include multiple-choice, gap text, and multiple-matching questions.

2. WRITING PART (PAPER 2)
- After you have done with your reading test, the second section of your FCE Cambridge examination will be the writing part. At this point, the paper 2 which is the writing section of your test will be divided into two parts which carry equal marks. To illustrate further, the part 1 of your writing test is compulsory where you will be asked to write an email or a letter between 120 – 150 words whereas for the part 2, there will be four tasks given and you are required to choose one from these four given tasks to write about it. In any case, the typical range of these tasks from which their questions are drawn may include an article, an essay, a report, a review, and a short story.

3. USE OF ENGLISH PART (PAPER 3)
- Once you have completed your writing tasks from the paper 2, then here comes the next part which is the use of English. In this stage, the paper 3 consists of four different parts and you will be tested on the control or the command of your English vocabularies as well as your grammar. There are roughly 42 questions in total and the tasks given usually include gap-filling exercises, word formation, and sentence transformation (changing an incorrect sentence into the right one).

4. LISTENING PART (PAPER 4)
- And then, by the time when you have finished with your paper 3 at the previous section, here comes the listening part of your test. So, in this case, there will be four parts divided where each part contains a recorded text or text along with some questions that you will be asked to find the answers while listening to a recording tape. Nevertheless, there are a total of 30 questions provided in this test which include multiple-choice, sentence completion, and multiple-matching questions.

5. SPEAKING PART
- Last but not least, you will have your speaking assessment at the end of your test right after you have successfully passed through the above four sections as described. In other words, the speaking part of your test is the last stage of your FCE Cambridge examination. As for this final part of your examination, the standard format of the test carried out is that there will be two candidates and two examiners where one examiner takes part in the conversation while the other examiner is in charge of listening to the conversations. 

- So, in that case, the candidates (including you) will be given photographs and other visual as well as written materials to look at and be prepared to talk about. And usually, the flow of conversations presented in this particular test might be performed randomly where sometimes, you will have your conversation to discuss a certain topic with the other candidate (your partner), sometimes with the examiner directly, and sometimes with both parties (you, your partner, and the examiner). Anyway, for the speaking part of your FCE Cambridge exam, the length of your time limit to talk usually takes around 15 – 20 minutes approximately.

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SOME EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO PASS THE FCE TEST OF CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE

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As it is known that the First Certificate of English (FCE) in Cambridge is basically an English certificate which is organized and produced by The University of Cambridge. In fact, this type of English certificate is solely designed for the upper-intermediate English learners who wish to prove their everyday use of written as well as spoken English for either work or study purposes. 

To begin with, taking the FCE Cambridge certificate, technically, can be an important challenge. So, in case if you are positive and willing to take the exam in the future, then you have to be confident in all aspects of the test such as reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, etc. in order for you to be able to pass the exam with flying colors. It is often becoming a common practice that the typical English learners are obliged to prepare themselves for their test either in full time or six weeks at least before they are able to pass the exam.

Having an exam date to look forward can be an excellent motivator for the learners to study hard and make the most out of their time. However, if you take the exam without having any preparation beforehand, chances are you will definitely fail and lose much of your confidence in your ability. Because of this, in order to help you achieving a satisfying grade as you are preparing to sit for your FCE test, it is also recommended that you might as well have to study and apply some of these effective strategies below so that you will not lose your self-confidence while aiming for your target score.

#1 – READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY & DO NOT FEEL DISCOURAGED AT ALL COSTS
So, the first thing to do is that you must be sure knowing what to do. In other words, always start by reading the given instructions carefully. Then, in case if you are struggling to find a correct answer, try to proceed to the next question and go back to the previous question later. After all, there is no need to do the questions asked in chronological order. Therefore, it is better to start with the questions that you find the easiest and leave those that seem to be the difficult ones.

#2 – KEEP AN EYE ON THE CLOCK
Technically, there will always be a time limit given in any sections. Hence, try not to run out of your time. If you have developed your own FCE exam strategy, then for sure you will know how to allocate your time effectively to do every part of this test. So, try to stick to your time management. Remember, each section of the FCE paper (particularly, the Reading part) carries the same amount of marks approximately and therefore, it is all about maximizing your chances of passing your FCE test.

#3 – READING TIP
As it has been mentioned earlier, there is no need for you to waste your time on the difficult questions. If you believe that you should be reading the passage first and trying to understand it, then I’m afraid to say that you are in a wrong way. Again, you don’t have much time for this part. So, try to scan and read the text as quickly as possible to look for the answer that you only need. And usually, the question order is similar to the text order where the answer to the question 1, for example, might be found closely at the beginning of the reading passage while the answer to the last question could be located at the end.

#4 – WRITING TIP
For the writing section, both part 1 and part 2 carry the same number of marks. So, remember that you should at least spend 40 minutes on each part and you need to start reading the question then spend a minute only to think about a good answer or what you are going to write. After all, it is highly recommended that you must write what you can explain and avoid to write some unnecessary or unimportant things in your essay. In other words, make sure that you can accomplish the task achievement required so that you will not lose a mark in your writing test section.

#5 – LISTENING TIP
In this part of the test, try to avoid the biggest mistake that students often make where they tend to keep remembering the meaning of a word that they have heard. If you happen to follow this kind of habit, then there is a greater risk of chance that you will end up missing the rest of the tape recording being played. So, this is the first common error that you really have to avoid it beforehand.

Following the above suggestion, the second common error that most of the test takers tend to make is when they concentrate on reading the questions too seriously and as a result, they end up missing again the rest of the conversations being played from the tape recording. So, let say in case if you can’t cope up concentrating on both, all you need to do is just keep listening to the audio. Bottom line, it has been proven useful enough for some students to write down a few keywords while listening. Therefore, you may wish to follow exactly like what those students have done and put their strategy into a good practice during the listening section of your FCE exam.

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SEVERAL INTERESTING FACTS OF THE CAMBRIDGE ENGLISH CERTIFICATES

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By far, the typical English certifications in Cambridge are formally the best known and the most respectable English qualifications since they can help you with your future career and academic life. In fact, there are millions of people annually who take these exams for different purposes, and you probably are wondering why they are popularly demanded by so many people across the globe, which include the FCE Cambridge certificate. Well, here are some of the interesting facts that you should know about Cambridge English Certifications:

1. Cambridge English Certificates do not expire

2. They are recognized around the world for business and study purposes

3. According to the CEFR, the average learner needs 500 to 600 guided learning hours to pass the FCE exam; 700 to 800 guided learning hours to pass the CAE exam; and 1000 to 1200 guided learning hours to pass the CPE exam

4. They are used as a documentary proof or evidence to universities that you are prepared for your further study

5. The Cambridge English Certificates can help you live independently in an English-speaking country

6. The first Cambridge Exam which is the CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English) was offered around 1913

7. Roughly about 3.5 million candidates sit for the Cambridge exam every year

8. Each of the Cambridge English Certificate obtained helps both employers and universities to understand an individual’s level of English ability based on the CEFR rule of framework

9. Last but not least, the structure of Cambridge English examinations are divided into five different papers respectively, for which they practically cover these skilled areas such as in Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking and the Use of English

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REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING THE FCE CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE

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On the glimpse of taking the FCE Cambridge certificate, the test may not seem so easy but the rewards will definitely make it worthwhile. By taking this FCE Cambridge certificate, well, it will at least provide you a practical qualification that might change your job opportunities, offering you the chance to travel and experience a whole lot more. Perhaps, if you still can't decide whether you should consider taking the FCE certificate or not, here are a few reasons behind why the certification would be a great step for you to thoroughly reconsider it upon.

1. Greater Flexibility
Unlike some common English qualifications, the FCE Cambridge test is really flexible. There are other exams which are unfortunately taking place virtually every month which in this case, you may have to decide when to obtain it. Normally, the FCE Cambridge certificate simply allows you to learn at your own pace when you are ready to take the exam; giving yourself the best chance to do really well on it beforehand.

2. Improving Your English Language Skills
Apparently, the FCE is not just any old language test offered. Because it does cover all aspects of English comprehension skills, the passing grade of FCE certificate obtained will prove that you have a certain level of English proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking to a very high standard. Due to the fact that the test structure carries five different papers that are designed to assess your English ability in all those aspects respectively, therefore, by preparing to sit for this FCE certificate will actually help you to improve your English language skills while you’re doing it in the first place.

3. Internationally Recognized & One of the Accepted Documents for Visa Applications
As a matter of fact, the FCE certificate is very highly regarded around the world. Employers in different countries, in fact, can all immediately see that your English language skills are up to the professional standard that would be needed to work in an English-speaking environment. Similarly, if you’re planning to study in the UK and need to apply for a student visa, then you’ll need to have some certifications of your English language skills. Thus, the FCE is one of the accepted qualifications recognized by the UK Border Agency.

4. Set as a Great Foundation for Your Further Study in English Language
Finally, the FCE certificate will also provide you with a great starting point to develop your skills; especially, if you’re planning to add more of your self-qualifications. For your additional information, one of the most prestigious recognition which is upper than the FCE level in Cambridge exam is the CAE (Certificate of Advanced English) certificate. It is a much more challenging exam than the FCE test and so when you have obtained your FCE certificate successfully in the first place, then this will give you the essential preparation to do well in your next CAE exam.

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INTRODUCTION TO FCE (First Certificate of English) CAMBRIDGE

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Perhaps, one promising way of earning an English certification alternatively for any international students who wish to apply studying at college or university in English speaking countries is by sitting for the FCE Cambridge exam. Well, this FCE which is commonly called “First” is without doubt the best known of the Cambridge exams, which allows for official recognition of a superior intermediate level of English (level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). In any case, the FCE Cambridge certificate is seemingly recommended for anyone who plans to work in the international business environment or studying overseas.

Technically, the majority of institutions in general estimate that the FCE is for students who have studied English at school for a period of six to eight years long. In fact, in order for those who wish to take this FCE certificate, it is necessarily important that their level of English proficiency must allow them to:

a. Understand the general meaning of texts that cover both abstract and concrete subjects.

b. Possess a technical conversation in a certain area of specialty.

c. Express themselves with ease and spontaneity in a manner that allows them to join in a normal conversation with native English speakers, while respecting the conventions as well as the main forms of politeness and speed.

d. Be able to express themselves in a clear and detailed manner on a large number of subjects.

e. Be capable enough in developing a simple argument which concerns about a topic issue addressed.

As we know, it is inevitably crucial to have such a good preparation for anyone who wish to aim for a better result. In fact, a good preparatory course is often necessary in order to refresh or consolidate the test takers’ current level of language skills, so as to enable them to adapt to the particular demands of FCE certification. Bottom line, there are numerous types of courses which are available and optional in terms of intensity and duration in order to prepare the test takers to sit for their FCE certificate.

Meanwhile, the FCE Cambridge examination paper also covers several parts of comprehension skills which are practically designed to assess and measure the students’ level of English ability during the test. It is made up of five different papers respectively, in which they consist of:

1. Reading Test (Paper 1) – 1 Hour 15 Minutes

2. Writing Test (Paper 2) – 1 Hour 30 Minutes

3. Use of English Test (Paper 3) – 1 Hour 15 Minutes

4. Listening Test (Paper 4) – 40 Minutes approximately

5. Speaking Test (Paper 5) – 14 Minutes

Above all, the FCE Cambridge certificate is widely recognized around the world just like all the Cambridge English certifications out there since the certificate can be used as a proof to validate and measure a person’s level of English language abilities in a precise, reliable, and official manner (especially, for a non-native English speaker).

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POSSIBILITY – MAY & MIGHT

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In general, ‘may’ and ‘might’ possess a similar grammatical meaning (particularly, when we talk about the possibility). However, we prefer ‘may’ to be used within the academic context or any form of formal language to talk about the characteristics as well as the behavior of something. For example, ‘The seeds from these plants may grow up to 20 centimeters high in length’ whereas in speech, we prefer to use ‘might’ to say what we will possibly do in the future. For example, ‘I might paint this kitchen either purple or blue’.

At some point, we occasionally don’t use ‘may’ to ask questions about the possibility of something happening. Instead, we actually use such a phrase as ‘be likely’ or ‘couldn’t’ to describe the situation addressed.

Examples:

a. Could it be that you prefer to stay a bit longer? (not May it be that you ... ?)

b. Are you likely to go to Spain again in this upcoming summer? (not May you go to Spain ... ?)

In addition, it is also possible to use ‘might’ but it can be rather formal:

c. Might they be persuaded to change their minds?

Nevertheless, we can also use ‘may’ in asking for permission and offering help formally:

d. May I leave now?

e. May I help you?

f. All right! Class dismissed. You may go now!

Furthermore, ‘might + bare infinitive’ is sometimes used to talk about what was typically becoming the case in the past. Well, you can have a look at the following examples below in which you will notice that they are simply formal or literally used in a formal way.

Examples:

i. During the civil war, the police might arrest you for criticizing the parliament

ii. Years ago, children might be sent down to work at mining industries at the age of six (passive form)

When we say that a person or thing compensates some limitations or weakness by having another characteristic, we can practically use a pattern with ‘may/might not + bare infinitive ... but ...’ or ‘may/might not have + past participle (verb 3) ... but ...

Examples:

1. This painting may not be a masterpiece, but I must admit that the colors are incredibly overwhelming

2. She might not have danced very professionally, but I could sense that she had a lot of energy and high degree of enthusiasm

Meanwhile, we use ‘may/might have + past participle (verb 3)’ and ‘may/might not + be + ing’ to talk about the possible events in the past, present, and future.

Examples:

( - ) Do you really think that Jane may/might have completed the report by now? (referring to the past event)

( - ) His math skills may/might have improved by the time when the exam comes around (referring to the future circumstance)

( - ) Malcom may/might not be coming to work today. He’s not in his office (referring to the present situation)

Finally, we can use ‘may/might + have been + ing’ to talk about possible situations or activities that already went on a period of time in the past. Here’s an example:

( + ) David didn’t know where the ball was, since he thought that his sister might have been playing with it before she went to school

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WHEN DO WE USE ‘CAN, COULD, BE ABLE TO, & BE ALLOWED TO’?

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When talking about the ability to perform something, first of all, it is sometimes the case where we tend to use ‘be able to’ instead of ‘can / could’. Regardless to this customary pattern, however, we usually avoid to use ‘be able to’ when we want to talk about something that is happening as we speak.

Examples:

i. Watch me, Mum. I can stand up with one leg (not ... I’m able to stand up with one leg)

ii. CDs can now be copied easily (rather appropriate to say it than ‘CDs are now able to be copied ...’)

iii. Can you cook? (Instead of ‘Are you able to cook?’, this sentence appears to be rather logical)

Second of all, if we want to talk about a single achievement rather than a general ability in the past, we usually prefer to use ‘be able to’ rather than ‘could’ which is the past form of can. So, let’s just study these two sentences below and try to compare them in order for you to comprehend the above definition much clearer.

a. Suzan could play the violin extremely well (or Suzan was able to play the violin ...), with

b. She swam strongly and was able to cross the river easily, even though the stream of the river was swollen by heavy rain (referring to a specific achievement: not she swam strongly and could cross the river easily, even though ...)

However, the function of ‘could’ usually sounds more natural to be used in the typical negative sentences. Here are some examples:

( - ) I tried to get up, but still I couldn’t move (rather than ‘..., but still I wasn’t able to move’)

( - ) I could recall the incident clearly, but nothing after that (using the verbs of senses such as remember: rather than ‘I was able to recall ...’)

( - ) All we could see were his feet (referring to the only thing that is seen: rather than ‘We were able to see ...’)

Third of all, when we want to talk about the theoretical possibility of something happening, we also use ‘could’ (not can). While on the contrary, it is the opposite way when we use ‘can’ (not could) to say something that is possible and actually happens.

Examples:

1. It could be very costly to keep a cat (= possibility of something risky if we had one to keep it or not)

2. It can be very costly to keep a cat (= it can be and to some extent, it is)

Or more specifically,

When something is theoretically impossible or unlikely to happen, it is rather logical to use ‘cannot’ instead of could not.

Examples:

3. There can’t be many people in the world who haven’t watched television

4. The doctor can’t make an appointment with you tomorrow because he’ll be very busy at the hospital

Last but not least, in order to describe that someone had a general permission to do something in the past, we can either use ‘could’ or ‘was/were allowed to’. However, to talk about permission at one particular action occurred in the past, it is quite reasonable to use ‘was/were allowed to’ (not could). So, let’s try to compare the first and the second sentence which are given from the following examples below in order for you to have a better comprehension in regards to the above explanation.

#1 – Anyone was allowed to go fishing in the lake when the government owned it (or ‘... could go fishing in the lake when ...’), with

#2 – Although he didn’t have a ticket, William was allowed to enter the museum (not ‘..., William could enter ...’)

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OTHER FORMS OF FUTURE SPEECH

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Apparently, there are some common phrases that are generally used to refer to the actions or events in the future which contains a similar meaning to the function of ‘be about to + infinitive’ (if you haven’t studied this pattern, kindly refer to the previous discussion that I already explained separately under the topic article of be to + infinitive).

Basically, we can practically use ‘to be’ on the verge of ... / brink of ... / point of ... (+ing or noun) to talk about something that will likely to happen soon. Here are some examples:

a. People are on the verge of famine as the drought continues

b. Some medical experts are on the brink of making several major advances in the fight against HIV disease

c. I looked for my car everywhere in the parking lot but I couldn’t manage to find it. In fact, I was on the point of contacting the police when I remembered that I went to work by walking

By theory, the phrase ‘be on the brink of ...’ usually refers to something important, exciting, or miserable (very sad). So, when it comes to the other ways of expressing certain actions or situations in the future, we use ‘be due to + infinitive’ to address that something is expected to occur at a particular time, while ‘be sure / bound to + infinitive’ on the contrary can be used to say something or a certain thing is likely to happen. As for the function of ‘be set to + infinitive’, we can use it to talk about something that is ready to happen.

Examples:

1. The company’s CEO is due to retire next year. However, following today’s announcement of further losses, she is sure to be asked to leave sooner.

2. Will there be a place for me to get a coffee at that station? Oh yes, there is bound to be available one

3. His new film is set to earn a great success in terms of gross revenue

As you notice, we use ‘due to + noun’ to provide a reason or something, not to talk about the future. For example, ‘due to some terrific diseases, he has to cancel his live show tonight’. Perhaps, you may have to take a note that the pattern of past tenses in this case can be used with some particular phrases to talk about future events that are seen from the past. Here’s an example:

- It was his 63th birthday in 2017 and he was due to retire in that following year

Apart from that, we use some verbs ‘to infinitive’ to talk about such intentions.

Examples:

i. Do you mean to work any harder during your upcoming semester in this second year at college?

ii. Of course, we guarantee to refund your money if you are still dissatisfied with our services provided

And obviously, there are also other verbs that can generally be applied to express our intentions further such as ‘agree, aim, expect, hope, intend, plan, promise, propose, and want’. The function of present continuous + to infinitive or present simple + to infinitive additionally can also be used simultaneously with some above verbs to talk about other patterns of future intentions. Here’s an example:

( + ) I’m aiming to travel to Kuala Lumpur by the end of this month, or

( + ) I aim to travel to Kuala Lumpur by the end of this month

Last but not least, some people in particular form of speech and journalism, they use ‘be looking + to infinitive’ to express their planning or a course of action specifically that they intend to do in the nearly future.

Examples:

#1 – We’ll be looking to provide 300 jobs for these homeless people in that rural area by the end of this year

#2 – As this country’s recession declines, we’re looking forward to increasing our governmental subsidies on the small-medium enterprises over the next 2 years

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