The Cambridge First or The First Certificate in English (FCE) is a test administered by Cambridge Assessment. The FCE is intended to assess the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). If you score well on the FCE, it indicates that you possess the language skills that are needed to communicate with confidence in an English-speaking setting.
There are two versions of the FCE: one version is targeted toward the general populace and the other version (FCE for Schools) is intended for school-aged children. The tests are essentially the same; however, the FCE for Schools has topics and vocabulary that a school-aged student would typically encounter.
Remember, preparation for the FCE test is key.
The Listening Section
The listening section of the FCE, both versions, has four parts that take approximately 40 minutes. There are 30 questions in total. The listening section requires a test-taker be able to follow and understand a variety of spoken materials such as news reports, presentations and everyday conversations.
There are four sections to the test:
- Reading and Use of English -75 minutes
- Writing – 2 essays, 80 minutes
- Listening – 40 minutes
- Speaking – interview, normally with another candidate, 14 minutes
The parts of the listening section are usually as follows:
Part 1 – Test-takers listen to 8 recordings; each recording has one question
Part 2 – Test-takers listen to and complete gapped sentences
Part 3 – Test-takers match 5 speakers to their topics
Part 4 – Test-takers listen to a longer recording; there are 7 multiple choice questions
There are a series of short unrelated extracts from monologues or exchanges between speakers. You’ll hear people talking in eight different situations. There is one multiple-choice question per extract. You would listen to the extract and then click on the answer.
For instance you might encounter this:
You hear a teacher talking to a student. Why is the teacher talking to the student?
A. To talk about an assignment
B. To explain a question
C. To make a suggestion
Seven more extracts would require completion. They are all short.
You listen to a report or presentation, and there are gaps to fill-in. It normally lasts approximately three minutes. You then need to complete 10 sentences. You are able listen to the recording twice. You type in your answers in the available gaps. You will have time to preview the questions before the audio recording begins.
Here are two example questions:
Brian Mullis works as the ____________ of a non-profit organization.
He uses several different terms to refer to tourism activities which ____________ local communities.
You have to fill-in the gaps with 3 words or less. Sometimes, you may need to write a number.
In this part, you will listen to 5 speakers. Each speaker will talk about a related topic. You can listen to the recording twice. Each speaker is identified as Speaker 1, speaker 2, Speaker 3, etc. The questions will look something like this:
A. the support of his parents
B. the reduced number of vegetarian options available
C. the need to learn how to cook for herself
D. the satisfaction of seeing other people enjoying her food
E. the ambition of writing a cookbook of Indian recipes
F. the encouragement of his grandmother
G. the first work experience as apprentice
H. the excitement of learning how to cook in his first cooking lesson
The choices remain the same for each of the five speakers. Three of the choices are extra in order to distract you.
For this part, you will listen to an interview that involves interacting speakers. This part lasts approximately three minutes. There are seven multiple-choice questions with three options to choose from. You choose one of the options for each question. You listen to the recording twice. There is time to look over the questions prior to the audio extract.
Here is what a question would look like:
The purpose of the live broadcasting programs is…
A. to teach students about the world of work.
B. to serve as a forum for people interested in superheroes.
C. to talk about the importance of firefighters.
Getting ready for the listening section?
- Become familiar with the question formats. Get used to the types of instructions that you will encounter.
- Listen often and to a wide variety of materials Begin to prepare long before your test date. There is an incredible abundance of B2 level listening materials online; make use of it.
- Listen to things that are at or slightly above your level. Listening to materials that are three levels above you will be of no use.
- Listen to relevant materials that is things that will appear on the test.
- This an upper intermediate level test. You need to get used to common elements of spoken language such as reduction, linking and assimilation. There are many fine videos on YouTube that explain these phenomenon.
For more information on the registration process, you can read our article “How to register for Cambridge FCE?“. Note that you can take the test in the country of your choice. We have written articles to help you locate test centres in UK, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Belgium, and Netherlands.
Check out tips for your FCE training.