Cambridge First Exam

The Cambridge First exam is a B2 level qualification which proves you have the necessary language skills live and work or study in an English-speaking country without help. The B2 level certificate is readily accepted by thousands of employing companies, schools and colleges worldwide. It is proof of reasonable knowledge and application of English grammar and vocabulary structures. On this page, you will find details of the Cambridge first exam and links to exam papers to help you prepare. You might also find the video useful, which is a speaking exam in progress, it’s a good idea to watch this video before the exam so you know what to expect on the big day.

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CAMBRIDGE FIRST EXAM: General information 

The B2 Cambridge FIRST exam, which used to be called the First Certificate in English (FCE), is a Cambridge English Qualification. Possession of the certificate means that you are an effective face-to-face communicator and have no trouble expressing opinions while presenting arguments. The qualification shows that you can follow the news and that you are capable of producing detailed pieces of writing.

The CEFR (that is Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) ) level for the Cambridge First Exam is B2. You receive a grade for your work, and A, B or C are pass grades. If you get a grade A, it may mean you are awarded a C1 certification. If you do not pass with a grade C however, you may be considered as having obtained level B1. The Cambridge First exam consists of four separate papers, namely: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

CONTENT OF THE CAMBRIDGE FIRST EXAM: READING AND USE OF ENGLISH 

First Exam online preparation

You will have 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the 7 parts in this paper. While you can write on the question paper, you have to remember to pass your answers to the separate answer paper within the 1 hour and 15 minutes. You do not get extra time for this.

  1. Multiple choice gap fill: There are eight questions in this part which test your English vocabulary. The exercise is a short text with eight spaces, and you choose from four words to fill in each gap. There is one mark for each correct answer.
  2. Open gap fill: As a test of your grammar you will have to think of a word to fill each of the eight gaps in the text. There is one mark for each correct answer which is often a preposition, pronoun or short linking word.
  3. Word formation: Again testing your vocabulary, you are provided with a text that has 8 gaps and a word at the end of the line with the space. You have to change the word at the end of the line so that it fits appropriately in the space. This might mean, for example, changing a noun to an adjective.
  4. Key word transformations: There are 6 questions in this part and two marks available per question. In each question you are given one full sentence and a second incomplete sentence. You will need to complete the sentence with a specific given word. The completed sentence must have the same meaning as the original sentence
  5. Multiple choice: You will read a text approximately 600 words long. There are 6 multiple choice questions with four possible answers. Each right answer is worth 2 points.
  6. Gapped text: In this exercise you have to read a text that is between 500 and 600 words long. The text has some sentences removed and you have to read and match the best fitting sentences from a mixed-up list. Each correct answer is worth two marks in part 6.
  7. Multiple matching: There are 10 questions in this part; each question is worth one mark. You read a text of around 550 words and have to match the relevant sections to each question.

CONTENT OF THE CAMBRIDGE FIRST EXAM: WRITING 

What to expect in the Cambridge First Exam

You have 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete 2 written tasks of 140 – 190 words. The first question, part 1 is an obligatory essay, while in part 2, you choose between questions 2 – 4.  

In the essay question you must give your opinion on a topic using the question as a guide. Although you have to write about the fixed topic, you have some freedom to give your own idea.

In part 2, questions 2-4 may require:

  • An email/letter
  • And article
  • A report
  • A review

You should prepare the 4 types of written work, although you will only be given 3 options to choose from in the exam. Take a look at this blog post for help with studying and preparing for the CAE

The possible marks for part one and part two are the same. In all of the questions you know who you are writing to and why.

Content of the Cambridge First Exam: Listening

There are 4 parts to the listening paper of the Cambridge first exam. You will hear the instructions and read them on the paper. There are pauses in the listening track, and this time is so you can read through the questions. You should write on the question paper during the test.  You will have 5 mins to pass your answers to the answer sheet at the end of the test.

You can expect to hear:

information, news, instructions, commentary, a documentary, a lecture, a message, a public announcement, a report, a speech, a talk, an advertisement, a conversation, a discussion, an interview, part of a radio play.

Listening part one: multiple choice.

You hear either one or two people talking for around 30 seconds. There are 8 questions and 8 different listening situations. For each question there are three possible answers: A, B or C.

Listening part two: sentence completion.

This time just one person talks for about 3 minutes. There are 10 questions where you have to complete sentences with a word or short phrase.

 Listening part three: multiple matching.

There are five different extracts; each one is approximately 30 seconds long. They are all related to a common theme. You must choose one answer from a list of eight options.

Listening part four: multiple choice.

You will hear one person or two people talking for around 3 minutes. There are 7 questions with three options to choose from.

CONTENT OF THE CAMBRIDGE FIRST EXAM: SPEAKING

Normally the candidates take the test in pairs, however, sometimes the test is done in groups of three. There are two examiners in the room, one who gives instructions and another who does not participate.

Speaking part one: 2 minutes

You talk about yourself as you respond to the examiner’s questions

Speaking part two: 4 minutes

You must talk about two pictures on your own and then comment on your partner’s pictures.

Speaking part three: 4 minutes

You and the other candidate discuss diagrams or pictures together.

Speaking part four: 2 minutes

As part of a discussion with the examiner and the other candidate, you have to talk about things related to the topic in part 3.

Cambridge First Exam Resources

At Break Into English, we want you to feel in control of your learning and how you study for the Cambridge First exam.  Here are some useful links that will come in handy as you prepare:

  • You can find more detailed information in the Cambridge first exam handbook 
  • Download the sample exam papers here
  • You can see candidates taking part in a speaking exam in this video 

We will help you prepare for the Cambridge First Exam

We have a team of native teachers at Break into English who specialize in Exam preparation.  Your trainer will guide you to success in the Cambridge First exam. With our proven method and unique teaching style, we guarantee you will feel prepared on the big day, having thoroughly covered each of the 4 sections of the exam. Try a free Skype Cambridge First exam preparation lesson to see how our course can work for you.