The FCE Reading and Use of English exam takes 75 minutes and has seven parts. The questions are worth one or two marks each.
This exam is designed to test your grammar and how well you can understand a variety of texts.
This will be a two-part video on the exam, explaining everything you need to know. In this lesson, you’re going to learn about parts one to four of the FCE reading and use of English exam.
Let’s get started!
1. Part One of the FCE Reading and Use of English Exam
Part one of the test is a short text with eight gaps that you have to fill. This is called a cloze test. This one is multiple choice, so for each gap, you need to choose the correct answer from four options.
Have a look at this sample question:
- Biology is a branch of science. It concerns the natural world, _____ than chemicals or matter and energy.
Now look at the multiple choices for this question:
- A) Instead
- B) Rather
- C) Except
- D) Sooner
Which answer do you think is correct?
Before I tell you, it’s a good idea to look at the question and see if it gives you any clues.
The question says:
- It concerns the natural world, ____ than…
You can see that you need a word which goes with than. Only one of these answers will fit.
If you don’t know the answer immediately, then what should you do?
If you’re not sure, then look carefully at the answers and eliminate the options that are definitely not right.
For example, we know the answer can’t be instead, because we use the preposition of with instead: instead of, not instead than.
What about except? Can you say except than?
No, you can’t. You can say except that, except when, except if and except for, but you can’t say except than.
What about sooner than? Is it possible?
Yes: you can say sooner than and rather than. So how do you know which answer is correct?
If both answers are grammatically correct, then you need to read through the sentence with both words to see which one makes logical sense.
Let’s look at both possibilities:
- Biology is a branch of science. It concerns the natural world, rather than chemicals or matter and energy.
- Biology is a branch of science. It concerns the natural world, sooner than chemicals or matter and energy.
We use sooner than as a comparison to say that something is earlier or faster than something else.
That meaning doesn’t fit here, and so rather than must be the correct answer.
Did you get it right?
Get more practice with grammar in this Oxford Online English lesson: How to Improve English Grammar.
With this part of the test, it’s important to do a few things:
- Firstly, look at the words surrounding the gap to see if they fit with the answer. Are they part of a phrasal verb, idiom or collocation? Is there a preposition that will only fit with certain words?
- If you’re not sure of the answer, eliminate ones you know are incorrect to narrow it down and give you a better chance.
- Finally, read through the sentence with the answer to make sure it makes sense! Sometimes things are grammatically correct, but they don’t make sense.
Let’s move on to part two!
2. Part Two of the Reading and Use of English Exam
Part two is similar to part one. In this part of the FCE use of English test, you’ll get a short text with eight gaps. But, to make it harder, there aren’t any multiple choices in this part.
Instead, you have to think of the correct word and write it in the gap.
- I have a degree _____ international relations.
In this part of the test, the missing word is also likely to be an article, a preposition, a pronoun, or what I like to call the building blocks of language.
A common mistake that students make in this part of the test is using lots of nouns.
While it’s true that some answers may be nouns, it’s more likely you’ll need to use a ‘building block’ word: something which is needed to make the sentence grammatically complete, rather than something which adds meaning to the sentence.
When you read through your question, pay attention to the structure of the sentence and think about what’s missing.
It can also be helpful to make notes while you’re reading the text. For example, if you notice that you need a preposition in a specific gap, but you aren’t sure which one yet, make a note next to the gap.
Are you ready to have a go?
Look at your question:
- I have a degree _____ international relations.
Do you know what kind of word we need here?
We need a preposition, but which one?
With subjects, like history, English or international relations, we use the preposition in. So, the correct answer is:
- I have a degree in international relations.
Let’s look at another example:
- People often think my work is very boring, but ______ from some paperwork, it isn’t at all!
If you read this sentence carefully, it’s saying that the paperwork is the only boring thing in the job. The paperwork is the exception.
What are some words or phrases that mean that something’s an exception?
You could say except for, apart from, other than. These are the most obvious answers, although there are other possibilities, too.
Look at the question again; you can see the preposition from after the gap.
Do you know the answer yet?
That’s right, it’s apart. Apart from means something is an exception, and apart fits with the preposition from in the sentence.
Now let’s move on to part three!
3. Part Three of the FCE Reading and Use of English Exam
Part three of the FCE reading and use of English exam is about word formation. Like parts one and two, you need to fill a gap. However, in part three, you have a stem word which you need to change to fill the gap.
For example, you might see the word LONG as your stem word. You might need to change the word to length or longer or longest, depending on the question.
Let’s look at your sample question:
- What most people find difficult with this curry is how strong and _____ it is.
The stem word with this question is SPICE.
It’s a good idea to read through the question to see what kind of word you need first. Spice can be a noun or a verb—but what do you need in this question?
Do you need a verb? If so, what tense? Do you need an adjective? If so, do you need a regular adjective, a comparative or a superlative?
It refers to the curry, and you can see that the adjective strong is used to describe it.
The gap comes after the words strong and ____, which suggests that you need another adjective here.
Do you know what the adjective from spice is?
The correct answer is spicy.
- What most people find difficult with this curry is how strong and spicy it is.
Let’s do one more example:
- Unfortunately, these farmers are _____ to sell their produce.
The stem word is LIKE.
Look at the grammatical structure of this sentence—can you see what’s missing?
The gap is between the verb to be and the infinitive verb with to, which means that you need an adjective here.
How can you make an adjective from like which fits this sentence?
Likely is an adjective, although it looks like an adverb, and the meaning fits here:
- Unfortunately, these farmers are likely to sell their produce.
But, there’s a problem. Can you see?
Unfortunately refers to something bad, but farmers selling their produce is not a bad thing!
This answer shows a very common problem area for students in this part of the use of English test.
Here’s the correct answer:
- Unfortunately, these farmers are unlikely to sell their produce.
This answer needed a negative prefix for the sentence to make sense.
In the exam, check all of your answers and make sure the meanings are all correct, as well as the grammar!
Let’s move on to part four of the exam, the last part we’ll cover in this video.
4. Part Four of the Reading and Use of English Exam
Part four of the FCE reading and use of English exam has six questions and is called ‘key word transformation’.
Look at a sample question:
- You must do exactly what the teacher tells you.
- You must ____________________instructions exactly.
This is what your question will look like.
You’ll be given a sentence, a key word in capital letters, and then another sentence.
The second sentence will only have the beginning and end, and you have to complete it.
When you complete the sentence, you need to use between two and five words, including the key word. You cannot change the key word in any way.
You need to complete the second sentence so that it means the same as the first sentence given.
Let’s get back to our sample question. Do you know how to answer it?
If you’re not sure, here’s a clue: you need to make a phrasal verb which can be used with the word instructions. Any ideas?
You can carry out instructions. This has a similar meaning to follow instructions.
So, the answer to this question would be:
- You must carry out the teacher’s instructions exactly.
Now, it’s time for you to try one:
- It’s not worth inviting her to the cinema. She will never come.
- There _____________ in inviting her to the cinema. She will never come.
There are a few clues here to help you.
Can you think of a phrase with point that means the same as not worth it?
What other important words are missing in the gap?
Pause the video and try to work out the answer! I’ll be here to tell you when you press play again.
The answer is:
- There is no point in inviting her to the cinema. She will never come.
There’s no point has a very similar meaning to it’s not worth…
There’s no point in doing something is a fixed phrase, which you need to know to answer this question. There’s no other way to use the word point. There’s only one possible answer.
Because this is a complicated part of the exam, it’s a good idea to run through this little checklist after you’ve done the questions. Ask yourself:
- Is the sentence grammatically correct?
- Are the meanings as similar as possible?
- Have you used between two and five words?
- Is the given word exactly the same and not changed at all?
These questions can be worth two points, so even if you only get half of the answer right, you can still get one point for that.
So, even if you don’t know the full answer, try to write something.
Now that we’ve reached the end of this video, you should have a good understanding of the FCE reading and use of English exam parts one to four, and some ideas on how to prepare yourself for it.