All the questions in parts five and six are worth two marks each. The questions in part seven are worth one mark each.
Let’s look at each part of the exam in more detail.
1. How to Answer FCE Reading Multiple-Choice Questions
In part five of the FCE Reading and Use of English Exam, you’ll be given a longer text, with six questions at the end.
Each question is multiple choice, with four possible answers.
The questions in part five often focus on understanding people’s feelings and ideas, instead of simple facts about the text.
Look at this sample question:
- She looked around the coffee house once more, and was about to go to the counter to make enquiries when the door opened. A scruffy woman with bleary eyes and her hair uncombed had walked in, still tucking her shirt in.
“Are you Mrs Greene? I’ve come for the meeting, I’m your new assistant,” said Jane cheerfully.
The woman nodded and grunted, dropping her bag on the seat opposite Jane’s. She gestured to the counter and ordered herself a large coffee.
Pause the video and read it.
This is an extract from the longer text. Look at the multiple-choice question that goes with it:
What can be inferred about the woman who walked into the coffee house?
- a. She was a regular customer at the coffee house.
- b. She had not expected Jane.
- c. She wasn’t really Mrs Greene.
- d. She had just woken up.
Remember that inferred refers to something that is not directly said.
That means that you need an overall understanding of the text, its ideas, and how the people mentioned in the text might be feeling. You won’t generally be able to find one word or phrase which gives you the answer.
So, you have to look for clues to see what people are thinking, or how they feel.
Can you work out what the answer is?
If it’s difficult, re-read the text and try to eliminate some of the possible answers.
When you read the text again, there is no mention of the woman being a regular customer, or of not being the real Mrs Greene. She might be a regular customer of course, but there aren’t any clues in the text that suggest that. So, you can cross out options ‘a’ and ‘c’.
That leaves only ‘b’ and ‘d’.
At this point, you could guess and have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. But, of course, it’s better to figure out the correct answer.
Option ‘b’ says: “She had not expected Jane.”
This might seem possible, especially since the woman doesn’t even talk to her! But, the fact that the woman knew the time and place to arrive doesn’t fit with that.
And look at what Jane says in the text: “…I’ve come for the meeting, I’m your new assistant,” said Jane cheerfully.”
She says that she already is the new assistant, which means that she is definitely expected, so this can’t be the right answer.
Now look at option ‘d’ again: “She had just woken up.”
Look at the text again. Can you find any clues that might show that the woman had recently been asleep?
In the text, the woman is described as having “bleary eyes” and “grunting” at Jane, before ordering “a large coffee.” All of these are things you might have or do when you’ve just woken up.
This shows that the correct answer is ‘d’: “She had just woken up.”
To prepare for this part of the test, it’s useful to read stories, interviews, or maybe blog posts; read texts which focus more on people, their thoughts, opinions and feelings.
As you read, try to infer meaning from the clues in the text.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What’s this person’s opinion? How do I know?
- What kind of person is this? How do I know?
Asking yourself these kinds of questions while reading will help improve your reading level in English and you’ll be more likely to get a better score in your FCE reading and use of English exam.
Now, let’s move on to part six!
2. How to Answer FCE Reading Missing Sentence Questions
In this part of the exam, there will be one, shorter text, with six sentences missing. The six missing sentences will be given to you in random order after the text.
A seventh, extra sentence that wasn’t removed from the text will be there as well, just to confuse you!
You have to read the text, then the sentences, and decide which sentence fits in which gap.
Let’s look at part of a sample question:
- It starts at an early age, this daily routine, because it has to. ________ But, for a gymnast in particular, this lengthy period has to start before the effects of adolescence set in, while children can still achieve maximum flexibility.
As before, you can pause the video to have time to read the text and think about what might be missing.
You can see that the first sentence in the text has finished. However, after the gap, the text starts with but.
What does that mean?
It means that you’re looking for a contrasting idea. Do you see how the structure of the text can give you an idea of what to look for?
This is important, because a common mistake is only to pay attention to the words before the gap. You need to pay attention to the words after the gap, too, because they can be equally important.
Look at the text again. You need a contrasting idea, but what could the contrast in the text be?
Now, look at the missing sentences. Can you see which one is the correct answer?
- a. The principle is the same in the gym—pushing yourself to your limit, but not beyond, will eventually give you the desired result.
- b. It takes at least a decade of high-quality, regular practice to become an expert in any physical discipline.
- c. Through endless practice at their daily exercises, gymnasts develop the neural pathways in the brain that are necessary to control accurate, fast and smooth movement.
Okay, do you know which is the correct answer?
The correct answer is ‘b’. Do you know why?
In the text, it says:
- But, for a gymnast in particular, this lengthy period has to start before the effects of adolescence set in…
The key words here are in particular.
The text is talking about gymnasts in particular, so the missing sentence isn’t specifically about gymnasts.
Answer ‘c’ specifically mentions gymnasts, so that needs to be eliminated. That leaves only answers ‘a’ and ‘b’ that are more general.
If you get stuck, look for other clues. There’s often more than one clue which can lead you to the correct answer.
The text mentions a lengthy period. When you read answers ‘a’ and ‘b’ again, you can see that ‘b’ mentions at least a decade, which is also a lengthy period.
Of course, in the exam, you will have seven sentences to read through, not three, and the text will be longer, but the principle is the same.
Remember the main points here:
- Pay attention to the words before and after the gap.
- Think about what kind of idea is missing: is it an example, a contrasting idea, an extension of an idea already in the text, or something else?
- Look for any clues that can confirm or eliminate a possible answer; remember that there could be more than one way to find the right answer.
Next, let’s talk about part seven of the reading and use of English exam.
3. How to Answer FCE Multiple Matching Questions
Part seven is another kind of matching activity. This time, you’ll have ten questions, followed by one long text or several shorter texts. Each section of the text will have a letter, for example, A – D.
You’ll need to match each question to the correct section of the text. Each section can be used more than once.
The most important skill here is skimming: you need to be able to read a text quickly and find the most important pieces of information.
Let’s look at a sample question so you can see what to expect.
First, read the instructions:
- You are going to read an article in which four people comment on a film they have seen recently. For questions 1-10, choose from the people A-D. The people may be chosen more than once.
In the exam you’ll get ten questions, but let’s look at two questions so you can practise this part now. Here are the questions:
- Which person saw a film that…
- 1) Contained two stories.
- 2) Finished in an unrealistic way.
Now, look at four extracts from a text. We’ve shortened them for the video, so they’ll be longer in the exam, but this will show you what to expect:
- A. They can obviously come up with a story that is appealing to a large number of people, but it lacks anything original. There’s nothing unique. It just uses the same sort of plot and characters as you can see in many other mediocre films.
- B. However, the parallel story, the part that is set in the present, is not quite so good. I found myself just flicking through that part so that I could get back to 1920s New York.
- C. Although I loved the film and have seen it many times, the ending is a bit of a disappointment. A story which involves so much chaos, in a setting that has an uncertain future, should not have a happy-ever-after fairy-tale ending.
- D. The characters are portrayed as being intelligent, but they do such stupid things! And as for it being a love story – marrying someone you don’t love and then being abused by them – that doesn’t spell love to me.
Pause the video and read the extracts, then start again when you’re ready.
Get more practice with this topic in an Oxford Online English listening lesson: Talking About Films.
In this part of the test, you’re looking for similar ideas that can be expressed in different ways.
Let’s look at the first question:
- Which person saw a film that contained two stories?
This is an easier question, as the text directly mentions one of the films having two stories. Can you see which one?
The correct answer is B. Can you see why?
The key words here are parallel story. If there are parallel stories, there must be at least two.
This question is relatively easy, by FCE standards.
However, with other questions, you’ll need to use inference and understand indirect meanings to find the right answer.
Now, look at the second question:
- Which person saw a film that finished in an unrealistic way?
Read the text again; can you figure out the answer?
A is complaining about a lack of originality, but it doesn’t say it finished unrealistically.
B mentions that only one part of the film held their interest, which also doesn’t fit. You can immediately eliminate those two options.
That leaves you with just two options: C or D.
C says that a setting with an uncertain future shouldn’t have a happy ending, while D complains that the love story doesn’t seem like love to her.
Do you know the correct answer?
D does complain about a lack of realism, because he or she says that the supposedly intelligent characters do stupid things. However, the question relates to an unrealistic ending, not a general lack of realism.
C is the only answer which fits, because C complains that the ending does not fit with the overall setting and mood of the film, i.e. it’s unrealistic.
Now that you’ve reached the end of this two-part video series, you should have a good understanding of the FCE reading and use of English exam, and some ideas on how to practice and prepare yourself for it
Good luck if you have an FCE exam coming up soon!