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First Certificate in English | Cambridge English: First

The most widely taken of all the Cambridge ESOL exams. It is an upper-intermediate level examination requiring knowledge of all the language skills. FCE has widespread recognition in commerce and industry, e. g. for public contact or secretarial work in banking, airlines, catering, etc., and in individual university faculties, polytechnics and other institutions. This exam is often taken after approx. 500 to 600 hours of study.

Examination content:
Reading (1 hour)
This component consists of 3 parts. Candidates are expected to show understanding of text organisation features, text structure and specific information. Tasks include multiple choice, gapped text, multiple matching. Reading carries 20% of the total marks.
Writing (1 hour and 20 minutes)

This component consists of 2 parts, both carry equal marks. Each task has a given purpose and a target reader.

  1. Compulsory task - letter or email; length: 120-150 words.
  2. Choice from 5 tasks, e.g. an article, an essay, a letter, a report, a review, a story. Length: 120-180 words. Among the 5 options there is always a task based on one of the two prescribed reading texts; the FCE set texts for 2014 are the following:
    • L P Hartley: The Go-Between
    • Sebastian Junger: The Perfect Storm
      The texts are Graded Readers which have been adapted to the level and are suitable for FCE candidates. Other editions of these books may be available. However, teachers and candidates should be aware that the language level in other editions may be less accessible.

Writing carries 20% of the total marks.

Use of English (45 minutes)
This component consists of 4 parts. Candidates are expected to show their lexical and grammatical knowledge by completing a number of tasks including multiple-choice cloze, open cloze, word formation, key word transformations. Use of English carries 20% of the total marks.
Listening (40 minutes)
This component consists of 4 parts. Candidates should show understanding of situation, main ideas, opinion, purpose, specific information, agreement etc. Tasks include multiple choice, sentence completion, multiple matching. Listening carries 20% of the total marks.
Speaking (14 minutes per pair of candidates)
This component consists of 4 parts. Candidates are expected to be able to respond to questions and to interact in conversational English. Focusing on general interactional and social language, expressing and justifying opinion, comparing, describing, negotiating etc. Speaking carries 20% of the total marks.
What grades can I receive?

Candidates receive a standardised score for the whole exam on a fixed scale out of 100. It is not necessary to achieve a satisfactory level in all five papers in order to pass the examination. There are fixed values for each FCE grade:

Grade A = 80-100
Grade B = 75-79
Grade C = 60-74
Level B1 = 45-59
Fail         = 0-44

The minimum score you need to achieve a passing grade is 60. If you have achieved a grade A in your exam, you will receive the First Certificate in English stating that you demonstrated ability at Level C1. If you have achieved grade B od C in your exam, you will be awarded the First Certificate in English at Level B2. If your performance is below Level B2, but falls within Level B1, you will receive a Cambridge English certificate stating that you demonstrated ability at B1 level.

Preparation materials

Textbooks for exam preparation:

  • Objective First Certificate (CUP)
  • New Progress to First Certificate (CUP)
  • Making Progress to First Certificate (CUP)
  • Complete First certificate (CUP)
  • Cambridge Grammar for First Certificate (CUP)
  • Cambridge Vocabulary for First Certificate (CUP)
  • Cambridge First Certificate in English (Past Papers) (CUP)
  • First Certificate Masterclass – updated for the revised exam 2008(OUP)
  • New Success at First Certificate (OUP)
  • First Certificate Knockout (OUP)
  • Countdown to First Certificate New Edition 2008 (OUP)
  • First Certificate Practice Tests, New Edition 2008 (OUP)
  • Fast Class (OUP)
  • FCE Result 2008 (OUP)
  • First Certificate Skills: Use of English (OUP)
  • Activate! 2008 (Pearson Longman)
  • Premium 2008 (Pearson Longman)
  • First Certificate Practice Tests Plus New edition 2008 (Pearson Longman)
  • FCE Gold Plus 2008 (Pearson Longman)
  • Expert FCE New edition 2008 (Pearson Education)
  • Ready for FCE (New Edition – 2008) (Macmillan)
  • Laser FCE (New Edition – 2008)
  • First Certificate Language Practice (Macmillan)
  • First Certificate Testbuilder (Macmillan)
  • Rising Star (Macmillan)
  • First Certificate Star (Macmillan)
  • First Certificate Passkey (Macmillan)
  • Skills for First Certificate Series (Reading, Listening and Speaking, Writing, Use of English) (Macmillan)
  • FCE iTest Access Card (for online practice tests on iTests.com)

You can take computer-based FCE instead of a paper-based test. Find out more by clicking here.

Do you want to register for FCE? Click here for more information about registration.

Cambridge English: First for Schools is an exam particularly targeted at the interests and experience of school pupils. Find out more.

For more information about FCE and useful resources visit the Cambridge ESOL candidate support website - FCE.

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