3 Tips for Success of the Cambridge First and Advanced Exams
For language learners around the world passing the Cambridge English language exams is a key that can open many new doors. The two most important, and popular, of these exams are the Cambridge First (FCE) and the Cambridge Advanced (CAE) exams to get a B2 and C1 English language certificate, respectively. In some countries, like Spain for example, having at least a B2 certificate in English is imperative – it’s almost impossible to get a job without it. Around the world, though, the Cambridge English language exams are accepted and respected.
In this blog we’ve collected 3 tips from the experienced, CELTA-qualified teachers at Ingla School of English in London and Ingla.Online to help you succeed on these exams.
Tip 1: Use prediction to your advantage
Using prediction doesn’t mean making a wild guess. It means using your background knowledge and logic to help you focus and reduce the number of possible answers. This is a skill that can be used on any part of the exam. For example in Listening Part 2: Sentence Completion (on both the FCE and CAE exams) requires you to complete gaps with words that a speaker says. By using prediction and logic, you can already have a good idea of the answer before you even listen.
Here’s an example of what this section of the exam looks like. Before you listen to a person talking about the Gaelic language of Scotland, you have about a minute to look at the question paper. In gap number 9, using your background knowledge of grammar, you know that you are going to be listening for an adjective. Before the gap you have “a very” (a singular article and an intensifying adverb), and after the gap you have “language” (a noun), so grammatically you need an adjective in the gap. Using logic, and the context of the sentence, we see that this language “used to” be spoken – which means the language was a past habit that isn’t true anymore. From this we know that the adjective can’t be related to “new” or “modern” things. So now we know, even before we listen, that we are going to listen for an adjective and it’s probably going to be “old”, “ancient”, or something similar. In numbers 10 and 11, we can do something similar. It’s obvious from the context that we need to write a number. Again, using our logic, we see that gap 11 is asking you for the number of people who speak a “dead” language, so we know that it will be a very small number, maybe even zero.
This skill isn’t just for listening. You can use this on any part of the exam (Reading, Use of English, etc.) in which you are asked to give information and you aren’t given options to choose from
Tip 2: Use “skimming” and “scanning” to focus your reading
On the Reading and Use of English section of the Cambridge exams you have limited time. For the FCE exam you have just 1 hour and 15 minutes, and one the CAE 3 exam only 1 and a half hours. Under the pressure of exam conditions you won’t have the time to read every single word closely. Our second tip is to develop reading strategies to get the most out of the articles in a short space of time. “Skimming” is the skill of moving your eyes quickly over the page to get the general meaning of the text. This is useful on the Cambridge exams to identify the section or paragraph where you will find the answer to a question. “Skim” quickly to find the section, and then read only that section in detail. Another skill is “scanning”. This is moving your eyes quickly over an article looking only for specific words. First, you must identify unique keywords in a question and then search for these words by “scanning” an article. When you find that word, then you can read only that section. Learning these two skills will serve you well. They will increase your reading speed and make you more efficient.
Tip 3: Cross out repeated information in Use of English Part 4 (Key Word Transformations)
Use of English Part 4 can be a very confusing section for many students taking the Cambridge English exams. One way to remove distractions is to cross out information in the original sentence that is repeated in the transformed sentence. Here’s what we mean:
This is an example of a Keyword Transformation. You must take the original sentence and rewrite it using the word “point”. The two sentences must have exactly the same meaning. If you remove repeated words, though, it’s easier to focus on what you need to transform.
When you do this, you’re left only with the information that you need to transform. In this case “Asking her…is a waste of time”. Now you may know that if something is a waste of time, we say “there’s no point” doing it (notice the -ing verb after the expression “there’s no point”). This gives us the final answer “There’s no point asking her the same question again and again”. Sometimes Keyword Transformations can be tricky, but this is a good tip to stop you from feeling lost and help you focus only on necessary information.
That’s all for now. We hope that these 3 tips have been useful and that, whatever your level, you use them to help you to achieve success on the Cambridge English exams. Remember, even small things can have a big impact. Good luck and check Ingla’s blog regularly to find more tips for exams like Cambridge, IELTS, and Trinity!