I’ve been posting about Cambridge English Exams for a while, but some texts needed to be updated. As the years progressed, the exams evolved, and some changes occurred along the way. So today, let’s talk a bit about the B2: First, former FCE.
Why do I say “former FCE”? Up until 2017, Cambridge used to name the exam that qualified people at a B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) as FCE (First Certificate in English or Cambridge English First). However, they decided to change it, and now it is known as B2: First. I guess they decided on changing to relate the exam to the CEFR. I think it was a nice change, but people still refer to the B2: First as FCE.
For those familiar with the CEFR table, this is the fourth level out of six. As you can see below.
THE TEST FORMAT
The B2 First test is divided into four sections: Reading and Use of English, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. Each section is composed of different parts, and each one carries different marks, as you can see below:
- Reading and Use of English consist of 52 questions divided into seven parts. You have up to 1 hour and 15 minutes to finish the exam. In this exam, questions 1-24 and 43-53 carry one mark; questions 25-30 carry up to two marks, and questions 31-42 bear two marks. You will come across exercises such as multiple-choice questions, open cloze, word formation, gapped text, and multiple matching.
- Parts 1-4: you read a range of texts and do grammar and vocabulary tasks.
- Parts 5-7: you read a series of texts and answer questions that test your reading ability and show that you can deal with a variety of different types of texts.
- Listening consists of 30 questions divided into four parts. The tracks will be played twice before moving on to the following piece. The full recording takes approximately 40 minutes, and all questions carry one mark for each correct answer.
- Part 1: one multiple-choice questions for each of eight short conversations. You have to choose A, B or C.
- Part 2: complete the sentences from a 3-minute monologue.
- Part 3: 5 30-second monologues from which you have to select five correct options out of eight possible answers.
- Part 4: multiple-choice questions for a 3-4-minute conversation. You have to choose A, B, C or D.
- Writing consists of two parts, in which you are asked to write two different types of texts. For both parts, you are required to write 140-190 words. You have up to 1 hour and 20 minutes to finish writing both texts.
- Part 1 (compulsory task): You’re given an essay title and two ideas clearly linked to the title. Write an essay giving your opinions about the title, using the ideas given. You must also add a third, different idea of your own linked to the title
- Part 2 (situationally based writing task): You write a text from a choice of text types – article, email/letter, report or review. To guide your writing, you’ll be given information about context, topic purpose and target reader.
- Speaking consists of a 14-minute talk divided into four parts. The exam should be done in pairs or a trio.
- Part 1: brief introductory exchanges for 2 minutes. The examiner will ask questions to each of the candidates individually. You may have to give information about your interests, studies, careers, etc.
- Part 2: you have to speak for 1 minute without interruption about 2 pictures provided to you, the interlocutor then asks the other candidate to comment on your photograph for about 30 seconds. After that, it’s your turn to comment on your peer’s long turn. The questions you have to answer about your photographs are written at the top of the page to remind you what you should talk about.
- Part 3: you will discuss some ideas based on written prompts with the other candidate(s) for 2 minutes. After the discussion, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have 1 minutes to make a decision.
- Part 4: you will discuss for 4-5 minutes the topics from part 3 in more depth.
Depending on the center, you will not be able to sit for all parts in one go, and there is a chance that the speaking part will be scheduled on a different day. So, make sure you check all the dates beforehand so that you won’t miss any part of the exam, which can be extremely damaging to your overall performance. Also, the test can be paper-based or computer-based. There are not many differences, but you should think about which one is best for you.
ASSESSMENT AND GRADES
Candidates who get a B2: First qualification are considered to have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study on courses taught in English.
It is worth considering that now Cambridge gives you a certificate no matter the grade you get. For instance, if you register for the B2: First, but end up getting a lower grade, you will not be left without a certificate – as it used to be before -, but instead, you will get a B1: Preliminary certificate if that is the case. On the other hand, if you get a terrible grade, you won’t get either a B2: First certificate or a B1: Preliminary certificate. The Cambridge website explains it better with the model below:
So, if you end up getting lower than 140 in your B2: First exam, then it will be a fail. Otherwise, you still have the chance to get a certificate.
STATEMENT OF RESULTS
Each person who sits for the exam will have a statement of results. In it, you will find out how well you did in each part, all divided. Besides that, you will also get your average and grade. If your score is appropriate for the level you registered for, you will get the Statement of Results and the certificate. The Statement of Results will come out around a month after the exam, and you can check it online, while the certificate usually takes around two months to arrive at the center you sat for the exam.
I had been teaching English for about three years when I sat for my first Cambridge English Exam. This is my Statement of Results. As you can see, back in 2011, they still called it FCE. Also, you can check for the grades, and how well I did in the Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Use of English.
When you register to B2: First, you will need to pay a fee of around USD 245.00, but it varies depending on the currency and the center. For that reason, on the Cambridge website, you can find a center near you and check all the requirements and values accurately.
HOW TO STUDY FOR THE FCE?
You can take a course, or study by yourself using books provided by Cambridge Assessment English:
I will be talking more extensively about each part in the following posts. However, should you have any questions about this exam, feel free to leave a comment and ask! I would love to hear from you and help you out with whatever you may want to know about them!
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Have a great week,