The Cambridge First
Certificate in English Examination
The Reading Test - Paper 1
(1 hour 15 minutes)
By Viv Quarry
The FCE Reading paper is in four parts. There are 35 questions
based on a variety of texts of a total of between 1,900 - 2,300
BEFORE THE TEST
- There is very little pre-exam preparation that you can do
just before the reading test. Your ability in reading
will depend on how much you have read throughout the
duration of your course. You should have experience of a
wide range of reading texts, including: Letters (formal
and informal), messages, newspapers, magazine articles
and advertisements, timetables, reports, brochures,
guides, manuals, interviews, book or film reviews,
discussions / opinions, and narratives. Students should
have experience of various narratives (stories), and
should have read a variety or readers (simplified
stories) at levels 3, 4 and 5. Completing the questions
on the texts (found at the back of most readers) will
help you to deal more effectively with the FCE reading
- Make sure that you have got a highlighting pen to mark
areas in a text, a pencil and several reserves to mark
the answer paper and an efficient rubber to make
Specific areas from your notebook to revise:
1. Phrasal verbs. 2. Idioms and slang. 3.
Linking words. 4. Vocabulary from all vocabulary groups in your
Part 1 - Multiple matching (6 or 7 questions)
You will be given a list of items (summarizing the main
points), and will have to match them to the appropriate element
in a text.
Part 2 - Multiple choice (7 or 8 questions)
There will be a text followed by four-option multiple choice
questions relating to details in the text.
Part 3 - Gapped text (6 or 7 questions)
You will see a text from which sentences or paragraphs have
been removed. You have to say which sentence goes in which gap.
Part 4 - Multiple matching or choice (13-15 questions)
A combination of either part 1 or part 2.
- First read the questions highlighting key words.
- Read the text from start to finish highlighting areas
which may relate to questions and noting the number of
the question beside the highlighted area.
- Answer the questions analyzing the text.
- DO NOT SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON ONE QUESTION! It is common
in Cambridge exams to put a question at the start of the
test which a native speaker would find difficult. The
reason they do this is to see if the student will spend a
long time trying to answer the question (and still
probably get it wrong), and then run out of time so he or
she hasn't got time to answer the easier questions later
in the test.
- If you find a question difficult, make a note of the
question number and leave it until you have finished all
of the questions that you can answer. Go back to it at
the end, and if you still can't answer it, guess.
- In multiple choice questions, there are often two answers
which are similar, one which looks correct and is usually
a 'red herring' - this means an answer which looks
correct at first sight (it may include words taken from
the text) but it is there to distract you, and one answer
which is completely wrong. The correct answer will
usually be found as one of the two similar answers. (See
a) Looks correct. (Red Herring)
b) Similar. (Possible)
c) Looks incorrect. (Wrong)
d) Similar. (Possible)
A. Identify the part of speech.
- At the end of the exam, make sure that you have
answered all of the questions on the answer
paper. If there are any questions that you
haven't been able to answer, guess the answer. In
the FCE, you won't lose marks for incorrect
answers, so guess and in a multiple choice
question you stand a one in four chance of
getting it correct by accident.
- If there are words you don't know in the texts,
use the following notes:
Is it: a noun, a verb,
an adjective, an adverb, a preposition or a linking word?
B. Are there any prefixes and suffixes to help me
C. Does the context (before or after the word) help to
D. Is there a word in my language which is similar?
Yes - Is it a false friend?
If none of these notes help you you'll have to ignore the
word and hope that it isn't essential to completing the
Good luck in the composition paper!