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 words.


  1. 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 test.
  1. 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 corrections.

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 notebook.


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.



  1. First read the questions highlighting key words.
  2. 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.
  1. Answer the questions analyzing the text.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 example below)

a) Looks correct. (Red Herring)

b) Similar. (Possible)

c) Looks incorrect. (Wrong)

d) Similar. (Possible)

    1. 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.
    2. If there are words you don't know in the texts, use the following notes:
  • A. Identify the part of speech.

    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 understand it?

    C. Does the context (before or after the word) help to explain it?

    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 task.


    Good luck in the composition paper!

    Try a past paper?

    Paper 1 answer sheet