Exámenes Cambridge

Tips for passing the FCE exam

Many student’s at Let’s Talk English Center in Valencia ask what tips they can use to pass the FCE exam and these are some I always recommend.

Listening – when doing the listening exam, audio’s always play twice, the first time it plays just listen and try to take in the theme, content and context, make notes if you can. Then when the second recording starts, fill in the answers required. Many students become too preoccupied on writing in their answer that they miss lots of details and therefore choose incorrect answers.

Speaking – take your time, don’t rush your answer, it is better to speak slower, clearer and make fewer mistakes than use all of the time whilst also making a lot of errors. Listen to your partner during the discussion part 3 of the exam and take inspiration from their answers, they may remind you of some vocabulary you forgot or give you an idea of something else to mention.

FCE Speaking Test example

Writing – check, check and check again! So many students make grammar mistakes simply because they write while rushing and don’t read back their work properly. These grammar mistakes are easy ones that students would easily recognize in other people’s work and in grammar activities. Be careful with synonyms, although synonyms technically mean a similar/the same thing, in English we don’t usually use these interchangeably, some are more appropriate in certain contexts than others.

Reading – During the UoE part, sometimes it helps to use your common sense, think about what answer would most likely fit due to the context. In part 4 it’s important to think about the tense and personal pronouns that have been used in the first sentence as this you will usually need to replicate in the second. During the Reading part try to read slowly and carefully as even one word misread could change the context. First read the article and try to only focus on understanding what its about, imagine you’re Reading an article about something you enjoy and want to know more about. The second time you read the article is when you should search for the answers.


How to make B2 writing into C2 level

My students often ask me how to improve their writing level.  Writing is a process and the more a student writes the more they improve. Nevertheless, there are several helpful hints to improve sentence structure.  I have found that many students studying for C2 often just insert advanced vocabulary words into their writing without giving thought to style or logic.

Here are some helpful hints.  Obviously before doing this exercise students will need to review the following concepts:

  • How to do inversion.
  • The passive tense.
  • Adverbs of degree.
  • Figurative Language (metaphor/simile/personification).
  • Key vocabulary for the exercise.

Have them begin by working from a simple sentence structure to a complex. 

Begin with a simple sentence:
I eat cherries.

Add an adverb to the verb:
I slowly eat cherries.

Add a color/adjective to the noun:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries.

Add a clause:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries that I got from the tree.

Improve the language in the clause following the steps above:
I slowly eat blood-red cherries that I got painstakingly from the auburn maple tree in the park.

Check to see if you can improve vocabulary (verbs/nouns) to make it more complex:
I slowly savour blood-red cherries that I snatched from the auburn maple tree nestled in the park.

Invert the sentence/ improve the tense:
Blood-red cherries snatched from the auburn tree nestled in the park were slowly savoured by me.

…and Voila!  B2 becomes C2



En qué consiste el writing?
Lo más importante que debes saber es que tienes que escribir 2 textos de entre 140 y 190 palabras en 1hora y 20minutos. Es muy importante que no te falten palabras pero que tampoco te sobren.

En la parte 1 tendrás que escribir un ESSAY dando tu opinión sobre un tema específico, usando como puntos a tratar dos ideas que te proporcionaran además de una a tu elección.

“Aquí tienes un ejemplo:
You have had a discussion in your English class about teaching materials for schools. Now your English teacher has asked you to write an essay.
Write an essay using all the notes and give reasons for your point of view.

Schools should spend more on computers and software than on textbooks. Do you agree?
Write about:
1) which is better for education
2) which are more enjoyable to use
3)……………………………… (your own idea)”

(source: First Trainer, Cambridge University Press)

Es muy importante que te tomes unos minutos para hacer un buen writing plan. En primer lugar, tienes que obtener ideas, escribirlas y por último ordenarlas.

Cada idea nueva que proporciones debe estar justificada, por lo que es mejor escribir sobre una en cada párrafo, siempre justificada y/o con un ejemplo. NO escribas listas interminables de ideas sin decir por qué. Recuerda usar los conectores adecuados en todo momento.

La elección del tema a tratar no es aleatoria. Debes identificar el tema (en ese caso sería educación y nuevas tecnologías), hacer una pequeña lista de palabras y usarlas en tu redacción.

Introduce el tema de una forma general e informa al lector del contenido de tu redacción. No empieces ofreciendo tu opinión directamente.  En la conclusión, resume los puntos principales y plasma tu opinión.
Es muy importante que cuides el contenido de la conclusión, ya que será lo último que lea el examinador y tiene que ser coherente con lo que has escrito. NO añadas nuevas ideas aquí.

Por último, lee cuidadosamente antes de entregar. Corrige faltas de ortografía y asegúrate de que no repites palabras, piensa en estructuras gramaticales y expresiones que hagan que tu redacción tenga el nivel adecuado.


En la parte 2 podrás elegir 1 entre 3 opciones de los siguientes formatos: article, report, letter or email (formal/informal) and a  review. En la próxima entrada te contamos en qué consiste cada uno!



Cambridge PET Exam Day and Speaking Tips

On test day basic rules



  • Look at the date, time, and location of the exam and the travel time to arrive.
  • Arrive early.
  • Bring your identification card.
  • Relax!


  • Bring your phone or anything electronic inside the exam room.
  • Speak to other candidates in the exam room.
  • Bring food or drinks.

What to expect:

  • Your identification will be checked.
  • Be given a mark sheet – do not fold it.
  • Follow any instructions that you are given.
  • You can practice speaking (quietly) to other candidates while in the waiting area.
  • In the room, there will be the interlocker, the assessor, and the other candidate(s).
  • You will be given an equal amount of time to speak.
  • If the interlocker interrupts you, don’t worry!  This means you have spoken for the entire section.


Speaking Part Tips



  • Listen carefully to the instructions and questions.
  • Speak loud and clear to be understood well.
  • Be sure to use every opportunity to speak.
  • Start the discussion with your partner and always respond to what they say.


  • Memorize your answers.
  • Interrupt your partner when they are speaking.
  • Have long pauses between speaking.
  • Never be scared or nervous to ask for the interlocker or your partner to repeat themselves.

There are 4 parts to the speaking paper.  Although it may seem strange, it is recommended that you practice before the exam by recording yourself completing an entire speaking paper and then listening to the recording.  You will be surprised at how well you did, and you will hear some of the errors you make.

Part 1

Questions about your past, present, and future will be asked.  Always answer in full sentences, not a few words.

Part 2

You and your partner will be given a situation and various photographs.  You will discuss the situation and the photographs and come to an agreement at the end.  Always keep the conversation going, be active in the discussion!

Part 3

Here, you and your partner will each be given a photograph.  They will be different but have the same theme.  Speak for as long as possible.  It is good if the interlocker stops you!  Be sure to describe the picture, refer to different features of the picture, and speculate.

Part 4

Again, you will speak with your partner.  Generally, part 4 is an extension of the given theme in part 3.   Speak with your partner!  This is important.  The interlocker wants to see and hear that you can maintain a conversation in English.  Giving opinions and personal experiences is a must.

Topics for the PET exam include:

Family & Friends


Free time activities

Travel & Holidays

Television & Films


Daily Life and Health









Consejos para la parte 2 del Speaking de CAE

Speaking Part 2 (the dreaded pictures) is often one of the most difficult sections of the Cambridge CAE exam for students to pass. However, with proper training and practice, this section is easily mastered.

To begin with, CAE exam topics normally revolve around similar categories:

  • Science and technology
  • Climate and environment
  • Work and professional fields
  • Relationships
  • Hobbies and sports
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Health
  • Moods and emotions
  1. Students should begin by learning vocabulary, phrasal verbs, set expressions, collocations, adverbs and adjectives related to each of the categories.  It is useful to brainstorm using random pictures as prompts.
  2. Secondly, Part 2 asks the candidate to answer two questions related to the pictures.  These questions normally require an answer regarding on skill sets, emotions  (i.e. adjectives and adverbs)  

    Some examples of typical questions are:
    What do you think the people are feeling?
    What skill is being taught?
    What are their personalities like?
  3. Students should learn to compare and contrast elements using the correct discourse markers/ modifiers and linkers.  (regarding, nevertheless, on the other hand, in contrast to, etc…..)
  4. Students should remember that this is a very quick exercise with lots of required detail.  They should NOT spend time describing all of the objects in the photo (as in FCE/ PET).  They must the task and answer the questions in 2-3 minding the time.

FCE TOP TIP. Exam Timing



¿Cuánto tiempo debes dedicarle a cada parte del examen?

Como ya sabrás, Cambridge es muy generoso con los fantásticos “phrasal verbs” pero no lo es tanto con el tiempo y esto puede llegar a ser un problema si no te entrenas bien antes de la prueba oficial. Cada persona tiene dificultades en diferentes partes y puede tardar más o menos pero, en general, ésta sería una buena guía para tener el tiempo bajo control:


READING AND USE OF ENGLISH (1hour 15 minutes)

Use of English 1 (Multiple Choice) 5 minutos

Use of English 2 (Open Cloze) 5 minutos

Use of English 3 (Word formation) 5 minutos

Use of English 4 (Key Word Transformation) 10 minutos

Puedes tardar un poco más o menos pero intenta no superar los 25’, ya que vas a necesitar tiempo para copiar las respuestas!


Dedica unos 15 minutos por parte. 45 minutos en total

De esta forma, necesitaremos unos 25 minutos para el use of English y 45 minutos para el Reading + unos 5 minutos para copiar las respuestas.



Libros para preparar el First


A la hora de elegir el material adecuado para preparar el FCE, es importante tener en cuenta varios factores. Entre ellos, si eres autodidacta o asistes a clases en grupo y por otra parte, el tiempo que tengas para dedicarle.


Si estás asistiendo a clases guiadas por un profesor, él/ella seguramente elegirá el material a usar en clase.

  • Nosotros aquí en Let’s Talk English Center Valencia solemos trabajar con el Gold First Coursebook (Pearson) para cursos académicos de 8 meses.
  • Para cursos semi-académicos de 5-6 meses elegimos el Compact First, el cual es perfecto para trabajar en este período de tiempo. Ambos cursos están complementamos con recursos adicionales de vocabulario, listening, actividades de speaking y vídeos.
  • En cursos intensivos nuestro libro predilecto es el FCE Trainer (Cambridge University Press), el cual consta de 6 exámenes completos, dos de ellos con un entrenamiento previo para cada una de las partes.



Si eres más bien autodidacta y tienes que elegir tu propio material, tienes que tener en cuenta el nivel des del que partes.

  • Si ya has hecho algún curso de B2/FCE antes y tienes un nivel alto, lo más recomendable es que refuerces técnica de examen. Para esto el FCE Trainer es perfecto, combinado con Grammar and Vocabulary for First Certificate. Ambos incluyen las respuestas y el audio.
  • Si dispones de más tiempo, lo mejor es que adquieras el Gold First + Gold Exam Maximiser de Pearson o el Complete First de Cambridge. Recuerda hacer exámenes completos de forma periódica para seguir tu evolución y reforzar tus puntos más débiles. Tampoco olvides de practicar la parte del Speaking con alguien, te ayudará a ir mejor preparado y relajado al examen oficial.

Cambridge CAE Speaking Exam Tips


Cómo mejorar la pronunciación a través de la lecturas con audio

Para aquellos interesados en reforzar tanto vocabulario como compresión oral os recomiendo una lectura graduada adaptada a vuestro nivel. Realizar una primera lectura sin escuchar el audio, para así poder centraros en la trama y el vocabulario nuevo.

Tras esta primera lectura, os recomiendo una segunda lectura escuchando el audio al mismo tiempo, de esta forma podéis asociar la pronunciación que oís a la forma escrita. Aunque no parezca algo muy importante, es un ejercicio fundamental para mejorar la comprensión auditiva, ya que muchas veces los alumnos reconocen perfectamente el significado y uso de una palabra al verla en un texto pero desconocen por completo su correcta pronunciación y por lo tanto les resulta muy difícil comprender un diálogo oral.

El primer paso para pronunciar correctamente es establecer la conexión entre la forma oral y la escrita. Por último os recomiendo realizar una tercera lectura, escuchando el audio y leyendo en voz alta el texto. De esta forma incluimos el ejercicio de expresión oral prestando atención a la correcta pronunciación y entonación. Este último ejercicio se puede repetir tantas veces como se desee.cathat


Passing the speaking part of the Cambridge Exams (FCE, CAE, CPE levels)


For the last four years I have been preparing students for the speaking part of the Cambridge Exams. I have outlined below many of the problems that students encounter:

1. Grammatical Errors:
Nerves take a toll on students and the even basic grammar rules are bypassed. BE CAREFUL with verb tenses. In upper-level exams these errors are very critical.

2. Connectors:
These words must become part of everyday language and not remain as memorized vocabulary. A connector embellishes language and keeps the conversation flowing. Practice using these words in writing and everyday speech. They are essential.

3. Vocabulary Level:
In upper-level exams, the students must use vocabulary for the level. For example:
In a FCE exam it is not enough to say:
“The man is wearing a jacket and looks happy.” (B1 level)
instead of
“ The man is wearing an elegant jacket and seems confident in the situation.”

4. Listening:
It is possible that you might not understand the question that the examiner has asked you. That’s OK, you can counter or buy time by phrases such as:
“I’m not sure what you mean?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand the question?”
If you are working with a partner on a dialogue I cannot express how important it is to LISTEN to your partner. The dialogue is supposed to be a natural conversation and if you are only focusing on the next picture the entire exercise seems strained.

5. Pronunciation :
There are many free apps available on the internet if you need to practice specific words. It doesn’t matter what English accent you choose to emulate, but it must be consistent. Be careful with the vowels and the –ed endings.

Weeks before the exam you should be practicing the speaking section almost every other day so that when the exam date arrives, it should be almost automatic. You can record your voice at home and detect your mistakes if you don’t have the opportunity to practice with a teacher.