Cambridge English: First (FCE)

An Upper Intermediate-level (B2) exam requiring knowledge of all the language skills for work or study purposes. First (FCE) has widespread recognition in commerce and industry.

This exam is often taken after approx. 500 to 600 hours of study* by students in secondary school.

The exam was updated in 2015 and is offered in two versions: Cambridge English: First (FCE) and Cambridge English: First (FCE) for Schools. Both versions assess the same level, have the same exam format (four papers) and lead to the same qualification – the First Certificate in English. The topics in the First (FCE) for Schools version, however, target the interests and experiences of school-aged students.

Teacher's resources Student's resources

Reading and Use of English TOTAL 75 MINS
7 parts, 52 questionsShows students can deal confidently with different types of text, such as fiction, newspapers and magazines. Tests students' use of English with tasks that show how well they can control their grammar and vocabulary.
Writing  TOTAL 80 MINS
2 partsRequires students to be able to produce two different pieces of writing (140–190 words each). Students must write an essay and then choose between a letter/email, a review, a report or an article.
ListeningAPPROX. 40 MINS
4 parts, 30 questionsRequires students to be able to follow and understand a range of spoken materials, such as news programmes, presentations and everyday conversations.
4 partsTests students' ability to communicate effectively in face-to-face situations. Students take the Speaking test with one or two other candidates.


Teacher's Resources for First

First Listening – Teacher's Notes

Help students develop their listening comprehension skills with four classroom tasks around different ways to use dictation.

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First Reading – Teacher's Notes

A selection of tasks to set as homework or use as an end-of-lesson activity to help prepare your students for the Reading component of their First exam.

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First Speaking – Teacher's Notes

From preparing set phrases to introduce opinions to evaluating videos of real Speaking tests, these tasks offer a variety of different ways to approach speaking practice in class.

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First Writing – Teacher's Notes

Covering some of the most common errors candidates make in the First Writing test, these tasks encourage students to work together to evaluate and improve their written discourse.

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Student's Resources for First

For your First (FCE) exam you will be expected to sit four papers: Reading & Use of English, Listening, Writing and Speaking. Reading & Use of English is worth 40% of the total mark, and the remaining three papers are each worth 20%.

A low mark in one section does not necessarily mean you will fail the exam; it is the overall mark which counts. So if you are a strong speaker but a weak reader, you can use the marks from your speaking to balance out your low reading marks and still pass.  

First Listening – Student's Notes

An overview of the four parts to the Listening test, with tips to help you predict questions and focus on providing grammatically correct answers.

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First Reading and Use of English – Student's Notes

Many candidates feel especially nervous taking this part of the exam. This guide offers key strategies to tackle both the Reading and the Use of English parts of the paper.

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First Speaking – Student's Notes

In the Speaking exam, you will be tested on correct use of vocabulary, pronunciation and communication. Here are some tips to help you familiarise yourself with the types of questions that you will be asked.

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First Writing – Student's Notes

A general overview of the two parts in the Writing paper which includes a compulsory essay in Part 1, and a choice of three tasks in Part 2.

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*The information above suggests how many hours students might need to spend to reach each level of the CEFR, but these figures are intended as a guideline only. Students may require more or less time and support depending on their own needs.