FCE Reading – What is it and how can I prepare?

by / Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Since January 2015 the Reading and Use of English exam papers have been combined. This exam is made up of seven parts in total. The first three parts test your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar while then next three parts focus more on reading comprehension.

This blog will focus on the final three parts of the exam.

What skills are being tested?

  • Reading for detail, specific information, opinion, tone, purpose, main idea, implication and attitude
  • Reading to understand the structure and development of a text

What questions types are there?

  • Multiple Choice (six multiple-choice questions with four options to answer from –A,B,C,D)
  • Gapped Text (filling in six gaps in a text from a choice of paragraphs)
  • Multiple Matching (matching statements to an appropriate text or section of a text)

What different text types will I need to read?

  • Newspaper , magazine and journal articles
  • Extracts from books (fiction and non-fiction)
  • Promotional and informational material

How can I prepare for the exam?

One of the biggest problems students face is reading all the texts and answering the questions in the time given. In order to improve in this area, students need to be more aware the two main reading subskills – skimming and scanning.

How can I improve my skimming skills?

Skimming involves reading either part of a text or a full text in order to get the general idea or ‘gist.’  You will need to use this skill in questions that ask you to identify the writer’s attitude or the tone of the text.

If you want to develop your skimming skills it is essential to read at least one text every day. I would suggest starting by reading articles on the BBC Newsround website. This site is designed for young adults so the language is less challenging than the main BBC News site which you can work up to. It’s important not to read something too difficult for you as it will interfere with flow of your reading speed.

When skimming, you should be focusing on content words such as verbs and nouns rather than on function words such as articles and prepositions as these are not needed for you to get a general idea of the topic.

At home, set yourself a time limit to skim read a text then based on memory write a short summary of what you’ve read. In every summary you write try to include:

  • the main topic
  •  the tone of the text  – is it positive, negative or neutral?
  • your opinion on the topic.

How can I improve my scanning skills?

Scanning involves reading a text to find specific information. We do this every day, for instance, when we search a website for a phone number or address. In the exam you will often need to underline keys words in questions and scan to find the same words or synonyms of them in the text.

Start practising scanning by setting yourself the task of underlining either all the names, numbers or dates in a text, moving your eyes quickly across the page until you find what you’re looking for.  You could also give your scanning more of a language based focus e.g. underlining adjective + noun or verb + noun collocations, helping you to build your vocabulary for other parts of the exam.

Useful Links for Reading







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