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Updated for January 2015

To make sure exams are up to date with the latest research in language learning and teaching, Cambridge English Language Assessment Centre reviews them regularly. The revision of Cambridge English: First (FCE) is now complete commenced use in January 2015. We’ve also introduced changes to the way results are reported. The Cambridge English Scale is able to give you clearer and more detailed information about your performance, both overall and in the individual elements of the exam.

Here are the main changes to the Cambridge English: First exam that started in January 2015:

  • The exam is about 30 minutes shorter. But it still covers all the same language skills and tests at the same level as the previous version.
  • The exam now has four papers, not five.
  • The Reading and Use of English papers are now combinedinto a single paper that looks at language knowledge and reading skills.
  • The speaking part remains unchanged.

Since January 2015, Cambridge English: First results have been reported on the new Cambridge English Scale (replacing the previous candidate profile and standardised scores). The results given on the Cambridge English Scale give you a detailed understanding of your performance. You receive a separate score for each of the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and use of English. These scores are averaged to give you an overall result for the exam. All results for Cambridge English exams are reported on the same scale, so it is also easy to measure progress from one exam to another.


Cambridge English: First is for learners who have an upper-intermediate level of English, at Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It is recognised worldwide by thousands of employers, as well as colleges and universities, as proof that you can use every day written and spoken English for work or study purposes.


  • Can you understand texts from various sources?
  • Do you use English to take notes during an English speaker´s speech?
  • Can you communicate with others about various topics in English?
  • Can you understand people who use English that appear on TV or radio?

If you answered positively to these questions, or if you are improving in the above mentioned competences, then the FCE exam is the right one for you.


Cambridge English Language Assessment is a department of the world-famous and historic University of Cambridge. Attaining one of its certificates is an achievement and a reward in itself. However, there are many other benefits to taking FCE:

  • an FCE certificate is valid for life,
  • FCE is truly international, recognised worldwide for business and study purposes of thousands of employers. Universities and government departments officially recognise FCE as a qualification in upper-intermediate English.
  • FCE gives you a pathway to higher qualifications such as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)FCE’s ‘Can Do’ skills give you the confidence to use English in real situations.

‘I am working in an international environment which requires me to continuously improve my English. To pass the FCE at Grade B is certainly a commitment to that. After the exam I got the motivation to study more English and then decided to enrol in an MBA, conducted in English.’

Phan Hoang Hoa — FCE candidate

‘The course was so useful for me. My English writing and reading is much better and when I go back to my country it will be helpful for getting a new job.’

Maria Fernandez Rechsteiner — FCE Candidate

What will taking FCE help you to do?

FCE Cambridge English Advanced is at Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which was also consulted by Cambridge English Language Assessment. This framework uses six levels to describe language competence ranging from A1 to C2. Sentences beginning with “Can Do” are used to characterise these levels more closely, reflecting real language skills.

For example, level B2 users are expected to:

  • Comprehend the essentials of complicated written extracts
  • Keep conversation on various topics, express one´s opinion and make an argument,
  • Write clearly and extensively, express one´s opinion and explain advantages and disadvantages of various standpoints

During your preparatory course for the FCE exam, you will attain all the above mentioned language competences.


Reading and Use of English: 1 hour 15 minutes (40% of total marks)

This part tests your reading skills and your knowledge as well as use of vocabulary and grammar. You will be assessed on how well you can use a range of vocabulary and grammar and a range of reading skills, including reading for detail, understanding opinions and feelings, understanding how a text is organised and understanding the main idea.

Writing: 1 hour 20 minutes (20% of total marks)

The Writing paper has two parts. The first is compulsory, and you must write a letter or email which responds to a text and some notes. Then you have a choice of five questions, and you must choose one. Two of the questions are always about a set text (a story or film), which you can read or watch and prepare before the exam.

Listening: 40 minutes (20% of total marks)

This paper tests different real-life listening skills, such as listening for information, opinion or detail, or listening for the general meaning of the whole text.

Speaking: 14 minutes (20% of total marks)

You will take the Speaking test with another candidate or in a group of three, and you will be tested on your ability to take part in different types of interaction: with the examiner, with the other candidates and by yourself.


As with all of Cambridge English Language Assessment certificates, there is a lot of support to help you prepare for your exam.

  • Most candidates prefer to take the preparation courses run by SPEAK language school. You can access a variety of support materials from the Resources area of our website. These include a short booklet, Information for Candidates, and sample exam papers, which include sound files for the Listening test materials.
  • Many publishers have produced a wide choice of books and other aids to help you prepare for taking FCE. Ask your local bookshop for details.
  • To help you prepare for FCE, we provide teachers with their own website so they can download sample exam papers, handbooks, and other teaching support material.


  • FCE is a truly international exam, recognised by thousands of industrial, administrative and service based employers as a qualification in intermediate English.
  • It is also accepted by a wide range of educational institutions for study purposes.
  • Companies such as American Express, Agfa-Gevaert GmbH, Siemens and Procter & Gamble all recognise the value of FCE in their overseas offices.


  • FCE offers a clear pathway to higher qualifications such as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE).
  • FCE’s ‘Can Do’ skills enable you to use English in real situations with confidence. FCE exams use real-life situations and are especially designed to help you communicate more effectively in your own life and to focus your language learning on the skills you will actually need.
  • Because FCE exams focus on all four communication skills (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) plus the use of English, you increase your confidence in using English in everyday situations.


Exam scripts are sent to Cambridge English Language Assessment for marking and grading and the results are sent back to the test centres.

Your results

  • When you register for the exam, you will receive a Confirmation of Entry. That will show the web address for our Results Online site. It also tells your ID number and security PIN number, which you will need to use to register and receive your results online.
  • There are three Pass grades, A, B and C — candidates reaching these grades are awarded a certificate. Candidates achieving grades D or E do not receive a certificate.
  • If you have any questions about your results, you should contact the centre where you took the exam.
Next steps


  • If you are studying English at the moment, speak to your teacher at SPEAK language school about how to enrol.
  • Already registered? Visit website http://www.candidates.cambridgeenglish.org, where you can find all the necessary information.
  • Entries cannot be made directly to Cambridge English Language Assessment.

If you have a disability or a specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia) it may be possible to ask for Special Arrangements to be made when taking the exam.

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Paul Newman