Everyone feels nervous about exams. One way to feel less nervous is to prepare. If you study and practise before the big day, you can walk into the exam room with a confident smile!
Here are five things you can do to get ready for Cambridge B2 First.
1. Know the Exam
The exam has four papers:
- Reading and Use of English (1 hour 15 minutes)
- Writing (1 hour 20 minutes)
- Listening (40 minutes)
- Speaking (14 minutes)
Make sure you understand what happens in every part of the exam.
For example, in the Speaking test, you have to speak with the examiner, speak alone, and speak with another student. You have to answer direct questions, describe and compare photos, and have a discussion. To get the best marks, you should practise all of these things as often as you can.
2. Speaking and Writing: learn key phrases
For both the Speaking and Writing tests, you can learn fixed phrases to help you.
For example, in the Speaking test, you will always need phrases for agreeing and disagreeing (e.g. Yes, that’s so true / Actually, I’m not sure about that).
In the Writing test, you will always need phrases that organise an essay (e.g. The main issue is… / However… / In conclusion…).
3. Reading and Listening: surround yourself with English
Reading and listening can be a challenge. In both cases, there might be words you don’t know. When you listen, sometimes it feels like the speaker is going too fast.
It’s a good idea to surround yourself with English. That means reading and listening in English every day. You don’t have to use textbooks for this! Use your hobby as a starting point. For example, if you love cooking, watch online videos or read food blogs in English.
4. All papers: improve your vocabulary
In Reading and Use of English, some sections directly test your vocabulary. However, a wide vocabulary will help you in every part of Cambridge First.
You can download apps that help you learn a few new words every day. That’s a great idea, but it’s even better to pick up new words from real life. Get an English magazine about a subject you like, or watch a series in English. Chat with other English speakers as often as you can – either face-to-face or using online messaging.
5. Little and often
It’s hard to concentrate for a long time. Don’t plan to study English for five hours every night: you won’t remember anything after 30 minutes!
Include English in your everyday life. In the morning, why not read the news on the bus? While you make dinner, listen to songs in English and think about the words. It’s better to enjoy English for 20 minutes than to fall asleep in a boring textbook.
Finally, try not to worry. Teachers often tell their students: you can’t do better than your best. That’s very true! But your best will be better if you practise, practise and practise some more.
Laura Phelps is a teacher, trainer and writer with 15 years’ experience in English language education. After graduating in Linguistics with first class honours she joined the British Council Sri Lanka as a teacher, and went on to work in six more countries with employers including International House, Bell, Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill. Laura has published a number of student textbooks at primary, secondary and university level, as well as subject-specific resources for people working in the arts. She has also designed and delivered courses for in-service teachers and for BBC journalists in the Caucasus.