08 Tips on how to excel at Cambridge Exams – Part 1

Are you sitting for Cambridge Exams in November?

I believe I can help you by providing practical tips. First, I’ll share my personal experience with you. I have taken the FCE-CAE-CPE and since I passed, it’s safe to say I had the vocabulary demanded by those levels, I used to study every day (whenever possible), I have always read, or tried to read at least a book a month, still, I had no idea what I was doing.

Thus, I have developed techniques in order to be able to look at the papers mathematically, solve the questions and still have “spare time”. Well, I decided to use inverted commas here, because you’ll need all the time you have got (or can get) to do the gapped text and the multiple-choice reading parts.

Furthering, I was able to compile data and come up with these techniques after having taught many preparation lessons. What I wanted was to better help my students to see and clearly understand what they were doing or had to do.

Not only have I tried and tested these techniques myself, my students have also told me how useful they are and how they have been working perfectly well.

I sincerely hope these tips will also help more students and teachers to see the pattern Cambridge follows and to excel at the exams.

I’ll focus on the Reading parts, which are the parts we tend to take longer. They are mostly the same: multiple-choice (PART 5); gapped text (CAE PART 7; FCE/CPE PART 6); multiple-matching (CAE PART 8; FCE/CPE PART 7). The CAE has an extra Reading part, the cross-text multiple matching.

Tip number (1) – for Reading parts in general

Always start by the title. Read it and activate all the knowledge you have on that specific matter.

If need be, you can make notes, as you would when you build a mind map or when you are brainstorming. This should take no longer than 2’.

Next, skim through the text (this means you’ll do it quickly – 30”). This is done, for you to connect the knowledge you have activated beforehand to the vocabulary (words) that are used to talk about this topic.

Tip number (2) – for the gapped text part

After you have activated your schemata, you will focus only on two paragraphs at a time.

I’m telling you this, so you don’t spend precious time reading the whole text only to forget what the first paragraph referred to.

When you turn your attention to the options, you’ll take more time. You’ll have to read all of them in order to choose the best one. Don’t be afraid of choosing two letters for only one number at this stage, because as you read further everything will fall into place. Remember to circle or underline linkers, adjectives, and nouns that might tip off the correct answer. This should take 10’ to 15’.

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and the DELTA Mods II and III(Teaching Exam Lessons). She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She is an Academic and Pedagogic Coordinator. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

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