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How can I prepare before my Cambridge exam course?

How to prepare for a Cambridge English Exam course 

So, you have booked an exam preparation course in the UK for Cambridge First (FCE), Advanced (CAE) or Proficiency (CPE) but the start of the course is still a few weeks away. How can you make the most of that time to prepare yourself beforehand to get the best possible chance to succeed in your chosen exam?

Most schools will ask you to complete an entry test to check that you have a good level to start the Cambridge exam course. At The English Language Centre, ELC Brighton, for the Cambridge First (FCE) course, we are looking for a strong intermediate level (CEFR B1) for our 12-week courses but you would need to have been studying at an upper-intermediate (CEFR B2) level for the very intensive 4-week courses in July and August. The Cambridge Advanced (CAE) course requires a good understanding of the language at CEFR C1 level for both the 4-week and 12-week courses.

Based on your entry test results, we will also give you some specific feedback on what you can do to get ready. The important thing is not to think that just booking the course is enough! 

Cambridge Advanced Examination Course

So, what should you focus on? Janice Martin, ELC Brighton's Assistant Academic Director, gives her advice...


Fluency is very important – being able to express yourself, but be careful with accuracy, too. Review:

  • basic grammar structures: 3rd person ‘s’, since/for, use of adverbs/adjectives, verb /prepositions, word order
  • use of tenses – present, past (narrative), future
  • punctuation: sentences, paragraphs
  • spelling
  • not translating from your own language
  • lengthening sentences using linking phrases
  • and finally, expanding your range of vocabulary


Read newspapers and magazines to brush up what you already know but more importantly, to notice how more advanced grammar structures are used in context and especially to widen your range of vocabulary.  Read business articles as well as literature and film reviews, and then some gossip to keep up with colloquial expressions.

We suggest:

Magazines: The Geographical magazine and The Economist 

Newspapers: The Independent and The Guardian


Watch English films (DVDs, TV, YouTube)

Go online for the BBC - lots of listening to news etc., as well as magazine programmes (radio and TV e.g. From Our Own Correspondent - FOOC)

Go to BBC Learning English for some comprehensive materials for intermediate to advanced levels, using simplified news stories to present English in context.

Grammar & Writing

Onestopenglish practice exercises for Cambridge exams

Flo-joe website - do some FCE or CAE or CPE work to practise some of the necessary skills


If you don’t have a friend to practise with, use the online listening suggestions and repeat everything aloud –  a good way to practise your pronunciation, or just read aloud from a newspaper article. Start speaking slowly, then repeat more and more quickly.


The Cambridge English website is excellent and gives details of all the recommendations for improving all skills, with links to appropriate materials, books and practice tests:

Cambridge First (FCE)

Cambridge Advanced (CAE)

Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) 

If you would like any more information about the intensive Cambridge FCE exam courses at ELC Brighton, contact us for more details.

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