B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency (FCE, CAE, CPE)
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to take exams. People would just study to gain knowledge for practical use and enjoy the process.
But, in the real world, there are situations in which it is necessary to demonstrate your English level (job interviews, university applications, immigration processes) and exam certificates are often required. The Cambridge English exams (specifically the B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency levels) are particularly prestigious and sought after, so getting one of these qualification can be very valuable.
I’ve been helping students prepare for the Cambridge English exams for almost two decades now and these preparation tips are based on my experience and observations over those years.
1. Get to know the exam (like the back of your hand!)
I’ve had students who didn’t really have an advanced level of English but they passed the C1 exam because they prepared so well. They really got to know the exam. And, on the other hand, I’ve known people who had a very high level, maybe even C2, but they took the advanced exam and failed because they were a little bit too cocky… a little bit too confident and they didn’t really know what the exam was asking of them. So, that is the number one tip, and it’s the most important: get to know the exam like the back of your hand.
2. Start preparing early
Start your preparation early! I recommend at least two months preparation, six months would be great… why not a year? If you’re thinking of taking the exam next year, start preparing now. You can’t really have too much time preparing for this exam because it’s not really just about learning a few grammar areas a little bit of vocabulary and practicing your speaking. These are big and difficult exams; even the B2 First is a tough exam, so you need to improve your level of English in general. Don’t leave it until the last minute, you’ll soon realise that you need more time.
3. Dig out your old grammar notes
This is very useful and practical tip. You’ve probably studied a lot of grammar at school and you’re probably bored with it, but that grammar will be extremely useful in the exam. You have studied it, you know it, so you need to revise it, You need to refresh your memory of all that grammar you have studied over the years. So, dig out your old notes. Your own notes are the best notes because you wrote them and you’ll remember what you were thinking when you wrote those notes and you’ll have a connection to that time, so it’s better than just reading a book that somebody else has written. Your own notes are more valuable.
4. Immerse yourself in English
Immerse yourself in the language. Surround yourself with english. This should be pretty obvious. These are not easy exams so to prepare you really need to expose yourself to as much input of the language as possible. Very obvious activities like watching films and series in English, Youtube videos in English, joining Facebook groups where you can chat to people in English, reading in English (different books if possible or just internet articles on various subjects). You need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible for the exam, and there’s a lot of text to read in little time. Generally, immerse yourself in the language as much as possible… and that leads me on to tip number five.
5. Pay attention!
It’s all well and good immersing yourself in the language, surrounding yourself with all this input… but, if you don’t pay attention, you’re not going to get the full benefit from it. You can read a book and enjoy the book, and that’s great… if you’re not preparing for an exam. But you are preparing for an exam, so you need to pay attention to the grammar that is used, the vocabulary, the punctuation, etc. When you finish the exam, I recommend that you do the opposite, I recommend you just do things in english for fun, but as you’re preparing for an exam, you need to pay attention.
6. Find a study buddy
Find a partner you can study with. Ask around… ask your friends, your family, your colleagues at work, your classmates. Try to find somebody who’s also studying for the same exam. If you can’t find anyone, look further afield. Get on the internet and find relevant Facebook groups, Discord channels, Telegram communities, and so on. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are studying for these exams, so there are a lot of people that really need to practise and find a partner like you. The advantages of finding a study partner are numerous, not only for the speaking paper of the exam (practising the speaking paper is extremely useful) but also for sharing resources, motivation and accountability purposes. Also, if you have a partner who’s taking the same exam as you, you can actually do the speaking part of the exam together, which is so valuable.
If you follow these tips, you’ll stand a much better chance of passing your exam and getting your desired score.
Want to pass with the best score possible? Check out my online preparation courses for detailed tips on how to approach every part of the B2 First, C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency Cambridge English Exams.