FCE Exam Class – Reading and Use of English: Part 2
This page offers a guide to the second part of the Reading and Use of English Paper in the Cambridge First (B2) Exam, what it tests, how to approach it and how to revise for it.
The second test in the Reading and Use of English Paper of the FCE Exam looks something like this:
(The actual test paper is longer with 8 gaps for you to fill.)
What the test involves
In Part 1, you had to choose the answer from four words given but in Part 2 you get no help at all. You have to think of the word yourself. Don’t worry, while there are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language (nobody can tell you exactly how many), the words you need to find are taken from a relatively small group. They are generally:
- Pronouns – including relative pronouns
- Modal verbs
- Adverbs – or one of the words in an adverbial phrase
By the way, do you know what all the above are and can you give some examples? You should be able to – if not look them up online now and remind yourself.
Sometimes the answer will be a verb and often the gerund of the verb. Watch for those prepositions – does the verb follow a preposition? It’s a gerund. The verb ‘to be’ in its various forms is also often an answer.
Time you should spend on this test.
Approximately 10 minutes.
What’s being tested
This is a test of your knowledge of English grammar.
How to do the test
1. Read the title
This will give you a general sense of what the piece is about. Good to know.
2. Skim through the text
Before attempting to choose answers, quickly read through the text to understand what the piece says. This will help you find the answers.
3. Work through the text from the top
The first gap (Numbered ‘0’) is an example. Don’t waste time trying to work out why the answer is correct, but read the sentence and move on to Number 1, then 2 and so on to the end.
Is the answer immediately obvious to you? Put it in. If you are not sure of an answer, but have a good guess, put that in. If you really don’t know, leave it blank and move on to the next. You can come back to these when you’ve done the others and again after you finish other parts of the exam. The point is to not get ‘bogged down’ trying to figure out one answer. Better to use your time getting the ones you can. This is a more efficient use of your time.
4. Go through the text once again
Complete any answers you missed and check the answers that you have already put in. Are you happy with them? Again, if you’re stuck on one answer, don’t get too ‘bogged down’ on one answer. It’s more important to move on to the next part of the exam where there are more points to be scored. You can always come back to this test at the end of the exam if you have time.
Answering the questions
Read through the whole sentence, paying particular attention to the words on either side of the gap and then, if the answer is not obvious to you, try these things…
- What kind of word is needed to fill the gap – a verb, a preposition, a pronoun, a conjunction, an adverb?
- What grammatical structure can you see? Is there a relative clause? Which relative pronoun does it need? Is it a conditional sentence? If so, what word is missing – ‘if’, ‘unless’, ‘would’, ‘could’, or perhaps ‘has’, ‘had’ or ‘have’ to form a perfect or past perfect tense.
- Is the missing word at the start of a sentence or a clause? Is it a pronoun – if so, what does it refer to. Is it plural or singular? Or is it a gerund? Perhaps it is the start of a participle clause? (‘Being’ and ‘Having’ are common answers.) On the other hand, could it be a conjunction?
- Does the gap come in front of a noun and does that noun need an article?
- Does the gap follow a verb; if so, does that verb need a preposition? Which one?
- Read the whole sentence with the word that you think is likely. Does it sound right? Then it probably is.
You will get one mark for each correct answer.
Let’s have a look at the sample test above.
The first gap (9.) is in this sentence: “The Le Mans race track in France was ______ I first saw some guys doing motorbike stunts.”
‘The Le Mans race track in France’ is a place. The second part of the sentence describes what I saw there. What word do we use to when we talk about ‘in the place that’? The word is a conjunction in this sentence. It joins the ideas of ‘That place was’ and ‘I saw something’.
The answer is where
The second sentence reads: “I was ______ impressed I went straight home and…”
The word that follows the gap, ‘impressed’ is an adjective. We can see from the sense of the sentence that the author is talking about how impressed he was; impressed enough to do something. What word do we put in front of an adjective to talk about the intensity of an adjective and the result of that intensity. If it is not immediately obvious, the structure is ‘so… (adjective) that’, except the word ‘that’ has been omitted here, which is common.
The answer is so
The third sentence reads: “I went straight home and taught ______ to do the same.”
Who did the author teach? Was it someone else? No, it was him. When the subject (‘I’) and the object of a verb are the same person or thing, we use a reflexive pronoun. What is the reflexive pronoun of ‘I’?
The answer is myself
What is the best way to revise for this test?
Because this is essentially a test of your knowledge of grammar, you would do well to revise all your grammar notes. Know the parts of speech, defining and non-defining relative clauses, conditionals, passives, adverbial phrases etc. And, as for Part 2 and, in fact, the whole of this paper, familiarise yourself with the language by reading and/or listening to as much good quality English as you can. Choose something you like… books, newspapers, websites about your interests, podcasts, TED talks, whatever… and get stuck in. Look up words or structures you see or hear and don’t know in a good dictionary or online.
Simon is the Director of Studies at the Central School of English in Dublin