How to Prepare for the Cambridge First (FCE) Exam

cambridge test

FCE is a standardized English test which is popularly accepted as the equal of B2 level in the European Common Framework. It proves you can use everyday written and spoken English for work or study purposes. Like other certified English tests, getting a good score for this test can be used to prove your English proficiency. To get a good FCE test score means that you spend some time to find out what is coming for you and prepare well.

The very basic things to know about this test are the sections: speaking, listening, reading, writing and grammar (the use of English). It practically covers all the language skills needed to communicate well. Candidates have the choice of taking their exam on either a computer or on paper. The main tip for all sections is to practice, practice and practice. However, the kind of practice required for each section is surely different.

First, grammar. Should you have what is called grammatical awareness, this part should be a piece of cake. If you don’t, this is the part where you need an English tutor or a friend with good English. Doing grammar practice from books can help, but your tutor or friend can explain further and give you helpful grammar tips. Not only that, they can help you spot the grammatical errors you probably make in the writing or speaking parts.

Second, writing. This section provides you with optional topics and the tasks can be to write a letter or write a narrative essay, or something else. Whichever the type of writing you are trying to produce, making sure that the content is coherent and goes with the topic as well as the instruction(s) is the top priority. Remember, this section is to test your writing skills, so if you have to choose the priorities during the limited test time, put grammar perfection at the bottom of the list. Not using complex sentences can prevent you from making illogical sentences that may not be understandable by the panel.

Third, speaking. In this section, there will be questions addressed to you personally, while there are also other questions which ask you to work together with (an)other test taker(s). Either way, you need to be able to answer the questions as instructed. Of course, fluency, correct and appropriate language use will increase your points and these abilities come along with practice. Learning to say common utterances, like “Well, that is indeed an interesting question/topic to discuss” or “I think while some people find the idea quite agreeable, there are others who may think the opposite” will help to buy you some time to think about the answer without an obvious pause.

Fourth, reading. If you are an avid reader, there is a chance that the article you have read in the newspaper will come up in the test. As the question types are quite straightforward, reading a lot makes you better equipped for this section.

Fifth, listening. The best way to earn high score in this section is by listening to people conversing in English. It can be daily conversations, radio or TV interviews, or news. The point is the more you listen, the more comfortable you do this section.

Last but not least, do not forget to try to do the mock-up FCE test before the actual one. Only by doing so, will you know what to expect in the real test. Good luck.

Tips for GMAT Preparation

GMAT is a test commonly taken by those who plan on enrolling to a good business school. The better the score of the GMAT, the bigger chance of getting accepted. In order to succeed in this test, there are some common tips that can be implemented in the preparation which should start several months before the actual test.

First is to create a consistent preparation plan, which, if possible, allots more and more time as the time for the test draws near. The idea is to practise quick response and better time management. The time management skill can be improved by deciding the milestones or how many questions should have been done in 30 minutes or in 60 minutes to make sure that the pace is right on track and it is not behind the scheduled plan.

Second is to make a learning diary, in which difficulties are written down and listed. As the topics that appear in the test are finite. This list will help determine which topics should be reviewed and studied further. Not only the difficult topics, questions that take a long time to answer can also be noted down in the diary. In that way, test takers can try to find other similar questions to improve their skills and understand the concept(s) underlaying such questions better. Over the time of an effective preparation practice, they will find that the list is getting shorter and shorter.

Third, like in any other tests that provide some possible answers, the ability to spot and eliminate wrong choices is a useful strategy to master. This will especially be really handy when time is running out and there are still quite a lot of questions to answer.

Fourth, get as real as possible during prep time. Doing a complete try out of the GMAT test from credible sources within a certain period of time like the original test is a good idea. However, it will be better if a laminated erasable board and marker are provided to sketch and calculate as these tools will also be used in the original test. By doing so, test takers will be more comfortable with the test style, which will surely reduce the element of surprise and boost their confidence on the day of the real test.

Fifth, as there are some credible sources for this test, doing try outs from a wide range of sources is good. It equips test takers to be ready to answer a variety of questions. One thing to note, though. Not to be big-headed when the targeted score is achieved in these try-outs. Why? Because there are quite a lot of factors that may affect performance in the real test, like being nervous, unpredicted new questions, etc. Knowing that a try out is simply a try out may cause less pressure and nervousness. Therefore, to be on the safe side, test takers are suggested to exceeed their aimed GMAT scores in these try outs.

Last but not least, knowing these five tips will not be not as useful as applying them, so happy preparing.


4 Steps to Perform Well in the SAT Exam

The SAT is one of the main requirements to enroll to a university in the USA. Quite a lot of students dread their encounter with the test. However, should you know the right steps, the test should be less scary than expected.

Whether the preparation is done through the SAT preparation book, class or private tutoring, or via online, the number one step is to know the types of questions, topics and sections that will appear in the test. Figuring out that there will be reading, math, writing and language parts as well as optional essay are not as helpful as knowing these details:

  • There will be 52 questions divided into 20% fiction, 40% science and another 40% social science in the reading part that need to be done in 65 minutes.
  • In the writing and language part, there are 4 passages, each of which is followed by 11 questions which require you to deal with language effective use and grammar features, like subject and verb agreement and parallel structure. The amount of time alloted for this part is 35 minutes. The genre for this section can be career
  • Math section comes in two different styles: 38 questions with the use of calculator and 20 questions without. The topics consist of algebra, geometry, quadratics, linear equations, non-linear functions, problem solving and data analysis which include mean, median, percentage, etc. You have 80 minutes to deal with this section.
  • In optional essay section, you will read a persuasive essay and analyze the writer’s argument. The time for this is 50 minutes.

The second step is to go through the complete SAT practice test over and over. This will be best if the practice test is timed like the real SAT test. Knowing the details may build up your confidence and make you more focused. However, doing  the complete practice test which is timed will give you hints on the real situations of the real test. By doing this several times, you will know how to manage your time effectively. The timed test version is usually available online. If possible, choose the ones that also allow you to analyze your answers because through the analysis, you will know how to improve and be able to see the progress you have made.

The third step is to practice identifying questions that are easy and medium to you. This goes with the test rule, in which the score is not based on how many questions you answer, but on how many correct answers you give. It will be best to slow down on the easy and medium questions so you can get the most out of them.

The fourth step is to practice finding out the wrong answers. As the test is mainly in the form of multiple choice questions with options that can be confusing and tricky at times, being able to identify the wrong answers will broaden your chance of getting the right one. Typically, there are four options to choose, finding out one incorrect option will increase the possibility of choosing the correct answer by 25%.

The probability of performing well in the test is higher when you are well informed of the test format, types of questions and topics, have gone through the timed complete practice test a couple times, have the ability to get the most points from the questions that are easy or medium to you and to identify the wrong answers out of the four possible correct answers.

ACT vs SAT What is the Key Difference?

America is one of the top destinations to study. A lot of students worldwide plan on continuing the study there. One of the requirements is to successfully take the SAT or ACT tests. Previously, these two tests were mainly differentiated by the regional locations of the campuses and universities: those on the east and west coasts of the country preferred the SAT, while the ones on the south chose the ACT. However, as more states require the students to take the ACT, in 2016 the SAT has been edited to take after some of the testing styles of the ACT.

One of the most noticeable change in the SAT test is that wrong answer does not result in score reduction anymore. This makes the test more similar to the ACT. Not only that, the SAT has integrated more chart and graph interpreting types of questions throughout the sections in exchange for the absence of the ACT Science sections.

Despite the recent similarities, the SAT still stays true to some of its characteristics. The time alloted for the test and the total number of questions, for example. The SAT test takers have three hours to finish 154 questions. Meanwhile, the ACT only provides 2 hours 55 minutes to answer 215 questions. The periods of time provided to complete the essay are also different. The SAT gives 50 minutes and the ACT 40 minutes.

When it comes to reading comprehension sections, the test takers are given two distinct choices, as well: whether to deal with the SAT questions that have chronological answers and are arranged based on its levels of difficulty or with ACT questions and answers that come randomly. Surely, the orderly arrangement may seem like a huge benefit, but considering that the SAT reading comprehension questions are in the form of two part questions, in which the answers are related, and the fact that these comprehension questions are inclined to ask for details supporting your previous answer, some might decide to try to take on the ACT randomly arranged, yet more standard comprehension questions.

Apart from that, the Math sections also offer different challenges. The use of a calculator in the ACT test is valid for all questions, while in the other test, there is one section of the math test that must be done without using the calculator. However, in spite of the non-absolute use of calculator, the problem solving formulas are provided in the SAT math test. In this case, students who can count well and are not dependant on calculators might favour the Math support of the SAT test.

Aside from those differences, the tests are practically identical. The material tested is the same. The formatting is basically the same. They both test your knowledge of math, English grammar, and reading comprehension. And they both accomplish the same exact same goal: giving admissions officers to save time by tossing your application in the trash if your scores aren’t high enough before they ever look at it.

Therefore, the key to succeed in either one of the tests goes back to choosing the one test that suits your skills better. If you are a student with mediocre reading and counting skills, but someone who fancies Science, the ACT may be the better option for you. On the other hand, should you have good memory and reasoning skills, but tend to need a lot of time to finish a test, the SAT may seem more promising for you.

Learning English as a Second Language

As the international language, English is used in most countries and spoken by billions of people worldwide. Mastering this language is not a must, but the one thing to note is that this language mastery comes with lots of benefits, some of which are easier access to global communities and information, bigger opportunities to study in foreign countries and even to get international scholarships, and of course, higher probabillity of working in an international environment, which then hopefully leads to better living.

Although English language can be a nightmare for some people, knowing the tips on how to learn to master the language effectively might help the process.

One of the main tips, especially for beginners, is to practice speaking. Being brave and confident enough to speak English is one of the main factors for progressive language improvement, especially when considering that speaking is the one skill that is most likely to be used in real everyday life. Grammar perfection and native like enunciation are the things that should be set aside in the early stage of the learning process. This learning suggestion has been proven by an ESL teacher whose students with the most progress are active English speakers when compared to other beginner English learners.

Secondly, to enhance the implementation of the previous tip, it is suggested that English learners constantly put themselves in an English (speaking) community. The main reason for this is that they will have no choice but to speak English, too, in order to communicate. It also speeds up the improvement of their listening skills. Should it be a challenge to find that kind of community, there are some simple day-to-day activities that can add more exposure to the language, such as choosing to use English for phone applications, listening to English songs, reading some simple English texts or articles and corresponding with peers by using simple English (even if it is still broken English). Those simple actions can be fun if they are related to the learners’ favourite phone apps, singers, public figures and their topics of interest.

The third tip is to dedicate some time to review the language features that have previously been learned and to recap the vocabulary. According to a research, reviewing helps the brain memorize more things. Once a topic is understood, it is kept in your brain for a few days. But when the understood topic is reviewed for the second and third time, it is stored for a longer period. With the combination of reviewing and using the mastered language features and vocabulary, the progress made in the learning process will be more significant.

The last tip is to get a good English teacher. Despite the fact that people may have different ideas on what makes someone a good teacher. The definition of the word good, in this case, is a teacher who can encourage his or her students to use the language as much as possible and be knowledgeable enough to tell the students that there is always a room for improvement to ensure life long learning.

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