Blog March 16, 2015 by

St Giles

Preparing to take a Cambridge exam or exam course?

One of the teachers at St Giles Brighton, Diane Dowejko,  shares her  tips for students who are thinking about taking, or are currently taking, an exam course for FCE or CAE:

Reading and listening:

  • Expose yourself to as much ‘natural’ English as possible. This includes reading newspapers, books or magazines in English, watching TV and films.
  • Make notes of any new words, or groups of words you want to remember.
  • And synonyms (words or phrases with similar meanings), for example:
    • ‘It isn’t very expensive’ is similar to ‘It is very reasonably priced’.

Doing this will really help you with the listening part of the exam.


  • Try to find collocations, or ‘patterns of English’, for example:
    • when you learn a new word, e.g. progress (noun), learn which verb we use with it. In this case we ‘to make progress’.
    • other examples are words that use prepositions, e.g. interested in
    • sometimes they can be even longer, e.g. ‘He was found guilty of murder
  • Find out about word families, for example:
    • create (verb) creation (noun) creative (adj.)


  • It’s useful to become familiar with common functional expressions for discussions, for example:
    • giving your opinion – ‘As far as I’m concerned,…
    • agreeing with someone – ‘That’s an excellent point!
    • disagreeing with someone – ‘I’m afraid I can’t agree.
    • asking for someone’s opinion – ‘How do you feel about that?


  • Try to become familiar with different kinds of writing: letters, essays, reports, reviews and magazine articles (reading will also help with this).
  • In English we change the way we write depending on who we are writing to. Try to find examples of formal and informal

e.g.    Formal: Thank you for your e-mail regarding the job vacancy.

Informal: It’s so good to hear from you!

Useful website:

Floe-Joe ( is a very helpful website which explains the exams in more detail and has lots of practice activities

Find out more about learning English in the UK by studying at St Giles Brighton.