English certification: 6 things to know about the Cambridge English First (FCE)

The FCE, or Cambridge English First, is an English certification which is part of the Cambridge English certification series.

All Cambridge certifications (KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE) use the same scoring system. A minimum score is required to obtain Cambridge English First. Unlike other language qualifications, Cambridge qualifications are valid for life.

What is the purpose of the test? 

This English test certifies a B2 level of English and corresponds to an upper-intermediate level. Obtaining this English language qualification is proof that you have a general command of the English language and are able to express yourself spontaneously, particularly in the professional world. A candidate with a level of assessment equivalent to B2 should be able to follow and participate in an extended conversation.

The FCE qualification doesn’t have a limited period of validity. Once you have passed this language examination, you’ll receive a certificate and your FCE diploma on which your result is recorded.

What does the test involve? 

The Cambridge English First Certificate examination is divided into 4 parts, each of which assesses a different language skill:

  • the ability to read and use the English language (reading)
  • the ability to express oneself clearly in writing (writing)
  • the ability to understand spoken English (listening)
  • the ability to express oneself fluently when speaking (speaking)

Each of these abilities is assessed differently.

  • Reading comprehension: the first stage of the FCE helps assess the candidates’ knowledge of the language. In this test, several types of texts are presented and candidates must answer questions about them. The test also includes questions on grammar and vocabulary.
  • Written expression: the second test of the Cambridge English First exam assesses candidates’ writing ability. The candidate must write two texts on different subjects. For example, they may be asked to present an argument or to structure a story.
  • Oral comprehension: to obtain the FCE certificate, candidates must be able to understand an audio recording in English. They are assessed on their answers to questions after listening to two voice recordings.
  • Oral expression: this test lasts 15 minutes. Communication skills are assessed with another candidate, taking turns answering questions asked by a teacher.

How long does the test take? 

The first part of the test (reading) lasts an hour and 15 minutes. The same applies to the written expression assessment. Oral comprehension is shorter, and features a 40-minute test. Oral expression is the shortest, lasting only 15 minutes.

What levels can the FCE test assess? 

The FCE is aimed at an intermediate level of English (B2 on the CEFR scale). This language diploma is destined for students able to evolve and adapt to different situations. Candidates must be able to understand the key points of a conversation even when the nature or subject is complex. Their conversation should be generally fluid, and it is essential to be able to share ideas through constructed argumentation.

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What grading system does the FCE test use? 

As with all Cambridge English examinations, scores can range from 80 to 230 points on what is known as the Cambridge English Scale. 

To obtain the FCE English certificate, you must score between 160 and 179 points. This score is calculated on the basis of the marks obtained in each of the four tests.

If you obtain a particularly high score, the University of Cambridge is able to state on your certificate that you have a higher level. If you score 180 points, it will be stated that you have a level equivalent to the Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) qualification.

How much does the test cost? Where can I take it? 

The price of the FCE test is between 145 and 220 euros. Prices differ depending on the examination center where you take your language qualification. Registration fees are set by independent bodies such as language schools, educational establishments and chambers of commerce. However, Cambridge Assessment English recommends a fee of €212 for this certification.

Some schools and establishments offer their students the possibility of taking the test internally. These are referred to as “internal centers” or “preparation centers”. In this case, specialized resources are available to students.

The FCE at a glance

PublisherCambridge Assessment EnglishGymglish
Name of certificate / diplomaCambridge English FirstGymglish learning report, professional English
Validity periodOngoingDoes not expire
Skills testedReading comprehension, oral comprehension, written expression, oral expressionReading, listening, writing (business and professional English)
Target level(s)B2All levels, except beginners (A2 to C2)
PriceBetween 145 and 220 eurosFrom € 14 /month
Duration2 hours 10 minsTraining + learning report : 6 months
Face-to-face / RemoteAt an examination centerRemote / online

The FCE is not the only option for English certification. At the end of our English language training, we also provide a personalized learning report.

See our section on English language tests and diplomas

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