Cambridge First exam tips

Check this post to find some extra tips and resources to help you prepare for the Cambridge First exam. Links to the resources mentioned are at the end of the post.

Speaking tips

Watch a video of participants doing a speaking test or a video with advice from speaking examiners about what good candidates do, emphasising the importance of preparation. Interestingly, the very first point mentioned is that the candidates listen well! Even though this part of the exam is called the speaking exam, it is also about listening and showing that you are interested in what your partner is saying.

Practice speaking activities with friends and neighbours who speak English.

Record yourself doing the practice tests and listen back to the recordings, remembering to time yourself so that you get a good idea of how long your answers should be.

Learn some strategies to help if you get stuck.

Reading and Use of English

Try to understand the language skills required for each part of the test and how they are used in real life. For example, word transformation is tested in Part 3 of the Reading and Use of English paper but the ability to transform words will also help you in other parts of the exam.

Read widely. Check out the conversation class topics (possible topics) if you want some ideas of articles to read.

Some of my students struggle with the timing on this part of the exam. If this is an issue for you, think about what you can do to give yourself the best chance of passing. Try doing the following:

  • read more often so that you get faster

  • don't worry if you don't know an answer

  • think about the best order to answer the questions.


Don't assume that the listening part of the exam is easy! Practice it as much as you practice the other parts.

Don't focus on the words that you don't know. Native speakers don't know every word in the dictionary but are good at working out the overall meaning.

Practice your listening skills by listening to podcasts and audio books and by watching television and videos such as TED talks. Check out our recent conversation topics if you want some inspiration.

Remember to check your spelling.


Practice this part of the exam and ask a teacher for some feedback.

Make sure you know how the writing is marked. See your course book or the excellent handbook for teachers for information on this.

Read lots of model answers and identify what is good about them and what could be improved.

Get into the habit of doing some writing every day by keeping a journal. Writing is a great skill to help you convert your receptive knowledge (words that you recognise) into productive knowledge (words that you can use).

Do lots of reading!

Overall tips

Learn how the skills you practice for one part of the exam will help you in the other parts of the exam and in real life!

If you think you'll be nervous, talk to your teacher about this and agree some strategies to help you on exam day.

Don't worry about difficult questions. Just tell yourself they will be difficult for everyone else and move on to something easier!

Think about why you want to do the exam and what you can do to stay motivated so that you go into the exam feeling confident and prepared.

Useful links

  • Information about the Cambridge First exam from the official Cambridge English website.

  • A video of participants doing a speaking test from Cambridge English including the examiner's comments (see link underneath the video)

  • This video of examiners explaining what good candidates do in the speaking test.

  • The handbook for teachers is full of information about the test, including marking guides, sample papers, learning tips and more. Ask your teacher to send you a link to access it.

For more tips and advice that is specific to your needs, join one of our exam preparation classes. Fill in the contact form on the home page or send an email to

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