FCE/CAE: how to improve “Use of English”

FCE/CAE: How to improve ‘Use of English’. In this post you will find tips on how to improve your results from the ‘Use of English’ part of the FCE or CAE exam.

If you are looking for some books that will help you pass FCE ‘Use of English’ – you will find them here.

General advice:

  • improve your general level of English – work on vocabulary and grammar
  • read in English – it will not only improve your reading skills but also help you with the use of English
  • guess the word or expression – even if you don’t know the answer try to make a guess – you are not going to loose points you may only gain some
  • listen to your instinct – you don’t always have to know why this answer is the right one, just go for it

Open cloze:

  • go rather for short and simple words – it is enough to look at the answer key to realize what kind of words are required in the gaps
  • revise prepositions of place (in, at, on) and movement (towards, into, onto)
  • revise relative clauses (which, who, where, that) e.g. This is the place where we met.
  • learn prepositional phrases e.g invest in, be good at, be interested in
  • learn phrasal verbs e.g. look up to, turn down
  • learn collocations e.g. take turns, make dinner, highly unlikely
  • pay attention to grammar – you might be asked to fill in the gap with an auxiliary verb (have, had, did) e.g. He had been waiting for 4 hours.
  • learn linking words (However, Although, Even though etc.)

Word formation:

  • learn the parts of speech (adjective, verb, noun, adverb) – it will help you to decide what kind of word should be put in a gap
  • get to know the rules of forming words e.g. adjectives endings (-ous,-ive, -al, -ic etc.)
  • read a lot – words will sink in, you might know the answers intuitively
  • go for the choice of words that sound good, you may try saying them out loud or writing them to see if they fit or not

Key Word Transformation:

  • make a thorough grammar revision (tenses, modal verbs, conditionals, infinitive vs gerund, passive voice, causative form, reported speech, articles, pronouns, whishes, emphatic structures, comparatives)
  • if you have some grammar backlogs start with grammar exercises and then go to transformations
  • learn phrasal verbs together with their synonyms e.g look up – check, do up – button, fasten
  • check for the synonymous linking words (although = even though)
  • analyze the mistakes you made and learn both expressions e.g. He can’t wait to use his new computer. = He is looking forward to using his new computer



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