First Semester 2009 - Our book for this term

This term we're using First Certificate in English 2 (updated exams with answers) published by Cambridge. If you feel you have the time and need for super extra practice, you can acquire First Certificate in English 1, which is already available at bookstores. This book was adopted last semester. Note that you'll also need the CDs for Paper 4.
Older editions are also available. Just keep in mind that there have been changes in the exam format, so some tasks have been omitted or changed. I'll inform you on the changes later on.
This book contains 4 tests with keys and audioscripts for practice both in class and at home. However, if you need to work on grammar and other skills, you should browse for a grammar book with focus on the FCE. You'll probably need to do some self-study to cover major points required in the exam.
Talk to me if you need further information!


How to address a teacher in English

Cultures often overlap other cultures when it comes to language. Think of the way we address our teachers here in Brazil. The Portuguese word for teacher is a title: Professor Marcos, Professora Maria. In many cases we may address our teachers either as Marcos or Professor. Take the same word and translate it. Teacher! Every Brazilian learner knows that; what not every learner knows is that teacher is not a title, therefore it shouldn't be used to address a teacher. That is, English speakers won't say "Hi, teacher!" The same way we would not say "Bom dia, empregada" or ""Bom dia, porteiro" when we get home.
On the other hand we might greet the bus driver with "Bom dia Seu motorista." An American would probably find it very confusing and might end up greeting his dog's vet with "Boa tarde, Seu veterinário!" As a rule, it takes a while for a foreigner to figure out which job titles he can use to address someone and understand that "Oi, Doutor" is the correct form while "Oi, Médico" isn't.
To correctly address your teachers simply call them by their first names or use the following titles with a last name:
Mr Johnson (for a man)
Mrs Gonzales (for a married woman)
Miss Silva (for a single woman)
Ms Costa (if you don't know a woman's marital status)
Instructors that teach at colleges and universities usually have a Doctor's Degree and will be addressed as Professor + last name. (e.g. Professor Gimenez) or simply Professor. You might address them as Doctor +last name. In many cases, they are called by their first names. It will depend pretty much on the person.
Someone who graduated from medical school is also a doctor, but technically he or she is a medical doctor (M.D.) as in Roger Smith, M.D. You can tell Roger is a physician because there's the M (medical) in his title.
Someone with a Ph.D abbreviated from the Latin Philosophiae Doctor (Doctor of Philosophy) has completed his or her Doctorate degree, the highest academic degree after completing about 3 years of studies in a graduate course in a university or college.
As for 'Sir' and 'Madam' (or 'Ma'am'), they're used as a form of polite address for a man or a woman of a higher social rank. The chambermaid in your hotel will probably address you as 'Ma'am' to show that she's at your service. A young boy will say "Yes, Sir" to his teacher, who is in a position of authority.
To sum up, when you find yourself in an English speaking environment, just call your teacher by their first name or use one of those titles followed by their last name!


Boosting your listening skills

The idea is to watch the first video and jot down as many words as possible! This is a great way to develop your listening. It's a short video, so you won't need much time to do it. I'm going to post the audioscript soon!


How to access our online exercises

Once you get your enrollment number, go to our website and use that number as your login and password. Click on E-Routes and then on Exam Centre . After that click on Cambridge Exams. Choose FCE and there you are! We have already done Paper 3 in our first class but why don't you do it again and this time look up the words you don't know in the dictionary. Our website also offers a number of exercises and activities for you to improve your grammar and vocabulary. Enjoy!


Hi there!

Welcome to our blog. Imagine it's a nice little place where we can all share ideas and get some useful tips and information about our FCE prep course. The tips here don't apply to the FCE exam itself. They actually apply to our classes and assignments. By following these simple guidelines, you'll successfully prepare for the FCE exam. Your attitude towards the course and your classmates will make a huge difference in your performance throughout the course. So I wish you the best of luck and stay in touch!


FCE Paper 5 - Speaking in class and in mock tests

Candidates tend to take Paper 5 for granted. Because it involves speaking in informal situations, candidates don't actually prepare for it. I myself didn't prepare for the speaking when I took the CPE as I the other papers consumed so much time. As I said before, speak English at all times in class. Here are a few tips about the Speaking:
  1. You're not expected to have a perfect British or American accent. They do expect you to speak in a clear voice and in an intelligible way. Therefore, work on pronunciation.
  2. When you take the mock tests you will have only me as both interlocutor and assessor, but in the real FCE test (and in some of our mock tests) there will be the interlocutor (the person who you will interact with) and the assessor (an examiner sitting in the corner who will take note of your performance).
  3. Speak clearly and loudly as both the interlocutor and assessor need to hear you.
  4. You will take the test with another candidate and in some rare cases there will be two more candidates with you.
  5. You must interact with the other candidate as well. Look the other candidate in the eye, react to what he or she says, and show genuine interest in what he or she has to say. Even though you work together, you will be evaluated separately.
  6. If the other candidate is too shy or is reluctant to speak, ask him or her backup questions ('What do you think about it?' or 'Do you feel the same?'). Encourage his or her participation and really listen to him or her.
  7. Turn taking is an important feature of the speaking test. Wait for the other candidate to finish. Don't interrupt him or her. Don't be a show-off even if you think your English is so much better than the other candidate's.
  8. Have something to say. Give your opinion. Expand your ideas. Give relevant information. Avoid tap-dancing around it. Be objective. Say something interesting and get it across with confidence.
  9. Examiners don't want to hear a bunch of memorized expressions. You should be spontaneous and use the language in a natural way. Don't sound like a robot.
  10. Whether you're speaking about your last vacation or global warming, try to use the right vocabulary and expressions. If you can't remember a word, paraphrase it.
  11. You don't have to tell the truth (That's between you and me!) . If you have to talk about a memorable event in your life, make up a story if your mind goes blank. Don't talk about your wedding if you're not familiar with the vocabulary. Use your imagination!

FCE Paper 4 Listening

Paper 4 is also a challenge for most candidates but the good news is that you will listen to the same recording twice, so even if you think you've got all the answers right, don't miss this second chance. Here are a few tips that you can use in class:
  1. Be on time. If you arrive in the middle of a listening exercise you will probably distract the other students.
  2. I will put an 'ongoing listening test' notice on the door when the listening starts. Open your book on the given page and walk in as quietly as possible and I will tell you where to start from. Please don't ask questions or make noise.
  3. Listen to the instructions carefully as you concentrate on the speaker's voice, tone, and pronunciation. By the time the actual task starts, you will be fully concentrated.
  4. Work quietly. Don't make any comments.
  5. When checking your answers go to the audioscript and look for words and expressions that you didn't fully understand. Look up words in the dictionary if necessary. Share your impressions with your classmates.
  6. You will listen to a variety of interviews and talks about different topics. Be prepared.
  7. If you didn't figure something out move on to the next question. Remember that you will hear this one more time.
  8. If you didn't figure something out the second time you heard it, move on to the next answer. You won't have a third shot.

FCE Paper 3 Use of English - Making the most of our classes

In this part of the test you will have to focus on accuracy. Spelling included! Practice makes it perfect, so the more exercises you do, the better! Do all the tasks assigned to you and redo the ones you had difficulty with. Use grammar books and do online exercises.

FCE Paper 2 - How to deal with written assignments

Paper 2 is usually the most challenging task for most students. One reason is that we don't get much practice in our everyday lives. We will be dealing with a wide range of texts in our course. You will write an average of 2 compositions every week (either in class or at home). Here are a few tips to make the most of our writing tasks:
  1. Don't type your compositions. Handwrite them and make sure that it is intelligible so that the examiners can understand it!
  2. Pay attention to the layout and organization of your text.
  3. Count the words and stick to the limit of words. The examiner will cross out anything that exceeds the maximum limit. You will also be penalized if you write less than the minimum limit.
  4. Do your assignments.
  5. When I return your drafts, read my suggestions carefully and rewrite your compositions using the suggestions. You shouldn't write a completely new one.
  6. Use a dictionary to help you with expressions and words. Use your vocabulary notebook! You won't be allowed to use a dictionary during the FCE exam, so find the words you need now!
  7. Read one or both set books. It's one more option for you when taking the FCE.

FCE Paper 1 Reading - How to deal with our Practice papers

In this part of the test you will have to find the strategy that works for you. Some students prefer to read the questions before they start reading while others read the text once to get the general idea and then move on to the questions and go back to the text again. I personally prefer the second option but it's up to you. Here are a couple of things that you should do:
  1. Once you've read the questions underline the passages in the text that provide you with the answers.
  2. Try to understand the meaning of words from the context. If you stumble on a word that is essential to the full understanding of that sentence or paragraph, move on and go to the next question. Go back to the word later -- maybe the next question/answer will help.
  3. Check your answers after you finish. Go through the underlined sections of the text and see if they make sense.
  4. When you move on to the answer sheet pay extra attention to the numbers. Concentration is vital at this point. If you miss one line you will mess up with all the others.
  5. When doing your assignments, keep track of the time and save at least 15 minutes for the answer sheet. If you have any last minute doubts you will still have time to go back to the test.
  6. Get yourself familiar with all sorts of topics ranging from family to environmental issues and last but not least, remember that Cambridge University is a British institution. It means that you should get acquainted with English life as well.
  7. Needless to say, the more you read the better.
  8. If you made a mistake, find out why. If you still have a question, get the answer. If you don't understand a word, look it up in the dictionary.
  9. Keep a vocabulary notebook. Write down the meaning of the word and create a sentence using it. Use the words from your notebook in your compositions! You have no idea how helpful it is.

FCE In Class

Speak English in class at all times. Our weekly meetings are a great opportunity to communicate and clarify doubts in English. I will only be able to help you with accuracy and pronunciation if you speak in class. Have a positive attitude towards your classmates and teacher. The more everyone cooperates, the smoother our learning is. Feel free to ask any questions you like. Don't leave the classroom without answers to your questions. However, if you happen to have problems with your assignments, don't hesitate to post comments here. You may also help one another by using the blog. Contributions are also welcome!


Set texts for FCE from December 2008 to December 2009 - The pictures are mere suggestions

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (Macmillan or any edition)
Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera
(Penguin or any other edition)

PAPER 2 - Writing corner

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