Are you preparing for Cambridge English B2 First? Reading and Use of English Part 4 may not be your cup of tea – in fact most students feel quite nervous about this section of the exam.

Otherwise known as Key Word Transformation, this section is the fourth and final part of the Use of English exercises. Today, we’re here to make Part 4 a little less stressful by taking you through each step of the process.

We’ll look at what it’s about, what it’s testing you on and how to get top marks. Read on to find out more!


What’s in Part 4?


Let’s start by taking a look at what’s in Part 4.

There are 6 questions in this section. Each question is worth two marks, meaning that there are a total of 12 marks to get.

As shown below, you will see a first sentence followed by a key word in bold and a second sentence with a gap below that. You must complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first.

Cambridge English B2 First Sample Paper 1 (zip)

To do this, you need to use the key word (hence why this section is called Key Word Transformation), but must not change its form in any way. You can use between two and five words, including the key word given, to complete the second sentence.


What are they testing me on in this part of the exam?


The Key Word Transformation tests your ability to paraphrase. In this sense, you’re being tested on a wide range of language points that centre on two fundamental aspects: lexical and structural.


This relates to the aspects of vocabulary that you’ll be tested on. For instance, you will need to be familiar with the following:

  • Phrasal verbs
  • Word patterns
  • Fixed expressions
  • Contextual vocabulary
  • Linking expressions
  • Collocations


Here you need to think more about the grammatical structures needed to complete the phrase. You’ll be tested on some of the following structural aspects of English:

  • Passive voice
  • Relative clauses
  • Reported speech
  • Quantifiers
  • Connectors
  • Tense changes
  • Gerund versus infinitive
  • Modal verbs
  • Conditional sentences

So now you know what you’re being tested on, let’s take a quick look at an example.


And here’s the correct answer:

Correct answer

In this example, you’re being tested on your knowledge of the collocation – ‘to find something difficult’. You are also expected to know that after an adjective you use the infinitive with ‘to’.

We’ve included a forward slash to show you where the division is for the 2 points. For instance, if you answered ‘find it difficult’ correctly, but got ‘to make’ incorrect, you’d still get 1 point.


How should I answer the question?


Here are 5 simple steps for you to follow when approaching each of the questions in Part 4.

1. Read both sentences

Before you do anything, read the first and second sentences respectively for understanding. Make sure you look at what’s missing and where the similarities with the first sentence are.

For instance, in the question below, both sentences begin with the name ‘Arthur’ and end with ‘become a concert pianist’. Cross these parts out, as you’re not going to need them.

Then, underline the part of the first sentence that is missing from the second sentence. In this case, ‘has the talent to’ is missing, so this is the part that will need to be paraphrased.

Example 2

2. Take a look at the key word

Next, look at the key word. How do you think it would fit in the sentence? Is it a relative pronoun, comparative or part of another structure? Remember you cannot change it!

In this question the key word is ‘that’. We also have the word ‘so’. So we need to use the structure: so + adjective + that + clause

3. Write your answer

Now write your answer in the gap. Make sure it’s only between 2 and 5 words, and be aware that contractions such as ‘don’t’ count as two words – ‘do not’.

Remember that if you’re struggling with one question, you can always skip it and come back to it later.

Example 3

4. Check it

Finally, read over the complete sentence again. Check that your answer fits the second sentence and that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence.

Also, check that the two sentences are in the same tense. For example, if the first sentence is in the past, make sure the second is in the past too.

5. Record your answers on the answer sheet

When transferring the answers, pay attention to spelling and only write the words that are missing. You wouldn’t believe how many people try to squeeze the whole sentence on the answer sheet!


Tips for studying


Answer each question – We always recommend that you answer all the questions, even if you’re just guessing. This is even more important in Part 4 as each question is worth 2 marks meaning that you could get 1 point even if you don’t know the whole answer.

Read over all of your answers – Don’t forget to read over your work and double check it makes sense. You never know, you may spot an error and have time to quickly fix it before moving on.

Check you have between 2 and 5 words – It’s vital that you check all of your answers only have between 2 and 5 words, or you may lose points.

Be careful with your timing – Because this section is quite challenging, it’s tempting to want to spend more time on it. However, we recommend a maximum of 10 minutes. If this doesn’t seem like enough, then make sure to practise by timing yourself until you feel more comfortable.


Helpful resources


For more practice, you can download two free B2 First sample tests from Cambridge English.

Find more online resources for practising for Cambridge English exams.

If you’re interested in learning how to get top marks in the other Use of English sections, check out our posts for Reading and Use of English Part 1, Reading and Use of English Part 2 and Reading and Use of English Part 3.

We also offer tips for other sections of the exam. Read our blog posts for the Writing section: essay, review, report, article, informal email/letter and a formal email/letter.


Want to learn more?


We know that studying for the B2 can be a challenge, particularly if you’re preparing for it alone! If you think some support would be helpful, then we’re here to help. At Oxford House, we offer exam courses specifically designed to help you get ready for the B2 First exam. Sign up now!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Not (be) my cup of tea (exp): not what a person likes or is interested in.

Forward slash (n): a part of English punctuation.

Struggling (v): having difficulty doing something.

Skip (v): miss something and move on to what is following.

Squeeze (v): to fit something into a restricted space.

Spot (v): see, notice or recognise something that is difficult to see.

Tempting (adj): appealing to or attracting someone.


exp = expression

n = noun

v = verb

adj = adjective

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