So you’ve decided to take the B2 First! Formerly known as FCE or the First Certificate, this is by far Cambridge English’s most popular exam. Whether it’s your dream to live in an English-speaking country, attend university or work abroad, this high-level English qualification can help you.

But, first you need to pass it. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. Luckily, we’ve written a series of blog posts to help guide you through each section of the exam.

Today we’ll be looking at Reading and Use of English. This section tests you on your grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension. And what better place to start than with Part 1?

We’ll tell you what to expect, how to answer the questions – we’ll even give you some tips and resources to help with your revision. So, without further ado – let’s get started!


What’s in Part 1?

So you turn over the first page of the Reading and Use of English paper, and you see something that looks like this:

This is Reading and Use of English Part 1, also known as the multiple-choice cloze. In this section, you’re given a short text, with eight gaps and eight multiple choice questions.

Every question has four options A, B, C or D. It’s your job to read the text and decide which option is missing from each gap.

Each question is worth one mark, so that’s a total of eight marks you can get! This score then contributes to your overall grade of the Reading and Use of English.

You’re also given an example written as (0), and a picture of how you should record your answers on the answer sheet.


What are they testing me on in Part 1?

Whereas other parts of the Reading and Use of English paper focus on grammar or reading comprehension, Part 1 tests you on vocabulary. More specifically, your knowledge of:

Meaning – Think about the words say, ask and tell. Some words are very similar, or from the same family, but they have slightly different meanings or usage.

Phrasal Verbs – Get up, get off, get over are all examples of phrasal verbs. A phrasal verb is normally made up of a verb and one or two particles.

Idioms – Has anyone ever told you to break a leg or fill your boots? These are examples of idioms. They have a figurative meaning that’s different from the literal meaning.

Collocations – Collocations are two or more words that often appear together, for example make the bed, make friends or make a cake.

Fixed phrases – This is a series of words with a fixed order such as in a moment, or good morning, or have a nice day!

Dependent prepositions – These are prepositions that are used next to specific adjectives, verbs or nouns. For example: complain about, apply for, think of, dream about, etc.


How should I answer the questions?

1. Read the title

How to get top marks_ B2 First Reading and Use of English Part 1 | Oxford House Barcelona
This will give you an idea of what the text is about, and help you mentally prepare for what’s to come.

2. Skim read the text

To skim read is to read quickly, to pick up the most important information. Ignore the gaps and the options, you just want to get the general gist of the text.

3. Examine the text more closely

Look at what comes before and after each gap – sometimes the answer depends on the words surrounding the gap. At other times, it’s dependent on the whole paragraph. Circle or underline any words that might be useful.

How to get top marks_ B2 First Reading and Use of English Part 1_Examine the test more closely | Oxford House Barcelona

4. Look at the options

Now it’s time to choose your answers. Start with question one, look at the options, and decide which best fits in the first gap. If you’re not sure, eliminate or guess.

Take a look at this example. The word ‘than’ after the first gap in the main text acts as a clue. We know that ‘instead’ is followed by the preposition ‘of’, ‘except’ is followed by no preposition, and ‘sooner than’ doesn’t make sense in this sentence. So, the answer must be B – rather!

How to get top marks_ B2 First Reading and Use of English Part 1_Look at the options | Oxford House Barcelona

Once you’ve done question one, look at the options for question two and so on.

5.Read the text again

After completing all your answers, read the whole text again to check that everything makes sense. Give a second look to any options that don’t sound right.

Tips & Tricks

  • Keep an eye on the time: You only have 1 hour 15 minutes to complete the whole Reading and Use of English paper, so we recommend spending no more than 10 minutes on this section.
  • Don’t waste time on the example:You get no marks for sitting staring at the example – cross it out and move on to the first question.
  • Keep a vocabulary notebook: Make a note of any phrasal verbs, dependent prepositions, collocations and idioms during your preparation for the exam.
  • Read lots: A little bit of reading practice in English each day will help you get better at speed reading.

Other resources

Download two free B2 First sample tests from Cambridge English.

Find more online resources for practising questions for Cambridge English exams.

Check out these blog posts for the Writing section of the B2 First exam: essay, review, report, article, informal email/letter and a formal email/letter.

Looking for more support?

The best way to pass the B2 First exam with a mark you can be proud of, is with preparation. We at Oxford House offer preparation courses specifically designed to help you prepare for the 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.

By far (exp): by a large amount.

Without further ado (exp): without any delay; immediately.

Particles (n): a class of words eg. prepositions or adverbs.

Break a leg (exp): good luck!.

Fill your boots (exp): to have or do as much as you want of something.

Gist (n): the general idea of a text.

Clue (n): a piece of evidence.

And so on (exp): etcetera.

To stare (v): to look fixedly at something.

Speed Reading (n): the action of reading quickly.


exp = expression

n = noun

v = verb

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