Studying English? I’m sure you’ve heard of the Cambridge English exams, but at almost 200 euro, are they really worth the time, money and effort?
Isn’t it enough to do a course and be able to communicate in English? Well, here are a few reasons why you might consider doing the FCE (The Cambridge English: First) – one of the most popular and probably most useful of the Cambridge exams.
The FCE is known all around the world and is recognised by the majority of universities – in fact, 99% of the world’s top 100 universities accept it. For most college courses you need to prove you have upper-intermediate English. (CEFR B2) So while IELTS is probably the most common exam, the FCE is a close second. Some courses will require advanced English so you would need the CAE (The Cambridge English: Advanced) for those ones
Note: The TIE is accepted by Irish universities – see blog post ‘My experience of the TIE’
Valid for Life!
One of the best things about the FCE is that your certificate is valid forever, unlike IELTS which is only valid for two years. This makes it the best choice for your CV. When applying for a job, it’s very useful to have this certificate to show you can use English well in a working environment. And you just have to do it once in your life, which makes it great value for money in my opinion.
Note: Although your certificate has no expiry date, some universities require that it is no more than two or three years old, so you need to check carefully with each university/ institute you are applying to.
Really Improve your English
The FCE is a very challenging exam which tests all language skills -reading, listening, writing, grammar and most importantly speaking. You need 60% to pass and have to do all the tasks under time pressure. You really need a wide vocabulary; good knowledge of phrasal verbs and idioms as well as flexibility and control of grammatical structures in order to do well. You need to be able to express your ideas clearly and fluently.
You are moving from everyday English to wider and less familiar topics, so preparing for this exam helps to improve all aspects of your language development and makes sure that you can manage in a wide variety of situations.
Be rewarded for your Hard Work
Students get a wonderful sense of satisfaction from passing the FCE. There’s nothing like having an exam date to motivate you to study hard. And in my experience, students preparing for international exams tend to be more focused and hard-working. They often do extra self-study and re-do their written work until it is of a high quality. They do plenty of past exam papers and are constantly building and reviewing their skills. I see them really making progress.
And then to finally get that certificate – it’s just fantastic! Nobody can take it away from you and it can help you with further education or climb the career ladder.
Show you haven’t been ‘wasting your time’
If you have taken time out to travel and experience a different culture but wish to return home to find employment having the FCE can show that you have gained something valuable during your time away. I feel that this is especially important for au-pairs and people who go WWOOFing or students on Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci programmes.
So do I think it is worth your time, money and effort? Absolutely !!
Note: First for schools is available for students under-18:
Au-Pair: A young woman ( or man) who lives with a family and helps them look after their children. Free accommodation and food and pocket money.
WWOOFing : Worldwide working opportunities on organic farms.
Leonardo da Vinci programmes: Work placements in Europe for people doing vocational training (not at university)
Erasmus programmes: Exchange programme for university students.
If you are coming to Ireland to study you might be interested in our FCE courses: