Guide to Cambridge Examinations


A Guide To Cambridge English Examinations

Posted 20 December

Cambridge Examinations

"So you have reached a plateau in your English learning and general classes are not challenging you enough..."

Then maybe one of the Cambridge English examinations is for you. There are a few to choose from: CAE, FCE and PET. GCI run all of these quite regularly. It will definitely improve your knowledge and use of English and will make communication easier and will generally increase your overall confidence in English.

Depending on your circumstances, you could do 4, 6 or 12 week course. Please remember that doing a 4 week course is very intensive and is more suited to people who need to refresh not learn the grammar and vocabulary from scratch and also the workload is immense. Expect to eat, sleep and think only about the Cambridge English Examinations for the 4 weeks.

A 6 week course is less intense but again is more suited to people who are comfortable at a B2 level and a 12 week course is for people who want a slower pace of learning, taking their time to learn at their own pace and having the teacher go through everything in minute detail and still have time to enjoy their life in Galway and explore the country. Our blog Which Exam Preparation Course do I choose will give a more detailed insight of the various length of courses available. 

But be aware whatever course you do you will have to work very hard and while teachers do everything they can to keep to you motivated and focused please remember that there will be times when you want to give up or think that you won’t pass. This is totally natural, talk to your teacher and they will help you to overcome the difficulty.



First Certificate 

There are a few different Cambridge English Examinations to get your head around. The most common of which would have to be the First Cambridge Examinations or FCE. The FCE, like all Cambridge English qualifications is an globally recognised qualification. The FCE grants its holder greater employment prospects in English-speaking counties and further afield.

The hardest thing about the new revised FCE is timing for Paper 1. You have to be ruthless in your time keeping so during whatever course you decide to take, you need to constantly time yourself when doing exam practice. Be aware of where you gain time and spots that you are prone to losing it.

Advanced Certificate 

Next, the Cambridge Advanced Examinations (CAE) are a little bit more tricky to conquer. The CAE is for students who are looking to pursue a higher level of English language. They might need the CAE because they’re looking to live long-term in an English-speaking country.

Preliminary Certificate 

The Preliminary English Test (PET) is directed at the 12 to 16 year-old demographic. The Key English Test is for even younger students still, who are around the age of 9. 

FCE is the most popular out of all the Cambridge English Examinations, followed by CAE. Surprisingly, FCE writing is not difficult to get good marks in. They have it clearly broken up into sections and while you might not do well in one section that will not affect your marks in the others. Just remember to read the question carefully and do what the exam is asking you to do. Clear ideas simply written will suffice for the FCE. In CAE you will be expected to speak a higher level of English and elaborate on your points a little further.

Proficiency Certificate

There are other Cambridge English Examinations, such as the CPE, the Cambridge Proficiency Examination. Out of all the Cambridge English Examinations, the CPE is the highest level. Even native-English speakers would have trouble getting their heads around these exams.

There are also some Cambridge English Examinations for Business (BCE).

The Speaking Part 

Speaking is a big part of the Cambridge English examinations that you can achieve quite high marks and teachers will drill and guide you through the necessary things that you are expected to do. Apart from Part 2 all of it is supposed to be a conversation. This is something that you can practice a lot but there always will be a few questions that come up that you’re not expecting. Take your time and the most important thing to do is relax.

Students in library

Students in library

The Listening Part 

Finally, we come to listening. If you find listening difficult be prepared to do a lot of listening outside of class. Podcasts, Ted Talks, T.V. shows and films are all excellent to improve your listening. You will find your listening improving drastically if you are living in an English-speaking country, without you even noticing!

Cambridge English examinations can be tough and you might find them a little stressful. We have compiled a short list of what to know before the exam. 

The Day of the Exam 

  • Be confident.
  • Make sure you have your I.D and pencils ,pens, rubber and topper with you.
  • Arrive in plenty of time.
  • Read the questions carefully.
  • Remember Paper 1 has to be written in pencil and in capitals.
  • Allow time to transfer your answers in Paper 1 at least 5 minutes or do them as you go.
  • Don’t get discouraged in the exam.
  • Watch the clock.
  • Plan your writing carefully and know what you are going to say and please read over it carefully when you have finished. Your writing has to be done in pen.
  • In the listening try to keep up with it and don’t get stuck on a question.
  • Answer all the questions, even if it is a guess!
  • Relax the night before, close the books and get a good sleep.
  • And it’s all over, you can relax and enjoy yourself after a job well done.

If you would like to know more about the Cambridge Exams that Galway Cultural Institute has on offer, please contact the school directly at or +353 91 863 100