The Cambridge exam has been around since 1913 yet there are many people that still are not very sure of what it is. A Cambridge exam is an assessment that shows you have practical language skills for everyday use and have mastered the basics of English. One of the most requested English level certifications to graduate from university is the B1. However what exactly does a B1 assessment entail? Today we are going to take a look at each part of the Cambridge B1 preliminary exam and analyse the basic requirements and rubrics from reading, writing, listening and speaking.
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The reading part of the exam takes 45 minutes to complete and with six total parts you can understand why it takes so long. The main focus of parts 1-4 and part 6 are to test your ability to read articles for the main message, specific information, detailed comprehension, understanding of attitude, opinion, and writer purpose and inference. Part 5 on the other hand, tests vocabulary and grammar.
This part consists of 5 multiple choice questions that are in the style of short texts, signs, messages, notes, emails, etc. with three possible answers. The key to this part of the exam is to read the question and text carefully, and underline the keywords so that it makes it easier to compare the answers to the text.
In part 2, you have five descriptions of people and match them to eight short texts. It requires a bit more reading and double checking your answers to identify the needs and wants of the people.
Part 3 is a very basic type of English reading comprehension activity. It requires reading a longer text or article, and answering five multiple choice questions. There are four answers to choose from and all except the last can be found directly within the text. The final question is typically an estimation based on evidence from the context or better known as an “inference.”
The best thing to do in this part of the exam is to look at the key words within the first question and begin reading until you find the answer. Then read the second question underlining the keywords and continue reading until you find the answer. Keep this up until the final question which will require you to have read the entire text.
In this part of the test, you must select five correct sentences from a total of 8 possibilities to place within a gapped text. Most if not all the sentences are vague on the subject of reference. You must read before and after the gap carefully, along with the answers to identify which fits best.
This part is a gapped text with six multiple choice questions. Learners must select the correct word for each gap, paying close attention to the sentences and the verb patterns and rules, and definitions. This can be tricky at times having multiple synonyms can confuse you. However, with the correct questions in mind to go through at each gap you can assure yourself by covering all the bases.
The questions you ask yourself may be,
“Does this verb go with that proposition?”
“Does this noun go with this verb?”
“What is the exact meaning of this word?”
“Is this countable or uncountable?”
Part six is the final part of the reading. It is a gapped text without answers to choose from. You must read the text and based on your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary of the English language, you will have to select grammatical words like prepositions, auxiliary verbs, etc., and not so many nouns or adjectives.
The writing part of the test is 45 minutes and consists of two different writings. Part 1 of the writing is an informal email of about 10o words responding to a text.
In part 1 you must respond to the points in the email, in the correct form and style of a typical informal email to a friend.
Part 2 is a choice between an article or a story. The article is typically written in an informal/neutral style, and you need to answer the questions from the task the best you can.
In the story you are given a sentence and you must start your story with this sentence and continue the progression. Typically with a title, exposition, action, and resolution to the story.
In all the writings it is important to use appropriate vocabulary and avoid repetition. Use your connectors and the correct type of grammar depending on the style and reason for the writing. Always remember to check your writing after you finish.
The listening part of the exam is approximately 30 minutes. You are expected to listen to identify gist, key information, specific information and detailed meaning, and to identify, understand and interpret meaning. Also, you need to be able to identify the attitudes and opinions of speakers.
This part is seven short monologues or dialogues with multiple choice questions with pictures. In this part you must pay close attention to the little details as they will mention every option, understanding the main point is key.
Part two is six short dialogues that are completely unrelated with six multiple choice questions. The main idea of this is to listen to the audio while paying attention to the speaker's attitudes and opinions. Pay close attention to the keywords within the question! Some learners believe it is a good idea to not read the answer until after the audio is finished so that you don't confuse yourself too much.
This part is a longer monologue where candidates must complete six sentences with information from the audio from words and phrases to numbers and letters with the trickiest part being the question that is spelled out. Most learners struggle with identifying the letters being read aloud; however if you pay close attention to the pronunciation then it should be a bit easier to get that question correct.
Part 4 is a long interview with six multiple choice questions. Using a similar strategy to Part 1 the learner must focus on the small details mentioned by the interviewee. One thing to remember is that each time the interviewer asks a question the interviewee gives an answer to your question.
Speaking is the shortest part of the exam at 12 minutes. It is also the only part of the exam where learners are paired together. Learners are required to comfortably ask and understand questions and make appropriate responses on topics of personal interest.
Part 1 of the speaking exam is a short interview where the examiner will ask your name and where you are from etc. Mostly standardised questions to help relax you so that you get through the rest of the exam with ease.
Part 2 of the speaking requires the learner to speak for one minute about a photo. Describing what they see and deducing information from the evidence in the photographs.
Part 3 of the speaking, the two learners speak together about a range of topics, attempting to reach a decision by the end of the two minute mark. The learners are able to look at a visual diagram to help them along with the conversation.
Part 4 is a continuation of part three in which the examiner will ask questions related to the topic to create further discussion.
With determination and careful study, the B1 exam will be an easy obstacle on the path to proficiency in English. Good luck!
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