How to improve your FCE score

One way that students can improve their FCE scores is to study English word formation.  This is what is tested in Part Three of Reading and Use of English section of the exam. Many students avoid this and concentrate on other areas.  This is unfortunate, because it is relatively easy to improve your score on this section.

There are basic types of task that the student must do. One of these is changing verbs to nouns. For example:

  • Appear > appearance
  • Choose > choice
  • Grow > growth
  • Prove > proof
  • Assist > assistance
  • Employ > employment (job)
  • Employ > employer (boss)
  • Employ > employee (worker)
  • Improve > improvement

Another task that the student must do is changing nouns to adjectives.  For example:

  • Addition > additional
  • Delight > delightful
  • Anxiety > anxious
  • Economy > economic
  • Coast > coastal
  • Doubt > doubtful
  • Danger > dangerous
  • Energy > energetic
  • Industry > industrial
  • Harm > harmful
  • Poison > poisonous
  • Science > scientific

In addition the student will have to change adjectives to adverbs. This is generally easier. The English suffix -ly corresponds to the Catalan -ment and the Spanish -mente. For example:

  • Regular > regularly
  • Careful > carefully
  • Punctual > punctually
  • Easy > easily

The most frequent of the tasks is to change verbs into adjectives. For example:

  • Comfort > comfortable
  • Impress > impressive
  • Rely > reliable
  • Polish > polished
  • Attract > attractive
  • Care > careful/careless
  • Remark > remarkable

There will almost always be at least one question where the student has to change a positive word to a negative meaning.  For example:

  • Able > unable/disabled
  • Fortunate > unfortunately
  • Like > unlike
  • Likely > unlikely
  • Clear > unclear
  • Motion > motionless
  • Suitable > unsuitable
  • Regular > irregular
  • Usual > unusual

And finally, the student will have to know how to use words that have an irregular change.  For example:

  • Choose > choice
  • Wide > width
  • High > height
  • Easy >ease
  • Long > lengthen
  • Fly > flight
  • Hot > heat
  • Cold > cool

The easiest way for a student to prepare for this part of the exam is to take a piece of paper and divide it into four columns. The first column is for the verb form, the next one is for the noun form, then the adjective and finally the adverbs.  The student should look at as many practice exams as possible and write down the words that he or she doesn’t know all the forms of. Studying these forms will not only help you to improve your score on the FCE, but it will also help you to improve your English in general.


Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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