THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Friday, August 04, 2006

Exam Conditions - Time Management

Time Yourself!

FCE preparation courses include a fair amount of exercises from past examination papers. Students tend to focus mainly on the tasks and not making mistakes. However, passing an exam is not simply a question of obtaining correct answers. Just think: If we were given all the time in the world, even students with lower levels would succeed. Exams test time management, too. An FCE certificate tells a university or future employer that you can study or work in an English speaking context. Real jobs and deadlines tend to go together.

Time Management is your Key to Exam Success

When doing your practice with past papers –without any anxious teacher around-, it is vital to time yourself. After having studied for a while, you will need less and less time for the same type of task. There are no rules here about how long each task should take: that will depend entirely on which parts of the test you are better at.

Here are some overall guidelines to bear in mind in order to train your time management skills:

a- Remember how much time you have:
Paper 1- Reading: Total time allotted: 1h 15’. Number of Parts: 4
Paper 2- Writing:Total time allotted: 1h 30’. Number of Parts: 2
Paper 3- Use of English: Total time allotted: 1h 15'. Number of Parts: 5

b- Just do your figures. I’d suggest taking no more than 15’ for every reading task; 40’ for each written piece; and about 10’ for each use of English exercise. That gives you some extra time to review. This is just to give you an idea.

c- When you are doing homework, you rarely use answer sheets. You must allow time for transferring all answers within the total allotted time for each Paper. Ideally, you should also review that you have transferred your answers correctly within the last ten minutes of the test. The invigilator will remind you when there are ten minutes left.

Does that seem too tight an arrangement? Need more time? Once you progress in your course, you’ll find that you need less than ten minutes for some tasks and more than ten for others. The point is you should know your own time needs. That is not learnt by timing yourself once in a blue moon. Actually that will not give you a real picture. As you probably noticed, some past papers seem more difficult than others. You should always have a clock around.

Our sidebar has a trendy clock to help you. How about a timer? Find one at It’s easy to set and when it goes off, it gives you a sound alarm to drop your pens (It will work even if you go offline after setting it).

When you invigilate in an FCE exam, you can easily tell who is well prepared: those are the students who never look at their watches nervously. They are not even surprised to have finished ahead of time.

Related Post: Past Papers


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