THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Monday, October 02, 2006

Paper 2 - SET BOOK

Preparing for the Set Book Option

Choosing your book
When we think of extensive reading we mean reading for pleasure. Of course it is not pleasurable to stop your reading to look up 20 new words in the dictionary per page! Take into account your level of English when choosing the books from the ESOL set texts –graded or full versions. Ideally you should be able to get a good hint at the meaning of the words from context and use the dictionary only for those unknown words which are a key to understanding the story. Predicting, guessing and carefully selecting words to further investigate are part of the skills you learn when reading longer texts.

Purpose of reading the set book: reading extensively
Cambridge list of set texts usually includes a number of classics. Students sometimes complain that those stories are set in a distant past, with past problems and 'old fashioned' vocabulary. Indeed if you want to learn how people speak today, there are other sources to go to –we discussed some options in a previous posting. Yet, there are countless advantages for language learners who acquire the habit of extensive reading. To mention but a few:

  • you can learn collocations
  • you can improve reading comprehension
  • you get lots of cultural information

Remember that good writers have always been great readers! Speaking of writing...

Let’s talk about the writing task

Is this one of the easiest or more difficult options in the writing paper?

If you choose it in the hope of finding an easy task, it is probably not one of the easiest options. It is true that you can think about what to say about the book beforehand. You will not have to think of something completely new to write about.

Do I have to remember the entire book?

Yes, you do. But remember the task is not about retelling. You will show evidence of your reading by briefly referring to relevant moments of the story- that is all.

Will there be any questions about the set book in the oral exam?


(For a complete oral exam sample go here).

Can I see the film instead of reading the book?

Films can be of help; however, they do not replace reading a book. Through a film, you access to someone else's reaction to the book. You will need to have your own opinions about the text to write your criticism.

How to read the book preparing for the set book option

Do your note taking while reading the book. Classify your notes with headings such as vocabulary to talk about the plot, setting or main characters.

Part 2 – Question 5: Analysing your options

Type of writing tasks

Sample Questions

You will have to produce an original piece, so it is not possible to have a ready made composition. But you can certainly have decided on a number of ideas about the story and characters. Your writing is a personal and critical view of the book. Your own reaction and evaluation of it is expected.

Where to find examples and sample answers

The Penguin Readers Teacher’s Guide to Preparing for FCE by Carolyn Walker (Pearson 1999) is a booklet written for teachers; however, students preparing the exam on their own can find it helpful.

You can download it here.

Pdf- 17 pages and 14 worksheets

This is a possible reading path:

Useful pages for students
Pages 6, 7 and 8 include brief descriptions of the type of text you will produce, style, target reader, organisation and content. A detailed analysis of your response to the book as well as exam tips.

Useful worksheets for students
2- FCE question types. The 10 examples given are taken from UCLES 1997- 1998 sessions.

3- A sample essay. Based on Wuthering Heights, it includes questions to analyse how the task was achieved.

5- Analysis of the plot. A chart to take your notes while reading.

10- Personality chart. There is a collection of adjectives to help you describe main characters.

14- Evaluating the book. Set of model sentences to include your opinion of the book.

All the examples and explanations in the Penguin Guide are based on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Definitely one of my favourite novels. You can find the book and study notes here (Pdf available on the site).

Phillips, Brian and Bourneuf, Annie. SparkNote on Wuthering Heights. 1 Oct. 2006 .

Related post:
Background Reading Texts. Where to find the set texts online.



  • Don't forget audio books (many of which can be downloded as mp3s from the internet free of charge. Students can also listen and read at the same time, so killing two birds with one stone.

    Thanks for the Penguin link I'm going to look into that stuff now.

    By Blogger teacher dude, At 2:08 pm  

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