THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Monday, July 16, 2007

Word Count

Analising your text- Word Count

In your FCE exam, all written answers must be between 120 and 180 words. When writing under exam pressure, it is important to count words and not to lose time.

How do you count words?
Here's the trick: train your eye.

On paper
By the time you sit for an exam you should know how many words in your handwriting fit a line.

If you must count, do not count word by word. Select two or three lines of your text; count the words on those lines. Obtain the average and then multiply by the total number of lines. Much faster.

On the computer
When you practise for the class, you may use your word processor to do the word count. (Tools>Count Words). There is also a toolbar in some versions of Word that will update the count when you make alterations.

My students are writing on a wiki which does not include a word counter. It is quite uncomfortable to open Word just to cut and paste your sample and check on the total number.
Here are a couple of websites with word counting tools

How many words is too much?
Let's say that 10% more than the total mentioned in the exam rubrics is as far as you can go. If you have written a remarkable piece, a few extra words will not affect your mark.

Let's count!

Related Link
Time Yourself!

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  • Claudia,

    Thanks for the word counting tip and pointers to online tools! I've shared them with students that I teach via Word Counting Tip & Tools on the Writing Studio Blog.


    By Blogger Paul Beaufait, At 12:07 am  

  • My classmates and I have been preparing for the FCE this whole year. Few weeks ago, we sat for the speaking part. While one of my classmates was in the middle of his examination, the examiner suddenly realized that she had given the wrong photo to my friend, and before my friend could start speaking, she yelled NO PARA, in spanish, when they are supposed to speak only in english.
    Furthermore, yesterday, while we were sitting for the listening part, the inviligator's cell phone rang in the middle of part 2. Everyone knows that cell phones or pagers aren't allowed, and every cell phone is placed in a plastic bag and taken out of the room. The worst part of it was that the invigilator could not find her cell phone inside her purse and she lasted a lot to turn it off. Fortunately, I can say none of my answers were affected by this, but some of my friends could not answer on or two answer.
    Of course, we told our teachers, who informed the headmistress. She called the centre, and was told that a report about the incident will be sent to Cambridge, the invigilator penalized and they will consider this at the time of correcting our tests.
    This incident was big enough to be informed to the centre, but I am sad to say that many invigilators broke the rules in many ways, such as almost falling asleep.

    Maybe as we are young (15 years old) the invigilators disrespect us and break the rules only when they are "controlling" us, but I think it was quite disrespectful of her no to apologise when the test ended.

    That´s all, sorry for the grammar mistakes, etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 2:03 pm  

  • Fist of all, thank you for posting your comment on this entry. It shows you've been browsing the blog to find a suitable spot. There is no post related to exam regulations yet.

    Sencondly, I value your balanced account of what happened. I can imagine the feelings of a candidate in that situation. Writing a true complaint -not the imaginary ones in our exam samples- is a tough exercise.

    About the episode, I am a bit disappointed too. I always say to my students they must be ready for unexpected interruptions in the listening. For example, if an ambulance got stuck in a traffic jam in front of the exam centre and you are distracted by the sirens, the listening would not be stopped. As a candidate, you must concentrate and listen on. A mark is made of the time and type of noise by the invigilator and sent to Cambridge for the test to be corrected with special considerations.

    However, as you point out, it seems there have been mistakes that could have been avoided. You are absolutely right about deserving an apology. I am inclined to think the breaking of the rules was not connected to your being young at all. There are candidates of all ages in FCE, you never know who you will invigilate. In my opinion, it was mere lack of responsibility mixed with ignorance on the part of the invigilator. The exam centre should make sure people know the rules.

    Thank you for respecting privacy rules here about real names or centre identity so that I can publish your comment.

    Wish you all best on all other parts of the test. I must say your English is good enough to obtain a good mark in your writing paper!

    All best,


    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 3:22 pm  

  • Firefox has an add-on to count words in selected text. Useful for my students at the Corpus wiki since wikispaces doesn't have a built in counter.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 8:04 pm  

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