CE@4x

Exam Preparation

B1 Preliminary

Exam Preparation

B1 Preliminary

Information for candidates

A guide to the exam, with advice on preparing for the exam, tips for exam day and useful links.

Download B1 Preliminary information for candidates

Exam format

B1 Preliminary is made up of four papers developed to test your English skills:

45 minutes

The B1 Preliminary Reading paper has six parts. There are different types of texts and questions. This paper accounts for 25% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple-choice)
  • Read five real-world notices, messages and other short texts for the main message.
  • 5 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Matching)
  • Match five descriptions of people to eight short texts on a particular topic, showing detailed comprehension.
  • 5 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Multiple choice)
  • Read a longer text for detailed comprehension, gist, inference and global meaning, as well as writer’s attitude and opinion.
  • 5 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Gapped text)
  • Read a longer text from which five sentences have been removed. Show understanding of how a coherent and well-structured text is formed.
  • 5 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 5 (Multiple choice cloze)
  • Read a shorter text and choose the correct vocabulary items to complete gaps.
  • 6 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 6 (Open cloze)
  • Read a shorter text and complete six gaps using one word for each gap.
  • 6 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer

45 minutes

The B1 Preliminary Writing paper has two parts. You have to show that you can write different types of text in English. This paper accounts for 25% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Writing an email)
  • Write about 100 words, answering the email and notes provided.
  • 1 question
  • The question has a maximum of 20 marks available
Part 2 (Choice between an article or a story)
  • Write about 100 words, answering the question of their choosing.
  • Choose one question from a choice of two.
  • The question has a maximum of 20 marks available

30 minutes, including 6 minutes’ transfer time

The B1 Preliminary Listening paper has four parts. For each part, you have to listen to a recorded text or texts and answer some questions. You hear each recording twice. This paper accounts for 25% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple choice)
  • Identify key information in seven short monologues or dialogues and choose the correct visual.
  • 7 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Multiple choice short texts)
  • Listen to six short dialogues and understand the gist of each.
  • 6 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Gap fill)
  • Listen to a monologue and complete six gaps.
  • 6 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Multiple choice)
  • Listen to an interview for a detailed understanding of meaning and to identify attitudes and opinions.
  • 6 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer

12–17 minutes per pair of candidates

The B1 Preliminary Speaking test has four parts and is taken with another candidate. Exceptionally the test may be taken with 3 candidates. There are two examiners. One examiner talks to you and the other examiner listens. Both examiners give marks for your performance.

Part 1 (Interview)
  • Respond to questions, giving factual or personal information
  • 2 minutes
Part 2 (Extended turn)
  • Describe one colour photograph, talking for about 1 minute.
  • 3 minutes
Part 3 (Discussion)
  • Make and respond to suggestions, discuss alternatives and negotiate agreement.
  • 4 minutes
Part 4 (General conversation)
  • Discuss likes, dislikes, experiences, opinions, habits, etc.
  • 3 minutes
Choosing your Speaking Test partner

If you would like to be paired together with a friend/classmate, you can request this when you register for the exam. Please note however that research has shown that there are both advantages and disadvantages in taking the test with someone you know and that in the end it doesn’t matter. What is important is that the test judges you on your own performance.

Groups of three candidates

Almost all A2 Key Speaking Tests are conducted in groups of two candidates. However, if there is an uneven number of candidates at an exam session there will be one test with a group of three candidates, normally at the end of the day or before a long break. The test format is exactly the same but will last a little longer. Please note that you cannot request to take your test in a group of three.

Frequently asked questions
and exam day tips

A guide to the exam, with advice on preparing for the exam, tips for exam day and useful links.

B1 Preliminary FAQs

Exam day tips – paper-based exams

Exam day tips – computer-based exams

Exam day tips – Speaking test

Sample tests
Computer based

Watch this tutorial before you start to help you understand what you need to do.

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Answer keys

There is no answer key for Writing Parts 2 and 3 of the Reading and Writing paper, but there are sample answers and examiner comments in the relevant pages of the B1 Preliminary handbook.

Vocabulary list

This list gives teachers a guide to the vocabulary needed when preparing students for B1 Preliminary and B1 Preliminary for Schools.

Download B1 Preliminary vocabulary list