CE@4x

Exam Preparation

B2 First

for Schools

Exam Preparation

B2 First for Schools

Exam Preparation

B2 First for Schools

Information for candidates

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

Download B2 First for Schools information for candidates

Exam format

The B2 First for Schools exam is made up of four papers developed to test students’ English language skills.

1 hour 15 minutes

The B2 First for Schools Reading and Use of English paper is in seven parts and has a mix of text types and questions. For Parts 1 to 4, you read a range of texts and do grammar and vocabulary tasks. For Parts 5 to 7, you read a series of texts and answer questions that test your reading ability and show that you can deal with a variety of different types of texts.

This paper accounts for 40% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple-choice cloze):
  • A text in which there are some missing words or phrases (gaps). After the text there are four possible answers for each gap and students have to choose the correct answer (A, B, C or D).
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Open cloze):
  • There are some missing words (gaps). Students have to think of the correct word for each gap.
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Word formation):
  • A text containing eight gaps. Each gap represents a word. At the end of the line is a ‘prompt’ word which you have to change in some way to complete the sentence correctly.
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Key word transformations):
  • A sentence followed by a key word and a second sentence which has a gap in it. Students have to use the key word to complete the second sentence so that it is similar in meaning to the first sentence.
  • 6 questions
  • Up to 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 5 (Multiple choice):
  • A text with some multiple-choice questions. Each question has four options (A, B, C or D), and students have to decide which is the correct answer.
  • 6 questions
  • 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 6 (Gapped text):
  • A text with some empty spaces (gaps). After the text there are some sentences taken from the text. Students have to choose the correct sentence for each gap.
  • 6 questions
  • 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 7 (Multiple matching):
  • A series of questions and a long text or several short texts to read. For each question, students have to decide which text or part of the text mentions this.
  • 10 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer.

1 hour 20 minutes

In the two parts of the B2 First for Schools Writing paper, the student has to show that they can write different types of text in English. This paper accounts for 20% of the total mark.

Part 1:
  • Students are given an essay title and two ideas. They write an essay giving their opinion about the title, using the ideas given and adding an idea of their own. The title will be a subject of general interest – students won’t need any specialised knowledge.
  • You have to write 140 – 190 words.
  • 1 compulsory question
Part 2:
  • The answer students have to write will be one of the following: article, email/letter, essay, review, story.
  • One task to be selected from a choice of four, including one set text question.
  • You have to write 140 – 190 words

Set text for 2020: 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Oxford Bookworms Edition).

Teachers may choose to prepare candidates for questions on this set text by studying any film version of Great Expectations, as well as, or instead of, the book.

Students should not attempt the optional set text question in Part 2 unless they have the necessary understanding of the text to answer the task set. Teachers are best placed to judge if the set texts and/or film version may be appropriate and stimulating for a given teaching situation. The suggested edition is a graded reader which has been adapted to the level and is suitable for B2 First for Schools candidates. Other editions of this book may be available. Teachers and students should be aware that the language level in other editions may be less accessible

About 40 minutes

The B2 First for Schools 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 20% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple choice):
  • A series of short, unrelated recordings of approximately 30 seconds each. Students have to listen to the recordings and answer one multiple-choice question for each. Each question has three options (A, B or C).
  • 8 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Sentence completion):
  • A monologue (one person speaking) lasting 3–4 minutes. Students have to complete the sentences on the question paper with information they hear on the recording.
  • 10 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Multiple matching):
  • Five short related monologues of approximately 30 seconds each. Students listen to the recordings and choose which statement from a list of eight best matches what each speaker says.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Multiple choice):
  • An interview or exchange between two speakers and lasting 3–4 minutes. Students have to listen to the recording and answer seven multiple-choice questions. Each question has three options (A, B or C).
  • 7 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer

14 minutes per pair of candidates

The B2 First for Schools Speaking test has four parts and you take it together with another candidate. There are two examiners. One of the examiners asks you questions and gives you the booklet with things to talk about. The other examiner listens to what you say. Both examiners give marks for your performance. This paper accounts for 20% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Interview):
  • Conversation with the examiner. The examiner asks questions and students may have to give information about themselves, talk about past experiences, present circumstances and future plans.
  • 2 minutes
Part 2 (Long turn):
  • The examiner gives the student a pair of photographs to talk about and they have to speak for 1 minute without interruption. The questions about the photographs are written at the top of the page to remind the student what they should talk about. When they have finished speaking, the student’s partner then has to answer a short question from the examiner about their photographs.
  • 1 minute per candidate, plus a 30-second response
Part 3 (Collaborative task):
  • Conversation with the other candidate. The examiner gives the students a question and some written prompts. The students discuss these together for two minutes. The examiner will then ask them to make a decision together about the topic they have been discussing.
  • 3 minutes (a 2-minute discussion followed by a 1-minute decision-making task)
Part 4 (Discussion):
  • Further discussion with the other candidate, guided by questions from the examiner, about the same topic as the task in Part 3.
  • The discussion should last 4 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 B2 First for Schools 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.

Support and information for parents

Children can have fun learning English with the Cambridge Assessment English free games and activities.

Find information and tips to help encourage your children to have fun learning English.

Sample tests
B2 First for Schools computer-based sample tests

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

Reading and Use of English sample test

Listening sample test

Writing sample test

Use the answer keys below:

Reading and Use of English answer key

Listening answer key

There is no answer key for the Writing paper, but there are sample answers and examiner comments in the relevant pages of the B2 First for Schools handbook.

Speaking test video with examiners’ commentary

These video will help you to understand what happens during the B2 First for Schools speaking test. You can also download examiners’ comments for this video.

Exam format

The B2 First for Schools exam is made up of four papers developed to test students’ English language skills.

1 hour 15 minutes

The B2 First for Schools Reading and Use of English paper is in seven parts and has a mix of text types and questions. For Parts 1 to 4, you read a range of texts and do grammar and vocabulary tasks. For Parts 5 to 7, you read a series of texts and answer questions that test your reading ability and show that you can deal with a variety of different types of texts.

This paper accounts for 40% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple-choice cloze):
  • A text in which there are some missing words or phrases (gaps). After the text there are four possible answers for each gap and students have to choose the correct answer (A, B, C or D).
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Open cloze):
  • There are some missing words (gaps). Students have to think of the correct word for each gap.
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Word formation):
  • A text containing eight gaps. Each gap represents a word. At the end of the line is a ‘prompt’ word which you have to change in some way to complete the sentence correctly.
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Key word transformations):
  • A sentence followed by a key word and a second sentence which has a gap in it. Students have to use the key word to complete the second sentence so that it is similar in meaning to the first sentence.
  • 6 questions
  • Up to 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 5 (Multiple choice):
  • A text with some multiple-choice questions. Each question has four options (A, B, C or D), and students have to decide which is the correct answer.
  • 6 questions
  • 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 6 (Gapped text):
  • A text with some empty spaces (gaps). After the text there are some sentences taken from the text. Students have to choose the correct sentence for each gap.
  • 6 questions
  • 2 marks for each correct answer
Part 7 (Multiple matching):
  • A series of questions and a long text or several short texts to read. For each question, students have to decide which text or part of the text mentions this.
  • 10 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer.

1 hour 20 minutes

In the two parts of the B2 First for Schools Writing paper, the student has to show that they can write different types of text in English. This paper accounts for 20% of the total mark.

Part 1:
  • Students are given an essay title and two ideas. They write an essay giving their opinion about the title, using the ideas given and adding an idea of their own. The title will be a subject of general interest – students won’t need any specialised knowledge.
  • You have to write 140 – 190 words.
  • 1 compulsory question
Part 2:
  • The answer students have to write will be one of the following: article, email/letter, essay, review, story.
  • One task to be selected from a choice of four, including one set text question.
  • You have to write 140 – 190 words

Set text for 2020: 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Oxford Bookworms Edition).

Teachers may choose to prepare candidates for questions on this set text by studying any film version of Great Expectations, as well as, or instead of, the book.

Students should not attempt the optional set text question in Part 2 unless they have the necessary understanding of the text to answer the task set. Teachers are best placed to judge if the set texts and/or film version may be appropriate and stimulating for a given teaching situation. The suggested edition is a graded reader which has been adapted to the level and is suitable for B2 First for Schools candidates. Other editions of this book may be available. Teachers and students should be aware that the language level in other editions may be less accessible

About 40 minutes

The B2 First for Schools 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 20% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Multiple choice):
  • A series of short, unrelated recordings of approximately 30 seconds each. Students have to listen to the recordings and answer one multiple-choice question for each. Each question has three options (A, B or C).
  • 8 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 2 (Sentence completion):
  • A monologue (one person speaking) lasting 3–4 minutes. Students have to complete the sentences on the question paper with information they hear on the recording.
  • 10 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 3 (Multiple matching):
  • Five short related monologues of approximately 30 seconds each. Students listen to the recordings and choose which statement from a list of eight best matches what each speaker says.
  • 5 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer
Part 4 (Multiple choice):
  • An interview or exchange between two speakers and lasting 3–4 minutes. Students have to listen to the recording and answer seven multiple-choice questions. Each question has three options (A, B or C).
  • 7 questions.
  • 1 mark for each correct answer

14 minutes per pair of candidates

The B2 First for Schools Speaking test has four parts and you take it together with another candidate. There are two examiners. One of the examiners asks you questions and gives you the booklet with things to talk about. The other examiner listens to what you say. Both examiners give marks for your performance. This paper accounts for 20% of the total mark.

Part 1 (Interview):
  • Conversation with the examiner. The examiner asks questions and students may have to give information about themselves, talk about past experiences, present circumstances and future plans.
  • 2 minutes
Part 2 (Long turn):
  • The examiner gives the student a pair of photographs to talk about and they have to speak for 1 minute without interruption. The questions about the photographs are written at the top of the page to remind the student what they should talk about. When they have finished speaking, the student’s partner then has to answer a short question from the examiner about their photographs.
  • 1 minute per candidate, plus a 30-second response
Part 3 (Collaborative task):
  • Conversation with the other candidate. The examiner gives the students a question and some written prompts. The students discuss these together for two minutes. The examiner will then ask them to make a decision together about the topic they have been discussing.
  • 3 minutes (a 2-minute discussion followed by a 1-minute decision-making task)
Part 4 (Discussion):
  • Further discussion with the other candidate, guided by questions from the examiner, about the same topic as the task in Part 3.
  • The discussion should last 4 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 B2 First for Schools 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.

Information for candidates

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

Download B2 First for Schools information for candidates

Support and information for parents

Children can have fun learning English with the Cambridge Assessment English free games and activities.

Find information and tips to help encourage your children to have fun learning English.

Sample tests
B2 First for Schools computer-based sample tests

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

Reading and Use of English sample test

Listening sample test

Writing sample test

Use the answer keys below:

Reading and Use of English answer key

Listening answer key

There is no answer key for the Writing paper, but there are sample answers and examiner comments in the relevant pages of the B2 First for Schools handbook.