+44 (0)20 7605 4123 Student Login

How to pass exams!

I’m just coming to the end of teaching our latest FCE course and as my class are taking their Reading, Writing, Use of English and Listening papers today (good luck! I’ve got my fingers crossed for them) I have a little time to reflect on how exam students can best maximize their chances of success.

Of course, you can find lots of useful tips on the Cambridge website www.cambridgeesol.org/exams, Flo-Joe www.flo-joe.co.uk  and in many of the published materials.  As a teacher I’d especially recommend Top Tips for FCE (University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations), Ready for FCE (Roy Norris), First Certificate Practice Tests (Charles Osborne) and First Certificate Language Practice (Michael Vince).  Over our eight-week course students learn the best exam techniques, as well as fine-tuning their grammar, expanding their vocabulary and improving their skills in English.

But what I’d like to look at in this blog post is some more holistic ways to make the most of an exam course and, fingers crossed, to pass with flying colours.

1)  Stay healthy

Ok, it sounds like something your mum would say but I think it’s great advice. I noticed that my students often made the effort to sit down and have a proper lunch together, whether in our Westcroft Square student lounge or at one of the nearby restaurants. Not only did this give them plenty of energy, it also meant they could practise speaking together between lessons!  Another sensible habit was wrapping up in warm clothes and accessories, especially as not all of them are used to the British winter. Having said that, I think most of the class could have done with more sleep.  Two out of three!

2)  Make friends

It’s crucial not to fall behind in an exam class, as so much ground is covered each day. For that reason you need an ‘exam buddy’ who can collect any work for you if you really can’t avoid missing a session. This advice is especially important for FCE courses, where students have to work in pairs and threes for their speaking test.

3)  Enjoy it

The traditional view is that exam courses should be a hard slog and deadly serious. They are hard work and of course you should take them seriously but many students find that, actually, they enjoy the challenge of working towards the goal represented by the exam. And all of the latest educational research shows that if you foster a positive outlook which enables you to enjoy your learning, you actually learn and retain more. It’s a win-win situation!

We hope to see some of you on one of our exam courses in the future!


  • to fine-tune something - (v.) to perfect something, to get rid of small errors
  • holistic - (adj.)  any situation which considers the ‘whole picture’
  • fingers crossed - (exp.) a fixed expression to wish someone luck.  We accompany it with the gesture of crossing our first and middle fingers together, like in the picture for this post
  • to pass (an exam) with flying colours - (exp.) to pass an exam with high marks
  • a hard slog - (n.) a difficult struggle
  • deadly serious - (exp.) very serious
  • a win-win situation - (n.) a situation which only has advantages

By Laura

All articles Next article

Post your questions and comments:

Why study at The London School of English?

  • Rated “Excellent” in over 450 independent client reviews
    Over 100 years’ experience
    Tailored training delivers clear results
    Memorable experiences in London, Canterbury or online
Find out more