One of the parts of English vocabulary which many students have problems with (and hate) is phrasal verbs (e.g. take off, look forward to, run out of etc...).
Unfortunately, one of the things that the Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) exam is testing you on is your knowledge of phrasal verbs. As a result, they include lots of different phrasal verbs in the exam.
To help you improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs for the exam, I have written this article. Below it will tell you in which parts of the exam they are used in and what type of phrasal verbs are used in it.
It also gives you three things you can do to improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs that you are likely to find used in the FCE in the exam.
Where phrasal verbs are used in the exam
Although phrasal verbs are used in all of the four parts of the exam, they are mainly used in two: the Reading/Use of English (UOE) and the Listening parts. In both of these you will find many being used in what you read (the texts) and hear (the audio recordings).
In addition, in both of these parts of the exam (and especially in the Reading/UOE) there will be some questions (but not many) where you have to use a phrasal verb as an answer.
In the other two parts (the Writing and the Speaking), you will not find many being used in the questions you are given. In addition, to do well in these two parts of the exam you don't really need to use too many phrasal verbs in what you write and the answers you give.
In the Speaking part of the exam, it is fine to use them in the answers you give. However, in the Writing part of the exam you should never use them in the essay you write in the first part or if you are writing a report, a formal letter/email or essay in the second part of the exam. The reason why is that these are formal pieces of writing and phrasal verbs aren't used in formal writing (because they are informal English).
It is fine to use them if you writing an article, review, email/letter to a friend or a short story. This is because these aren't formal piece of writing.
The exam is testing your knowledge of phrasal verbs more than your use of them
Although there will be some questions where you have to use a phrasal verb as an answer, the FCE exam isn't really evaluating if you are able to use phrasal verbs correctly. It is testing if you know what they mean when you see or hear them.
This makes it easier for you, because it is far easier and quicker to just learn and remember the meaning (or meanings) of phrasal verbs than to also be able to use them correctly in speaking and writing.
As long as you know or can guess from the context what the majority of phrasal verbs that you see or hear used mean, you should be fine.
What type of phrasal verbs are used in the exam
The FCE exam is only testing you on your knowledge and ability to use correctly commonly used vocabulary in English (vocabulary which a normal English-speaking 14-year-old would be able to understand). As a result, the type of phrasal verbs which are used in the exam are not going to be very advanced or complex.
In addition, if a phrasal verb has many meaning, they will only use one or two of these meanings in the exam (and these will be the ones which are mostly commonly used). So, when learning a phrasal verb with many meanings (e.g. 'take off'), you would only need to learn the main two.
For example, with 'take off', you would only need to know that it is used to mean 'when a plane leaves the ground' and 'to remove your clothing' for the exam. You wouldn't need to know or learn the other four meanings the phrasal verb has.
You should know many of them
Another good thing for you is that because the exam only uses commonly used vocabulary in English, you should already know many of the phrasal verbs which you will find used in the exam (e.g. give up, wake up, look forward to, make up etc...). So, when improving your knowledge of phrasal verbs for the exam, focus on learning phrasal verbs you don't know or you are unsure about what they mean.
Even if you see or hear a phrasal verb in the exam that you don't know in the exam, you should be able to guess the meaning of some of them. This is either because the meaning is easy to identify from the words used to make the phrasal verb (e.g. 'sell out', 'turn off' etc...) or from the context (the sentence) they are used in (e.g. 'I think the fish has GONE OFF, it's starting to smell bad').
You still need to improve your knowledge of them
Although you should know many of the phrasal verbs used and be able to identify or guess the meaning of others you don't know, you do need to learn the meaning(s) of them before you do the exam.
The more phrasal verbs you know before you do the exam, the quicker and easier the Reading/UOE part of the exam will be to do. Also, in the Listening part (where many phrasal verbs are used), you don't have the time to think what the meaning of a phrasal verb you've heard and don't know is.
So, you still need to learn them.
Which phrasal verbs to learn for the FCE exam
Although they only use commonly used in the FCE exam, it is impossible to say which phrasal verbs you will find used in the exam, it changes with every exam. Also, Cambridge doesn't provide a list of all of the phrasal verbs which it uses in the exam.
However, there are three things that I recommend that you can use or do that will help you to improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs that you are likely to find in it.
1. Learn 50 commonly used phrasal verbs
Having read through and listened to many different copies of the Cambridge FCE exam, I have noticed that some phrasal verbs are repeatedly used in the exam (mainly in the Listening and Reading/UOE parts).
I have created a list of the 50 most commonly used phrasal verbs that are used in the exam (to see the list, go to '50 Phrasal Verbs Commonly Used in the FCE Exam').
The first thing that I would recommend that you do to improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs for the exam, is to read through this list and learn what the main one or two meanings (if they have more than one meaning) of all these 50 phrasal verbs are.
2. Use our Phrasal Verb Daily videos
Another thing you can use to improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs, is to watch our Phrasal Verb Daily videos on YouTube. In each short video, you will learn the meaning of a different phrasal verb.
Although not specifically designed just for the FCE exam, they will help you to learn and remember the meaning of many phrasal verbs which are used in the exam.
When you use them, I would recommend you only watch one or (at most two videos) in a day.
3. Improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs by reading in English regularly
In addition to using both the list and the videos, another thing you should do improve your knowledge of phrasal verbs in English is to regularly read in English. By doing this, you will see them being them used and this will help you to easily remember the meaning in the future of the ones you already know and to learn ones that you currently don't.
When you see a phrasal verb you don't know or are unsure about when reading, make sure to use the context it is in to guess its meaning and then check in a dictionary to see if you are right. After this create a sentence using the phrasal verb. Doing all of this will help you to remember its meaning.
Make sure that you read things (like articles) which are written for the level of the FCE exam (intermediate, B1/B2). These will contain phrasal verbs which you are likely to see in the exam.
The last thing you need to know
Now you know where phrasal verbs are used in the exam, what type of them are used and what you can do to improve your knowledge of them, there is one more thing you need to know; and that is when to start studying them.
Improving your knowledge of phrasal verbs for the FCE exam is not something you can start to do a week before you take the exam. It is something that you need to start doing regularly months (at least 5 to 6 months) before taking the exam.
The best way is to get into a routine of learning the meaning of one phrasal verb a day, five days a week. It won't take you long to do (about 5 minutes) and by only learning one a day, it will help to remember what they mean in the future.
To learn a method to help you learn and remember English vocabulary (including phrasal verbs) better, read my article called 'A method for remembering vocabulary in English' on our other English learning website.