Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

How to Teach First Certificate

The first time I taught an exam class was PET, with a group of students who were only really ready for KET (not that I knew anything about either exam in only my second year of teaching EFL). The second time was thankfully just a couple of lessons on bits of IELTS (which I also knew nothing about). The third, in about my fourth year of teaching, was an FCE course (as it was called then), the final exam prep in the term leading up to their exam rather than general exam preparation using the exam-specific coursebook. I didn’t know anything about FCE either.

Sound familiar? The theme developing there is one I think most teachers would find recognise. CELTA/TEFL trained or not, when exam classes are assigned to you, you’ll be learning as you go, often only one answer ahead of the students. I was relatively lucky — or rather, my students were — that I was following a very well-planned syllabus written by my DOS, telling me which bit of the exam to focus on in which lesson, from which resource book. I simply made sure I had all the answers, and could justify them, and then I taught the students what I’d just worked out. That syllabus was so good, I based the one I planned for Summer School’s intensive exam course on it. Having it meant I didn’t just randomly bumble through material which, let’s face it, is probably what a teacher with no idea or training for teaching exams would have done.

But, it took me the duration of that course to start to learn how to help the students pass the exam and the tips, techniques and strategies they would need to approach each question. It took becoming a Cambridge Speaking examiner to really understand what the Speaking paper was all about. Maybe other schools give comprehensive training to teachers about to take classes for which students probably pay more and have a lot more resting on, but I doubt it. My experience in language schools has been that as long as there is an English speaking person in the teacher’s seat, the rest will fall into place — hardly fair on the students, though hardly the teacher’s fault.

So, I’ve written a book and published it on Amazon, with everything I know from 10+ years of teaching about how to teach the First Certificate exam the way your students deserve.

It’s literally everything you need to know, with links to more resources and sample papers where appropriate. It tells you what books you need, pared down to the minimum, which is especially good if you’re taking private students through the exam and need to know what books to tell them to spend their money on.

It gives you all the tips and techniques to pass on to your students so they get the inside track on the exam. And throws in some things I’ve learned from being a speaking examiner, like why your students should see Speaking as the easiest paper to pass instead of the one to be most afraid of.  If you follow all the advice in the book, you’ll be able to plan and deliver the course with confidence. The rest is up to the students, of course, but at least you’ll know you did everything you could to prepare them.

It’s been a while since I bought your book about teaching first certificate but I just started reading it. And it’s actually really helpful! I was kinda just following along with the exercises in the book with my student, but now that I understand more about the exam I know what to focus on! It’s important to prepare him for all the types of speaking and writing questions. Thank you!! Daria, Barcelona
The book was extremely helpful. It helped me understand different ways to prepare the students and understand the techniques needed in order to help them pass the exam. It is well written and easy to understand. It is written in a way that all teachers can understand. I would highly recommend the book to anyone. But use it from the start of your course. And it helps understand what and why the Cambridge exams are designed in that way. Carla, Italy

Even for those who’ve taught First Certificate before, there’s something in the book for you if you’ve wondered how the marking criteria works for First Certificate Speaking and Writing and how that can help your students, or you want an exact breakdown of exactly how to tackle each Use of English question type and the patterns students can use to their advantage.  Particularly with private students, it doesn’t take long to get a reputation for being an expert with a high pass rate. And don’t be surprised if you teach in a school and start getting requests from students’ friends and families once your class sails through the exam. Even better, once you know the First inside out, the Advanced requires very little extra knowledge to teach.

Teach First Certificate: All you need to know; all your students need to know

fcetchr Available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback (simply switch to your country’s Amazon page after following the links)

OR as a PDF for 5.99 € by clicking the Buy Now button below
Buy Now Button

This book is for you if …

  • you’ve never taught Cambridge First Certificate before
  • you want to know the most efficient techniques for getting your students through the exam, even if you’ve taught it before
  • you want to be able to advertise your services as an expert in First Certificate



NB: If you pay by PayPal I get an alert and will send you the pdf to the email address associated with PayPal. I sleep sometimes though so it might be up to 24 hours before I am able to send you it!


20 comments on “How to Teach First Certificate

  1. Hana Tichá
    January 18, 2017

    Just got a copy.

    • Nicola
      January 19, 2017

      I saw your order before I saw your comment so hopefully you have yours! Thanks for buying and I hope (well, I am pretty sure so don’t need to hope too much) that it’s useful. Do let me know if you have time!

  2. Andrew Leon Hudson
    January 18, 2017

    After reading the sample, me too.

    • Nicola
      January 19, 2017

      Thanks Andrew! I am glad the sample whet your appetite and hope it proves useful 🙂

  3. Michael
    January 25, 2017

    How exactly can I get the PDF copy?
    I’ve just paid for it with PayPal

    • Nicola
      January 25, 2017

      I’ve just emailed you it as Paypal notified me of your payment. But you make me realise it’s not clear how that works in my post above so will add an explanation for others! Thanks!

  4. Robin Plapp Killoran
    January 25, 2017

    I am teaching young learners….is there any info in there that would help prepare them? Current age is about 10 years old. Or do you focus mostly on older students taking the final exam in the series?


    • Nicola
      January 25, 2017

      For Starters, Movers and Flyers you mean? I do Oral examining on those but have not taught the course so couldn’t write anything comprehensive like this book for those. Or do you mean PET/KET? I have focussed on the FCE because I think it is where technique starts being more of a factor and I feel a bit sorry for kids as young as 10 with the exam pressure on them, bless. I used to examine KET and PET speaking too and generally speaking, as long as the kids had the right level, they passed. The one area where they made the most mistakes was the question where they have the Question prompts to ask their partner who has notes to answer. Very few kids can make the questions properly, which is not surprising since that’s VERY complex grammar. So, the more practice you can do on that the better. I hope that helps but I can think about it more when I start examining those levels again. I’ve not taught the rest of those exams for a long time so would have to refresh my memory on the question papers to help with reading and writing advice, sorry.

  5. Kim
    January 26, 2017

    Hi Nicola, is this a new book focusing on the new First? Just want to make sure I don’t already have a copy….!!!

    • Nicola
      January 26, 2017

      Hi Kim, The book has only been out a month on Amazon and a few days on my blog so you probably don’t already have a copy. It focuses on the exam as of its 2015 update but if they change it again, I’ll update the book and call it 2nd edition or something. Thanks for checking!

      • Kim
        January 26, 2017

        Thanks, I’ll order a pdf now!

  6. Jane
    February 11, 2017

    Got it! Brilliant – really useful. Thank you

    • Nicola
      February 12, 2017

      So glad to hear it’s helping!

  7. Cynthia Ribera oliva
    December 11, 2018

    Thank you Nicola, I taught FC but some time ago, I will surely feel lot more sure of myself with your book.

    • Nicola
      December 11, 2018

      Hey, that’s great to hear! The exam has changed a bit but it’ll all come back to you and this is really step by step help on each part of the exam.

  8. Marta Biala
    December 13, 2018

    Hi, I’m thinking of buying your book, can I see a short sample somewhere?

    • Nicola
      December 13, 2018

      Hi Marta, If you find it on Amazon you can use the See Inside feature to read a solid chunk of the first chapters (I can’t remember how much) but also that means seeing the contents page which is pretty detailed so you can see exactly what’s on the menu!

  9. MrMike ELT
    March 10, 2019

    Bought your book via Amazon. It was a good read. Found a lot of good pointers that I could relate to and use in my teaching context. Thank you… waiting on the same for C1 and C2 levels!!

    • Nicola
      March 10, 2019

      Hey great! Actually the majority of that book applies to CAE really but I’ve not taught CPE for so long I am less sure of that one.

  10. MrMike ELT
    March 11, 2019

    True… Waiting for your next ELT book all the same… can relate to your writing style.

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This entry was posted on January 18, 2017 by in ELT, Teaching English and tagged , , , , , .
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