You may have seen our guide on the B2 First speaking test (a must-read if you’re taking the exam!) and now in this next series of guides we will be looking at the reading and use of English paper.
What is the Reading and Use of English paper (2015 ed.)?
The test is designed to examine your knowledge and understanding of English grammar and vocabulary. It also tests your ability to read and understand different types of text.
At a glance
There are seven parts in total
The test lasts 75 minutes
In some parts you will have to write a word, phrase or a complete sentence
In other parts you will have to select the correct option
For a summary of each part, visit the Cambridge English B2 Exam Format section
The boring bit
Before 2015, the grammar type questions and reading comprehension questions were two separate papers, but since 2015, they have been combined into just one exam. So effectively, parts one to four are testing your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary and the remaining three parts test your reading ability.
A word of warning
Some websites will recommend that you don’t answer the exam paper in order and do either part four or two first because it’s more efficient. We recommend that you DON’T do this; simply because the exam is designed this way to ease you into it and not cause panic or alarm with a difficult first question. If you don’t know the answer, don’t spend too long on it and move onto the next one, then come back to it at the end if you have time.
Some general advice
- Read the title of the texts! Reading the title activates your knowledge and vocabulary of a topic
- Look at the example if you’re not sure of how to answer the question but don’t waste time trying to do the example question - it’s already done for you.
- Look at the grammatical structure of the phrase or sentence and decide what’s missing or what you need to change - it’s time to put all those countless hours of studying English grammar to the test!
- Spell words correctly! For the questions where you’re asked to write a word, make sure that you check the spelling of what you wrote.
- Leave a question blank!!!! Too many times do students do this but you have nothing to lose by guessing the word or option.
- Answer a question you’re unsure of without analysing the grammar. Too many students just look at a grammar question, particularly in parts 2, 3 and 4, and try to guess the missing word without thinking about what they already know.
Reading part 1 (8 marks)
What is it and what happens?
Part 1 tests your knowledge of vocabulary; including things like idioms, collocations and phrasal verbs.
How many questions are there?
Eight multiple choice questions, each with four possibilities (A, B, C or D).
How many marks is it worth?
Each question is worth one mark
Show me a sample question
How to answer part one
Let’s look at the first question:
It is _________ to be the oldest leather shoe ever found
A) accepted B) regarded C) assessed D) believed
For it to be ‘accepted’ or ‘regarded’ the next word would need to be ‘as’, so it can’t be any of these two options. Assessed means something quite different to the other options, so it must be believed.
While you might think that ‘regarded’ or ‘accepted’ are correct because they refer to the archaeologist’s opinions, however, the general meaning of the paragraph is to mention a recent and exciting discovery worthy of writing about, so believed is the right word to use here. ‘Believed to be’ is a collocation which you’re expected to be familiar with.
Now the second question:
It had been _____ with grasses, either for warmth or to make sure it kept its shape.
A) stuffed B) loaded C) pushed D) blocked
Blocked doesn’t relate to what the meaning of the whole sentence is because the writer is mentioning that the grass was a benefit to keeping the shoe’s shape and so blocking something wouldn’t be a positive thing here. Pushed with grasses just doesn’t make sense, so we’re left with loaded and stuffed.
When something is stuffed it means to fill an empty space and give something shape, which is what the writer mentions in the next part of the sentence. Loaded doesn’t quite have the same meaning and would be used in a different context, so the answer is stuffed.
What’s the message here? You need to have built up a strong understanding and knowledge base of different vocabulary and collocations. This isn’t something which you can learn overnight and is acquired over many hours of exposure, studying and reading - it comes back to what methods you’re using to learn English, so only take the exam when you’re ready. I’m assuming that you’re nearly ready if you’re reading this guide, so keep reading to learn the top exam techniques.
Follow this strategy
- Read the title and the text quickly to get the gist of the text, don’t just fill in the gaps without reading the text first.
- Re-read the text and stop at each gap and try to predict what the missing word or phrase might be.
Then look at the options for each gap and see if any of them match what you guessed before.
- Remember to read before and after the gap to decide what the overall meaning is.
- Check your answers to make sure what you’ve chosen makes sense. NEVER LEAVE A QUESTION BLANK; YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BY GUESSING!
- Copy your answers to your answer sheet.
Stay tuned for reading part two
Are you going to an English academy? Are they preparing you well for the exam? If you don’t think they are, consider going to a better academy or search for a good English academy near to you below:
Rob Hamburg is a trained English teacher from England who has numerous years of experience teaching English to young learners, teenagers and adults in Spain. He completed his bachelor degree in 2010 at The University of Manchester and obtained CELTA certification in 2015. As well as being an active teacher on Verbling, Rob teaches English online for SayABC and gives classes via Skype and Google Hangouts.