Cambridge Exam Preparation

Cambridge English Exam Preparation

Study at the Joint Best English Language School in the UK

LSI/IH Portsmouth offers exam preparation for a range of Cambridge exams, including: B2 First/FCE for schools, C1/CAE advanced, and C2/CPE proficiency study courses. In addition, there is a self-access study centre to provide extra assistance for students.

LSI/IH Portsmouth was recently ranked the joint number 1 English language school in the UK. Among other things, this was due to the high quality language courses and excellent standard of teaching.

Our full-time Cambridge exam preparation courses are designed to help you learn English and improve the language skills necessary to get the best possible grade in your chosen exam.

Find out what life is like on a Cambridge Exam course from one of our students:

Get Fully Prepared for Your Exam

LSI/IH Portsmouth courses cover the Cambridge syllabus by following Cambridge exam course books, which you will be given as part of your course. Although it is a book-based syllabus geared towards the exam, teachers will also incorporate a wide range of other materials and activities appropriate to the level and aims of the lessons. This offers lots of variety in the classes and will give you the best start towards the exam.

Cambridge English Exam Specialists

Our teachers are highly qualified and experienced with extensive knowledge about the Cambridge exams. When you join an LSI/IH Portsmouth course, you will be given two teachers, a morning and an afternoon one. Each teacher will specialise in an area of the exam e.g. one teacher will be the writing skills teacher, the other the listening skills teacher.

Student Progress Monitored

Our teachers will give you regular exam practice to monitor your progress. This is so that we can help you identify which areas of your English to improve.

Flexible English Courses From 2 weeks+

The ideal preparation for a Cambridge exam is to follow the full course which ranges from between 9-13 weeks. However, shorter courses can be taken (2 weeks+) depending on your individual level and circumstances. Speak to a member of our friendly student services team about your needs.

Exam Centre Onsite

You will be able to take your Cambridge exam at LSI/IH Portsmouth which is very convenient and hassle-free! We have tests running through the year, including an extra CAE test in July. You can follow the whole exam course or take a 4-week summer course and take the test at the end.

Check out the test dates here!

Key information:

It is recommended that you follow the full Cambridge English course which ranges from between 9-13 weeks. However, classes are not necessarily closed exam groups, and are open to students at the same level who are studying for shorter periods (minimum 2 weeks) or not taking the exam. Priority is however given to students following the full course. Students must be at the correct English level to join these classes and pre-tests can be taken in advance. Our Study Centre is fully resourced with lots of Cambridge exam practice materials and other relevant, useful materials for you to use.

The B2 First for Schools, also known as Cambridge First Certificate or FCE, is a qualification which certifies your language ability. Generally, it demonstrates that you have the confidence and ability to communicate in English-speaking environments. It can be used for employers, Universities, and even immigration purposes.

It is a step on the pathway to preparing for higher level exams such as CAE.

The exam focuses on and tests 4 areas of English:
Reading and Use of English

B2 First Preparation Course

The B2 First Certificate is designed to test how effectively candidates can express themselves and understand English. Therefore, the B2 First course at LSI/IH
Portsmouth is designed to improve effective communication and comprehension.

Students who take our B2 First course will grow in confidence and ability whilst learning new skills, for example:
Listening for specific information or attitude
Essay/email writing
Exchanging ideas or describing in speaking
Reading to understand opinion and information in a text
Grammar/vocabulary with word-building, collocations and phrases with similar meaning

The C1 Advanced, also known as Cambridge English Advanced or CAE, is a high-level qualification which certifies your language skills. It can be used for employers, Universities, and even immigration purposes.

Over 8,000 institutions and businesses across the globe accept the C1 Advanced as proof of holding a high level of English.

Similarly to the B2 First for Schools, this exam focuses on 4 areas of English:
Reading and Use of English

C1 Advanced Preparation Course

The great thing about the C1 Advanced course is that it has a very ‘natural feel’ – it tests how authentically candidates can express themselves and understand English. Therefore, the Cambridge course at LSI/IH Portsmouth prepares candidates for ‘authentic English’.

Students who take our C1 Advanced course will strengthen the English they already know whilst learning new skills, for example:
Listening for opinion or detail
Essay/review writing
Expressing and justifying opinion or negotiating in speaking
Reading for attitude or purpose
Grammar/Vocabulary of collocation, shades of meaning

The C2 Proficiency, also known as Cambridge English Proficiency or CPE, is the highest-level Cambridge qualification and it is proof that your language skills are of a highly-advanced standard. It can be used for employers, Universities, and even immigration purposes.

Similarly to the B2 First for Schools and C1 Advanced, this exam focuses on 4 areas of English:
Reading and Use of English

C2 Proficiency Preparation Course

To pass the C2 Proficiency, candidates will need the English skills and ability of senior professionals, or those working in an academic environment such as on a Ph.D. Programme. Therefore, the C2 Proficiency course at LSI/IH Portsmouth prepares candidates for understanding and discussing subjects at the highest level of English.

Students who take our C2 Proficiency course will strengthen the English they already know whilst learning new skills, for example:
Listening for purpose or inference
Essay/report writing
Sustaining an interaction or justifying an opinion in speaking
Reading for tone or understanding meaning
Grammar/Vocabulary of idioms, awareness and control of grammar

Cambridge Assessment offers a range of different exams to students of English. At LSI/IH Portsmouth we prepare students for the three main exams, which are B2 First, CAE and CPE. Some people call these exams the Cambridge English Certificate.

The B2 First (FCE) Certificate in English is a B2 level exam. The exam consists of five parts: Reading, Use of English, Listening, Writing and Speaking. The Use of English paper is a test of grammar and vocabulary, broken down into four different sections.

To pass B2 First, a student needs to get a minimum of 60% in the exam. It is not necessary to pass every paper above 60%, you just need to achieve an average of 60% overall. Scoring between 60% and 74% is a grade C, between 75% and 79% is a grade B, and 80% or above is a grade A. If a student gets between 50% and 59% in the exam, he or she will receive a certificate which says they have achieved a B1 level of English. However, this is not a B2 First exam pass.

The Cambridge English levels are B2, C1 and C2.

Cambridge exams are widely considered to be an excellent test of English level, and are recognised by employers and higher education institutions worldwide. Many people take a Cambridge exam to make their CV or resume look better and to improve their job prospects. For some careers, in some countries, passing C1 or particularly C2 are requirements of the job. For instance, in many cantons of Switzerland, primary school teachers need C1 to teach English.

Many universities also accept Cambridge exams for entry onto pre-sessional courses, or for direct entry to a degree course. If you are considering studying at university and need to prove your English level, check the entry requirements for the institution where you want to study.

Passing a Cambridge exam is also a good way to complete your time studying English abroad. Many students come and study in the UK for a few months, and decide to take a Cambridge exam at the end of the course to prove their English level and to give them a sense of accomplishment. So proficiency in Cambridge tests is a good thing to have.

The validity of Cambridge exams doesn’t expire. You can use a Cambridge Exam to prove your English level to an employer whether you took it a week ago or several years ago. Some universities require that you took the exam quite recently, perhaps within the past two years. However, in general, Cambridge Exams are valid forever.

LSI/IH Portsmouth runs Cambridge exam preparation courses in Portsmouth four times a year. We prepare students to take Cambridge exams in March, June, August and December. LSI/IH Portsmouth Cambridge exam preparation courses last between 9 and 12 weeks, depending on the exam dates.

We recommend taking the whole preparation course, so that we can fully prepare students for the exam, but we also accept students who want to take part of the course if other commitments mean that they cannot take the whole course.

The Cambridge exam preparation courses are full-time which means you get 22.5 hours of teaching time each week, with additional self-study facilities available.

We have a dedicated Study Centre at LSI/IH Portsmouth where students can get practice material to study either there or at home. The Study Centre is open every day after class, and is staffed by experienced teachers. The Study Centre Manager is a highly-experienced Cambridge teacher, and she is available not only to give materials, but also to help with any questions about the exam. As the exam approaches, the Study Centre Manager is also available to do practice speaking tests with Cambridge candidates, and to give feedback and advice after.

The Cambridge classes at LSI/IH Portsmouth are divided between morning and afternoon lessons. The morning classes cover Use of English, Listening and Speaking, and the afternoon classes cover Reading and Writing.

Each class has two teachers. Wherever possible those two teachers will teach the whole course from start to finish, to ensure that there is continuity for the students. There will be regular tests so that the students and the teachers can see how everyone is doing.

For example, on a Friday morning, the teacher may set a 30-minute Use of English paper in exam conditions, and then look at the answers with the class, and give feedback. There is also daily homework, to maximise the learning opportunities for the students.

Halfway through the Cambridge preparation course, each class will take a full mock exam in exam conditions. The teachers will then discuss the results individually with each student, and give advice about whether to take the exam or not.

The mock exam also provides valuable information about the strengths and weaknesses of each student’s English, and therefore shows the areas to work on in the rest of the course.

For example, if a student scores 75% in Use of English, but only 50% in listening, it is clear that the student needs to do additional listening practice in the run-up to the exam. After the mock exam, students can complete a registration form, and then pay for the exam in the LSI/IH Portsmouth accounts department.

LSI/IH Portsmouth is a Cambridge Exam centre, so you can take the exam at our centre at the end of your course.

You must make sure you are registered before the deadline. Enrolled students will then receive an email containing detailed information about the exam day from the Cambridge exam centre nearer the day. In 2022, the prices for the Cambridge exams are as follows: C2 £175, C1 £170, B2 £165.

It takes approximately four weeks after the exam for the results to be sent to the candidates. Students will receive their results directly from Cambridge, not through LSI/IH Portsmouth. The certificate will be sent a few weeks after that.

The speaking part of the exam has four parts and is done in pairs. The format is very similar for B2, C1 and C2.

The first part of the exam is some basic questions about each candidate – questions about what you do, your hobbies, sport, music, travel, this kind of topic, to warm up and get the test going.
In the second part you have to talk about some pictures, comparing and contrasting, and discuss a couple of questions about the pictures.
Parts 3 and 4 are done together, so the two students have to talk to each and interact in these parts of the test. In these parts, as well as your grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and so on, your ability to interact with each other is also tested.That means it is a good idea to choose a speaking partner early on in the Cambridge preparation course, so that you can practise your speaking together.

When you book your exam, you can say who you want to be your speaking partner, so that you can guarantee to do your speaking test together. This is a huge advantage when you get into the exam room.

The Use of English paper has four parts.

Part 1 is a text with multiple-choice vocabulary questions. This part is about vocabulary, collocations, phrasal verbs and so on.
Part 2 is a text with single-word gaps that you have to choose yourself, mainly to do with grammar.
Part 3 is word-building, so you need to change the form of keywords by adding prefixes and suffixes, and changing words from nouns to adjectives, for example.
Part 4 is sentence transformations, where you have to rewrite sentences using a keyword. This is a test of all the grammar you will study on the course, along with vocabulary such as phrasal verbs and fixed phrases.

The listening paper has four sections. One of the key features of Cambridge listening is that students listen twice to each audio track.

The reading paper has three or four parts, depending on the exam.

Different reading skills are tested, including:

Skimming for key information
Scanning for detailed information
Understanding paragraph order and cohesion
Understanding lexical items from context

The listening and reading papers are designed to develop all-round reading and listening skills for real life English and/or studying in English.

For writing, there are two tasks.

The first task is a compulsory essay.

For the second task, students choose one question from a list of options, including reviews, proposals, reports, letters and so on. As there are lots of different writing types and styles, a significant proportion of the afternoon class time is spent on developing and improving writing skills.

Talk to us

Have we answered all your questions about studying English courses in Portsmouth? If not, find out more here or contact us. We look forward to meeting you in Portsmouth and helping you to learn English in the UK!
Key Facts


During your stay in Portsmouth, you may want to live with a local homestay family, in one of our self-catering residences, or choose to find your own accommodation. We will do everything we can to give you the best option to suit your needs and support you with your living arrangements.

Social Programme

The social programme we offer is full and varied, it includes weekly sporting events, nights out, as well as cultural and educational activities. In addition, every Saturday we take a trip out of Portsmouth. Our social programme is tailored to meet the needs of all students.