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Get Ahead in FCE
Student's Book with audio CDs
By Andrew Betsis and Lawrence Mamas
Get Ahead in FCE
Get Ahead in FCE is essential preparation material for the revised Cambridge FCE examination. The course provides in-depth coverage of the four essential exam skills - reading, writing, listening and speaking - as well as grammar and vocabulary exercises to help students develop the required level of English.
Each thematically based unit contains:
- a lead-in section with speaking activities
- the three parts of Paper 1: Reading
- additional classroom activities for each reading text
- a variety of vocabulary exercises, including practice on easily confused words
- FCE-specific speaking activities to help students increase their fluency and accuracy
- FCE-specific writing tasks with additional exercises and writing tips
- FCE-specific listening, plus listening support
- a mini Use of English test at the end of each unit
Get Ahead in FCE will enable you to use English with confidence in real-life situations, focusing your language learning on the skills you will actually need to communicate - and to pass the FCE exam.
- Ideal exam preparation for the Cambridge FCE (2008 format)
- Learner training component for development of study techniques
- Extensive coverage of vocabulary, set phrases, idioms and phrasal verbs
- Reading and listening texts in a variety of genres, topics and styles
- Pronunciation development
- Mapped to the Common European Framework
- Full teaching notes
- Audio CDs
FCE revised format
Unit 1: Travel and holidays
Unit 2: Career and life choices
Unit 3: The animal kingdom
Unit 4: Education for everyone
Unit 5: Art and culture
Unit 6: Our fragile Earth
Unit 7: People
Unit 8: News and media
Unit 9: A place to call home
Unit 10: Technology
Get Ahead in FCE is designed for students who are preparing to take the Cambridge ESOL First Certificate exam, and it promises to be an exciting new course.
The student's book contains ten theme-based units which focus on enhancing all four skills - reading, writing, listening and speaking. The units also include grammar and vocabulary at level B2 of the Common Eurpoean Framework.
Upon first glance, the text is set up like many books I've used, browsed or reviewed; however, what I find most engaging - and different - are the relevant and interesting themes and how they are woven together to create fine-tuned units where no space is wasted. Each unit is equally valid, with lead-in pages containing snapshots which could have come from a home photo album, with useful vocabulary and discussions questions for group work. While there is no new, ground-breaking teaching or learning strategies throughout the units, each is presented in a crisp, efficient and colourful manner. As I read and listened to the units within Get Ahead in FCE, I felt quite absorbed into and by the text - unlike some books which become 'snooze time' for the students and the teacher!
One thing I especially appreciate is that the instructions are succinct. The instructions in Get Ahead in FCE flow into the tasks with ease while delivering what is promised for students. These tasks are specific to the test and the level; however, this book could easily be adapted for any high-level English course where all skills will be seamlessly heightened. Speaking activities for fluency and accuracy, writing tasks with additional exercises and writing tips, reading comprehension and vocabulary exercises - including practice on easily confused words; grammar theory and exercises, listening, plus listening support and a mini Use of English test at the end of each unit are all exploited well. Also, three audio CDs are included with complete transcripts of the listening material, which is helpful.
The text has excellent themes, concise instructions and delivers what it promises. I think my students will be as excited by it as I am!
Get Ahead in FCE adds another title to the wide selection available for an EFL professional tasked with choosing a suitable coursebook for an FCE preparation course. A quick online search for ‘FCE coursebooks’ produces over 500 results, so I was curious to see what Get Ahead in FCE has to offer to exam candidates and teachers, and where it positions itself among the competition.
As the name suggests, the coursebook is intended for all students preparing for the Cambridge English: First exam, which before rebranding was the Cambridge ESOL First Certificate of English (commonly known as the FCE). The set consists of a Student’s Book, Teacher’s Book, Practice Book and audio CD, which could be seen as refreshingly uncluttered when compared to some currently available packages which offer CDROMs, companion websites, mini dictionaries and more. On the other hand it could be seen as rather behind the times and a missed learning opportunity for exam candidates who are likely to be digital natives. This depends on your point of view and ultimately the individual teaching context will be the deciding factor in whether this package contains suitable materials for your courses.
The publisher scores a sufficient pass grade for presentation: a glossy professional package (as is the industry standard nowadays) of 220 pages including tapescripts. Within the covers, the balance of text and image to white space is just right and pages are clearly set out and uncluttered. I find this makes indicating specific exercises or images to a class of restless secondary school learners significantly less hard work. The photography included is of the expected high standard.
The Student’s Book consists of ten units, each covering one topic with the ‘usual suspects’ represented, reflecting the language which will occur in the exam: travel and holidays; career and life choices; education, etc. Each unit includes a number of ‘past paper’ type exercises corresponding to the various parts of the five exam papers and the unit culminates in a mini Use of English test. These exercises are supplemented by a range of further exercises, including those similar to exam tasks (such as focusing discussions using images) which would further practise exam skills, extra comprehension tasks which indirectly practise exam technique, and sections devoted to vocabulary development containing boxes pointing out commonly confused language and key words. Similar grammar sections are also included containing revision of forms and functions relevant to the exam. An average unit of 20 pages provides 12 opportunities for authentic exam practice representing all five exam papers. In my opinion this balance between authentic style exercises and supporting language work is ideal for a course which aims to prepare students for the exam while also seeking to recycle language studied at previous levels and fine-tune existing skills. Importantly, the audio CD provides exposure to a range of accents in an exam context. Although Get Ahead in FCE contains B2 level language, it would be less suitable as a general English upper intermediate course due to the absence of functional or situational language outside the exam context. It is very clearly intended as an exam course.
One weakness in this respect, though, is that it fails to refer to how the exam is graded and marks are awarded. This is often appreciated by students whose motivation is instrumental rather than integrative, and who are focused solely on gaining the qualification – the reality in my high school class in which I used Get Ahead in FCE. According to the learners, another missing feature which they would have appreciated, is the inclusion of example answers for the writing paper demonstrating high and low scoring answers, in order to clearly demonstrate what to do, and what not to do, in the exam. However, the students valued the useful vocabulary sections relevant to Paper Four, although a selection of fixed phrases for transactional writing exercises would also have been useful.
I have used many textbooks over many years of teaching for Cambridge English (previously Cambridge ESOL, previously U.C.L.E.S.) in a number of contexts and continents and I would happily recommend this one as a capable, no-nonsense framework for an exam preparation course. It stands up well against similar titles on the market and, while it doesn’t offer anything groundbreakingly new, its strength lie in its no-frills functionality. Get Ahead in FCE might be less suitable for courses looking to incorporate multimedia or venture beyond preparing for the Cambridge English: First exam. It positions itself between those coursebooks which provide exam preparation combined with general English at B2 level suitable for classes containing a mixture of exam candidates and general students, and those textbooks containing past paper exam practice exercises only. I would particularly recommend it for intensive courses.- Jonathan Shave for Modern English Teacher, Volume 20, Issue 4, October 2011
Contains full colour photos, tables and illustrations