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FCE/CAE Use of English Part 3 – Advice on Word Formations

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In today’s FCE/CAE workshop we will be turning our attention to part 3 of the Reading/Use of English paper, which involves word formations.


What do I have to do?

You are given a text with 8 gaps. At the end of each line is a ‘prompt’ word which you have to change in some way to complete the sentence correctly. See the example below in which a verb, ‘cycle’, has been used to prompt the correct noun describing a person who engages in the activity of that verb – ‘cyclist’.

       I have been a keen (0) cyclist for about nine years. CYCLE

Trust your instincts!


Hopefully on your first read through the text, you will be able to provide some of the answers without thinking too much, it will feel instinctive. Whilst this won’t guarantee that you are correct, this is often a sign that you know the vocabulary simply because it just feels right when you read the sentence back with the word you have come up with to fill the gap. Of course this is unlikely to be the case every time so the next step is very important…

Narrow it down - identify the word type



When you are unsure or even have no idea what the answer is, the words before and after the gap will provide you with the clues you need to decide whether the correct answer is a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. Furthermore we can look at the overall meaning of the sentence to decide more precisely what type of noun, adjective etc. is needed. For example, you should consider whether this noun is plural and whether it is a person, a place or a general concept to name a few examples. With adjectives, the sense of the text might indicate whether this is a positive or a negative adjective. With verbs, you must always pay attention to tense and conjugation. If you think the correct answer is an adverb, then remember to first form an adjective from the original word before adding your -ly suffix.

Have a go!


Even after identifying the word type, it may be the case that the original word provided is a word you have never encountered before. Don’t panic. By identifying the word type needed in the gap and thinking about which prefixes and suffixes are used to form that type, you will always be able to make a decent guess at the correct answer. NEVER LEAVE IT BLANK!

Does this make sense?


Finally, if you have time at the end, make sure you read through your answers again and ask yourself whether the sentence makes sense.

We at NLS English wish you all the best in your Cambridge exams!