How to do the B2 First Reading tasks successfully (& easily)

Reading and Use of English paper is one of the Cambridge B2 First exam parts, along with Listening, Writing and Speaking papers.

Parts 1, 5, 6 and 7 are the ones that assess candidates’ reading comprehension skill. Nailing throughout these questions is almost impossible unless candidates are knowledgable about the steps to be taken in order to successfully find the right answers. So, choosing answers haphazardly is not an option. The one and only situation to randomly answer the given questions is having little time left. But we won’t, will we?

Let’s look into the format and the reading procedures of Parts 1, 5, 6 and 7, and put into practice the steps we recommend you take. 

Reading Part 1 Multiple-choice cloze

Format, structure and score

  • A text with multiple-choice questions 
  • 4 options (A, B, C, and D) for each question
  • 8 questions
  • 1 mark for each correct answer. Total score: 8 marks

Exam advice

This task tests your knowledge of the meanings of words (phrasal verbs, phrases and word patterns) and how they are used. Besides, it tests how well you control the grammar connected with some words.

  1. Read the short text quickly to get a general idea of what it is about.
  2. Deal with the first gap. Read carefully before and after the gap.
  3. Read each of the options A, B, C and D carefully. Choose the option that fits into the gap.
  4. Write the option you’ve chosen in the gap.

Repeat steps 2-3 for the rest of the questions in Part 1.

The four options are similar in meaning. Reason lexically (e.g. audience, spectators, public, viewers) and grammatically by looking at prepositions before and after the gap, and other grammatical structures, like gerunds and infinitives. 

If doubting, reject the options that seem wrong. Have an ear-sound check as well. 

When finished, read the whole text quickly to check your answers.

Reading activity

For questions 1-4, read the extract from the text and decide which answer (A, B, C or D) best fits each gap.

There is an example at the beginning.

Follow the steps above.

What is genealogy?
Genealogy is a (0) …….. of history. It concerns family history, (1) …….. than the national or world history studied at school. It doesn’t merely involve drawing a family tree, however – tracing your family history can also (2) …….. in learning about your roots and your identity. The internet enables millions of people worldwide to (3) …….. information about their family history, without great (4) …….. .

0 A band

1 A instead

2 A cause

3 A accomplish

4 A fee

B set

B rather

B mean

B access

B price

C branch

C except

C result

C approach

C charge

D series

D sooner

D lead

D admit

D expense

1 B, 2 C, 3 B, 4 D

b2 first reading strategies

Reading Part 5 Multiple choice

Format, structure and score

  • A text followed by multiple-choice questions
  • 6 questions
  • 4 options for each question, A, B, C and D
  • 2 marks for each correct answer. Total score: 12 marks

Exam advice

  1. Read the text quickly to get a general idea of what it is about.
  2. Read the first question. Find where it is answered in the text. Read that section carefully and find the answer. Optional: Write the question number next to the line(s) where the answer is. 
  3. Read each of the options A, B, C and D carefully. Choose the option that matches what the text says.

Repeat steps 2-3 for the rest of the questions in Part 5.

Reading activity

You are going to read the first two paragraphs of an extract from a novel in which a young woman called Caitlin talks about her life on an island. For the questions below, choose the answer (A, B, C, or D) which you think fits best according to the text.

Follow the three steps above.

Note: Step 2 has already been done as an example for you for question 31. Find the answer to question 32 in the second paragraph. Underline it.

We live on the island of Hale. It’s about four kilometres long and two kilometres wide at its broadest point, and it’s joined to the mainland by a causeway called the Stand – a narrow road built across the mouth of the river which separates us from the rest of the country. Most of the time you wouldn’t know we’re on an island because the river mouth between us and the mainland is just a vast stretch of tall grasses and brown mud. But when there’s a high tide and the water rises a half a metre or so above the road and nothing can pass until the tide goes out again a few hours later, then you know it’s an island.

We were on our way back from the mainland. My older brother, Dominic, had just finished his first year at university in a town 150 km away. Dominic’s train was due in at five and he’d asked for a lift back from the station. Now, Dad normally hates being disturbed when he’s writing (which is just about all the time), and he also hates having to go anywhere, but despite the typical sighs and moans – why can’t he get a taxi? what’s wrong with the bus? – I could tell by the sparkle in his eyes that he was really looking forward to seeing Dominic.

31. In the first paragraph, what is Caitlin’s main point about the island?

A It can be dangerous to try to cross from the mainland.
B It is much smaller than it looks from the mainland.
C It is only completely cut off at certain times.
D It can be a difficult place for people to live in

32. What does Caitlin suggest about her father?

A His writing prevents him from doing things he wants to with his family.
B His initial reaction to his son’s request is different from usual.
C His true feelings are easily hidden from his daughter.
D His son’s arrival is one event he will take time off for.

We live on the island of Hale. It’s about four kilometres long and two kilometres wide at its broadest point, and it’s joined to the mainland by a causeway called the Stand – a narrow road built across the mouth of the river which separates us from the rest of the country. Most of the time you wouldn’t know we’re on an island because the river mouth between us and the mainland is just a vast stretch of tall grasses and brown mud. But when there’s a high tide and the water rises a half a metre or so above the road and nothing can pass until the tide goes out again a few hours later, then you know it’s an island.

31. In the first paragraph, what is Caitlin’s main point about the island?

C It is only completely cut off at certain times.

We were on our way back from the mainland. My older brother, Dominic, had just finished his first year at university in a town 150 km away. Dominic’s train was due in at five and he’d asked for a lift back from the station. Now, Dad normally hates being disturbed when he’s writing (which is just about all the time), and he also hates having to go anywhere, but despite the typical sighs and moans – why can’t he get a taxi? what’s wrong with the bus? – I could tell by the sparkle in his eyes that he was really looking forward to seeing Dominic.

32. What does Caitlin suggest about her father?

D His son’s arrival is one event he will take time off for.

Reading Part 6 Gapped text

Format, structure and score

  • A text with numbered gaps. Each gap represents a missing sentence.
  • 7 sentences after the text, which are not in the right order. 
  • 6 questions. There is one extra sentence which you do not need to use.
  • 2 marks for each correct answer. Total score: 12 marks

Exam advice

  1. Read the text quite carefully. Make a short note in the margin about the subject of each paragraph.
  2. Read sentence A, which has been removed. Pay attention to:
    • pronouns (he, that, it, etc),
    • adverbs (however, so, etc),
    • reference words/phrases (there, those, etc)
    • relationships of meaning (e.g. the weather was supposed to be nice in fact it turned up pretty miserable)
  3. Decide what they refer to in the article before you place the sentence is a gap.
  4. Optional: Underline the words before and after the gap, those words which tell you that the sentence you chose is the right one.

Work methodically through the rest of the sentences, B-G. Follow steps 2-3. Read the removed sentences and place them one by one when you’re sure they fit.

Reading activity

You are going to read an extract from a newspaper article in which a former ballet dancer talks about the physical demands of the job. Choose from the sentences A – G the one which fits each gap (37 -38). Follow steps 2-3. 

Note: One reference word, “this”, has been underlined for you as an example. Can you find other clue words, like pronouns or adverbs?

Good preparation leads to success in ballet dancing

A former classical ballet dancer explains what ballet training actually involves.

What we ballet dancers do is instinctive, but instinct learnt through a decade of training. A dancer’s life is hard to understand, and easy to misinterpret. Many a poet and novelist has tried to do so, but even they have chosen to interpret all the hard work and physical discipline as obsessive. And so the idea persists that dancers spend every waking hour in pain, bodies at breaking point, their smiles a pretence.
As a former dancer in the Royal Ballet Company here in Britain, I would beg to question this. 37 ___. With expert teaching and daily practice, its various demands are easily within the capacity of the healthy human body. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to break bones or tear muscles to achieve ballet positions. It is simply a question of sufficient conditioning of the muscular system.
Over the course of my dancing life I worked my way through at least 10,000 ballet classes. I took my first at a school of dance at the age of seven and my last 36 years later at the Royal Opera House in London. In the years between, ballet class was the first thing I did every day. It starts
at an early age, this daily ritual, because it has to. 38 ___ But for a ballet dancer in particular, this lengthy period has to come before the effects of adolescence set in, while maximum flexibility can still be achieved.

A Through endless tries at the usual exercises and frequent failures, ballet dancers develop the neural pathways in the brain necessary to control accurate, fast and smooth movement.

B The ballet shoe offers some support, but the real strength is in the muscles, built up through training.

C As technology takes away activity from the lives of many, perhaps the ballet dancer’s physicality is ever more difficult for most people to imagine.

D Ballet technique is certainly extreme but it is not, in itself, dangerous.

E The principle is identical in the gym – pushing yourself to the limit, but not beyond, will eventually bring the desired result.

F No one avoids this: it is ballet’s great democratiser, the well established members of the company working alongside the newest recruits.

G It takes at least a decade of high-quality, regular practice to become an expert in any physical discipline.

37: D 

This sentence mentions the ballet technique, which is extreme but not dangerous.

In the text, before the gap, we find relationships of meaning through words like pain, breaking point, as well as the reference pronoun this, referring to the idea of excessive hard work and discipline. After the gap, we find the possessive adjective its, which refers to the word technique from sentence D, as well as other relationships of meaning, like contrary to popular belief.

38: G

This sentence has got the reference pronoun it as well as words like regular practice which refer to the information before the gap, daily routine. After the gap, the adverb but shows contradiction since it doesn’t take just a decade of high quality practice, it must happen before the effects of adolescence set in. Besides, the pronoun this, after the gap, refers to a decade, the word found in sentence G.

 

 

Reading Part 7 Multiple matching

Format, structure and score

  • 10 questions / statements
  • A text divided into sections (4-6), or several short texts (4-6)
  • 1 mark for each correct answer. Total score: 10 marks

Can you identify the difference in layout between Parts 5 and 6, and Part 7? 

In this last reading task, Part 7, the questions come first, followed by the short texts, compared to the previous reading tasks, Part 5 and 6.

Have you ever wondered why?

The ten statements must be read first and foremost. And only after that, should we read the texts.

Exam advice

  1. Read the ten questions carefully and explain to yourself their main idea
  2. Underline the key words, e.g. nouns, adjectives, verbs.
  3. Read the first section carefully and find which questions are mentioned.
  4. Optional: Underline the part of the text that rephrases the question/statement. Write on the margin the question number. Check the underline phrases against the question.

Deal with each section in turn. Follow steps 3-4.

Reading activity

You are going to read a newspaper article about a young professional footballer. For questions 43-52, choose from the sections A and B. The sections may be chosen more than once.

Note: The key words in the first two questions have already been underlined for you. In section A, I’ve underlined the phrases that refer to one or more questions.

Which paragraph

states how surprised the writer was at Duncan’s early difficulties? 43 ___
says that Duncan sometimes seems much more mature than he really is? 44 ___
describes the frustration felt by Duncan’s father? 45 ___
says that Duncan is on course to reach a high point in his profession? 46 ___
suggests that Duncan caught up with his team-mates in terms of physical development? 47 ___
explains how Duncan was a good all-round sportsperson? 48 ___
gives an example of how Gavin reassured his son? 49 ___
mentions Duncan’s current club’s low opinion of him at one time? 50 ___
mentions a personal success despite a failure for the team? 51 ___
explains how Duncan and his father are fulfilling a similar role? 42 ___

A  It’s my first time driving to Chelsea’s training
ground and I turn off slightly too early at the
London University playing fields. Had he
accepted football’s rejections in his early
teenage years, it is exactly the sort of ground
Duncan Williams would have found himself
running around on at weekends. At his current
age of 18, he would have been a bright first-year
undergraduate mixing his academic studies with
a bit of football, rugby and cricket, given his
early talent in all these sports. However,
Duncan undoubtedly took the right path. Instead
of studying, he is sitting with his father Gavin in
one of the interview rooms at Chelsea’s training
base reflecting on Saturday’s match against
Manchester City. Such has been his rise to
fame that it is with some disbelief that you listen
to him describing how his career was nearly all
over before it began.

B  Gavin, himself a fine footballer – a member of
the national team in his time – and now a
professional coach, sent Duncan to three
professional clubs as a 14 year-old, but all three
turned him down. ‘I worked with him a lot when
he was around 12, and it was clear he had
fantastic technique and skill. But then the other
boys shot up in height and he didn’t. But I was
still upset and surprised that no team seemed to
want him, that they couldn’t see what he might
develop into in time. When Chelsea accepted
him as a junior, it was made clear to him that
this was more of a last chance than a new
beginning. They told him he had a lot of hard
work to do and wasn’t part of their plans.
Fortunately, that summer he just grew and grew,
and got much stronger as well.’ 

A: 43 (football rejections in his early teenage years, it is with some disbelief that …) 48 (football, rugby and cricket, given his
early talent in all these sports)

B: 45 (I was still upset and surprised that …), 47 (got much stronger as well), 50 (they told him he had a lot of hard work to do and wasn’t part of their plan)

The reading tasks above are taken from B2 First paper-based test 1. To download the entire sample test,  as well as find more useful preparation resources, check https://exams-owl.com/B2-First/ (B2 First paper-based – 1)

b2 first reading and use of english paper

Top Tips in B2 Reading

  • SKIM

Read the texts quickly, in Part 1,5 and 6, in order to understand the gist (the main subject). 

There are new words. Don’t worry. The context will help you understand their meaning. So, guess difficult words from the context.

  • READ CAREFULLY the following:
  1. the six questions in Part 5
  2. the seven sentences in Part 6, six of which have been taken out from the text
  3. the ten statements in Part 7

The better you understand the questions, the faster you’ll find the answer in the text.

  • SCAN

Look through the questions and texts in order to:

  1. find the answer to each of the 6 questions in Part 5
  2. identify the clues (pronouns, adverbs and reference words), in Part 6 
  3. find the phrases in each of the 4-6 sections that refer to one or more of the ten statements in Part 7
  • UNDERLINE the keywords and the clues, in both questions and text(s). How else will you be able to quickly revise your answers?
  • TRUST YOUR REASONING as well  as INSTINCT

The answer is always in the text. It is disguised through the use of synonymous words and phrases. Find them. All the answers are stated directly. No answer is implied. And few are the questions that refer to the whole, general idea of the text. 

  • NEVER LEAVE THE GAP BLANK, even if you can’t find the answer.

Use the above reading techniques while you are doing exam practice tasks. Create this healthy reading routine. Remember that reading carefully and answering methodically is paramount. Consequently, mark A is guaranteed in the B2 First Reading and Use of English paper. 

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material.

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