Published ICFE materials

Why start a blog on ICFE materials? Because there’s not much available. This first post will briefly discuss what is available.

ICFE is an exam run by Cambridge ESOL for financial professionals. Students can pass the exam at CEF B2 (Upper-Intermediate) or C1 (Advanced).

Cambridge ESOL themselves are one of the better sources of information about the exam. Their site contains the ICFE handbook, which includes a description of all the different exam sections, a few exam tips, and criteria used for marking speaking and writing. The site also contains a sample ICFE test and a single past paper from 2007.

I have found Absolute Financial English by Julie Pratten really rather unsatisfactory for my needs. It discusses some relevant finance topics and can be worked through independently by learners. However, the listening activities are much easier than the exam, and don’t require anywhere near as much inference as the real exam. Also, the speaking activities do not use the exam format.

BPP’s ICFE Workbook has a significant amount of good advice, especially concerning writing. However, a large amount of the material is directly from the ICFE handbook, sample exam and 2007 past paper, available for free from Cambridge. The book has not been designed with class use in mind, so it is down to the teacher to make the material work in class. Also, whilst it is a massive book, a great deal of it is white space, and the print is large, meaning that, at GBP 30, it is not great value (although an e-book version is more reasonable at GBP 18 pounds).

Ian MacKenzie’s Professional English in Use: Business is not tailored for ICFE but is an invaluable book for learning relevant financial lexis for the exam. It explains financial terms in almost (but not quite) all the topic areas you need for ICFE. I strongly recommend it for students and teachers of ICFE alike.

Lastly, a book I recommend for teachers is Guy Brook-Hart’s Business Benchmark for BEC. Obviously, it’s designed for the BEC exam and not ICFE, but the two exams are rather similar, and there is a lot of useful work on exam strategies that will be just as valid for ICFE as for BEC. The book is easy to use in class, with plenty of communicative activities, opportunities to learn about business and improve students’ level, and also lots of exam-style practice. In the school where I work, we combine ICFE and BEC in a single course, and for this purpose, this book is excellent.

Having discussed what’s available already, the need for extra material becomes clear, and I have created this blog for sharing those materials.

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One thought on “Published ICFE materials

  1. Hi – I think we can all agree on the fact that no book is anywhere near satisfactory in terms of ICFE preparation. I also teach Legal English and would recommend using International Legal English as a supplement as it follows the exam format of ILEC (which is structured in excatly the same way as ICFE). Also Success with ILEC could be used. While lexically there is of course a difference between ILEC and ICFE the exams are structured identically and so there is a lot of cross-over in preparation

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