Cambridge PET Reading Exam Guide

With the summer exam season coming up, your students need to be working hard to achieve what they have been studying all year for. This is a guide to the PET (B1 level) reading exam and some ideas you can use to get the most marks from each exercise.

The reading is taken at the same time as the writing and is worth 25% of the overall score. Together with the writing they are allowed 90 minutes and all in all it’s worth 50%.

Reading Part 1

  • 5 Questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • 5 very shorts texts, signs or notices
  • Multiple choice

For this section, students should practice reading signs, short notes, notices, and anything similar to get an idea of the language used in them. There are two methods I use to help.

Method 1

Have them look at an exam question note, but cover up the answers. See below.

Due to staff shortage, the bank will be closed on Monday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Ask students what they think the note means, focus on keywords like Shortage’.

Then reveal one answer at a time, asking if it is correct. If it’s not, ask why. If they choose the correct answer before they have read them all, remind them that it’s important to look at all of them before making a final decision.

Due to staff shortage, the bank will be closed on Monday. Sorry for any inconvenience.
  •  The bank will open with less employees for one day this week
  • The bank will be shut for one day because there are not enough people to work
  • The bank will have less customers this week.

Method 2

Ask students what the point of the note is from the list below. Look for key words like the examples.

  • Advice (Should)
  • Prohibition (Can’t, Mustn’t)
  • Information (Remember, Don’t forget, Sorry for any inconvenience)
  • Obligation (Must, Have to)
  • Call for action (Please, Could, I Need)

Once they have identified what the main purpose of the note is, they should look to find the answer that expresses the same idea.

Reading Part 2

  • 5 Questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • 8 texts to match with 5 people

This part can be tricky at first glance. But students must remember the following things.

  1. Never ‘word spot’ (look for the same words as used in the descriptions) It will distract them.
  2. Identify the 2 or 3 things that the person wants, underline them.
  3. Make sure that the option they choose fits with all of the underlined points, not just 1 or 2.
  4. Always read the 8 texts first, then the descriptions.

Have a look at this example. Meet Sarah.

WednesdaySarah wants a calm vacation away from all the noise of the city. She wants somewhere she can relax, go for some long walks and see some beautiful views. She would like to eat breakfast at the hotel.


Now read the following three options.

City Lights Hotel

City lights is perfect for young people who want to go out for the weekend and have some fun in the city. Close to all the nightlife and restaurants, we also have a restaurant on site for hungry partiers! Good rates on Saturday and Sunday.

Pine View House

Pine view is located on the busy A4 motorway towards Brighton. We have good food for lunch and friendly staff. A nice break for travellers on the way to the city and people going on camping holidays further down the coast.

Oak Lodge

You can find Oak lodge deep in the northern countryside, surrounded by wonderful sights and great routes for walking and cycling. If you’re looking to escape from the business of the city, come here to relax. Bed and Breakfast included in price. Lunch on request.

Which one is the best choice for Sarah?

  • City lights has breakfast, but is in the city and too noisy.
  • Pine view is not in the city, but only serves lunch and doesn’t mention good walks.
  • Oak Lodge has breakfast, nice places to walk and is far away from the city.

Now have a look at Sarah’s sister, Rosie.

Rosie wants to go to the city with her friends, she has finished university and wants toIMG-20161205-WA0002[705] go clubbing! She doesn’t care about food, she just wants a place that’s close to the clubs and bars with good prices on the weekends.


Which hotel would be best for Rosie?


Depending on how many students you have in class, split the texts accordingly and ask students to read them. Underlining any key words and words that they don’t understand. Then go through the descriptions one by one and ask if anybody thinks that one of their options corresponds to the person, go through and see if they are correct.

Reading Part 3

  • 10 Questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • A long text with 10 true or false questions

Here are some ideas for this part’s preparation.

Idea 1

Ask students to bring in a magazine article, or a text from anywhere really (In English, obviously). In class, ask them to skim through the article and underline the facts and the statements. Then ask them to think of 5 true or false questions using those statements. E.g.

The article says that we throw away 12 million plastic bottles a day, true or false?

Then, ask them to go through and find things that indicate opinion, underline them, and then make 5 more questions. E.g.

The writer of the article thinks that we should recycle more, true or false?

Get them to swap articles and questions with their classmates and answer them. This could be for homework if you prefer.

Idea 2

When you are planning the lesson, think of three things to say that are nothing to do with the subject. For example,

  1. My favourite flavour of ice cream is chocolate
  2. I support Manchester City Football Club
  3. ‘Cheap’ is a synonym of ‘Economical’

They can be as silly or as serious as you like! At the end of the lessons, ask them questions like the ones below based on what you said.

  1. My favourite flavour of ice cream is vanilla, true or false?
  2. I support Manchester United Football Club, true or false?
  3. ‘Cheap’ is a synonym of ‘Economical’, true or false?

Reading Part 4

  • 5 questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • A long text with 5 multiple choice questions

This part is tricky as students are required to get specific information from the text as well as gauge the general meaning and intention of the writer.

  • Do questions 2, 3, and 4 first. Why? Because these questions tend to focus on specific information. Get them to scan the text once quickly, then read it again more thoroughly and pick out the information, underlining keywords.
  • Then do questions 1, and 5. Because these ones are more about the general meaning and the intention of the writer.
  • Get them to use a process of elimination system with the options. If they can’t identify the correct answer straight away, they should look at the various options and why they are not correct, until they are certain.

Reading Part 5

  • 10 questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • A medium length text with Cloze style gaps and multiple choice answers

Grammar. Grammar. Grammar. What I mean is, that if your students know their grammar, it’s relatively easy to get high marks on this exercise. Have a look at the examples below;

I asked my brother to _____ me a pencil
  • Borrow
  • Lend
  • Provide
  • Have

This question focuses on the difference between ‘Borrow’ and ‘Lend’. Students should know that apart from the slight difference in meaning, ‘Borrow’ doesn’t go with the object and that they need to focus on the action done by the brother and not the speaker. ‘Provide’ requires ‘with’ and so cannot be the answer.

The football match has been put __________ due to bad weather.
  • On
  • With
  • Off
  • Out

This question requires knowledge of phrasal verbs. ‘Put Off’ means to postpone, and is therefore correct. The remaining options either don’t exist as phrasal verbs or don’t have the meaning required to make sense in the sentence.

In this section;

  • Always pay attention to the words before and after the gap as well as the general context.
  • Try covering up the answers and getting them to guess which word goes there before looking at the answers.
  • Ask them what type of word is required.
  • Make sure they practice their grammar!

Has this blog been helpful? Anything I could add? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Cambridge PET Reading Exam Guide

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