B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary) Reading

Reading – 7 parts, 45 questions, one point for each question.

25% of the exam.


The questions in the reading paper are of equal value and you will receive one mark for each question. If you do not answer a question, or if you answer incorrectly, you will receive zero points. You do not lose points if your answer is wrong. I always remind my students that it is important to write an answer to all the questions, even if you are not sure of the answer or if you have no idea at all. However, if you write multiple answers then to a multiple-choice question, then you will receive zero marks. 

I also recommend that you make sure you go on to the next question if you find a question difficult and cannot find the answer. It is important to manage your time well during the reading exam, so do not waste it on one specific question which only has one mark. Go on to the next question and try again later if you have time.

It is important to use different techniques for each part of the paper. With some parts, you don’t need to read everything or even to start with the reading text. You are not reading an email or a report which you need to read from beginning to end. You are doing an exam, and your objective is only to find the answers to the questions. In fact, you don’t need to do the test in the normal order, starting with Part One and continuing to Part Seven.

You can learn more about choosing the order to answer the reading paper questions in the B1 Business Preliminary Preparation Guide, available here.

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary)

Reading Part One. 5 points.

The Task.

You read five short texts which are usually messages, notices or memos. You have to choose one of three possible meanings for each text. You will receive one point for each correct answer.

You can download a sample paper of Reading Part One here and the answers here.


  •  Read the short text to understand the general meaning. Don’t worry if you do not understand individual words. Highlight any keywords.   
  • Read the three options. Look for words in the three options which are similar to, or the same as, the text.

  • Try to eliminate one incorrect option.

  • If you have two sentences which have similar words, then analyse them closely. Logically they do not mean the same so look at each word to find the difference. Sometimes this can be something simple, like before and after.

  • Decide which option is closest to the meaning of the text.

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary) Reading Part One Question

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary)

Reading Part Two – 5 points

The Task.

You have a list of 8 titles, usually book, job or course titles and five sentences which usually relate to different people and their needs. You have to match the five sentences to the correct title. You will receive one point for each correct answer.

You can download a sample paper of Reading Part Two here and the answers here.


  • Read the information about the people first. There are 5 people and 8 options in the text, I’m an English teacher but I can also do some maths, this means that there are 3 options you don’t need.

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary) Reading Part Two
  • Highlight the keywords in the sentences about the people. Focus on their jobs and what they want or need. Not all the keywords will be relevant or important to help you answer the question but if you highlight them, then you are reading them and will remember them. For example, if the sentence is:

The old-fashioned English language teacher wants to update his skills and become more comfortable with using technology in the classroom.

The keywords are English, language, teacher, update, technology, classroom. Next, read the “text”. Read title A and look for synonyms of your keywords or words connected with the keywords. You can usually quickly find at least one or two that are connected with the information about the people. For example, the title “Using interactive whiteboards in language teaching for beginners” is definitely for the English language teacher in the example above.

  • Repeat this procedure with all the titles. With the real exam example below, Option A – Market Research connects immediately with sentence 7 because of “demand” and product”. Option D – Meeting legal requirements connects with sentence 9 because of “laws”.

  • If you cannot make any connection quickly, go to immediately the next title option. It can be useful to identify the three incorrect options. The titles are usually quite different from each other and often it is not very difficult to try and find the three which are not connected with the jobs and needs you identified in the 5 sentences.

  • Be careful because you can lose points if you chose the wrong option. For example, if you chose title A for sentence 6 and in fact title A is connected with sentence 9 then both your answers for 6 and 9 will be incorrect.

Now that you understand how to maximise your score for the B1 Business Preliminary Reading Parts 1 & 2, you are now ready to start learning how to prepare to succeed in Parts 3, 4 & 5 or Parts 6 & 7.

If you prefer to focus on improving your score in a different part of the B1 Business Preliminary exam, then go to

Writing, Listening, or Speaking.