Phrasal verbs are notoriously difficult for English learners. However, for native speakers, they are a common part of speech and are used all the time.
In order to achieve a B2 level of English, you are expected to know many phrasal verbs. Most of the time the meaning of a phrasal verb can be guessed according to the context of the sentence.
For example, a lot of English learners may not be able to give a definition of the phrasal verb “come down with”, but if they read the sentence “Maria is terribly ill at the moment, she came down with the flu last week and still hasn’t recovered” they would probably be able to guess the meaning. The context of the sentence gives a huge clue about the meaning of the phrasal verb, and most students would correctly assume that “come up with” means to become ill.
Using phrasal verbs in the exam
Candidates will need to have a good understanding of phrasal verbs in the listening, reading and use of English papers. When it comes to the speaking and writing papers candidates commonly find it much more difficult to actually use phrasal verbs in their answers.
Phrasal verbs can have very specific and if they are not used in the correct context or grammatical structure it can cause problems. This is why I always recommend studying phrasal verbs so you know their meaning, but only practice using a few of them.
If you can master some of the most common and versatile phrasal verbs you will be able to easily use them in the B2 First exam regardless of the question you are answering.
REMEMBER: Phrasal verbs are considered informal which means they are fine for the speaking exam, but using them in the writing exam will depend on the task. For example in an email to a friend use as many as possible, but in a report, you should avoid using them.
10 phrasal verbs to easily use in the exam
Here I am going to share with you 10 versatile phrasal that you will be able to use in your exam for nearly any question. Once you master how to use them, it will allow you to effortlessly include them in your speech and writing so you sound more natural and fluent.
I have also the CEFR level for each phrasal verb according to English Profile so you know what level of difficulty is associated with each one (and which one will impress the examiners the most!)
1. Come up with (B2)
“Come up with” is a great phrasal verb to use in the exam, and it is probably the most versatile of all the phrasal verbs on this list.
It means to think of an idea, plan or something similar. In context, you would use it like this “I came up with a great idea of what we can do for Steven’s birthday party” which basically means that I thought of an idea of what to do at Steven’s birthday party.
You should be able to use this phrasal verb in almost any question in the exam. Practice being creative with your answer to try and include it.
Here’s an example of how you could use “come up with” in your written exam to answer an email from a friend about climbing a mountain.
Here’s how you can use “come up with” in your reply:
“…I have come up with a few tips that might help you and your brother when climbing Ben Nevis..”
2. Get on with (B2)
“Get on with” is a phrasal verb that means to have a good or friendly relationship with someone. You can easily use this in the B2 First exam if you are asked a question related to your relationship with friends, family, teachers, work colleagues etc.
Let’s take a look at an example question that you might be asked in part 1 of the speaking exam:
Examiner: “Do you prefer spending time with your friends or family?”
Candidate: “To be honest, I don’t really get on with my family so I would definitely prefer to spend time with friends. I have a close group of friends and we all get on really well with each other”
Tip: You can use “well” or “really well” with this phrasal verb to further demonstrate your English ability.
3. End up (B1)
“End up” is another phrasal verb that is extremely versatile. You will have countless opportunities to use it in the B2 First exam.
Let’s take a look at this sample essay question about health for part 1 of the writing paper.
In your essay, you could include a sentence like: “I think education is very important because if people are not educated about the damaging effects unhealthy habits can have on their life then they will end up with serious health problems.
4. Look forward to (B2)
One of the most common phrasal verbs in the English language is “look forward to”. It means to be happy or excited about something that is going to happen in the future, for example, “Are you looking forward to the weekend?”
It is also commonly used at the end of emails or informal letters to indicate that you are waiting for a reply. So if you are writing an email or informal letter in your B2 First exam then make sure you end it like this: “I look forward to hearing from you”
IMPORTANT: Most of the time when using “look forward to” you will use it in the present continuous tense, the only exception to this is when you are adding it to the end of an email or letter.
5. Depend on (B1)
“Depend on” is a great phrasal verb to use, especially in your speaking exam. It means to be influenced by something and is very commonly used in general conversation.
Take a look at the three questions below taken from this exam practice video about things you like.
Examiner: “Do you like watching sports?”
Candidate: “It depends on the sport. Some sports I really like watching like football, basketball and boxing, but other sports like tennis or golf I don’t like watching as I find it very boring.”
Examiner: “Do you like e-books?”
Candidate: “It depends on where I am reading. I mean, e-books are great when travelling on the train or bus, but if I’m at home or on holiday then I prefer to read traditional books.”
Examiner: “Do you like shopping?”
Candidate: “It depends on what I’m shopping for! I love clothes shopping, I could do it every day. But I absolutely hate going to the supermarket.”
6. Deal with (B1)
“Deal with” means to take action to solve a problem. This is a great phrasal verb to use if you are asked to give your opinion on a particular situation. For example, maybe you are asked a question about the environment and what you think the government should do to help reduce air pollution.
You can use “deal with” in your answer by saying something like:
“I think that air pollution is a really important issue and something that the government has to deal with now or we are going to end up facing serious consequences in the future.”
7. Stem from (C1)
“Stem from” is a C1 level phrasal and is actually quite a formal phrasal and one of the few phrasal verbs that you could use in formal writing. It used to talk about when something happens as a result of something else. For example:
“My love of football stems from my childhood when my father would take me to watch Liverpool play every weekend.”
Let’s take a look at this sample question for part 1 of the writing exam about keeping children fit.
Maybe you want to say that the reason children are spending less time outdoors is because of all the technology available to them nowadays. This would be a perfect opportunity to use “stem from”:
“I think that the reason many children are spending less time outdoors nowadays stems from the huge amount of technology that children are exposed to at home.”
8. Get together (B1)
“Get together” is a perfect phrasal verb to use in part 1 of the speaking exam or any other part of the exam when you are asked your opinion about things that you like to do. It means to spend time with someone or a group of people in an informal setting (coffee shop, restaurant, walk etc.)
Here is an example of how you can use it in part 1 of the speaking exam:
Examiner: “Do you spend a lot of time with your family?”
Candidate: “Yes, I spend a lot of time with my family, especially during the holidays when we always get together for a big family dinner or bbq if the weather is nice”
9. Check out (C1)
“Check out” is another C1 level phrasal verb. It means to look or go to see something to see what it is like. For example, “I really want to check out that new Chinese restaurant that has just opened”.
It is a great phrasal verb to use if you are answering a question about travel or giving advice to a friend about a trip.
Let’s check out this sample question for part 2 of the speaking exam:
When talking about why people choose to live in a busy city you could say:
“I think people would choose to live in a big city because they like to check out all the different attractions that a big city offers.”
10. Rule out (C2)
If you really want to impress the examiners with your phrasal verb knowledge then “rule out” is a C2 level phrasal verb that you can easily use in part 3 of the speaking exam.
It means to eliminate or discard something as an option. In part 2 of the speaking paper candidates need to have a conversation about a particular topic and are given five prompts to talk about. The examiner then asks the candidates a decision make question where they have to decide which of the five prompts is the best option.
Take a look at the example below about working from home:
After you have discussed the question with your partner the examiner will then ask you a question like, “What do you think is the biggest reason people choose to work from home?”. This is your opportunity to use “rule out”. You simply need to say to your partner which option you think can be discarded.
“Well, I think we can rule out children because for many people they can actually make your job much more difficult because they are a constant distraction…”
Phrasal verbs are obviously an extremely important part of English and candidates should have a wide knowledge of a variety of phrasal verbs to obtain a B2 or C1 level.
Phrasal verbs are much more difficult to use than understand so it is important for anyone preparing for the B2 first exam to take just a few phrasal verbs and really master how to use them. They will then be able to use them effortlessly in the exam and obtain extra marks from the examiner.
I believe this is a great list of phrasal verbs that candidates should practice using when preparing for the exam. If you can think of any other versatile phrasal verbs that would be a good addition to this list let me know in the comments.