Your Cambridge intensive course is coming to an end and exam day is fast approaching. It’s about time to make sure you are prepared for what many find the most difficult part – the speaking paper!
Knowing what to expect in this part of the exam is a great way to feel more confident and show off your language skills.
After asking your name and where you’re from, the interlocutor will ask you questions individually. These are always topics related to your personal life, such as:
This is a good opportunity to include language to make your answers sound more natural. Using words like “Well,…” or “Actually,…” or phrases like “To be honest,…” or “Hmmm, that’s a good question!” can give you an extra second to think and boost your score in Discourse Management.
Be aware that the language in the question may not be very challenging grammatically, but you should try to show a wide range of grammatical structures to show just how good you are.
See the following example and how it can be improved:
Interlocutor: “What free time activity do you most enjoy?”
Student: “I love playing the guitar and hanging out with friends.”
Although hang out is a phrasal verb you expect to see at B2, the grammar in this sentence is very basic.
Here’s a better answer:
Student: “Well, I really enjoy hanging out with friends but, to be honest, I’ve been really busy recently. If I had more time, I’d love to play the guitar more. Hopefully after I’ve done the exam, I’ll get the chance to!”
This is a much more complex answer and contains different time references, even though the question was in the present simple. Try to use a range of grammar, such as perfect tenses and conditionals, to get a better mark in the Grammar and Vocabulary section.
In this part you will compare two pictures (from a choice of three in CAE) and answer a question about them. You will do this individually and speak for about one minute.
This is another opportunity to show a variety of linking devices to bump up your Discourse Management score. Linkers like since (meaning as), whereas, despite and therefore sound much more highbrow than your typical as, but and so.
Another aspect of Discourse Management relates to coherence. This means your answer should be well-organised, non-repetitive and relevant to the question. Remember that the question is always written above the pictures to help you, so take a look if you need a hand.
Examiners also mark you on Pronunciation. Your score for this part covers more than just your ability to make individual sounds. The more natural you sound, the higher your score will be in this area, so do your best to sound confident when you compare the two photos and think about your intonation.
Often, exam candidates use a rising intonation, which makes it sound like they’re asking a question. To avoid this, practise dropping your intonation at the end of your sentences.
After your partner has described their two photos, you’ll be asked a question related to the topic they spoke about. You have up to thirty seconds to respond, so give an extended answer. Remember, it’s not a bad thing if the interlocutor interrupts you because you want to show off as much as you can in a short time.
In this part of the test, you and your partner are given a series of points and a question to discuss. You have 15 seconds to look at the task before you begin.
You will have the chance to agree or disagree with your partner’s points. Simply saying “Yes, you’re right” or “No, I don’t think so”, will not get you high marks, so make sure to add your opinion, as this will improve your score.
Here are some phrases you can use to extend your response to your partner:
After you‘ve discussed the topic for two minutes, the interlocutor will interrupt you and ask a second question.
When you answer it’s important to avoid repeating the same ideas as before. This is an opportunity to use some language to express your personal opinion, with phrases like:
Well, personally, I would say that…
If I had to choose just one, I would probably go for…
Speaking from personal experience, I’d probably say…
Following on from the topic you’ve discussed in Part 3, the interlocutor asks some questions which could be open or directed to one candidate or the other. Make sure to listen to your partner’s answers because you might be asked if you agree with them.
The questions often ask for your personal opinion, so remember to show a range of grammatical structures and extend your answers, but don’t babble!
One last quick tip: speak as much English as you can while you’re waiting to go into the exam room. This is especially important if you don’t know your partner, because it’s important to get used to their accent and way of speaking in English.
Many people find the speaking exam a nerve-wracking experience, but there are lots of things you can do to prepare for the test so you do your best on the day. Check out this article with our six tips to help you with exam day nerves.
Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.
Boost (v): improve.
Interlocutor (n): the examiner who speaks to you during the test.
Actually* (adv): in fact.
Challenging (adj): difficult.
Hang out (pv): spend leisure time with friends or family.
Bump up (pv): increase a score or mark
Highbrow (adj): academic.
Need a hand (vp): need help.
Show off (pv): demonstrate how good you are at something.
Babble (v): talk too much.
Nerve-wracking (adj): causing anxiety, making you worry.
*it’s a false friend in Spanish
n = noun
adj = adjective
pv = phrasal verb
vp = verb phrase
v = verb