GORDON: Ok, let’s move on to the speaking section of the exam. How do you feel about this part Emma?
EMMA: I think the speaking part is my greatest weakness. I can’t remember exactly how it works. Can you explain it to me Terry?
TERRY: Sure, ok so the speaking has 4 sections. The first section lasts for 3 minutes. The examiner asks you some basic questions about what you like, where you’re from and what you like about living in that place. Then they ask a few things about a common topic. I remember when I took the exam, I was asked about interesting things I do in my free time and how important the computer is to me.
EMMA: Ok, and the next part is with pictures, right?
TERRY: Yeah that’s right. So, as you probably already know, you won’t be the only candidate in the exam, you will have one or two partners. In this second part, you are given two photographs which you have to compare and then answer a related question. For that, you need to speak for 1 minute. Additionally, when your partner has finished doing the same thing for their photographs, the examiner will ask you a question about theirs. You just need to give a short response to this though, only 20 seconds.
EMMA: Ok, perfect. I remember that the third part involves working with your partner, doesn’t it?
GORDON: Yeah. You will be asked about a situation and given a set of pictures to guide you. Then, you will have to collaborate with your partner, talking to each other at first and then making a decision about something.
EMMA: I’m a bit worried in case my partner is at a much higher level than me.
GORDON: That’s a common worry amongst people taking the exam. You just need to be confident in your abilities and don’t let your partner do all the talking!
TERRY: To be honest, if your partner does have a very high level, it can be to your advantage rather than to your detriment. I remember mine had really good ideas which encouraged me.
EMMA: I suppose you’re right. So how long does that part last?
TERRY: Well, 3 minutes but then the theme of this discussion will follow through to part 4. The examiner will involve both you and your partner in a 3 way conversation which will be 4 minutes long. So, 7 minutes all together.
EMMA: Ok, so Terry, how did you practise for the speaking exam?
TERRY: Well, it’s obviously important to practise conversation as much as you can to become more fluent and confident. Apart from that, you should study vocabulary for expressing opinions and making comparisons. Also, you should focus on vocabulary related to facial expressions and body language, location, time and places. Don’t forget to study vocabulary about general topics as well such as travel, sport, food and entertainment.
GORDON: You said you were a little worried about the level of your partner. Do you have any other doubts?
EMMA: Well, I will have 1 minute to prepare when I am given the photographs, won’t I? I’m a bit worried incase this preparation time won’t be enough. I suppose my biggest worry is that I won’t understand the examiner at all or that I will freeze and won’t have anything to say.I am also worried that I won’t have a substantial amount of descriptive vocabulary when it comes to describing the pictures.
GORDON: Well, regarding the preparation time, don’t worry. During this time you can note down a list of 5 or 6 words related to the pictures which will get you off the starting blocks. This can relate to your fear of having nothing to say aswell, you can look down at these words whenever you are stuck and your answer will come together and flow nicely. The examiner will speak clearly and will be happy to repeat their question at any time if you ask them to. They understand that candidates are bound to feel nervous.
EMMA: Ok thanks, I feel better about everything now.
SYNONYM or DEFINITION
lacking strength; a fault
to collaborate with
to work together
to do all the talking
to always talk
to one’s advantage
benefit, in one’s favour
to one’s detriment
the state of being harmed or damaged; disservice
spoken accurately and with facility
of the face
to suddenly become motionless with fear or shock
to get off the starting blocks
to be afraid of
to be stuck/ to get stuck
to be baffled, at a loss
to come together
to sound natural
to be bound to
to be likely or certain to
FCE Speaking Test. The day of the exam there are 4 parts in the FCE Speaking test.
This lesson’s exam tip will be about SPEAKING PART 4.
Please note that the questions in this part 4 are not actually written down. So you have to listen carefully. If you don’t understand the question, you can ask the examiner to repeat it. Here you will be asked questions on the topic of speaking part 3, such as hobbies, travel, learning English, work, your home country or home city, shopping, etc.
The examiner asks you a question. You must answer it. It is similar and different to speaking part 1 too but there is an interaction with the other student as you should respond to his or her answers, and ask for his or her opinions.
Useful phrases for agreeing or disagreeing with your partner:
Always try to provide an explanation to your answers, i.e. “I think that this is a good idea because…”. If you don’t systematically explain your answers, the examiner will ask you why. So it is better if you say why on your own, without being prompted..
Avoid answers like “I don’t know”. It is best to answer with “I had never thought about this before but perhaps..”
Listen to the other student and try looking at them and not the piece of paper. Agreeing and disagreeing with Student B will help you provide more detailed answers.
Don’t forget that the examiner is not looking for good conversation, or particular answers, he or she is looking to see a natural conversation with good vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. So try using a variety of structures and varied vocabulary.
At the end of this part, the exam will be over. Do say goodbye but refrain from asking how well you did. The examiner is not allowed to give you this information.
Remain formal and abstain from laughing or speaking another language until you have exited the exam room.