B1 Preliminary Speaking Exam: Part One
In the B1 Preliminary speaking exam part one, the examiner will ask you and your partner some basic questions.
You talk to the examiner. You don’t talk to your partner in part one.
At the beginning of your speaking test, the examiner will say: “Good morning. Can I have your mark sheets, please?”
Then, the examiner will ask each of you: “What’s your name? Where do you live?”
Answer in full sentences. Don’t just say “Gina.” Say “My name is Gina.”
Don’t just say “Milan.” Say “I come from Milan,” or, “I live in Milan.”
After that, the examiner will ask each of you “Do you work or are you a student?”
The examiner might ask extra questions, like “What job do you do?” or “What subject do you study?”
Here, try to add more information to your answers. Show the examiner what you can do in English!
For example, instead of saying “I’m an accountant,” say “I’m an accountant. I’ve been working in the accounting department of a construction company for the last ten years.”
Instead of saying “I’m at university,” say “I study graphical design at the university here in Bonn. I’m in my second year, so I’ll graduate in two years.”
Look at these two examples. Do you notice anything?
They both use two different verb tenses. The first example uses the present perfect. The second example uses a future form, with ‘will’.
You should try to do this, too! Say something about how long you’ve been doing your job, or your course, or say something about the future.
What about you? How could you answer this question?
- Do you work or are you a student?
Try to make an answer now. Make one or two sentences, add details, and use more than one verb tense. Pause the video and say your answer out loud now.
Could you do it? If you need more practice, pause again and repeat your answer several times, or try different answers.
Learn more about making these answers with our lessons from Oxford Online English on How to Talk About Your Job and How to Talk About Your Studies.
Next, the examiner will ask you and your partner one or more questions. These questions could be about different simple topics, like your hometown, your family, your home, your free time, your future plans, and so on.
Look at some examples.
When you answer these questions, think about the same points you saw before: add details to your answer, and try to use a range of language.
One point: what if you don’t understand the question the examiner asks?
Just ask the examiner to repeat the question. You can say ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that, please?’
Or, ‘Can you say that again, please?’
Don’t worry about having to ask this. It’s normal, and it won’t affect your score.
Let’s look at our example questions again.
- What did you do last weekend?
- Tell us about your hometown.
- Do you think you will live in the same place in the future? Why (not)?
Could you answer these? Pause the video and try it now.
How did you do?
Now, let’s look together at some more ways to improve your answers and your score.
First, like you heard before, try to use different verb tenses if possible.
Look at a sample answer for the first question.
- On Saturday, I played tennis with a friend, and then on Sunday I had lunch with my family.
This is not bad, but you can always improve your answers! For example:
- On Saturday, I played tennis with a friend, and then on Sunday I had lunch with my family, which we do every week.
You’re just adding a few words, but it all helps to add detail to your answer, and it helps your score, too.
Next, try to use a range of adjectives in your answer.
Look at a sample answer for the second question.
- I live in Thessaloniki. My town is nice because it has good restaurants and interesting museums.
Again, this answer is quite good! But, again, it could be better.
Adjectives like ‘interesting’, ‘nice’ and ‘good’ are OK, but they’re general. Try to use more specific adjectives and phrases.
- I live in Thessaloniki. My town is a great place to live because it has many excellent restaurants and some fascinating museums.
You can see here that you’re not just changing the adjectives, you’re also adding words to make the answer more descriptive.
You don’t just say ‘My town is nice’, you say ‘My town is a great place to live’.
You don’t just say ‘good restaurants’, you say ‘many excellent restaurants.’
OK, adding one word, like ‘many’, doesn’t make a big difference. But, it does make a small difference, and if you do this all the way through your B1 speaking exam, it will count.
Now, let’s look at a sample answer for our third question.
- I don’t know where I’ll live in the future.
What do you think? Good answer?
Again, it’s not bad, but it’s short; answers like this don’t give you a chance to use your English and show the examiners what you can do.
Sometimes, students ask “What do I do if I don’t know what to say?”
Firstly, you can make something up. Your answer doesn’t need to be true. You can say:
- I think I’ll live in New York in the future. After I finish university, I want to move to Manhattan and work in the advertising industry.
It doesn’t need to be true. You can make up something interesting!
Secondly, even if you don’t know what to say, you can still give some ideas. For example:
- I don’t know where I’ll live in the future. I guess after I graduate, I’ll probably stay here for a couple of years. After that, I wouldn’t mind moving to another city, or even another country if I can find a good job there.
In this way, you can turn a basic answer into a full, interesting one, even if you’re basically still saying ‘I don’t know’.
Hopefully that helped you understand how to improve your score in the B1 Preliminary speaking exam part one.
Now, let’s look at how to do the B1 preliminary speaking test part two.
B1 Preliminary Speaking Exam: Part Two
In part two of the Cambridge B1 speaking exam, the examiner will show you a photo. You need to describe what you see in the photo. You have one minute to talk.
At the start of part two, the examiner will say: “Now I’d like each of you to talk on your own about something. I’m going to give each of you a photograph and I’d like you to talk about it.”
In part two, you speak on your own. When your partner speaks, you just listen, or just relax for a minute. There’s no connection between the two photos.
The examiner will give you an idea about the topic of the photo. For example, the examiner might say: “Here is your photograph. It shows people in a cafe.”
You don’t have any thinking time. You should try to start talking as fast as you can.
So, how do you start?
First, give a general description of what you see in the photo and what is happening.
Let’s look at a photo.
A common mistake which students make is focusing too much on detail from the start.
For example, someone might say ‘In this photo, there is some kind of computer or machine on the left.’
That’s not wrong, but it’s not the best way to start. Start with a general description. For example ‘In the photo, I can see a young man who seems to be at the airport.’ For more practice on this topic, don’t miss our lesson on checking in at the airport.
After your general introduction, you need to describe the photo in more detail.
When you describe the photo in detail, imagine the examiner cannot see the photo. Don’t use your finger and point to things in the photo; use your words to describe what you see.
How can you do this?
You need to use prepositions of place to say what things are in the photo, and where they are.
Look at another photo.
Here’s a challenge for you. Can you use the preposition phrases you saw before, and make at least three sentences about this photo? Pause the video and do it now.
Could you do it? There are many possible answers, but here are three examples:
- In the bottom right, there are some vegetables: broccoli, pepper and cauliflower.
- On the left, there’s a man with his hand over his mouth.
- At the bottom, there are two bowls, one with carrots inside, and the other with courgettes.
You can also use the phrases ‘at the front’, ‘at the back’ or ‘next to’ to talk about where things are.
- At the back, there’s a shelf with some containers.
- The woman is sitting next to the man and holding a notepad.
Review prepositions of place before your B1 preliminary speaking exam, and remember to use them when describing the photo in part two!
Sometimes students ask: “I don’t know what to say! How can I talk for a full minute?”
It’s not difficult. Here’s why. The photos almost always contain people.
That means you can describe the people, say what they look like, what they’re wearing, and what they’re doing. This should give you lots of things to talk about.
Look at another photo.
Think: what could you say about the people in this photo? Think about three questions: what do they look like?
What are they wearing?
What are they doing?
Try it now! Pause the video and say as much as you can.
Could you do it? Let’s see an example.
- On the left, there’s a small girl. She looks like she’s about ten years old, and she’s smiling and playing a game with her parents. She’s wearing a purple long-sleeved top, and she has thick curly hair. The girl’s parents are sitting next to her. They’re also smiling and laughing while they play the game. The man has curly hair, like his daughter, but the woman has straight hair. We can’t see her full face, because her hair is in the way. She’s wearing a sleeveless turquoise blouse, while the man’s wearing a blue shirt with a white t-shirt underneath.
You see? Just by looking at these simple details, you can find lots to say.
Finally, you don’t just have to describe what you see. You can also give your opinions or make guesses about things in the photo.
Look at one more photo.
What’s the woman doing? Is she at home, or at work, or somewhere else? Why? What’s she doing there? What about the man? What’s he doing?
You might think: “I don’t know! How should I know what she’s writing, or why?”
But, you don’t need to know. You can make guesses and give your opinions.
For example ‘In my opinion, they must work for a company which makes things, maybe furniture.’
You can improve your answer by adding a reason, like this.
- In my opinion, they must work for a company which makes things, maybe furniture, because the man is working with some wood in the background.
- I think it’s a relaxed place to work, because they’re both wearing casual clothes.
- She’s talking on the phone. Maybe she’s taking an order from a customer.
You can also talk about what people are thinking or feeling. For example: ‘She looks quite happy and relaxed. I guess she enjoys her job and it’s not too stressful.’
So, let’s review: start with a general description of what you see, use prepositions of place to say where things are, describe the people you see, and then give your opinions about what’s happening.
If you do these things, it should be easy to talk for a minute! Try to keep talking until the examiner stops you.
Don’t worry if the examiner stops you, or if you feel that you haven’t finished. You don’t need to describe everything. Just keep talking, and the examiner will stop you when your time is over.
Want more practice? In this section, there are four photos. Try to describe them. Use a timer, and try to talk for a minute.
If you want, you can write your answers down, and share them with other students in the YouTube comments!
That’s it for this lesson. Good luck if you have a B1 speaking exam coming up soon.
Thanks for watching!