Let’s first look at Part 1.
As you may know, Part 1 involves a 2-minute conversation, during which candidates take turns answering questions. The examiner will ask you to speak about everyday topics and the questions will be quite simple.
The first tip is to:
1. Always Develop Your Answer in the CAE Speaking Exam
You don’t have a lot of time, so it’s important to use your time to demonstrate your English skills.
How should you do this?
Give long, full answers—simple “yes” or “no” answers are certainly not enough.Instead, add reasons, details and examples to everything that you say.
Now, let’s look at an example of this with a sample question. Imagine that you are asked:
- What keeps you motivated to learn English?
What would you say?
Here’s a sample answer:
- I enjoy learning English because I can speak with my foreign friends.
Now this answer is fine, but it could be better if we add more reasons, examples and details.
Take a look at this:
- For example, one of my acquaintances here is Polish, and English is a mutual language we can both understand. I also work in a multinational company and I need to speak English a lot.
You can see that the speaker has developed the point by adding a personal story. This also allows you to use some more impressive vocabulary, such as acquaintances and multinational.
Of course it’s important not to just keep speaking and speaking—your answer needs to have a clear end! But, in the CAE speaking exam you will be given some time to develop your ideas so make sure you use this. Take advantage of your speaking time by saying as much as you can.
2. Learn Keywords Related to Everyday Topics
In Part 1, the questions are about very general topics, just like when you first meet someone.
This can make it easier to prepare for part one. Let’s see how.
It means it’s possible for us to make some predictions about what you will be asked. Common Part 1 topics in the CAE speaking exam include:
- Where you live
- Leisure time
- Future plans
- Holiday experiences
It’s probably not a good idea to prepare complete phrases, because the examiners are trained to look for this. But, it is useful to learn a few advanced level keywords around each topic. This way, you will have a rich vocabulary prepared that you can use naturally.
Let’s look at an example, using the topic leisure time.
Imagine you were asked the question:
- What do you do at the weekend?
What would you say? If you’re interested in surfing, your answer might be:
This answer is okay, but it doesn’t really demonstrate a lot of advanced English. Now before the exam, if you do a bit of research, you might then be able to say that you are quite fanatical about surfing, or that it’s something that helps you to unwind, or even as an activity in which you can get out and about. Perhaps you’re afraid of shark attacks!
With a bit of preparation, you’ll be better prepared to give a stronger answer:
- I usually go surfing—this is something I’m really fanatical about! It lets me exercise, unwind, and get out and about. I prefer to surf in isolated locations, though I am a little afraid of shark attacks these days!
Aim to learn five or six new words for each of the most common topic areas in Part 1.
You won’t use all of them, but you might use one or two. Even using one or two high-level words and phrases can make a difference to your vocabulary score.
Now we’ll look at Part 2 of the CAE speaking test.
What happens in this part?
The goal in this section is to compare two pictures and to speculate about the people in them. You have a minute to answer and you speak only to the examiner.
So what are the examiners looking for here?
The examiners want to see that you can put your thoughts into a well-organized one-minute answer.
So, my first tip for Part 2 is:
3. Learn how to Compare and Speculate
This is a key part of this task, and you can and should prepare for it.
One aspect of this is using linking words to connect your ideas and sentences. Let’s look at how we can do this, using these pictures of people reading as an example.
The question might be:
- Compare why these people are reading and say how they might be feeling.
Let’s look at comparing first.
For things that are similar, use language like:
- In the same way…
- We can also see that…
- This man may be reading for pleasure and…
- …we can also see that she appears to be enjoying herself.
- …similarly, she appears to be enjoying herself.
- …in the same way, she appears to be enjoying herself.
And for things that are different, use:
- By contrast…
- On the other hand…
- The man is reading alone…
- By contrast, this woman seems to be reading to some children.
- On the other hand, the woman seems to be reading to some children.
- Meanwhile, the woman seems to be reading to some children.
Now in addition to comparing and contrasting, you need to know how to speculate. You shouldn’t just say what you see; you also need to talk about the ideas and possibilities that the picture represents. Some useful structures include:
- It seems like…
- Appears to be…
- It seems like he’s reading something very serious and important.
- Perhaps she’s reading the children a fairy story.
You can also use if-sentences to speculate about what you would do or how you would feel if you were in the situation:
- If I were her, I’d be very happy!
- If that were me, I’d fall asleep!
So it’s essential that you study this kind of language and use it when you practise.
My second tip for Part 2 of the CAE speaking exam is:
4. Don’t Waste Time
Choose your pictures as soon as you can. The best way to do this is to choose two pictures that seem very different.
You should also begin comparing immediately—don’t waste time telling the examiner which pictures you want to talk about.
Next, don’t paraphrase or repeat the question. This is one certain way to waste time.
Finally, speak for the whole minute. This leads to our next point for the CAE speaking exam.
5. Have a Plan in case You Don’t Know What to Say
Some students find it helpful to develop a few automatic back-up ideas for comparison in case they run out of things to talk about. These are simple ideas that you can use for any picture. If you get stuck and can’t think of anything else to say, you can use these so that you don’t just stop talking.
These themes might be about what the people are wearing, or how old they are, or even how many people there are.
- The people in this picture are all wearing the same clothes. Likewise, these people seem to be all dressed in white.
Better still, ask yourself what the people may be thinking, feeling, or doing. These kinds of comparisons are always useful, as they allow for a lot of speculation.
- This image shows people singing, whereas these people appear to be doing some kind of martial art.
The main point is that you have some questions you can ask yourself in any situation. What ideas can you think of?
6. Don’t Spend All the Time Describing
This is probably the most important tip, because it’s the biggest mistake that candidates make.
You don’t need to say what you see. You don’t need to describe the pictures at all. Your job is to make comparisons and speculate about the pictures, not to say what the pictures show.
If you spend too much time describing, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities to compare and speculate in a longer answer.
OK, so how can you practise and prepare for part two of the CAE speaking test?
The best thing that you can do is to practise with as many different images as possible. It’s always better doing this with a friend or a teacher, but you can also do this alone with a timer.
You can even make your own combinations of sample images, simply by doing a Google search and picking two random images.
You could search for “people on holiday”, or “people eating”, or “groups of people”. Then imagine a question, remembering that the typical question format, contains two parts.
- Compare the two situations.
- Speculate on how the people may be feeling, or the reasons for their behaviour.
So we might get something like this:
- Compare how these people are enjoying their holidays, and say how they might be feeling.
- These people are enjoying their holidays with their family. They are sitting outside with their dogs. There are two adults and they are happy. These people are about to get on a plane. They are in a desert…
Wait a second – let’s stop right there! Why? What is wrong with this answer and how could it be improved? Can you tell me?
Firstly, I’m simply describing the pictures. But, we talked about how important it is to compare and contrast. Secondly, I’m not using any language or linking words to do this. What else am I doing wrong? I’m not speculating—again, I’m simply describing what I’m looking at. I’m also going far too slow! Let’s try again.
- This image seems to show a family spending the holiday together. In the same way, this might be a couple. However, it doesn’t look like they have their children with them. In this picture, the family seems to be at home, or at a holiday house, whereas in this picture these people appear to be in some kind of exotic destination, far away from civilization.There are animals in this photo, whereas there are only people in this one.Both scenes show people having a holiday outdoors. I suppose the key difference, is that the people in this image appear to be having a real adventure, and are free, whereas the people here are spending time with family.If it were me, I’d prefer to be going on this kind of holiday—flying around in a plane in a new and wild place!
As you can see, I’ve focused on comparing and contrasting as much as possible, using a variety of language structures. I’ve also continued to speculate all the way through. I’ve used both simple comparisons, like whether there are animals in the photo, as well as more complex ones, speculating that one is a family holiday, whereas the other is an adventure.
After this, the big challenge is practising to do all this in the time limits!
Don’t forget to watch another Oxford Online English lesson to help you prepare: CAE (C1 Advanced) Speaking Parts 3&4
Thanks for watching, and good luck in your CAE speaking exam!