1. What to Expect in Part Three of the FCE Speaking Exam.
So what happens in part three of your FCE speaking test?
Part three of the exam is divided into two parts. In the first part, you and your partner will be given five written prompts and asked a question. You’ll have about two minutes to discuss the question.
Look at a sample question:
In this example, the question is: “Why might people choose to wear these different clothes?”
All of these questions have a similar format: the question is in the centre, with five prompts around the sides.
After you finish talking to your partner, the examiner will ask you and your partner a question about the subject you have just discussed.
- Which of these clothes would people feel more comfortable wearing?
You’ll have one minute to discuss this question with your partner.
So, what do you need to do to improve your score in part three of the FCE speaking test?
2. Interactive Communication and Improving Your FCE Score
Like the other parts of the FCE speaking exam, you are given scores for grammar/vocabulary, discourse management (whether you can speak fluently and coherently) and pronunciation.
In part three, you also get a score for interactive communication. This means that your score depends partly on how you communicate with your partner. This means it’s important to work with your partner and speak together.
In other Oxford Online English videos on part one of the FCE speaking exam as well as part two, we’ve discussed how to improve your grammar/vocabulary and discourse management scores. Now, let’s focus on your interactive communication score, and what you can do to improve it.
So what are the examiners looking for?
The examiners want to know:
- Can you begin a conversation?
- Are you able to listen and respond to your partner in an appropriate way?
- Can you keep the conversation going?
- Can you ask your partner questions?
- Can you take turns with your partner, speaking when it’s your turn but also giving your partner the chance to speak?
Here are some good ways to improve your interactive communication score:
Take Short Turns
It’s a good idea to take short turns when speaking with your partner. This way, the conversation moves quickly and you can discuss more of the written prompts.
First, don’t speak for too long. Express an idea, and then ask your partner a question.
When your partner speaks, comment on what they say and ask new questions. This way, you will sound natural and engaged. This will improve your score in the FCE exam.
Use Body Language
Body language is an important part of expressing yourself. Turn towards your partner and make eye contact. Remember: you’re talking to your partner, not to the examiners. This will also make the conversation more natural and help you to relax.
Make sure you look interested in what your partner is saying! Even if they’re the most boring person you’ve ever met, you need to pay attention to what they’re saying so that you can respond appropriately.
Express your Opinions
It’s good to agree and disagree with your partner. This will help you to express your opinions and have a more natural conversation.
Make sure you disagree politely so that you don’t offend your partner.
- I disagree that a dress and high heels would be a good choice for going out with friends. I think that jeans and a jumper could be a lot more comfortable and you could make them look stylish, too.
While this answer expresses disagreement, it’s also polite and helps to move the conversation forward.
It’s always a good idea to ask your partner questions. They could be simple or complex. A good time to ask a question is after you disagree with your partner.
Look at the previous example again:
- I think that jeans and a jumper could be a lot more comfortable and you could make them look stylish, too. What about shorts and a T-shirt? When do you think people might wear them?
Asking your partner a question after you disagree with them moves the conversation forward and stops any possible arguments! It will also give you a higher score in your interactive communication mark.
3. Useful Phrases and Expressions.
Next, let’s look at some useful phrases and expressions that you can use in this part of the FCE speaking test.
Firstly, it’s a good idea to ask your partner if they would like to start the conversation. You are showing the examiner that you can begin the conversation and at the same time, giving yourself more time to think about the task!
You could say:
Or if you’re more confident and want to dive straight in:
Now that you’ve begun, let’s look at some phrases you can use to agree with your partner.
You could simply say:
- I agree with you.
- That’s a good idea.
However these phrases are quite basic and can be repetitive. Try using some more interesting phrases such as:
- I see your point.
- You make some great points.
Or if you really agree with them:
- I couldn’t agree with you more!
- You’re absolutely right!
So what do you do if you disagree?
If you disagree, it’s a good idea to use a polite phrase and keep the conversation moving. This will make you sound more fluid and avoid getting into arguments!
You could tell your partner:
- I’m not sure I agree…
- I get your point, but…
- That’s one way of looking at it. On the other hand…
You can see that all these phrases allow you to continue and explain your point, helping you to keep the conversation moving.
4. How to Deal with Difficult Partners.
OK, but what if your partner isn’t letting you speak? What if your partner isn’t taking part in the conversation at all? What can you do?
Don’t worry, this is unlikely to happen, but knowing what to do in this situation will help you feel more confident in your speaking test.
Firstly, imagine that you’re in the exam and your partner won’t stop talking about the same point!
What do you do?
You interrupt them! Be polite about it and say something like:
- That’s an interesting point, but what about this idea….
- OK, let’s discuss this point next…
- Shall we move onto this point now?
These phrases will show that you need to continue with the task, and will also give you a higher score because you are interacting with them and moving the conversation forward.
Now imagine that you’re in the exam with the same partner. Only this time, they don’t want to talk! They are very shy and quiet and don’t speak much to you.
What would you do in this situation?
In this situation, it’s a good idea to ask your partner questions. Of course, you should ask your partner questions anyway, but if they really don’t speak much, ask them more!
You could simply ask:
- What do you think?
- Which do you prefer?
- Do you think it’s a good idea to…?
Or, you could ask more specific questions. For example:
- What’s your opinion on these clothes?
- What are your views on this question?
Now that you’ve seen some useful phrases, we’ll look at some sample questions and answers.
5. Sample Questions and Answers.
Now let’s start putting all of that information together and looking at how to make great answers!
Have a look at this question:
The question is: “Why are these inventions important in everyday life?”
Your partner begins and says:
- In my opinion, computers and mobile phones are the most important inventions because we use them for everything in our day-to-day lives.
Now look at this sample answer:
- I think that all of these inventions are very important in modern society and we use most of them every day. However, I don’t think it’s as important to have separate mobile phones and computers as nowadays we have smart phones which are like small computers…
This answer is grammatically good and uses a variety of vocabulary. However, there’s a big problem here. Can you see the problem?
The problem is that there isn’t any interaction with a partner! Your partner has just made an interesting statement which you haven’t responded to at all. But don’t worry, this is easily fixed.
Have a look again:
- …That’s a good point, however, I don’t think it’s as important to have separate mobile phones and computers as nowadays we have smart phones which are like small computers. What’s your opinion on this?
This is much better. Remember, you need to take short turns at speaking with plenty of interaction with your partner. Don’t talk for too long!
Now imagine that you have discussed all of the prompts with your partner. The examiner asks you:
- Which of these inventions do you think is the least important?
You have one minute to discuss this new question and reach some sort of conclusion.
Take a look at this answer:
- In my opinion the dishwasher is the least important because it’s not necessary to use one to clean your plates and things. What do you think?
This is OK, but it’s a common problem to answer the question too early! Remember, you have about a minute for the question.
Now have a look at this answer:
- From what you said earlier, I liked your idea that computers are less necessary these days because everyone has smart phones and tablets. Do you think that this means that computers aren’t important anymore?
This is a good answer because you’re discussing the question in depth with your partner. You’re asking questions and referring back to your partner’s past answers.
This shows the examiner that you can have a complex conversation. This would get you a higher score on your interactive communication.
Now that we’ve looked at what you can expect in part 3 of your FCE speaking exam and some useful tips and phrases, I hope you’re feeling confident and ready for your test! Good luck!