If you haven’t watched FCE Speaking Exam Part One, make sure to watch that first!
1. What to Expect in Part Two of your FCE Speaking Exam
What happens in the FCE speaking exam part two?
In part two you’ll be given two photographs. You have to compare the two photos and answer a question about them. You’ll have about one minute for this. Your partner will then be asked a short question related to your photographs.
You need to manage your time carefully during part two. You only have around one minute to speak, and you need to compare the photos AND answer the question. There will be a prompt written underneath the photos to remind you of the question, so you can look at this to help you remember.
Make sure you leave enough time to answer the question after comparing the photos!
You don’t need to speak to your partner in this part of the exam. However, after your partner has finished speaking, you will be asked a short question that’s related to your partner’s photos.
It’s important to listen carefully to what your partner says when he or she is speaking, because you don’t want to repeat anything they’ve said and listening may give you some good ideas on how to respond to your question.
Learn more about describing photos in our lesson on how to describe pictures.
2. How to Compare Photographs
OK, now that you’ve seen what will happen in the FCE speaking exam part two, let’s look at some sample photographs and how to compare them. This will give you a good idea of what this part of the test will look like.
Have a look at our first set of photographs:
They show people drinking.
It’s a good idea to start your comparison with a general statement about what is happening in the first photograph.
- In the first picture I can see a man sitting by himself in a cafe.
- Looking at the first photo, I can see a man drinking coffee by himself in a cafe.
It is important to remember that you’re not describing the photos, you’re comparing them with each other. After you’ve mentioned the first photo, you need to directly compare that with the second photo.
In this situation, you could say,
- Whereas, in the second photo, I can see a group of friends drinking in a restaurant.
- But in the second picture, there are friends drinking together.
When you compare your photos, if you’re not sure what to compare, it’s a good idea to look at the obvious similarities between them first.
- In both pictures, we can see people drinking.
Remember to use comparative adjectives and adverbs when you compare the pictures.
- The second photo shows a busier, livelier environment than the first photo.
Some useful phrases and words you can use to compare similarities are: in the same way, similarly, likewise and also.
- The first photo shows the man drinking coffee in an informal setting; similarly the second photo was also taken in a casual place.
- In the first picture, we can see a man relaxing and drinking coffee; in the same way the people in the second picture also look very relaxed and happy.
It’s important to remember when you’re comparing photos, you’re not just comparing the things that are similar—you should also look at the differences between them.
Some useful expressions that compare and contrast differences are: by contrast, on the other hand, however, whereas and while.
Look at the following examples:
- The man in the first picture is drinking coffee, while the friends in the second picture are drinking wine.
- The man in the first photo is sitting by himself; however, the second photo shows a group of friends sitting together.
You could also say:
- In the second picture I can see a group of friends enjoying the company; by contrast the man in the first picture seems happy on his own.
Many FCE speaking test candidates focus too much on describing the photos. This is a mistake. Focus on comparing the photos from the beginning of your answer. Use some of the key words and phrases we’ve studied in this section. This will make your answer more focused and detailed, which will help you achieve a higher score in the FCE speaking exam part two.
3. What Can I Say about the Photos?
So now you’ve compared the photos, you might be thinking, “OK, what do I do next? What else can I possibly say about these photos?”
The next step is easy. After you’ve compared the photos, it’s a good idea to speculate about them.
This means saying what you think is happening in the photos and why you think this.
Look at this sample photo.
What could you say about this photo?
You could say:
- The boy looks like he’s enjoying himself.
- It seems like he’s having a good time.
- He could be going to meet some of his friends.
These phrases: look(s) like, seem(s) like and appear(s) are very useful when you want to talk about what could be happening in a photo.
You can also use modal verbs like could or might to speculate.
Using this language shows the FCE examiner that you can speculate about something. However, you can make your answer even stronger by adding reasons why you think this.
Look at the examples again:
- The boy looks like he’s enjoying himself because he’s outside with a football.
- It seems like he’s having a good time as he’s doing something fun on a beautiful day.
- He could be going to meet some of his friends, because you can’t play football by yourself!
These sentences are even better as you’ve shown the examiner that you can speculate and also give the reasons behind your ideas. This will help you give longer, more interesting answers.
When you’d like to talk about what you think could be happening in the photos, but you’re not 100% sure, you can use a phrase like I guess, I imagine, I suppose, perhaps or possibly.
- I suppose it’s a warm day as the boy’s wearing a T-shirt.
- I imagine it’s the summer holidays because there’s a blue sky and the boy isn’t at school.
You could be wrong. It might not be the summer holidays or a warm day! But when using these phrases, whether you’re right or wrong doesn’t matter. You’re only speculating! There’s no right or wrong answer; it only matters that your answer is clear and coherent.
4. What Makes a Good Answer?
By now you should have a good idea of what you can expect in the FCE speaking test and how to talk about the photographs you’ll see.
Now, we’re going to look at some sample questions and answers to review what you’ve seen so far.
Please remember that your answers need to be around one minute long, my sample answers are much shorter than this, because they’re not complete answers.
OK, have a look at these photographs.
The examiner says:
- Here are your photographs. They show people painting. I’d like you to compare the two photographs and say which painting you like the most and why. All right?
Now look at this answer:
- In the first photo I can see a man painting a picture. He’s a professional artist. The painting is very big and has different colours in it. He’s a very good artist, the picture is beautiful….
This is an OK answer but there’s a problem. Can you see the problem?
It’s only describing one picture instead of comparing them both. Remember, this is a very common mistake!
Here’s another example:
- In the first photo I can see a man painting a picture, he’s a professional artist whereas the man in the second photo isn’t; he’s painting for a hobby or because he likes it.
This is a better answer. It’s comparing both photos instead of describing and you can see here how the conjunctions whereas and or make the answer longer and more fluent.
However, this answer still doesn’t show any speculation about the photos. How do you know the first man is a professional artist? How do you know the second man is painting just as a hobby?
So how should it be done?
Let’s look at this answer:
- It looks like the man in the first picture is a professional artist because he’s standing in a studio, whereas the man in the second photo is painting outside. It seems like he’s painting as a hobby because I can see that his picture is more basic than the first one.
This is much better. You can see here how using expressions like looks like and seems like show that you’re speculating about the photos as well as comparing them.
This would get you a higher score in your FCE speaking exam.
It’s also very important to remember to answer the question within your minute!
The question is always related to the photos you’re shown. It’s a good idea to link your answer to your comparison.
Here’s an example:
- ….It seems like he’s painting as a hobby as I can see that his picture is more basic than the first one. However, I like this painting the most because it’s simple and bright; it’s a happy painting!
This answers the question very simply but still manages to answer the full question.
However, if you have a little more time, it’s a good idea to add more detail to your answer to make it even better!
Have a look at this answer:
- I like the second painting the most because although it’s more simple, it’s very bright and colourful. I like that he probably painted it while he was relaxing outside, in contrast to the man in the first photo who I think paints for his job. In my opinion, it’s a happier painting and I would enjoy seeing this kind of painting on my wall.
You can see here how adding more adjectives and opinions makes your answer more complex and interesting.
This answer also links back to the points you made when comparing the photos. This helps to make your answer more coherent and clear.
Next, watch this free Oxford Online English lesson FCE Speaking Part Three Advice.