The Speaking paper is one of the four parts in regular Cambridge English exams. This short article will outline the four different parts of the Speaking Paper for Cambridge English: Preliminary (B1).
General Considerations: Cambridge English: Preliminary – Speaking Paper
- This paper comprises 4 parts.
- It is carried out in pairs.
- There are two examiners.
- During the exam you have to interact with one of the oral examiners (the interlocutor), and with your partner.
- The other examiner does not speak, and only takes notes.
Speaking Part 1 – Interview (2-3 minutes)
During this part, the examiner asks you different questions about your personal background (hometown, likes/dislikes, reason for learning English, past experiences, jobs, studies, etc.) This is an individual task, so you only interact with the examiner. However, you must pay attention to the questions that the interlocutor asks your partner, as he/she may ask you the same. Here’s a set of typical questions you might be asked:
– What’s your name? – What’s your surname? – How do you spell it? – Where are you from? – What do you like about your city? – Do you work or are you a student? – Why are you learning English? – How will you use English in the future?
Here’s a video of part 1:
Speaking Part 2 – Discussion (2-3 minutes)
During this second part, you interact with your partner. The examiner describes a situation to you both, and gives you a set of pictures to help you. You have to discuss the different ideas with your partner and, if possible, agree on which would be the best one. The aim of this part is to assess how well you can make and respond to suggestions, negotiate agreement, make recommendation, propose different ideas, etc.
Here’s an example of what the examiner would say, and some sample material:
I’m going to describe a situation to you.
A friend of yours is planning to spend 6 months in England to improve her English. Talk together about the things she will need in England, and decide which are the most important things to take/bring with her.
Here’s a picture with some ideas to help you.
The interlocutor repeats the instructions. After 2-3 minutes, he/she ends the conversation.
Here’s a video of part 2.
Speaking Part 3 – Describing a Picture (1 minute each, 3 minutes the whole part)
In part 3, you are asked to describe a picture in 1 minute. You have to do this individually, but your picture and your partner’s picture belong to the same topic (e.g.: eating out, families, hobbies, etc.) However, you will only see one picture at a time. Here’s an example of the interlocutor’s instructions and the pictures you may be asked to describe:
Now I’d like you to talk on your own about something. I’m going to give each of you a photograph of people reading and writing.
Candidate A, here’s your photograph. Please, show it to Candidate B, but I’d like you to talk about it. Candidate B, you just listen, I’ll give you your photograph in a moment.
Candidate A, please tell us what you can see in your photograph.
(Then, the interlocutor will say the following after Candidate A has finished.)
Now, Candidate B, here’s your photograph. It also shows reading and writing. Please show it to Candidate A and tell us what you can see in the photograph.
Although these pictures are black & white, in the exam they are coloured. After 1 minute, the interlocutor stops you by saying “Thank you very much.”
Here’s a video of part 3:
Speaking Part 4 – General Conversation (3 minutes)
In this part, you have to hold a conversation with your partner about the topic featured in part 3. This normally includes talking about your likes and dislikes, opinions, past experiences, habits, etc. The task that comes after the pictures in part 3 is the following:
Your photographs showed people reading and writing. Now, I’d like you to talk together about the different kinds of reading and writing you did when you were younger, and the kinds you do now. (After 3 minutes of conversation) Thank you. That is the end of the test.
Here’s a video of part 4:
Although each part is different, there are several things that you should bear in mind during the whole test. Let’s see:
- You are assessed individually, so don’t worry about being better or worse than your partner. As former oral examiner, Stephen Hasler, recently said, “neither the partner nor the examiners are the enemy. Your only enemy in the room can be yourself.“
- Don’t worry about making some mistakes. This is B1 level, so mistakes are expected. You must simply be as “communicative” as possible, being able to express your opinions well and hold a conversation coherently.
- It is OK if the examiner stops you, so don’t worry if you talked until he/she had to cut you off.
- Be as spontaneous as possible. Do not memorise a sort of “speech” for the exam. The examiners will notice right away.
- Always answer exactly what you are being asked. If you start talking about something irrelevant, the examiners will cut you off and move on to another question.
- Always pay attention to your partner‘s opinions and questions. You’re supposed to communicate, so don’t ignore what he/she is saying!
- Be polite. Even if you disagree with your partner’s opinions, you must always be polite!
- Smile! You’d be surprised by what a smile can do! If you smile, everyone in the room will be more open and receptive to what you have to say for yourself. This may positively affect your overall score!
For more information about the Preliminary (PET) exam, visit Cambridge English: Preliminary / What’s in the exam?
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