CAMBRIDGE CAE MISSION: Ace Your Speaking Test (General Outlines)

Welcome back! So far, we have analysed the Reading and the Writing Papers of a CAE exam. Let”s begin a new venture into the strategies of approaching your CAE Speaking test, this time. Many of my students have told me that the Speaking part of the entire 5 hour long examination is the most frightening one. How so? How come the part that lasts the shortest is the one that seems to last forever when candidates are confronted with it? And most shockingly of all, why does a conversational task (remember…? Conversation?… That which you carry out every day, day by day and all day long?) make otherwise brilliant students fidget, blush, and become, of all things, SPEECHLESS!

Well, the most popular answer appears to be that the Speaking test is the only one where candidates get to face the wild beast (meaning, the examiner) and look directly into its eyes… and the eye of the tiger it is! … So what?, anyone in their right mind would ask. Well, before jumping to the wrong conclusions, let”s take a look into the structure of the test. Also, if you are interested in learning more about the Cambridge Speaking Strategies, register for one of our Excel in English Speaking: A Shakespeare School Guide to Cambridge Exams FREE workshops, which are going to be held next week at Shakespeare School.

How many candidates and how many examiners are there?

There are 2-3 candidates and 2 examiners. Only one of them will be addressing questions to you (thus, the role: interlocutor) and the other will be quiet throughout the entire test, while, of course, thoroughly dissecting your performance (thus, the name, assessor).

Which are the assessment criteria?

Vocabulary: a level-appropriate, wide range of words.

Grammar: the use of complex and varied structures.

Discourse management: the ability to connect ideas, to let them flow in a logical order and to link them by using a diverse pallet of linking devices (Moreover, In addition, I could also add that).

Interactive communication: the ability to maintain communication, to address and answer questions in a relevant manner.

Pronunciation: the intelligibility of your speech.

What does the Speaking adventure consist of?

Part 1 (3 minutes): The interview – a social exchange between candidates and the interlocutor. Fun, right?

Part 2 (3 minutes): The long turn – you compare and speculate about 2 out of 3 photographs while answering two questions related to them, as well. NOT TO WORRY, you will be able to see the two questions on the visual prompt all times.

Part 3 (4 minutes): The Collaborative task – you carry out a decision-making conversation with your partner and try to reach a conclusion, based on a set of 6-8 pictures that you are visually prompted with. Your conversation, arguments and decision need to move in the direction given by the two questions you are presented with in the beginning of Part 3. NOT TO WORRY, you will be able to see the two questions on the visual prompt at all times.

Part 4 (4 minutes): The Discussion – further discussion regarding the issues raised in Part 3.

What can you do about it? Interested in some general advice?

Before the exam…

    • make sure you are well acquainted with the layout of the Speaking test. Watch videos of candidates taking Cambridge Speaking exams and try to assess their performance. This will ensure the fact that you will have the tools to recognise what a satisfactory, a fairly well conducted and an extremely impressive performance look like.
    • Practise speaking in front of a mirror, with the sound recorder on your phone turned on. This way, you will be aware of both your appearance and the way you sound, pause, tremble while speaking. Once you acknowledge your mistakes you can proceed to rectifying them.
    • Prepare your attitude by adjusting your posture to a relaxed one, your hands to a down-to-a-minimum gesture urge and your face to a less robotic, cheek-shivering countenance.
    • For Part 2, practise talking on your own for about a minute about any two photos you find at hand. Speculate about them, make assumptions, don”t just describe them!
    • For Part 3, practise working with a partner: discuss a set of different pictures by stating, asking for and concluding opinions.

During the exam…

    • speak loudly and clearly
    • if you notice you have made any mistakes, correct them on the spot. You are, after all, only human! Everybody makes mistakes, not everybody goes back on them. Stand out of the crowd!
    • Try to use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary structures and notions. Dress to impress… well, at least speak to impress!
    • DON”T STOP talking until you hear the interlocutor say THANK YOU. Then, you may even start breathing for a few seconds… until the next part.
    • Try to achieve the task (for instance, answering two questions regarding a set of pictures) within the predetermined time limit. Do not worry, therefore, if the interlocutor stops you, even if you haven”t finished all you wanted to say. The timing is of the essence.
    • Ask for repetition if you are not clearabout what you have to discuss. It”s better to clarify, rather than giving a wrong answer altogether.

      After the exam…

    • BREATHE, you did great!

Also, tune in next week for the more in-depth discussion about parts 1 and 2 of the CAE Speaking Test. Curious as to what a wide range and a varied choice of words are? Interested in how to keep your cool while being master of your domain in terms of targeted speaking? “Till next time!

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