CAE Speaking Test Tips And Technique Introduction
This CAE Speaking test tips post will hopefully give you some really useful advice for the C1 Advanced exam. My aim is to help you to pass the CAE. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to achieve this without having some professional help. Therefore, while all the information here is free, we do recommend that you book some lessons with us or at least read this page and learn how best to prepare for the CAE by yourself.
CAE Speaking Test Format
The 'Speaking' section has 4 parts. The length of this section depends on how many candidates there are. Normally 2 candidates take the test together and this lasts approximately 15 minutes. Occasionally 3 candidates take the test together and then each part is slightly longer.
The speaking section assesses not only your knowledge and use of language, but also your ability to interact and have a conversation with the other candidate(s). You should try to give long responses to questions, justifying what you say. This way you will show a wider range of language ability. The more you speak the more language you can show. I often tell my students to think 'why am I saying this' or 'Why did I make that comment'. You should then try to answer these questions while you are speaking. 'I'm saying this because...' 'I made that comment because...'
CAE Speaking Test Part 1
In the 'Speaking' section part 1, you have to answer some general questions about your personality, what you do etc. Here are some example questions:
How long have you been studying English?
What do you think you'll be doing in five years time?
Do you enjoy travelling?
Tips and Technique
Look at the questions above. Think of your own questions you would ask someone you've just met for example. Think about what general questions you might be asked in an interview type situation.
Write down some lengthy answers to these questions. You may need to use one in the exam!
Practise answering these questions with somebody you know. If they're English – even better! Get them to give you feedback and think how you can make the answers longer or better.
Here are some example questions and answers for Part 1:
- Where are you from?
I'm from Madrid, Spain. From a busy/lively/bustling part/ area(/erea/) / place.
- Where do you live now?
I’m currently living outside Madrid in a quiet and relaxing village/area. I love living there since it allows me to connect to myself and feel apart from the outside world. In a way in which I can enjoy the sun, breathe the fresh air everyday and listen to the silence.
- What do you do here/there?
I've been living in London for three years and working as a Primary teacher in different schools, mainly with children in Reception, their first year of school. I have really enjoyed the experience and found it invaluable. I have now moved back to my home country where, hopefully, I will be able to find a good/convenient/suitable position as a teacher.
- How long have you been studying English?
I have been exposed to the English language since I was a child even though I was living in Spain because I always showed a special interest in it. I have been studying English properly since secondary school and I went on to study my English teaching degree at university in Madrid. Then I have been living in England for 3 years so I have had the opportunity of being in an English speaking environment.
- What do you enjoy most about learning English?
I personally find it vital/ essential in order to improve my professional career and carry out my job properly. I also find learning English really useful because it offers you the opportunity to communicate with/ speak to people fluently in most parts of the world which makes travelling a lot easier, since English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. This is, in my view, one of the main advantages of learning English.
Try a practice exercise
Watch this video and write down any mistakes and bad language you notice in my example answer:
Here is another lesson I did with a C1 Advanced (CAE) student:
CAE Speaking Test Part 2
In the 'Speaking' section part 2, the examiner gives you 3 pictures. The examiner will ask you to compare the pictures and will normally give you two questions to answer. Individually, you talk about two of the three pictures for 1 minute. After the other candidate speaks, you also have 30 seconds to answer a question about their pictures.
Tips and Technique
Don't describe what you see in the picture. This is not what the examiner wants. Also, 1 minute is not long, so you cannot waste any time.
Try to compare the photographs as much as you can while answering the questions. Look at the first question, answer this about the first picture you choose, then answer the same question for the second picture. Look at the second question and do the same thing. Then go back to the first question and try to think of another point to say about the first picture and then the second picture etc.
You need to be careful not to spend too much time talking about one picture, so this method should help.
Think about some general topics beforehand which can apply to lots of photographs in different situations. Some ideas are the advantages and disadvantages surrounding: expense, social life, indoor/outdoor activities.
You should practise this before the exam. This will help you with the technique and give you more confidence. Practising will also give you a better idea how long you need to talk for. You can do this in your free time with a friend/colleague etc. Get 3 random photographs and think of two questions to answer about them. Then try to answer both questions while comparing 2 of the pictures. Time yourself so you don't speak more for one minute.
Here is a lesson I did with Alex, a C1 Advanced (CAE) student:
CAE Speaking Test Part 3
In the 'Speaking' section part 3, you have a question to discuss with the other candidate(s). The exercise takes the form of a spider diagram. The question is in the middle of a sheet of paper and it has some ideas connected to it. You don't need to discuss all of these ideas while answering the question. If there are 2 candidates you have 2 minutes, if there are 3 candidates you have 3 minutes. The examiner then asks you another question related to the topic. The question will require you to come to some sort of decision. You do not have to agree with your partner.
Tips and Technique
You don't have to discuss all of the points, but you should try to discuss two or three in detail. If you aim to discuss three points you can show more language ability. I advise you to state what you think about an idea and then give a reason for this. Then ask your partner for his/her opinion. This is simple and it could lead to further discussion depending on if you agree or disagree with your partner.
Some useful questions to ask your partner are: 'do you agree with me?' 'what's your opinion?'
Some useful phrases to agree or disagree with your partner are: 'I see what you're saying, but I think...' 'hmm, I'm not sure I agree with you on that point...'
When your partner stops speaking, if you have nothing more to contribute, you should move on to the next idea. Some useful phrases for this are: 'let's look at …..' 'why don't we talk about....'
CAE Speaking Test Part 4
In the 'Speaking' section part 4, you have to answer questions from the examiner based on the topic from part 3. You should respond to the examiner and to what your partner says.
Tips and Technique
For this section it is again important to develop full and coherent answers. It is also important to practise agreeing or disagreeing with other people in a conversation. Think of a global or important everyday issue and write down some questions related to this topic. Practise answering these questions with someone you know.
Remember to say why you think something. 'I think laptops and tablets are bad because....'
Question: 'do you think the working week should be made longer or shorter?'
Answer: 'I don't think the working week should be made longer....'
Reason for answer: '...because, in my opinion people don't have enough free time to enjoy fun activities with their families and friends.'
Your opinions are not really important. How you express yourself through language and the structure of your answers are important.
When practising, ask your partner to give some different opinions about the same idea. Then you can practise both agreeing and disagreeing with what they say. Always state why you agree/disagree. 'I completely agree with you because....' or 'I'm sorry, I don't agree with that at all, because....'
You can also find more useful tips and techniques on this page.
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