FCE Speaking Exam - Strategies for Success!

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Does ‘I am agree with you’ make you want to tear your hair out? Nerves on exam day tend to be the main reason students fall to pieces in the speaking exam so ….equip your students with these practical strategies to get the grade they know they are capable of.

Here is a comprehensive list of useful tips and strategies to help your students prepare for the Cambridge First Certificate speaking exam and feel confident in taking the exam.



Part One:  Talking about yourself (2 minutes)

In part one, the interlocutor will introduce himself and the assessor and will ask you to do the same before asking you for your mark sheets. He will then begin to ask you ‘getting to know you’ questions.  Both candidates will have about one minute each to speak.

  • Relax! Don’t overdo it!  This part is really to help you feel comfortable and gives you a chance to ease yourself into the exam.
  • Listen to your partner! If you can throw in a phrase such as ‘Like Francesco, I also live ….’, super!!
  • Prepare for commonly asked topics! – Your hometown, family, free time activities, future plans.  You can pick up some easy peazey points here by practicing, practicing, practicing answers to commonly asked personal questions such as:
    ‘How do you spend your evenings?’
    ‘Tell us about a film you really like.’
  • Expand on your answers! If the interlocutor asks you a yes/no question such as ‘Do you enjoy going to the cinema?’, don’t just answer, ‘yes’ – follow up and expand on how often you go, who you go with and why you go!

Watch students taking PART ONE here

 Part Two:  The Long-Turn (4 minutes)

In this part of the exam, you will be asked to compare/contrast two photographs for one minute and also answer a question about your partner’s photograph for about 30 seconds when he/she has finished his/her long turn.

  • Make sure you understand the question! If you don’t, it’s better to ask the interlocutor to repeat the question than to struggle on hoping you are answering what was asked. A simple, ‘Would you mind repeating the question please?’ is worth it!   Or you could show off some flashy phrases such as I didn’t quite catch that last part, could you repeat for me please?’ (only if you need to)
  • Answer both questions! The first question will be to compare the photographs and the second will be to give an opinion on the photographs. Don’t forget the second question…
  • Practice your timings! Get out your stop clock and time yourself.  You only have one minute….don’t get so absorbed in the first question that you lose track of time.
  • Use comparative phrases! Don’t just describe what’s in the photographs, remember to compare them! In the first photo, we can see hikers in the mountains whereas/while in the second photo, we can see pedestrians in a busy city.’
  • Practise using opinion phrases!  There’s much more than ‘In my opinion…’ check out useful phrases at the link below.

Watch students taking PART TWO here

Download a list of FCE Speaking Exam Expressions here

 Part Three:  Collaborative Task (3 minutes)

FCE image

In this part of the exam, you will be given a scenario and question and will be asked to come to an agreement with your partner, using the word prompts on the page.

Sample scenario:
‘I’d like you to imagine that a town wants more tourists to visit.  Here are some ideas they’re thinking about and a question for you to discuss.  First you have some time to look at the task.’ 
(15 seconds)
‘Now, talk to each other about why these ideas would attract more tourists to the town.’

  • Don’t steal the limelight (or let your partner steal it either)
    This isn’t an opportunity for you to show off your skills while your partner struggles to get a word in. Ask your partner questions such as ‘What about you?’ or ‘Do you feel the same?’. Remember to interact!
    If you are uncooperative (speaking too much or too little), you will be penalized, not your partner.  Practice your turn-taking and polite interrupting skills.  They will come in very useful here.  If your partner is talking too much, interrupt politely with ‘Sorry, could I interrupt you there..’
  • Listen to and collaborate with your partner! While giving your opinion and agreeing and disagreeing with your partner, you will also need to demonstrate strong interactive communication.  You can do this by ‘adding’ to what your partner has already said with expressions such as ‘I like your idea of……..because…’ or ‘What you said about……is really interesting. I agree with you on that and think it would work because…’ 
  • Don’t freeze! If you find a question difficult, take your time to answer. (not too much time)…but use an expression such as ‘Oh, I’ve never thought about that before..’ or ‘Let me think..’ to give you some extra time…
  • If you do freeze….! A well-known tactic (although a little bit cheeky), is to start by asking your partner, ‘What do you think?’ which will give you time to think while your partner is speaking…

Watch students taking PART THREE here

Download a list of FCE Speaking Exam Expressions here

Part Four:  Discussion with Interlocutor (4 minutes)

In this part of the exam, the interlocutor will ask both candidates opinion questions related to the general theme in part 3.

Sample questions:

‘Do you think you have to spend a lot of money to have a good holiday?’
‘Some people say we travel too much nowadays, do you agree?’

As before…..

  • Listen to your partner! Be prepared for follow-up questions to your partners questions such as ‘What about you?’ or ‘Do you think so too?’.  Don’t switch off once you’ve said your piece – you will most likely be asked your opinion on what your partner has said.
  • Expand on your answers! Again, don’t give yes/no answers – this is your time to shine!
  • Don’t interact with your partner! This is where you interact with the interlocutor, not your partner.  Don’t try to include your partner in the conversation.

Watch students taking PART FOUR here 

Download a list of FCE Speaking Exam Expressions here


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