Passing the speaking part of the Cambridge Exams (FCE, CAE, CPE levels)


For the last four years I have been preparing students for the speaking part of the Cambridge Exams. I have outlined below many of the problems that students encounter:

1. Grammatical Errors:
Nerves take a toll on students and the even basic grammar rules are bypassed. BE CAREFUL with verb tenses. In upper-level exams these errors are very critical.

2. Connectors:
These words must become part of everyday language and not remain as memorized vocabulary. A connector embellishes language and keeps the conversation flowing. Practice using these words in writing and everyday speech. They are essential.

3. Vocabulary Level:
In upper-level exams, the students must use vocabulary for the level. For example:
In a FCE exam it is not enough to say:
“The man is wearing a jacket and looks happy.” (B1 level)
instead of
“ The man is wearing an elegant jacket and seems confident in the situation.”

4. Listening:
It is possible that you might not understand the question that the examiner has asked you. That’s OK, you can counter or buy time by phrases such as:
“I’m not sure what you mean?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand the question?”
If you are working with a partner on a dialogue I cannot express how important it is to LISTEN to your partner. The dialogue is supposed to be a natural conversation and if you are only focusing on the next picture the entire exercise seems strained.

5. Pronunciation :
There are many free apps available on the internet if you need to practice specific words. It doesn’t matter what English accent you choose to emulate, but it must be consistent. Be careful with the vowels and the –ed endings.

Weeks before the exam you should be practicing the speaking section almost every other day so that when the exam date arrives, it should be almost automatic. You can record your voice at home and detect your mistakes if you don’t have the opportunity to practice with a teacher.