Hello and welcome to the new audio lesson with ABC English Levels and Valentine.
We start the first episode on what is important to know about the speaking test of the FCE (B2) exam of Cambridge to pass it with flying colours. This is one of the topics most required by my students. After listening to it, you’ll know what you should and shouldn’t do to succeed in the exam. I’m sure you can find some interesting and useful information for you. Contact us if you have any doubts or questions.
Hope to hear from you soon!
CAMBRIDGE FCE. SPEAKING PART 1
Hello everybody! This is ABC English Levels and Valentine here. Find more information about us and our courses on our new website abc-englishlevels.ru. For those who are preparing for any official exams, our new totally interactive courses from A1 to C1 level can be of great help as they cover all necessary topics, grammar and vocabulary issues, test your pronunciation and drill your listening, reading and writing skills. A native teacher will accompany you throughout all the lessons. We also will provide you with our support by answering your questions via emails, in writing or audio forms, or podcasts. Give it a go to our free demo on our eLive English page!
As I’ve promised, today we’re starting the series of podcasts about how to improve your chances to pass an official exam with flying colours (by the way, with ‘flying colours’ means very successfully). There’re many official exams including IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson, EOI, Trinity, BULATS etc. But I’ve decided to focus on the most valued and globally recognized in educational institutions, commerce and industry. I’m talking about the Cambridge exams. Their prestige goes without saying and, besides, the results are generally valid for the rest of your life, which means you don’t have to take the exam every two years.
I suggest that we start from the most required level, First Certificate, or FCE, which is equivalent to the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Structure of FCE
FCE consists of four papers: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening and Speaking. According to my experience, I can say that Speaking is the most challenging part for most students. Well, you can have good reading, writing and even listening skills, but you may struggle expressing yourself orally. So why not start with this part? I’ll try to give you only practical tips, which, I hope, will help you to do your level best.
To feel more comfortable in the exam, it’s essential to understand what you’re going to face. So, a few words about the exam structure. Speaking paper consists of 4 parts and lasts about 14-15 minutes. Usually, there’re two candidates and two examiners. Only one examiner participates in the conversation, while the other listens. Both examiners mark the students’ answers.
Part 1 of the Speaking test is a conversation between the examiner and each candidate and continues two minutes.
In Part 2, you compare 2 photos and answer a question which refers to the topic of the 2 photos. This part takes around 4 minutes.
In Part 3, you talk to the other candidate. It goes for about 3 minutes.
And finally, in Part 4, you go on working with your partner. You both will be asked questions connected with the topic from Part 3. It takes approximately 4 minutes.
Now let’s get down to some helpful techniques. There’re certain things which refer to all the four parts of the speaking test. Here they are:
- Practise speaking all the time while studying and especially right before your exam. It’s like a work-out in a gym! How? If you have anybody to talk to in English – great! But if not, don’t get upset! An English-speaking friend is not the only way to advance. You also can:
- Read everything you want … but loudly!
- While watching a video, stop it and repeat after the speaker. Loudly, with proper articulation! Mind the position of speakers’ lips and copy it! If you smile a little like Mona Lisa, you’ll sound more English) (look at presenters or news readers, they don’t protrude their lips too forward). Good exercise: try to say the word ‘book’ with Mona Lisa smile, without sticking out your lips. Feel how it works?
- Drill with tongue twisters! They are a great instrument to train your mouth muscles. When we pronounce foreign sounds, our tongue, cheeks and jaws work in a different position. It can be physically inconvenient, so they need practising. Besides, when we speak loudly, our brain pictures and remembers the sound images of words and, with time, adopts them. As a result, the structures of a foreign language become automatic, and we don’t think much about which one to use.
- If you realise that you’ve made a mistake, correct yourself. It’s okay as it shows you follow what you’re saying and know the rules.
- Don’t worry when you realise you don’t know what to say. Sometimes it happens when we speak our native language too, doesn’t it? It’s natural! Nobody knows everything. Take your time and think for several seconds using such fillers as ‘well’, ‘let me think a little bit’, ‘all right’, ‘okay’, ‘it’s an interesting question!’. If it happens that you can’t find an adequate response, say frankly about this or…make up a story! You can say: Well, I’m afraid it’s quite difficult for me to answer since I don’t have enough information on this issue (but I know there’s an opinion that…). Try to make it natural as if you talk to your friends in your own language!
- This is a speaking test, so don’t keep silence! Keep the conversation going!
Now let’s go to Part 1.
As I’ve mentioned before, it takes around 2 minutes and has the form of an interview. The examiner asks you questions about yourself, your past experiences, hobbies, plans for future, studies or work, family, likes and dislikes, well, very general questions to break the ice. How to pass this part successfully? There’re some dos and don’ts that you should take into consideration.
- Listen carefully to the questions. They will always help you with the right grammar to use in your answers. It’s especially useful when you’re not sure what tense or expression to choose. Use the examiner’s questions as a prompt and just repeat the tense in your responses. But look out! The English sentence has quite a fixed structure: subject + verb + object, so be careful! Let’s see how it works.
Examiner: Which do you prefer: watching or doing sports? (What do we have in this question? The active verb ‘prefer’ in present simple and the gerund form of ‘watching’ and ‘doing’. So, repeat it.)
You can say I prefer doing sports…
Examiner: If you could choose any country to live in, which one would it be? (Here we have the second conditional, past tense in the ‘if’ part and would + infinitive in the main part).
Your answer could be: It would be… or If I could choose, it would be…
- Try to give extra details instead of very short answers. So, you can add to the previous answers: I prefer doing sports, because (as/since) it keeps me fit and full of energy. If I could choose, I would never change my motherland for another country because I’m happy here. Sounds better, right?
- Look at your examiner with confidence and, maybe, smile a little. Just be nice.
- Don’t memorize answers to possible questions. You may sound unnatural. You might forget your answers too and become even more nervous because of this.
- Don’t panic if you don’t understand the question. Politely, ask the examiner to repeat it. You can say: I’m sorry, could you please repeat the question? Or: I’m afraid I didn’t catch, could you repeat, please? Or: I’m not sure I understand it correctly. Could you repeat your question, please?
This is it for today. If you like this podcast, leave your comments below and like us on iTunes. In the next podcast, we’ll think about how to answer the most common questions from Part 1.
It was ABC English Levels and Valentine. Hear from us next Tuesday! Take care!