The speaking test is a test of communication.  You don’t have to speak quickly, you don’t have to hurry your answers, and you don’t have to worry about your accent.  To get a good mark on the speaking test you need to produce relevant, informative answers to the examiner’s questions.  It is very important that you listen carefully to the examiner and read any material you are given carefully as well.

Test format and marking:  two candidates take the speaking test together, in most cases the candidates do not know each other.  There are also two Cambridge representatives in the exam, the interlocutor and the assessor.  The interlocutor will ask questions and interact with the candidates while the assessor will not interact or say anything, he or she will be giving marks in the following categories:

  • Grammatical Resource: measures the range and accuracy of simple and complex grammatical structures
  • Lexical Resource: measures the range and appropriacy of vocabulary
  • Discourse Management: measures the ability to logically connect phrases to form coherent and relevant answers to the tasks
  • Pronunciation: measures the ability to form intelligible speech, includes stress and intonation as well as individual sounds
  • Interactive Communication: measures the ability to take an active role in the development of discussions by taking time to speak and also inviting others to speak

One final mark will be given by the interlocutor:

  • Global Achievement: measures the overall effectiveness in responding to the tasks in the different sections of the speaking test
Parts of the CAE speaking test:

Part 1: Candidates will each be asked questions about themselves.  Topics will be home, work, school, hobbies, habits, interests and future plans.

  • Be relaxed and natural.  Smile.  Be the kind of person who is nice to have a conversation with!
  • Give honest answers even if you think they are “not good”.  Your opinions and lifestyle are not part of the marking criteria.
  • Don’t give one-word answers!  The examiner will not ask you follow-up questions.
  • Give complete answers.  “Because” should be your favourite word in this part of the test.
  • Listen to your partner, you may be asked the same question and you don’t want to repeat their answer.

Part 2: Candidates will have to speak for one minute about two pictures.  They will compare the pictures and answer two questions about each one within the time limit.  Candidates will also have to answer a short question about their partner’s pictures

  • Time management is very important for this task.  You must answer two questions about two photographs in one minute,which is 15 seconds per answer, and you must compare the pictures as you do this.
  • Choose which two of the three pictures you will talk about and tell the interlocutor which pictures you will be talking about at the start of your turn.
  • Don’t simply describe the pictures, this is not part of the task!
  • Answer the first question about the first picture.  Give a good, complete response.  Answer the same question about the second picture, but connect the two answers with a simple comparative word or phrase: and, but, while, whereas, although, on the other hand, compared to, just like, or contrary to.  Now repeat the process with the other question.
  • Pay attention as your partner completes their task and listen carefully to the question you are asked about their pictures so you are able to give an original, informative and relevant answer

Part 3: Candidates have a task to complete together without any input from the interloctor.  A number of pictures related to a theme will be provided and candidates will have to discuss the pictures, give their opinion, and make a decision about the pictures.

  • Turn your chair to face your partner.  This will provide a physical reminder of what is important in this task, which is to interact with your partner.
  • Start the task with a question about one of the pictures to your partner, you should be trying to involve your partner and respond to what he or she is saying during this task.
  • Discuss all of the pictures before discussing the decision.  You are not required to actually agree about the decision.  In fact, if you reach agreement before the time limit, it makes it difficult to continue the discussion.
  • If your partner talks too much: you can still receive a good mark if you use appropriate phrases to interrupt them.  Can I make a point?  I’d just like to say… Excuse me, but I have to disagree…
  • If your partner doesn’t talk at all: you can still receive a good mark if you encourage them to speak and give them time to answer.
  • Remember, this is an interactive task and you must demonstrate your awareness of how to participate in a discussion

Part 4: The interlocutor will join in the discussion on the general theme of the pictures from part 3.  The interlocutor will ask the candidates questions and encourage them to share their opinions about the questions and each others’ answers.

  • Relax!  The “hard” parts of the test are over, now you can just have a normal conversation with the people sitting at the table with you.
  • Give your honest opinion and don’t hesitate to react to what the other candidate says.
  • Don’t dominate the conversation, the other candidate deserves a turn to speak as well.

The end of the test: The interlocutor will say, “Thank you.  That is the end of the test.”

  • Thank the interlocutor and the assessor and leave.
  • Don’t ask your score.
  • Don’t say, “Oh my god, I’m so glad that’s over!”
  • Behave like you are at a job interview, go outside before you stop “taking the test”.

Take a practice speaking test with me over Skype

Visit the Do a Speaking Test page for details.