Top tips for Cambridge speaking exams

Students looking across to the teacher, just out of shot.

Nervous about your English speaking exam? Wondering how you can get a good score? Worried about achieving the qualification you have dreamed about? To help you, we asked our team of experienced exam teachers, many of whom are also oral examiners, for their top tips:

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Top Tips for Cambridge speaking exams

  1. Give a positive first impression to the examiner
  • Smile!
  • Have ‘open’, positive body language
  • Speak up!
  • Relax!
  • Speak clearly!
  1. Try to show the examiner what you know
  • Avoid short, uncommunicative answers – use as much English as you possibly can
  • Don’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – expand with more information, and qualify your response: ‘yes, because ….’
  • Use examples to help explain a statement – this will show you have thought about your response, and are capable of explaining it in English
  • Show off your vocabulary! Use all the words in your armoury to impress the examiner
  • Show off your grammar! Again, use everything you have, and demonstrate the depth of knowledge you possess
  • Use a range of linking language – don’t just blurt out short, sharp sentences, try to speak as eloquently as possible
  • Prepare: be sure you know how to say certain things about your life, for example your job, what your parents do, where you are from – a suite of stock phrases and descriptions that you have memorised will be of enormous help to you.
  1. Listen carefully to the examiner
  • Do what you are asked – compare if asked to compare, describe if asked to describe, never deviate from what the examiner requires of you
  • Use any written information or instructions to help you – these are carefully prepared and designed to bring out the best in you. So use them!
  • Self-correct if you realise you have made a mistake (but keep going) – never stop. Mistakes are common, even by native speakers, so just acknowledge your mistake, correct it and move on.
  • Don’t worry if the examiner stops you – it’s normal!
  1. Interact as much as possible
  • Listen to your partner – show that you are engaged, attentive and concentrating
  • Don’t dominate the conversation – give time to others so that they can speak. This is a great way to show you are following the rhythms of the conversation, and it will also provide you with topics to talk about!
  • Keep talking – silence scores zero!

If you would like more useful tips like this why not take an exam preparation course in the UK? The exam preparation courses at Eastbourne School of English, for example, are taught by experienced examination teachers, many of whom are also oral examiners for Cambridge FCE and CAE as well as IELTS – so they have a very good idea of what successful students need to do to pass the exam! Our courses provide complete and careful preparation for all aspects of your chosen examination.