Exercise 1

A. Watch the documentary Speaking exams top tips for success. Why is the speaking exam the most stressful? What is the very best way to prepare for the speaking exam?

B. Watch again and complete each gap with 1-3 words.

 You should arrive at least _____________ beforehand, in order to feel _____________.

 Make _____________ contact, smile, and _____________ throughout the exams.

 Look _____________, respond to your partner’s suggestions, and ask for their _____________.

 Always answer in _____________ sentences and add more _____________.

 Don’t _____________ if you don’t understand a question. Just ask the examiner to _____________ it.

 Don’t memorize whole _____________ or _____________.

 Don’t just say _____________ – try to explain it in a _____________ way.



The speaking exam is the most stressful because students are face-to-face with the examiner.

The best way to prepare is to practise talking.


1   half an hour, relaxed

2   eye, sit up straight

3   interested, opinion

4   full, detail

5   panic, repeat

6   sentences, paragraphs

7   nothing, different


Speaking exams – top tips for success

N = narrator, W = woman, E = examiner, M = Marcus, V = Valentina, S = student

N   Welcome to Regent Oxford, one of the oldest English language schools in the UK. For many years, Regent has helped people to improve their English, and a big part of this is preparing for English exams.

Most of the students here are hoping to get a qualification in English. There are several different tests and certificates for them to work towards, but almost every exam tests reading, writing, listening and, of course, speaking.

For a lot of students, the speaking exam is often the most stressful. Unlike any other exam, students are face-to-face with their examiner, so it can feel like there’s less thinking time and more pressure. But don’t worry, here are some tips that can help.

W   Tip one: Give yourself plenty of time.

 The first tip may seem obvious, but it’s important – get to your speaking exam in plenty of time. You should arrive at least half an hour beforehand if you can. You need to feel relaxed, and if you’re late, you’ll be stressed, which will make the exam much more difficult.

W   Tip two: Engage with the examiner.

 When you first go into the exam room, greet the examiner and try to smile, even if you feel nervous. Remember, examiners want you to do well, so just be polite and friendly. Body language is really important too, so make eye contact, smile and sit up straight throughout the exam.

E 1   And Marcus, what do you enjoy doing at weekends?

 I enjoy going to the beach and hanging out with friends, to maybe the shopping mall or some parties.

E 1   Valentina, where do you meet your friends?

V   Mostly at school, but we like hanging out at other times as well.

E 1   OK. And Marcus, what did you do yesterday?

M   Yesterday, I did a tour at Oxford city and I really enjoyed know, knowing new places, yeah and knowing new people.

E 1   OK, good. Excellent.

W   Tip three: Involve your partner.

 Always look interested in what your partner is saying, respond to their suggestions and make sure you give them the opportunity to speak. Ask for their opinion and try to involve them in the conversation as much as possible.

E 1   Here is a picture with some ideas to help you.

N   Hopefully, they will do the same for you.

 Would you like to start?

V   Oh, yeah. What do you think about the vending machine?

 Oh, it will be a nice thing, but it’s better to invest in something related to education. Don’t you think?

 Oh, yeah, I agree.

M   And what about the tablets?

 Oh, I think they wouldn’t be really helpful because we would access another side perhaps and we wouldn’t focus on the lessons.

M   Mmm, I see your point, but maybe we can put rules in the use of it, and just put things related to the lessons and about subjects that we’re going to work with them.

 Oh, yeah.

W   Tip four: Avoid one word answers.

 Another useful tip is not to just say one word when you’re answering the examiner or your partner. Always answer in full sentences and add more detail wherever you can. This will not only impress the examiner, it will also make it feel much more like a natural conversation, which can help you to relax.

E 1   Marcus, where are you from?

M   Rio.

E 1   And Valentina, where are you from?

 I live in Brazil as well, but I live in a really small town. It’s called Santo Gusto, and I live there with my whole family. It’s, um, it has only thirteen thousand…

E 1   Inhabitants.

 Inhabitants, yeah.

W   Tip five: Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t understand.

 It’s perfectly normal to not understand a person that you’re meeting for the first time. When the examiner asks you a question, don’t panic if you don’t understand. Just ask the examiner to repeat it.

E 2   What sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?

S   Could you repeat that, please?

E 2   What sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?

S   In apartments, of course. I don’t really like living in houses.

W   Tip six: Don’t memorize answers.

N   Whatever you do, don’t give answers you’ve learned word-for word. It’s fine to memorize words and phrases that you might need, but not whole sentences or paragraphs. These are easy to spot and give a bad impression. Remember it’s a test of your English, not your memory.

E 2   Tell me about the kind of accommodation that you live in.

 I live in an apartment. I’ve lived there for five years. And I really love being there because it’s really big and it’s close to my school. Next year I will move. I don’t really want to, but I have to.

W   Tip seven: Don’t freeze if you can’t find the word you need.

N   When it’s your turn to speak, if you can’t think of the word you need, don’t panic and say nothing. Just try to explain it in a different way. This is also quite normal – it happens to people all the time, even in their own language.

E 2   …and here’s your topic. I’d like you to describe an event that you attended recently. Can you start speaking now, please?

S   Yes. A couple of weeks ago, I went to my cousin’s wedding. And we had a really… A couple of weeks ago, I went to my cousin’s wedding, and we were really glad that he invited us. And we had to go to another country. Um, I was really glad that , that he got married…how can I say…it was…it was a really nice wedding, he’s from another country, so I went to Paraguay. We went there and it was so nice and beautiful. In other words, so it was so emotional and touching, but my favourite part was when his mother, my, my aunt, she sang a love song to the newlyweds, and…how can I explain,…? Everyone in there cried.

N   There’s no doubt that speaking exams are challenging, but these tips will help you to feel more confident and speak more naturally. But of course, the best preparation is practice. And the best way to practise?

Get talking! Goodbye…and good luck!

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