FCE Speaking Exam and why you should NOT be afraid of it!

by / Wednesday, 08 June 2016

I’ve taught several FCE and CAE classes and one common worry that my students have time and time again is their fear of the speaking exam.

Many of my students come from countries where a lot of time is spent on learning grammar rules, reading and writing and very little focus is put on speaking. As a result, at first many of my students lack confidence in speaking tasks.

Does this sound like you? If so, read on for some useful info on the speaking exam plus some tips on how you can become a much more confident speaking candidate.

Let’s look first at some common questions about the exam.

How many parts are there in the speaking exam?

There are four parts:

Part 1: Answering personal questions
Part 2: Describing photos and commenting on your partner’s
Part 3:  Collaborative decision making task with partner
Part 4:  Questions related to the topic in part 3 – candidates are expected to give their opinion and support it
How long is the exam?

The exam is about 14 mins long

If you would like to watch a full example FCE test please click on this link:

Do I do the test alone?

No, you will always do your test with at least one other candidate, sometimes two depending on numbers.

How many examiners are there?

There are two examiners, one who asks the questions and one who assesses your performance.

Starting to panic? Don’t!! Read on for why…

5 Reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of a Cambridge speaking test.

1. You are not alone!

Unlike in the IELTS test where it’s just you and the examiner in this speaking test you have the support of another candidate.

2. The examiners are not there to trick you.

The examiners are there to test your level of English not to judge you on the information/opinions given in your answers. They are there to see if the range of grammar and vocabulary you use is wide enough and accurate enough to be accepted as B2.

3. The test always takes the same format

Before you do the exam get to know its format so there are no surprises. Find some friends who also plan on doing the exam and practice it with them. Do as many mock tests as possible before you do the real exam.

There are plenty of examples speaking tests available online, including some on the official Cambridge website that include an examiner’s comments.


4. You may already be using the appropriate type of language needed in everyday life

If you live in an English-speaking country or do a job that requires you to speak English every day you are probably already using the kind of language the examiner if looking for. Some examples are – language to talk about yourself, language to agree, disagree, speculate, interrupt politely etc. without even realising you are doing it.

5. You are not penalised for not having an ‘authentic’ accent

Every speaker of English whether a native or non-native speaker has a slightly different accent. That’s what makes English such an exciting language! The examiner will expect that there may be some interference from your L1 or mother tongue but you will not be marked down for that. The most important thing is that you are intelligible both to the examiner and your partner.

I hope this information puts your mind at rest. Try to remember these points before the exam to calm your nerves, relax and do the best you can.

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