What you need to know about the Cambridge Advanced speaking test

The CAE speaking test has 4 parts and lasts 15 minutes (about 23 minutes for a group of 3). You will take the test with another candidate and both you and your partner will be given an equal opportunity to speak. Part 1 is a short conversation between you and the examiner using social language. Part 2 is an individual 1-minute ‘long turn’ for each candidate with a short response from the second candidate. You will be given three pictures to compare and discuss. In Parts 3 and 4, you and your partner interact and exchange ideas. Part 3 involves written prompts while Part 4 is comprised of spoken questions from the examiner.
Sounds simple enough? Well, let me share some tips which have helped my students succeed in the test.

7 tips that will help you succeed in the Cambridge CAE speaking exam

1. 100% English. For 12 weeks you’ll have to really make the effort to speak English only in and outside of class. It’s so easy to slip into your first language when you’re on a weekend trip with your classmates or at the pub. Students who showed the most progress were those who insisted on English only. You’ll be surprised at how fluent you are and how wide your range of grammar and vocab is after the course. Speaking improves fluency. Interaction leads to language learning.

2. Socialise and interact with people of different nationalities, cultural background and age. Have you tried Meetup.com? It’s not a dating site! This is a fast and terrific way of finding a group in your local community which shares your interests, whether it’s hiking, photography or coffee. The great thing about it is you will be able to practice your English with native speakers too. One of my students tried an English Language Club and he ended up meeting a Kiwi guy studying in Uni. They hit it off right away and they now regularly catch up for a drink. My last CAE class went to a pub quiz every Tuesday. What a fun way to learn and bond!

Cambridge CAE exam class at pub quizz

You should have seen the one where we were trying to pull funny faces!

3. Use movies or TV programmes. Choose a 30-second part of a film or TV series. Try to copy the way the speakers say it – perform it, focusing on speed, rhythm, sentence stress, intonation, and fluency. Do you notice any differences? This is great for improving pronunciation. You can do the same with music videos. Sing along and try to copy the way the singer performs the song.

4. Have conversations whenever you can. Watch a movie or an online video with a friend or find someone who has already seen it. Discuss what you thought about it – what was funny, confusing, surprising? What was your favourite part? Who is your favourite character? Does it remind you of any other shows you’ve seen? To do well in the CAE test you have to involve your partner in the conversation and create opportunities for them to speak. At ‘Advanced’ level, you need to be talking about ideas and pushing yourself to get into more abstract topics.

Cambridge CAE course Auckland New Zealand

The Marshmallow Challenge! Ted.com

Cambridge CAE test preparation course Auckland New Zealand

Thinking outside the box!

5. Paraphrase. When the examiner asks you, ‘What do you enjoy most about learning English?’ don’t just use the same words- ‘What I enjoy most about learning English is being able to communicate with people from different countries’. Show a wider range of vocab and grammar by using synonyms or different expressions: ‘I feel a real sense of achievement when I’m able to really express myself and have a deep conversation with someone in English.’ So, the message here is raise the level of your language above the ordinary and give full and extended answers.

6. Speculate. This means imagining what is happening (without really knowing the facts). We do this all the time in normal conversation. Parts 2, 3 and 4 of the CAE speaking test all require you to discuss why something has happened or what might happen. So don’t just describe the photos in Part 2. Use language like ‘The woman looks as if she’s…’, ‘He seems to be…’, ‘They could well be….’, ‘She might have been…’, ‘I think it would…’. Speculate on the content of the pictures, even if you’re not sure what they show. This is hard in another language so build your skills in ‘speculation’!

7. Be flexible with language. Practise responding to people who don’t give the expected answer. Put yourself in situations where you are out of your comfort zone. Take risks! Have an adventure. Get used to thinking on your feet!

Why not take our free English test to see which level of Cambridge exams (FCE, CAE or CPE) is suitable for you?

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Author: May Ann Morelli

Just a little something about me: I’ve been teaching at Languages International since 2008 and have taught various classes from beginners to advanced level: General English, FCE, CAE, IELTS, and English for Business. I’m also an examiner for the Occupational English Test. No two days are the same in my profession. I just love being able to laugh with my students and colleagues and share experiences. The most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing my students grow in confidence – that’s when I know I’ve made a positive impact on their lives.

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Chilling in the park