B2 FCE speaking exam part two

B2 First speaking part 2 – comparing the photographs

We saw in part 1 that the examiner asks you some introductory questions about yourself. In part two of the Cambridge English First speaking test you and one other student(s) (sometimes three) must take it turns to speak about two photos. You will each receive two colour photos that you must talk about on your own for a minute. After you’ve spoken about your photos, the examiner will ask the other student (student B) a question about your photos. Student B must talk for about 30 seconds.

Then the same process repeats for student B, who gets two photos and has to talk about them for one minute. When they’ve finished speaking about their set of photos, you will be asked a question about student B’s photos and you have to talk for 30 seconds.

How should you answer the question?

You will always be asked to COMPARE the photos and answer the question. It’s really important that you don’t just describe the photos. The examiners are looking at your ability to compare and talk at length about a given topic and so in particular you should use comparative structures and speculative language (see the end of this article for some useful language to use for this part).

Here are two sample questions and their photos:

There are many different topics which could you could be asked to speak about and in the case of the photos above, the first set is about helping people in different situations and the second set is about people enjoying their time in different gardens. You can see that both photos are centered around a common theme and you are required to compare and comment on the differences between each situation.

There is no substitute for preparing for the speaking exam with a good English teacher

The best way to prepare for any part of the FCE exam is by taking one of our exam-focused B2 First courses. As you are probably aware, there are many courses both online and offline, but many of them do not adhere to CEFR guidelines or the Cambridge English syllabus. Book a free trial class here.

Sample answers

Compare the photographs and say how important it is to help people in these situations

Both photos show people who need the help of others. In the first photo there is a man who appears to have injured himself playing football, while in the second photo we can see a woman who is probably a tourist asking for directions. I think the situation in the first photo is more urgent because we can see he’s injured and in the second photo the woman is perhaps just not sure of how to get to a place.

I think in the photo of the injured football player it’s really important to help him because he could have a serious injury and even need to go to hospital so he needs the opinion of a professional, unlike the photo of the tourist who perhaps shouldn’t waste the police man’s time and could ask somebody else on the street.

In the second photo of the tourist it’s not as important to help her compared to the injured man because it’s less urgent, and although tourists can sometimes be annoying it’s still kind to help them if they’re lost. I know that when I’m travelling to another city I always appreciate it if I stop to ask somebody on the street for directions and they spare me a minute to tell me where to go.

Compare the photographs and say what you think the people are enjoying about spending time in these gardens

Both photos show people who like to spend time outdoors. In the first photo it looks like the man is spending time maintaining his own garden while the second photo perhaps shows families and friends enjoying a nice day together. In the first photo we can see that gardening is maybe the man’s hobby. In contrast the people in the second photo don’t necessarily enjoy gardening but appreciate a nice day having a picnic together in nice surroundings.

I think both situations can be enjoyable. In the first photo doing gardening as a hobby can be a way for people to spend their leisure time while keeping active.

As for the people in the public place, I think going to a place like that is a great way to spend a family day out or relax with your friends. You can enjoy all the benefits of a well kept garden without having to do it yourself! In contrast with the first photo, I think if you enjoy having a nice garden you can enjoy that space without having to share it with others.

And that’s all there is to it!

Important things to remember

Don’t spend too much time talking about just one of the photos. This is a commonly made mistake and shows that you haven’t understood the question. Throughout your answer you should be making contrasting statements about both photos – mention the differences and any similarities about each situation.

Don’t just describe what you see in the photos! Many students make this mistake and don’t do what they’ve been asked to do, which is to COMPARE and answer the question. Describing is ONE aspect – The man is doing his garden. Comparing involves TWO aspects – The picture shows a man doing his own garden while the second one shows people in a public garden.

If you make a mistake or don’t say a word properly, don’t worry! Keep talking and carry on as if the mistake didn’t happen.

mr chips say what you see

Improve your chances of passing with an English teacher!

If you’re preparing for the B2 exam then we cannot recommend enough the importance of getting help from an experienced native teacher. You’ll be able to practice each part of the exam under their supervision, where they can point out your mistakes and reinforce the techniques discussed in this article. The good news for you is that it’s now easier than ever to get the help you need with our online teachers, where you can choose a class at a time to suit you, all from the comfort of your own home! Just go here to book a free trial class.

Don’t I get a few minutes to prepare what I’m going to say?

While you will be given a few moments to look at the photographs you’re given, you’re not given explicit time to prepare the things you’re going to say. There are several reasons for this; one being that if Cambridge English did this, the test would be too easy and Cambridge has built its reputation on its level of academic prestige, so they’re not going to make it easy. Additionally, Cambridge English want to assess your level of fluency and ability to reason spontaneously, and so if they gave you preparation time this wouldn’t allow them to do this.

Don’t let this make you feel nervous – the best way you can prepare is by reading this page and practising. If you prepare for the exam well you’ll be ready for what’s to come.

Candidate B’s question

After candidate A has spoken about their photos, the interlocutor will ask candidate B to comment on candidate A’s photographs for about 30 seconds. This length of time is enough for you to make 3 or 4 points for what the interlocutor has asked you. Let’s see an example:

If candidate A had spoken about the photos showing people who are asking for help, the examiner may ask you a question such as:

Do you find it easy to ask for help when you have a problem? (Why/ Why not?)

Something like the answer below would be just right:

I think it depends on where I am and what I’m doing. If I was playing in a game of sport like in the first photo, I think I would find it easy because it’s perfectly acceptable to call for help if you’re injured and in pain. But, I guess there are occasions where I might feel a bit more apprehensive in a different situation like at school where you don’t want to appear incompetent.

Useful words and phrases

You’ll want to use some of this language when you give your answers.

Referring to the photos

The top picture shows…

The bottom picture shows…

It appears that in the top/bottom/first/second photo that…

It seems that in the top/bottom/first/second photo that…

The first photo shows…

The second photo shows…

Commenting on what both photos show

Both pictures show…

In both pictures there are…

We can see… in both photos

Commenting on the differences

Another difference we can see…

What’s really different between the two photos is that…

One difference between the pictures is that…

Another thing that’s different is that…

This photo shows…but in the other one we can see…

Giving your opinion and speculating

In my opinion…

I’d say that…

I think…

Speculative language

It seems that…

There appears to be…

It looks like…

Go to part 3