C1 advanced (CAE) speaking part two

C1 Advanced speaking part two – comparing two photos from a choice of three

In part two (the ‘long turn’) of the Cambridge English C1 advanced speaking test you and one other student(s) (sometimes three) must each compare two photographs from a choice of three. You will each be given a different set of photos and you must speak on your own for about a minute. After you’ve spoken about your photos, the examiner will ask your partner a question about your photos, where they must talk for about 30 seconds.


Why should you believe what’s written here?

Firstly, it’s written by experienced and trained English teachers. The teachers who helped to write this guide hold a lot of experience between them and have helped many students pass the C1 advanced exam. Additionally, at El Universo del inglés, we only use the most trusted and up to date information, ie, what’s said or written on the Cambridge English website and their YouTube channel.


Speaking part two top tips!

Always try to compare your two chosen photos and don’t just say what you see! This also means that you should say what’s different and what’s the same.

How NOT to answer this part of the test

In this guide you’ll learn how to compare any two photographs you choose, but it’s also important that you don’t fall into any traps and avoid just saying what you see in the photos.

Cambridge examiners highlight that good candidates listen carefully to their partner and the interlocutor (fancy word for an examiner). This includes making some eye contact with your partner and the examiner, just like you would in a real life situation. Remember as well that your body language can give off the impression that you’re listening. The examiners are highly trained and experienced, and so they can tell when somebody is well prepared or not very well prepared.

Additionally, remember not to:

  • stop speaking! All too often do teachers see students start off really well but then after 30 seconds or so they think they’ve said enough. You’re given a whole minute, so use it.

  • dry up – Cambridge examiners say that good candidates are able to paraphrase when they can’t think of the word they want to say or they don’t know what else to say. This is a really important skill which comes with practice.

  • talk to the photos – this means you should be making occasional eye contact with the examiner and your partner when it feels appropriate to do so.

  • waste precious time saying which photos you’ve chosen – just start talking about them and if you find it helpful you could point to one of them while you’re talking about it.

  • ignore the questions above your photographs – you need to make comparisons but remember to answer these questions when it’s your turn. The questions can also be a helpful reminder of what to say if you can’t think of anything else.

Make eye contact occasionally (but not too much 😉 )


Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Just like how we tried to get across to you in our B2 First exam guide, if you go into the exam without having practised beforehand, you’re probably not going to feel so calm about doing the test. If you know what to expect for each question, then you can apply the techniques you learn here and give yourself a better chance at passing the C1 advanced exam. Cambridge examiners have said on their YouTube channel that if a candidate is better prepared, they’re likely to feel less nervous and be able to do better on the test.

The best way to prepare is by taking a course at a good institution. There are many academies both offline and online and the reality is that unfortunately a lot of them aren’t very good, which is why you should choose one of our Cambridge English exam preparation courses, which adheres to CEFR guidelines and the Cambridge English exam syllabus.

Example question

The examiner would start off by saying:

These photos show people learning a new skill.

C1 advanced speaking part two question

You MUST compare your photographs

You’re probably tired of hearing about this, but if you don’t do it you won’t be using the kind of vocabulary the examiners are listening for and you probably won’t be using the appropriate range of words which allows you to score more points. There are three particularly important words that you should try and use when doing this task, and they are:

  • Whereas
  • Both
  • While

Remember, comparing two photos also means that you should point out any similarities between them.

Some example sentences with these words applied to the above example question might be:

Both pictures show two people learning important life skills… (learning to drive and how to cook).

While it’s possible the girl generally enjoys painting more than the boy does with learning how to drive, judging by their faces, I think in both pictures the people seem to be enjoying the experience…

In my opinion learning how to drive is more difficult than learning how to paint since all the artistic people I know were just born with a natural talent and it generally wasn’t something they had to learn, whereas learning how to drive can be a difficult and stressful experience for everybody…

If you can use the above language when doing this part of the task, the examiners, well trained as they are, will pick up on it and you should score more points if you do the rest of the test well.

Use speculative language

You should notice that the questions above the photos use might and the examiner would say it too.

What do you think the people might be enjoying about learning the new skill?

How easy might it be for the people to master it?

Why does this matter? Remember we’re only guessing what we think the people might be feeling or doing in the photos (perhaps more obvious in some photos than others). This is what speculating means and you should also try and use the following words and phrases when you compare the photos:

  • He might be…
  • Perhaps…
  • It’s possible that…
  • It seems that…

This isn’t all of the speculative language you could use, but it would be useful for the example question above. You can see more examples of this language at the end of this guide.

Sample answers

Now that we’ve examined the essential things to do for this part of the speaking test, let’s look at a not so good answer and see how it differs to a very good answer.

A not so good answer (for the above example question)

I’m going to choose the girl cooking and the boy driving a car. In the first photo of the girl cooking we can see that she seems to be enjoying learning how to do it and in the second photo the boy also looks like he is enjoying it. The girl is probably enjoying doing this class in school because it’s different to other subjects and she will be learning how to cook, which will help when she lives independently. For the boy learning how to drive, I think once he has passed his test he will be very glad that he did since learning how to drive is big milestone for most people. Errr… ermmm…*pause…*, *more pauses…* and yes, perhaps learning cooking isn’t as difficult as learning to drive, although I think working as a cook looks like a stressful job and once you can drive you can drive forever… OK?

Why isn’t this a good answer?

This candidate is obviously somewhat hesitant, and this is easier said than done (even in your first language), but you should try not to be and there are things you can do if you find yourself being hesitant – more on this below. More importantly, the above answer isn’t very good because:

  • They don’t make direct comparisons between each situation using words like both, whereas and while.

  • It’s likely they haven’t used the whole minute. It’s better to keep talking (but still answering well) and wait for the examiner to stop you. Don’t just finish early and say ‘OK?’ to the examiner. Use the whole minute!

  • They spend what is probably five seconds saying which photos they’ll choose, which you don’t need to do – just start talking about them. E.g. ‘well, here I think the boy on a driving lesson will be enjoying doing it because when you reach the age at which you can drive it’s one of the first things people want to do…’

So what can you do if you find yourself not knowing what else to say? Well, that may well happen during the test and it’s OK. The main thing is to be calm about it and buy yourself time by using certain phrases. This way you’re still speaking which makes you seem more confident to the examiner. You could say things like:

‘What else? Well…’

‘Oh and what I also forgot to mention is…’

A much better answer that would score highly

Putting everything together that you’ve read here a good answer for the same set of photos would be something like:

What’s similar about the girl learning how to cook and the girl painting is that they both look as if they’re having a good time. The girl learning how to cook might never have cooked anything before! And so she might appreciate what she learns from the class. Whereas, the girl painting has probably been doing it for a long time, perhaps since she was little and so it’s probably something she feels passionate about. In my opinion, learning how to cook is probably easier than learning how to paint well, because it seems to me that most painters are just born that way – you’re rather good at it or you’re not, while learning how to cook is perhaps something more people are able to learn how to do well with enough practice. Oh, what I also forgot to mention is that arguably both situations are going to be beneficial later on in life for the people doing them. If the girl painting is really good at it, then perhaps she could be a full-time painter when she’s older and who knows? Maybe even become a famous artist! Also, if you know how to cook your own food, you can maybe eat more healthily and you can be a lot more independent the first time you move away from home…

Examiner: ‘Thanks, now…’

You can see that the second answer is much better than the first one and it would score more highly. The candidate uses comparative words throughout their answer (whereas, while and both); they answer both questions and they don’t pause when they lose their train of thought – instead he buys himself time by saying ‘oh what I also forgot to mention is that…’. Moreover, this candidate makes comparisons between the two photos the whole way through their answer and they’re stopped by the examiner at the end because they had used the full minute.


Answering the second question

After your partner has done their long-turn for around 60 seconds, you will be asked a question related to your partner’s photos, where you’ll be given about 30 seconds to say your answer. This should be enough for about three or four points. So with our example above, you might be asked something along the lines of:

‘Who do you think would get the most satisfaction from learning a new skill? Why?’


‘Which do you think is the most valuable skill to learn? Why?’

It’s important that you have listened to what your partner said about their photos and try to bring in some points they might have made (make some eye contact when you do it as well).

A good example of answering the first of our above questions might be something like:

I agree with what *partner’s name* said about both of them looking like they are enjoying learning the skill they’re doing and different people get different levels of satisfaction from whatever it is they’re doing. Having said that, I think the girl painting would get more satisfaction than the girl doing a cooking class because with it being such a good painting, she’s probably chosen to develop that skill, perhaps at college, and it may even be something she’s realised she’s good at and she’s thinking about how far it could get her in life, whereas the girl cooking might be at school and hasn’t necessarily asked to be there.

The above example response is good because it brings in what this person’s partner has said, while at the same time it includes some speculative language such as ‘might’ and probably; the candidate has also managed to use ‘whereas’ in their answer which is great.

And that is all there is to it!

Well done! You’ve just finished part two of the speaking test! Guides for all parts of the CAE exam coming soon!


Useful words and phrases

Here is a list of words and phrases you can use when doing part two:


Referring to each situation

The top/bottom picture shows…

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

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

The first/second/third photo shows…


Giving your opinion

I would say that this situation is more/less/easier/the most difficult etc…

From my point of view…

In my opinion…

The way I see it is that…

As far as I know…

As far as I understand…


Commenting on what both photos show

Both pictures show…

In both pictures there are…

What’s similar about…

In both situations…


Commenting on differences

In this photo he/she/they… whereas in this picture…

Here they look….while in this photo…

While I think (usually a positive aspect)…. It seems to me that…(usually follows with a negative point or a disadvantage)

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

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


Speculative language

As far as I can tell…


They might…

Here it seems that…

…and maybe they’re…

It could be that…


Helpful links

Cambridge English website for the C1 advanced test

The Cambridge English YouTube channel

Go to part 3