The C1 advanced speaking test
The C1 advanced (formerly CAE) speaking test is often the most nerve-wracking part of the exam for students. The biggest mistake students make is not doing enough preparation. If you’re prepared; know what to expect and how to answer each part of the test; you will feel less nervous and you’re likely to perform a lot better.
Just like with the B2 first speaking test, there are four parts in total that you and your partner (sometimes two other partners) will have to answer. The format is very similar to the FCE test, but in part two instead of two photos you’re given three and you have to choose two of them to talk about. There will be two people conducting the exam in the room with you but you only have to speak to one of them. In some parts you have to speak to the interlocutor (the person giving the questions) and in others you have to talk to your partner or alone. It’s very important; however, that throughout the test you actively listen to your partner and respond to what they say when appropriate.
Listening doesn’t just mean staring at your paper or the examiner, you should make a bit of eye contact with your partner and nod your head to what they say while they’re talking – just like you would in a real life conversation.
C1 advanced speaking test part one
The first part is very short, where you and your partner(s) will be asked some basic questions about yourselves. It’s worth learning how to answer this part because there are things you should and shouldn’t do. Think of it as being similar to the first time you meet somebody and the typical kinds of questions you might be asked.
The examiner will ask you questions and you should speak to the examiner. When your partner is speaking don’t ask them questions or interrupt them.
Typical questions you might be asked in this part
You’ll usually be asked questions about where you live, your job, what you study, what your hobbies are and things about you.
You could be asked one or two more basic questions such as:
What sort of holidays do you normally enjoy most? Why?
Where would you recommend tourists to visit in your country? Why?
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
What do you enjoy most about learning English?
What’s the best time of day for you to study? Why?
And also some more ‘advanced’ questions such as:
Are you an organised person? Why?/Why not?
Who has more influence on your life – your friends or your family and why?
Have you ever wished you were rich and famous….(Why?/Why not?)
Have you seen any good films recently?
If you won the lottery what would you do?
The main thing to remember from these questions is that you don’t need to say loads of information, but you should say more than just yes or no and you should justify your opinion in one or two short sentences – see the next part for a comparison.
An answer that’s too short
Q: Do you enjoy watching sport? Why/Why not?
A: Yeah I like watching sport.
Why is the above answer too brief? Well, if somebody asked you this question in a casual conversation, you would normally say ‘yeah I love sport’ and then perhaps elaborate on what kind of sport you like to watch and why. If you don’t enjoy watching sport, you could say ‘not really’ but then say what else you like to watch and remember to say why.
An answer to the same question that’s slightly better
A: Yeah I love going to watch real football games. It’s fun.
OK, how could we make this better?
A ‘just-right’ answer
Yeah I’m a big football fan; I go to all of my city’s games – at home and away. It’s what I’ve done since I was a teenager and me and my friends get a lot out of it together. It’s exhilarating!
The last answer would be about the right length and the candidate has justified their answer well. They have also used some advanced level vocabulary – ‘exhilarating’. If you can concisely get some of this kind of vocabulary into your answer at the start of the test, it will make a great first impression!
Another important thing to remember is also not to say too much, nor ask your partner anything. You only need to answer the interlocutor’s questions.
Lastly, remember that this is a conversation and so your body language can say a lot about your level of confidence. You should turn your body a little towards your partner(s) and look at them and listen to what they are saying. Nod your head, smile and be interested in what they’re saying.
Final words about this part and the speaking exam
For the entire C1 advanced exam and not just the speaking part, you really need to have made an effort to expand upon your knowledge and ability to use advanced level vocabulary.
How do you that? Well, of course it helps to take regular C1 classes with a teacher, but it’s quite similar to how you grew your knowledge of ‘higher’ level words in your first language. When you progressed through school, perhaps university and then into work, you would have had to read lots of different kinds of text, and get used to the way the vocabulary is used. It really does help if you’re an avid reader – find books in English that you might be interested in and start reading them! Make notes of any new words you come across and look at the context of which they’re used. Also, read and watch the news in English regularly! You will get used to lots of advanced level words.