7 Tips to succeed in the Cambridge B2 First speaking exam

This week’s blog has been written by Elsa O’Brien, a Spain-based teacher who teaches young learners and adults at the British Council Madrid and at the University of Comillas.

Looking for useful tips on how to get a good result in the Cambridge B2 First speaking exam? Well, look no further. Instead of poring through thousands of books and websites on this topic consider these top tips to help you get the best possible score. Whilst there is no substitute for working hard to improve your English level, we should bear in mind some basic strategies and apply them when rehearsing for the exam in order to make them second nature.

In this post I’m going to summarise some key tips that will help you succeed while you prepare for the exam and during the test itself.

Before the exam:

Find out what the speaking part consists of

You can do this in many different ways  but I recommend two very straightforward ways:

Go on to the FCE Cambridge website, download a sample paper and read about the different parts of the speaking tasks.

The Cambridge B2 First speaking is relatively short. It is about 14 minutes long and it consists of 4 different tasks. The speaking test is taken together with another candidate. However, although you will need to pay attention to what your partner is saying at all times, the main collaborative task is number 3. You will mostly work individually on tasks 1, 2 and 4. Find more detailed information of each of the parts here.

Once you’ve become familiar with the structure of the task, it would be very useful to watch several YouTube videos of candidates doing the speaking exam.

Read success criteria and examiners’ comments

Reading the examiner’s comments posted underneath the videos is a quick way to become aware of what a desired answer sounds like.

During the exam:

Keep it relevant

Showing that you can use phrasal verbs and sophisticated language is important, however, you must keep your contributions relevant. Time is limited so going off topic will mean that you might not have time to answer the main question. Practice will help you get used to fitting what you want to say into a few minutes.

Use the language at your disposal

Don’t let stress get hold of you. Models of good language will be at your disposal in the examiner’s questions and the ones on the paper sheets. Use this language in your answers and don’t try to change it unnecessarily.

Apply language feedback and tips

As obvious as this may seem, very often students will forget to take note and apply tips and feedback received from their teacher or text books. These tips are usually strategic summaries of what the student is expected to know (phrasal verbs, agreeing and disagreeing language, grammar points) –so don’t waste them!

Be collaborative

During the collaborative task, the examiner is trying to find out whether you are able to have a natural conversation in English. This also means:

  • Including your interlocutor by referring back to something they’ve said earlier.
  • Asking for their opinion.
  • Respecting their turn and leaving time for them to speak.
  • Showing signs of active listening by nodding, smiling and using some useful minimal responses such as ‘that’s right’, ‘hmmm’, ‘I see’, ‘absolutely’.

Practice

Practice makes perfect. As many times as you might have heard this before, practice will really make a difference in your final performance. A lot of different aspects of your speaking will be evaluated in a very short time so rehearsing plays a big role in getting each of them right – at the same time!

Check out your understanding of the FCE speaking test by taking this quiz.

Author Bio

Elsa started off her career in market research but slowly, and almost unwittingly, drifted into the world of business English teaching. In 2016 she decided to become a full-time teacher. She has worked in Ireland, France and Spain and is currently pursuing a master’s in English Applied linguistics. She enjoys teaching as much as she enjoys learning through research, reading and teacher sharing. She also has a side project singing in Backdrop Music. Follow them on Instagram and check them out on YouTube too.

2 thoughts on “7 Tips to succeed in the Cambridge B2 First speaking exam

  1. All good tips. I would add that trying to memorize ‘good’ answers in case the topic comes up can be spotted a mile off by an examiner. Keep it natural and spontaneous!

    Liked by 1 person

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