Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

Tips and FAQS for the Speaking paper of the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam

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Here are some tips and answers to questions we often receive on the Speaking paper of the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam.


  • Make sure you are familiar with what happens, and what skills you need to show, in each part of the test.
  • Practise speaking English as much as possible in groups and in pairs, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Listen carefully to the instructions and questions during the test and respond appropriately.
  • Speak clearly, so that both the interlocutor and assessor can hear you.
  • Use all the opportunities you are given to speak in the test, and extend your responses whenever possible.
  • Ask for clarification of instructions or a question if you’re not sure.
  • Initiate discussion as well as responding to what your partner says.
  • Make full use of the time so that the examiner who is listening hearsplenty of your English.
  • Don’t prepare long answers in advance, or learn and practise speeches.
  • Don’t dominate your partner or interrupt them abruptly during the Speaking test.
  • Don’t leave long or frequent pauses.
  • Don’t worry about being interrupted by the examiner. This shows you have spoken enough. The tests have to keep to the time limit for administrative reasons.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many marks is the Speaking test worth?
Reading, Writing, Listening, Use of English and Speaking are each worth 20% of the total score for the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam.

Can I do the Speaking test with another student from my school?
This depends on the centre. In some centres, candidates from the same school do the Speaking test together. In other centres, you may have a partner from another school. Check this with your exam centre. 

Do we speak to each other as well as to the examiner?
Yes. In Parts 1 and 2, you speak to the interlocutor (the examiner who speaks to you), but in Part 3, you must discuss something with the other candidate. In this part, you must speak to each other and NOT to the interlocutor. In Part 4 you can speak to the interlocutor or to your partner, or to both.

Do both examiners speak throughout the test?
No, only the interlocutor speaks. The assessor is silent except for saying hello and goodbye to you.

Does knowing your partner make it easier to do well?
There is no evidence that knowing your partner helps you to perform better or worse in the Speaking test. Some people feel more relaxed and confident when they do the test with someone they know, but other candidates may find this situation difficult or unnatural. In both cases, the examiners are trained togive all candidates equal opportunities to show their abilities.

What happens if candidates are ‘mismatched’, for example, by putting a shy person with an outgoing one?
Examiners are trained to manage this situation and ensure that everyone has an equal chance to show their abilities during the test. However, you must try to make the best use of the time to show the examiners your language skills without dominating your partner.

Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

May 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

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