Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

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

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


  • Show you can communicate effectively.
  • Give full and extended responses.
  • Raise the level of your language above the mundane.
  • Listen carefully to what the examiner has asked you to do.
  • Remember the instructions and focus on the task set.
  • Speculate on the content of the visual material, even if you are unsure about what they are illustrating.
  • Involve your partner in the conversation and create opportunities for them to speak.
  • Don’t panic if you cannot remember, or do not know, a particular word. Just keep going and paraphrase instead.
  • Don’t merely describe the visuals.
  • Don’t speak during your partner’s ‘long turn’.
  • Don’t let your partner always ‘take the lead’. You also must initiate at times.
  • Don’t waste your opportunities to show the examiners what you can do.
  • Don’t speak too quietly. Remember, the examiners need to hear what you are saying.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

My speaking is much weaker than my writing. Do I have to pass the Speaking test to pass the exam?
No. The final mark on which the grade is awarded is based on the combined score of all of the papers. If you perform poorly on one paper, you can compensate by performing well on the other papers.

Can I be examined by my own teacher?
No. Examiners go through a rigorous process of training and are not allowed to examine their own students or anybody they know socially.

Can I take the test alone?
No. The standard format is two candidates and two examiners. If at the end of the session there is an odd number of candidates, the final group will be a three. Only in exceptional circumstances can a person take the test by themselves.

Why are there two examiners?
Having two examiners ensures fairness as it allows for two independent assessments. Each examiner has a different role. One examiner, the interlocutor, conducts the test and gives a global assessment of your performance. The other, the assessor, does not take part in the interaction, but focuses solely on listening to, and making an assessment of, your oral proficiency.

What happens if the other candidate won’t let me speak?
Examiners are trained to deal with such situations and to provide both of you with equal opportunities to speak. They will ensure that neither of you is disadvantaged by the other. There are also opportunities in the test for you to speak on your own.

What should I do if I do not understand the instructions?
You should ask the examiner to repeat the instructions. You will not be penalised for this. The examiner will be happy to repeat instructions but, for reasons of fairness, they cannot change the way in which they are worded.

Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

May 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

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