20 Oct 2020

Wording of questions in Cambridge Speaking Tests Part 1

In this post, I’m going to look at two areas related to the questions that typically appear in Part 1 of the Cambridge speaking tests:  Question types and The wording of the questions.  

I’m also going to share a worksheet I’ve created for work on Tell me questions that could appear in Part 1 of the B1 Preliminary and B1 Preliminary for Schools speaking tests.

Question types

Questions used in the tests can usually be grouped into three types:

1   Yes/No questions

e.g.  Interlocutor: Do you think English will be useful for you in the future?

These questions are dangerous because students can just answer ‘Yes‘ or ‘No‘ – but of course, they shouldn’t do that!

Tip: train students to use the words ‘because’ and ‘if’ . To give reasons for their answer.

Yes, because I want to be a doctor and doctors have to read a lot about medicine and lots of information is in English.

Yes.  I want to be a football player and if I want to play in a big team, English will be useful because I can talk to the other players in English.

2   Wh- questions

This is the most frequent type of question used in speaking tests.

One important thing to remember is that the first word of this question is very important!  How many times, do students miss the question word and give an answer which is not relevant?!!!

e.g.  Interlocutor:  Where do you have lunch?

Candidate:  I have lunch at one o’clock.

Tip:  If students are not sure, think they might have missed the question word, a real-life skill is to check the question:

eg  Sorry.  Was the question: ‘When do you have lunch?’

3   Tell me

These questions are definitely the ones that students should try and give extended answers to.

A2 Key for Schools

Interlocutor:  Please tell me something about the homework you have to do.

Please tell me what you like doing at home.

A2 Key

Interlocutor: Tell me something about one of your friends.

Tell me something about the things you like doing at home, at the weekends.

B1 Preliminary for Schools

Interlocutor: Tell us about a teacher you like.

B1 Preliminary

Interlocutor: Tell us about the people you live with.

Tip:  Train students to say three things.  For ideas on how to do this, read my post on this.

To work on ideas for answering ‘Tell me’ questions, I’ve prepared an activity for B1 Preliminary.

You can download the document from my Google Drive, here.

First, I’ve prepared a table for students to complete with words from the box below.  This is to get them thinking about the logic of the questions and their structure.

Next, I’d get students to prepare three things to say in reply to each question.

Tip:  To train students to give longer answers, train them to say three things in reply to each question. 

Students can say why they like things (using because), how often they do things, who they do things with, how long they’ve known the people or been doing an activity.

e.g. Tell me about the music you like listening to.

I like most kinds of music because I think it helps you relax or makes you happy if you’re feeling a bit sad. I listen to music every day, in my car, when I’m doing gym.  I grew up with music and I can remember songs from when I was very little!

Then, I’d get students to ask and answer the Tell me questions in pairs or small groups.

And remind them to keep practising at home, running through their answers in their heads.

As always, I hope you’ll find this post useful. Feel free to share and leave a comment too!

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