BEC V Speaking

Speaking – Tips and FAQs

  • Get plenty of speaking practice in small groups, especially on topics that are likely to be used in the exam.
  • Listen to native (or good) speakers of English doing similar tasks.
  • Collect and keep records of words and phrases that are useful for carrying out the exam tasks.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the instructions/task.
  • Speak clearly and loudly enough for the examiners to hear you.
  • Avoid long silences and frequent pauses.
  • Listen to your partner and respond appropriately.
  • Make sure turn-taking is as natural as possible (taking turns to speak and listening to each other).
  • Use all the opportunities you’re given in the test to speak, and extend your responses whenever possible.
  • Don’t memorise and practise long answers for Part 1. You only need to give short answers in this part.
  • Don’t try to talk much more than your partner or interrupt in an impolite way.
  • Don’t worry about not knowing a word or phrase – explain what you mean using other words.
  • Don’t worry too much about making mistakes – you don’t have to be word perfect.
  • Don’t just respond to what has been said – be prepared to give your own ideas, ask for your partner’s opinion and develop your partner’s ideas and contributions.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many marks is the Speaking test worth?
It is worth 25% of the total marks for the Cambridge English: Business Vantage examination.

What should I do if I don’t understand a question?
Ask! Good communication involves requesting clarification when you don’t understand, in an appropriate way.

I communicate well but am not always very accurate with grammar and vocabulary. Can I still pass the Speaking test?
At Cambridge English: Business Vantage level, you need to be accurate enough with your grammar and choice of words to get your meaning across. In other words, you do not need to be accurate all the time to pass. Also, remember that Grammar and Vocabulary is only one of the four areas that are assessed in the exam. The others are Discourse Management, Pronunciation and Interactive Communication.

What sort of topics might I be expected to speak about?
Some examples: personal information, the office, general business environment and routine, entertainment of clients, travel and conference meetings, using the telephone, health and safety, buying and selling, management skills, promotion, training courses. These topics are spread across the four components of the exam (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking).

Is it an advantage to know your partner in the Speaking test?
No. You should be encouraged to change partners in class so that you get used to interacting with a variety of people, including people you don’t know well.

What if I am paired with someone much better than me?
As all students are assessed on their own performance and not on how they compare with their exam partner, this would not be a problem. So, similarly, if you have difficulty in understanding your partner, your grade will not suffer. It is important to try to communicate and interact with your partner, whatever their level.

How much do I need to know about business to be successful in the Speaking test?
Cambridge English: Business Certificates were developed to test English language in a business context. They are not focused on any specific branch, e.g. banking or computing, but you are expected to be familiar with a wide range of business situations and the vocabulary appropriate to them.

What if I don’t know anything about any of the topics for the 1-minute presentation?
You do not need specialist knowledge for the topics used. There are three topics for you to choose from. The first topic is always the most general and is suitable for people with little or no working experience. The second topic is more related to work contexts, and the third is most suited to people with experience of specific work situations. You are marked on your language and not on your knowledge of the topic or the originality of your ideas.

What if the two candidates have very different personalities, e.g. one is very shy and one is very outgoing?
Examiners know how to deal with this situation, and give both of the candidates an opportunity to speak – make sure you take this opportunity. It is important both to talk and to give the other candidate the chance to talk. The examiner can use the questions after the Part 3 task to encourage a quieter student to speak more.

What happens when there is an odd number of candidates left at the end of a Speaking test session?
In this case, the last candidates would be examined as a group of three.

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