Oral English : Top Tips
Remember: The examiners are not looking for perfect English in your Oral English Test. At the A2 (or Waystage) level, examiners are looking for evidence that you are at that level – to do your best, you must SHOW them your level of English, SHOW them how good you are.
- Don’t give yes/no answers
- Explain ‘why’
- Keep going
- Speak up!
Don’t give yes/no answers
Questions beginning with ‘Have you …’, ‘Do you …’, ‘Is it …’ etc can be answered simply with a yes or no answer.
But that’s not enough!
Q: Do you like sports?
A: Yes. (Don’t stop there!) I play football every week with my friends. (Much better!)
Q: Have you any brothers and sisters?
A: No. (Don’t stop there!) I am the only child in my family. It’s just me, my mother and father. (Great!).
During the oral English exam, the question ‘Why’ is often asked. Be ready for it!
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I really like playing guitar.
Q: Why do you like playing guitar?
A: Because… (Don’t panic, a simple reason is fine, sometimes it helps to repeat the full sentence) I like playing guitar because it’s very relaxing. (Good!)
Q: Why are you studying English?
A: Because… (Don’t panic, a simple reason is fine, sometimes it helps to repeat the full sentence) I am studying English because it’s important for my work. Also, because I like it. (Good!)
The examiner wants to see you COMMUNICATING in English. If you don’t understand something, that’s ok, but don’t just sit there, ask for help:
“Sorry, could you say that again?”
If you can’t think of a word in English, that’s fine too, but try and paraphrase, explain the word:
“It’s something you use when…”
If you are talking and you get stuck, don’t worry! Start again:
“What I mean is…”
If you need a moment to think, say something, while you are thinking:
The most important thing is to try to keep going, go on, and say something! You can have a little pause, but don’t leave too many long silences – they can be embarrassing. Don’t worry though, the examiner will move on to another question if he or she sees that you are in difficulty.
In the Key English Test and Preliminary English Test speaking tests (Break-through and Waystage level), there are two examiners: an assessor and an interlocutor. The assessor usually sits apart from the candidates and does not take an active part in the test. He or she just listens.
It is therefore important to speak up! Don’t mumble your answer; don’t look down as you speak. LOOK UP AND SPEAK OUT and be heard by everyone!
In order to be a good speaker, you need to be a GOOD LISTENER. During the speaking test you have to listen to and follow instructions from the examiner. If you don’t listen properly you might jump in and answer when he is asking the other candidate the questions. Or you might stay quiet because you think the question is for the other person and not you.
Say calm and follow the conversation. Don’t keep jumping ahead to what you think the next question might be.
In the oral English, if you jump in with an answer, even in perfect English, but it’s not the answer to the question, you won’t impress the examiner.
Q: Why are you learning English?
A: I have been learning English since I was five years old. (Beautiful English, but is this the answer to the question? Was the candidate listening?)
The oral English test is your chance to show that you can speak and communicate in English. Take the opportunity! Give full answers, listen to the questions you are being asked. Don’t focus on being perfect; focus on communicating with the examiner and the other candidate. You might even enjoy yourself. Good luck!