Common Mistakes in the Speaking paper

For the Cambridge candidates, doing well in the B2 First Speaking paper is not rocket science. This means that you can easily get Grade C in the B2 First exam. On the Cambridge English scale, Grade C weighs between 160 and 170 marks. 

Imagine getting Grade B or A! What a difference this would make to your final score! 

Once we look through the functions in each of the four parts and the useful expressions to be used, I will show you some common mistakes candidates make. They are either content-related, or refer to vocabulary and grammar errors. Try and identify them. Avoid these mistakes during the Speaking paper. Be in control no matter the question and get your highest score in the B2 First exam.

Speaking paper Part 1

Musts Checklist

  1. Be calm and confident! 
  2. Pronounce clearly.
  3. Sound interested and enthusiastic.
  4. Give a relevant extended answer with reasons, examples or additional information.
  5. Try to speak spontaneously, not with memorized answers. However, hesitating is absolutely normal. 

Useful Expressions

  1. Expressing opinion
    • I find + noun + adjective e.g. very interesting / appealing, etc 
    • To my mind, it is a fairly / quite / very / absolutely + adjective + noun
    • I am (not) sure, because …
    • In general, though, I think …
    • I reckon …
    • I guess it really depends (on …), since …
    • I wish I could … (more).
    • I think it would be good to …
    • My feeling is that …
  2. Expressing likes and dislikes
Speaking part 1 B2 First

Common Mistakes

Scenario 1:

Examiner: So, Carol, where are you from?

Candidate: Barcelona, in Catalonia. 

Examiner: And what do you like about Barcelona?

Candidate: The shops, the squares, the beach …

Scenario 2:

Examiner: So, Patricia, what things do you enjoy spending money on?

Candidate: Well, I love famous marks like Nike and Adidas. So, I normally go on a shopping spree with my friends looking for nice trainers or T-shirts.

Scenario 3: 

Examiner: Mary, tell me about the things you like doing in your free time?

Candidate: I really enjoy to dance very much! Besides, to draw and paint make me feel relaxed. I’m really looking forward to go to the Art club.

Scenario 4:

Examiner: Sally, what are you like?

Candidate: Well, let me see. I like meeting up with my friends and going window shopping.

  1. Carol hasn’t given extended answers, nor a reason while answering the second question. 
  2. Patricia has confused brand and mark. If you realize you’ve made a vocabulary mistake, don’t worry, just correct yourself!
  3. Mary has made mistakes with verb forms. Be careful not to confuse infinitive and verb + ing forms. E.g. enjoy dancing, drawing and painting make me …, I’m looking forward to going … 
  4. Sally misheard the question. So, she has failed to answer it correctly. Ask for repetition, e.g I’m sorry, could you say that again? Could you repeat that, please?

Speaking paper Part 2

….

Musts Checklist

  1. Look for similarities and differences while comparing the two pictures.
  2. Do not give detailed descriptions of each photo.
  3. Speculate about the pictures and give a reason for.
  4. Support the answer to the question with one or two reasons.
  5. Listen attentively to the Speaking partner’s long turn because you’ll have to briefly but clearly respond to a question about the partner’s photos.
  6. Speak until the examiner says “Thank you.”

Useful Expressions

  1. Giving a general summary
    • In both photos, I can see …
  2. Comparing
    • The most obvious similarity is …
    • The most striking difference is …
    • The top picture shows … while/whereas the bottom one depicts …
  3. Adding
    • Besides, …
    • What’s more, …
    • In addition, …
  4. Speculating
    • It seems that …
    • It appears as if …
    • … look(s) like + noun
    • seem(s)/appear(s)/look(s) + adjective
    • … might/could be + adjective/verb”ING”
    • must/can’t be
    • must/can’t/couldn’t have + verb Past Participle
    • It’s quite likely that …
  5. Explaining
    • Firstly, because (of) …
    • At the same time, …
    • And also, …
    • … (perhaps) due to (the fact that) …
  6. Answering the question
    • With regard to/Regarding the question, I guess … because …
    • I find … quite/very/absolutely/undeniably + adjective since/as
    • In my opinion, …
    • All in all, I believe …
    • I’d much rather + bare infinitive + than
    • I’d prefer to ...

For more advice on how to tackle Part 2 of the B2 First Speaking paper, check out this article: Going beyond the obvious!

Speaking Part 2 B2 First exam

Common Mistakes

  1. They seem to be too interesting in outdoor activities.
  2. I guess for do good in these jobs, they both need to be punctual and hard-working.
  3. In this photo, the students seem a lot more busy than the ones on the left.
  4. The teenager in the right, I guess, gets on good with her classmates.
  5. To go to theme parks is more funny than to play console games.
  1. They seem to be too very interesting interested with in outdoor activities.

Do you know the difference between too, very, so, such and enough? What about the difference between adjective +”ed” and adjective + “ing”

2. I guess for to do well in these jobs, they both need to be punctual and hard-working.

3. In this photo, the students seem a lot more busyier than the ones on the left.

Make sure you know the rules of comparison. 

4. The teenager in on the right, I guess, gets on good well with her classmates.

Whenever we describe actions, we use adverbs, e.g. well, quickly, etc

5. To go Going to theme parks is funnier more fun than to play playing console games.

What verb form do we use when the verb is the subject of the sentence? What is the difference between funny and fun?

Speaking paper Part 3

Musts Checklist

  1. Start the conversation.
  2. Discuss the relative merits in relation to the question.
  3. Consider any drawbacks to the options/prompts provided.
  4. Carefully listen to the Speaking partner in order to be relevant while reacting to his/her comments.
  5. Interact as much as possible: involve the partner by asking for his/her opinion. Use question tags!
  6. Keep the discussion moving: respond (agree or disagree) and suggest.
  7. Try to reach a decision together.
  8. Be convincing. 
  9. Try to come to a decision. (Don’t worry if you can’t)
  10. Draw the conversation to an end.

Remember!

The depth of your conversation outweighs the number of the options/prompts you have managed to talk about. 

Useful Expressions

  1. Opening
    • Where should we begin? Shall we start with …?
    • How about starting with …?
    • Let’s start with …
  2. Talking about the advantages and disadvantages
    • On the one hand, …
    • On the other hand /However, …
    • One advantage/disadvantage of … is 
    • A positive thing about … is …
    • Something that’s not so good about … is …
  3. Agreeing
    • Absolutely!
    • That’s a good point.
    • You’ve got a point. That’s exactly what I was thinking about.
    • I cannot disagree with you.
    • I hadn’t thought of this.
    • That’s right!
    • I certainly go along with that.
    • It sounds exciting to me.
    • I really like the idea of … 
  4. Disagreeing
    • I’m not sure about that. I bet not many would be interested in it. Just imagine …
    • I don’t think this is a good choice. How about choosing …
    • Not exactly! Why not go for …
    • I’m not sure whether I’d go along with this. What if …
  5. Inviting the other person to express his/her opinion
    • What do you think?
    • How about you?
    • I hope I’ve changed your mind about it, haven’t I?
    • How do you feel about it?
    • I hope I’m getting my point across. Do you agree with?
    • Don’t you think that …?
  6. Closing
    • I suppose we’ve already decided, haven’t we?
    • I think you’ve fully convinced me. Let’s go for …
    • It seems we don’t see eye to eye on this matter. Let’s agree to disagree.
    • I see it took us no time at all to come to/reach a decision.
Speaking part 3 B2 First exam

Common Mistakes

  1. I think it depends. We have to think about a number of factors.
  2. It’s difficult to choose. For me, this is a difficult decision to make.
  3. One advantage is the fact that we are outside. Another advantage is that the ticket are affordable for everyone.
  4. I am totally agree with you.
  5. For me, the best options are building holiday flats and organizing music festivals.
  1. I guess it depends. We have to must bear in mind a number of factors.

Do you know the difference between have to and must?

2. It’s difficult not easy to choose. For me, it’s tough to make up my mind.

3. One good point is the fact that we are outside. Another pro is the tickets’ affordability.

4. I am totally agree with you.

Agree is not an adjective. It’s a verb like any other stative verb, e.g. think, suppose, etc. 

5. Let’s start by discarding something we would definitely not choose. In my case, it’s … . What about you? / One of my favourites is (building holiday flats). Is this option on your shortlist as well? / Another one could be (organizing a music festival) since lots of tourists would be interested in it, don’t you think so?

When the examiner asks you to decide on which option(s) is/are the best or worse, don’t jump into putting forward your final choice. Weigh up, ask and try to persuade your speaking partner.

Speaking paper Part 4

Functions

  1. Express your point of view.
  2. Develop your answers, giving reasons for your opinion.
  3. Discuss the question with the other candidate, if required.
  4. Listen carefully to your partner opinion.
  5. Comment on his/her opinion.
  6. React to his/her ideas by showing agreement or disagreement.
Speaking Part 4 B2 First exam

Common Mistakes

  1.  I believe it’s important to have a friend which has the same interests like you.
  2. To care about the environment, apart of recycling, we can also stop to use our cars and start taking the public transport instead.
  3. Scenario:

Examiner: Denis, how do towns and cities benefit from having festivals?

Candidate: Guess the main benefit is for local businesses because everyone spends their money in shops and restaurants.

Examiner: Noelia, what about you?

Candidate: Yes, I partly agree with her.

  1.  I believe it’s important to have a friend which who has the same interests like as you.
  2. To care about the environment, apart of from recycling, we can also stop to using our cars and start taking the public transport instead.
  3. Guess the main benefit advantage is for local businesses because everyone spends their money in shops and restaurants.

Denis has repeated the word from the question. Try and paraphrase it. Noelia, instead, hasn’t developed  her answer, or, maybe, she hasn’t listened to what Denis said.

Remember, we’ve got the Say It Better! series. You will find such topics like education, travelling, holidays, or personality. Check out the Speaking paper tips to successfully deal with Parts 1 and 4 in the Speaking paper of the Cambridge B2 First exam.

Speaking paper Tips

There are four Speaking Assessment criteria:

  1. Grammar and Vocabulary
  2. Discourse Management
  3. Pronunciation
  4. Interactive Communication

The Speaking examiner assesses candidates’ performance considering the above criteria.

Besides, the Interlocutor gives candidates a fifth mark for Global Achievement. There is a maximum of 5 marks for each criterion and global achievement. 

Keep in mind the tips below:

  1. Grammar and Vocabulary 
  • Show a good degree of control of simple and complex grammatical forms
  • Use a wide range of appropriate vocabulary to give and exchange views on familiar topics.
  • Avoid repetition. Words like think, difficult, decide, unhappy,  advantage, and disadvantage are far too often used. Use their synonyms instead.
  • Use colourful adjectives to make your speech interesting. E.g. overcrowded, appealing, bleak, unhurried, dull, vibrant, monotonous, depressing, bustling, pleasant, etc

Think: consider, take into account; Difficult: hard, complicated, tricky, tough, not easy, not straightforward, not simple, no easy matter; Decide: reach a decision; Unhappy: miserable, fed up, upset, in a bad mood, feeling down; Advantages and disadvantages: pros and cons

2. Discourse management

  • Produce extended stretches of language
  • Hesitate few times
  • Make relevant contributions
  • Organize ideas clearly
  • Use a range of cohesive devices and discourse markers

3. Pronunciation

  • Speak intelligibly
  • Place accurately the sentence and word stress
  • Articulate clearly the individual sounds

4. Interactive Communication

  • Initiate and respond appropriately
  • Link your contributions to those of the speaking partner(s)
  • Maintain and develop the interaction.
  • Negotiate towards the outcome.

5. Global Achievement

  • Handle the communication
  • Produce extended discourse
  • Be coherent
  • Hesitate little

I hope all these tips will help you boost your speaking skills. Take them on board, and you will successfully perform in the Speaking paper of the Cambridge B2 First exam.

P.S. Sit straight. In this way, you will speak much more clearly. Besides, your body language is the picture of how you feel. Show confidence. With all your preparation, you definitely deserve an A!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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