Expressing Likes And Dislikes Across Cambridge English Levels

No matter where we are and who we are talking with, there is one predominant topic we almost always discuss. It is our preferences, what we like and dislike that we are talking about.

What relation has this got with the Cambridge Exams?

Take a look at the questions below. Do they ring a bell to you?

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Tell us about a sport or game you really like.
Which TV programmes do you enjoy watching? (Why?)
What is your favourite type of film? (Why?)
Where do you like to go at weekends? (Why?)
Tell us about your favourite lesson at school.
Do you prefer to spend time with your family or with your friends at the weekend? (Why?)
Do you like to be busy every day?
Is there something you’d like to do in the future? (What would you like to learn?) (Why?)
What do like about celebrating special occasions with friends and family?
Do you ever listen to the radio? (What programmes do you like?) (Why?)
Do you like your school? (Why?)
Do you prefer to get the news from newspapers, television or the internet? (Why?)
What did you like most about the area where you grew up?
How important is sport in your weekly routine? (Why?)
What’s your favourite weekend activity? (Why?)
What hobby or interest do you remember enjoying as a child?
Do you like to give yourself aims or targets? (Why?)

The above questions have all been taken from the Speaking paper Part 1 of the B1 Preliminary, B2 First and C1 Advanced exams. It is the first of the four parts, where you are expected to give extended answers and demonstrate a range of vocabulary on familiar topics like home or studies, special occasions, travelling, the future, friendship, etc.

No matter the topic, one way of doing it is to avoid repeating the exact words used in the questions. I mean, instead of “I like”, “I prefer”, “My favourite activity”, “I enjoy”, etc, you’d better use another expression that will definitely make a big difference to the mark the examiner gives you while assessing your speaking skills. Remember that language range and variety is paramount to your success in the Speaking paper.

So, let’s dive into the topic of expressing preferences and see how a single word or expression can show what level you have in English. Get ready to add new vocabulary to your English Golden List!

B1 Preliminary

LikesDislkes
I love (playing football).
I (quite) like (dancing).
I (really) enjoy (running).
I am (very) interested in (painting).
I’m crazy about (skiing).
I prefer (Maths) to (Music).
I don’t like (being cold).
I (really) dislike (singing).
I hate (watching soap operas).

Do you fancy some B1+ (B1 High) expressions? Here you are:

LikesDislikes
I fancy (reading).
One of my favourite (free-time activities) is … .
I’m a fan of (jazz).
I’m (quite) keen on (swimming).
I’m (heavily) into (sports).
The thing I like the best is … .
I adore … .
I’d (much) rather … .
I’m fond of (cycling).
I’m mad about (singing).
I much prefer … .
I don’t fancy (going shopping).
I can’t stand (being late).
I’m not vey keen on …

B2 First

LikesDislikes
I get a real thrill from … .
I get a lot of pleasure from … .
I can’t imagine my life without … .
It is awesome (getting in touch with friends).
I’m interested in … .
I’ve always been fascinated by … .
… is my thing.
I’m hooked on … .
I’m a massive fan of (cooking).
I’ve really got into (chess) recently.
I delight in … .
I can’t bear (staying in bed too long).
I can’t put up with (lying).
I’m fed up with (rainy weather).
… makes me mad/angry.
… drives me crazy.
… annoys me.
I find it quite (annoying).
It’s rather (irritating).
I don’t really care for … .
I’m not a huge fan of … .

C1 Advanced – C2 Proficiency

LikesDislikes
I’m an avid (reader).
I’m a (a bit of) bookwarm / daredevil.
I’m a (music) buff.
I’m a computer geek.
I have a soft spot for (spicy food).
I have been bitten by the (reading) bug.
I relish (challenges).
I’m a glutton for (books).

I’ve always been drawn to … .
I feel attracted by …
I’m enthusiastically involved into …
… come easily for me.
… is (really ) up my street.


I’m sick of (staying in).
I’m tired of (doing errands).
… really bugs me.
… has never appealed to me.
I’m not suited to …
… puts me off.
I despise …
I detest …
I loathe …
I can’t abide …

I’m not cut out to be (a businessman).
I loathe (doing homework).
(Accountancy) is not my cup of tea.
I don’t take kindly to …
I’m allergic to …
… doesn’t float my boat.
Remember that we can always turn a LIKE word or expression into a DISLIKE one, by adding the negative form, e.g “I’m not really interested in … “

As a Cambridge Exam candidate, what are the steps to take once you have got this list? Supposing you are preparing yourself to take C1 Advanced, you should have the above expressions constantly present in your mind. Start by writing them on post-its. I used to hang them on the wall before taking the C2 Proficiency exam. Use them in short context, such as sentences or mini-anecdotes about you. The closer they are to the reality, the faster they will stick in your mind, and you will remember them forever. There is a Latin proverb that says Qui scribit, bis legit, which means Who writes, reads twice. This wise saying bears the idea that writing down what is read improves our ability to memorize and, eventually, to retrieve, as if by reading it twice. So, we learn and remember twice as fast as by simply reading it. Next, when participating in English class speaking activities, such as role-plays, debates, etc, or writing any informal register texts, such as a letter to an English friend, where you are sharing your preferences or talking about your leisure time activities, remember to make use of these expressions.

One last point I want to make is that it is not always how much you can say on a given topic, but what words you use to express yourself. Be aware of how important each word you say in the Speaking part of the exam is, and make sure you use the language that best suits the exam you are taking.

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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