Feelings and Photographs in Cambridge Exams

Are you preparing for the B2 First, or C1 Advanced Cambridge exams?

One crucial aspect of the speaking paper that you can’t afford to overlook is your long turn in the Speaking Part 2 of each of the above-mentioned Cambridge exams.

In the B1 Preliminary, we start simple, describing one photograph. In the B2 First, things go slightly more difficult. You must compare two photographs and answer a printed question. Moving on to the C1 Advanced examination, the task becomes challenging. You must choose two photographs out of three, compare these two photographs and answer two printed questions.

What is common in all these three long turn tasks, is the fact that you are allotted ONE minute. This one minute long turn does not only test your ability to communicate in English but also assesses your vocabulary range and your proficiency in using descriptive language. By mastering this skill, you can show the examiners your command of the language and enhance your chances of achieving a high score.

In this comprehensive guide that will cover the B2 First and the C1 Advanced Speaking Part 2, you will find the necessary tools to boost your speaking skills by using descriptive language and excel in this one-minute long turn task. Specifically, we will focus on the use of strong adjectives to beautifully and effectively tackle this task, and make your answer stand out from the crowd.

Preparing for the task

Before you start comparing the two pictures, it is important to spend a few moments preparing. Take the time to carefully analyse the picture(s) and consider what you want to say. Remember, every second counts, so make the most of the time you are given.

Comparing photos

The art of comparison in B2 First and C1 Advanced

One way to make your performance engaging and impressive is going beyond simple descriptions. You must highlight the similarities and differences between the images. Here are some tips to help you master the art of comparison:

Always be comparing

When the examiner instructs you to compare two pictures, it is essential to heed their words. Comparing is a must, and failing to do so will impact your score. Make sure you identify what is the same and what is different in your chosen pictures.

The three magic words

To effectively compare the photographs, make use of the three magic words: both, whereas, and while. These words will help you structure your comparisons.

Let’s see how you can use them in action:

Energetic fitness class celebrates success, a dynamic scenario for 'Speaking Part 2' Cambridge exams
Tennis player in contemplation, a fitting image for discussing challenges in 'Speaking Part 2' of English exams
  1. Both photos show strong emotions: one with happy friends and the other with a sad tennis player.
  2. While the friends are joyful, the tennis player looks upset.
  3. Whereas the friends are celebrating, the tennis player seems disappointed.

By incorporating these magic words into your answers, you make sure you do what you are asked to do – compare the photographs.

To improve your ability to compare photographs, practice finding similarities and differences in various images. Take any two pictures and challenge yourself to identify at least five similarities and five differences. This exercise will help you develop the necessary skills to effectively compare any pair of images in the exam.

Magnified 'ADJECTIVE' puzzle piece, relevant for language analysis in 'Speaking Part 2' exam prep.

The power of strong adjectives in B2 First and C1 Advanced

Referring to people’s feelings is a must when you are comparing the photographs. Besides, when it comes to the printed question(s), you could also be asked to talk about how and why the people in the photographs might be feeling.

So, how can you tackle this important aspect? 

I am an avid follower of Britain’s Got Talent. The contestants’ talent is impressive. The judges’ comments are beautiful. They often use a variety of strong and extreme adjectives to describe their feelings and the performances they witness. Some of these adjectives include:

  • Incredible – for performances that are beyond ordinary or expected,
  • Astonishing – for acts that genuinely surprise or amaze,
  • Breathtaking – for performances that are so impressive they figuratively take the judges’ breath away,
  • Phenomenal – for acts that are exceptional and outstanding,
  • Unforgettable – for performances that leave a lasting impression,
  • Electrifying – often used for dynamic performances that energize the audience,
  • Mind-blowing – for acts that are so amazing they are hard to believe,
  • Spellbinding – for performances that captivate and hold the attention throughout,
  • Sensational – for acts that evoke strong positive emotions,
  • Heart-stopping – for performances that are so intense they figuratively make one’s heart stop.

They are meant to convey the judges’ strong reactions to the performances. They’re part of what makes the show dramatic and engaging for viewers.

Now, the big question: How can you elevate your speaking performance and impress the examiners in Cambridge exams?

To make your long turn vivid and captivating, it is essential to incorporate strong adjectives. While simple adjectives like happy, sad, and upset are commonly used, it’s time to step up your game and add some variety to your vocabulary. Consider using adjectives like astonished, bewildered, delighted, desperate, devastated, horrified, overwhelmed, stunned, relieved, etc, to bring colour and depth to your descriptions.

Here are some sets of adjectives, organized by general feelings:

Woman showing annoyance and anger, useful for 'Speaking Part 2' emotional expression topics

Annoyance, anger

Frustrated, furious, infuriated, irate, offended, sick of

Visual representation of disappointment, relevant for descriptive language practice in 'Speaking Part 2'


Disheartened, dismayed, let down

Emotional depiction of fear and anxiety, ideal for 'Speaking Part 2' speaking tasks

Fear, anxiety

Edgy, horrified, jittery, scared stiff, tense, terrified

Vibrant image showing happiness, to be described in 'Speaking Part 2' of language assessments


Blissful, cheerful, delighted, ecstatic, elated, jubilant, overjoyed, radiant, thrilled, upbeat

Sorrowful scene depicting sadness, suitable for 'Speaking Part 2' examination dialogues


Blue, crushed, devastated, distraught, down, gutted, heartbroken, homesick, miserable; crying: sobbing, tearful, weepy

By incorporating these strong adjectives into your answers, you can make your descriptions more engaging and memorable.

Remember, it’s not about abandoning simple adjectives, but about making your answers shine.

Enhance emotional expressions

When referring to the photographs, it is important to go beyond the surface and consider the emotions of the people captured in the images. Adding an emotional dimension to your descriptions will make your answers more compelling. Here are some phrases to help you express people’s feelings:

  • The woman looks absolutely delighted.
  • The man seems utterly stunned by what he sees.
  • The children appear to be thrilled with their new toys.
  • The couple looks devastated by the news they might have just received.

By incorporating these emotional expressions, you can demonstrate your ability to understand and convey the feelings of the people in the photographs.

Young woman with different facial expressions, ideal for 'Speaking Part 2' descriptive exercises

Picture this!

In this activity, I will provide context for the photographs you should try and visualize in your mind. Comment on how people are feeling and why they might be feeling this way.

Some might feel miserable or heartbroken, especially if they’ve recently experienced loss or hardship. Others could be blissful and radiant, cherishing a moment of solitude and self-reflection.

They might have felt the need for some alone time to recharge. It’s highly likely that some of them are introverts who find comfort in solitude.

They could be terrified or scared stiff by the immediate dangers they face. Some might be edgy or jittery, anticipating the risks ahead.

They must have known the risks involved but chose to proceed, perhaps seeking thrill or because of a pressing need.

Art can evoke a range of emotions. A sombre painting could make viewers feel blue or down, while vibrant art could make them feel jubilant and upbeat.

The artists may have poured their own emotions into their work, hoping to resonate with others. The artwork, in all probability, is a reflection of their innermost feelings and experiences.

Most are overjoyed or elated, basking in the relaxation and new experiences. Some could be homesick, missing familiar surroundings.

The holiday might have been long-awaited, offering a break from routine. However, extended stays may have made some miss home and long to see their beloved ones.

Some might be frustrated with technology glitches or infuriated by unpleasant news or messages. Others could be jubilant, receiving good news or connecting with loved ones.

It’s highly likely that the content they are engaging with dictates their mood. They must have come across something that strongly resonated with them, positively or negatively.

Competitors might feel tense or edgy, awaiting results or the next phase. They could be elated from a win or disheartened from a loss.

They might have invested a lot of time and effort, making the stakes high for them. Their reactions in all probability reflect their dedication and passion for the competition.

Those involved could be furious or irate, feeling strongly about their point of view. Some might be offended by something said during the argument.

The topic they’re arguing about must have significant importance to them. Their emotions might have been building up over time, leading to this heated moment.

Vividly visualizing in your mind pictures with the above scenarios is a very useful technique. Commenting on how people are feeling and why they might be feeling this way using strong adjectives and speculative structures is effective practice to make your speaking performance stand out.

Put it all together

Now that you have learned the essential techniques for talking about photographs in the speaking paper and expressing how people might be feeling in the photographs, it’s time to put it all into practice.

Remember to compare the photographs effectively, use strong adjectives to make your descriptions vivid, and consider the emotions of the people captured in the images. With practice, you can master this task and impress the examiners.

To further enhance your preparation, seek opportunities to practice with photographs from your own photo album or digital photo collection. The more you practice, the more confident you will become in your ability to deliver a stellar performance in the speaking paper of the Cambridge exams.

Check this out if you are looking for more practice with adjectives and ways to speculate about the photographs: Adjectives in Cambridge Speaking Exams

Your unique and captivating long turn will set you apart from other candidates and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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