FCE Speaking

FCE Speaking

FCE Speaking is the last part of your Cambridge English: First exam. It has 4 parts that last for about 12 minutes. There are usually two or three test-taker like you because some of the tasks involve interaction between candidates. There will be two examiners present – one asking the questions (the interlocutor), and the other assessing responses (the assessor). This page has an overview of the exam structure, sample questions and answers, tips on how to get better score and how your answer is assessed. You can use the contents list below to navigate between parts or just read the whole thing (highly recommended if you are new to the exam).

1. Part 1 – Interlocutor and candidate conversation (2 minutes)
— 1.1 Part 1 sample questions with answers
2. Part 2 – Describing photos. Long and short turns (3 minutes)
— 2.1 Part 2 sample photos with answers
— 2.2 Part 2 tips and useful phrases
3. Part 3 – Discussion between candidates and reaching an agreement (discussing a mind-map) (3 minutes)
— 3.1 Part 3 sample mind-map with answers
4. Part 4 – Discussing and developing topic from Part 3 (4 minutes)
— 4.1 Part 4 sample questions with answers.
5. FCE Speaking marking criteria

FCE Speaking Part 1 – Interlocutor and candidate conversation

Part 1 of FCE Speaking focuses on your ability to talk about topics of general interest, such as your work or studies, how you spend your free time or your plans for the future. In this part the interlocutor asks each candidate two or three questions. You are expected to listen what the other candidate says as well as the questions asked as you might be asked the same question (e.g. “And what about you?”). However, this part does not involve direct communication between candidates. This part is about 2 minutes long.

Your answers shouldn’t be longer than a couple of sentences. Make sure to stick to the topic at hand. Your answers should also sound natural – do not use any memorised responses as they are easy to spot and such behaviour can often lead to a lower mark. Such memorised responses might also be not about the question asked as there is considerably variety in the questions, even though the range of topics is quite limited.

There are no helpful phrases or tricks for FCE Speaking, Part 1 as this part focuses on your general ability to talk about yourself. You might want to check entry on cohesion to better connect idea in your answer. Another useful thing is to know synonyms to words like very and other easily synonymised words and expressions.

If you want to feel more confident with Part 1 questions – find a partner to practice the sample questions. Take turns asking and answering them, write down any mistakes or recommendations for one another. Practice is the best way to improve your chances of scoring high.

Part 1 sample questions and answers

What is your hometown like?
My hometown is Viña del Mar, it’s in Chile, just north of Santiago. It’s a coastal town that is popular with tourists because of the beautiful gardens and the beaches.

What do you do in your free time?
Uhm, I can’t say I have any particular hobbies to talk about, I guess I’m into oil painting. I enjoy painting landscapes in my free time because our city has such pretty views, they really inspire me!

How do you celebrate special occasions?
I’m not too outgoing so I either go for a walk in the city and treat myself to some food or just stay at home and listen to the music. If it’s something big, I might invite a couple of friends over, but’s that’s kind of a rare thing to do for me.

Do you have any plans for this summer?
Oh, definitely! The plan is to go to an art school in California, provided that I have successfully passed this exam. Another option is to study art in Santiago, that would be okay for me as well.

FCE Speaking Part 2 – Describing photos

This part normally involved two candidates – Candidate A and Candidate B. The candidate letter is assigned randomly. Candidate A goes first, they are given two pictures by the examiner and a question they have to answer. The question is written on the page with the two pictures. The questions can ask about how people in the pictures might be feeling, what could be the advantages and disadvantages of the situation in each picture and so on – see more examples with answers here. After that Candidate A gets 1 minute to answer the question.

After this it’s turn of Candidate B to answer an additional question from the interlocutor. This additional question relates to the same set of pictures. It can be either about choosing one of the picture, like “In which might the people feel more comfortable?” or a more general one relating to the situation, where you don’t have to choose a picture. Candidate B has 30 seconds to answer the question.

After Candidate B has answered, they swap roles. This time Candidate B gets two pictures, a question from the examiner and 1 minute to answer it. After that Candidate A gets 30 seconds and one related question.

One important thing is that answering the question is only part of this task. You also have to describe both picture, speculate about them (see below) and compare them. Read on for detailed explanation of each aspect.

FCE Speaking Part 2 tips and useful phrases

FCE Speaking Part 2 is about three things:
1 – comparing (what is similar and what is different in the photos)
2 – describing (give brief description of what you see, usually description goes hand-in-hand with speculating)
3 – answering the questions

1. Comparing

Comparing is essential in Part 2 of FCE Speaking. You have to mention at least one thing that is common between the two photos and one that is similar. One if each should probably be enough as you only have 1 minute for your answer.

Talking about similaritiesTalking about differences
Both pictures show…
In both pictures we can see…
Both pictures one and two have…
Pictures one and two are similar in the way that there is/are… in each one.
Just like the picture on the left, the right picture has/shows…
The two pictures have a number things in common, namely…
These two pictures convey the same message/idea of… // share the same message/idea
Unlike the first picture, picture two has/shows
In contrast with the right picture, picture on the left has/shows/displays
Picture one…, while picture two…
Conversely, picture two…
Picture on the right shows a different approach to…
While the second picture takes place…, picture one…
Contrastingly, these pictures show different takes on… *some topic*

2. Describing

First thing to remember is to switch between various phrases that introduce picture description, for example:

In the first photo, we can see/there is/ … is shown
The second picture shows/displays/demonstrates …

One big mistake that test-takers make is using the wrong tense. The only tense you should be using to describe pictures is Present Continuous! Failing this leads to lower mark – see official assessment report, page 3.

Another common mistake is spending too much time on describing. I’ve had student who would spend a whole minute on talking about what’s in the picture. Remember – do not spend more than 15-20 seconds on that. Another helpful technique is to include comparing your description.

Finally, it is “in the picture”, not “on the picture” – a very shameful mistake to make!

“The first picture shows us a group of friends, having a good time. Contrastingly, in the second picture we see colleagues having a business lunch.”

The part in bold text shows comparison, underlined is the usage of Present Continuous.

3. Answering the question

When you answer FCE Speaking Part 2 question ideally you would want to do so for both pictures at the same time. You should answer it together with comparing because otherwise we might not have time to do comparison separately. Have a look at the sample answers to get a better idea of including guessing in your answer.

Part 2 sample questions and answers

More FCE Speaking Part 2 sample questions with answers

FCE Speaking Part 2

Here are the photographs. They show people travelling using different forms of transportation.
I’d like you to compare the photographs, and say which person might enjoy their trip the most.
FCE Speaking Part 2 motorcycle in the desertFCE Speaking Part 2 on the plane

Sample answer

Candidate A: In the left picture there is a man sitting next to his motorcycle and the landscape behind looks like a desert. In the picture on the right the person is on a plane, probably listening to music. While both people in these photos are going from point A to point B, the passenger of the plane will probably get there much quicker and more comfortably, whereas the motorcyclist is not as fast or convenient.

I believe that the person who chose going by motorcycle is going to have a more fulfilling experience as they will get more chances to enjoy the scenery, to feel more connected to the environment. They may even choose to stop wherever they feel like – this is not really an option when you’re a passenger on the plane!

Examiner: Candidate B, which way of travelling might be more tiring?

Candidate B: I’d say that travelling on a motorcycle can be quite exhausting. When you travel like that you are exposed to good and bad weather alike, strong winds and scorching sun. I guess sitting on a motorbike for hours can be quite uncomfortable too.

Remember that you should use Present Continuous when describing pictures (i.e. “This picture shows people hurrying to their work in the early morning hours”). More on tenses in English.

Another tricky bit is the preposition. You should use “in” when talking about something shown by the picture (i.e. “In this picture we see a man strolling down the alley”). See this short note on prepositions for more examples.

FCE Speaking Part 3 – Mind map discussion between two candidates

In Part 3 candidates receive a mind map which contains a questions and five prompts, or aspects, to be discussed. They have 15 seconds to study it and then have to decide who starts the discussion.

The candidates’ task is to discuss the topic using the given prompts. FCE Speaking Part 3 consists of two smaller parts. In the first part you should provide relevant responses on the topic, listen to and comment on the other candidate’s answers and transition from one idea to another in a logical way. This part lasts for about two minutes.

In the second part of this task you are given an additional question and have to choose one of the prompts and the answer providing reasoning and either agree or disagree on the chosen prompt. You get around one minute for this part..

Part 3 tips and useful phrases

There are three important aspects of FCE Speaking Part 3:
1 – Initiating the dialogue
2 – Going from one idea to another
3 – Coming to an agreement

1. Initiating the dialogue

When you start FCE Speaking Part 3 one of you has to start the conversation. The key here is to be polite and allow your partner choose, especially if they are shy or silent. You can either initiate this yourself of wait for your partner to go first:

Starting the dialogueResponding
Do you mind if I go first?
Would you mind going first/starting?
Care to go first?
Should I begin, or would you like to go first?
Would it be okay with you if I started this?
Is it okay for you if I start?
Yeah, sure, go ahead.
Okay, I will!
I’d rather you went first, if that’s okay with you.
By all means, go ahead.
Sure, not a problem

A common rule is to allow whoever start first begin the conversation. Another thing that makes sense is to allow the other person initiate the dialogue in the second part.

2. Going from one idea to another

One thing that lowers your score in Part 3 is simply waiting for your turn to speak, not paying much attention to whatever the other student has to say. Such behaviour is penalised – in fact it is assessed in one of the marking criteria! A good approach is to include some points of your partner’s answer into your own. Another important thing is natural change from one idea (prompt) to another as you talk should be organic rather than a set of stand-alone sentences. Below are some ways to make your ideas better connected.

Introducing an ideaSupporting or including an idea
What about…
I believe that .. deserves mentioning/being mentioned
If we’re talking about (topic), then… is definitely…
I’m not sure that… is really important, however…
A point worth discussing is…
Speaking of…
You’ve mentioned…, which is interesting because…
I’d like to add another point regarding…
There is one more thing about…
Another aspect of… is that…

3. Coming to an agreement

In the second half of FCE Speaking Part 3 your task is to choose one of the aspects (prompts) in connection with the given question and either agree or disagree whether it fits best. Agreeing is not mandatory, you are free to disagree, but do with respect to each other. Here are some useful phrases for suggesting, encouraging a conversation, agreeing and disagreeing:

AgreeingDisagreeing (politely)
I totally agree with your point…
I’m with you on that one…
Your arguments are very compelling
I had a different idea, but your arguments sound very convincing
Your points are very persuasive, and I side with you on that one
I see what you mean, however…
You make some valid points, but let’s consider…
With all due respect, I can’t agree/I have to disagree
Your logic here is flawless, but another point to consider is…
Suggesting ideasInviting to join
… is probably one of the things we should take/consider/mention, since…
I think/believe that… is worth nominating/considering/mentioning/pointing out
Let’s not forget about…
Additionally,… should probably be included, as…
Where do you stand on…?
What’s your take on…?
Please share your thoughts on this matter?
What about your idea on?
That’s what I think, but what about you?

Part 3 sample task and answers

Here are some different types of occupation people might choose to have. First you have some time to look at the task. (15 seconds)


Now, talk to each other about the advantages and disadvantages of each of these occupations.

Sample answer

Candidate A (Juan): Should I go first?
Candidate B (Marian): Yes, please do.
Juan: I think that working as a chef at a restaurant or some other place is great. It is a creative occupation and you can express yourself through the dishes you make.
Marian: I get your points about expressing yourself and I totally agree. However, I guess with time it can get a bit repetitive – cooking day in, day out. Now working as a doctor is never the same, would you agree?
Juan: Yeah, I guess so. You face new challenges every day, it is a lot of responsibility, and the salary must be really high. You have to know a lot though. What about being a teacher, you have to be pretty knowledgeable too, right?
Marian: Yes, definitely. I don’t think teachers make as much money as doctors do, but the job itself might be even more rewarding!

Examiner: Thank you. Now you have about a minute to decide which profession would be more suitable for a younger person.

Marian: Oh, maybe a driver? You need a lot of energy to stay behind the wheel all day, and young people tend to be much more energetic than older ones. What would you say?
Juan: I was thinking about teaching as the best choice for young people, but I guess you have to have more experience to be good at this. So yeah, I’d go with your option of a taxi driver!

FCE Speaking Part 4 – Topic discussion

Last part of FCE Speaking is similar to Part 1 – you are asked questions related to topic from Part 3 that you have two answer. However, there are three fundamental differences from the first part. First of all, the questions are going to be more abstract than those in Part 1 and you will have talk about things in general rather than your own experience. Secondly, your answers should be longer and more developed – at least two or three longer sentences. Finally, the examiner will at some point encourage you and your partner to discuss one of the questions – so pay attention to your partners answers to be ready for a dialogue with them. This part of the exam lasts for up to 4 minutes.

Part 4 sample questions with answers

Examiner: Juan, what is more important when choosing a job – how enjoyable it is or the salary?
Juan: I’d say that it really depends on your age and your life situation. Sometimes we might really need the money, while others can afford to work for fun, experience in social connections. I guess that ideally you need to find good balance between these things. Yeah, I’d say the right balance in most important
Examiner: Thank you. Marian, what do you think?
Marian: Yes, I believe Juan is absolutely right. You don’t want to work just because you like it very much if you don’t get adequate financial compensation for your efforts. The opposite is true as well – working for money alone with no fun involved won’t get you far.

Examiner: Marian, in your opinion what kind of jobs are going to be in demand in the future?
Marian: It’s really difficult to say, I mean who knows what future holds for us. I’d say that something to do with computers – after all, our society gets more and more dependent on computers and technology in general. Maybe something to do with robots. I’m not very good at predicting things!
Examiner: Juan, what’s your opinion?
Juan: Marian has made a very good point about computers. We rely on computers a lot and I think eventually most professions will get replaced and automated in some way. With that in mind we can say IT industry will stay relevant and grow considerably in the coming years

Candidate Discussion

Examiner: Now I’d like you two talk about the following question: how can the government help people find employment?
Marian: Would it be ok with you if I went first?
Juan: Sure, go on.
Marian: For one, I would suggest including mandatory on-the-job training for high-schoolers. This way they would have an idea of what work actually is and make more educated decision when choosing their career and major to study at college. Another way the state could help is to pay the employers to employ people without experience – this would give young people more chances to land a job. What else do you think they could help with?
Juan: These are very nice suggestions. However, they are mostly aimed at younger job-seekers. To include older applicants, I think the government could create free trade courses so anyone could learn a set of skills like plumbing or basic electricity. This would allow them to get their foot in the door with more companies looking for specialists.
Marian: Yes, this does sound like a good idea! I wonder if something like will ever be implemented though…
Examiner: Thank you. That is the end of your FCE Speaking part.

FCE Speaking marking criteria

It is important to understand how your FCE Speaking is marked. It helps give the examiners exactly what they want and improves your chances of getting a higher score.

During the exam two independent assessing procedures take place. The assessor (the person sitting in the back taking the notes) has 5 separate marking criteria that Cambridge uses to decide how good your spoken English is:

1. Grammar and vocabulary
2. Discourse Management
3. Pronunciation
4. Interactive communication

The interlocutor (the person asking the questions) assesses you using a separate criterion, referred to as “Global achievement”. All of the assessment aspects will be explained below.

Each one is scored individually from 0 to 5 in 0.5 increments. They are then combined to get the average of six.

1. Grammar and vocabulary

What is assessed

Grammar – naturally, the variety and accuracy of your grammar. Some examples:
– Noun, relative and adverb clauses (some examples of each)
– Active and passive forms
– Verb patterns (infinitives, to-infinitives, gerunds)
– Contrast and command of tenses (e.g. showing a temporary situation with Present Cont.)
– Modal verbs and modality
– Conditional sentences
– Ability to produce longer, multiple-clause sentences

Vocabulary – how appropriate and how flexible your word choice is:
– Flexibility (able to rephrase in order to clarify).
– Appropriate collocations
– Register (formal/informal, depending on context)
– Rephrasing (if your speaking partner does not seem to understand you (Part 3, 4)
– Using synonyms, avoiding repetition of words

How to improve your score

– Alternate between active and passive voice.
– Try to introduce more advanced tenses into your narrative (e.g. Present Perfect to talk about your experience of learning English or Future Perfect to talk about plans that you are sure of).
– Learn verb patterns! They are extremely important in both written and spoken English.
– Use conditionals – Second Conditional for unlikely things in the present or in the future, Third Conditional for unreal results of things that didn’t happen.
– Use a variety of modal structures – modal verbs (could, might, must) and phrases that express likelihood (probably, likely, seems to be, appears to be, looks like).
– Be ready to rephrase your phrase or sentence if you feel that they might not have sounded clear enough (usually introducing the rephrased sentence with something like “What I mean to say is…”, “In other words…”, “Allow me to clarify – I mean that…”).

When you attempt to make your speech more complex, introducing two or more clauses to your sentences, mistakes are likely to happen. If you notice that you’ve made a mistake in your speech, it is perfectly normal to try and rephrase the idea. As long as communicative task is achieved, your score won’t suffer!

2. Discourse Management

What is assessed

In essence, this is about how well you ideas are linked – connection between words, phrases and even whole sentences. Another important thing is how easy it is to follow and understand your speech – how much sense it all makes, that is. It’s not about your pronunciation. These two aspects are usually called coherence and cohesion. Things that are assessed here:
– Cohesive devices (more on that below)
– Topical vocabulary (vocabulary related to the general theme that is being discussed)
– Various grammar that helps the listener understand what you’re referring to (articles and personal adjectives/pronouns)
– Discourse markers (words and expression that can normally only be found in spoken language, like “You know…”, “I mean… “
– Staying on topic (so-called “relevance” – you have to talk about the question, do not stray too far away from it)
– Expanding on your answer (not giving short, uninformative responses)
– Introducing new ideas (rather than going over the thing you have already said)

How to improve your score

– Know and use cohesive devices. They can be roughly grouped into ‘adding or elaborating’ (in addition, also, moreover, as well as), ‘showing consequence or result’ (as a result, consequently, so, thus, therefore) and ‘sequencing or ordering’ (firstly, first of all, to begin with, secondly, finally). These help structure your speech, making it both connected and easier to follow.
– Expand your vocabulary. It is pretty sad to see FCE candidates struggling to come up with any relevant words on topics as simple as Food, Holidays or Career. There is no way around it, learn new words! Here is a good vocabulary link that groups words and phrases in a nice way.
– Make sure to know the basics of articles in English. Use them to your advantage. Don’t forget about possessive pronouns and adjective to make your speech more cohesive (it, this, that, one).

3. Pronunciation

What is assessed

First of all, elephant in the room – it is not about your accent. As long as your accent is easy to understand, you will do fine. This part checks other things, namely:
– Clearly pronouncing all the sounds that should be pronounced (more on that below)
– Placing the stress correctly, both in individual words and generally within the sentence (this is a common mistake with FCE test-takers)
– Correct usage of intonation to underline key points in your speech

How to improve your score

– Make sure you know how words are pronounced – if you do, then you will sound much more confident. Some candidates are unsure about certain words and can pronounce them “under the breath” – not clearly. This can cause misunderstanding and get in the way of communication. Another quick tip is not to use shortened forms of words: for instance, say “I have done” instead of “I’ve done” to make sure the examiner and your partner understand you correctly.
– Learn and use intonation. At this level you should be able to intone to your advantage. More information in an article on this topic by British Council.

4. Interactive communication

What is assessed

How well you can support a conversation, connect ideas and come to an agreement. This is what the examiners look at:

– How well you can start and support a dialogue by suggesting and discussing relevant points
– Including your partner in the conversation and encouraging exchange of ideas
– Rephrasing or explaining your point if you see your partner struggling to understand you
– Sharing the time in the conversation equally and fairly, not “hogging” it

How to improve your score

– Short answers do not give enough information to accurately assess your level of English. To give your examiners something to work with you should come up with at least two long or three shorter sentences in Part 1 and about three to four longer sentences in Part 4.
– Be sure to include your partner! There are some phrases that you might find useful for that.
– More phrases to initiate the dialogue and to support it with your ideas
– Do not take up too much time in FCE Speaking Part 3 – remember that you only have two minutes in the first half and one minute in the second.

FCE Speaking Tips

  • There is a number of typical Speaking mistakes. Know them to avoid embarrassment and guarantee a higher score.
  • Do not attempt to answer other student’s question even if you see them struggling – you might get penalized for that. However, you might help them by paraphrasing your ideas in the collaborative task.
  • Keep practicing. The most effective way to improve your speaking is using the language, you can do so by either having live conversations or by writing.

FCE Speaking Part 2 Examples

FCE Speaking Part 2 Examples

Here you will find speaking cards for FCE Speaking Part 2 (pictures comparison) with answers and useful phrases. You can print them or save in PDF. Check our FCE Speaking Part 2 Tips to know how to get better score!

Sample answers are written in italics

#1. Living in different places; Exercising

FCE Speaking Part 2 - Living in the city

Candidate A, here are the photographs. They show various places where people live. I’d like you to compare the photographs, and say why people might choose to live there, okay? (1 minute)

Candidate A: The left picture shows some big city with a line of apartment blocks built right next to the sea, while in the picture on the right we can see a peaceful village next to a train station and a train passing by. While both photos have various residences in them, the right one looks much more quiet than the other.
I believe that people who choose to live in a flat of a busy city do so because they have a more active lifestyle – they commute to work, go to parties, restaurant, exhibitions and other activities a city has to offer. In contrast, those who reside in a remote place like in picture two prefer the more relaxed and slow pace of life.

Candidate B, which place would you prefer to live in, and why? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: Personally, I’d go with the quiet place next to the train station. I could commute to the city centre by train, take morning strolls in the woods and enjoy everything nature has to offer. I don’t party that much and I’m not into eating out, so I won’t miss out on most things a busy city has to offer.

FCE Speaking Part 2 - Exercising

Candidate B, now it’s your long turn. These pictures show people exercising. Compare the photographs and say how the exercising might make people feel. (1 minute)

Candidate B: The right photo shows a girl on a river bank doing what looks like gymnastics, while in the left picture a lady is in the middle of a tennis match. Both do some kind of sports activity, however one is performed outside, while the other is done indoors. Moreover, tennis requires special equipment such as a racket, while the other exercise doesn’t need anything at all. 

I believe that both people feel content with what they’re doing as exercising energises you and if you spend enough time doing it you might feel pleasantly exhausted. It is also beneficial for your brain, allowing your mind to wander.

Candidate A, which type of exercising would you prefer and why?

Candidate A: Even though I’m not very good at tennis, I would have to choose it over the activity in the other picture – I’m hopeless when it comes to body balance! Tennis is a nice combination of physical exercising and thinking – you don’t simply run after the ball – you have to calculate your hits and plan ahead. I like this aspect of tennis very much.

#2. Different types of work; Places for holiday

Candidate A, here are the two pictures. They show people performing different jobs. I’d like you to compare the two pictures and say what difficulties the people might have when doing their jobs. (1 minute)

Candidate A: Both pictures here show people at work, but the nature of their activity is very different. The lady in the picture on the left is facing a difficult creative task, judging by her body language and the images on her laptop screen. In contrast, the man in the second photo does a very physically-demanding job at something that looks like a construction site.

While the man’s job is fairly straightforward, it can be very dangerous to his health and well-being. The woman’s task here seems to be rather tricky as she seems to be stuck with the task. Undeniably, both jobs can be very stressful.

Candidate B, which job do you think is more difficult? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: I think the duties shown in picture two are much more challenging. Sure, creative thinking is not easy, but physical and manual labour is always a struggle. No matter how good you are at it, you have to perform very tiring, repetitive actions which is demanding both mentally and physically.

FCE Speaking Part 2

Candidate B, now it’s your long turn. The pictures show different holiday location. Compare them and say why people might choose to spend their holiday in each place. (1 minute)

Candidate B: Both picture one and two show various types of resorts. While the left picture looks warm and peaceful, the other one looks rather cold and even a bit dangerous. However, somehow both of them look equally cozy, though for different reasons.

People looking for a place to spend their holiday at may prefer huts by the seaside if they come from a colder country and want to experience warmer, more pleasant climate. They are also likely to appreciate the local food, rich with fruits and vegetables. As for the second photo, it might be favoured by more active, young people, who are really keen on sports and exercising.

Candidate A, which of the two places is better to spend a family holiday at? (~20 seconds)

Candidate B: The location shown in the first photo is definitely much better for a family with kids. Every member of the household can enjoy sunbathing and swimming, while some kids can be too young to try skiing. Also, low temperatures of a ski resort may not be to some people’s liking.

#3. Eating; Business meetings

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show people eating. I’d like you to compare these pictures and say who you think enjoys their meal most. (1 minute)

Candidate A: Picture one and picture two both show people having a meal. One of the places seems to be an expensive restaurant or a café, the other looks like a regular apartment. In the left picture the people are dressed up for the occasion, while the right photo shows us a person dressed very casually.

I believe that the girl in the right picture is enjoying her food more – she didn’t even put it on plate, she is eating it right out of the frying pan. I guess she must be really hungry! The women in the photo on the left seem to be more preoccupied with the conversation rather than the food itself. They probably came to the restaurant to meet each other, not to eat.

Candidate B, how often do you eat out? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: Almost never, I’m afraid. Eating out is rather expensive in my city. You also need to put on some fancy clothes – you know, because everybody else does, and you don’t really want to stand out. When I do go out, it is usually a very special occasion that needs to be celebrated – like somebody’s wedding or a graduation ceremony. It makes it even better – each time is really memorable!

Candidate B, now it’s your turn. These two pictures show people in business meetings. Compare them and say how people in these environments might feel. (1 minute)

Candidate B: In both of these photos we can see people discussing things connected with business. The picture on the right shows a traditional, face-to-face way of communication, where everybody is in the same room. However, the left photo presents a different way to communicate – that is, using modern technology such as video conferencing.

I believe that the person in the left photo feels a bit detached from the meeting as the people she’s communicating with are not physically present. However, she probably appreciates the flexibility that online communication offers. As for the situation in picture two, the office workers there are probably much more comfortable, engaged in the old-fashioned business conversation in a meeting room.

Candidate A, which type of business meeting is more efficient? (~20 seconds)

Candidate A: Well, I’d say that both ought to be pretty effective as businesses across the globe use them. I believe that having a meeting using video calls might be a better choice – you don’t have to spend time to go to the meeting and it’s much easier to arrange, you know, to make sure everybody has free time. When every participant has to come to some place, it gets more complicated.

#4. Rush Hour; Watching a movie

FCE Speaking Card - an overcrowded subway car during peak hoursFCE Speaking Card - Huge line of cars and buses stuck in a traffic jam

Candidate A, here are your pictures. In these pictures you can see people commuting. I’d like you to compare the two pictures and say why they might have chosen to commute this way.(1 minute)

Candidate A: In both of these pictures we see people on their way somewhere. It could be their job, or place where they study. However, are differences that are easy to see from the first glance. In the left photo, people have almost no personal space because it’s very crowded and they have to stand really close to each other. In the right picture, on the contrary, most cars are private and drivers with their passengers must be feeling more comfortable.

As for the reason of their choice, I assume that not many people actually have this luxury, to choose how to travel. I think the vast majority of train passengers from the first picture would gladly commute by their own car, if they could afford it. However, some of them might choose public transport to save the environment and reduce their carbon footprint.

Candidate B, how do you usually commute? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: I use my bike for most in-city journeys, but when it snows I prefer to go by taxi or ask some friends to give me a lift. I’m not very keen on buses as they take forever to get somewhere and usually they are packed with people. I can walk too, if it’s not too far away, but it is never my first choice.

FCE Speaking Card - a group of people in cinemaFCE Speaking - Two people watching TV in the living room

Candidate B, here are your pictures. They show people watching a movie. Compare the pictures and say what are the benefits of watching movies in these ways. (1 minute)

Candidate B: In both pictures we can see people enjoying a film. One looks like a a cinema theatre and the other seems to be an ordinary living room. The theatre seems to be half-empty with some vacant seats in the first two rows. 

I believe that the advantages of watching a show from home are rather obvious – you don’t have to go dress up and go somewhere. It’s so much more comfortable just to stay at home, grab your favourite snack and put a nice flick on. However, movie theatres have their advantages as well – both the picture and the sound are much better, you can really feel the explosion for example, if it is an action movie. So yeah, each situation is good in its own way.

Candidate A, is it better to enjoy a film on your own or with others? (~20 seconds)

Candidate A: If it is a mainstream movie then I guess it’s much more fun to watch it with your friends. They say that sharing an experience makes it more enjoyable. And on the contrary, if the film is of less popular genre, something like a documentary or other niche variety, then it would be much better to watch it on your own since not everyone is going to find it fun.

#5. Shopping; Free time

FCE Part 2 card - a lady in an expensive dress is buying luxurious shoesFCE Speaking Part 2 Card - a young girl buying clothes in a thrift shop

Candidate A, here are the two photos. They show people making purchases. I’d like you to compare the photos and say which person is facing a more difficult choice? (1 minute)

Candidate A: In the left picture a lady is in what looks like a very expensive shop. She is deciding on the particular style and colour of shoes to buy. The right photo shows us a teenage girl is going through rack of clothes in what seems to be a thrift shop. The main difference between the two situation is the amount of money the person is willing to spend – one is ready to pay extra for the brand and prestige while the other probably wants to save money on the purchase.

I believe that the girl from the right picture is having more difficult time as she has to find something that suits her taste and won’t break the bank. The person in the right picture seems to find shopping as yet another fun activity, a way to spend her time.

Candidate B, how often do you shop for clothes? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: To tell the truth, I don’t do much shopping for things to wear. Our family is rather big with lots of brothers and cousins, so I usually get a lot of hand-me-downs, you know, things they no longer wear so I get them instead. I actually like this arrangement – I get free stuff and it makes them feel better, it’s a win-win situation for everybody!

FCE Speaking Card - A girl sitting on the floor between bookstalls in a library, looking at picturesFCE Speaking Part 2 Card - a group of people camping, drinking tea and listening to live guitar music

Candidate B, here are your pictures which show people spending their free time. Compare the two pictures and say what are the advantages and disadvantages of spending your free time in these ways. (1 minute)

Candidate B: In both of these pictures we see people doing things they enjoy. The girl in the left picture probably prefers solitude, that’s why she is in a quiet library sitting between bookstalls. In contrast, the group of friends from the second picture seem like the outgoing and sociable type – they seem to be camping somewhere in the woods. 

I hold it that the advantages of being on your own are not that many – you don’t depend on other people and you don’t have to do something you might not like. The disadvantage is that sometimes your may feel lonely. As for the positive aspects of camping with friends – they are numerous. The fresh air, good company, a nice change from your routine. I can’t really think of any disadvantages!

Candidate A, do you prefer spending free time alone or in a company? (~20 seconds)

Candidate A: I’m the reclusive type. I don’t need people around me all the time to feel comfortable. Whether it’s reading, long walks in a park or even travelling – I’m in my element when I’m on my own. I don’t mind being with friends occasionally, but I don’t feel like spending too much time with others.

#6. Shopping for food; Kids with bikes

FCE Speaking Card - A family of three grocery shopping in a supermarketFCE Speaking - Two people buying fruit from a street vendor somewhere in Asia

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show people shopping for food. I’d like you to compare these two photos and say what they might find enjoyable while doing their shopping. (1 minute)

Candidate A: While in the left picture we can see people making purchases in a supermarket, the right picture had people buying food from a street vendor. The place in the first photo probably has a wider variety of goods, but the food in the other picture is more likely to be fresh and natural.

I believe that the family in the supermarket enjoy doing it together, making those decision taking everyone’s opinion into account. They look really happy. The people in the right picture are probably glad to have the opportunity to purchase fresh produce. The buyer and the street vendor are likely to know each other, too.

Candidate B, Which type of shopping is more common in your country? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: I can’t say that either of these types is more popular than the other. It really depends on the part of country. Smaller towns and villagers tend to have many outdoor markets where you could buy fresh, natural food. In bigger cities, people mostly shop in supermarkets.

Speaking Card - Father teaching her daughter how to cycleTeenager on a bmx bike midair, performing a stunt

Candidate B, here are your pictures. They show young people on bicycles. Compare the pictures and say what challenges they might be facing. (1 minute)

Candidate B: Well, the little girl in the left picture is being taught how to ride the bike by her father. In contrast, the boy in the right picture looks really confident with his BMX bicycle, performing a stunt jump. Both of them are probably enjoying the experience, but for different reasons.

The girl is probably feeling nervous, because she has to be steering the bike, maintaining balance and being aware of her surroundings at the same time. It must be really difficult to do all that when you’re just a beginner cyclist. This can’t be said about the boy, whose challenge is quite different – he has to land his bike safely without breaking it or hurting himself.

Candidate A, is cycling popular where you live? (~20 seconds)

Candidate A: No, not at all. We have harsh winters with lots of snow and our summers are really short. You can see an occasional cyclist, but it is more like a exception. It’s a shame, really – I wish we had warmer climate, because cycling really looks like a fun thing to do!

#7. Manual work; Cooking

FCE Speaking 2 - A man suspended in the air cleaning windows of a high-rise buildingFCE Part 2 - An old man with a younger women tilling soil, tending to their crops

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show people doing manual work. I’d like you to compare the photos and say why they might have chosen to do this work. (1 minute)

Candidate A: The man in the right picture seems to be hanging from a high-rise building, cleaning windows – this looks a bit scary, to be honest. On the contrary, the left picture has an old man, probably he is father to the young girl next to him. They are tending to their crops – a much more peaceful picture, if you ask me!

The man cleaning the windows probably chose that activity to make money, because it looks rather dangerous – or maybe he is really into doing risky things, you know, for adrenaline. The people in the right photo might be looking after the crops because they depend on them, or it could be just their hobby, it’s hard to tell.

Candidate B, which person finds their activity more satisfying? (~20 seconds).

FCE Pictures - Two cooks working on an exquisitve dish in a big restaurant kitchenFCE Speaking Card - A young man frying meat cutles in a small kitchen

Candidate B, here are your pictures. They show people cooking. Compare the two pictures and say how experienced they might be at what they do, okay? (1 minute)

Candidate B: The left picture shows professional cooks preparing some elaborate dish in a spacious kitchen of a restaurant or a café. The second picture, on the other hand, has an apartment with a man cooking a much simpler meal. 

Even though the people in the first picture are more likely to have more experience of dealing with food, it is not necessarily true. They could only be trainees – both of them look rather young. The man is the second picture looks about the same age, but he might have more years of cooking behind his belt, so you never know!

Candidate A, who does the cooking in your family? (~20 seconds)

Candidate: My wife does it, thankfully. I’m hopeless at cooking – anything more complex than frying some eggs or boiling a sausage is way too much for me. I realise that it’s one of the best skills to have, so I will probably try to deal with this shortcoming of mine in the future.

Most of the pictures here are taken from pexels.com – a great site for copyright-free visual content.

FCE Speaking Part 2 Tips

All parts of FCE Speaking explained

In my teaching practice, Part 2 of Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) is usually the most challenging one. In this entry, I will talk about the three things that have to be in your answer to get high score. These things are:

  • Describing the pictures
  • Comparing (things that are different and similar in them)
  • Answering the question (obviously!)

That’s it. Read on to learn more about each aspect of your answer. I will use the same set of two pictures to illustrate each point:

FCE Speaking Part 2 motorcycle in the desertFCE Speaking Part 2 on the plane

Here are the photographs. They show people travelling using different forms of transportation.
I’d like you to compare the photographs, and say which person might enjoy their trip the most.

Describing the pictures

A very common mistake is to think that Cambridge assessors want to hear you giving a detailed description of what’s in the picture. No, that’s not what they are after. What you really need to do is show that you know the right tense used when talking about a photo (Present Continuous) and the appropriate preposition (in the picture):

In the left picture there is a man sitting next to his motorcycle. The landscape behind looks like a desert. In the picture on the right the person is on a plane, probably listening to music.

Note the underlined part: you don’t want to repeat the same structure twice (In the left picture/In the picture on the right). In your FCE Speaking part 2 you will have less than two minutes for your answer, so it should be easy to avoid repetition.

Some students prefer to point with their fingers, saying “in this picture” or “in that picture”. Don’t do that – you lose your chance to show a way to synonymize.

The second things here is the use of prepositions (next to his motorcycle/on a plane). It’s nothing fancy, but little things like that help you score more points for lexical and grammatical resource.

Right now the answer looks half-baked – the sentences are isolated, there isn’t much connection between them. Let’s fix that by introducing comparison!

Comparing (similarities and differences)

This is an integral part of FCE Speaking Part 2. If you don’t compare, you will never score well! So let’s talk about what the two pictures have in common and then mention differences between them:

In the left picture there is a man sitting next to his motorcycle and the landscape behind looks like a desert. In the picture on the right the person is on a plane, probably listening to music. While both people in these photos are going from point A to point B, the passenger of the plane will probably get there much quicker and more comfortably, whereas the motorcyclist is not as fast or convenient.

There – both differences and similarities included. Words in bold (Whereas, while) are so-called ‘introductory words’ – they help us introduce ideas. In this case, they aid us in contrasting. Now that comparing is out of the way, let’s get down to the main part – the exam question!

Answering the question

This part seems simply and straightforward – and it is, actually. However, in FCE Speaking Part 2 they have two main types of questions:

  1. Speculative questions (Modals of speculation, like the question we have here)
  2. ‘More’ or ‘The Most’ questions. (for example “Which transport do you believe is the most environmentally friendly?”)

The first type requires you to use appropriate phrases to speculate. See them here (link not available right now, sorry!)
The second type is probably easier with no real traps. The only tip I here is to answer the task question after you have described and compared the picture:

In the left picture there is a man sitting next to his motorcycle and the landscape behind looks like a desert. In the picture on the right the person is on a plane, probably listening to music. While both people in these photos are going from point A to point B, the passenger of the plane will probably get there much quicker and more comfortably, whereas the motorcyclist is not as fast or convenient.

I believe that the person who chose going by motorcycle is going to have a more fulfilling experience as they will get more chances to enjoy the scenery, to feel more connected to the environment. They may even choose to stop wherever they feel like – this is not really an option when you’re a passenger on the plane!

And that’s it. Since you will have done comparing them by then, there is no need to mention the second picture if you don’t want to. I did just because I thought it fits and added a little bit of additional contrasting.