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FCE Speaking

FCE Speaking - structure, examples, how to score higher

FCE Speaking is the last part of your Cambridge English: First (B2) exam. It has 4 parts and is about 14 minutes long. There is usually one other test-taker like you, as some of the tasks involve interaction between candidates. It is not uncommon to have two test-takers. There will be two examiners present: one asking the questions (the interlocutor) and the other marking the answers (the assessor).

Below you will see an overview of the exam structure, sample questions and answers, tips on how to get a better score, and how your answer is assessed. You can use the menu 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 the topic from Part 3 (4 minutes)
— 4.1 Part 4 sample questions with answers
5. FCE Speaking marking criteria

Part 1: Interview (interlocutor and candidate)

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 — something you are familiar with. In this part, the interlocutor asks each candidate two or three questions. You are expected to listen to what the other candidate says as well as the questions asked. The reason is that you might be asked the same question (e.g., “And what about you?”). However, this part does not involve direct communication between candidates. FCE Speaking Part 1 is about two minutes long.

Keep your answers fairly short — two or three sentences should be enough. Stick to the topic you get in the question. Your answers should sound natural — do not use any memorised responses. Such answers are easy to spot and can often lead to a lower mark. Rehearsed answers might also not be about the question asked, as there is considerable variety in questions, even though the range of topics is quite limited.

For better or worse, there are no helpful phrases or tricks for FCE Speaking Part 1, as this part tests your general ability to talk about familiar topics. You might want to see it as a warm-up before the more challenging parts of FCE Speaking.

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?
Well, 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 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.

Part 1 Summary

  • Part 1 lasts for about 2 minutes for each candidate.
  • There is a test-taker and examiner interaction; there is no interaction between test-takers.
  • You get questions about familiar, everyday topics.
  • There are usually two to four questions, and your answers should be fairly short (two or three shorter sentences).

Part 2: Describing photos (two test-takers)

This part tests your ability to describe pictures, to talk about similarities and differences between the pictures, and to speculate (to guess) about things related to the pictures. In this part of FCE Speaking there are usually two test-takers — Candidate A and Candidate B (however, sometimes you might get in a group with two other candidates). Candidate A goes first; they get two pictures from the interlocutor and a question they have to answer. The question is written on the page with the two pictures. The question can be 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 FCE Speaking Part 2 examples with answers. After that Candidate A gets one minute to answer the question.

After this, it’s time for Candidate B to answer one additional question from the interlocutor. This question relates to the same set of pictures. It can be either about choosing one of the pictures, 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, for example, “Is it better to study alone or with others?”. Candidate B has 30 seconds to answer the question.

After Candidate B has answered, they change roles. This time, Candidate B gets two pictures, a question from the examiner, and one 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 pictures and compare them. Continue reading for a more detailed explanation of each aspect.

Part 2 tips and useful phrases

In FCE Speaking Part 2, you have to achieve three things:
1 – compare (what is similar and what is different in the photos)
2 – describe (give a brief description of what you see)
3 – answer the question

1. Comparison vocabulary

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 of each should be enough, as you only have 1 minute for your answer. This is not a set-in-stone rule; adjust according to your pace of speech and confidence.

Talking about similaritiesTalking about differences
In both pictures, there is…
Both pictures display/show…
Pictures one and two have…
Pictures one and two are similar in the way that there is/are… in each one.
Just like in the left picture , the right one has…
These two pictures have several things in common, such as/like…
Unlike the left picture, the picture on the right has/shows/displays
In contrast with the right picture, picture on the left is …
Picture one…, while picture two…
Picture two has a different idea of … if we compare it to the first photo
While the second picture takes place in …
Contrastingly, these pictures show different takes on *some topic*

2. Description vocabulary

The first thing to remember is to switch between various phrases that introduce picture descriptions. Don’t reuse the same expression; alternate between them, for example:

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

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

Another common mistake is spending too much time on describing. I’ve had students who would spend a whole minute talking about what’s in the picture. Remember, do not spend more than 15-20 seconds on that. Another helpful technique is to include comparisons in 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 enjoying themselves. Contrastingly, in the second picture, we see colleagues who are having a business lunch.”

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

3. Answering the question.

When answering 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 you might not have enough time for comparison. Have a look at the model answers below to get a better idea of how to include comparison in your answer.

Part 2 sample questions and answers

Examiner: Candidate A, here are the photographs. They show people waiting for something. I’d like you to compare the photographs, and say in which picture the waiting feels longer.

A man waiting for his flight, feet resting on the bagTwo people at a bus stop waiting for a late night bus

Model answer

Candidate A: The left picture shows a man expecting his flight to arrive at the airport. He is sitting on a bench with his feet resting on the bag. In the picture on the right, we see a couple of people waiting for their bus at a rather late hour. They are engaged in a conversation.

I guess that for the man at the airport gate, the wait feels much longer. Air travel is a thrilling, even scary experience for most of us. The anxiety he might be having could make the time go really slowly for him. Also, flights can get late, and generally, you have to wait for quite some time before your plane is ready for boarding.

Examiner: Candidate B, how can one pass the time while waiting?

Candidate B: Well, there are many tried-and-true ways. In the past, people would read books or magazines, this was the most popular way of killing some time. Nowadays, everyone stares at their phone screen, either texting or looking at funny videos online.

Examiner: Thank you. Candidate B, now it’s your turn. Here are the photographs, and they show people having a rest. Please compare the two photographs, and say which picture shows people enjoying their rest the most.

Two old gentlemen sitting in the backyardA younger guy sitting on a stone wall, relaxing

Candidate B: The left picture has two older men relaxing in what seems to be their own backyard. One of them is holding a drink, the other one is extending his arm to his friend. Both are dressed rather informally. In the other picture we can see a young guy sitting on a stone fence, he is stylishly dressed. He seems to be looking at something. 

I would say that the younger man in the second picture is enjoying his rest more. Maybe he has just finished his exams or achieved something meaningful. He looks like he is thinking about something, his mind wandering.

Examiner: Candidate A, how do you usually relax?

Candidate A: I don’t get much chance to relax nowadays, unfortunately. But when I do, I prefer having a walk in the park, either with my friends or alone. There is one in my neighbourhood, and it has plenty of trees as well as a small fountain. The sounds of running water help me clear my head and forget about the problems I have.

Keep in mind that you should use the 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.

More FCE Speaking Part 2 sample questions with answers

Part 2 Summary

  • Part 2 is 1 minute, 30 seconds for each candidate.
  • This part has test-taker and examiner interaction, using another test-taker’s pictures for the second part of the answer.
  • You will be describing and comparing two pictures as well as answering a question related to them.
  • You have 60 seconds to talk about your pictures (long turn), 30 seconds to answer additional questions related to the topic of other test-taker’s pictures (short turn).

Part 3: Mind map discussion between two candidates (two test-takers)

In Part 3, candidates receive a mind map that contains a question and five prompts (also called 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 get an additional question and have to choose one of the prompts, with the answer providing reasoning, and either agree or disagree with the chosen prompt. You get around one minute for this part.

The focus of FCE Speaking Part 3 is to see candidates’ skills in interacting with each other. Some exam takers can find this particularly challenging.

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

At the beginning of FCE Speaking Part 3, one of you has to start the conversation. The key here is to be polite and allow your partner to choose, especially if they are shy or silent. You can either begin the conversation yourself or 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/went first?
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
Be my guest!

A common rule is to let whoever goes 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 FCE Speaking 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 from your partner’s answer into your own. Another important thing is the natural transition from one idea (prompt) to another, as your talk should be organic rather than a collection of isolated sentences and opinions. Below are some ways to make your ideas more 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 Part 3, your task is to choose one of the aspects (prompts) in connection with the given question and either agree or disagree about whether it fits best. Agreeing is not mandatory. You are free to disagree, but do so with respect for each other, supporting your opinion with arguments. 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…
I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on this point because…
Suggesting ideas

I hold that … 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

Inviting to join

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 a model answer

Here are some different types of occupations 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.

Model 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’m totally with you on that one. 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, wouldn’t 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!

(The second half, coming to an agreement)

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!

Part 3 Summary

  • Part 3 is about three minutes long
  • You will have to interact with another test-taker (or two), taking turns to express and justify their opinions
  • There will be a discussion topic with five aspects in the form of a mind map in the first part
  • An agreement between test-takers on one of the aspects has to be reached in the second part

Part 4: Topic discussion (two test-takers)

The last part of FCE Speaking is a bit similar to Part 1 — you are asked questions related to the topic from Part 3 that you have to answer. However, there are three major differences in comparison with Part 1 of FCE Speaking. First of all, the questions are going to be more abstract than those in Part 1, and you will have to talk about things in general, not about your own experience. Secondly, your answers should be longer and more detailed — at least two or three longer sentences. Finally, the examiner will at some point encourage you and your partner to discuss one or two of the questions, so pay attention to your partner’s answers and be ready for a dialogue with them. This part of the exam can be up to four minutes long.

Part 4 sample questions with answers

Model answer

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 and experience social connections. I guess that ideally, you need to find a good balance between these things. Yeah, I’d say the right balance is 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.

Model answer 2

Examiner: Marian, in your opinion, what kinds of jobs are going to be in demand in the future?
Marian: It’s really difficult to say – I mean, who knows what the 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 it has 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 the IT industry will stay relevant and grow considerably in the coming years.

Candidate Discussion

Examiner: Now I’d like you two to 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 decisions when choosing their career and major to study at college. Another way the state could help is to pay employers to take on people without experience – this would give the young 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 this will ever be implemented, though…
Examiner: Thank you. That is the end of your FCE Speaking part.

Part 4 Summary

  • Part 4 is about four minutes long.
  • The interaction is between the examiner and two test-takers.
  • You get more abstract questions and have to provide more abstract answers; your answers are expected to be longer than in Part 1 (three sentences and more).
  • The examiner invites the test-takers to discuss the questions together.

FCE Speaking marking criteria

A good thing to keep in mind is the marking criteria for FCE. Knowing it helps you find weak spots in your language, like grammar, vocabulary, or the way you pronounce words.

There are two people on the exam responsible for marking. The person sitting in the back uses 5 Cambridge criteria that determine your proficiency in spoken English:

1. Grammar and vocabulary
2. Discourse management
3. Pronunciation
4. Interactive communication
5. Global achievement

The last one is assessed by the interlocutor (one asking the questions and giving the cards). We shall look at all and explain the criteria below.

Each is scored individually, from 0 to 5 in 0.5 increments. They are then combined to get the average of the six (grammar, vocabulary, discourse management, pronunciation, interactive communication, and global achievement).

1. Grammar and vocabulary

What is assessed

Grammar – how appropriate, accurate, and varied your grammar is

  • Usage of active and passive voice
  • Verb patterns (infinitives, to-infinitives, gerunds)
  • Usage of tenses to highlight a point, i.e. longer action when a short action takes place (Past Cont. + Past Simple)
  • Ability to produce longer, multiple-clause sentences
  • Conditional sentences

Vocabulary – range, flexibility, and accuracy of your words and phrases

  • Collocations and prepositions
  • Ability to rephrase in order to clarify a point, especially if your partner does not understand you
  • No word repetition, good knowledge of synonyms and rephrasing

How to get a higher score

  • Don’t just stick to one tense – learn and use many of them. For instance, use Present Continuous to talk about plans that somebody else knows about or Past Perfect + Past Simple to highlight how one thing in the past happened before the other.
  • Conditional sentences are a great way to talk about the results (both real and imaginary) of actions or events that did or did not take place.
  • Use both active and passive voices. Passive voice works great to show a more impersonal and objective view – great for FCE Speaking Part 3!
  • Demonstrate your ability to rephrase. If you feel that you might not have expressed yourself in a clear way, introduce the idea in different words starting with a phrase like ‘In other words’ or ‘Basically’.

Don’t feel bad about making mistakes; if you know you have made one, just correct yourself. Your ability to ‘fix’ a broken phrase is something they expect of you at Cambridge English: First exam.

2. Discourse Management

What is assessed

  • Your ability to speak at length, connect your ideas and make your speech easy to follow and understand. A student’s use of discourse markers is expected to get them a high score.
  • Vocabulary related to the topic discussed
  • Aspects of language that make your speech easier to follow (i.e. personal pronouns, accurate usage of articles, and other means of making the idea more clear)
  • Discourse markers (phrases like “What I mean is…”, “The thing is…”, “Well, that is a good point…” and others that people mostly use in spoken English)
  • Cohesive devices (see below)
  • No digressing (keeping the discussion on the same topic, not going too far away from it)
  • Giving full answers (Express-explain-exemplify – state your idea, explain what you mean, and give some examples. That is, of course, not the only way to approach it, but it should give you the basic idea)
  • Introducing new ideas (rather than going over the things you have already said)
  • Repetition of words, phrases or ideas

How to get a higher 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. It is from a different exam, but the topics are pretty much the same for FCE!
  • Make sure to know the basics of articles in English. Use them to your advantage. Don’t forget about possessive pronouns and adjectives to make your speech more cohesive (it, this, that, one).
  • If you feel that you need to mention some idea again, make sure to use synonyms or paraphrase it. Repetition of the same word, phrase or form can affect your score negatively, so show some variety to the examiner.

3. Pronunciation

What is assessed

First of all, elephant in the room – your accent is not going to be marked, not will it affect your score. As long as your accent is easy to understand, you will do fine. This part checks other things, namely:

  • Clear pronunciation: all the sounds that should be pronounced (more on that below)
  • Stress placement, 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 get a higher 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.
  • Pronunciation of sounds. Take words ‘thick’ and ‘sick’ – many non-native speakers have problems with the first one. Another problematic case is the difference in pronunciation between ‘v’ and ‘w’.
  • Learn to use intonation. At this level, you should be able to use it to your advantage. More information is available in an article on this topic by the British Council.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of sentence stress. It is a powerful tool to highlight the main point. For instance, consider these two sentences with the stressed word in capitals: “What do YOU think about this issue?” and “What do you think about THIS issue?”. In the first sentence, you focus on the opinion of your partner, while in the second one, you shift the focus to another issue or point.

4. Interactive communication

What is assessed

Your ability to engage in a conversation, support and develop it, connect ideas, and come to an agreement. This is what the examiners look at:

  • How well you can start and maintain a dialogue by suggesting and discussing relevant points
  • Ability to include your partner in the conversation and as well as to encourage 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 (you shouldn’t dominate the conversation)

How to get a higher score

  • Short answers do not give enough information to accurately assess your level of English. To give your examiners something to assess, 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 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.

5. Global achievement

What is assessed

As the name suggests, this is a combination of all the previously mentioned criteria. The only difference is that the assessment is done by the person that asks the questions and handles the pictures. In short, this criteria checks the range of your grammar and vocabulary, how well you handle communication, and how easy it is to follow and understand you. We are not including any extra tips for this aspect; the ones above should be sufficient.

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 questions 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 to use the language, ideally with a tutor. They can provide you with valuable feedback.
  • Remember about eye contact with the person you are addressing. This is especially important in Part 3 when you interact with the other test taker.
  • Make sure to use a range of tenses. Showing good command of Perfect and Continuous tenses will create much better impression. Sticking to simple tenses only might get in the way of getting a higher mark.
  • Be respectful to the other test-taker. Let them finish their thoughts, even if they struggle or take too much time to respond. Failing to do this will reflect negatively on your discourse management score.
  • Maintain a steady pace and rhythm. This will allow you to avoid abrupt stops and give you enough time to think your idea through. Your ideal pace is determined by practice; you will understand the pace you are comfortable in.


Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that FCE is a B2 exam. Nobody expects perfection from you. Inaccuracies, hesitation and a somewhat limited grammatical and lexical range are not things you should worry too much about. Non-systematic mistakes (those that do not occur multiple times) will not affect your score dramatically. Deliver you responses in an easy-to-understand way, do not make any mistakes that get in the way of meaning, use proper stress and intonation. These should take you all the way to Grade A. Good luck!

PDF Click to download this FCE Speaking article in PDF

FCE Speaking Part 2 Examples

FCE Speaking Part 2 Examples

Below you will find FCE (B2) Speaking Part 2 cards with sample answers and useful phrases. You can print them or save in PDF. To get better score, take a look at the FCE Speaking page.

Further recommended reading: FCE Speaking Part 2 Tips

Sample answers are in italics. Useful expressions are highlighted and explained at the end of each set.

#1. Living in different places; Exercising

A set of high-rise buildings next to the seaside with a road between themA rural area in the woods with a railroad and a train passing through

Candidate A, here are your 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 large cityscape 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 types of housing in them, the right one looks much more quiet than the other.

I believe that people who choose to live in a busy city do so because they lead a more active lifestyle – they commute to work, go to parties, restaurants, exhibitions—all the activities a big city has to offer. In contrast, those who reside in a remote place like in picture two, prefer a more relaxed, slower 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 generally enjoy all things natural. 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 is so loved for.

Cityscape (n) – an area that looks or appears to be a city. In this case, it is just a more interesting word to replace ‘city’. Remember that paraphrasing is a crucial part of FCE Speaking.
Commute (v) – to travel the same route several times a day, usually as a part of going to your place of work or study and coming back to where you live.
Reside (v) – to live somewhere, to have something as your place of residence.
Go with – if you go with something, it means you choose it among other things. In FCE Speaking Part 2 you will often face a question with the examiner asking for your preference on some topic.
Take a stroll – to go for a walk, either as a form of exercise or just for leisure.
To be into something – to be interested in something.
Miss out on something – not to get something or take part in something that is valuable or desirable.

A middle-aged lady playing tennis at a tennis courtA woman bending backwards doing yoga next to lake

Candidate B, now it’s your 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 seems to be taking place indoors. Moreover, tennis requires special equipment, such as a racket, while the other exercise doesn’t need anything at all.

I guess both people pictured here feel content with what they’re doing, as exercising energises you, and if you spend enough time at it, you will feel pleasantly exhausted. It is also beneficial for your brain, letting your mind wander.

Candidate A, which type of exercise 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, since you don’t simply chase the ball. Instead, you have to calculate your hits and plan ahead. I like this aspect of tennis very much.

In the middle of  – if you are in the middle of something, you are doing it at this very moment. It is a useful phrase for describing pictures, as it is a good idea to mention the action taking place in it.
Seems to be taking place  – one notable thing here is the verb ‘seems’ – a way to show uncertainty or speculation – an aspect that is common in Part 2 of FCE Speaking.
Pictured (adj) – one of the many useful paraphrases used in describing pictures.
Would have to choose – a structure that can be used to express unwillingness, reluctance or a lack of desire to make a choice. Ultimately, it helps you express an additional shade of meaning.
Plan ahead – to plan well in advance, rather than make decisions spontaneously, on the spot.

#2. Different types of work; Places for holidays

A woman working on a laptop seems concerned or facing a difficult taskA man in hi-viz jacket pouring concrete out of a big tube that he holds over his shoulder

Candidate A, here are the two pictures. They show people doing 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 activities is very different. The lady in the picture on the left is facing a difficult creative task, judging by her body language and the blank sheet of paper. 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 appears 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, creativity is not necessarily easy, but physical and manual labour are always a struggle. No matter how good you are at it, you have to perform very tiring, repetitive actions that are both mentally and physically taxing.

At work  – just a paraphrase of the less interesting ‘working’.
Face a difficult task  – a useful collocation to describe a person struggling with something. Note the Present Continuous form that is required for picture description.
Judging by something  – yet another one of the many phrases to introduce a guess, to show uncertainty.
That looks like … – see previous entry. Keep in mind that even though these structures might seem simple, at the exam it is important to display flexibility of language and, if possible, avoid repetition.
Undeniably (adv) – without a doubt. Use this to show that you are sure about something.
Taxing (adj) – if something is mentally or physically taxing, doing it takes a toll on your mind or body, respectively.

A few beach huts on a pristine shore with a mountain in the backgroundA skiing slope full of people skiing

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

Candidate B: Both pictures show us resorts of some kind. While the left picture looks warm and peaceful, the other is rather cold and even a bit dangerous. However, somehow both of them look equally cosy, though for different reasons.

People looking for a place to spend their holiday may prefer huts by the seaside, especially if they come from a colder country and want to experience a warmer, more pleasant climate. They are also likely to appreciate the local food, which is rich in fruits and vegetables. As for the second photo, it might be favoured by more active and young people, those 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, whereas some kids can be too young to try skiing. Also, the low temperatures of a ski resort may not be to some people’s liking.

Somehow (adv)  – great word to introduce a degree of speculation, when you are unsure about some things in the picture.
May prefer  – you will sometimes be asked about the reason for people’s choices in the picture – a structure like this will help you express your guesses.
Come from  – note that the expression is not used literally here to mean that somebody originates from a particular place. Instead, it focuses on people’s background.
Favoured by – another expression to show what somebody likes, this time in a form of a passive structure. Showing grammatic flexibility in your answer will help you score higher.
Those – a way to avoid a word like ‘people’ when contextually it is clear what you mean, e.g. ‘Single men are usually less happy, while those who are married report to lead more fulfilling lifestyles’.
Member of the household – somebody belonging to a particular family. It can be either a member of the immediate or extended family.
Be to somebody’s liking – third phrase in this list that is used to express preferences.

#3. Eating; Business meetings

Two women eating pizza and enjoying a drink at a restaurantA woman sitting on a couch and eating spaghetti out of a frying pan

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 appears to be an expensive restaurant or 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 wearing very casual clothing.

I think that the girl in the right picture is savouring her food more – she hasn’t even put it on a 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 than the food itself. In all likelihood, they came to the restaurant to meet each other rather than 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 day that calls for a celebration – like somebody’s wedding or a graduation ceremony. It makes it even better – each time is really memorable!

Having a meal  – a way to synonymise ‘eating’. Note that if we specify the food, we should use ‘have’ as well, e.g. ‘I am having breakfast’, ‘She has already had a coffee’.
Appears to be  – a structure that shows speculation, when we are not certain about something.
Dress up for something  – to put on more expensive, fancier clothing for a situation that calls for it.
Savour (v) – to truly enjoy something – can be used both literally, like with food, and figuratively, e.g. about some moment of time.
I guess she must be  – a speculative structure. Guessing something is encouraged both in CAE and FCE Speaking Part 2.
Put on (phr v) – to wear something.
Everybody else does … – the interesting part here is that we omit the object, i.e. we don’t say ‘everybody else does it’.
Stand out (phr v) – if something or somebody stands out, they are easily noticeable because they are different.
Call for (phr v) – to require, to be fitting. ‘A serious situation like a forest fire calls for quick decisions’.

A smart-dressed woman sitting at a desk with a laptop, having a videoconference with three other colleaguesThree people in a business meeting, two men sitting and a woman standing next to a board with post-it notes

Candidate B, now it’s your turn. These two pictures show people in business meetings. Compare them and say how people in these meetings 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 communicating, where everybody is in the same room. However, the left photo presents a different way of getting in touch: using modern technology, such as video conferencing.

The person in the left photo likely feels a bit detached from the meeting as the people she’s talking to 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 likely to be much more comfortable, engaged in an old-fashioned business conversation in a meeting room.

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

Candidate A: Well, I would say that both ought to be pretty effective, as businesses across the globe use them. I hold it that having a meeting using video calls might be a better choice; you don’t have to spend time getting 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 complicates things.

Present (v)  – it is important to know as many synonyms for ‘show’ as possible to describe pictures without repeating yourself.
Get in touch  – (here) communicating, reaching out.
Detached from  – disinterested, uninvolved.
Appreciate (v) – to understand and respect the value of something.
I would say  – a structure to introduce uncertainty.
Across the globe – everywhere, all over the planet.
Arrange (v) – to organise, to make something possible.

#4. Rush hour; Watching a movie

A busy subway car in japanese subway during rush hourA huge traffic jam with five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic

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 the place where they study. However, there are differences that are easy to see at first glance. In the left photo, people have almost no personal space because it’s very crowded, so they have to stand really close to each other. In the right picture, on the contrary, most cars are private, and drivers as well as their passengers must be feeling more comfortable and safe.

Speaking of the reasons for their choice, I assume very few people actually have the luxury of choice when it comes to moving around the city. I think the vast majority of train passengers in the first picture would gladly commute by car if they could afford it. However, some of them might choose public transportation 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 are usually packed with people. I can walk too, if it’s not too far away, but it is never my first choice.

On their way  – going, heading somewhere
Easy to see at first glance  – easily noticeable. Keep in mind that various descriptive phrases are of great use in FCE Speaking Part 2, so knowing many of them will help you display language flexibility.
Personal space  – if somebody is standing close to you, e.g. in a small elevator, you have less personal space.
On the contrary – opposite from something else. Used to show contrast between pictures in this particular task.
Assume (v)  – to guess, to say something, and to indicate that you do not know this for sure. A speculative verb.
Carbon footprint – the amount of CO (carbon monoxide) that you leave behind as a result of eating, buying things and so on. Basically, it is the amount of harm you do to the environment shown in numbers.
In-city journeys – moving within the city limits, as opposed travelling between cities.
Give a lift to somebody – to use your car to drive somebody to where they need to be.
Take forever – take an extremely long time.

A group of people in a cinema theatre, with the screen not picturedTwo people, a man and a woman, sitting in a living room in front of a TV, away from the viewer of the picture

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

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

I’d say that the advantages of watching a show from home are rather obvious: you don’t have to go anywhere, and there is no need to pay for the ticket. 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, and you can really feel explosions, 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 a less popular genre, something like a documentary or another niche variety, then it would be much better to watch it on your own since not everyone is going to find it fun.

Appears to be  – seems to be, looks like. A speculative structure to show that you do not know something for sure.
Have their advantages  – a structure to focus on good (or bad, using ‘disadvantages’) points or aspects of something. In this part of FCE Speaking you might get asked a similar question.
Judging by something  – yet another one of the many phrases to introduce a guess, to show uncertainty.
So yeah – an informal introductory phrase that can be used to summarise the points you have just mentioned. Remember that in the speaking part you are not strictly bound to one register, so feel free to mix formal and informal structure.
Mainstream (adj) – targeted at or meant for the majority of people.
Sharing an experience – if you share an experience with something, it means that you go through that event together.

#5. Shopping; Free time

A lady in an expensive shoe store shopping for a pair of high-heel shoesA teenage girl standing between racks of clothing in a second-hand store, hunting for a bargain

Candidate A, here are the two photos: they show people shopping. 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 going through a rack of clothes in what seems to be a thrift shop. The main difference between the two settings 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.

The girl in the right picture is likely to have a 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 to be 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!

What looks like  – one more structure for you to express uncertainty or speculate.
Going through  – in this context, it means to search for something among other things. Note the Present Continuous used here – a common practice when describing pictures.
Setting (n)  – the word ‘setting’ here means a situation or an environment. A great synonym to include in your answer to avoid word repetition.
Probably (adv) – almost certainly or very likely.
Break the bank – an informal phrase that means to spend too much money on something. A similar expression is ‘to splash out on something’.
Hand-me-downs – things  you get for free, usually from older brothers and sisters because they no longer use them.

A girl is sitting on the library floor between stalls of books, reading oneA group of young three young people sitting in the woods next to a tent, one is playing the guitar

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: The two pictures show us people doing things they enjoy. The girl in the left picture seems like she prefers solitude; that’s probably why she is in a quiet library, sitting between bookstalls. In contrast, the group of friends from the second picture seem to be the outgoing and sociable type; they are camping somewhere in the woods.

I hold 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 you may feel lonely. As for the positive aspects of camping with friends, they are numerous. The fresh air and good company can be a nice change from your routine. I can’t really think of any disadvantages!

Candidate A, do you prefer spending free time alone or with others? (~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.

Solitude (n)  – the state of being alone, with no other people around.
Type (n)  – in this context, you use the word to mean something like ‘kind’.
I hold that  – I believe that, I am of the opinion that.
A nice change – some kind of variety, a thing or activity that is different from what you are used to. Obviously, used positively.
Reclusive (adj) – preferring to be alone, on their own.
In my element – if you are in your element, then you find the environment or the activity enjoyable, like you belong there or if it is meant for you to do or be in.

#6. Shopping for food; Kids with bikes

A family of three doing grocery shopping with a shopping cartTwo people in the street buying oranges from a cart used by a street vendor

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 shows people buying food from a street vendor. The place in the first photo looks like it 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 enjoys doing it together, taking everyone’s opinion into account. They look really happy. The people in the right picture are 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 the country. Smaller towns and villages tend to have many outdoor markets where you can buy fresh, natural food. In bigger cities, people mostly shop in supermarkets.

While (conj)  – in this case, we use the word to introduce contrast between the two pictures.
Street vendor  – a person who sells things like food outside rather than indoors.
Taking everyone’s opinion into account  – considering or paying attention to their opinions.
Fresh produce – the word ‘produce’ (with the first syllable stressed: produce) here means food, especially fruits and vegetables.
Outdoor markets – see street vendors, but this time it involves many stalls in one place. Markets like this are more organised and are usually found at the same place, whereas street vendors might move from one location to another.

A man teaching a girl to ride a yellow bike, helping her keep the balanceA teenage boy on a bmx bike is photographed in mid-jump with a slightly frightened face expression

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 a bike by her father. In contrast, the boy in the right picture looks really confident on his BMX bicycle, performing a stunt jump. I guess both of them are enjoying the experience, but for different reasons.

The girl seems to be feeling nervous as she has steer the bike, maintain balance, and be aware of her surroundings – all 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 of an exception. It’s a shame, really. I wish we had a warmer climate, because cycling really looks like a fun thing to do!

Is being taught  – we are using Present Continuous Passive here – a nice place to show some command of the more advanced tenses.
This can’t be said  – this is not true, this is not the case.
Not at all – a more emphatic negative structure, more interesting than the usual ‘no’ or ‘not really’.
Harsh winters – winters that see lower temperatures, stronger winds and snowfalls.
It’s a shame – a set expression to show your disapproval of a situation.

#7. Manual work; Cooking

A man held in the air by safety harness cleaning windows of a high-rise buildingTwo people, a younger woman and an older gentleman, tilling crops and taking care of vegetable plants

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show people working. 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 image depicts an old man, probably the father of 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 could have chosen 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).

Candidate B: I can’t really imagine finding satisfaction in hanging high above the ground, cleaning somebody’s windows. I mean no offense to the person, somebody ought to do that, but this doesn’t seem like an activity one would feel satisfied with. That is why I am leaning towards the picture with the vegetable garden.

On the contrary  – a structure that can be used to show difference, to contrast two things. It is normally used at the beginning of the second sentence in the comparison pair.
Depict (v)  – to show.
Tend to crops – to take care of plants that are grown for food.
To be really into something – to be very interested in or enthusiastic about some activity.
Mean no offense – to have to intention of offending somebody.
To lean towards something – used to express a certain preference; a good structure to use when you are asked what you would rather choose and you want to show uncertainty about your choice.

Two professional-looking cooks working on an exquisite dish in the kitchenA young man in the kitchen is frying meat, dressed in a black tank-top

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 making some elaborate dishes in a spacious kitchen of a restaurant or café. The second picture, on the other hand, shows 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 dealing with food, this is not necessarily true. They could only be trainees; both of them look rather young. The man in the second picture looks about the same age, but he might have more years of cooking under 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.

Elaborate (adj)  – complex, consisting of many parts.
Spacious (adj)  – having a lot of free room – as the word suggests, it is used with spaces, both inside and outside.
Under his belt – the expression is used to say that somebody has experience in the matter, e.g. “Jonathan has four years of professional skiing under his belt”.
Hopeless at – be very bad at doing something, can often be used humorously or ironically.
Shortcoming – a negative side of a thing or person.

#8. Animals, free and captive; Transport

A cheetah held in a cage, looking scaredFour zebras roaming free in a sun-bathed landscape of African savannah

Candidate A, here are your photographs. They show wild animals in different environments. I’d like you to compare the photographs and say how comfortable the animals might be in both environments. (1 minute)

Candidate A: The picture on the left shows a cheetah trapped in a cage, probably in a zoo, whereas the right image has zebras grazing on a pasture somewhere in savannah. The principal difference between the pictures is that one shows animals in their natural habitat, while the other has an animal held against its will in confinement.

It is difficult to speculate whether the caged animal is hugely discomforted by its conditions. Maybe it has a very spacious cage and carefully selected food, with the caretakers doing their best to ensure the best possible condition for the predator. Contrastingly, the zebras could be struggling to find enough food, as it is a well known fact that many African species are suffering from deforestation and loss of habitat.

Candidate B, in which environment the animals are likely to live longer? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: It might sound absurd, but I firmly believe that animals in zoos have more chance of living longer as they are not threatened by poachers, natural phenomenon and predators. Of course cheetah has no animals that could pose a threat to them, but human factor is still too big to ignore.

Trapped (v)  – to be somewhere without a way to escape. Can be used figuratively to talk about an unpleasant situation with no clear way out of it.
Grazing on a pasture  – grazing means eating grass and a pasture is the place that is dedicated to letting animals like cows feed on grass.
Principal (adj) – main, primary.
Natural habitat – the place and climate where an animal lives because it finds it most comfortable.
Against its will in confinement – confinement is a state of having one’s freedom of movement limited, such as in a prison or a cage.
It’s difficult to speculate – a useful phrase to introduce a speculative statement.
With – a notable thing about this word here is that it works as a conjunction, connecting several clauses in the sentence.
Contrastingly (adv) – an adverb that aids in showing some difference between the two pictures.
Threatened by poachers – poachers are hunters who break the law killing animals that are protected by the government.

A crow of people waiting for their turn to board a plane at an airportTwo backpackers at a train platform waiting to board the train car

Candidate B, now it’s your turn. These pictures show people and public transport. Compare the photographs and say how comfortable each type of transport might be. (1 minute)

Candidate B: In the first picture, there is a group of people waiting for their turn to board a plane using a ramp. The other photo shows us a couple of people with backpacks standing at a train platform as they are about to get on the train car. While both pictures show various types of transportation, planes are more commonly associated with long-distance travel, so the people in the picture are probably going to a different country or even a different continent. Contrastingly, trains are usually chosen for shorter journeys.

I guess both kinds of transport can be comfortable, although admittedly people in the first picture seem way less comfortable as they have to stand in a crowd with bags, waiting for their turn to come onboard.

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

Candidate A: I would probably stick to trains, even if it means spending more time en route. There is something sentimental about sitting by a train window, looking at the landscape rushing past. You feel less confined in a train because it makes stops so you could go out to stretch your legs. Also, you have the option to open a window, which is out of the question on a plane!

About to do something  – if you are about to do something, it means that your plan is to do it in the next moment, without waiting any further.
Admittedly (adv)  – used when you want  to state something that you are unwilling to or because the statement might be unpleasant to the listener.
Seem way less comfortable – use ‘seem’ to introduce another level of being unsure or not certain. ‘Way less’ is another phrase with a similar meaning to ‘much less’, but more informal.
Stick to – if you stick to something, it means you make the same choice again and again, e.g. “I usually stick to the same route when I walk home from work”
Confined – (here) stuck somewhere with no way out.
Out of the question – if something is out of the question, then it absolutely can’t or shouldn’t be done.

#9. Places to live in; New heights

an old house with grass-covered roof situated on a green shore of some lakeview of a block of flats made of white concrete

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show different places people live in. I’d like you to compare the photographs and say why people might prefer to live there. (1 minute)

Candidate A: Picture one shows a detached house situated in a remote location on the shore of a foggy lake or river, whereas the other one shows a rather depressing view of a block of flats. Even the colours of the pictures give different emotions – serenity and contemplation for the first one and melancholy for the other.

Apartment blocks are a common choice for the majority as they provide accessible housing for urban citizens. They are conveniently located in the city to allow shorter commute times to their places of work, and this aspect alone makes them so preferred by those employed at a full-time job. Contrastingly, private housing like in the first picture is usually too expensive to afford if it is located in the city because the cost of land can be quite high. That is why this type of lodging is usually found in the county.

Candidate B, which place would be more comfortable to live in for a big family? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: When we talk about families, we probably imagine a husband and a wife with several kids – and kids have to be taken to places. Whether it’s the kindergarten, the school or the hospital, all of these are much more likely to be immediately accessible in a city. The first picture is clearly away from a busy urban area, which is why I think the second picture shows better accommodation for a family, even if it might not look like much.

Detached house  – a type of private housing where no walls are shared with other houses. Compare with ‘semi-detached house’
Whereas (adv)  – a good verb to make a contrasting comparison with a previously mentioned thing. This one comes in the second part of the same sentence as the first thing, e.g. “Oranges are normally sweet, whereas lemons are almost always bitter”.
Conveniently located – located in a way that is practical and easily accessible.
Lodging – place of living, accommodation.
Immediately accessible – easy to get to.

a man standing on the top of a mountain celebrating his ascenta man and a woman looking down on a big city from some high vantage point

Candidate B, now it’s your turn. The pictures show people at high altitudes. Compare both pictures and say what could have made these people go there. (1 minute)

Candidate B: The first picture shows us a man who has just finished his ascension to a mountain peak, his hands held high in celebration of this achievement. The place looks cold but the man probably doesn’t feel it from all the climbing he had to do. The other one is a nice show of a couple, holding hands and looking down on a beautiful urban skyline from some high point just outside that city. 

The purpose of going that high could be different – the couple probably wanted to admire the view, do something romantic together, or maybe just have a pleasant change from the more usual activities like going to the restaurant or the movies. The man in the wilderness of the mountains is likely to have done that for a different reason. Maybe he wanted to prove something to himself – that he is strong and brave enough to reach the peak all by himself.

Candidate A, which picture shows a situation that is more likely to be memorable?

Candidate A: Climbing up a dangerous mountain is very unusual, and for that reason alone, it is going to be a memory to go back to. However, the second picture is not to be discounted either. It could also be their very first time together, which is naturally going to stick in their minds – then I would say the situation in picture two is going to be quite memorable.

Has just finished  – the thing of interest here is the usage of the Present Perfect tense – don’t be shy to include it, even though normally the recommendation is to use Present Continuous for descriptions.
Urban skyline  – the overall impression of the city where you can see most of it from a distance.
Probably (adv) – show a degree of uncertainty with this adverb.
Likely (adv) – same as before, you cannot be sure about what is going on in the picture, so speculating makes sense.
All by himself – alone, without other people.
Not to be discounted – should not be seen or considered unimportant.
Stick in one’s mind – to be memorable, to leave a lasting impression.

#10. People with animals; Live performances

a woman standing right in front of a huge of an indoors aquarim with various fish in inside a young girl hugging her dog affectionately

Candidate A, here are your pictures. They show people with animals. I’d like you to compare the pictures and say what each person’s attitude to the animals might be, okay? (1 minute)

Candidate A: The first picture is of a woman standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with lots of sea life in it. The other picture is a close-up of a young girl who is affectionately embracing a dog. It could be her pet that she is parting with, or maybe she hasn’t seen it for a long time.

It is clear that the girl in the second picture has great fondness for her dog, her body language is an indication of that. Conversely, the woman in the other image shows curiosity, but probably nothing beyond that.

Candidate B, are animals an important part of your life? (~20 seconds).

Candidate B: I do have a cat at my home. She is the only living thing that is always with me, so I would say yes, she is of vital importance to me. I don’t think my life would be the same if I didn’t have my cat, for whatever reason.

The first picture is of a woman – one additional way to introduce picture description is to use the seemingly simple phrase ‘a picture of something’.
Embrace (v)  – to hug.
Conversely (adv) – we are introducing a counterpoint here.
I do have … – some people are unaware that you can use auxiliary verbs in affirmative (positive) sentences to make them more emphatic (carry more meaning, make them sound more convincing).
Would be – introducing an imaginary or hypothetical situation with ‘would’ is a good idea and a way to speculate.

a colourful music performance in a huge concert halla street musician playing the violin next to a building

Candidate B, now it’s your turn. The pictures show people playing music. Compare both pictures and say which musician enjoys their job more. (1 minute)

Candidate B: While both pictures show live music performances, there are certain differences between them. The first one displays a huge concert hall, an expensive show that has gathered thousands of people around it. In the second image, we see a street performer playing the violin for whoever happens to pass by him.

It is difficult to say which musician is driven by passion for their craft and who does it simply as an alternative to a day job. I will take a wild guess here and say that the performers of the live concert are more likely to derive pleasure from what they do. I think so because they have so many people who appreciate their work – this alone should be enough to make your passion worth pursuing.

Candidate A, music in which picture would you prefer to listen to?

Candidate A: I am not a big fan of string instruments, so listening to the violin would not be very enjoyable to me. That is why I would go for the music playing at that big event – it is probably some electronic dance music or something of the kind. I am just not into older instruments like the violin, that is all.

While both – a cool structure to include similarities and differences in the same sentence – just make sure not to get lost and confused in it. Keeping it simple is usually the key to great score in FCE Speaking – not just Part 2 of it.
For whoever happens to pass by him – use ‘whoever’ when there is no need to specify the person. To pass by means to walk close without stopping.
Take a wild guess – a great way to introduce a speculative statement.
Derive pleasure from something – to enjoy some activity.
Worth pursuing – here, to pursue something means to continue doing it.

PDF Click to download this FCE Speaking Part 2 Worksheet in PDF. There is also a version with question cards only, without model answers or vocabulary.

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 that you can synonymize.

Another important aspect of your answer is prepositions (next to his motorcycle/on a plane). This neither makes nor breaks your answer, 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 is no 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 organically include new ideas in the answer. 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.
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 contrasting.