First & CAE Certificate Tips:

Three Things to Remember When Talking About Photos On The Cambridge Exams

The most important thing is to make sure that you understand the question. Many students look at the photo and begin to describe it, but often times the question is more subtle. For example, the question is why might this photo be important to the people in it. The photo is often of a special occasion like a wedding or a birthday party. The student begins to describe the photo in great detail: “This is a photo of a wedding or a birthday party, and we can see lots of people from the same family.  They are celebrating and eating good food. They are very happy.”  Well, yes, but the question was why might the photo be important to the people in it, not what is this a picture of. So, the first thing the student must do is think to himself or herself, where and when was the wedding taken. If it was taken at a wedding, then the student should think about why weddings are important and why would do we take and save photos of them. He or she could begin by writing, “Weddings are important” or birthday parties are important. The next question is why? This is the correct answer to the question, because people take photos of things that are important to them. For example, the photo of a wedding is important to the parents. It symbolizes their hopes for their children’s future. Or photos of a child’s birthday party are important because although birthdays happen every year, a first or a tenth birthday only happens once in a lifetime. The parents take the photo in order to remember the day and how they felt about it.

Another important thing about the speaking test is to use examples. Talk about your older sister’s wedding or your younger brother or sister’s fifth birthday party, or your own. An important part of the answer should be personal experiences. The student could say, I know that birthdays are important because I remember my sister’s or my brother’s party.

A third thing that is important is to listen to what your partner is saying. After he or she has spoken, the tester will ask you a similar question about the same picture.  This is not just a test of whether or not you speak English grammatically correct, it is also a test of how well you participate in an English conversation. Participating means sharing.  Remember this especially in the section where you and your partner are asked to discuss a photo or a subject together. If the other student isn’t answering questions or is hesitating to speak, make sure that you ask them when you are finish, what do you think? This will show that you are capable of taking part in a normal English conversation.

The secret is to speak naturally and in an organized manner. These three simple things are easy to remember and to do, and they are exactly what you are being tested on:

  1. Does the student understand the question.
  2. Is the student’s answer organized and supported with examples.
  3. How well does the student function in an English language conversation

Use these three simple things and you will be surprised at how much you will improve your Cambridge exam score.

Good luck!