C1 advanced speaking test part three – the collaborative task
Part three requires you to have a conversation with your partner(s). The examiner will give you verbal instructions and you will receive a diagram containing a question and written prompts which you should talk about. You and your partner(s) will need to talk for about two minutes (three minutes for groups of three) about the written prompts. After having this discussion, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have one minute to talk together and make the decision (two minutes for groups of three).
It looks like this:
Talk together about what kind of satisfaction people get from having things like these.
What kind of language is tested in this part?
To score well in part three you are going to need to be able to comfortably use language for giving and justifying your opinion, agreeing and/or disagreeing and:
- Suggesting – e.g. ‘Shall we start with this point?’
- Speculating – e.g. ‘perhaps’, ‘it might be that…’ etc
- Evaluating – e.g. ‘Although I think that’s is important, I think XYZ is more important because…’
- Reaching a decision through negotiation – e.g. ‘While I agree with you on that point, don’t you think that…?’
In the same part of the B2 First speaking test, you are also given this task but this time the examiners will be looking for you to be able to deal with unfamiliar situations as well, and for you to able to correctly use the above kind of language. Unfamiliar situations aren’t necessarily things that you won’t know anything about, but they will require you to speculate and think a bit more than in the B2 First exam, where you are only given topics that are familiar to you.
Your sentences need to be a bit more sophisticated than just the basic ‘I think doing exercise regularly is important because it keeps you healthy’. You’ll need to show that you can join your ideas together using linking expressions and use discourse markers.
Discourse markers are phrases or words such as:
‘I mean…’ (to make things clearer or give more detail)
‘as I was saying…’ (to bring the conversation back to a previous point made)
‘anyway…’ (to close a conversation or to move onto another point)
‘at the end of the day…’ (to conclude an argument)
‘having said that’… (similar to ‘nevertheless’ and used for adding an opinion that is the opposite of what you just said, but you think both are true)
Discourse markers signal to the listener that they want to open or close the conversation, or move it into a different direction, by perhaps raising another point of view or moving onto another topic. If you can use them well in your spoken English, it helps show that you have reached a high standard.
There are also other important discourse markers which join points together, such as ‘while’, ‘although’ or ‘otherwise’ to name a few. See our useful language section at the end of this guide for more examples and how to use them.
Part three is a collaborative task, so it’s really important to ask for your partner’s opinion and/or ask if they agree or disagree, in other words a discussion of the points in your diagram. You should be polite by saying what you think and then pausing and/or asking your partner if they agree or disagree, which is what you would do in a normal conversation.
You could use some of these phrases:
1. What do you think?
2. Do you agree?
3. What do you think about XYZ?
4. ..And what about XYZ?
Also DON’T answer the question the first time that you speak together – this is what you do after and when the examiner tells you to.
It’s helpful to look at good and bad answers, so below we will look at two answers to the example question above and look in more detail about what you should and shouldn’t do.
A weak answer
Candidate A: Well let’s start with fashionable clothes, shall we?
Candidate B: OK!
Candidate A: I think wearing fashionable clothes can sometimes make people feel good about themselves
Candidate B: Yeah, me too.
Candidate A: And I guess travelling is great when you have the time
Candidate B: Absolutely, what do you think about becoming rich?
Candidate A: Oh I think most people wouldn’t say no to the idea but it’s not the only thing that can make you happy.
Candidate B: definitely, as they say, ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’. I think spending time with friends and getting married are things that make you feel the most satisfied with life.
Candidate A: I totally agree, so we done?
Candidate B: Yeah that’s all of them
Why is the above answer not very good?
1. They go too fast (you get a whole two minutes and should keep speaking until the examiner stops you) and that’s because…
2. … there’s little evaluation of the points each speaker makes. You need to justify your reasoning and not be too general.
3. Their sentences are very short. Saying ‘yeah me too’, is fine but expand on your answer!
E.g. ‘yeah me too, although I think it’s just a materialistic kind of satisfaction and people perhaps get more satisfaction when they spend time with people close to them – like their family and friends…’
4. While both candidates do interact a little bit with their partner, e.g. by asking ‘shall we?’ and ‘so what do you think about…?’, it would be better to do it more.
5. There’s aren’t enough discourse markers used in either of the candidates’ answers, so they can’t access the higher marks for the language used.
6. Candidate A wastes time by asking their partner which one they should start with, which you don’t need to do. Just start talking about one of them.
As mentioned before, you are given two minutes to evaluate each point in turn, and so you should try and say a few sentences for each point and involve your partner as much as possible throughout the two minutes.
Here is a very good answer
Candidate A: So, I think when people wear fashionable clothes, they do get some kind of satisfaction from it in the way that it can make people feel good about themselves since they might look nicer and when people have the money it can be a nice treat. Having said that, I think it’s only satisfying in the materialistic kind of sense, and I think when people spend time with their friends they do get a different kind of satisfaction, whether it’s people they have something in common with or feel comfortable with. What do you think?
Candidate B: Yes, I totally agree with you about people wearing fashionable clothes giving a materialistic sense of satisfaction and that most people do get a lot of satisfaction when they spend time with friends. Perhaps they’re friends who all enjoy doing a certain kind of hobby or activity together, like playing football or horse riding and so they can all do what they enjoy together at the same time. Also, I think getting married makes people feel satisfied in the way that they’re building a life with somebody they love and want to spend the rest of their lives with (supposedly!). Would you agree?
Candidate A: Yes, I think I generally agree with what you said there about people getting married in the sense that it can bring a lot of happiness into people’s lives. Although, I would say that some people do marry for the wrong reasons, perhaps it’s just to have a partner in their life and they might not actually love them. Also a big fancy wedding can be expensive and I think less people get married nowadays than they used to. What do you think about becoming rich?
Candidate B: Well I think a lot of people would welcome the idea of becoming rich, after all, a bit of money in your life can do a lot of things for you. You could buy a house, have a big wedding and start a family but of course you don’t need to be rich to do those things. I think when people do become rich it feels good temporarily because if they win the lottery for example, people often buy all sorts of things but after the money’s gone and the novelty has worn off then perhaps they wonder what all the excitement was about.
Candidate A: Absolutely, I think most people wouldn’t say no to the idea of becoming rich if it was just handed to them, but as you said, being rich isn’t all roses and unicorns and I think a lot of people who are perhaps self-made millionaires spend most of their time making money, rather than actually enjoying their life and being thankful for what they do have like family and friends…
Examiner:Thank you. Now…
*the above gif is from the film ‘the big lebowski’ 😉
What makes the above answer so good?
Both candidates do several things well here:
1. They both showed that they are listening to each other by acknowledging what the other person had said – e.g. ‘yes, I totally agree’ or ‘absolutely’; they also paraphrased what the other had said and then expanded upon it. This is what you should do.
Top tip! What is paraphrasing?
For example with our answer above, candidate B says:
I think getting married makes people feel satisfied in the way that they’re building a life with somebody they love and want to spend the rest of their lives with (supposedly!)..
And then candidate A paraphrases and builds on what B said:
Yes, I think I generally agree with what you said there about people getting married in the sense that it can bring a lot of happiness into people’s lives. Although, I would say that some people do marry for the wrong reasons, perhaps it’s just to have a partner in their life and they might not actually love them. Also a big fancy wedding can be expensive and I think less people get married nowadays than they used to.
If we compare both candidates responses together, we can see that candidate A intelligently paraphrases what B said, simply by using different words and making it a bit shorter: ‘it can bring a lot of happiness into people’s lives’ and then they build on what A said (‘supposedly!’) and talks about the wrong reasons for getting married.
2. Each candidate said their point and generally asked for the opinion of their partner. Candidate A makes a point and then candidate B responds, a bit like a game of tennis. They didn’t just talk at length on their own without involving their partner.
3. Some of the prompts were mixed together – spending time with friends and getting married. This is a very tactful way of making the whole conversation flow nicely. It’s much better to have an in depth discussion about three or four of the topics rather than trying to cover all of them and not exploring them in enough detail.
4. The examiner stopped the task when they’d spoken for two minutes. They had explored most of the options and talked at length about them. They hadn’t discussed travel but that’s OK because everything else about their answer was great.
Do all good answers really go as smooth as that though?
Not always. Use the above model answer to guide you towards something that you should aim for.
It’s also important to realise that you probably won’t know who you’re going to be paired with. Your partner might be overly confident or cocky. They might be shy. They might be nervous and they may well interrupt you.
So what do you do? Get mad and tell them to shut the fuck up?* That is of course a big no no.
*Don’t ever react like that in an exam.
Common concerns expressed by students
How can I cover five points in just two minutes?
You are given a question which will hopefully be familiar to you, provoke your thoughts and activate things in your mind that you are likely to know something about, so, depending on the topic, you might not have time to cover all five points in detail in just two minutes. Don’t get hung up on trying to get through all five points, rather it’s better to have an in depth conversation with your partner about three or four of the topics. Naturally, some people have more or perhaps less to say about one particular prompt than others, so if you do get through all five topics in the space of two minutes then that’s fine. Just remember it’s not a race to get through all of them and while you need to show that you have the ability to answer each part with the correct language, you’re not graded on how many of the prompts you got through, but do try to speak about at least three of them. See the mark scheme from Cambridge English.
Help! My partner is shy or doesn’t let me speak!
While you can arrange to do the speaking test with somebody you know (you should contact your nearest exam centre to ask for more details), being able to handle unfamiliar situations is part of the challenge of the test and this is reflective of a more real life experience.
Most people taking the test will feel some degree of nervousness and some will be more nervous than others (which is normal!). Just like you have seen in our example, you should ask for your partners opinion and/or pause after speaking and wait for them to respond, as if it was a natural conversation. In the unlikely event that you are paired with somebody who says very little just carry on with the task and try your best to politely involve them. The examiners will be well aware and you should just carry on with the test.
If your partner is trying to dominate the conversation and you feel that you’re not given the chance to speak, then the best thing to do is politely interrupt and be friendly towards the other candidate. The other candidate will most likely let you have your say. The examiners will be aware if one particular candidate is being difficult but it’s also unlikely that this will happen, so don’t worry about it.
You can also try and take the lead in the discussion by thinking about what your partner has said, and agree or disagree, whilst giving your reasons. You should also ask for your partner’s opinion, which will help you take back control of the conversation.
Do I have to agree with my partner?
No, but if you don’t then you should say why and try to show that you understand your partner’s perspective by paraphrasing what they said and then politely explain your point of view. Remember, the examiners are assessing you on your ability to have a polite discussion and explain your opinions with the right language.
In this part of the test there are no right or wrong answers, only opinions. If you disagree with your partner explain why and comment on what they’ve said with phrases like:
‘that’s a good point, but I also think that…’
‘I hadn’t thought of that… but I also think that…’.
Answering the second question of part three
The exam format for speaking part three of the advanced test is the same as part three for the B2 First exam. The examiner will ask you and your partner to speak together again for one minute and try to come to a decision. You will often be asked to choose one option out of the five.
Using the same example question from the beginning of this guide, the examiner would ask something like:
You now have one minute to decide which one of the options you think people get the most satisfaction from
Hopefully, you didn’t do this in the first part! What’s also important is that you don’t just say at the beginning which option you have chosen. With your partner, you should eliminate the options you’re not going to choose, while explaining your reasons, and then discuss with your partner about which option you choose, again explaining why. It’s OK if you don’t agree with each other, but try your best to understand your partner’s opinion and reach some kind of agreement.
Remember that you have a minute to do this next bit, and so don’t just end it after 30 seconds. Use the whole minute.
Candidate A: I think to start with, I would say that the materialistic things like wearing fashionable clothes and becoming rich aren’t the things which people get the most satisfaction from because as people say, money doesn’t buy happiness and it’s other things that make us happy. Don’t you agree?
Candidate B: I think I agree with you about buying fashionable clothes and becoming rich aren’t the things which people get the most satisfaction out of, because they’re not the only things that makes you happy and it’s more the package as a whole. I think travelling is something people definitely do get a lot of satisfaction out of, it can be a nice break away from routine and school, and it can make you more open-minded. What do you think?
Candidate A: Yes, I completely agree with you about travelling – they are experiences which you will never forget. But I think when it really comes down to it all, and what matters most in the long term is having your friends and family around you.
Candidate B: Yeah, I think I can relate to you on that as well, and I suppose getting married can be a really nice experience if you’re with somebody you love but your friends are the people who will be there for you no matter what happens, so shall we go with spending time with friends?
Candidate A: Yes, as I said, while all the other options do give us satisfaction, having your best friends around you is something money can’t buy.
Well done, you’ve just completed part three 🙂
Breaking up the conversation / moving to another point / concluding your point of view / linking ideas together:
I mean… (to make things clearer or give more detail)
as I was saying… (to bring the conversation back to a previous point made)
anyway… (to close a conversation or to move onto another point)
at the end of the day… (to conclude an argument)
at least… (to introduce a positive point after something negative)
Basically… (to introduce the most important or fundamental point)
Expressing your opinion
I think that…
To my mind..
I would say that..
In my view..
As far as I’m concerned
Well, from my experience..
The way I see it is that..
I see it that way too.
I completely agree.
I was just going to say that!
I couldn’t agree more.
Yeah, I see what you mean.
I was just thinking that!
I totally agree
Hm, well the way I see it is that..
Yeah, but, the thing is..
Well, I’m not quite sure about that because..
I don’t think that’s quite right because..
Well, I think you’re right there but..
While I agree with you about XYZ, I think that…
Asking for your partner’s opinion
What do you think about this?
What do you think?
Don’t you think?
Don’t you agree?
Moving to the next option
OK, let’s move onto this one (while pointing at another option)
What about this one?
As for + option
This topic is quite closely related to this one.
Interrupting your partner
Sorry to interrupt but I’d just like to say..
Yes and I think as well that.. / but I also think..
I’d just like to say what I think.
Phrases for reaching a decision
Okay, I think we both agree that we can eliminate [option] because…
Shall we go with..[option]?
Are we both in favour of [option]?
I don’t think it’s this one (pointing with your finger) because..
Let’s agree to disagree!…
I don’t think we’re going to be able to agree here!…