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How to make FCE speaking practice fun: Part 1

How to make FCE speaking practice fun presents an alternative way to go about preparing your students for their FCE speaking exam. It is the first in the series of four posts, each focusing on a different part of the speaking exam. The objective here is to introduce different activities that make FCE speaking practice fun and at the same time help students perfect skills and strategies which the exam requires.

You have been preparing your students for their upcoming FCE Cambridge exam for some time now. They are familiar with the exam format and types of exercises because you have covered a number of sample exam papers with them. They are doing fine, but they are not fully ready to take the exam yet. Still, things are going according to the plan.

What is the problem then? Well, your students are bored to death with the speaking practice! Each time you produce a pair of photos or a neat graph, there is eye-rolling, moaning, and this “No, not this again” vibe in the room. You know they still need to practice, and they know it too. The issue at hand is not being able to find any engaging alternative for exam tasks which would still allow your students to practice skills and strategies their FCE Speaking Exam requires.

This short series of posts provides exactly this: four outside the box ideas on how to help your students practice for their exam, boost their motivation and engagement, and make your exam classes memorable, involving, and effective.

I hope you find these activities as helpful as I did, and your students will enjoy them and benefit from them as much as mine did.


FCE Speaking Exam Part 1

  • Focus: general interaction and social language
  • During the exam: Your students will spend app. 2 minutes being interviewed by the examiner. The questions they will be asked cover a number of topics (likes and dislikes, leisure time, media, work and study, family and friends, holidays and travel, etc.)
  • Students should watch out for: giving very brief answers to questions and answering in a mechanical, artificial way which reveals they had memorized answers to many questions beforehand.
  • Teacher’s job: try to keep your students on their toes. They should be ready to answer different questions in a natural, casual, yet confident way.

Making speaking practice fun: Guess who interviews

Procedure:

  • prepare a list of celebrities or well-known fictional characters. Make sure your students know the names from your list, make it appropriate for their age / cultural background
  • cut up your list into strips of paper each containing a name
  • prepare a list of typical FCE Speaking Exam Part 1 questions and cut them up
  • select a student and let them draw a name (which must remain secret) from a pile
  • distribute some typical exam questions among other students and let them interview the mystery person
  • the selected student should play the part and answer all questions as if they truly were Justin Bieber / Queen Elizabeth / Batman / Katniss Everdeen / Leo Messi / Taylor Swift dropping tiny hints about their identity i.e Katniss Everdeen would probably say she enjoys hunting and spending time with her younger sister when asked “What do you usually do in your free time?
  • after several rounds of questions (4-5 work best) ask your group whether they know what famous person / character they were interviewing
  • take some time at the end of the game to look at some errors / ways to improve your students’ answers

 Why should you use this activity?

Students very often find the first part of the speaking exam boring and aren’t willing to practice typical interview questions. Some of them tend to think this is the easiest part and they can ace it with zero preparation, but it’s not a secret that even the strongest student risks making silly and unnecessary mistakes if they don’t practice.

The first part of the exam is supposed to help the candidate feel more comfortable and at ease. This objective won’t be achieved unless your students feel like they are really making a good impression. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that “they can manage, these are just some silly questions”. This part of the exam counts as any other and should by no means be underrated by your students.

By gamifying the interview part you make the revision more entertaining, motivating, and engaging for your students. They practice and perfect their English without even knowing it.

 Materials

FCE Speaking Exam Part 1 Sample questions:

How do you like to spend your evenings?
Tell us about a film you really like.
Are you going to do anything special this weekend?
Do you use the Internet much? Why / Why not?
Which is your favourite way to travel?
Do you like to be active when you’re on holidays?
Is there anything new you would like to learn in the future?
Do you prefer working alone or with other people? Why?

See how to make Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4 of the exam fun.

15 Comments

  1. This is really great, well done and thank you! I’ve been looking for ways to make the speaking practice more fun and this is perfect.

  2. Used this Part I activity with several classes and had great results…engaged motivated students.Thanks a lot

  3. My students loved this (me too!). Our ‘celebrities’ ranged from Captain Jack Sparrow to local politicians. My adults responded with child-like enthusiasm, with shouts of “again!”. Thanks very much, Gosia

    • Hi Liz! Thanks a lot for commenting. The lesson sounds wonderful and I’m so happy your students enjoyed it

  4. Just read this and had decided to use it for my conversation class next week as it looks fantastic…and then realised it was you who’d written it! 😊
    Great job, Gosia!

  5. All of your ideas for preparing students for the FCE exam are superb! Just what I have been looking for! I’ll let you know how I get on

    • Great to hear, Sarah! I’d love to know how it worked out with your students.

  6. Great activity. I added one other activity. I have changed it a little by giving them a few minutes to find information about the fictional character so that they can answer the questions that are being asked.

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