How to make FCE speaking practice fun: Part 2

How to make FCE speaking practice fun presents an alternative way to go about preparing your students for their FCE 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. This is the second in the series of four posts and it focuses on Speaking Part 2.

FCE Speaking Exam Part 2

  • Focus: comparing, contrasting, expressing opinions;
  • During the exam: each candidate is given a pair of pictures to talk about for one minute. Then they should answer a question about their partner’s pictures. They should focus on comparing the pictures and expressing their opinion about the question regarding both images;
  • Students should watch out for: spending too much time describing the pictures they see and not focusing on the task at hand: comparing and giving their opinion;
  • Teacher’s job:  make sure your students know how to effectively compare ideas / images in English and know how to organize their ideas coherently;

Making speaking practice fun: This vs. That


  • Prepare a list of random activities  (that are, nevertheless, likely to occur in the exam!), cut it up, and put them in a bag.
  • Before you start the activity, elicit some useful language we use to compare and contrast ideas (both X and Y …. / whereas… / One thing that X and Y have in common is … / X and Y are quite similar/different  because … / Unlike X, Y is…). It’s a good idea to write them on the board.
  • Students draw two pieces of paper from the bag and have to compare the two things.
  • It is quite possible that the combination your student drew is very abstract; here’s where the fun begins! Let your students think outside the box!
  • Pay special attention to your students using appropriate language. You might give them 30 seconds to “prepare” their answer, however, what works best here is the element of surprise.
  • To make the exercise more challenging (and to “force” your students to use target expressions) you might point to a given expression written on the board to prompt the student to come up with a sentence (You point to UNLIKE  → the student has to make a sentence using this word to contrast the ideas they are talking about)
  • Time your students! They have 30 seconds to compare and contrast as much as they can.
  • Example: Living in the city vs. relaxing at the beach:

Both activities may be quite difficult, especially if the city and beach are crowded. Living in the city, just like relaxing at the beach is something a lot of people find very attractive.  If you live in the city, you have a lot of things to do, whereas relaxing at the beach might get boring after some time. Unlike living in the city, relaxing at the beach might help you forget about your problems and disconnect from your everyday life.

  • Make sure to spend some time at the end of the activity to go through common mistakes / missed opportunities to use some target language.
  • Possible follow-up: after your students have used all pieces of paper, ask them to pick one (e.g. working in an office) and think of a matching item that is likely appear in the actual exam (e.g. working from home). Once they have a set, ask them to write down a couple of sentences to compare the two, remembering the expressions you had discussed.

Why should you use this activity?

There always comes this moment when your FCE students start developing an allergic reaction to any given set of two pictures that you’d like them to compare. This does not at all mean they are ready to shine in their exam, they are just bored to death with the exam format.

This activity offers them a unique opportunity to practice a very important skill for Part 2 of the exam: comparing and contrasting what they see. Finding a common theme and organizing one’s thoughts is crucial to successfully complete the task. Adding some humor and surprise to the usual FCE Part 2 routine  makes it a fast-paced, highly entertaining and effective activity. This game will also help your students understand that describing the exam visuals isn’t at all important, it’s the differences and similarities that they should pay attention to.


Living in the city Relaxing at the beach Playing on a football team
Having a pet Working in an office Studying on your own
Traveling by plane Shopping at the supermarket Celebrating with your friends
Going to the cinema Learning how to play the piano Taking an online language course

See how to make Part 1 Part 3 , and Part 4 of the exam fun.


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