Top Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge PET Speaking Exam
To get a good mark in the PET Speaking exam, you will need to produce simple sentences on familiar topics, and also be able to give reasons, opinions and explain your plans. You will get top marks if you show you can speak for extended periods of time and also if you use more complex structures (e.g., conditionals, comparative language, passives, etc.)
Here at Atlas, we encourage our students to understand and use this range of language in our A2 and B1 classes. There is also a focus on developing the techniques that will help you get the marks you need to pass the PET and move on to preparing for the higher level exams. Let us describe a few of the best tips that we give our students in classes that are preparing for the PET Speaking test.
1. Get familiar with what you have to do.
It is extremely important that you know what each part of the Speaking exam asks you to do and what it is you should pay particular attention to doing well in each part. Preparation is key to passing the exam. So, here’s our breakdown of what you need to do in the four parts.
| Part 1 ||You will be asked questions individually by the examiner. The questions will be about your life and you may be asked questions about the present, past and future. Focus on good pronunciation, and extending your answers just a little. |
| Part 2 ||You will be given some images and will be asked to interact with your partner. You will need to discuss, make and respond to suggestions, and come to an agreement at the end. Focus on giving your opinions and supporting them with reasons, while also responding to your partner’s suggestions and opinions. Listen to what your partner says and develop a conversation. |
| Part 3 ||You will be given a colour photograph and, individually, will need to be able to describe and speculate about what you see for up to 1 minute. |
*To speculate means you have to say what you think you see. See below for more details.
| Part 4 ||This is a general conversation based on the topic of the photographs in part 3. You’ll work with your partner and you both need to give opinions, talk about your likes/dislikes, preferences, experiences, habits etc. Again, try to develop a conversation. |
You can find more information on how to do each part on pp.40-42 of the Cambridge PET Handbook.
2. How to improve your PET Speaking, Part 1!
In part 1, you will be asked questions about your past, present and future. Make sure you answer in full sentences and not just a few words.
“Where are you from?”
“Well, I come from Madrid which is the capital of Spain.”
“Where are you from?“
Also, here are some typical questions you may be asked about the past, present and future. We have also included some typical answers you could give. So, we strongly advise you to practise the answering the questions – putting your own information into the answers, of course.
Questions about the past:
Where did you go for your last holidays?
I went to a place called _________. We spent our time sightseeing / sunbathing / swimming in the sea / having a great time on the beach, etc. I absolutely loved / hated it.
How long have you been learning English?
Well I have been learning English for ___ years.
How did you get here today?
I came by car / by train / on foot. It took me about ___ minutes to get here.
Questions about the present:
What do you most enjoy doing with your family?
Even though my mum doesn’t like it, I really like ________ .
How often do you go to the cinema?
I hardly ever go to the cinema because I don’t have the time / money / don’t really like it.
What do you like or dislike about where you live?
Well my city / town / village is amazing because __________ . The one thing I don’t like about it, though, is _________ .
Questions about the future:
Where do you plan to go for your next holiday?
Well, I hope to go to ____ because I love / I want to _____ .
Would you like to live in another place?
Yes, I would love to live in ______ because ______.
No, I wouldn’t like to live in another place because ________.
Do you think English will be useful for you in the future?
Oh yes, because I will need it for my job / my studies / to talk with people from other countries, etc.
Now, remember that these are just possible questions that you could be asked. Also, when you practise giving these answers make sure you use good intonation in your voice to make them sound more natural before you go into your exam.
3. How to improve PET Speaking Part 2.
In this part of the test you will have to interact with your partner to build a conversation. Together, you will need to discuss, make and respond to suggestions, and come to an agreement at the end. Here is a list of useful language that you could use to improve this part.
Asking your partner
What do you think?
Do you agree?
What’s your opinion?
Would you like to ……?
Do you think so?
Should we …….?
Definitely. That’s a good point.
Good idea. I never thought of that.
Yeah, you’re right.
Hmm, I’m not sure.
I don’t think so.
On the other hand, …
A better idea might be …
I think it’d be better if …
Giving your opinion
I think that …. (we should go to the cinema.)
I’d say … (a computer is better than a TV.)
I’m pretty sure that … (he would like a new watch.)
Here’s an example Part 2 question from the Handbook that you can start practising with. Try to use a number of different ways of giving your opinion, asking for your partner’s opinion, and agreeing and disagreeing.
Question: A young man on holiday in North America wants to buy a present to take home to his parents. Talk together about the different presents he could buy, and say which would be best..
4. How to improve PET Speaking, Part 3.
In this part of the test you will be asked to speak on your own about a picture for up to a minute. It’s very important that you speak for as long as possible and don’t worry at all if the examiner interrupts you and asks you to stop. That’s a good thing. It shows you are extending your speaking. The examiners just need to keep to the timings, though.
You will each be given a picture to describe and speculate on. Here’s an example from the Handbook of the type of picture you could be asked to describe:
You will need to do three things: refer to the picture, describe the picture, and speculate about the picture. Here is some useful language that can help you get good marks in this part of the exam.
Referring to the photo
To refer to the photos you’ll need to say what you can see in different parts of the photos, like this:
Some example sentences would be:
In the middle there is a woman, who might be a teacher, looking after the children.
In the foreground, we can see two children who are studying hard.
Describing the picture
You need to describe everything you see in the picture for up to 1 minute. You can talk about:
- the scene. E.g., “It’s a picture of a very busy classroom.”
- what the people are wearing.
- what they are doing.
- what objects you can see in the picture
- and how the people are using them.
We need to speculate when we are not sure of something. For example:
It could be a classroom or a busy library.
She looks like a teacher but could be a librarian.
They might be studying for an example.
Maybe they are studying for an exam.
It must be a library.
So, try practising using the language to describe pictures you see online or in newspapers.
Try recording yourself on your phone and listen to hear your answer. Or do this with a friend. Share your recordings and talk about how you could make them better.
5. How to improve PET Speaking, Part 4!
In this last part of the test you will need to talk to your partner again. You both will need to give opinions, and talk about your likes / dislikes, preferences, experiences, habits, etc. Here is a typical question taken from the Handbook:
We recommend that you look back at the previous tips and reuse the language from each one for this task. But on top of that, in this question you may need to refer to yourself a lot. Here is some language to help you do this:
Referring to yourself
For me, ….
In my experience, …
When I was …
When I am …
In my opinion …
So, these are our key pieces of advice to get you prepared for the PET Speaking exam. Remember, the exam is just 10 to 12 minutes long so make sure you show the examiners that you have a good, effective command of English and are able to speak reasonably flexibly about many everyday things. Use a range of language, speak in extended chunks without hesitating too much, and try to involve your partner and build a conversations. The examiners can’t give you top marks for having reasonable pronunciation and showing potential. Show them how good you are. Use polite, friendly intonation and let them hear you do all the things that will allow them to give you really good marks in your PET Speaking.
For tips on the Cambridge First (FCE) and Advanced (CAE) exams visit our blog here!