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Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

June 7, 2017

During the Cambridge CAE or FCE Speaking Module, examiners look for your ability to use advanced vocabulary, including phrasal verbs, as naturally as possible. Learn these phrasal verbs for the Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module and your score will improve drastically!

Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE

Before learning the phrasal verbs, you must know what the focus is for each of the parts of the Speaking Module. Once you understand the tasks, you can learn phrasal verbs which are directly related to the types of speech you will use in each section (such as language for talking about the future, comparing and contrasting, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.).

Note: The CAE and FCE Speaking Exams are very similar, but there are a few differences (these are noted below). You can use the same phrasal verbs for each exam, regardless of the differences in the test format.

Part 1

For Part 1 of both FCE and CAE, you may be asked about things like your home town, your interests, your studies, your career(s), etc. When speaking about yourself, try to use the following phrasal verbs.

Bring (someone) up

Definition: to look after a child until it is an adult. (Note: this is often used in the Passive Voice.)

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You will probably be asked about your childhood and where you are from.

Example: I was brought up in a very large family: I have four brothers and sisters.

Get along with

Definition: to have a good relationship with someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can use this phrasal verb to speak about the relationships you have with family, friends, roommates, classmates, etc.

Example: I get along very well with my roommates here in San Francisco, so my stay here has been very enjoyable.

Grow up

Definition: to become an adult.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can apply this phrasal verb when talking about your childhood and early years.

Example: I grew up in a small town but for the last five years I’ve lived in Zurich.

Look forward to

Definition: to be excited for something in the future.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is common phrasal verb to talk about exciting future plans.

Example: I am nervous for the Cambridge Exam, but I am also looking forward to using all of the things I’ve practiced and learned.

Take up

Definition: to begin a hobby or activity.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: In Part 1, you are often asked about your hobbies.

Example: In my free time, I really enjoy photography. I took it up when I was travelling through Southeast Asia and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Give up

Definition: to quit doing something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might be asked to talk about your childhood or past; ‘give up” is often used to discuss activities you don’t do anymore.

Example: Well, in my free time I usually enjoy skiing, but I gave that up when I moved here since I am not so close to the mountains anymore.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 2

FCE: The interlocutor gives you TWO photographs and asks you to talk about them for 1 minute. The interlocutor then asks your partner a question about your photographs and your partner responds briefly (up to 30 seconds).

Then the interlocutor gives your partner two different photographs. Your partner talks about these photographs for 1 minute. This time the interlocutor asks you a question about your partner’s photographs and you respond briefly (up to 30 seconds).

CAE: The test is the same, but you are given THREE photos (not two) and you are asked to speak about two of them.

When speaking about the photos, you will use language of speculation. For speculation, the following phrasal verbs are useful.

End up

Definition: to finally be in a place or situation.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You have to speculate a lot when looking at these photos, so this phrasal verb is a great one to use when guessing how the person came to be in the situation in the photo (or what will happen to them after).

Example: The family in this photo looks very unhappy at her office job; perhaps she dreamed of a life working at something other than a desk job and she’s sad that she ended up in such a dull environment.

Make out

Definition: to be able to see something that’s not quite clear.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might not be able to see the full details of the photo; this is a great phrasal verb to describe what you think you see.

Example: I can’t quite make it out but I think that the group is holding a trophy, so perhaps they’ve won a competition or game . . .

Make (something) up

Definition: to invent a story.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You are asked to speculate about the people in the photos and their lives, so this is a useful expression!

Example: I would guess that this person is very happy: she has her two beautiful children and a lovely house . . . perhaps she’s a stay-at-home-mom and is appreciative that she can spend time with her children . . . I’m making this all up, of course, but it’s what I would guess.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 3

FCE: (4 minutes) This part is divided into two parts and the interlocutor asks you and your partner to talk together in both. In the first part, you are given five written prompts and asked to discuss a question. For example, you might be asked to discuss things ways to improve the environment in your city.

After 2 minutes, the interlocutor will give you one more minute to make a decision together which is related to what you have been discussing.

CAE: You and your partner are given written prompts. You must speak together for about 2 minutes (3 minutes for groups of three) about these prompts. After the discussion time, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have 1 minute to talk together and make the decision (2 minutes for groups of three).


Part 4

In Part 4, you and your partner will answer follow-up questions related to the topic of Part 3. These phrasal verbs are useful when conversing.

Bring (something) up

Definition: to start a conversation about something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a great phrasal verb to use when responding to a comment that your partner made (or a question that the interlocutor brought up). It shows interaction with what another person has said, which is something they look for in this section of the exam.

Example: You brought up ______; I agree that . . .

Come up with

Definition: to suggest or think of an idea or plan.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Come up with” allows you to present an idea or respond to a question or statement.

Example: What other ideas can we come up with?

Cut (someone) off

Definition: to interrupt someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: If you accidentally cut your partner off when he or she is speaking, this is an excellent phrasal verb to use.

Example: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off: what were you saying?

Follow up

Definition: a further action connected to something that happened before.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: Following up on something your partner said is a great way to return to something you discussed previously (and add further commentary).

Example: Just to follow up on what you said earlier, I think . . .

Get back to

Definition: to return to something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Get back to” is useful when trying to return to a conversation you had previously: it’s very helpful when the conversation seems to have gotten off track and you’d like to refocus.

Example: Getting back to what we were saying earlier about . . .

Go ahead

Definition: to start to do something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You know that awkward moment when you and your partner both hesitate and each wants to speak? Use go ahead to give your partner the green light!

Example: You can go ahead and start if you’d like . . .

Warm up to

Definition: to begin liking something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: When you’re not certain about an idea, but then decide this is a good idea, you can use this phrasal verb.

Example: I’m warming up to the idea that . . .

Work something out

Definition: to agree to something after a discussion.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You and your partner must agree to something in Part 3: use this phrasal verb to announce to the interlocutor that you’ve come to an agreement.

Example: I think we’ve worked it out. We have agreed that . . .

Did you know that CISL is an official Cambridge Testing Centre? CISL CAE and FCE students have the advantage of taking their exam at CISL, which makes them much more comfortable! Hear from our students why our small class sizes and intensive, speaking-based curriculum are excellent for improving your Cambridge score.






Cambridge Exams Featured Listening Practice

Cambridge Advanced (CAE) Listening Part 4 Tips

April 25, 2017

Are you taking the Cambridge CAE exam soon? Many students struggle with the Listening Module, particularly with Part 4 of the test. We provide CAE Listening Part 4 tips to help our students prepare for this section of the test.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

I said, “Do you know how to master CAE Listening Part 4?”

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

Before reading the CAE Listening Part 4 Tips, let’s take a look at what Listening Module Part 4 is.

CAE Listening Part 4 Overview

Type of task: Multiple matching

Number of questions: 10

Length: 3-4 minutes

Format: Five short monologues (about 30 seconds each). These are labeled “Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.

There is a theme that connects all of the speakers. For example, everyone will be talking about where they were during a recent earthquake, or how they feel about technology, etc. In the example below (which is the official CAE sample test for 2017), the speakers are talking about changing jobs.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

From Cambridge ESOL. 

Students have two tasks: Task One and Task Two. In the example below, the tasks are:

  • Task One: choose the reason the speaker gives for changing jobs
  • Task Two: choose what each speaker feels about their new job

Students select the correct choice from a list of eight possible answers (listed A-H).

Scoring: Each correct answer earns the student 1 mark.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

Here are some important tips to remember for CAE Listening Part 4:

  • Remember that there is a theme with all of the recordings. The theme will be written on the top of the paper, so you will know the theme before the recording begins.
  • Use the time that the recording reads the instructions to think about the theme. Predict what language and ideas you could hear related to this theme. For example, in the theme above (changing jobs), what could some of the people talk about? You will probably hear some reasons for changing jobs: the company failed, the person got a better job, the person was unhappy with his or her boss, the speaker found a job that paid better . . . trying to predict themes will greatly help you improve your understanding of the recording.
  • Before the recording, read as much as you can of the answers (A-H). Remember that the speaker will probably NOT use the exact words, but will probably use a synonym. For example, “A” is “unfriendly colleagues.” The speaker will probably not use these words, but you might hear them describe a “rude coworker” or something similar.
  • Underline keywords: words that will be associated with the recordings, words that might have synonyms, etc.
  • Remember that you will hear the recording twice.
  • After each task, ask yourself what the speaker’s main idea, point, or feeling was.
  • There are two tasks, but you can begin with Task Two if you want. Try to take the test a few times using different strategies and see which one works best for you: there is no proven way that helps students score better. It all depends on your personal preferences.
  • The speech will be very informal. Expect to hear male and female speakers with various accents.
  • This part of the test is focused on gist. Gist is the general meaning of something. Therefore, you do not have to understand every word . . . but you do have to understand the overall meaning of the speaker’s monologue. Ask yourself, “What was his/her point?”
  • Listen for keywords that will help you better understand the speaker. For example, conjunctions or linking phrases (such as “therefore,” “that’s why,” “for that reason,” “however”) will help you understand what the speaker is saying.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

How to Prepare for CAE Listening Part 4

Students often make the mistake of taking many practice tests to prepare for Listening Part 4. The truth is, the best practice is exposure to as many accents and dialects as possible. Listen to podcasts, watch TV shows, watch movies set in different parts of the world, etc. The more time you spend doing this, the better your listening skills will be. Here are some more CAE Listening Part 4 tips.

  • Listen to as many varied accents as possible.
    • Watch some movies that are set in the American South to learn some of this accent.
    • Movies such as “Fargo” are great for learning the Midwestern accent. This Crash Course in the Midwestern Accent is an excellent article; also check out How to Master the ‘Fargo’ Accent.
    • Shows like “The Wire” are great for the Boston accent.
    • The accents won’t always be from native English speakers. TED is a great website for students to find presentations made by non-native English speakers.
  • Understand how the test tries to trick you. Read the manuscript after taking practice tests and understand WHY each answer is the correct one.
  • Improve your understanding of phrasal verbs: these are commonly used in Cambridge exams.

Do you need help on other parts of the test? Check out our tips for improving with the articles Cambridge CAE and FCE Listening Part 2 Practice + TED’s “Why Videos Go Viral” and California Facts + Cambridge Listening Part 2

CISL has provided Cambridge ESOL instruction for over 25 years and is a proud testing centre. Visit our site to learn more about our intensive CAE and FCE classes.




Cambridge Exams Featured Learning Materials

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

March 23, 2017

CISL is proud to have taught intensive Cambridge FCE and CAE  exam preparation classes for the last 25 years (and is equally proud to be a Cambridge Testing Centre)! Would you like some Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II vocabulary and tips? Read on for some of our expertise!

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Overview: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

In Part I, students speak about themselves for one minute (read our CAE and FCE Speaking Part I tips here).

In Part II, the focus turns to a visual prompt. Here’s how it works:

  • The students are given a piece of paper with photos (two photos for FCE and three photos for CAE)
  • Student A is given a task: to answer questions about the photos in one minute. The questions the student has to answer about the photographs are written at the top of the page in case the student forgets.
  • Part of this task is NOT to describe the photos: questions about about what the people in the photos might be feeling/thinking, etc. This is to test the student’s ability to speak on their own (without a partner) about something: it is testing the student’s use of language for comparing, describing, expressing opinions, and speculating.
  • Student A has one minute to speak about the photos.
  • Student B is then asked a question about the photos and has 30 seconds to respond.
  • The students are given new photos and now it’s Student B’s turn to speak for one minute.
  • After, Student A speaks for 30 seconds about the photos.

Example FCE Speaking Part 2

With the FCE Speaking Part 2, students are given two photos.

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I’m going to give you each two photographs. I’d like you to talk about your photographs on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question about your partner’s photographs.

Student A, here are your photographs. They show people who are playing a board game in different situations. I’d like you to compare these photographs, and say how different the motives for the players might be different in each situation. 

All right?

(Student A speaks for one minute.)

Student B, do you enjoy participating in competitions? Why or why not?

(Student B speaks for 30 seconds.)

Example CAE Speaking Part 2

With the CAE Speaking Part 2, students are given three photos.

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I’m going to give you each two photographs. I’d like you to talk about your photographs on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question about your partner’s photographs.

Student A, here are your photographs. They show people who are playing a board game in different situations. I’d like you to compare two photographs and say how different the motives for the players might be different in each situation. 

All right?

(Student A speaks for one minute.)

Student B, in which situation do you think the players feel the most pressure? Why?

(Student B speaks for 30 seconds.)

Useful Vocabulary: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

Because students are being tested on comparing, describing, expressing opinions, and speculating, it is important that students know the language related to these concepts.


We can use the following words for comparing two photos that are similar:

  • as
  • as well as
  • both
  • have in common
  • in the same way
  • like
  • more (adjective) than
  • the most (adjective)
  • similar
  • similarly
  • same
  • the same as

We can use the following words for comparing two photos that are different:

  • although
  • but
  • contrary to
  • even though
  • differ
  • however
  • instead
  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • the reverse
  • unless
  • unlike
  • whereas
  • while
  • yet


Use the Simple Present and Present Continuous to talk about what is happening in the photos. If you don’t know the vocabulary words, check out our article What How to Answer an IELTS, TOEFL, or Cambridge Question When You Don’t Understand a Vocabulary Word.

Expressing opinions

  • My initial reaction is …
  • I (really) think that …
  • I believe (that) …
  • I’m sure that …
  • In my opinion / My opinion is …
  • For me/ From my point of view, …
  • Frankly, …
  • I do believe/ feel/think …
  • I tend to think that …
  • It seems clear to me that …
  • To the best of my knowledge, …
  • What I think is …
  • It would seem to me that …
  • I can’t help thinking that …
  • I think it’s fair/reasonable to say …
  • I’ve come the conclusion that …


  • You could say …
  • I reckon/suppose …
  • It could/might well be that …
  • It could be said that …
  • My best guess is …
  • It’s possible that …
  • Perhaps

Tips: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

CISL is a Cambridge Testing Centre and has been providing successful FCE and CAE testing to students for over 25 years. Here are some of our tips for mastering Part 2 of the Cambridge Speaking Module!

  • Speak for the entire time you are given. Students sometimes become nervous and do not use the full minute or 30 seconds.
  • Practice timing yourself by giving yourself impromptu one minute speeches. In time, you will gain a “feel” for how long one minute is and how long 30 seconds is.
  • Remember to fully answer the questions. If you forget what they are, do not worry: they are written on the paper for you.
  • View more tips (and see another Part 2 practice test) in our previous article about Cambridge FCE and CAE Part 2 Tips. You can view the tips here:


Academic English Cambridge Exams EAP Featured IELTS TOEFL Writing

Exam Prep Writing: Beginning an Essay with an Effective Hook

December 16, 2016

Many writers (both native English speakers and English learners) agree that beginning the essay is often the most difficult part. For English proficiency exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge FCE and CAE, this is certainly the case!

Take a look at this sample TOEFL Agree/Disagree statement. How would you begin an essay? (For tips on TOEFL Agree/Disagree, check out our article that contains useful hints.)


Learn more TOEFL Writing Tips (and how to construct an Agree/Disagree essay) on the CISL Blog.

Writing Prompt:

Do you agree or disagree with the statement below?

There is nothing that younger people can teach older people. 

Use specific examples to support your arguments. 

Would you know how to begin an essay on this topic? Learn how to write a great “hook” (first sentence) and you will not have this problem again!

Students Writing

A strongly written essay will also include conjunctions: learn about how to use them effectively in our article about Coordinating Conjunctions.

Using the hook in writing

A “hook” is given its name because it hooks the reader. It’s the first sentence, and it entices the reader to continue through the paragraph and essay.

There are many types of hooks. Let’s look at a few.

Hook 1: A Question

Begin your essay by posing a question to your reader. It gets them thinking!

Example 1: Have you ever had a teacher who was younger than you?

Example 2: We become wiser as we get older . . . but can we learn from those who have experienced less of life?

Example 3: Have you ever had a teacher who was younger than you?

Hook 2: An anecdote

An anecdote is a personal story. Writing sections of proficiency exams ask you to use specific examples to support your opinion: with an anecdote, you are beginning with one!

Example 1: I will never forget walking into the classroom and seeing Vlad: even with his kind face, I thought to myself, “How can I teach someone who is significantly older than me?.” It turns out, I could.

Example 2: I’ve learned so much from my teachers and professors in elementary school, high school, and college . . . but I may have learned the most from my experience as teaching assistant to small children.

Example 3: Can the students be the teacher? I certainly think so after volunteering at a local elementary school.

Hook 3: A fact

In a test setting, it might be difficult to remember an exact fact or statistic. However, this is useful if you are writing research essays at home and can access a library or a computer. Even without a computer, this can still be a possible hook: check out some of these examples.

Example 1: You must complete four years of college and two years of additional training to become a high school teacher.

Example 2: Most companies ask for “2-5 years experience” from applicants.


Familiarize yourself with the many prompts you can get in TOEFL with our article on the Types of TOEFL Writing Prompts.

Hook 4: Set a scene

Grab their attention: tell a story! The reader will continue reading just to hear your ending!

Example 1: Jason watched as George slowly typed on the computer keyboard, carefully pushing one key at a time while looking confused and dismayed. “Can I help you?” Jason asked. “Sure,” George replied. “I’m trying to email my daughter a photo, but I don’t know how to attach it. This email thing is so confusing to me.”

Example 2: Looking around the classroom, Anna completed her lecture. “And that is how you publish your own webpage. Any questions?” A student in the back, a middle-aged gentleman with wire-rimmed glasses, raised his hand. “Just one question,” he said. “How did you learn all of this before learning how to drive?” The class laughed, and so did Anna. “Well,” Anna said, “I studied programming in high school and was well-versed in coding before I entered college last year.”

Hook 5: A quote

Without access to a computer, it might be difficult to remember exact quotes from famous individuals. However, your quote does not have to be from someone famous.

Example: “Yoga until you’re 90,” Sindhu kept saying during our yoga teacher training. With this in mind, we learned the best ways to practice yoga without putting strain on our bodies. Little did I know, in a few months my students would actually be near 90: I was soon to take a volunteer position as a yoga teacher for a retirement community in my town.

Hook 6: Your thesis!

Your thesis is the main idea of your paper. If you don’t feel like writing a catchy or creative hook, then begin your paper with your thesis. This direct approach is often very effective!

To write a powerful and concise thesis, check out our article on How to Write a Thesis with Predictors.

Example 1: I am a firm believer that everyone has something to offer, regardless of age; therefore, it is my opinion that the young have much to offer the elderly in regard to education.

Student Studying Writing Computer

Do you know how to write a thesis? Check out our article Writing a Thesis with Predictors for tips!

Hook 7: A misconception

Example 1: Many believe that the youth of today are misguided, self-centered, and irresponsible, and therefore have little to offer in regard to educating the wiser elderly population.

For more information on CISL’s intensive TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge CAE and FCE classes, check out CISL’s website.

Cambridge Exams

CAE Reading and Use of English, Part 4

October 13, 2016

CISL has been offering intensive Cambridge CAE and FCE classes for over 25 years. We are also a certified testing center, so all CISL students have the advantage of taking their exam in the comfortable CISL setting they are comfortable with! In honor of our intensive classes and dedicated staff, we are looking at each part of the exam in depth. Today we are looking at CAE Reading and Use of English, Part 4.

We have already looked at parts 1-3 on the CISL Blog. To review the other parts of the Reading and Use of English Module, read the following articles:

CAE Reading and Use of English, Part 4

CAE Reading and Use of English, Part 4 is Key Word Formations. In this section, there are 6 questions. Each question has three parts:

  • a “lead-in” sentence
  • a key word
  • a second sentence with a gap in the middle (the beginning and the end of the sentence are given)

Students are asked to complete the second sentence. They must:

  • use the key word
  • use 3-6 words



Important things to note

Contractions count as two words.

Students cannot change the key word. It must be kept in the form given (for example, students may not add an “s” to a noun to make it plural).

What’s being tested?

In this section, Cambridge is looking for the student’s ability to:

  • understand a variety of sentence structures
  • express a message in a different way (which shows one’s capability and flexibility with the language)
  • Illustrate awareness of expressions and idioms with similar meanings

Tips and tricks

Follow these tips and tricks to master Part 4 of the Reading and Use of English Module!

  1. Make sure you fully understand the meaning of the lead-in sentence. What exactly is this sentence saying? Be sure you fully understand before you try to complete the second sentence.
  2. Pay close attention to the words before and after the gap in sentence 2. Are they parts of a phrasal verb? Or perhaps part of a tense such as the Present Perfect?
  3. Ask yourself what idioms or expressions you know with the key word. Take a second to brainstorm before trying to complete sentence 2.
  4. Attempt to understand the sentence structure. What’s missing? Is it a noun clause? A participle? A relative clause? Understanding these structures and how to identify them will help tremendously.
  5. Give it your best guess! Never leave a sentence blank! You won’t lose points for guessing, and in this section, you can actually earn 2 points per answer. There’s a chance that you could still earn 1 point, even when you’re not 100% sure of your answer.