Cambridge CAE and FCE speaking test tip: How to deal with a shy speaking test partner

When preparing for your upcoming Cambridge CAE or FCE test, you should of course try to prepare for everything. Test format? Check. Comfortable talking about yourself, your hobbies, and your experiences? Check. Practice writing thesis statements and great topic sentences for the writing section? Check and check!

There is one thing, however, that you may not have prepared for: a difficult speaking partner. Partners can be difficult in either their desire to talk too much or too little. Each poses its own difficulties, and today we are talking about some ways in which to deal with a shy speaking test partner.

The best way to deal with a shy speaking partner is to ask questions. Once you realize that your partner is shy, you will have to “take the reigns” (an expression which means “take control”). But this doesn’t mean that you have to do all the talking! Remember that you are being graded on many things, including your ability to process your partner’s information and then build on his or her opinions. Therefore, you must find a way to get their opinion. Try using these question forms:

Asking Questions
  • What do you think about this picture?
  • What’s  your take on the picture with _______?
  • This could be ___________, don’t you think?
  • This could be ___________, wouldn’t/don’t you agree?
  • How about this one?
  • What about this one?
  • What’s your opinion regarding _________?

Responding (when you are in agreement)

  • I totally agree.
  • Absolutely.
  • I couldn’t agree more.
  • Definitely.
  • You’re right, (repeat their opinion).
  • For sure. (very informal)
  • Totally. (very informal)

Responding (when you are in disagreement)

  • That’s an option. However/Although/But, . . .
  • Could be. However/Although/But, . . .
  • That’s possible. However/Although/But, . . .
  • That’s a possibility. However/Although/But, . . .

The best way to prepare for a difficult situation with a speaking test partner? Practice with a friend! Role play with a fellow student, and have him or her pretend to be very shy. Practice trying to get them to speak as much as you can. Then, have them be overly talkative and practice trying to get a word in to the conversation. It may seem silly to practice this, but CISL students agree: this is incredibly effective!

Click here for information on the CISL Cambridge FCE and CAE programs.

Click here for Cambridge Part 1 Speaking Test Tips, here for Part 2 tips, and here for Part 3 tips.

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