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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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 . . .
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.