Book a CISL san Diego Cambridge CourseAt CISL San Diego and San Francisco, we are proud of how well we prepare our Cambridge ESOL (FCE & CAE) students: our wonderful teachers make sure that students have the language skills necessary to excel, and the numerous practice exams in our test preparation classes ensure that students completely understand the test requirements and format.

Today we are looking at some additional tips for one of the most stressful parts of the exam: the Speaking Module. This part of the exam is only about 15 minutes long but it counts for a large portion of your final score. We have discussed the test and its four parts in
detail before: click here for more information on the Cambridge Exam Speaking Module. (If you’ve taken the test in the past, make sure to also check out our article on Changes to the 2015 CAE Exam.)Book a CISL San Francisco Cambridge Course



Overview of Speaking Part 1

In Part 1 of the Speaking Module, which is only about one minute per candidate, you are asked very basic questions about yourself. Questions can include the following:

Example Speaking Part 1 Questions

  • What is your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • And what do you do there/here?
  • How long have you been studying English?
  • What do you like most about studying English?
  • Is English important for your future? 

From there, the examiner can “widen the scope” of the conversation, asking you questions that are not directly related to the questions he or she has just asked. Here are some examples.

  • Tell me about your experience arriving here today. 
  • What was your day like today?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? 
  • Tell me about something you celebrated recently. 
  • Tell me about a story you heard in the news lately. 

There is little we can do to specifically prepare for these wider-ranged questions (other than come to class every day, immerse yourself in English, and make lots of American friends)! However, we can very easily prepare ourselves for questions about our lives, our careers, and our experiences with English. To help, here are some useful phrases that you should know.

Useful phrases and vocabulary for Cambridge CAE and FCE Speaking Module Part 1

On Your City 

Speaking about your city is a great way to show that you know how to use Relative Clauses correctly. Make sure you have a short explanation about your city prepared.


  • I’m from Umbria, which is a region in Central Italy.
  • I’m originally from Daegu, which is a small college town in South Korea.
  • I’m from Maresme, which is a region just north of Barcelona.

This is also a great opportunity to use the Present Perfect Continuous.

  • I’m from Umbria, which is a region in Central Italy. But I’ve been living here in San Diego for four months. 
  • I’m originally from Daegu, which is a small college town in South Korea. However, I’ve been studying English in San Francisco for the last three months.
  • I’m from Maresme, which is a region just north of Barcelona. But for the last few months I’ve been living in California.

San Francisco Bridge

On Your Childhood

Speaking about your childhood is a great opportunity to use phrasal verbs like GROW UP. It’s also a great way to use the Past Passive.

Born in

  • I was born in Berlin.

Raised by

  • I was raised by my mother and stepfather.

Grew up in

  • I grew up in a small town, just north of Zurich.

Born and raised

  • I was born and raised in Seoul.

Business English Class

On Your Job

When speaking about your job, make sure that you know which preposition to use when speaking about the industry, your company, and your position in the company.

I work in (INDUSTRY)

  • I work in sales.
  • I work in advertising.
  • I work in the marketing industry.
  • I work in Human Resources.

I work for (COMPANY)

  • I work for a marketing company in Germany.
  • I work for an international law firm.
  • I work for Nestle.

I work at (COMPANY)

  • I work at the Nestle headquarters in (CITY).
  • I work at Coca Cola.
  • I work at Samsung.

I work on (JOB DUTIES)

  • I work on sales reports and payroll.
  • I work on new advertising campaigns.
  • I work on providing job training to new employees.

I work as (JOB TITLE)

  • I work as a banker.
  • I work as a lawyer.
  • I work as a banker.

Remember that the best thing to do is to combine the above sentences to create longer, more complex sentences.

  • I work as a lawyer at a law firm in Tokyo.
  • I work on sales at an advertising firm in Paris.
  • I work in the banking industry. Specifically, I am a mortgage broker for HSBC.

San Francisco Bikers Bicycling Byclists

On Your Personal Life

The Cambridge employee will want to know a little about you, so be prepared to talk about your likes, dislikes, and interests. Here are some useful phrases.

I’m an avid ________________.

  • I’m an avid reader. I have hundreds of books in addition to plenty of files on my e-reader.

I’m a ________________ lover.

  • I’m a huge soccer lover, so I usually play with my friends on weekends.

I’m a big fan of ________________.

  • I’m a big fan of music, and in my free time I often go to concerts.

I’m a ________________ fan.

  • I’m a fitness fan, so I’m often found at the gym or outdoors doing something exciting, like hiking.


Speaking to the Interlocutor 

There is one very important thing to remember: it’s completely natural that you might not understand everything the interlocutors say! If you don’t understand a question, you can always ask for clarification. Here are some ways to do so:

  • I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat the question?
  • My apologies, I didn’t hear that last bit. Would you mind repeating the question?
  • Would you mind repeating the question once more? Thank you.

For a more in depth explanation, check out our article on What To Say When You Don’t Understand a Cambridge Question. To get a better idea of what life is like as a CISL Cambridge CAE or FCE student, enjoy our video below.

Need more Cambridge ESOL practice? Check out some of our other articles.

To book CISL Cambridge classes in San Diego or San Francisco, click here.