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A warmer for PET speaking exam

I use this activity at the beginning of a PET speaking preparation course. It’s based on an activity I saw used by a teacher in Italy. It’s an easy activity to set up, as you’ll only really need a white / black board.

The good thing about it is that it simulates the sort of questions that your students can get in part 1 of the speaking test, and it gets them talking straightaway.

Start with a circle or rectangle in the centre of the board, with “You” written in it. Then draw lines radiating out of that, and get the students to suggest areas that they might get questions about. (You might have to suggest a couple to get them going.)

You might end up with something looking like this:


In Part 1 of the speaking test, students will be asked one or two general questions about their day-to-day lives. They might also get questions about how they come to school, what sort of websites they visit, what they do on their birthday, etc. Explain to students that the questions are fairly general, and unlikely to be too personal. For example, they won’t get questions about their romantic lives and are even unlikely to get questions about their home lives or families.

Then get students to think up two or three questions for each area. Explain that they’re unlikely to be asked a “Do you…?” type question. Instead, they’re more likely to hear “Tell us about … your favourite teacher / the websites you like” or a wh-type question, as in “What kind of food do you like?” or “How did you get here today?”.

Also explain that the questions can be about the present, past or future, and that they will have to listen carefully for the tense before they answer.

When you’re happy with the questions, put the students in pairs, and get them to ask and answer each other.

Then ask each student to introduce his / her partner to the rest of the class, while you jot down notes on grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation: either particularly nice examples, or common mistakes. Allow yourself a few minutes at the end to go over these mistakes with the class as a whole.

Expect to hear mistakes typical at this level. Some problem areas could be:

– like + ing
– third person singular verb ending
– present perfect with since / for
– strong L1 interference (“in my family we are 6” or “my family is composed by…”)

Tips for a good performance in Part 1

1. Encourage your students to give full answers. They probably only have one minute or so for the longer turn, so they should aim to give a few details in their answers.

2. Get your students to smile. The examiners understand that candidates often feel nervous – in fact, very often it’s a candidate’s first external exam. But smiling helps to stretch the mouth muscles, making clear pronunciation easier. It’s also a confidence booster. The examiner is likely to smile back…

3. Encourage your students to be ambitious. The examiners will have heard “nice”, “boring”, “funny” a thousand times before. More interesting vocabulary or grammar constructions will be noted.

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