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FCE tips: speaking part 2: describing pictures

Aims to help students compare and contrast different pictures.


Tip 1
In the exam, the examiner will give one of the candidates two pictures. The first thing they will ask the
candidate to do is to show the pictures to the other candidate(s). This means that everyone has seen the
pictures and it is therefore perfectly acceptable to say 'this picture' and point. More complex language
such as 'the top picture' or 'the former/ the latter' is, of course, even better.
Tip 2
The examiner will then give the candidate precise instructions about what they should say about the
pictures. The instructions always have two parts, so students should listen very carefully.
Tip 3
If there is anything a student doesn't understand about a question, they should ask the examiner to
repeat. If they still don't understand, they should ask again. They should remember that they are being
tested on their speaking in this part of the exam, not their listening comprehension. However, one thing
they are being scored on is their ability to actually answer the question they are asked.
Tip 4
Asking the examiner to repeat can actually be the perfect opportunity to show off some complex language
- e.g. 'I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch the last part', 'If I can just check what you are saying, you'd like me
to...', 'I'm not quite sure what (contrast) means', etc.
Tip 5
The examiner almost always asks the students to 'compare and contrast the two pictures'. They will never
be asked to simply describe them. Any activities giving oral practice of comparing language (more than,
less than, (not) as __________ as, similar to, etc.) and contrasting language (although, whereas,
however, etc.) are good practice for this. See lesson plan for examples.
Tip 6
The second part of the question is usually about giving some kind of opinion e.g. 'Compare and contrast
the two holidays and say which you would prefer'. Language like 'in my opinion' and 'personally' can be
very useful here.
Tip 7
Students should make sure they are talking to the examiner (and the other candidate) rather than to the
picture! This can be practised in the classroom by getting students to turn over the picture once they have
taken a glance at it, or even getting them to do a task with imaginary pictures.
Tip 8
The examiner will interrupt the student speaking after one minute, even if they are halfway through a
sentence. Being interrupted is actually good, as it means they haven't run out of things to say.
Tip 9
As the examiner takes the photos away from the first candidate, they will ask the other candidate a
question about those photos. Again, this is probably a question of opinion, e.g. 'Which holiday would most
people prefer? This only requires a short answer, but is a perfect chance to show they have been
listening to what their partner said, with language such as 'As (Juan) said......', or 'I agree entirely with
(Lee Yan).'








After comparing the two photographs, answer this question: In what ways are all animal species
valuable to humans and how should they be treated?

Both pictures show animals. The animals in the pictures belong to the same species. In the first picture,
there are two lions, but in the second one, there is one cat. Another difference between the two pictures is
that in the first picture, the animals shown are wild, whereas in the second picture, the cat is tamed. In
addition, the first picture is taken outdoors, at a zoo, although the second picture is taken inside a house.
In one picture, the animals are far away from their natural habitat and captured in a zoo, but in the other
one, the cat is not captured. It is in a place where it is used to living. In what ways are all animal species
valuable to humans and how should they be treated? I believe that all animal species are valuable to
humans. If some species of animals stopped existing, then the whole balance of nature would be
destroyed. All animals are important. Wild animals are vital for conserving the balance of food chains.
Tamed animals are also really helpful. The offer humans milk, meat, wool and,of course, their company.
Humans should respect and protect all animals. After all, humans are responsible for the extinction of
some species and they are the reason why so many species are endangered. People hunt animals to
make money from them or they just do it as a hobby. However, hunting, over-fishing and other things
people do shows how disrespectful they are to animals and what they offer them.