Definitive Guide to B1/PET: Speaking Part 1- Phase 1

I thought I’d start off my definitive guide to PET/B1 (and add to my blog on essential PET/B1 resources) with  a blog about the speaking part. Not only because I have most of my fun in class with speaking, whether it’s listening to funny opinions,  bizarre anecdotes, or silly mistakes which make me giggle, but also because I feel it’s that most people learning another language do so because they want to communcate by speaking.

Speaking pet part 1

I bet they’re getting a buzz. Photo by Thomas Shahan

Speaking is  one of my favourite lessons to teach. I still get a buzz seeing a class become better speakers and preparing students for oral exams. I also love analysing what students say and how they say it. I’m a bit of a phonetics freak, so my passion for teaching pronunciation links in well.

Being a Cambridge PET examiner has given me a deeper insight into the world of speaking and allowed me to really focus on how to prepare students for exams too.

In this blog I’ll provide some activities to prepare your students for speaking part 1.

I normally tell my students that the first part of the speaking exam has no surprises. The main aim is to relax them, as they’ll probably be nervous as hell. The idea is to ease them into an English speaking world, after coming from their obvious L1 environment, whether that has been in a bar having a coke outside, sitting with their moaning parents in a car, or simple picking up some milk from the local shop. The transfer from their language to English can take a bit of time (which is why I tell mine to have a chat in English while they are waiting outside the examining room).

Phase 1

Unless they miraculously change the first part of the oral exam, then it goes just like this. I’ve taken these questions from a Cambride English PET examining book.

  • What’s your name?
  • What’s your surname?
  • How do you spell it?
  • Where do you live / come from?
  • Do you study English at school?
  • Do you like it?

For Adults

  • Do you work or are you a student?
  • What do you do / study

You can find a powerpoint presentation with some ideas on how to do speaking part 1 phase 1 lesson here.

I’d recommend performing your own answers to these questions first, maybe choose a volunteer to ask you the questions. Sometimes I mess about a bit and give silly, either too short or too long answers, and ask my students whether my responses were any good. Eventually I tell my students to keep their answers simple, conscise, and honest. Then get them to practise in pairs or threes. This is a great warmer or filler to put up now and then too.

Over the years I’ve had a few odd questions about this part. Here are some FAQ’s, plus my response.

Q- What if I spell my name wrong?

  • Then you are a silly billy. Learn your vowels, take pride in your name.

Q- How much do I need to say about where I live?

  • Keep it simple, just the place and location. Don’t start going on about the monuments at the end of your road that thousands of pilgrims flee to each second Thursday in January.

Q- What if I don’t like English?

  • Then why are you even here? Maybe just pretend that you do, for the next 12 minutes, then go and read a book in French or German.

Q- What if I don’t work or study?

  • You mean you are a professional dosser? Then just say that, in a polite way, like I’m looking for a job or waiting to win the lottery.

Q- What if I don’t understand the examiner?

  • Between you and me, you’re screwed / done for / in big trouble, especially at this stage. Just learn the questions off by heart and have your answers ready.

My next blog will look at the B1/PET Speaking part 1 phase two and include tips on how to get your students to produce long answers. Thanks for reading.

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