Speaking Exams - The Long Turn
In this week's Premier Skills English podcast, Rich and Jack talk about speaking exams. They focus specifically on the long turn which is the part in many international exams when the candidate has to speak alone for one to two minutes. Speaking exams can be difficult but there are things that you can practise to become better at them. Rich and Jack talk about the importance of using linking words to contrast ideas and the use of circumlocution strategies when you can't remember a specific word or phrase. They also share five tips that will help you get better at producing a long turn in exam situations. We also have a new football phrase for you to guess. Enjoy!
Speaking Exams - The long turn
Jack: Did you know that I went to London at the weekend? It’s been ages since I’ve been.
Rich: Yes, I saw that you’d put quite a lot of photos on Facebook.
Jack: I’ve got the photos here, too. Do you want to have a look?
Rich: Well, I’ve already seen them so …
Jack: Look, here’s me in the queue to get on the London Eye. Do you know it? It’s a giant wheel in London next to the river and when you are at the top you can see the whole of the city.
Rich: Yes, I …
Jack: Look … here’s me getting in one of those ... er … I don’t know what you call them. I suppose they’re like big glass rooms that take you around the wheel.
Rich: They’re called capsules, actually …
Jack: And these are some photos I took at the top. Like I said before, you can see the whole of London. Look there! You can see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben ... look there’s St Paul’s Cathedral - really cool hey. And that’s the tallest building in London … what’s it called again?
Rich: It’s called …
Jack: It doesn’t matter, anyway you can see it there. Look! It’s the big pointy thing. I was just amazed at the view. You can see everything and it’s beautiful you know. The view is best when the sun is setting. I took one picture at night. Hold on, where is it … it’s breathtaking.
Rich: I know.
Jack: What do you mean you know?
Rich: I went to London last weekend too!
Jack: How funny! You probably don’t need to look at my photos then?
Rich: Not really. No.
Welcome - Exams
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we are going to talk about speaking exams and how you can get better at them.
Jack: That’s right and we’re going to speak about one thing that is very common in speaking exams - the long turn.
Rich: When you do a speaking exam you nearly always have to speak about something on your own for a minute or two. Sometimes you are given some photos to talk about - Jack is very good at talking about photos.
Jack: Thank you, Rich. Yes, I am! But sometimes you are just given a topic. You often get time to think about what you are going to say and you might be able to make notes.
Rich: Different exams have slightly different formats but at the end of the day they are very similar in that you have to speak about something non-stop for a minute or two at some point in the exam.
Jack: This is called a long turn and this is the part of the speaking exam we are going to help you with, in this week’s podcast.
Rich: We’re going to roleplay some questions that you could be asked in an exam and we’re going to look at some language that will help you when answering these types of questions.
Jack: And we’re going to give you some advice about how you can get better at producing a long turn.
Jack: In some exams such as FCE or CAE you are given two or three photos when you are asked to produce a long turn. You are also given a question to answer that is related to the photos.
Rich: You have to speak about two of the photos for about a minute. The photos might show people on holiday in two different destinations and the question might be: compare the photographs and say what the people might be enjoying about their holiday.
Jack: The photos and questions always change, but the format stays the same.
Rich: Let’s do an example. The photos that we are talking about can be seen on the podcast page on the website. If you’re coming from iTunes, you can find the podcast on the homepage at www.britishcouncil.org/premierskillsenglish
Jack: OK, I’ll be the examiner. While you are listening we would like you to listen for examples of linking words that are used to compare and contrast the photos. One example is but … how many more do you hear?
Jack: In this part of the test you are going to look at two photographs. They show football fans watching a match. I’d like you to compare the photos and say how the atmosphere might be different in each situation.
Rich: Great. Football. I got lucky with this topic. Well, in this photo on the left I can see a group of fans watching a match on the TV whereas in the other photo the fans are watching a match at the stadium. The fans in the cafe are all in yellow but I don’t think it’s Brazil although they might be watching a match in Brazil because I think it’s a match from the last World Cup. Brazil play in yellow but it’s not their kit … it could be Ecuador … I’m not sure … it could be Colombia’s though too. This picture is definitely a match from the last World Cup while the other picture shows a Premier League match. I think it’s probably White Hart Lane because I can see a couple of Tottenham players. I suppose when you are watching a match on TV, you can have a drink and chat to your friends so it can be quite relaxing and you’re warm and dry too. However, there is nothing quite like being at a live match. The atmosphere, the chanting and singing … it’s just much better. So, despite the possibility of bad weather, I would always prefer to go to a live match than watch one on TV.
Jack: Thank you.
Jack: Rich spoke well and he used lots of linking words when he spoke. These types of words make your sentences more complex and also help you sound more fluent. We’ll look at these types of words a little later on in the language section.
Rich: Right, let’s do one more example. This time I’ll be the examiner and I’ll let you speak Jack.
Jack: Thanks. In some exams such as IELTS, you don’t get photos to speak about when producing your long turn. You get a topic with some information and some time to think about what you are going to say and you can make notes too.
Rich: This example will follow this format and we have another little task for you to do while you are listening. In this example, Jack will have some problems finding the right word.
Jack: What do I do when I don’t know a word or phrase?
Rich: Remember that you have one minute to think about what you are going to say and you can make some notes if you wish. Here is your topic. I’d like you to describe something that you’d like to learn to do in the future.
Rich: Alright? Remember you have one to two minutes for this, so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up.
Jack: This might sound a bit silly but one thing that I’ve always wanted to learn how to do is … I think there is a specific word for it but I can’t remember, anyway, I’ve always wanted to be able to make things out of wood. Not big things like tables and chairs but little things that can be used as decorations, I don’t know ... like animals. Yeah, it’d be really cool to carve a tiger or an owl out of a piece of wood. That’s it, I remember what it’s called now. It’s called whittling. What things would I need to be able to whittle? Well, the two most important things would be wood and a knife. I suppose the knife would have to be small … a small knife like a Swiss Army knife that I can keep in my pocket. Then, if I find a good piece of wood on a walk, I’d be able to start whittling straight away. The wood would also be important. I think softwood is much better because it would be much easier to cut. Mmm ... I’m not really sure what the difference is between hardwood and softwood but I think hardwoods are things like oak … trees that grow for a long time and softwoods are things like pine that grow quickly. I’d have to learn about that. Why do I want to learn to whittle? Well, like I said earlier it would be cool to make things out of wood - I think my boys would think it was cool. I could teach them. I think it would be relaxing and it’s always good to learn something new.
Rich: Thank you.
Rich: When Jack was speaking there were three occasions when he couldn’t remember a word or phrase or got blocked. Did you notice what he said instead?
Jack: When you don’t know a word in English it can be easy to get blocked and focus on the word. It’s important in speaking exams to move on quickly and not get blocked.
Rich: These are called circumlocution strategies and we’re going to look at these strategies in a bit more detail in the language section coming up now.
Jack: We’ve just roleplayed two examples of long turns that are common in speaking exams.
Rich: We asked you to focus on two things; linking words and circumlocution strategies and we’re going to look at these a little more now.
Jack: In the first roleplay, Rich used lots of linking words to compare and contrast the photos when he was speaking about football fans watching a match. Linking words make your sentences much more complex. Let’s take an example. Earlier Rich said. In the photo on the left, there are fans watching a match on TV whereas in the other photo they are at the stadium.
Rich: The linking word here was whereas and it’s being used to contrast two different situations. Using this linking word is much better than saying. In this photo there are fans watching on TV full stop In this photo, fans are at the stadium full stop. Using whereas makes your language more complex and adds more fluency to your speaking.
Jack: Rich used other linking words to contrast things too. Here’s another example: The fans in the cafe are all in yellow but I don’t think it’s Brazil although they might be watching a match in Brazil.
Rich: The linking words here are but and although and they are both used to compare things. Although is used here to contrast the idea of Brazil playing in Brazil and a different team playing in Brazil. Although is followed by a subject and a verb in the same way as we use but.
Jack: Not all linking words follow this pattern though. Here’s another example that Rich said: So, despite the possibility of bad weather I would always prefer to go to a live match than watch one on TV.
Rich: In this example I used the linking word despite. Despite is not followed by a subject and a verb it is followed by a noun. If you wanted to use although in this sentence you would have to say something like: Although the weather might be bad I’d always prefer to go to a live match than watch one on TV.
Jack: We’ve got more activities for you to practise linking words on the Learning Vocabulary - Linking words page on the website. There is a link on the side of the podcast page.
Rich: In the second roleplay, Jack spoke about whittling which is something he would like to learn. What is it again?
Jack: It’s making small things out of wood using a knife.
Rich: Ahh yes! Anyway, when he was speaking he got stuck a few times because he couldn’t remember a word or a fact about something. It wasn’t a problem for him though because he explained the word or said that he had forgotten something and moved on. He didn’t get blocked.
Jack: When you are taking a long turn, it’s important not to get stuck or blocked if you forget a word or phrase. You need to carry on talking.
Rich: These are called circumlocution strategies and they are all about your ability to describe a word you don’t know and not get blocked when you are speaking. Here’s an example of what Jack said earlier: I think there is a specific word for it but I can’t remember, anyway, I’ve always wanted to be able to make things out of wood.
Jack: I couldn’t remember the word whittling so I described it by saying that it’s making things out of wood.
Rich: When Jack was describing hardwoods and softwoods he said things like oak and things like pine. This phrase things like can be very useful if you don’t know a specific word.
Jack: We’ve got a little more about this language and these strategies you can use to describe something you don’t know the word for on the on the Speaking Skills - Circumlocution strategies page.
Five tips for taking a long turn
Rich: So we’ve been looking at speaking exams and taking a long turn. We want to leave you with five tips that will help you improve in this part of the exam.
Jack: Tip number one: Link your ideas together. When you are comparing things use words like however, whereas, although and on the other hand. Linking sentences together makes your language more complex and your speaking more fluent.
Rich: Tip number two: Don’t get blocked. When you forget a word it doesn’t matter you need to carry on speaking. Explain the word, use a synonym, say it’s something like or it’s a type of … This will stop you getting blocked.
Jack: Tip number three: Personalise things. It can be difficult to talk in an abstract way for a long time so talk about yourself or talk about what you would do if you were in the photo or situation you’ve been asked to speak about. This makes speaking much easier.
Rich: Tip number four: Use the information you are given. In many exams, you are given photos, text with questions or information, or thinking time. Use this time well. Think about topics and don’t worry about the exact words or language you are going to use.
Jack: Tip number five: Speak to the examiner. Looking the examiner in the eye and smiling will improve your communication skills. Looking down at the table in front of you can make communication more difficult and less natural.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football word. The word was atmosphere. This word describes the feeling in a place. It’s often said that Premier League stadiums have the best atmospheres in football.
Rich: Well done to Liubomyr from Ukraine and Kwesimanifest for getting it right! I’m sure a few more of you got it right too but we’ve recorded this podcast a bit earlier than usual. What’s this week’s phrase, Jack?
Jack: This week’s phrase is ******** ******. Because the transfer window is open at the moment there is a lot of ******** ****** in the newspapers and online. Which players are moving to which clubs and for how much. A lot of it is untrue it’s just ****** but some of it might happen. I’ve been reading for weeks that Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez is on the move. I hope it’s just ******* ******.
Rich: I don’t think it is Jack - I think he’s already gone!
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below.
Rich: And don’t forget to listen to our round-up show called ‘This Week’.
Jack: If you have enjoyed this podcast or found it useful, leave us a review or rating and that will help other people find us. Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. You can see two examples here:
Here's me in the queue to get on the London Eye.
The view is best when the sun is setting. I took one picture at night and the view is breathtaking.
There were a few more tricky words in the podcast. Can you remember all of them? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words in context. This can really help with understanding.
Speaking Skills - The Long Turn
In this week's podcast, Rich and Jack shared five tips to get better at taking a long turn in speaking exams. Think about the advice they gave you and how it can help you get better at speaking exams. Look at the five tips again. Do you do these things in exams? Do you think they could help you with your English more generally, too?
Five tips to help you with a long turn
- Link your ideas together. Linking your sentences and ideas together makes your language more complex and your speaking more fluent. We have a link on the side of this page to more activities about linking words.
- Don't get blocked. It doesn't matter if you don't know a word, you need to keep talking. use synonyms or phrases such as it's like or it's a kind of ... We have more about circumlocution strategies on the side of this page.
- Personalise things. It can be difficult to talk in an abstract way for a long time. Talk about yourself and what you would do if you were in the same situation as the people in the photo. This will make it easier to speak.
- Use the information you are given. You are often given time to think about the information or photos. Use this time to think of topics rather than the exact words you want to say.
- Speak to the examiner. Looking at the examiner and smiling will help your communication skills and could also help your pronunciation!
Can you think of any other tips or strategies that you use in speaking exams? Can you think of any other situations where you might use these pieces of advice?
Comparing and contrasting photos
Look at the photos below. These are the photos that Rich compared and contrasted in the podcast. Listen to this section again (3:44 - 5:22). Think about the tips above. Does Rich use linking words? Does Rich get blocked? What phrases does he use to keep the turn going?
Now, it's your turn! Look again at the photos and speak for one to two minutes and contrast the photos and say what you think the people are enjoying. Try speaking to a friend or a teacher but if you can't try practising by yourself. Nobody will think that you are crazy!
If you want to look at more speaking activities like this, take a look at our task page for activity week one. You will find more opportunities to practise taking a long turn and a section to discuss your speaking skills.
What do you think?
In this week’s podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about taking a long turn in speaking exams.
Were the five tips helpful? Have you ever had to do similar exams in your country?
Jack would like to learn how to whittle. What would you like to learn how to do?
Do you know this week's football phrase?
We have lots of connected content to this week's podcast. Look on the side or bottom of this page for all our extra content!