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Liverpool English Centre

  /  Our Blog   /  Cambridge First FCE & Advanced CAE: How to overcome oral exam nerves

Cambridge First FCE & Advanced CAE: How to overcome oral exam nerves

One of the biggest challenges you will face when it comes to Cambridge oral exams is staying calm and performing well.
No matter how prepared you are, nerves can affect just about everybody. Think about the last time you spoke in class or at an interview. Unless you are very confident, there’s a good chance your heart was beating fast, your palms felt sweaty and your mouth dry, making it extremely difficult to achieve what you had planned and of course, you had to do this in another language while under pressure.
Understand the different parts of the speaking paper and what is expected of them.
Remember that there will be two examiners in the room. The interlocutor who reads the exam script and the assessor who listens carefully and marks your performance. The exam is taken in pairs.
The First and Advanced exam structures are almost identical.
Part 1, the interview, involves a conversation between you and the examiner. They will ask questions about interests, studies, careers, etc for two minutes.
Part 2, the long turn involves talking about two pictures on your own for a minute.
Part 3, the collaborative task is when you interact with each other. You have two minutes to discuss the prompts and then another minute to make a decision about something.
The exam finishes with the discussion phase. You  are given questions related to part three and are required to talk together in more detail. In the First exam part four lasts four minutes and in the Advanced it is for five minutes.
For more information about the format of the exam check the website for B2 First or C1 Advanced.

Familiarization

If you really want to remain calm then you need as much practice as possible. The more you work on the different sections of the exam, the more easy it will become. You should practice the oral exam with another student who you are not familiar with as this will be similar to the real exam.
You should also look at examples of the B2 First and C1 Advanced speaking exams.

Visualization

Mentally rehearse the day of the exam as it be much easier if you’ve practiced the exam beforehand.
Sit down in silence and read a practice script to fit your presentation.
You enter the exam room. The examiners welcome you with a smile and invite you to sit down.
How does the exam progress? What goes well? What do you find difficult? What do you wish you’d practiced more?
Time is up. The exam is over. You are free to leave. How do you feel as you walk out of the door?
By focusing on the positives and identifying any negatives can reduce anxiety during the exam.

Non-verbal communication

Use body language, use your hands to make a point you feel strongly about. Make eye contact with the examiners and your partner. Smile and nod at appropriately to show interest in what others are saying as it may help increase your marks for interactive communication.
It’s vital to practice this so that it is done in a natural manner.

Things to remember

Examiners listen for things you CAN do rather than what you CAN’T. If feel you’ve made a mistake –  either correct yourself or just forget about it.
Marks are given on performance of the OVERALL exam and not individual sections. Even if you are unable to complete the long turn, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t pass the exam.
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