Renewed: 26.01.2016, 09:18

Speaking

Overview

The test takes up to 25 minutes. We will record it. This is for your benefit. In case any questions arise, we can listen again or have it reviewed by an outside source. There will be two testers: one will speak with you and the other one will listen and evaluate. They will give you a rating together. There are four sections in the test, a combination of monologues and dialogues.
  • The first part is the warm-up. You’ll be asked some questions about yourself and your job. (about 4 minutes)
  • The second part is describing pictures. You will look at two pictures, describe both of them in as much detail as possible in both concrete and abstract terms, and then compare and contrast them. You should also mention any thoughts or feelings the pictures bring up in you. (about 5 minutes)
  • The third section is discussion of a topic. The interviewer will give you a topic and get the conversation started. Topics vary from travelling and daily life to education and environmental issues. You will be expected to talk about these topics, answer questions, and give your opinion. (about 10 minutes)
  • The fourth section is mini presentation. You will get a card that describes a problem. You will be expected to describe the issue, discuss all the different aspects, and finish with a conclusion. You may be asked to offer solutions to common modern problems; give arguments both for and against individual policies; speculate on the reasons behind an individual’s or organization’s behavior; evaluate someone else’s decision, especially with regard to its strengths and weaknesses; speculate on the origins of a particular problem; evaluate the effectiveness of certain public policies; and/or discuss the consequences of a person’s actions or organizational policies. (about 6 minutes, including preparation time)
 

General Advice

  1. The best practice you can do is…well, practice. Take every chance you get to speak English.
  2. The overview above tells you exactly what’s going to happen in the test. Practice. Look at pictures that have similarities and differences and talk about them out loud to yourself. This will help you and vastly amuse you co-workers and family. Practice conversations about the topics in your head. Think about what you would say about various areas: media, entertainment, health, etc. Think about the last time you had to solve a problem at work and talk about it in English.
  3. Pay attention to grammar and syntax. If you hear yourself make a mistake, correct it. We do not listen and write down every mistake. We are listening more for patterns of errors. It’s helpful to record yourself and then listen for your mistakes. But focus on your meaning, not the grammar. What’s really important is what you say and how you say it. Do not focus on the mistakes.
  4. Do not try to memorize chunks of speech to use during the test. If you start reciting, we will interrupt you and ask another question to get you on a different track.
  5. Remember that it’s completely normal to be nervous. All that adrenalin in your system will keep you more alert, so that’s a good thing.
  6. Once you have finished one part of the test, forget it. Concentrate on what you’re doing when you’re doing it. This is especially important in the speaking test.
  7. Pay attention and keep eye contact only with the interviewer/examiner who is talking to you. The rater is there to take notes and evaluate and will not react to anything you say. He or she is a “fly on the wall.” It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like what you say; she’s just very busy taking notes and listening for patterns.
  8. The interviewer will usually ask follow-up questions. It doesn’t mean you left something out; it’s a normal part of the test.
  9. Once again, PRACTICE. This is important because when we talk, we normally use the same regular vocabulary over and over. Try to practice using your whole range of vocabulary so you’ll do the same during the test. Practice speaking naturally and evenly (as much as possible). 

Specific Advice

  1. Estonians tend to answer questions with basic information and then stop. In the speaking test, we want you to talk as much as you can to show us the full range of your speaking abilities. Even if you don’t know a lot about the topic, they were chosen so that anyone should be able to talk about everything in the test. You will be asked both general-interest questions and questions about your life and your opinions. This is not the time to be shy.
  2. When you are asked to describe someone or something, we want both concrete and abstract information. Describe what you see. What do the people look like? What are they doing? What kind of person do you think heshe is? How do the pictures make you feel? What is the “mood” of the scene?
  3. Be careful of “I don’t know.” You may mean that you don’t have an opinion or can’t answer a question but we may think you don’t understand. Be very clear in saying, “I don’t know the price of peanut butter in China, but I’m sure it’s not very expensive.” Now we know you understood the question & simply don’t have an answer.
  4. On the mini presentation part of the speaking test, many people forget to give an introduction and a conclusion. Pretend the tester doesn’t know what’s on the card. Tell him or her what the problem is. Make sure you answer all the questions on the card, but do not answer the questions as if you were reading a list. End with a conclusion. Pretend you are giving a 3-minute speech when you do this part, because you are.
  5. When the interviewer asks you a question, try to answer it using synonyms and not exactly the same words she used. It shows comprehension.
  6. When you are given the pictures, you will have one minute to mentally plan what you’re going to say. Use this time to look, think, and plan.
  7. During the mini presentation, you will be given two minutes to plan and take notes. Use this time to think and plan. When you take notes, be brief. You can refer to your notes as you talk, but don’t read them. Use connective phrases.
  8. There is no benefit in your score if you begin speaking immediately but what you say isn’t organized. People who start speaking immediately usually focus on the general aspects of the picture or question, rather than the specific details. We want both.
  9. It is not true that the faster you speak, the higher your English ability is. Some people who talk very fast are completely incomprehensible. At the same time, don’t try to speak slower than usual. Speak at a normal rate for you.

Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces, 717 1900, mil[at]mil.ee, Juhkentali 58, EE15007, Tallinn, Estonia.

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