C1 Business Higher (BEC Higher)
Speaking Part Two.
About 6 minutes (3 minutes each)
You are given three topics to choose from. The topics are presented in the form of a title and a statement or “how to” sentence. For example,
BEC C1 HIGHER: how to prepare and achieve your highest potential score.
You are given one minute to choose and prepare a short presentation about your chosen topic. You have to speak for about one minute.
You can learn more about the correct grammar to use in this part of the Speaking Exam, in the C1 Business Higher BEC Exam Guide book, available here.
You can download an example of Speaking Part Two here.
Read the topics and the titles quickly.
Choose the topic that you have professional knowledge or experience of. If you do not have experience of any of the three then choose the most general subject which you should be able to answer with general logic or common sense.
Do not choose a subject you do not understand.
Speaking task procedure.
Use a structure and use presentation vocabulary. One minute is actually very short so follow this formula.
Firstly + example topic is important because + give your own example with detail
Secondly + example topic is necessary too because + give your own example with detail
Finally + example topic is also useful + give your own example with detail
This formula should take about one minute if you speak at normal speed and add good detail. However, if you have more time (the examiner will ask you to stop at the end of the minute) then I recommend returning to the example topic which you think is the most important, and finishing with something like this; Overall example topic is the most important because…
When the minute is finished, the examiner will stop you.
Ways to practice.
Use past exam papers, some are available online, or you can buy a book with past exam papers of all parts of the exam.
If it is difficult to think of spontaneous examples, try the exercise with more every day topics
What is important when you go to the supermarket?
You should be able to produce something like this.
- Firstly it is important to write a shopping list because you can plan what you need and your shopping trip will be quicker. Make sure you don’t forget your list.
- Secondly, bags are useful because now you often have to pay for bags. If you take your own bags, you can save money and help the environment.
- Finally, money is essential because without it you can’t pay for your shopping. Overall money is the most important because it is the only thing that you really need. If you forget the other two and you can still come home with most of the things you need.
During the speaking test, you must remember only to give professional examples. You can talk about yourself but always try to use a professional context. If you have to choose a topic you have only experienced as a customer, try to keep the examples general but use the perspective of the company not as the customer.
I have often had students who want to speak from a personal perspective. With some questions, this is a very natural mistake, but you MUST avoid it.
Career development: what to consider when looking for an improved position in a different company.
It is easy to fall into the trap of saying something like this.
Firstly, management or team leader status is what I am looking for. I would not change companies unless I were moving to a position with more responsibility, nor would I decide to change if I could not see any further opportunities of promotion once I was working for the company.
Secondly, the salary is important because I would insist on an increase in my annual salary if I change jobs in order to have a better role. However, I would accept a salary similar to my current one if I considered the new position as one of several steps on my career ladder.
Finally, the location of a new company is a factor too. At the moment I have to commute for over an hour to my office, which is my personal limit. If I found a higher position in a company which was further away I might not be able to accept it because the extra responsibility I would have combined with me spending more time commuting would have a negative effect on my work life balance.
What is wrong with that? you might think. The English is good and the points made are logical.
I agree that the English is good and there is logic in the answers. However, does it really discuss the topic in the question? No, it is an excellent answer to the question, Your career development: what you consider when looking for an improved position in a different company. It is vital in the exam that you answer the specific questions asked (this is true for all parts of the speaking text and the writing test).
Fortunately, if you adjust the perspective in the above answer, you can have an excellent answer to the correct question.
Firstly, generally, most people should look for positions which involve some management or team leader status. If you want to develop your career you would not change companies unless you move to a position with increased responsibility, nor should you decide to change if you cannot see any further opportunities of promotion within the company.
Secondly, the salary is important because you should insist on receiving an increase in your annual salary if you have more responsibility. However, people might decide to accept a salary similar to their current one if they consider the new position as one of several steps on their personal career ladder.
Finally, the location of a new company is a factor too. For example, if someone already has to change the community for over an hour to their office, they might not be able to accept a higher position in a company which was further away, because the combination of the extra responsibility and the extra commuting time would have a negative effect on their work-life balance.
So, by using you, people and they or their instead of I, the answer becomes more professional and less personal. More importantly, the answer gets a positive result for this part of the test.
Part 2 – The question.
It is important to remember that the other candidate has a role here too. When the minute is finished, the examiner will stop you. The examiner will then ask your partner to ask you a question. Students often forget that this is coming but you need to be prepared.
Your partner needs to ask you a question about your presentation so it will not be difficult to answer. He or she will relate the question to one of your points. You need to give a short clear reply, similar in length to the questions in the interview in Part 1.
It isn’t over yet though. Now you must listen to your partner’s presentation and ask a question about it.
Listen to the introduction and the first point of your partner’s presentation. If you understand it, then start thinking of your question.
Start your question with “Do you think” “What in your opinion is…” Which of the things you mentioned is the most or the least important”
C1 Business Higher (BEC Higher)
Speaking Part Three.
The meeting – about 5 minutes.
You are shown a card with a discussion topic on it. This is presented in the form of title, a context and a scenario for the discussion plus two questions for you to discuss and decide on together. You have 30 seconds to read the card and about three minutes for the task.
You can learn more about the correct grammar to use in this part of the Speaking Exam, in the C1 Business Higher Preparation Guide, available here.
You can download an example of Speaking Part Three here.
In this part, you can finally talk to your partner. This part of the test simulates a meeting between two professionals. I am sure you’ve been to at least one meeting before – even I, as a teacher, have had to attend and participate in meetings. Unfortunately, you do not get the “agenda” in advance, but from what some of my students tell me sometimes this is also true in real businesses. Fortunately, the meeting is very short – not like in real life!
The key to part 3 is interaction. But what does this mean? It means that you have a dialogue, you have to talk about the situation but also listen and respond to your partner. Interaction is not always natural especially when you are stressed, and you don’t know the other person, but it is something we do in our daily lives both professional and personal.
Two common mistakes – you won’t make these because you are using this guide.
Often exam candidates do not interact with their partner. They speak well and make good points, but they do not listen to the other candidate and do not react to what they say. Therefore, they are not participating in the meeting correctly and therefore fail to do the exam task correctly.
Sometimes candidates say too much. The discussion topics on the card usually say “discuss what kinds of….or what information would be necessary…”. It is an error here for one person to list three or four examples immediately because it leaves no opportunity to discuss each one. This part is not a presentation it is a meeting.
Procedure – Play tennis
When you read the task, think of one at least one point to make about the first question.
Try to start the discussion, this way you will feel more relaxed because you are speaking. If you are stressed and cannot think of anything to say yet, then invite your partner to start, say “would you like to start?”
Give one example about the first discussion topic and ask your partner if he/she agrees?
Remember to say Do you agree not are you agree? If you are worried about making a mistake, with agree, just ask, What do you think?
Listen to your partner and respond to what they say by agreeing or disagreeing.
If your partner makes a new point, then respond to it.
Introduce another point and ask your partner to respond.
Keep going. (see you are playing tennis, back and forth back and forth).
It’s decide time! Usually, if the discussion works well and you have agreed and disagreed about the same things, then the decision part is easy because it is “obvious” what you have decided.