Updated: Sep 7
So, you are thinking of attempting the Level 4 Speaking exam, but you are not sure what is involved. Well, let me guide you through the exam and give you a few pointers.
Alternatively, or perhaps as well, you can take a look at my YouTube video:
In July 2020 the Polish Military published its revised specifications for the Level 4 English Language exam. Full specifications for the Level 4 exam and all others run by the Central Examinations Board can be downloaded here. This revision saw significant changes in the speaking exam and so it is worth outlining what exactly the new speaking exam entails.
There are three parts to the speaking exam and together they last approximately half an hour, together with a warm-up. The exam is conducted in pairs.
Total Time: 29 minutes
Warm-up: 3 minutes
Task One: 14 minutes
Task Two: 6 minutes
Task Three: 6 minutes
During the speaking exam, candidates are expected to demonstrate the ability to:
• present an opinion
• agree and disagree
• request clarification
• make recommendations and suggestions
Task One consists of a monologue and last for 4-5 minutes. The candidate must deliver a speech, after which their partner must challenge one or two points from the talk. What makes the task challenging is the fact that there is no effective time to prepare. The candidate chooses a task at random and then has thirty seconds to read and digest the topic. They must then deliver their talk. The talk's aim is to persuade the listener of the benefit of a given strategy. Often the policy is somewhat controversial in nature and the candidate may find themselves arguing against their natural position.
Task Two involves a discussion in pairs where a central topic must be discussed along with at least two of the connected subtopics provided. The discussion lasts for 6 minutes and the candidates are judged on their passive as well as active skills. It is important to listen well and formulate a reasoned response to your partner's arguments.
Task Three is made up of questions from the examiner. Depending on the length of the answers given, the examiner will ask between 2 and 5 questions which are to be fully developed by the candidates.
As tasks two and three generally follow the pattern of other C2 examinations I will not go into too much detail as to the method and strategy of dealing with the tasks. Suffice it to say that an in-depth knowledge of vocabulary and grammar at the expert (proficiency/C2) level is needed to achieve success. The specifications state that candidates should demonstrate:
a high degree of fluency and correct pronunciation
lexical and grammatical accuracy and appropriacy
appropriate register and formal style interaction abilities:
responding logically to partner's contributions
The monologue should be logical, clear and organised.
Task One, on the other hand, is a somewhat different kettle of fish! As mentioned earlier, the task represents a lobbying action where the candidate must present a proposal to an interest group (often local or national politicians) and try to persuade them of a specific course of action. This may be a new piece of legislation or the allowing of a building project or something similar. Ofen the proposal is somewhat controversial and the candidate may in fact be arguing against their natural inclination.
The candidate chooses a task at random from task instruction prompts displayed facedown on the table. They then have approximately thirty seconds to collect their thoughts before being asked to begin. It is paramount then that the candidate has a structure already in their minds to which any scenario could be applied. A possible such structure could be:
Gain listeners attention
Repeat main ideas
Conclude on a strong message
The candidate must imagine they are selling a product for which the listener doesn't yet know they have a need. In such a sales pitch, it is important to paint a picture whereby the listener can visualise their problem and desire a solution. The candidate then is able to present a ready-made solution to the newly-found problem.
During the speech, it is important that the candidate employs a variety of rhetorical mechanisms in order to convince their listener. Here is a link to an article discussing some of the most common.
Below are two worksheets with matching exercises concerning rhetorical devices to give you some ideas of what to include in your talk, or perhaps your L4 Writing.