Monday, May 15, 2006

CPE interview tips

Cambridge CPE interviews do's and don'ts


1 Be friendly, be polite. This is a chance to show the
examiners how well you can speak English, not a fight to
the death.

2 Learn some words that may come up, e.g. the name of
the subject you are studying or the job you want to do
in the future.

3 DO NOT learn a little speech by heart. It sounds
unnatural and you'll get even more nervous than you
need to be trying to remember it.

4 Keep eye contact with the examiner. That means looking
him or her in the eye rather than staring at your shoes
or some point on the wall behind them.

5 Remember there are no wrong answers here, only well-
expressed and badly expressed ones.

6 DO NOT give short, monosyllabic answers, nor tell them
the story of your life.


1 If you don't understand the question ask the examiner to
repeat it. You'll not lose marks for this. However, you will
lose marks for answering the wrong question.

2 Move your chair so that you are facing the other person.
Remember what we said about eye-contact.

3 Start with a question, not a monologue.

4 Listen to what the other person says, comment on it, ask
them questions.

5 Disagree with the other person whatever they say. It's
always easier to have something to say if we disagree.

6 Give the other person chance to speak. You'll lose
marks if you monopolise the conversation.

7 DO NOT stop speaking until the examiner tells you that
your time is up.

PART THREE (part one)

1 Make sure you understand the question before you start
speaking. If necessary, ask the examiner to explain it.

2 Give yourself a few moments to think about what you
want to say.

3 Remember there are no wrong answers. Nobody
expects you to be an expert on the subject of the

4 Feel free to ignore the prompts suggested. You do not
have to use them, if you do not wish.

5 DO NOT stop speaking until the examiner tells you that
your time is up.

6 Listen to what the other person says as you will be
asked to comment on it.

PART THREE (part two)

7 Remember the longer questions asked towards the end
of this part are always connected with the topic
discussed in the prompt cards.

8 Give full answers, not just short, monosyllabic ones

9 Comment on what the other person says, use their

10 There are no wrong answers, only badly-expressed

Lesson plan

1 Hand out the photocopy with the advice and go through
any difficult words or ideas.

2 Choose two students and do a Cambridge interview with
them. The other students then have to see if those being
interviewed have followed the exam tips.

3 Divide the class into two, each of the students
interviewed then discuss their performance with the group.

I often record these interviews on digital camera and put
it onto a cd which the students can watch at home.

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