Aptis Speaking: Comparing Two Photos
In this post we’re going to focus on comparing two photos. We’ll look at some useful expressions and also highlight the grammar you need to be aware of.
Comparing two photos is a typical task in many oral exams, including Part Three of the Aptis General and Aptis for Teachers tests, Part One of Aptis Advanced and Part Two of Cambridge B2 First (formerly called FCE, or First Certificate in English).
The physical description should be quite brief; focus on the similarities and/or differences between the two photos. It’s much more important to be able to speculate about where the photos could have been taken and what the relationship between the people might be. You need to look into how they might be feeling and why, what might have happened and what could be about to happen.
This is a B2-level task, but of course you should do it as well as you can.
Start with a very brief description of the photos
Point out the similarities and the differences between them. Vary the use of the photo shows, you can see and there is / there are, in order to avoid repetition and improve your style.
Highlight the similarities
Use both or in common:
Both photos show four people on holiday.
What these photos have in common is spring or summer holidays.
Highlight the contrasts or differences
Use whereas or while:
In the first photo you can see two elderly couples on a beach holiday, whereas in the second there’s a young family on a city break.
The couples are walking along a sandy beach, while the family is posing for a photo in front of some ruins.
Point out anything interesting or noticeable
Here are some useful expressions:
The thing that stands out in the first photo is that they’re all older people, probably retired.
What strikes me most about the second photo is the fact that they’re all wearing face-masks.
Talk about the origins of the photo
Use the passive voice, maybe/perhaps or probably and modal verbs of deduction to talk about the origins of the photo:
The city photo must have been taken during the Covid 19 pandemic.
The beach photo could have been taken before the pandemic, or perhaps they’re in a low-risk country with fewer restrictions.
Both photos were most probably taken in spring or summer, as they’re all wearing light clothes.
They might have been taken by another family member or friend, or maybe just by a fellow-tourist.
Speculate on the people, the place or the occasion, and justify your guesses
Use modal verbs of deduction. Vary the use of because, as, judging from or judging by to give your reasons:
Judging from the ruins in the background, I’d say the family are on holiday in Italy.
It’s difficult to tell how they’re feeling from this photo, but they’re probably smiling behind the masks!
The children could be finding it all rather strange, as they look a little uncomfortable.
The couples might be meeting again after many years, because they’re all smiling.
The two women must be good friends, judging by how closely together they’re walking.
These expressions with look are also very useful for describing and speculating. Note the structures to use in each case:
The family look like typical tourists (look like + noun or noun phrase)
The two girls look very alike – they must be sisters (look + adjective)
They all look as though they’re determined to have a good time despite the pandemic! (look as though + clause)
The two women on the beach look as if they’re sharing a joke (look as if + clause)
Vary these with the verbs seem and appear:
They all seem happy (seem + adjective)
The couples appear to know (seem/appear + to + infinitive) each other already, though they could have just met.
You could also use the following ways to speculate:
I’d say both the couples are of retirement age.
I’d imagine they’re old friends.
I suppose they might just have met while on holiday.
I can’t say for sure, but the ruins in the background could be the Colosseum in Rome.
So now let’s put it all together. Remember, you only have 45 seconds, as in Part Two where you only had to describe one photo. Obviously you won’t be able to use all the expressions we’ve given you here. As before, choose the options that sound most natural to you, or that you find more memorable. Don’t spend too long on the opening description; point out the similarities and differences, then look into the photos and speculate about them. Try to include something from each category.
Comparing two photos
What these photos have in common is holidays. In the first photo you can see two elderly couples walking on a sandy beach, whereas in the second there’s a young family posing for a photo in a city. Judging from the ruins in the background, I’d say they’re in Italy.
What strikes me most about them is that they’re all wearing face-masks – the photo must have been taken during the Covid 19 pandemic. But they look as though they’re determined to have a good time anyway!
The couples appear to know each other, though I suppose they could have just met. The two women look as if they’re sharing a joke.
Now watch Chris comparing the two photos. As before, we suggest that you try to copy her pronunciation and intonation, as this will help you to improve yours.
Make sure you’ve also studied Aptis Speaking: Describing a Photo, which covers Part Two of the Aptis General and Aptis for Teachers tests.
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And of course you’ll find lots more speaking practice and much more in the Guide.