Top Tips to Help You Pass Your Aptis ESOL Speaking Test
What does every learner of a foreign language want, whether or not they’re planning to take an exam? I know what I want, and I think it’s probably true for most people. I want to improve my speaking skills and to communicate more effectively. Of course, this feels even more important when you’re going to take an oral exam. So this is where you’ll find all our top tips to help you pass your Aptis Speaking Test, from the practical to the inventive!
These tips will also be useful for doing all types of public exams, not just the Aptis ESOL test. For example, Trinity ISE exams, all the Cambridge exams, IELTs, EOI, Language Cert – in fact, any exam with a speaking component.
Our top tips for the Speaking Test
Start recording yourself
In addition to providing a way to check your pronunciation and intonation, this will help you get used to hearing your own voice. It will also give you practice in keeping to time limits, thinking quickly, and not hesitating for too long.
You can record yourself using your computer software or an external recorder, but this website is really easy to use: https://vocaroo.com/. We like it because you can record yourself as many times as you like. So if you go blank (forget what you were going to say), just press the record button and start again. Then you can email it to yourself, your teacher or a fellow student. Sharing and comparing is a really good way to practise and monitor your progress. As you to listen to it later, note down areas for improvement and try again.
It can feel really strange the first time you record and listen to your own voice (even in your own language!), so it’s a good idea to start by talking about things that are familiar to you: yourself, your likes & dislikes, your job or studies, your hobbies, etc. The more you practise, the more ‘normal’ it’ll feel to talk to a computer. And that will definitely help you to give your best performance on exam day.
Learn some good starter phrases
Fill these phrases in with your own information.
My name’s … and I’m from …
I’m a/an … and I work/study in/at …
I’ve been in my job (or ‘at my school/college/university’) for … (period of time)
At work I’m responsible for … (verb+ing)
I started learning English when …
I’m doing this exam because …
When my English improves I want to …
In my free time I …
I usually … at weekends.
Last weekend I …
Next month I’m going to …
In the future I’d like to …
Once you feel more comfortable speaking aloud, go to 50+ Useful Phrases to help you pass your Aptis Test. Try to complete more of the phrases, for example talking about your preferences, making comparisons etc.
Work on your pronunciation
Again, practise with friends or fellow students if you can – listening to each other really helps you identify problem areas. It’s often easier to hear the pronunciation mistakes other people make than to hear your own. So help each other to identify typical mistakes and work on them together.
Perhaps you’re not pronouncing your ‘ed’ endings well? If that’s the case, Pronunciation of ‘ed’ Endings is a good place to start improving. Many of the questions in the test are about the past, so this is a very important aspect to practise.
We also recommend you to check out the excellent OUP site for more help with pronunciation of individual sounds.
Be honest – tell your fellow students if what they’re saying isn’t clear, or if they’re hesitating too much, or if they’re not linking their ideas well. In this way you’ll make sure you’re all communicating as well as you can. And remember to give positive feedback too!
One of our top tips – don’t feel you have to stick to the facts in your answers. Feel free to invent some interesting anecdotes! The examiner is really only interested in how you use your English, not in the contents of what you say.
So if, for example, you can’t remember the last time you visited a museum, make it up! Be creative! Don’t waste time trying to remember something when you could be speaking.
If I can’t think of an experience in my own life, I often talk about something that happened to a friend. That’s usually easier than just inventing a story, because you can remember details about what your friend told you. For example, I can’t remember my own first day at school, but I’ve never forgotten the story a friend told me. He remembers arriving at the school gates with the other families, and how all the other children were crying. They didn’t want to leave their parents to go into class for the first time. But he couldn’t wait to start school, and enjoyed his first day so much that he only cried when he had to go home! So I tell that story as if it had happened to me …
Use the time well in Part Four
You have one minute to make notes before you have to speak for two minutes, so make the most of it.
The best way to start is by dividing your paper into three columns before you make any notes. Or draw a diagram with three sections – whatever works for you. In this way you’ll be sure to answer each of the three questions, which is very important. Even if your English is perfect, you won’t get a good grade unless you address each question.
Keep your notes short & simple – don’t try to write a script. The important thing is to get some ideas down on paper, so that you don’t go blank. Two minutes is quite a long time to speak for.
When you do the Speaking Test you may be in a room with many other candidates. This is very different to being on your own at home, and it can be very noisy. Try not to focus on what the others are saying; just put on your headphones, look at the screen and concentrate on your own exam.
If you follow all our top tips to help you pass your Aptis Speaking Test, you’ll definitely improve your chances of getting a good grade!
Here’s John with his two top tips: