Overview of the Speaking Test

Format of the Test
The speaking test will contain three separate tasks:


Task type

Length of task

 Part 1

  Question and Answer

4-6 minutes

 Part 2

  Long Turn

4-5 minutes

 Part 3

  Paired Discussion

8-10 minutes


NB: In cases where only a single candidate is to be examined, the alternative Open Ended Discussion task will be offered in Part 3. Please see below for a description.

Task Types

Part 1:             Question and Answer

Test takers are required to enter unprepared into a 4 to 6 minute conversation with the examiner on two familiar topics. Test takers will be asked between 2 and 4 questions on each topic.

Part 2:             Long Turn

Test takers will be given a task card requiring them to speak for 4-5 minutes on a topic of interest and relevance to their work. Before speaking, they will be given up to 2 minutes to make notes and prepare.

Part 3:             Paired Discussion

Test takers will be examined in pairs. They will be given a task that requires them to enter into a discussion with each other on more abstract and challenging themes. The examiners will ask one or two follow-up questions of each candidate.

Open Ended Discussion

Test takers will be required to enter unprepared into a discussion with the examiner on more abstract and challenging themes arising from the topic of the long turn. The examiner will lead the discussion by asking a number of questions.

Types of Speaking Behaviour

The test targets the test takers’ ability across a range of proficiency levels and contexts to determine if they are able in general to:

  • maintain simple conversations on familiar or personal topics (B1 – see Grading and Results)
  • use the language fluently on a wide range of general, academic and professional topics (B2 – see Grading and Results)
  • can relate her/his contributions skilfully to those of another speaker (C1 – see Grading and Results)
  • can express her/himself almost effortlessly (C1 – see Grading and Results)

The test will last a maximum of 30 minutes and will be recorded.

Criteria of Assessment 
A rating scale has been developed based on the CEFR (see Grading and Results) and other established scales.

The test taker’s level of spoken English proficiency is assessed on this scale according to the following criteria:

  • Fluency and Coherence (F&C)- ability to maintain flow of speech, connect ideas and stay on topic
  • Range (R) - of both vocabulary and grammatical structures
  • Accuracy (A) – of pronunciation, intonation, grammar and word choice

For example, the test taker is assessed on whether s/he can:

  • speak at length on the given topic (F&C)
  • present a clear, well-structured and convincing argument (F&C)
  • produce an appropriate range of vocabulary and grammatical structures (R)
  • use vocabulary and grammatical structures accurately (A)
  • produce relatively clear pronunciation and intonation (A)
  • vary intonation and place sentence stress correctly in order to express finer shades of meaning (A)

Link to assessment scale

Grading and Results
The result will be expressed in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) proficiency scale. The CEFR describes six levels of language proficiency from basic users to independent and proficient users. This test focuses on three of these levels:

  • B1, or Independent User: Intermediate
  • B2, or Independent User: Upper Intermediate
  • C1, or Proficient User: Advanced

Each test taker will receive one of six possible results:

  • Below B1
  • B1
  • B1+
  • B2
  • B2+
  • C1

Why use the CEFR? The CEFR is an internationally recognised framework of language descriptors that makes it easy to understand what level a test taker is at in terms of their reading, listening, writing and speaking abilities.
You can find out more about the CEFR by following these links: