Buddha and Oral Exams

Anne Robinson, from the North East of England but based in Santander in Northern Spain for, well, a few years now, is a teacher, teacher trainer, author and the Senior Presenter for Cambridge ESOL in Spain. This of course makes her an expert in exam preparation classes! She uses photos and eltpics in her classes, so I invited her to share some of her ideas here. As Anne sent me various smaller pictures, I’ve dotted them through the post to keep you guessing – it’s not a case of either of us going slightly mad, honest.

(Check out Anne’s Burning Questionnaire here – nice reading.)


Pictures and photos play a prominent part in the University of Cambridge ESOL Speaking Tests. They are there to stimulate candidates’ imagination and language production.

What we examiners often notice is that certain details in a picture are missed. Not a problem, because it’s not a question of being stuck for words – just that certain things about pictures leap out straight away and others can pass by unnoticed.

In the Cambridge English: Preliminary Speaking Test, each candidate is given a photo on a particular theme and is asked to describe it.

Please tell us what you can see in your photograph’.

Image by @sandymillin for eltpics

Candidates should speak for about one minute, without help or intervention from the interlocutor or the other candidate. This can prove to be a difficult task. They often get off to a spurt with a few sentences, then dry up and start repeating things they have already mentioned.

So, picking up on details in the photograph can help tremendously to give them enough to say.

One way of training students to think about and notice where things are is to give them parts of a scene.

Each student/group of students is given (or shown) one part of the photo only.

They are asked to think about and discuss:

  1. Where they think their piece of the photo fits: at the top/bottom/in the middle of the photo? On the right/left/in the centre?
  2. What else they think is in the photo?

They then get together and try and reconstruct the whole photograph.

Finally, show them the whole picture and see how it compares with the ones they built together from their imagination.

Three legged Buddha Image by Anne Robinson for eltpics

Then, give them the Preliminary Speaking Test instructions:

I’m going to give you a photograph of an art display. Please tell us what you can see in your photograph.

Then they could be given another photograph such as this one and asked to talk about it:

Living (?) statue Image by @fionamau for eltpics

To complete the activity in the way they would in the Cambridge English: Preliminary exam, you can then ask them to discuss:

Your photographs showed examples of street art. Now, I’d like you to talk together about the art you like and the kind of art you don’t like to go and see.’ (Allow about 3 minutes for this.)


4 thoughts on “Buddha and Oral Exams

  1. VERY nice post, and great idea for breaking up the pic into smaller pieces. How did U do that? (still learning my way around a few tech tools lol). Congrats!

  2. Pingback: Buddha and Oral Exams | ESOL exams | Scoop.it

  3. Hello Lucia! Glad you liked the idea! It’s and activity always worked very well in my classes.
    I used a MAC to break up the photo (JPEG), so I’m not 100% sure if you use a PC that the procedure will be slightly different. Also, my computer settings are in Spanish, so I’m not 100% sure if my translations of the computer terms will be accurate, but here goes….
    With the photo open, I selected screen shot (captura de pantalla) under File (Archivo). That allows you to choose From the selection (De la selección). I then selected the part of the photo I wanted each time. A new window opened each time with the part I’d selected and then I saved it as 1, 2, 3, etc.
    Hope it works for you too!

  4. Pingback: The Burning Questionnaire: Anne Robinson | The Burning Questionnaire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s