The Aptis by British Council is a relatively new exam but it is quickly gaining popularity among English language learners. This is due to it becoming more widely accepted both here in Spain and around the world, it being cheaper than other exams like Cambridge, and being able to get the results more quickly.
Knowing exactly what an exam entails is half the battle when preparing for it. Today we’re going to look at the Speaking exam. The entire exam is done on a computer, so for the speaking part, you have to record your answers within a given time limit. This means preparation is key. Knowing what to expect and being ready to show off your language skills will help achieve your goal.
In the first part, you have to answer questions about yourself. There are three questions and you must talk for thirty seconds for each question. Possible topics you could talk about include Family, Your Job, Hobbies and Interests, Future Plans, Films and Books, The Weather, Daily Routine etc. This means four or five clear sentences. If for example you are asked, “What’s the weather like today?” You might think it impossible to have your answer last a full thirty seconds. This is why it’s important to brainstorm things related to the weather. What do you like to do when it’s hot outside? What clothes are you wearing for the current season? Is it typical weather for this time of year? Is it unusually hot or cold? So a typical answer to “What’s the weather like today?” doesn’t have to be difficult to elaborate on. Instead of just replying “It’s cold but sunny” you can add “but this is normal for Madrid in winter. People usually wear hats, scarves, winter coats and boots to stay warm. A typical winter snack is roasted chestnuts which you can buy from street vendors.” Instead of talking solely about the weather, we can incorporate other related vocabulary like in this instance; clothes. But we could also talk about what people generally do in when the weather is hot/cold etc. The questions in part one of the Aptis lend themselves to elaboration. You should keep talking, adding relevant sentences until your time is up.
In the second part of the Aptis speaking exam, you are given a picture which you have forty-five seconds to describe. You then have to answer to related questions with a limit of forty-five seconds for each.
A typical example of this could be the picture on the left.
- Describe the picture.
- Do you often have to work in a team in work or university?
- Why is teamwork important?
Describing a photo is a question that comes up in many exams. With this type of question, you should take as much time as possible to gather your thoughts. Then use all of the time given to talk about it. Below are some useful phrases to describe the position of things within a picture.
When talking about what people are doing or wearing in a photo we must use the present continuous. Subject + is/are + verb in ING It is also important to speculate about what the subjects of the picture might be doing using expressions like:
It seems as if…
They might/may/could be …
It makes me think of …
I think …
Let’s try to answer the questions above. Remember you have 45 seconds for each answer which should be approximately 5 to 7 clear sentences.
- In this photo, I can see a group of people sitting around a table. In the background, there is a large window and the room is bright. There are posters on the wall behind them. They seem to be working on something together. In the middle of the table, there is a model of something which they are pointing to and discussing. Maybe it’s a building. They might be doing a project together for a university class. Maybe they are engineering students and they are doing a project on town planning.
- When I was at university, I often had to give presentations with other students. We would be given a project to discuss and research and would have to present it together in front of the rest of our class. I enjoyed working with my classmates on these projects as it gave me a different perspective on the topic. However, I also got very nervous having to speak in front of so many people. I used to practise as much as I could beforehand to feel more relaxed about it.
- Teamwork is very important, not only in university but also in the working world. As I mentioned before, having more than one person working on a project allows for more input and different points of view to be considered. Being able to work in a team is beneficial as it reduces the workload for everyone involved and means projects can be finished more efficiently.
As you can see, each answer has clear, concise sentences. I hope this helps you in your preparation for Aptis or indeed any English exam in which you are asked to describe a picture. In the next part of this series, we will look at parts 3 and 4 of the Aptis speaking exam. Don’t forget to check back soon.
In our English academies in La Elipa and Garcia Noblejas, you can prepare for Aptis as well as the Cambridge First Certificate and Advanced.