C1 Advanced (CAE) Speaking Part 1

In this article, I am going to focus on Part 1 of the C1 Advanced (CAE) Speaking test. As I’m sure you know already, every paper of the C1 Advanced exam is divided into different parts, so I believe it’s important to provide an in-depth description of each of them. Here you will learn everything you need to know about CAE Speaking Part 1 and you will be seeing some examples and tips to succeed in this part of the exam. 

Description of CAE Speaking Part 1

Part 1 consists of a series of questions that the examiner (Interlocutor) will ask the candidates. These questions deal mostly with the candidates’ background and experiences as well as their likes and dislikes. Here’s an example of the questions the examiner has before them to ask the candidates: 

C1 advanced cae speaking part 1

Notice the following: 

  • The Interlocutor will start by introducing himself/herself, ask your names and then ask for your mark sheet. This is a piece of paper with your details that you will be handed when you get to the examination venue. 
  • Then they will move on to a set of four basic questions, out of which they will ask one or two per candidateThese questions are always the same in every test
  • Finally, the examiner will ask one or two more questions from the last set. These questions, unlike in the B2 First (FCE) Part 1, are not split into topic categories, but rather mixed without any particular criteria

After this, the test will seamlessly continue to CAE Speaking Part 2

Speaking CAE: Ten practice tests for the Cambridge C1 Advanced
Get your copy of Speaking CAE to gain access to 10 complete C1 Advanced (CAE) Speaking Tests and many more things: description of each part, sample answers, guidance for every part, mark sheet, author comments and tips, etc.

Timing

CAE Speaking Part 1 is meant to last around 2 minutes, which includes the questions to both candidates. Given how short this part is, it means that it isn’t necessary to extend your answers much. This part is a sort of ice-breaker which serves as introduction to the rest of the test. However, the skill you show in this part is as important as in the rest of the test. 

C1 Speaking Part 1 Topics

According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL), 

Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously, almost effortlessly. Has a good command of a broad lexical repertoire allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions. There is little obvious searching for expressions or avoidance strategies; only a conceptually difficult subject can hinder a natural, smooth flow of language.

Having read this, we can conclude that, because of the linguistic proficiency expected at the C1 level, any reasonable topic can come up in a C1 test. We are no longer constrained by B1 or B2 limitations to everyday situations. Here’s a comprehensive list of C1 Speaking Part 1 topics: 

  • Future ambitions, plans and life goals
  • Friends, family and social life
  • Holidays & travel
  • Habits and personalities
  • Free time and leisure activities: art, sports, cooking, reading, films, TV, music, celebrations, etc. 
  • Animals and pets
  • Countries and cities
  • Culture and traditions
  • School, college and university
  • Careers and work 
  • Language learning
  • The Internet and new technologies
  • Etc. 

As you can see, there’s a super-wide range of topics that could come up in the exam. And that’s because we’re talking about C1, one of the highest linguistic proficiency levels there are. 

C1 Speaking Part 1 Example Questions List

The following is a list of questions that you could encounter in C1 Advanced Speaking Test Part 1

  • How do you most enjoy spending your free time?
  • How have your ambitions changed in the last few years?
  • Do you still have the same friends you had when you were a child?
  • Where would you like to go on your next holiday? …… (Why?)
  • Do you consider yourself a risk-taker? …… (Why? / Why not?)
  • Does music play an important role in your life? …… (Why? / Why not?)
  • When was the last time you celebrated something important?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you have done lately?
  • Can you tell us about something you have done that you’re really proud of?
  • What’s the best thing about the area where you live? …… (Why?)
  • Do you prefer to go on holiday with family or with friends? …… (Why?)
  • Are you an avid reader? …… (Why? / Why not?)
  • How do you think learning a foreign language can help you?
  • What was your favourite subject at school/college? …… (Why?)
  • What person has had the greatest influence on your life? …… (Why?)

This list of questions has been taken from two of the tests in my book, Speaking CAE, of which I am very proud.

Speaking CAE: Ten practice tests for the Cambridge C1 Advanced
Get your copy of Speaking CAE to gain access to 10 complete C1 Advanced (CAE) Speaking Tests and many more things: description of each part, sample answers, guidance for every part, mark sheet, author comments and tips, etc.

C1 Speaking Part 1 Questions and Answers PDF

Here’s a list of sample questions and answers for Part 1 of the C1 Advanced Speaking test. Feel free to download a PDF copy of these questions here

  • How do you most enjoy spending your free time?
    I’m a pretty avid reader, so I like to read anything that I can get my hands on. Lately, I’ve been reading the Lord of The Rings series. 
  • How have your ambitions changed in the last few years?
    When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a flight attendant like my mom. However, in the last 10 years, I’ve realized it wouldn’t be a good fit for me. At the moment, I’m trying to figure out a career that would make me happy, but I’m still not sure what that is! 
  • Do you still have the same friends you had when you were a child?
    Yes, fortunately, I’ve kept the best friends that I’ve had since I was a child. Those are the few friends that are there for me when I need them, no matter what.
  • Where would you like to go on your next holiday? …… (Why?)
    I would love to go to South America. I’d like to visit some countries like Argentina, Peru, or Brazil. I think South America has a lot to offer in terms of cultural heritage and natural wildlife. 
  • Do you consider yourself a risk-taker? …… (Why? / Why not?)
    Well, I would consider myself an adventurous guy, yes, but maybe not a risk-taker. I always try new things and I like to learn about new places and live new experiences, but not necessarily taking risks.
  • Does music play an important role in your life? …… (Why? / Why not?)
    Yes, it does. Music is one of the most beautiful and powerful things in this world. It can bring joy, love, sadness, and even happiness to people. And I love it!
  • When was the last time you celebrated something important?
    A few months I completed my degree in Engineering, and that was a big day for me, so I celebrated with friends and family. 
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
    I’m not sure, to be honest. But I hope to have a job I’m content with and, maybe, married and with kids. Who knows?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you have done lately?
    I recently started my own company, which has been interesting and extremely challenging.
  • Can you tell us about something you have done that you’re really proud of?
    I really take pride in my children. They’re really smart and hardworking and I like to think that I have something to do with that. 
  • What’s the best thing about the area where you live? …… (Why?)
    The best think about Granada is that it’s a very manageable city. I mean, you can walk anywhere, nothing is too far and it’s a rather inexpensive place to live in. 
  • Do you prefer to go on holiday with family or with friends? …… (Why?)
    I’d say probably with friends. My family and I don’t see eye to eye on many things, so when we’re on holiday there’s a good chance that we will quarrel about where to go and what to do. 
  • Are you an avid reader? …… (Why? / Why not?)
    Oh, yes. I think reading is one of the most entertaining activities you can do. In my case, once I open and start a good novel, I simply cannot put it down. 
  • How do you think learning a foreign language can help you?
    Well, learning a language has many advantages, but I’d say that getting to know a different culture from your own is probably the greatest thing about it. 
  • What was your favourite subject at school? …… (Why?)
    I used to enjoy math, which was strange, as most of my friends hated it. I think it felt good to understand it, solve problems and so on.
  • What person has had the greatest influence on your life? …… (Why?)
    Probably, my dad. His unconditional support throughout every stage of my life has really had an impact on the way I see life and cope with problems nowadays. He’s the best. 

Top Tips to Answer Part 1 Questions

Now we’ve seen exactly what you have to do in CAE Speaking Part 1 and some examples of questions and answers, I will give you a few tips to be successful in this part of the exam. Ready? Let’s go! 

  • Warm up before the test: While Part 1 is a kind of ice-breaker to introduce the rest of the exam, it’s so short that it won’t really serve as a warm-up. For this reason, I always recommend to warm up with your partner or someone else before you enter the exam room. It’s probably enough to simply start a conversation with your partner a few minutes before starting the test. This will be useful in 2 ways: (1) you get to know your partner if you didn’t already, which will always make both of you feel more comfortable; and (2) you get into the mood of speaking in English and it reduces the chances of getting stuck trying to think of a word in the actual exam. 
  • Practice common questions, but don’t memorise any answers: Examiners aren’t dumb and know perfectly well when someone is spurting a pre-made answer, which, at this level, simply sounds ridiculous. On top of that, as soon as they realise, the Interlocutor will probably cut you short, which can be a little unpleasant. Therefore, I strongly suggest that you practice questions like the ones provided in this post, but don’t, for the love of me, waste your time memorising speeches for the test. 
  • Provide detailed answers, but not too long: As mentioned earlier, this part is meant to last ONLY 2 minutes, so there’s no time to waste. My advice is then that you answer the question providing some details or justification, but not trying to speak more than necessary. The Interlocutor will cut your answer short as soon as they feel you’re speaking too much. 
  • Stick to the topic: This has to do with the previous point. If you stick to the topic, it will be easier to provide a relatively brief answer to the question. Otherwise, you might end up talking about unrelated things that the examiners don’t want to hear about. 
  • Be and sound natural: This part is a simple conversation/interview, so try to relax, answer truthfully and sound as natural as possible. The examiners are people too and they want you to feel comfortable and be yourself. 
  • Be polite and smile: Smiling can take you far! Everyone feels more relaxed around you when you smile, that applies both to your partner and the examiners, so make sure to smile widely. 
  • Pay attention to your partner: Not only is it polite, but also useful. Sometimes, your partner’s answers can help you respond your own questions. And it sounds great when you link your answers to those of your partner, as it shows that you are skilled enough to do so.
  • Finish your answers: It doesn’t look good when you hear a candidate starting out with a great answer and then not knowing how to finish it properly because they ran out of things to say or got stuck with some word. Unfortunately, it’s quite common. So make sure that you finish off your answer and leave examiners with a good impression. 

Real C1 Advanced (CAE) Speaking Part 1

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