Top tips for a stress-free speaking and writing English test

In the Assessment team, we’re always focused on helping you get the English proficiency test results you deserve with as little stress as possible. We’ve asked our expert assessors for some top tips to help you perform your very best on the day. We hope you’ll find these useful!

Try to sound confident

Speaking in another language can be stressful and doing a test in another language may be overwhelming; our examiners know this. However, unlike some other oral tests, our Speaking test is done via the headset and computer in your chosen Approved Test Centre. Our examiners listen to your performance and award a grade based on your ability to describe, compare, contrast, speculate, and make suggestions.

To prepare, you should focus on building your confidence through plenty of practice. Aim to sound confident, speak loudly, and be proud when you communicate. Take every opportunity that your teacher offers you to practice under test conditions. Try standing in front of a mirror to recite some key language out loud and be sure to familiarise yourself with how it feels to talk to a computer. You can do this by using our free online demo. These preparations will help you feel better about the test experience and our assessors will be able to understand your recording more easily.

Show off your grammar skills

To get a B2 in grammar in the Speaking test, candidates need to demonstrate “a range of structures with some complex sentence forms to express viewpoints clearly.” You should also try to use a range of structures in your writing. If in doubt, ask your teacher for examples of tenses and structures that you should consider using. It doesn’t have to be perfect; we expect people to make errors, the important thing is that we can understand.

Fun versus funny?

Lots of learners find it tricky to understand the difference between ‘fun’ and ‘funny’. For example, “I like to play football with my friends, it’s really funny.” Try to focus on recognising the meaning and uses of ‘fun’ and ‘funny’. Funny does not mean enjoyable! For more information on this and other useful tips look at the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary entry.

Use paragraph spacing

In the Writing test, candidates may choose to write an essay. If you do write an essay, remember to use proper paragraphs and line spacing. Try to avoid writing the whole response in one long paragraph. Remember that segmenting your text will also help you to better organise your thoughts.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Do let us know in the comments if you want more!


Sarah Rogerson joined Oxford University Press as Director of Assessment in 2019. Having worked in English language teaching and assessment for 20 years, Sarah believes every assessment needs to have a purpose. She is passionate about education for all and digital innovation in ELT and is Vice Chair of the e-Assessment association. Sarah began her career teaching English in Taiwan in 1999, since then she has had the opportunity to work in various UK contexts including 7 years at Cambridge Assessment. Sarah has a M.ed TESOL, PGCE, and a first degree in French.  More recently, she has been studying for a M.sc. in Digital Education.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and learners top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help people around the world to learn English.

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