My last speaking post concerns Part 3 and 4 of the oral exam, when you talk to your partner discussing photos (3) or answering the examiner’s questions.

When you look at the official Cambridge brochure, what you need to present in the oral exam is the following 12 skills:

For Part 2 mostly:

  • comparing (whereas, slightly more, by far the biggest)
  • describing (in the top right picture)
  • speculating (it seems as if, might, doesn’t look particularly)

For Parts 3 and 4:

  • general interaction (right*, well**, where shall we begin?)
  • sustaining interaction (moving on to, shall we move on?, anyway, as I was saying)
  • expressing opinions (it seems to me that, I believe that, as I see it, from my point of view, I have an impression)
  • justifying opinions (you see, I mean, besides, basically)
  • (dis)agreeing (I completely agree, I couldn’t agree more, I think I see what you mean but***, that’s true in a way I suppose but)
  • exchanging ideas (what about you? I bet you, so all in all do you feel)
  • suggesting (why don’t we, how about, wouldn’t it be better to)
  • evaluating (looks like we have a winner here, so it’s definitely out, let’s cross this one out shall we)
  • concluding (so to sum up, it seems we have reached a conclusion)

*”Right” is what you say quietly WHILE your partner is speaking. It’s good manners in English to make noises to show you are listening.

**Feel free start ANY utterance with “well” if you are talking to the examiner. You can also start ANY utterance with “so” if you are talking to your partner.

***In English you can’t say that you disagree. You need to somewhat agree, then present your point of view after the “but”.


The best way to practise the expressions is to find a partner and prepare a set of cards with the expressions. Try:

  • talking about anything using the cards
  • doing exam tasks from Part 4 using the cards
  • doing exam tasks from Part 3 using the cards
  • doing exam tasks from Part 3 using the cards and timing your task (give yourselves 3-4 minutes)
  • doing exam tasks from Part 3 without the cards


As you can see, what you have to do during the exam is:

  • to use a lot of expressions rather than say something intelligent
  • to do “the ping pong” with your partner, that is either encourage them to speak or fight for your turn
  • not to waste too much time at each photo, keep moving on, time flies


Some tricks to check whether an expression is formal or informal (apart from looking it up in a few kinds of dictionaries or asking your teacher):

  • long Latin words (apprehension) and weird Germanic words (strength) are almost always formal (or neutral, so they are OK in a formal setting)
  • Use Enter your expression in the search box. A table with your expression should appear. Click your expression to show examples of its use. In a column to the left of the examples you shall see where the examples are from. If it’s “conv” (conversations), your expression is informal. If it’s “ac” (academic), it’s formal.
  • this blog is not written in formal English


Since I’ve been bombarding you with vocabulary lists lately, I think it’s time to show you yet another method of studying vocabulary – and, as what I’m covering now is CAE Writing, here is a worksheet I use to revise essay vocabulary by means of synonyms and little Post-its.

Prepare some post-its (little reusable sticky pieces of paper) with the vocabulary you wish to study. Here you can see that grouped into: verbs (with prepositions, if necessary), noun phrases (so much better than single nouns), adjectives/adverbs and linking. i suppose it’s nicer to study if you use different colours and arrangements.

Write the synonym of each word/expression directly under each piece of paper, on the large sheet. (Another way of doing this is using your language on the pieces of paper and English on the large sheet. However, personally I don’t recommend translation at the advanced level if synonyms can be used instead.)

To study, remove all pieces of paper, then stick them in the correct places. A more difficult option is to guess what’s under each piece of paper.

If you need a hint, just move the piece of paper a little bit to reveal the first letters.


If you’d like to recreate this particular worksheet, the pairs were as follows:

to lead to sth – to result in sth

to point sth out – to claim

to decline – to plummet

to grow – to soar

to distinguish – to draw a distinction

a serious disadvantage – a major drawback

important implications for sth – profound impact on sth

latest research – recent findings

the rapid growth -the significant rise

a source of sth – a trigger for sth

due to sth – owing to sth

whereas – while

mainly – largely

essential – vital

general – widespread

On the whole, … – By and large, …

It should be noted that… – It is worth bearing in mind that…

This means that… – …, which means that…

As to… – With regard to…

The main dangers are x of y, as well as nn and mm. = Apart from x of y, the main dangers are nn and mm.



Another way of dealing with CAE writing vocabulary, apart from mastering the synonyms from my previous post, is simply learning the following list. It comprises mainly formal words, which come up again and again in essays, reports, proposals and formal letters  Three or four of them in your piece of writing and your examiner is going to be quite impressed!

I recommend browsing three different online dictionaries to get 3-4 sentences with each of the words. It helps understanding them better. The worst thing you can do is translate each of them into your own language without any examples!

ADVERBS – strongly, fairly, quite, apparently, clearly, considerably, increasingly, pretty (as an adverb!!!), right, hopefully

ADJECTIVES – afraid (to introduce bad news), valuable, endless, likely, further, thorough, universal, ever-increasing, crucial, broad, unattainable, incapable, hazardous, cautious, commonplace, risky, challenging

VERBS – believe, fear, implement, succeed, determine, object, urge, gather, handle, aid, struggle, trigger, lead to, vary, snowball, account for

NOUNS – plenty, sample, rating, origins, issue, pace, visitor, outset, loss, means, view

LINKING – meanwhile, as well as, yet=still, since=as, needless to say, besides, while, worse still, even, even if, even though, unlike, which (especially the one preceded by a comma)

PREPOSITIONS – among, towards, within





It’s really easy. Forget about bombastic adverbs. Forget about using (yes, it is useful at times, but you need to look up each synonym in a dictionary anyway as their meanings and uses might be slightly different). You can even forget about locating the key words in your writing instructions and coming up with their synonyms so that you don’t repeat anything from the instructions in your writing (well, it would be great, but it might be tricky).

Just avoid the following general words and use their equivalents that fit the context and register (formal/informal):

  • happy – pleased, glad, delighted
  • important – crucial, vital, of utmost importance, worthwhile
  • difficult – challenging, tough, tricky, a hurdle, a struggle
  • great – superb, outstanding, amazing, brilliant
  • bad – terrible, horrible, awful, a nightmare, quite bad, not up to the standard, disappointing, non-existent, unsatisfactory
  • interesting – fascinating, memorable, fun, mind-blowing, enriching
  • dangerous – risky, hazardous, be in danger of, run the risk of
  • excited – thrilled, ecstatic, over the moon, extremely pleased
  • angry – mad, furious, not particularly impressed by, I’m afraid to inform you


  • think – suppose, guess, reckon, feel, believe, assume, hope
  • like – enjoy, to be a keen x, to have a great time doing something
  • hate – loathe, detest, avoid, try not to
  • recommend – suggest, (strongly) advise, my tip would be to, you had better
  • show, explain – present, highlight, outline
  • going to do something – thinking of doing something, planning to, intent to, look forward to doing something
  • meet – get to know somebody, arrange a meeting, make an appointment, meet up, catch up


  • people – visitors, foreigners, holidaymakers, local inhabitants, the public, the audience, hotel guests, hordes, fellow students, commuters, citizens, peers
  • problem – difficulties, struggle, hurdle, setback, issue


Some years ago in Poland I wrote and ran two courses for real estate agents, which were certified by Polish Ministry of Infrastructure. Since I’m not going to do that ever again, I’ve decided to make the materials public.

The following downloads are: a set of intermediate exercises in English for Polish real estate agents, a Polish-English real estate dictionary and a set of advanced texts on real estate topics followed by exercises and a revision of the first set.

Angielski dla posrednikow – cwiczenia

Angielski dla posrednikow – slownik

Angielski dla posrednikow – cwiczenia cz. 2


As I’ve mentioned while describing Task 3 in the Reading and Use of English Paper, English word building could be roughly divided into four different kinds:

Here are some words which you should know, divided according to their word building category:

LATIN/FRENCH – advantageous, advisable, advisory, affectionate, appalling, appealing, avoidance, climatic, coherence, commemorate, completion, conceitedness, courteous, diagnosis, division, endangered, enlargement, enriched, expiry, feminine, iilliterate, immunity, indistinguishable, literacy, numerous, posthumous, rewarding

GERMANIC – acknowledge, baggy, blissfully, broaden, challenging, cookery, costly, depth, earnings, firmly, flavoured, genuinely, golden, gripping, heights, loathing, noiseless, packed, poorly, revolting, sadden, strengthen, tighten, width

COMPOUNDS – bookmark, breathtaking, broad-minded, ceasefire, deadline, footprint, freelance, get-together, half-board, highbrow, lifelong, loophole, mankind, paperwork, pig-headed, screensaver, sitcom, smart-casual, state-of-the-art, teamwork

PREPOSITIONS – backlog, downpour, feedback, off-putting, outbreak, outstanding, outlook, overcome, overrated, undercover, undermine, upgrade, withdraw, workout, worn-out