My English exam

I had an English lesson this afternoon with a student I’ve been to just a couple of times before.

The first time we met, we did some ‘getting to know you’ activities and discussed what kind of support she was looking for – mainly help with speaking and listening. The second time, we did some pronunciation work and then spoke about her house and neighbourhood. This week I had planned to do some more pronunciation work and then talk about World Environment Day, which is coming up next week. But she had other ideas.

When I got there, she told me that she has a speaking exam coming up in a couple of weeks’ time and she wanted to look at some practice papers. Was I OK with that?

Yes, of course I was! 

Great, and she wanted to record me speaking. Was that OK?

Well, this time I wasn’t quite so keen on the idea, but what was the harm?

Being recorded speaking was a little nerve-wracking at first!

It was only when she started reading the introduction that I realised quite what she’d got planned. ‘I’m the examiner and you are the candidate,’ she said.


And then she started to ask me questions: Where am I from? What is it like living in Chelmsford? (I don’t know, I haven’t lived there for well over 20 years!) What future plans do I have? When did I start learning Spanish? Do I think I will use Spanish in my future work? 

Oh my goodness. What to say? Somehow I threw some answers together, but goodness knows what I said. I just hope they were, at least, grammatically correct!

Part One over, she checked the recording. There she was, reading the questions out. And there I was, umming and ahhing my way through the answers. I took a deep breath and a swig of water and prepared myself to resume.

Part Two was harder. Now, I was presented with two photographs, one of a cruise ship and one of a coach. Could I describe the two photographs and the differences between the types of holiday depicted. Who did I think would go on the two types of holiday? 

Somehow, I managed to get some kind of a response out regarding the similarities and differences between cruises and coach tours.

Being the ‘candidate’ made me feel like I was the one in the hot seat!

But it wasn’t over yet! Oh no! Now, we both had to talk about some pictures and discuss how the people in them might be feeling. One was of some racing cars; the other was of a tennis player. I could do this. But as soon as I started talking, I was stopped. No, first we had to agree between us who was going to speak first.

‘Do you want to go first?’ I asked.

‘No, thanks. You carry on,’ she said.

So, suitably chastised, I did. 

We then talked about two photos of different types of houses and where we would rather live. And at some point I was grilled about my likes and dislikes.

At the end of the hour, she stopped recording and said thank you. ‘Hopefully you will have passed your exam,’ she said smiling.


It wasn’t how I’d planned to spend the hour, but hopefully the recording will help her in some way to prepare for the exam. And it was certainly an eye-opener for me! 

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